Ok, we'll be honest about it, our boot test is prioritized around a boot's anatomical fit and how it skis. Sure, we generally care about ease of entry and warmth, and in the Backcountry category we care about weight, touring features and range-of-motion, certainly. But a boot's gotta be a boot first and foremost—it's gotta fit and it's gotta ski. The 2019 S/LAB MTN does both of these two things better every other true Backcountry boot we tested--so our testers gave it the nod for the silver medal spot on the podium.
This is a 98 mm boot and testers say it fits as one should—tight. Fit Impressions scores were dominated by 2's (1 is race boot tight, 5 is bucket boot loose) with a few 3's thrown in for the toebox and forefoot and a few 1's targeting the navicular and ankles. Most testers loved this fit and the ones who didn't loved what this fit did for their skiing, though they were begging for a Custom Shell HD molding session to ease peak pressures. The new HD molding protocol cuts the old time in half and our tests showed that it's now more effective in terms of shape change without "blowing out" the fit and without degrading stiffness--bravo.
Perfect scores for Dynamic Balance and also for Quickness, Steering & Feel—that's saying something. If you've ever watched skiers on BC gear ski and thought: man, they really suck, you're not alone. But c'mon, cut them some slack, because it could be the boots. The S/LAB MTN, on the other hand, is not one of those boots. Testers say it responds to real skiing movements with real performance guts—it's quick, it's powerful, it's responsive. It's a real ski boot no ifs ands or buts. True, it doesn't tour quite as well as many of those BC boots, testers admit, but believe them, you won't suck going down.
Kaprolene is the additive to polyurethane that allows for Custom Shell molding. New this year in certain models within the MTN and S/Max lines the Kaprolene used is pre-mixed in precise amounts into the polyurethane itself rather than as a somewhat random additive at the time of plastic injection. This creates a more predictable and defined molding response which, when used in the thin shelled MTN and S/Max boots, drastically reduced cook times from ten minutes to only two, molding from five minutes to only three and cool-down to five minutes. Our tests showed legit results without a degradation of performance, post-molding.
“The slick hike mode release switch goes sideways, which is obviously cool. Fits as snug as it should for a 98 mm last. The S/LAB MTN puts you in a proper skiing position and flexes like a true 120—balanced. It's very nimble, light underfoot, reactive and accurate--by far the strongest skiing of the BC group.” -- Mark Elling
“The initial fit is snug for me but it's a good feeling—the feeling of precise, responsive skiing about to happen! Ready to rip! Yup, left-right-left-right--it happens fast and holds an edge real nice. This boot skis so well--wonderful power and really responds. Super smooth stride and feeling for walking or touring. One boot does it all--awesome. ” -- Adam Tutskey
“Its snug fit feels very anatomical--surprisingly good. It's a bit like the new S/Max frontside boot but with backcountry features. Cool. Incredible stance for skiing and fantastic edge power—and holy crap, I'm suddenly superbly quick! Skied great--actually as good as the best Freeride boots. Best in Category for its skiing by a mile. Pleasantly surprised.” -- Kevin Gabriel
“It's aggressively narrow against the inside ankle (flatish feeling, no pocket) and navicular--I want to custom mold this. Although it's light and the touring switch is cool, the touring range of motion is sub-standard relative other BC boots.” -- Mark Elling
“Heaviest of the category but probably also the most functional for skiing.” -- Greg Hoffmann