2023 Salomon S/Pro Alpha 120 EL Review
If you liked the Salomon S/Max, wait till you step into this new boot
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This article was first published by SkiMag.com
Last: 98-104 mm
Level: Strong Intermediate, Advanced
It’s rare, in a time of knotted supply chains and economic uncertainties, for a brand to fully revamp a beloved product line. But in retiring the S/Max boot, and raising the S/Pro Alpha like a phoenix from the ashes, Salomon did something wholly unexpected. Perhaps we’re being a touch dramatic—we just really like this boot. On snow this boot felt very light and the best way to describe the flex pattern is snappy. It’s pretty stiff at the top of the flex and ramps up very quickly, then pops back upright the second you release the ski after the apex of the turn. This is a big difference from last year’s boot, which stiffened much later into the flex pattern, and makes it feel a little more able to control quick, slalom style turns.
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Much of the precision in the on-snow feel comes from the phenomenally tight calf-wrap of the new S/Pro Alpha 120. The cuff feels remarkably narrower than the past year’s model and this delivers zero play and immediate response. The lightweight PU construction also lent to a quicker feeling pivot in the steep, slushy bumps characteristic of Mammoth’s late spring.
That said, the tradeoff of less mass meant that the boot felt a touch harsh in really manky snow, and transmitted more feedback to the skier than heavier boots we tested. The tradeoff is worth it if you’re after an all-mountain boot that can deliver slalom-style precision without being punishing or cold in soft, mid-winter snow. You can also soften or stiffen the cuff with a simple twist of a star key.
The old Salomon S/Max fit the feet of a dedicated group of skiers incredibly well, but turned off many more with its, shall we say, sleek instep height. That concave scaffo caused both immense pain for tall-footed skiers and mental anguish for boot fitters, as the instep height is tricky to adjust. Salomon’s new “3D Instep” is really just a switch to a more convex bulge over the problem area that will allow taller-but-still-narrow footed skiers to comfortably slither into the new S/Pro Alpha.
The change we liked even more is the instep buckle, no longer superfluous in terms of fit. Salomon moved the buckle higher toward the break of the boot, allowing it to act more like the middle buckle in a cabrio-style boot, cinching the ankle and moving the heel deeper into the heel pocket. This design change allowed the more bulbous instep to not compromise the boot’s heel hold. More room, still snug. If you do need any widening, this boot is fully heat-moldable, both shell and liner. This works exceptionally well for spot expansions, as they can be done on your feet instead of a standard punch.
We were able to test Salomon’s new “Full Service” version of the S/Pro Alpha 120 which impressed our testers, all of whom for the Men’s Alpine category are full time boot fitters. The first thing we noticed was that all of the buckles fastened with screws instead of rivets (praise be!) This will allow for greater longevity of the boot because your boot fitter will never have to drill out your rivets to replace buckles if they break. We also loved the liner’s unstitched tongue, which will provide incredibly easy access for additional padding once the stock foam begins to pack out.
SKI’s testers were uniformly impressed by Salomon’s attention to customer feedback, improving the fit and features of their low-volume offering in new and surprising ways. This boot skied and fit better than the S/Max, and is a worthy heir to its lineage. Skiers who have narrow feet but felt clamped by previous Salomon’s should take note, and those who had no problems beforehand should consider the leaps and bounds that the cuff fit and feel provide.