For the 2012-2013 ski season the bar gets kicked up a couple more notches with the introduction of the X-Max 120. The X-Max 120 succeeds the Falcon/X3 and embodies the advancement of Salomon shell customization technology.
Previous Custom Shell (CS) models had panels on both the medial and lateral sides of the shells at the fore body of the boots that could be heated in a Salomon proprietary convection oven and molded to accommodate “6th toe”, bunions and whatever deformities there may be at the forefoot.
The X-Max 120 is a full Custom Shell-Salomon calls it the 360 Degree Custom Shell-but for the very lowest portion incorporating the soles. Like its predecessor, the X-Max comes out of the box @ 98mm and expands only. This is not a negative; it is common and more effective to create space for prominences than to fill in space between the feet and the shells.
The liners of the X-Max 120 are a major improvement. Better contouring and material substantially increase the comfort, longevity and feel of the boots. After some time skiing the X-Max 120 (I don’t count ski days…better than a dozen), the liner has held up well; the support and pressure distribution around the feet remains even.
The liner tongue over the instep has been an issue for several generations of Salomon…it is not so far.
Other innovations that may seem inconsequential but which have a definite role in the performance of the X-Max 120 are the oversized medial and lateral hinge rivets.
As was mentioned earlier, the lower part of the shell comprising the toe and heel lugs is not CS material. This lower shell plastic is hard and provides torsional rigidity. From the soles it wraps upward through the molded CS material diagonally from the rear of the lower around the heel. These oversized hinge rivets are fixed through this denser plastic. The net effect is that the lateral strength is tremendous both for tipping the skis up and for holding and/or modulating an edge.
The X-Max 120 is powerful; it likes to be skied with authority. The last is really good and the cuff wraps intimately to the lower leg. All this has upped the performance level considerably.
The stance is in keeping with contemporary ski shapes and geometry; neutral underfoot and the cuff starts out fairly upright and can be changed by how the skier stands in the boots for the molding process.
The boot I’ve had the pleasure to ski is rated at a 120 flex…it is a stout 120. Snow feel is excellent, feedback crisp and on the flip side subtle motions within the boot find a quick path to the skis.
The Instinct 90 CS L is the woman’s model and will remain unchanged for next season. This boot is taken from the 98mm Falcon last and has the CS panels on both the medial and lateral aspects of the forefoot.
This is a good woman’s boot; light weight, appropriate flex though on the stiff side of its given rating of 90, a good shape and a clean simple look.
The heel cup is well defined but not too aggressive, mid-foot is fairly plumb and the instep somewhere in the medium volume range.
The Instinct 90 CS L shells are basically two-piece and do not have replaceable toe and heel-wear and being slick on concrete at issue-but this augments ski engagement and edge control.
The rear spoiler has adjustment for the calf.
The Impact 100 CS and Idol 85 CS L are the workhorses of the Salomon line. Both are 100mm last and relatively high volume. Both are Custom Shell-the medial and lateral panels rather than full 360. The Impact and Idol go from 100mm to 106mm with the Custom Shell.
As high a volume as both boots are they still have good proximity to the mid- and rear-foot and close, secure heel fit.
Instep room is good though there is a consistent problem with the material (actually a lack thereof) inside the liner tongue that makes the instep seem low. It can be mitigated some by moving the 3D instep buckle back to the rear insertion so it pulls back instead of down. Otherwise there are ways to easily solve this problem.
The rear cuff and spoiler of the Impact 100 CS are fixed through a vertical spine at the back of the shells rather than the bolts behind the cuff hinges. Salomon calls it the Backbone. This makes for less shell distortion and more direct transmission to the skis.
The Idol 85 CS has no fixations for restricting flex-you get what you get…generally a flex of 85 is a good range for all but the strongest women.
Both the Impact and Idol have replaceable toe and heel and the Idol has the same adjustable spoiler as on the Instinct.
The Impact 100 CS skis really well. It’s nice having a wide lasted ski boot that not only fits this well but one that skis this well also. It has the right balance of exactitude and forgiveness. You can relax when prudent and ramp it up when needed.
The 100-flex designation is pretty true; the flex is fluid and predictable.
The shell plastic used for both the Impact and Idol is fairly light weight so moving edge-to-edge can be quick as needed and the feel for the surrounding environment is really good.
Holding an edge is the responsibility of the medial wall and mid-foot of the shells and the Impact 100 CS has the strength to accomplish that as well as to make changes in turn shape and length at will.
Salomon entered with the Quest. For this season we will have the Quest 100 W.
In the interests of transparency the Woman’s version wasn’t tested…the man’s Quest 120 was.
The Quest is 100mm at the forefoot. The heel is not as aggressive as some nevertheless it retains the rear-foot in downhill mode while being relaxed enough to neither impinge nor chafe while hiking/touring. There is good room over the instep and the toe box at first seemed narrow until the liner allowed the heel back into the rear of the boot.
The liners, Salomon’s Biovent which allow air to flow releasing some of the moisture that accumulates inside the boots, have a nice soft feel initially though are not lacking in support because of it. To date durability is good.
One thing that detracts from the functionality of the Quest is the single buckle at the top. It is a pretty wide buckle as it is a single buckle as opposed to a two-buckle setup.
The issue isn’t really with the buckle but rather with the cuff plastic it’s attached to. If you need to tighten the top of the boot the plastic distorts where the buckle is riveted at the front. This affects the leverage and effectiveness of the buckle to stay closed…mostly in downhill.
When the cuff distorts the way it does it also pushes into the outer aspect of the lower leg-the muscle group used to pressure the first met-head and mid-foot.
Again this must be qualified by the fact that the Quest we had to test was the man’s version. We did see it with some of the ladies but solved it by filling in the tongue and rear liner cuff so the skier didn’t have to buckle so tightly to be secure.
The Quest skis pretty well. It is not too exacting and allows the skier to adapt quickly to varying snow conditions and terrain.
As stated in previous entry’s, there was not a lot of back country skiing to be had last season so any touring characteristics would be speculation.
It seems likely that Salomon will expand the X-Max 360 Degree Custom Shells throughout their line in the future…why wouldn’t they?