Testers loved the new fit and performance elements in Salomon's all-new S/Pro Alpha 130 EL (there are so many!) and had virtually zero complaints outside of those about yet another arcane boot naming structure and some testers' resistence to its very Smurfy blue. Several testers called this the best Salomon they've ever tested and virtually all of them applauded the S/Pro Alpha's arrival as an improvement over the previous S/Max narrows--and we thought those were pretty great too! The Alpha's highest score (a 4.80 out of a perfect 5.00) was awarded in the Anatomical Fit & Initial Feel parameter, which points out one of our testers' favorite aspects of this newly classic Salomon--the dialed fit.
Yes, testers also said the performance was top tier within this most competitive group of skilled descenders (4.60 for all performance metrics) but they all spent more time talking about the new fit map of the S/Pro Alpha. Most noticeably, the fit over the midfoot and through the instep is improved--taller, with better shaping over the midfoot bump (cuneiform bones) area with a new adjustable-customizable tongue and an instep buckle that has been moved closer to the throat of the boot and is also adjustable in its mounting position. Testers unanimously praised the design tweak for its simultaneous ability to offload pressure over the top of the foot while sucking the heel deeper back into its rearward anchor position. One tester felt that the instep buckle collided too much with the lower cuff buckle while closing up the overlaps but with some practice the buckling was not an issue of concern, the rest said. There is more vertical space over the toes, which most testers liked for warmth and free wiggling, though others felt they wanted to add a pad to the top of the liner to prevent unwanted rearward shifts--easily accomplished with a bootfitter's help. Testers agreed that the cuff fit was slender, tall and slightly more upright than the group average, and therefore its off-the-rack fit favored the longer-legged and those with lower-volume calves. Testers reminded that Custom Shell HD molding does treat the thicker calf well.
Stance-wise, testers were impressed with how this new narrow sat the fence between Frontside category piste power and an All-Mountain, more off-piste oriented neutral stance set-up. The lateral angles put the ski ever so slightly on an inside edge but not so much as to lock-up edge feathering or prevent a more surfy approach to terrain. Testers point out that the return to an adjustable lateral cuff mechanism (buh-bye Dual Pivot, we won't miss ya) on the Alpha makes quick stance angle adjustment a snap and will get most skiers where they want to be side-to-side without any other fuss. The fore-aft set-up is on the upright end of the spectrum, and shorter testers mentioned getting pushed back on their heels a bit. Testers point out that Custom Shell HD molding can offer some subtle stance angle customization, or a skier could employ a small spoiler between liner and cuff behind the calf to solve this issue.
So, the EL in the boot's name (BTW, Alpha means narrow S/Pro, HV means wide S/Pro, S/Pro sans prefix or suffix means medium) indicates Expert Line, which means that the buckles and cuff fasteners are all removable rather than riveted and that the power strap is an elasticized cam-buckle job, along with a tongue that can be adjusted for position and is also able to be dismantled in order to achieve some additional fit tweaks over the top of the foot. We think those features are all cool. Just EL? We say, El mejor!