Overall: Despite some non-race environment inconveniences, fit modification limitations, and potential durability concerns for a Whereveristan mountaineering expedition, the Alien 1.0 rates Five Stars – and only because the website won’t allow fifty or so stars. The ratio of skiability to weight is so seemingly impossibly high that it even validates Scarpa’s alien technology marketing theme.
Background on product familiarity: I bought the Alien 1.0 toward the end of the 2013 season but kept using the Dynafit EVO for short tours, so only a relatively modest 77,600' vertical thus far. I’ve skied them with the Hagan Cirrus on spring and summer snow except for one surprise winter powder outing on the Movement Logic-X, plus a couple times on the Fish-X. (I haven’t used them for extended periods in extremely cold temperatures, plus I always keep moving anyways and find all thermo liners to be warm, so I can’t comment on their insulating properties.)
First, the first impressions out of the box: Actual weight is very close but not quite at spec, since my size 26 is spot-on for the 27 spec. So expect a couple trivial extra ounces for the 27 that only the digital scale will notice. What you will notice is an impressively crafted design with many innovative parts (plus Dynafit’s own “Quick-Step-in” toe inserts). Also notice the substantive user manual with actual useful information (e.g., the BOA adjustment can be disassembled for cleaning).
The fit is accurate for the interior length of my size 26, as I can just barely accommodate (sort of) the toes of my 26.5cm foot, which is therefore only slightly shorter than the 279 bsl. (The bsl changes in 8 and 9mm increments, so the interior length’s relationship to stated mondo size might become skewed a bit the further away you go from my size 26.)
As with any skimo race boot, the fit modification potential is limited. However, the stiff foam bootboard is easily removed, and by playing with the heel height I was able to alleviate some pinching/banging of the lateral side of the back of my heel. The current liner is neither overlap nor tongued, and instead is essentially a pull-on sock with (minimal) padding in key areas. I have not yet tried to heat the liner, and given its thin profile, its moldability is probably modest at best. And after my modest usage so far, my boot guy thought I had already essentially molded them through use. He is also fairly confident in his ability to stretch the problem area in the back of my heel. (Wish us luck!)
The forward lean is adjustable by changing a bolt position. The cuff height matches the Dynafit TLT5/6. In front, the cuff is taller than the TLT5/6 shell, but lower than the TLT5/6 optional external tongue. (The cuff of my 26 boot is shared with the 25; I don’t know if the size 27/28 cuff is even taller.) The cuff leaves a large gap in the back between the lower shell, and a cavernous opening in the front. (The lower shell is sealed up better, although the thick fabric tongue unfortunately overlaps inside the lower shell, i.e., the reverse of the ideal overlap arrangement for sealing out water and snow.) Plan either on using the very nicely designed (and nearly weightless) Alien lycra gaiter, wearing a race suit with an integrated gaiter, or bringing some of the snowpack along with you.
Second impressions, in use: In walk/tour mode, the upper cuff pretty much just disappears. If you are used to a boot with an exceptional range of resistance-free movement like the Dynafit TLT5/6, even then the Alien 1.0 will still shock you. Flip the lever down (which instantly self-aligns), and you’re in for another shock. Maybe too much of a shock – can a three-pound/pair boot really be overly stiff? Unlike Dynafit’s carbon boots, the carbon on the Alien 1.0 upper cuff wraps all the way around, while the inside of the lower shell also wraps your foot in carbon from the cuff rivets out to the heel and forefoot. And the mode switch vertical-throw lever has less than a millimeter of slop. (By contrast, Dynafit has about half a centimeter with its lateral-throw buckle.) That kind of rigidity is outstanding for lateral and rearward support, but is it too much for forward flex? I know one racer who admits to keeping the cord a bit loose to allow a little more give before the cuff locks up on him.
In the field, the BOA system quickly tightens up the lower shell in increments as small or large as you choose. However, when I’ve overcompensated for my low-height foot (although my C-width matches up well with the shell), the placement of the BOA on the tongue (as opposed to off on the side like on my mountain bike shoes) can create pressure. Backing off the tension inevitably entails overshooting and having to dial it back it in – but still very quick, and also very easy even with numb fingers. The upper cuff is all or nothing, so you have to set up your knot length just right by experimenting inside (or in warm weather). With some extra 3mm accessory cord, you could try setting up a system with multiple knot positions if you really wanted different upper cuff tightness options.
Third impressions, for long-term durability: I have about five cumulative hours of off-snow travel in the Alien 1.0, and the rubber soles show only appropriately minor wear, with excellent grip. (This might not seem like much of a hurdle, but that same amount of use on the Dynafit EVO sheared off or heavily damaged 2/3 of the perimeter lugs.) The rivets/pivots connecting the upper and lower shells look very industrial, and seem to be immune from the loosening up over time that has required periodical repressing of the rivets on earlier versions of competitors’ carbon fiber boots. The lower shell’s tongue and BOA system are replaceable, as is the 3mm accessory cord for the upper shell.
The BOA placement on the tongue means the lower shell has no buckles on the side to be caught up in boulders, and the mode switch lever in the rear flips up out of harm’s way. But I have read of two failures over time from normal use (as opposed to collisions). This is not very surprising, given the lever’s slender proportions combined with the rigidity of the all-carbon upper cuff, the rigidity of the partial-carbon lower shell, and the very tight tolerances of the connection between the upper and lower. But as long as the horizontal bar of the lower shell is still intact, a couple Voile straps should suffice for a field repair.