The new Salomon S-Lab X Alp Carbon 2 is the perfect Colorado shoe if you are one of the increasing number of athletes who enjoy big days in the mountains, traversing scrambly peaks, and mixing your endurance days with a few 5th class moves to the summit. In my travels, the S-Lab has proven to be extremely adept when crossing snow fields on the way to a spring couloir, executing a few cruxy ridgeline moves, and then still keeping my feet dry on the bush wack out. The S-lab is neither a sleek trail running shoe, nor a rugged backpacking boot. Rather, it lives in the space between.
Salomon S-Lab equipment of any variety, including the X Alp Carbon, is the direct result of athlete feedback and testing, combined with Salomon’s innovative manufacturing lab that allows for real time tweaks and revisions. Being Killian Burgada Jornet’s primary sponsor, it’s no surprise that the S-Lab-athlete feedback process would yield the X Alp Carbon. It is, by Salomon’s intention, a light-and-fast, low cut mountaineering boot, er, shoe.
Indeed this is where it excels. The S-Lab makes quick work of the ascent, provides a noticeably more stable and rugged platform on scree and snow than my most rugged trail shoes, and edges remarkably well on the featured granite of the Indian Peaks and Sawatch ranges. A carbon “edging chassis,” a climbing zone on the sole resembling an approach shoe, and a stiff but precisely defined rocker, nails the balance between covering ground and taking on exposed rock and snow with confidence. In the shop, the rocker might feel a bit odd as it truly ‘rocks’ between flat, and a more upright angle on the toes -- a strange sensation. But out in the real world, it has proven to be a perfect blend.
Other features include a rugged Gore-Tex gaiter that keeps grit out, and that kept my feet dry when submerged in boggy sections bush wacking out of alpine creek beds. The gaiters on my pair have proven surprisingly rugged given the degree of loose scree and sharp rock to which I’ve subjected them. I never used crampons with the S-Lab (and it has no welts for an automatic crampon set-up), but a light pair of flexible crampons or even Diamondgrip Yaktrax could make steeper or firmer snowfields more secure. Ideal ground for X Alp would be on Kiener’s or Notch Couloir on Longs Peak, the Glacier Gorge traverse, and any other number of high alpine scrambles.
Finally, the fit is purposefully snug. I sized down a ½ European size to maximize climbing potential. That made for a bit of a rough first outing on my feet, but since then they have broken in quickly and I’ve been surprisingly comfortable even after hours over loose and rough terrain. That said, running out those last few miles can be clunky and slow. Don’t use these if your plan is to bang out a fun trail run with the dog. Use them for that link-up you’ve envisioned, to set a PR on your local rocky peak, or as a perfect approach shoe for those spring and summer ski descents. Of course, if you have a trip planned to the Alps, be sure to bring these for some 4000m peak bagging.