The success of Salomon’s boot line is difficult to overstate. It rules the roster of top models by an unprecedented margin, at one time having the top seven best selling boots in the U.S. Maintaining this level of market dominance is impossible, yet Salomon shows no signs of slowing down.
Salomon wins the point of sale battle for a lot of reasons, but two fit-related features are largely responsible for Salomon’s separation from the pack: heat-moldable shells and a clever re-shaping of its shell last that enhances first impressions.
Everyone knows about heat molding by now, as every boot in God’s Creation has a moldable liner, and half the major boot brands feature heat-moldable shells with a fit process just as simple as Salomon’s.
The magic trick that gives Salomon a better first fit impression and the inside track on the ensuing sales is two-fold: a toe box with a wider radius matched with a heel pocket with extra curvature along the longitudinal axis that gives the heel room to retreat when the skier presses into the tongue. Toes instantly have enough room and the discussion between bootfitter and skier can proceed to whether or not heat molding will even be necessary.
It’s against this backdrop that Salomon makes moves every year to shore up its position. Its latest initiative is a migration away from polyurethane (PU) as its go-to lower shell material to polyamide, a material the brand has used in its cuffs since the SX91, circa 1985. Polyamide (PA6 to be more precise) appeared last season in the spine and rigid sole of the QST Pro’s and X Pro’s bi-material Twin Frame 2 shell; this year it makes its debut throughout the narrow-lasted X Max collection.
Among polyamide’s enviable qualities are superior insulation, lighter weight, less reaction to temperature change and faster response to distortion. Like PU, PA can be made in a wide range of stiffnesses, but unlike PU it can’t be re-shaped at relatively low temperatures, making it the perfect partner for the PU/Caprilene blend that allows the X Max and X Pro to heat-mold so effectively.
For 2018, Salomon found a new niche between the 95mm X Lab+ 130 and 98mm X Max 130 and slipped in two new 96mm “recreational race” models, X Max Race 130 and 120. Compared to the returning X Max 130, the X Max Race 130 feels much stiffer and more resilient, and, unless heat molded, quite a bit narrower. Elite skiers who felt the previous X Max 130 wasn’t quite race-caliber, yet don’t want a FIS-level plug boot, should slip into an X Max Race 130. Even on the boot bench, you can feel the difference.
The QST Pro line of hybrid in-resort/backcountry boots returns intact with a new flagship, the QST Pro 130 TR with a touring sole as standard equipment. Other new top-of-series models in 2018 are two performance women’s boots: the X Max 120 W uses a shorter men’s cuff (i.e., less flared) in the new PU/PA Twin Frame 2 formula, and the X Pro 100 W raises the performance bar for women with medium to wide feet.
Two returning models of note are the X-Pro Custom Heat boots for men and women, in 110 and 100 flexes, respectively. Recreational skiers who need a high-volume fit have four new 104mm models to consider, the X Access 80 Wide and 70 Wide for men and 70W Wide and 60W Wide for women, all at entry-level price points. The same generous fit is found in the improved HM models, QST Access in 90, 80 and 70 flexes for men and QST Access W in 80W. 70W and 60W flexes for women.