Back in 2011 Scarpa introduced the very successful Maestrale and Gea (women's version) touring boots. They were the lightest 4-buckle touring boots available at the time. Now Scarpa have upped the stakes again with the new Maestrale RS and Gea RS versions. 'RS' or 'Rennsport' is German for 'racing'. Reports were that the Gea RS weighed only 40g more than the original Gea and skied more like an alpine boot than any other boot in its class, so I was keen to check them out.
The new Scarpa Gea RS is around 20% stiffer than the original Gea. The given ﬂex ratings are 100 for the Gea and 120 for the RS version. Note: the ﬂex rating of touring boots is generally considered a bit unreliable as there's no regulated ﬂex index; boots are generally compared against others in the brand's range. Anyway, the Gea RS is considerably stiffer, without being too stiff for most to handle.
The result is: the Gea RS is virtually just as easy to push uphill as the Gea, but the downhills are even more stable, controllable and consequently fun. Once you stop weeping over the amount you paid for them, so you can see where you're going, that is. The Gea RS are a small chunk more expensive than the Gea, thanks to a change in the plastic.
How did they make them so light?
How have Scarpa upped the stiffness for only 40g more? Well, the shell is Grilamid Polyamide rather than the Pebax used in the original Gea. Both these high performance plastics have been around in ski boots for a while.
Grilamid has incredibly low density, while also having very good impact resistance, stiffness and toughness even at low temps, plus very good resistance to weathering. It also has high ﬂexibility, and retains this at a similar level in both cold and hot temps. Grilamid can be moulded proportionally thinner and lighter than Pebax for the same stiffness.
Gea RS in Uphill Mode
The walk mode is easy to switch to, and these boots allow 37 degrees of cuff movement, so they're very ﬂexible. I can walk short distances easily when all the buckles are still done up, which is useful, because I'm lazy. In really cold weather I once experienced a bit of trouble getting the boots to lock in ski mode. I lubricated the mechanism with WD40 and it's not happened since.
A useful feature for adding a bit of stability when skinning uphill is the Wirelock buckles. A spring adds tension to the buckles, meaning they usually stay on whatever notch you rest them on. With all the buckles completely undone, the boots feel very free and this is good for venting on spring days.
In general I've been amazed by how light and amazingly comfortable these boots are to walk in all day. Absolutely no complaints here. I've had no rubs or sore spots. Plenty of adjustment options.
Very free and ﬂexible in walk mode, the Gea RS convert to an equally impressively ski mode. It's very supportive with an even, progressive ﬂex. They drove my lightweight skis effortlessly and offered solid support even when I wasn't good enough to ski the cruddy conditions. You can feel every move of your foot transferred to the ski, offering great control. The boots were consistently comfortable and responsive. I have to agree with the reports, they ski as similarly to an alpine boot as any touring boot I've tried before.
Note: I skied them with the lightweight Ski Trab Polvere I reviewed here (UKC Review) but I haven't tried them with a heavier ski.
The RS has two ski modes: 16 and 20 degrees, and it's great to have the option to switch depending on slope angle and how aggressive you're feeling. Grrr.
The Gea RS is designed to ﬁt the average woman - narrower heel than the men's version, lower cuff and higher instep. My foot didn't move in the boot when it was buckled snug, besides a little heel lift. A lot of touring boots don't have a buckle across the instep as on the Gea RS - it's great for reducing volume.
The high quality Intuition Pro Flex RS liners that come as standard are light, warm, comfortable supportive and quick drying.
A feature worth talking about is the twisting tongue. The 'Alpine Axial' tongue can be annoying when you have cold ﬁngers, as you essentially have to wheedle it out/in from behind the stiff cuff and upper buckle - these can then ping back on cold ﬁngers. It's wonderfully easy to get your foot in and out of the boot once you've done this though. The tongue levers open from a hinge at the side, like a spaceship door. There's an upside: the way the tongue overlaps and the stiff plastic its made from (Pebax this time) adds to the stiffness and progressive ﬂex of the boot. I've heard issues about the tongue wearing where the hinges attach, but this hasn't happened on mine.
A touring boot that's as good on the ups as it is on the downs. Love it.
See this product at the Ellis Brigham shop