April 15, 2012

Black Diamond Push vs. Scarpa T1 Telemark Boots

The Scarpa T1 (left) and the Black Diamond Push (right).

I know I know, no one cares if you tele. Fair enough. There's not much worse than someone claiming a first telemark descent these days now that big boots and fat skis make alpine and freeheel almost indistinguishable. But for those of you who are in the market for a hefty set of tele boots, I thought I'd shed some light on my experiences with the BD Push and the Scarpa T1.  

Some background. After a few years of heli-skiing with CMH, I wanted to start using my tele set-up at work. I'd been on tele's exclusively since 1994 and went through the ACMG exams on them. But in 2009, when I started with CMH, I didn't want to show up with half a binding and funny boots. So for the past few years, I've been working on alpine boards (K2 Pontoons and Darksides).

This year, I decided to start bringing the funny gear to work and it was a blast. I didn't tele everyday, but I probably logged about 30 days (out of 100+) of heli skiing with a free heel set-up. The average vertical skied was about 7000 meters (23,000 feet) / day with the occasional 10,000 (33,000 feet) meter day. I used a pair of Black Diamond Justice boards mounted with the mid-stiff G3 Targa Ascent bindings. Ideally, I would have liked to be on bigger sticks with a more active binding, but this set-up still worked well.

BD Push:
Before I write anything, it's probably good to admit that I'm a believer in free gear = good gear. That said, I didn't get the BD or Scarpa boots for free, but the BD prodeal is probably the next best thing, especially when they have a sale that knocks 20% off the already reduced prodeal price. Plus, I also believe that if it takes more than a few turns to get used to a pair of boots, there's probably something out there that would suit me better. 

I ordered the boots sight unseen and hoped for the best. I'm generally a size 26.5 in all ski foot wear and this was in line the Push. The boots fit nicely out of the box although the toebox on my right foot - which is slightly bigger - required a punch. No big deal. I have a medium volume foot and the Push felt like a solid fit. I also set the boots up with the most upright stance available which actually requires taking off the walk lever and making an internal adjustment. Again, not a big deal but a good thing to know before taking them in to the field.

It took about two days of skiing to get used  to the boots (which was a little frustrating). At first, they seemed slow to initiate and I struggled to figure out how much pressure to apply to the bellows. But on the third day of use, something clicked and I really started liking the boot. They provide a ton of support for alpine turns in funky conditions and are awesome for ripping the freeheel style. I'm not going to comment on tourability because I haven't used them for anything but down (although the touring mode does seem to provide excellent flexibility).

Otherwise, I have kept the stock liner and they seem a little cold (especially compared to an Intuition). 

All in all, I really like the BD Push and would recommend it to anyone looking for a big 4-buckle tele boot.

Scarpa T1:
The Scarpa T1 is a beautiful rig and it's hard not to see them and think, "dam that will make me a better skier!" And that's exactly what I thought when I saw them in the shop last year. After checking out the pro deal price and realizing that the Scarpa prodeal is practically a no-deal, I decided to pay retail and have them right away. The boot fit like a glove and apart from cooking the Intuition liner, it did not require any punching.

So it was with great excitement that I took them up to Rogers Pass and skinned up McGill Shoulder. The boot toured really well on the up and I was stoked with my purchase... Until I started down. Have you ever had a day when you felt that you couldn't ski? Well this was my day. I must have fallen every third turn and had more Hulk Moments (read: tantrums) than I care to remember. It was all I could do keep my tips up and not go head over heels over and over and over again. It was the most frustrating ski day I can remember. To make matters worse, I couldn't blame the snow conditions because they were light and fluffy. I tried adjusting the forward lean on the boots to put them in a more upright stance but this didn't have any positive effect. I still could not ski the boot.

A few days later, I took the boot to the hill and figured I'd try them out there. This wasn't as bad because I couldn't sink my tips into the corduroy, but I still felt that the boot's forward lean was way too much for me. I tried them again on another day and after three days of frustration, tantrums and modest humiliation, I brought the boots to the second hand store and sold them for a nice loss. Before selling the boot, I contemplated drilling a new hole in the ski / walk mechanism to allow for a more upright stance, but that idea didn't last long. I've read on a few forums that other people have experienced this with the Scarpa T1 boots and the solution seems to be keep skiing it and eventually you will get used to it. Kinda reminds me of:  The floggings shall continue until morale improves!

I really wanted to like the Scarpa T1's. They are such a good looking and well crafted boot that I was tempted to keep them and put them up on the mantle place as an addition to the house art work. But after too many days of getting tossed around in the snow, my ego was not strong enough and we were forced to go our separate ways.

I hope this helps someone out there!


Andrew Falk said...

Bought T1 boots this year to ride on Line 100s, on the East Coast. Same Hulk moments as you! Horrible initial impression, I felt encased in concrete with boots at least 4 inches too tall, and too stiff... I couldn't move! I couldn't ski, and could only barely stand up. Too much forward lean coupled with tons of too-early edge power originating from the top of the uphill cuff seemed to be the problem. Within 5 runs, I figured something out -- unbuckled and in walk mode they were pretty good! Weird, but I am happy skiing them with the powerstrap removed, both upper cuff buckles completely open, and the spine device in walk mode. It's not boot nirvana, but now I can move my body over the skis, ski with my feet, carve, jump, slide, spin, whatever, and everything feels right.

olaf prinz said...

thanks alot for your impressions you had with these boots. i'll buy the push in a few days, i think. i don't like the hulk-feeling on powderdays :-)

Phil said...

Have had the T1 for 2 seasons after ditching the Garmont SynerG's - and was stunned to read the review! I ski it with Hammerheads in either 3 or 4 mounted on the Nordica Hell & Back (98mm) and get great initiation and a lot of touch while getting a TON of power from this setup. I only ski down and spend time mostly in the resort or the sidecountry and have loved the boot when paired with the Hammerhead. However - with a lesser binding, I can see it being a different challenge.

Anonymous said...

Agree with Phil. I ski the T1's with Hammerheads set up the same way. I feel a TON of power from them with those active bindings. Switched from Black Diamond bindings after having them break on me in the sidecountry...never looked back. I experienced challenges skiing a less active binding with such a powerful boot, so I think you would have a different impression if you were able to pair the T1's with a boot worth of harnessing their power.

Anonymous said...

I have been skiing with Scarpa T1 for the last six years. I love the boots, but I too can't ski in the boots except in walk mode.

I'll have a bowl of that Ernie said...

Have been on T1s for a few seasons now - noticed more control/less comfort/less weight going from the bumble bees to the current pebax iteration. Have always skied them with the power strap only around the liner and top buckles on loosest. Loads of edge control with AXLs. Love the Raichle/Full tilt esque ankle hold down buckle which the BD Push seems to have as well. Getting a bit of toe burn tho on tours with current setup so am going to try some BDs out based on the excellent rap they're getting here and elsewhere.

G said...

I bought the T1s and have given them 5-6 days and have been thrown around. So frustrating because as a new mom, I have limited days to ski. I drilled another hole in the ski/tour mechanism, but still hate these boots. So strange because I had the old T Race boots (red) for years and loved them so much. I am a little gun shy right now and not sure what to do with a month left in ski season. I so want to ski like I used to be able to.

Hank33 said...

Get the Push while you can, BD is not making Tele boots any more. I've skied the Push boots with BD Zealots and O1 bindings for four years, and they've helped me progress to the next level. Get these boots and take it up a notch!