With the latest ‘RS’ version of the boots, new technical features have been introduced to improve performance and comfort, making it one of the best ski mountaineering boots around. But how do you develop a product that combines the technical features of a comfortable, lightweight ski mountaineering boot with the precision and control offered by freeride boots? How did the idea that led to it being made come about?
Massimo Pellizzer, a plastic line Product Manager at SCARPA, tells us all about how this ski mountaineering boot—made exclusively in Italy—was developed, and describes the outstanding features that the MAESTRALE RS has to offer.
How did the idea to create this kind of boot come about?
No one can argue that when we introduced Maestrale to the market in 2010, we revolutionised ski mountaineering.
For the first time, a new type of construction that differed from traditional overlap or cabrio designs was introduced to the market: the Axial Alpine Technology. Axial Alpine Technology is now a standard feature within ski mountaineering boots, having been developed to offer maximum lightness and comfort. Together with the EVO Tongue, the technology guarantees outstanding performance. After a few years, it’s only natural that we started to think about upgrading our products, which have established us as a market-leading brand. We’re always trying to raise the bar and to offer our customers products that are lighter and stronger in terms of performance. For ski mountaineers in search of light, agile climbing, and exciting descents with boots that can be almost worn on slopes, the Maestrale RS can’t be beaten.
How long does it take to come up with a product like the MAESTRALE RS?
Generally speaking, it takes a dedicated and hard-working team around 18/24 months to develop a product. However, this obviously depends on the type of innovation being developed. After carrying out careful market research, which helps us to establish the demands of our end users, the R&D team will determine key innovative features that need to be developed and introduced. These innovative features can influence the types of materials that we choose—rather than the specific design technology—or they may lead us to borrow solutions from other product categories being developed here at SCARPA.
Afterwards, we create 2D designs that begin to give us an idea of what the new product will be like. We then move on to 3D and resin models that are very helpful in terms of understanding the look, aesthetics and technical features of the finished product.
Once models are approved, we begin to develop the moulds and equipment needed to create prototypes. The prototypes must then be field tested immediately before the product itself can be approved.
We try to use as many testers as possible, who then subject the product to all the different conditions that it may experience in real-life situations. The final result of the prototyping process becomes the definitive sample of the product used for market presentations and subsequent sales campaigns. The production stage is the most delicate one, as the grading of a particular model of boot is a rather complex process, where know-how and experience are vital.
To what extent have athletes influenced the development of these new products?
The feedback that we receive about our products from athletes and/or professional users (e.g. alpine guides, instructors, leaders, mountain climbers, etc.) is fundamental for both research and development. Their know-how enables us to carefully consider each of the boot’s component parts, from the liner to the rivet used to secure the buckle.
How do you effectively incorporate their suggestions when creating new products?
Athletes help us to test, and experiment with, all the different technical solutions and materials that we ultimately decide to use with our products. A lot of the time, the same athletes come back to us with suggestions for solutions that may, at first glance, seem ridiculous or unrealistic. However, these suggestions provoke and challenge us, and our perseverance and determination help us to respond with advanced and innovative technical solutions.
How important is it to have an internal prototyping process that is exclusive to Italy when creating certain types of products?
One particular advantage is that SCARPA has total control over product development, from initial briefings to the manufacturing of the product itself. This includes after-sales services that are becoming more and more important in setting us apart from other brands. The company isn’t restricted by external suppliers, as we have our own internal modellers, designers and testers able to immediately come up with technical solutions for us to try out. And this is very advantageous in terms of market deadlines. The flexibility and speed of execution that we have at our disposal allow us to experiment with more options and to work with detailed feedback that helps us to improve our development process.
The BI-INJECTION SHELL, WAVE CLOSURE SYSTEM and SPEED LOCK PLUS are all innovative concepts; what advantages do these innovative features provide for users?
The bi-injection shell technology combined with the use of the Carbon Grilamid LFT and Web Frame Design increases the torsional rigidity of the shell up to the toe area without any additional weight being added. On the other hand, the Wave Closure system enables the wearer to evenly distribute the fastening pressure on the shell thanks to the anchorage points on the shell and the double-adjusting buckle on the tongue, the micro adjustment and the three positions of the integrated rack. The Ski/Walk Speed Lock Plus mechanism features Friction Free technology and there is no connecting rod between the shell and the cuff. This gives the wearer a more fluid movement when walking and guarantees a quick and secure transition from walking to skiing. There are 3 different forward lean cuff adjustments to meet the various requirements of expert ski mountaineers.