High Gear: Scott Cosmos II men’s AT boot (review) | SummitDaily.com

High Gear: Scott Cosmos II men’s AT boot (review)

Now I know how ski patrollers can spend 10-plus hours in ski boots and still love what they do, season after season after season.

For years and years — since the first time I went skiing at 4 or 5 years old — I've only set foot to snow in a pair of alpine ski boots. Come to think of it, those dastardly death traps are one of the major reasons I switched over to snowboarding as a teenager. I figured: Why deal with buckle-up Plastic Maidens when the other, cooler sport comes with boots as comfortable as skate shoes?

Then I met the Scott Cosmos II ($599). It was love at first fit — that's saying a lot for a snowboarder — and I suddenly understood why the majority of patrollers wear AT boots instead of alpine models. The updated Cosmos is a men's AT boot made for the everyman of the mountains: the sort of guy who goes for a lunchtime skin one day, an eight-hour trek the next and then spends the next four days working in the snow. It was my introduction to the wonderful world of ski boots made for, well, human feet, not nerveless masses of bruised meat. (So I'm late to the party, whatever.)

This combination of comfort, style and affordability is no mistake. The Cosmos II is basically a new-and-improved version of the men's AT boot from Garmont, a boutique footwear manufacturer based in Italy. Scott bought the company's ski division about four or five years ago, right when the AT scene started to explode and has been making small improvements on the sleek and sexy design ever since. I never wore the original model, but, from what I've heard, the merger was for the best: Garmont brought the know-how and Scott brought the price point.

"This really upped Scott's game in the backcountry," said Clay Schwarck, buyer and manager at Wilderness Sports in Dillon. "Now they're making skis, backpacks, all the gear you need, and they made the move at the right time when AT was exploding. I think they've done it right."

But, like any tale of love at first sight, I had to spend at least a week or two with the boots before I knew if it was true love or just lust. The boots are comfortable out of the box, but are they still comfortable after a full day of skinning? Even my Thirty-Two JP Walker's have nasty hot spots after long enough. And, when it's time to rip powder on the descent, is the Cosmos II powerful and responsive or cheap and floppy?

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First date: a day on Mount Baldy.

Field test

I took the Cosmos II to Baldy on a pair of Rocky Mountain Underground Carbon Apostle skis mounted with Dynafit AT bindings. It was a beauty of a day — yet another cloudless morning in February — but the snow was at least a week old and plenty of people had been up Baldy road in the meantime. I didn't expect much from the powder, but I had high hopes for the boots.

I was impressed right off the bat. Not only are they comfortable and remarkably light — they're also surprisingly sturdy. More often than not, manufacturer's either sacrifice strength for weight (cheaper materials make for lighter boots) or sacrifice affordability for overall construction.

With the Cosmos II, that isn't the case. The shell and liner are both made in Italy, just as they were in the Garmont days, and the two fit together wonderfully. The four-buckle design is busy for an AT boot —the boot profile is thinner than an alpine boot, and so the buckles seem to stick all over the place — but it means the boot is highly adjustable for any travel: skinning, downhill skiing, even bootpacking.

On the skin up Baldy Road, the boots felt firm yet flexible, thanks to a well-made upper that's designed to flex ever so slightly in touring mode. Undo the topmost buckle for even more flex, then undo the ankle buckle, and it's almost like wearing a pair of high-top hiking boots.

After about two hours of skinning around, I was shocked, surprised and more than a little suspicious: My feet were doing just fine. Some days, I don't even feel that way in my snowboard boots. I even unclipped, tightened the buckles and waded through the deep stuff for a bit. The boots were still comfy, albeit just a tad tighter.

I clipped back in for final steep ascent and noticed the first touch of discomfort. The tongue pinched my shins, and so I tightened the ankle and upper buckles. It didn't completely solve the issue, but, after another hundred yards, I hardly noticed.

My first date with the Cosmos II was moving along swimmingly, but it was time to make a move and go for the first kiss. Even though the snow was hit or miss, the boots handled just fine on descents. They felt better than I expected on traverses — there was no weird swaying through the ankle joint — and they were responsive in pockets of powder. The boots weren't as solid as my alpine boots, but that was to be expected. They even made the rough-and-rugged run back down Baldy Road smoother than usual.

Is the Cosmos II the best AT boot on the market? No, but it is about $300 cheaper than those high-end models, and, for an occasional ATer like me, the Cosmos II is all I need. Here's to loving your boots and your feet.

Scott Cosmos II

Cost: $599 to $749.99

Sizes: Men’s U.S. 4-14 (Euro 35-48)

Weight: 3.15 pounds in size 8.5

Shell material: Powerlite shell made with Grilamid thermoplastic outer and four aluminum buckles

Liner material: Italian-made Powerlite ski mountaineering liner, with ventilated mesh through the ankle and memory foam padding on the footbed

Other features: Vibrman high-density rubber outsole for grip when hiking; shock-dampening footbed inserts; adjustable spoiler for forward lean; lock catches on buckles for touring mode.

The Cosmos II boot is available http://www.scott-sports.com or locally at Wilderness Sports in Dillon. The shop also offers boot demos and demo packages. For more info, see the shop website at http://www.wildernesssports.com.

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