The race is on for ski companies in the freeride-touring category. After years of Dynafit, La Sportiva and Scarpa, major alpine skiing players are now offering some highly competitive products. This year, it's Fischer's turn with the new Ranger Free collection. Here is a quick "first look" review of their stiffest and lightest offering, the Ranger Free 130.
A few specifications for our size 26.5 right boot:
- Stated Flex: 130
- Stated Last: 99 mm
- Sizes available: 25.5 to 30.5
- Stated Range of Motion: 55 degrees
- Total Measured Weight: 1565 grams
- Shell weight (with bootboard): 1200 grams
- Liner weight: 365 grams (with stock footbed)
- Binding Compatibility: Tech and GripWalk
- Tech Inserts: Dynafit certified
- Shell and Cuff Material: Grilamid
- Buckles: 4
- Powerstrap: 50 mm Velcro Strap
- MSRP: $799.95
The Ranger Free from Fischer aims at two types of skiers: the freeriders who are looking for maximum stiffness and support, and the resort skiers who occasionally venture in the backcountry and prefer to have only one boot to do it all. The boot comes in at a decent weight and Fischer really paid attention to the details to make it as light as possible. These were secondary though to functionality as shown by the stiff (and heavier) liner and the alpine buckles. In comparison with other brand's freeride-touring products, the Ranger Free feels very "alpine" in its look and features.
Where it saves weight and becomes a competitive product is in the use of Grilamid for the entire shell and cuff, and that cleverly hidden ski/walk mode. At 1200 grams for a 26.5 shell, you could easily shave off 100 grams from the total weight by going with a lighter liner. A 1450 gram four buckle boot is pretty good if you prioritize support and if you keep your skinning distances short.
The Take Apart:
At first glance we weren’t sure about the walk mode’s reliability from other boots that we serviced last year. We saw a number of failures last winter with some boots relying on cables to close buckles. However, the Fischer mechanism looks simple and it is easily accessed via the back of the cuff. A small lever under the top cuff buckle pulls on the ski/walk cable to allow up to 55 degrees of mobility. The simplicity of the mechanism and the fact that the tension on the cable is very low should make the entire mechanism reliable, aside from occasional lubrication. It looks easily serviceable.
The range of motion offered by the Ranger Free is good for an overlap design. It is way better than the likes of the Salomon MTN Lab and other boots in the same category. It feels smooth and restriction-free until you reach the limits of the shell. The stiffness of the brand new liner does restrict how smooth it feels but this would be easily improved with a touring-specific liner like an Intuition ProTour.
The Ranger Free package is completed with a GripWalk Vibram sole. While you won't notice this while skinning, a GripWalk system has to feature a flatter sole, which makes the boot walk a bit more like an alpine boot than a lightweight touring boot. This does allow skiers to use the same boots in tech bindings and any GripWalk certified alpine binding, which is now widely adopted among manufacturers.
On the fit side of things, the Ranger Free feels close to the Travers Carbon for volume and shape. While it seems to be sizing a bit short vs. other manufacturers, it is an easy fix for a competent bootfitter. Expect a medium volume and height paired with a somewhat roomy heel pocket.
The bottom line
Another great freeride touring offering from our friends at Fischer that will likely make lots of feet happy. Fischer improved on a classic boot with the smooth range of motion and the proven boot design which should make it a crowd-pleaser. Expect the grilamid shell and cuff to be easily customizable to address minor bootfitting issues. If your are looking for a hybrid boot or for something to power those 110+ mm underfoot backcountry skis, you should give those Ranger Free a shot.
Stop in to SkiUphill to ask physiotherapist and owner Joel questions or to have your boots fitted and molded.