Fischer had a long and illustrious history as a ski maker before they decided to jump into the boot pool, despite said pool already being awash with brands. The focus of their debut models was an abducted (toes-out) stance, a clever idea it slightly overcooked, leaving some test pilots feeling like they were traveling in a downhill herringbone.
Undeterred by the difficulties of getting traction in an over-served market, Fischer pressed on, tinkering with their stance and story until several years ago they went all-in on a fancy new system for custom molding the shell, Vacuum Fit. Vacuum technology had been part of Fischer’s manufacturing expertise for many years, so transferring this concept to ski boots may have been an easier step for Fischer to imagine than for other, tradition-bound brands.
Vacuum Fit was such a hit with specialty shops it enabled Fischer to steal the limelight from industry leader Salomon, even though Salomon was first to market with a shell-molding technology of their own called Custom Fit. The big deal about Vacuum Fit was that it didn’t just expand the shell (although it could); bring it closer to the forefoot. Even the one-in-a-thousand shops with a history of boiling boots to modify them never had the means of reducing shell volume all around the forefoot like Vacuum Fit.
Like many first-of-their-kind innovations, Vacuum Fit didn’t get everything right immediately. The biggest limitation was it didn’t have much effect on the critical rear foot, but a second-generation Vacuum station corrected this oversight. Today, the Fischer Vacuum is a Full Fit process, and still the only heat molding technology that facilitates reducing shell volume. For 2019, Fischer ups the POS technology ante with a podium that takes a 3D scan of the foot and lower leg, the better to match the skier to the optimal Fischer boot model.
Vacuum Full Fit is standard on the top three (140/130/110) RC4 Curv series of narrow (97mm) race boots, and the two best My Curv women’s models (110W/90W). The same pattern applies to the RC Pro (100mm last) 130 and 110 for men and My RC Pro 110 and 90 for women. Value options with a Vacuum fit only in the forefoot (Powered by Vacuum or PBV models) flesh out the bottom of the Curv and Pro series.
To Fischer aficionados, all but the 3D scanner is old news. (I admit it, I’ve been withholding information.) The big news in Fischer boots this season might turn out to have an even greater impact on Fischer’s future in the boot domain than Vacuum Fit in any of its incarnations. It’s the new Ranger Free touring boot, a category in which Fischer has been engaged for many years. But over those many years,
Fischer touring boots have been so specialized they haven’t bled into, or had much influence on, Fischer’s in-resort recreational boots. Ranger Free – and its interchangeable Grip Walk soles that work with Alpine bindings – is about to change all that.
Ranger Free is essentially an Alpine boot with every milligram of excess material removed. It’s insanely lightweight – only 1540g – but if its only virtue were minimal mass, you wouldn’t be reading about it here. In brief, it skis brilliantly: agile, reactive and most all, more close fitting than the RC4 Vacuum boots that currently occupy the center of Fischer’s line. After skiing in the RC4 Curv 130, the Ranger Free 130 feels like it was made for another sport. Which it was – namely, Alpine Touring – only it skis so damn well it’s a pity to limit its life to endless slogging uphill.
The Ranger Free is far from the first AT-compatible boot with real-deal ski-ability, nor is it the only one of its ilk debuting in 2019, but it does represent a new twist in the helix that blends the Alpine and AT genomes. All the security of an Alpine shell is there, with snow feel that has to be skied to be appreciated.
Everyone close to the center of the ski gear universe knows that Grip Walk soles will be the de facto norm before you can blink twice. It’s looking like better traction won’t be the only technology to migrate from touring back into the resort. Lightweight shell designs like Ranger Free might soon be ubiquitous, too.
This is probably not the right place to promote a ski movie, but allow me to notify my public that the 30th anniversary tour of Blizzard of Aahhhs is coming to a resort or population center near you this fall/winter. Why mention this now? Because one of the BOA stars, Mike Hattrup, is now working with Fischer on its touring collection. There is no better man for the job. You also won’t find a better person no matter how hard you look. I shouldn’t play favorites, but since there isn’t a right-thinking soul alive who doesn’t adore Mr. Hattrup, it’s not favoritism; it’s fact.