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); it could also 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.
Four years ago, Fischer augmented its point-of-sale technology 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. A similar scanning technology is also available in a smartphone app so skiers can scan themselves.
With the arrival of a worldwide pandemic, the ability to read a skier’s foot and ankle area in precise detail without the bootfitter touching the customer has become an attractive selling point. Even if only a few shops adopt the Fischer Scan-Fit system, the exponential expansion of Fischer’s data collection points will increase the accuracy of its lasts, a significant contribution to their boot R&D efforts.
Following a season of relatively little model turnover, 2020 was a banner year for new boot models chez Fischer. RC4 Podium GT introduced a new series of race clones that slipped into the Fischer line just below its trio of real-deal (92mm last) RC4 Podium monoblock race boots.
Two years ago, Fischer’s bolstered its non-race collection with the introduction of RC4 The Curv GT, a sleek new chassis built on a 96mm last. Much lighter (1840g) than a Podium race boot, The Curv GT was the first boot to take advantage of Fischer’s data base of foot scans, resulting in a more accurate initial fit. Still part of the Fischer line in 22/23, its liner is heat moldable and the shell can be Vacuum fit.
The big news at Fischer four years ago wasn’t about customization as much as it was about a brilliant new backcountry boot, Ranger Free. When the first Ranger Free appeared at the Masterfit Boot Test in 2018, it was the belle of the ball, blowing testers away with its agility and snow feel. This ultralight (1600g), hike-mode model comes in a medium (99mm) last and 3 different flexes for men and two for women, all equipped with Dynafit-approved tech inserts. Fischer capitalized on the warm reception given the Rangers by extending the clan three years ago with Ranger One, a wide (101mm) model likewise equipped for hiking. A little heavier (1790g) than the Ranger Free, the Ranger One lower shells can be Vacuum molded to alter shell volume by +/-3mm.
What makes Fischer’s strong move into the backcountry domain so significant is how well Ranger and Ranger One perform when you’re flying downhill. They’re precise, reactive and most all, more close fitting than the RC4 Vacuum boots that occupy the center of Fischer’s line. After skiing in the RC4 Curv 130, the Ranger 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 is far from the first AT-compatible boot with real-deal ski-ability, nor is it the only one of its ilk to debut four years ago, 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.
The GripWalk soles that are now standard issue on resort boots infiltrated the Alpine world from backcountry skiing. 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 might soon be ubiquitous, too.
While most of Fischer’s 20/21 Alpine line returned intact in 21/22, a new addition to the Fischer family last year underscored the brand’s strength in the ski market’s booming backcountry and Alpine Touring categories. The 3-model Transalp series uses a typically skeletal shell and cuff that atypically can handle the rigors of aggressive Big Mountain skiing.
For 2022/23, the flagship Ranger 130 morphs from Grilamid to PU, making the new Ranger Pro 130 GW DYN stiffer, damper, smoother flexing, more durable and easier to don and doff. Complementing the switch in shell material is a new Ranger Performance Liner, with a pre-formed ankle pocket and denser foam for a more lasting fit. As the initials tacked on its name reveal, the Ranger Pro 130 GW DYN comes with a GripWalk sole with Dynafit tech inserts. A 55-degree ROM confirms that it’s the real deal.
At the other end of the skills spectrum, Fischer has created a new generation of kids’ boots, the Fischer One and Fischer Two. A significant departure from the usual fare foisted on kinder, they challenge the assumption that a tot’s footwear needs to mimic the design of his or her parents’ boots. To learn more, check this out.