Lange has traveled a long way as a brand without ever leaving home. The motherland for Lange lies between the boundaries indicated by the start and finish of a World Cup race. The plastic boot that truly revolutionized modern Alpine design, Lange long ago established the template not just for its own future lines, but for the entire market. To put it more plainly, it’s the most imitated boot ever.
Lange’s commitment to the classic, 4-buckle overlap shell is evident up, down and across its 2020 product line. Every model is built on essentially the same foundation, whether for a race or recreational application, for men or for women and regardless of last volume (i.e., narrow, medium or wide). Lange has dropped two lines of hike-mode (HM) boots since the 2016/17 season, leaving only the XT Free and Free W, which are transparently Lange’s best-ever HM boots and just as clearly two of the finest hybrid AT/Alpine boots extant.
No brand with a history as long as Lange’s has an unblemished record, and on the rare occasions when it strayed from its roots it made some serious faux pas, such as an hilariously bad rear-entry that it tossed together to demonstrate its disdain for the whole idea. But even when distracted by trend chasing, Lange never stopped making – and insisting on the unparalleled performance of – its classic race design. It doesn’t take a forensic scientist to discern the similarities between any Lange RS of yore and its current incarnation.
But that doesn’t mean Lange hasn’t tinkered with its flagship. Two years ago it changed how it molded its shells and cuffs, using two different durometers of PU and/or PE co-injected via 5 ports. This creates a sandwich construction called Dual Core that allows the plastic to be softer and more pliable in zones where elasticity is desirable (as in over the instep), and still stiff as a brick through the spine and sole.
This may sound like technical trivia, but lifelong Lange fans remember just how brutal it can be to try to pry off (note the “try”) a well-chilled Lange. Dual Core makes it possible to both put on and take off a pair of Lange RS 130’s without using the Jaws of Life. I know some of you still don’t believe me, so I’ll repeat it: all Lange Alpine boots are now as easy to don and doff as any other 4-buckle, overlap shell.
Last year’s nouveauté, Dual Core Light, injects ultralight Grilamid® and polyolefin instead of PU/PE into a plastic sandwich. Dual Core Light was created to make the XT Free boots more competitive in the weight-sensitive AT market, but two resort models, Superleggera (100mm last) and Superleggera LV (97mm last), available in both men’s (120 flex) and women’s (110), put an Alpine sole on a Dual Core Light frame so in-resort skiers can catch the Lighter is Better wave.
The big news at Lange – literally and figuratively – is a new line of wide-bodies that replace the SX series. The new LX design is the latest example of a trend towards building real performance into high-volume models, traditionally the unhappy home of mush buckets. The LX series has the same hierarchy of flexes found in boots made for the medium-sized masses, matched to a corresponding pecking order of thermoformable, 3D liners.
The scientific measurement instrument known as my foot detected a different, more generous fit environment in the 2020 RX series, the backbone of the Lange line. The standard RX last is still listed as 100mm (with a 97mm LV alternative), but as seems to be the case across the Medium market, it’s a “soft” 100mm. Medium feet that crave more fit tension can always step into a low-volume RX LV model.
Lange is to be commended for having the most coherent, consistent line of Alpine boots on the market, even if the alphabet soup of model names can be confusing at first. The challenge for Lange has always been how to be innovative (or at least appear to), without screwing up what it does best. Solving this ever-present riddle now falls to someone in whom we have the highest confidence, Thor Verdonk, tapped last year to lead Lange after many years of exemplary service for Lange and Rossignol in the U.S.
It’s hard to imagine Lange moving away from its foundational, 2-piece, 4-buckle shells, which due to their seniority seem as integral to the ski environment as snow. We remain confident that if anyone can put a fresh face on the grand dame of the boot world, it’s Thor.