Fischer Ranger Free 130 Ski Boot Review
Fischer made a couple major upgrades to their backcountry line - they refreshed the Transalp Series - but they also killed the Transalp Pro boot and replaced it with the much improved Fischer Ranger Free series. I personally tested the 130 flex but Hilary skied the My Ranger Free 110. She's used to a stiff alpine race boot so she always thinks the women's boots are soft. My Ranger Free 130s on the other hand were plenty stiff. They are a big improvement over the Transalp Pros, specifically with the cuff rotation, additional buckle (four in total), and weight reduction. More on the boot below.
The stock weight for these boots (size 26.5) is 1540g per boot. The Ranger Free 130s weighed in at 1572 and there will be some variance but claimed weight vs actual weight with Fischer tends to trend this way. I weighed my Ranger Free 130s (29.5) vs the Transalp Pros. The difference? 287g lighter and that's all coming from the shell which is 374g lighter in the Ranger Free but the liner is heavier. This isn't a bad thing - the Fischer Ranger has more of a traditional alpine liner which I'll get to in the next section.
The Ranger Free Ski Boots are very comfortable. They have a narrower last - 99mm - than the Travers Carbon, but much wider than alpine race boots. Four buckles plus the nylon power strap allows for a snug fit. The cuff also extends higher up the shin than most backcountry boots. The heel cup is more defined as well and the included spoiler is great for those with skinny calves. The liners have the feel of traditional alpine liners and while I never heat molded mine, it seems as though there's plenty of material to work with and get a custom fit.
Fischer lists 55º range of motion while in uphill mode. While this may be true, not all cuff rotations are created equal. Some require very little effort to max out while others take quite a bit of force. The Ranger Frees definitely take a little bit of effort and the additional cuff buckle can mash up against the lower buckle while skinning at a steep angle ( greater than 20 degrees). You'll also want to loosen the power strap for comfort and to free up the full cut rotation. The boots tour well but I say that more as an all mountain boot, and not in the backcountry class. I found the additional weight slowed me down considerably, which might have something to do with the additional weight of the Ranger 102 FR skis. That said, I was impressed how they toured for having the feel of a downhill boot.
This boot drives like a an alpine boot unlike the Travers series where you don't have the flex, stiffness, or cuff length like the Ranger Free. With the flip of a lever under the upper buckle, the boot's internal lockout mechanism will put you into ski mode (most of the time). This was one problem I encountered midwinter when snow got inside the shell preventing the lockout lever from engaging. A simple fix is apply some tape to the inside of the shell. The boots also have a full toe piece so they are compatible with downhill binding thats have AFP (anti-friction plates). I used these with some CURV slalom skis for a local race league and was very impressed. There's plenty of boot to drive all but the stiffest race skis. With my Transalp Pros I sometimes popped out of ski mode in places I least wanted to (think steep Alaskan couloirs) and this was never an issue in the Ranger Frees. One last note, for those really wanting to max out the performance of this boot, the nylon power strap is easily removed with a couple screws and you could swap out with a proper booster strap, sacrificing some grams.
Overall Initial Impression
Upfront - These boots didn't get put through the wringer like I do with most of my backcountry equipment does. My takeaway was that they are a major upgrade over the Transalp Boots. Lighter, more aggressive fit, stiffer, and better lockout mechanism. Not to mention Vibram Gripwalk Soles, 4th buckle, and better liner. They ski really well but would definitely overpower most backcountry skis. Paired with the Ranger skis they were excellent.