In 30+ years of fitting ski boots the Fischer Vacuum represents one of the few times that a product has been introduced that is truly a game changer.
I have lots of days since late January 2011 on a pair of Fischer RC4 Pro 130 Vacuum boots.
From the beginning they were a perfect fit. I have done only two things to the boot after it was molded; added 5mm lifters after planing the soles to the degree I like and after 10 days give-or-take of skiing I’ve replaced the stock liners with a Zip Fit Gara.
I’ve believed in Fischer ski boots since the introduction of the Ti 9000 “Frankenboot” which, despite being way over-engineered, really heavy and very difficult to get into and out of, performed well. Fischer shells have since become much more refined and the offering more comprehensive and they ski really well.
There is a significant difference between other boots that are ab-ducted. First-ski boots have been ab-ducted to a degree since they were hand lasted of leather. Boot makers, like shoe makers, have long understood that an overwhelming majority of bipedal creatures (us) walk ab-ducted.
From its inception SomaTec has been Fischers tag for their boot project; Soma means “the body as distinct from the mind” and defines Fischer’s attitude toward human physiology, biomechanics and the body’s interrelationship with skiing. Their product line reflects that.
Fischer has been developing the Vacuum boot since 2004. The original intent was to create shell plastics that wouldn’t respond to temperature changes, which by in large they’ve accomplished.
As a by-product Fischer found their proprietary Vacu-Plast shell material had great molding capacity and it can be accomplished quickly and at a reasonable cost.
In the interests of accuracy, Fischer does not use a true vacuum to form the shells…they use what amounts to an air cast, compression type set up. The fine folks at Fischer-Erik Anderson and Matt Berkowitz, at the behest of my buddy Silver Chesak, set me up in a pair at SIA in January of 2010.
The process is simple and not all that time consuming. The shells are heated to the appropriate temperature, the feet, footbeds and lace-up liners are put into the shells, the buckles fastened lightly and then the skier is placed on the Fischer Vacuum Station that has been pre-set to stance width and forward lean. A freezer pack is wrapped around the boots and then the “Vacuum” compression jacket gets wrapped over that.
Once on the stand, up to three bars (1 bar=14.5+ psi) of air pressure is pumped into the compression jacket squeezing the shell around the feet. The force of the compression is akin to foam injection but not as intense.
After a prescribed time the skier steps off the stand, the boots pulled off and allowed to set for 12 hours so the plastic can re-crystallize.
After the molding process I pulled my liners out and ran my hand around inside the shell to see what had been translated. I typically have to carve three spots in both shells of any boot I ski on. The Fischers had perfect mold impressions of those spots.
As stated, I’ve not done anything but replace the liners with Zip Fit Gara’s and installed 5mm lifters after planing the soles. From the start they fit like a second skin.
Fischer claims that there are few limitations to the volume of foot that can be molded this way. The last of the Vacuum 130, Vacuum 110 and Vacuum Trinity out of the box is 93mm and can be molded up to 103mm; the RC4 Vacuum Pro 150 and RC4 Vacuum Pro 130 starts out at a slim 91mm and can be molded to feet up to 99mm. If necessary the molding process can be done several times if necessary.
We’ve successfully put some pretty burly feet into the 93mm shells.
For the ‘12-’13 season there are more options in the Fischer Vacuum shells; higher volume, wider flex ranges and etc.
Fischer ski boots are very efficient, entering turns earlier than boots not so abducted, timing at both the top of the turn and at turn release are a bit different than that of more “conventional” boots and muscles fire differently. Any trepidation I’ve had in the recent past about putting anyone in Fischer boots because of the abduction has been assuaged by good sales, few complaints and fewer returns.
The Vacuum series are modeled from the RC4 race boots so expect them to be exacting. Fischer boots reward dynamic technique; wider stance, squared-up shoulders and good lateral extension.
We have had very good success with Fischer. Skiers report the response and feel of the boot as intuitive, an accurate description, and Fischer has good lasts and in each series they offer appropriate internal dimensions.
The Vacuum Trinity is the ladies version and is a stout 100 flex and in fact we’ve had to soften several pair-not that the boot is overly stiff, it was that there were no options. Now there are!
The Trinity has the same configuration as the men’s 93mm boots.
Fischer ski boots complement woman’s physiology. The setup of SomaTec boots helps functionally reduce torsional stress on the knees.
Because of physiology-primarily the pelvis- women are far more subject to what often is referred to as “A-frame”-a knock kneed stance. The ab-ducted attitude of Fischer boots initiate turns very early, helping reduce the internal rotation of the lower extremities. A boon for all but particularly, I think, for women.
Another significant factor in the success of the Trinity-as well as the rest of the lineup-is weight; the Trinity is pretty light. This is throughout the Vacuum series but has been consistently and favorably commented on by a good number of our women clients.
New for 2012-2013 is the Vacuum Ranger 12. The Ranger is a fusion of Alpine and Alpine Touring-a burgeoning category.
At a flex of 120 the Ranger is stiff enough to satisfy strong alpine skiers looking for a front country boot that has better performance than many AT boots.
Starting at a 98mm forefoot, the fit is ample without being voluminous.
As with the rest of the Vacuum series, the lighter weight of the Vacu-Plast shell lends itself to this purpose.
The Ranger has a simple device at the rear of the boot for Hike/Ride/Lock; Hike lets the cuff hinge freely fore and aft for walking, Ride stops the cuff at the rear but allows more range of motion forward than Lock, which puts the Ranger at the stated 120 flex. The liner is well constructed for hike mode with a pivot point on the liner cuff, which has no ill effect on the performance of the boot in downhill application.
The boots feature fairly stout replaceable Vibram soles.
Consistent through the Fischer boot line, the Ranger is an abducted boot. As a quasi AT/alpine boot, the application is well served by an abducted shell; most of us bipeds walk a little duck footed so for the hiking/touring/walking aspect of the Ranger this is a good adaptation.
I have not done any touring or hiking in this boot as last winter was pretty dismal for any front country, backcountry or anything not lift serviced, but as an alpine ski boot the Ranger 12 skis well…although the 120 flex seems like a soft 120.
New in the lineup for 2012-2013 and an addition to the Vacuum series is the Vacuum Hybrid W 10. It is, for all intents and purposes, the ladies Ranger. At a 100 flex the Hybrid is a for proficient women skiers looking at crossover Alpine /AT boots.
The Hybrid, at 98mm forefoot width provides a good platform for wider feet and is married to a good biomechanically proper mid-foot and heel which gives the boot a really good fit and on snow performance.
The Hike/Ride/Lock mechanism is the same as the one on the Ranger; simple and effective.
The Zephyr 9W is non-vacuum and has been in the Fischer line for some time. Its success can be attributed to good last, good liner and light weight.
The 100mm forefoot is generous and the toe box is anatomically shaped, the room over the foot allows for a fairly high instep and as one would expect, the mid-foot and heel provide great rear-foot support.
The Zephyr skis really well. The flex rating of 90 is supple enough to promote good ankle flex and without detracting from performance, predictable enough to easily and quickly allow confidence and assurance.
Quite often our women clients use the term “intuitive” when referring to the Zephyr. This is due in part to Fischers abducted stance-abduction benefits and complements ladies physiology…a claim based solely on experience not epidemiological studies (standard disclaimer).
Women skiers are also more cognizant of the weight-it is a factor in the decision making process. The weight of the Zephyr is another component that contributes to its success.
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