The growing popularity of the ski touring category has probably been one of the biggest trends in the ski industry during the past few years. In the past ski touring products were strongly divided between the side country market, with beefy skis, stiff boots and frame bindings, and the pure ski touring market, dominated by dynafit tech bindings, light weight boots and skis.
Recently however, these two sub categories have been getting closer to each other, and manufacturers have started to offer more products that not only tour well, but also perform on the way down. Athletes like Eric Hjorleifson, who are known for their ripping skiing, and who also spend a lot of time in the backcountry, have been forerunners of this trend – pushing manufacturers to produce better performing products.
Enter Lange´s new XT Freetour 130 LV – the company´s answer to the recent trend. According to Lange´s description “the new XT 130 Freetour delivers all the skiability of piste boots combined with the easy walking of ski-touring boots.”
Weight: 1790 grams per boot.
The boot comes in 130, 110 and women´s 110 flex versions.
Lasts: 97 (LV) and 100 mm.
Shell: The lower shell is made of Grilamid and upper cuff of Polyolefine.
Liner: Made of heat moldable Ultralon.
Soles: WTR (Walk To Ride), ultra grip soles,
Over-injected certified Dynafit inserts.
Range of motion in walk mode: 40 degrees.
About the boot
While Lange has a reputation for building heavy-charging race and free ride boots, the XT Freetour is their first boot with Dynafit inserts. The XT line that preceded the Freetour was already utilising a built in walk mode. On paper the XT Freetour 130 seems to be a great contender for the do-it-all free ride boot: it´s stiff and light, and the range of motion in the hike mode is good for an overlap boot. Add the Dynafit inserts, and you have a boot you could use both for ripping the moguls in the resort and skinning up the back country on your touring skis with Dynafit bindings.
The only thing limiting the boot´s overall compatibility is that it comes with WTR soles, so you need to check that the bindings in your resort skis are WTR compatible. (Bindings like Marker Duke and Jester, Look Pivot Dual WTR and Salomon Warden MNC work for example.)
Some competitors for the Lange XT Freetour 130 would be K2´s Pinnacle 130, Technica Cochise Pro 130 and Salomon´s MTN Lab.
My test boot is the 97 mm LV (low volume) version of the boot in size 26,5, skiers with wider feet might want to opt the wider 100 mm last. I have skinny ankles with not much curve above the heel so heel retention is often an issue for me with ski boots. I found the heel retention with the stock liner to be good, but not super tight in XT Freetour 130 LV. (The heel retention got better after I switched the original insoles for Superfeet´s insoles.)
While my feet are also wide just below the smallest toe, the boots also underwent a stretching procedure by a local boot fitter. Lange states that the mono-injected Grilamid material is especially good for boot fitting, so opting a low volume 97 mm last and then having it fitted to your feet is also a valid choice.
The Ultralon liner is said to have the same foam in them that Intuition uses in their liners. (When comparing the liner with an Intuition liner that I took from a pair of Dalbello Viruses, it´s clear that they feel different – the Intuition liners feel firmer.) However, I found that the stock liner gives you a pretty good balance between being comfortable and delivering performance – the tongue is solid and doesn´t give in when being applied with pressure.
My initial impression on the downhill performance of the Lange XT Freetour 130 (after spending a couple of days on the hill) was very positive. From the first few turns it was easy to notice that the boot was built by a company with a strong racing background: it felt stiff, the flex was predictable and the energy was being transmitted almost instantaneously to the skis. In short: the boot performed like a proper, stiff free ride boot should.
My view on the downhill performance of the boot didn´t change after spending a full week of skiing in them at the Pyhä Ski Resort in Lapland during the New Year. The snow conditions were´t optimal and I got to put the boots to test by skiing on rock hard corduroy and moguls on the pistes, crud and mixed, variable snow on off-piste. Performance-wise the boot delivered the same stiffness, quick energy-transmission and predictable flex that was noticeable already during my initial test days on the hill. I really could´t find anything noticeable to criticise on the downhill performance.
In my opinion the XT Freetour 130 is a considerable step up from the K2 Pinnacle, a boot that I have quite a bit of skiing experience from. While the K2 Pinnacle is a good all-around boot with Dynafit inserts, adequate stiffness and good range of motion in the touring mode, the flex is a bit unpredictable. When I skied the Lange XT Freetour 130 one day, followed by a day of resort skinning on the K2 Pinnacle 110, the difference of the performance seemed huge. After skiing on the XT Freetour with it´s aggressive stance and predictable flex, which boosted your confidence to really attack the terrain, the Pinnacle in comparison felt a little bit lacking performance-wise.
The touring/walk mode is switched on by pulling the strap on the back of the boot. To activate it fully though, you then need to lean forward and preferably un-buckle the top buckles of the boot. To put them back on ski mode you pull the strap down, buckle up and lean forward.
I found that if you unbuckle the two upper buckles of the boot, pull the strap on the back of the boot into hike mode and lean forward the boot would enter the hike mode on the first try, nearly every single time. The same applied when switching the boot back into the ski mode, if I just repeated the steps mentioned above in reverse order.
When doing quick laps, I used the metal hooks found in the the beginning of the teeth used for closing of the two upper buckles, for both up and downhill. This way I could basically switch the mode either way in a few seconds – very effortless. The fit of the boot was so good, that unless the terrain was very challenging, closing the two upper buckles tighter was not necessary.
On one occasion, though, I noticed at the crux of my off-piste route that the left boot was in fact on walk mode – not a very nice feeling. Still it was my own mistake; I had not checked it by leaning back and seeing whether the boots give in or not. So it is a good idea to check that your boots are in ski-mode before starting the descent.
The 40 degrees of range of motion felt more than adequate for the side country tours that I did during my test week. I was on Marker Dukes, which is not the lightest option. (The test skis with Marker Kingpin bindings never arrived). Still, I had no issues regarding the weight of the combination or the range of motion of the boot; I could just concentrate on the skinning up and enjoying the nature. One thing that I noticed, however, is that the majority of the flex comes when you lean back – there is not that much forward motion in the touring mode. While I didn´t find that restricting going uphill, it could be, depending on your style, an issue if you plan on touring a lot on terrain with long approaches / long flat sections.
I think that equipped with some light skis and Dynafit tech bindings, you could also make longer tours on the Lange XT Freetour 130. Having said that, this is probably not the ideal boot for expedition touring use with several consecutive days of long touring, especially if you are camping out. After doing laps on the slopes in – 15 to -20 degrees centigrade, I found it not so easy to take off the boots in a slope side café. So I think that if you plan on doing some touring on your winter camping trip, getting the boot on and off could be an issue.
I tested the boots in very cold conditions in Lapland and found that the stock liner did reasonably well. (I did switch the original insoles to Superfeet´s Merinowool insoles.)
When skiing inbounds in – 15 to – 20 degrees centigrade conditions I had to have small breaks every now and then to warm up the toes, but I believe that this is the case with 99% of the boots without a heater in these conditions . I also did a couple of hours ski tour in -30 degrees centigrade, after which the front part of my right foot was a bit numb; I had to rub it for a while in order to get the feeling back. Still, I had no problems while on the tour and I think that the conditions were already a bit extreme for a boot that was not originally built for expedition type of use.
The Lange XT Freetour 130 LV is a relatively low weight boot with certified dynafits insert and grippy Walk To Ride soles. I found that the boot delivers the classic aggressive Lange performance, giving you confidence to attack the terrain.
In my opinion the Freetour 130 tours well for side country use and equipped with some light skis and dynafit tech bindings could easily handle longer tours as well. (Of course there are boots that are lighter and have a larger range of motion. Not many of them will ski nearly as well as the Lange XT Freetour 130 though.)
The Freetour 130 is not an ideal choice for winter camping, as getting the boot on and off in cold conditions might not be easy. So if you plan to do consecutive days of touring you should opt for an accommodation where you can keep the boots warm. The stock liner handles cold considerably well, but if you live in an area where cold temperatures are the norm, you might want to invest in an Intuition or similar thermo liner.
All and all the Freetour 130 is a good choice for those skiers who appreciate the aggressiveness of a traditional stiff overlap boot, but still want a reasonably light weight, dynafit-compatible boot that can tour as well. (It will not be easy to find another tech-compatible boot that skis this well.)
The only downside is that the XT Freetour 130 comes equipped only with WTR soles, meaning that if you have non-WTR-compatible bindings in your resort skis, you´ll need to get some new bindings
Note: This review has been updated after my test week, on the 17. of January. On the 4. of February I made an update concerning my view on switching the boot between hike and ski modes, after having done more touring laps with the boot.