Fischer Transalp Ski Touring Line – Overview from ISPO


This post by WildSnow.com blogger  
Fischer is calling their very carefully branded backcountry line 'Transalp.'

Fischer is calling their very carefully branded backcountry line 'Transalp.'

When a company such as Fischer decides ski touring is a big enough segment of the ski business for a complete product line and major square footage in their expensive ISPO booth, one has to notice. And in their case you notice it isn’t all mouse bait (as in cheesy me-too efforts made by some companies). Sure, Fischer has always had various touring skis and nordic skis in their line; what I’m speaking of is their addition of boots as well as a ‘modernized’ ski lineup (skis reported from Outdoor Retailer 2014). All is branded in a way that’s obviously being pushed as a major segment of their business.

Why all the interest from ‘mainstream’ ski companies in ski touring? Simple. Backcountry is the only growing segment of the ski industry. Business 101 says when your customer base as mostly stagnant but one segment is actually growing you’d better take notice. So, done.

We are seeing this trend across the board. If you’re an experienced ski company it’s not that difficult to build a decent “backcountry” ski. Just lighten up one of your ‘all mountain’ designs and you’ll probably have something that works. But boots are a different story. For the time being our loyalty to the traditional backcountry skiing boot brands is an easy bias, as their boots are more advanced than most of the newcomers (many of which are simply alpine boots with a severely limited walk mode). But when someone such as Fischer makes a touring boot that includes proprietary fit technology and reasonable cuff articulation, one does notice.

Thus, after a trip to the ISPO press room for a triple espresso to counteract all the free pretzel bread I’d been hounding out, I did spend time milling around Fischer’s ISPO 2014 booth along with a predominantly Italian bunch of ski tour reps and shop owners, many of whom looked uncomfortable not to be in the Dynafit, Scarpa, Trab or ATK booths (to name a few of our ‘incredibly core’ breed, ha ha). I tried to interpret the grins and mumbled phrases with no success. From the looks of things, one had to assume they were saying things such as:

“Big heavy frame binding? Why?”

or “Nice skis, actually, REALLY nice skis. But I expected that, Fischer, you know…”

or “I heard these Vacuum technology boots will mold to your foot like a sock. Now that is something that could be quite nice — and they have tech fittings.”

Here be the ski line.

Here be the ski line. Quite extensive with 8 models. When weighed with the 'pick it up' scale they felt astoundingly light for not including much carbon. Transalp 80 is 118/80/104 and weighs 950 grams (catalog) in a 163 cm. That probably puts it in the 'one kilo' class. Their wider offering 'Hannibal 100' felt quite light but I don't have a catalog weight, it's a classic wide modern touring ski at 131/100/117.

Ski lineup in a nutshell:
Transalp 88, 123/88/11
Transalp 80, 118/80/104
Transalp Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, 118/82/104 (Google Gerlinde if you forgot who she is.)
Alpattack, 99/65/81 (650 gram at 161 cm, skimo race ski)
Hannibal, 131/100/117 (have to say these looked sweet)
Hannibal 94, 126/94/112
Alproute 82, 120/82/106
Alproute 78, 116/78/104 (appears to be a price-point offering for traditionalists)

As mentioned in a previous ISPO post, Fischer’s method of trimming weight is to reduce volume of construction material by using a minimalist core that yields what they call “Aeroshape.” This looks a bit too minimalist when you see the ski guts, but for now I’ll trust Fischer didn’t get too crazy and the package will work.

Transalp line includes niceties such as pre-cut skins, adjustable poles (funny how people still use those klunky things)  and several bindings.

Transalp line includes niceties such as pre-cut skins (re-branded from Kohla, a company who appears to have a very nice glue formulation), adjustable poles (funny how people still use those klunky things) and several bindings. Their tech binding appears to be a re-branded ATK or something along those lines, and their plate binding 'Ambition' is probably a re-brand of something, or if not it's a pretty close copy of a Fritschi. Yes Virginia, I'm not paying much attention to frame bindings these days. Hint, great opportunity for another blogger!

Now, the good stuff. Fischer's boot line looked very nice. Mostly basic stuff

Now, the good stuff. Fischer's boot line looked very nice. Mostly basic stuff such as tech inserts (sourced from Dynafit) and the usual cabrio shell with a lean lock. But what's different and exciting is all four Fischer touring boots are made with their Vacuum technology plastic. That means you get a boot with a shell that is incredibly easy to heat mold. Either spot mold it, or bake in Fischer's special oven and do their 'Vacuum' forming process to customize the boot totally to your own personal little feets. I think this is a big deal.

Fischer's flagship 'Transalp Vacuum TS Lite' clocks in at 1550 grams (catalog, size 26.5)

Fischer's flagship 'Transalp Vacuum TS Lite' clocks in at 1550 grams (catalog, size 26.5), an average weight for this sort of boot. Thus, a viable choice if you like the last or want to take advantage of Vacuum molding the shell and getting what might be the last word in fit.

Fischer Transalp Vacuum TS appears to be a lower cost option that weighs slightly more at 1620 grams for a size 26.5.

Fischer Transalp Vacuum TS appears to be a lower cost option that weighs slightly more at 1620 grams for a size 26.5.

Both the above boot models are sold in a female specific version, above is the women's Transalp Vacuum Lite.

Both the above boot models are sold in a female specific version; above is the women's Transalp Vacuum Lite. One thing we always enjoy about Europe is the greater participation of ladies in backcountry skiing. During many days we see what we count as easily 50% female, and during some trips we've actually seen more girls than guys. Unheard of in North America! With that in mind, it's super to see various ski companies continue with female versions of nearly all their ski touring products.

Below vid shows Vacuum Fit technology. Pretty simple. The boot shell is heated to the point where it’s pliable, then an air pressure bag is placed over it to compression fit the shell to your foot. The process requires specialized equipment that would be hard to replicate for the do-it-yourselfer, but is quite effective when done in a fully equipped shop by a trained boot fitter. From what I’ve seen (we did hands-on at Masterfit boot fitting training), I’d highly recommend the Fischer Vacuum fit process if you’ve never quite gotten a good fit in our touring boots. Otherwise, it’s probably not worth purchasing these obviously average ski touring boots just to be able to do the fit process.

Comments

35 Responses to “Fischer Transalp Ski Touring Line – Overview from ISPO”

  1. Jeremy February 24th, 2014 10:39 am

    Thanks for the overview Lou!
    While I was hoping for an above average boot offering comparable to the big guns of the touring industry, I am eagerly awaiting the Transalp introduction. The main reason being the V-shaped stance in all Fischer boots (Soma-Tec) to better match my naturally abducted stance. My knees are getting achier each year as my lower leg is forced to twist inwards all day long. I’m hoping these will provide noticeable relief, otherwise I may just start experimenting with mounting my tech bindings duck footed.

  2. Joe RIsi February 24th, 2014 10:52 am

    Holy Austrian techno music on that video! Boots like these will be a god-send for many. (esp. my family who all wear 4E width shoes).

    I wonder if smaller gear shops will be able to carry the boots without having to invest in a $6k brand specific boot oven.

  3. Lou Dawson February 24th, 2014 10:57 am

    “Average” is a pretty high mark these days for touring boots, considering shoes such as Vulcan, Maestrale RS, Spectre, Cosmos…. It’s interesting how we’re always looking to major brands as they develop buzz around a new product, thinking that somehow they’ll have the secret sauce everyone else is missing. In my experience, with ski boots the new offerings from new companies tend to be, yes, average.

    While Fisher, Dynafit and Garmont boots (among others) are made in the same factory with many if not most of the same employees, their design goals and business models are all different, so we get quite a variety out of one little area in Italy!

    As for stance, that can be adjusted by punching either right or left at metatarsal, which will move your forefoot over a few millimeters. I’m not sure this is necessary, seems like some pretty complex ergonomics when you start playing around with the rotation of foot/knee/hip, but for some folks I suppose it cold be worth trying. I’m duck footed, have always wondered how I’d ski with my bindings rotated, perhaps I’ll experiment some day. Lou

  4. Lou Dawson February 24th, 2014 10:59 am

    Joe, good point about the tooling investment, but is the oven really $6k? I didn’t track that!

    Thing is, even without the oven the Fisher plastic is a joy to heat mold using conventional boot fitter techniques. But I’m looking forward to vacuum fitting a pair of these and seeing just how “fitted” I can get a pair of ski touring boots in one step.

    Lou

  5. Andy February 24th, 2014 12:06 pm

    I am really excited about all these one kilo skis with an 80ish waist. That seems perfect for mountaineering! Transalp 80, Nanga Parbat, (molto caro) Magico…

    The boots also seem great, but they’ll have to get down around TLT weight to be attractive. I’m always concerned about ankle articulation too.

  6. Justin February 24th, 2014 1:03 pm

    Any idea on stiffness/flex for the different boots?

  7. Anders February 24th, 2014 1:40 pm

    The frame bindings look very much like Tyrolia/Head Ambition series, even down to the graphics. But hey, who’s looking :-)

  8. Lou Dawson February 24th, 2014 2:22 pm

    Justin, I’d imagine they’re all medium stiff, in the 100 range. If you’re looking for beef boots, these are not, they are European style efficient touring boots. Lou

  9. Lou Dawson February 24th, 2014 2:24 pm

    Anders, you are busted. Or is it sort of a ” I can look at the menu as long as I don’t make an order” kind of deal when it comes to spending time out of your life looking at frame bindings (grin)?

    I only looked at the bindings for 3 seconds (still, don’t tell my wife), but now upon your suggestion they do seem to match:

    http://www.backcountry.com/tyrolia-ambition-12-alpine-touring-binding

    Seriously, this is the sort of “me too” stuff that’s cheesy. Most certainly not worth much time.

    Lou

  10. Lou Dawson February 24th, 2014 2:41 pm

    BTW, while Somatec seems like a bit of a gimic, I should have mentioned in overview. The idea is that most people walk/run with their feet splayed to the outside (duck footed) to various degrees. Fischer boots with Somatec rotate your foot more to that position. I think this could actually have some advantages for some of us, both uphill and down, but it’s probably not going to change your life unless you’ve got some joint problems that the change in ergonomics helps with. I’ve actually always known that if in doubt I should mold my boot liners and punch my boots with bias towards being more duck footed rather than forcing my feet to pigeon toe. Somatec gets me thinking I should at least experiment, as while doing tests barefoot on floor my mostly fused ankle does move easier with foot splayed to the outside. But it also feels strange on my knees. Hmmmm. Lou

  11. Anders February 24th, 2014 3:16 pm

    Lou, who says you can’t have it all (except maybe my wife:-) ) I admit to being the proud owner of both Marker Dukes and Dynafit Radicals, in additon to Voile Three pins and various xc-set ups.

    But yes, I agree. It shows a certain lack of imagination for a big company like Fischer to slap some stickers on a already existing binding and pass it off as news. It would be intressting to see what they could do if they really put their minds to it. All those years of experiance and techical know how should render some good outputs. Hopfullly we are just at the dawn of a new era when it comes to development of backcountry ski gear. Light, strong and safe, we really do deserve it all

  12. Nate February 24th, 2014 4:35 pm

    Guys, that Fischer touring binding looks like a Tyrolia because it is… Fischer’s alpine binding line is basically (perhaps entirely) re-branded Tyrolia/Head, and has been for years. Not sure if they do any design/manufacture themselves. This is not really an uncommon practice in the industry- Look/Rossignol, Salomon/Atomic etc.

    I’d sure like to see more backcountry binding options, but can’t really say I’m interested in any more heavy frame types!

  13. Nate Porter February 24th, 2014 8:34 pm

    “But I’m looking forward to vacuum fitting a pair of these and seeing just how “fitted” I can get a pair of ski touring boots in one step.”

    So what does happen with the liner? Does it also mold during the heating and vacuuming process? I’m guessing so, but didn’t see it mentioned. If so, is it as good as the current liner offerings?

  14. AK Chugach skier February 24th, 2014 11:35 pm

    TOP 5 Reasons to use adjustable poles :wink
    1. works much better when setting up a mega mid or other tipi
    2. for long steep boot packs just shorten the poles so you don’t have to choke up on the pole (makes your whippet useless)
    3. more packable (many scenarios for this, not just traveling)
    4. I like to shorten my poles when tele skiing
    5. super cold days if you shorten your poles to keep them as low and possible on the skin up your hands will stay much warmer (TRY IT, IT WORKS).

  15. gringo February 25th, 2014 1:15 am

    _AK has some good points about the poles which we easily forget, but here in the Alps it seems most of the skiers use three piece poles so they can lash them, pointing up, onto their packs then proceed to wander around the train station as a moving optical hazard.

    Trying not to get your eyes poked out on overfilled Sunday evening trains in Switzerland is often the scketchiest part of a big weekend.

  16. Lenka K. February 25th, 2014 3:02 am

    Re. adjustable ski-poles

    Great for skating-out flats (happens more often than you’d think): works much better with 140cm-length than with my standard skiing 120cm. If you see people with non-adjustable poles in the backcountry in the Alps, they always have LONG poles that they hold about 1/3 down from the grip on the downhills, not exactly my idea of a practical solution.

    The re-branding of bindings is an old alpine thing: wasn’t Atomic the first one to buy a company (ESS) and sell their re-branded bindings with their own skis as a package, some 20 years ago?

    Back to the Fischer boots: any idea what the last is? Rather on the wider or on the narrower side?

    Lenka K.

  17. Lou Dawson February 25th, 2014 5:33 am

    Adjustable vs non-adjustable poles, it’s like snowshoes vs skis, eternal debate. All I can say is if you actually adjust them, more power to you. But I watch carefully in the backcountry and rarely see anyone adjust the length of their poles, they seem to just haul around the heavy expensive poles because that’s what is the proper thing to do if you are a ski tourer or ski mountaineer.

    What is more, gripping the pole part way down for traverses is much quicker and more efficient than standing there adjusting pole length during every switchback. Aloing with that, I see people all over the Alps and here in U.S. gripping their adjustable poles lower because they don’t want to take the time fiddling with the adjustment.

    What I’ve found is that a fixed-length pole, set to best length for downhill skiing, works fine for ski touring. We use super lightweight and shock absorbing non-adjustable carbon poles, they’re a beautiful solution.

    Again, if you actually adjust your pole length while ski touring, that’s terrific. But on the other hand…

    Poles and skins are the next frontiers in weight savings.

  18. Trent February 25th, 2014 5:43 am

    AK Chugach, I’ve found that one inch higher on the ascent will make my hands significantly colder. Is that psychosomatic?

  19. Nate Porter February 25th, 2014 6:37 am

    Thought we were talking about boots and bindings… ;-)

  20. Dan Powers February 25th, 2014 7:35 am

    Rocker on the Hannibals?

  21. Grum p February 25th, 2014 7:51 am

    Apparently the current La Sportiva Spectre/Sparkle boots will work in the Fischer vacuum oven…. and for folk with really wide feet the TLT 6 can also be moulded a bit like the Salomon Custom Shell boots if you heat the clog just right (doesn’t work so well if it’s just a wee bit too tight, doesn’t seem to give enough pressure alas).

  22. JCoates February 25th, 2014 7:56 am

    Exactly Lou, regarding the adjustable poles. I bought my self an expensive pair and then found I never once adjusted them. Now I just stick with the non-adjustable type. Just one less thing to worry about breaking on a long tour. My current poles do screw together to be an avy-probe though, so I’m still a bit of a gear geek.

    Another valid point that Rémy Lécluse used to make is that adjustable poles have no business in extreme steep skiing. A sudden collapse of the pole could be catastrophic.

    Paper-weight skins are going to be the next “breakthrough” in fast/light gear. Looking forward to it.

    -Josh

  23. Lou Dawson February 25th, 2014 8:32 am

    Paper-weight skins are definitly possible. Way back in the dark ages, Paul Ramer came up with a polypropylene plush on a super thin backing. They had no durability but weighed probably 1/4 of what a conventional skin weighs, as well as packing into a small bundle the size of your fist, for both skins. Super cool. I’d imagine someone is working on this sort of thing as we speak, perhaps using a Dyneema type substance for the backing. The crux is durability, as the backing has to be strong/thick or it’ll just tear in half.

  24. XXX_er February 25th, 2014 8:38 am

    I wouldn’t use aluminium extendables but IME BD flicklocks being half aluminium half carbon are pretty hardy cuz there is not enough alu to break and the carbon lower bends instead of breaking

    I extended them XC style for more push on long flat traverses like coming out of asulkan on the old railroad bed which made me faster, on tracks that are frozen/elevated I extend for more reach, on sidehills I can lower one, for transportation I collapse them … its up if you take the few seconds to adj

  25. Ak chugach February 25th, 2014 12:16 pm

    @ Trent. Hands held low by the hips receive much better blood flow than hand held elevated.

  26. Martin February 26th, 2014 3:23 am

    I had a pair of extendable carbon poles, and broke the lower part 5 times. Carbon may be super stiff, but when they get only a light hit with the edge of the ski, they just snap. I’m back to all aluminium now. Imo alu has a higher chance of bending without braking (e.g. when you fall on them), which still leaves the pole usable, at least for the rest of the tour.

    What’s the point of super lightweight stuff when you can’t rely on it?

    Regarding length adjustment: When I ski steep stuff, I make them 5 cm shorter than on the uphill. But I could probably do just fine with fixed length poles as well.

  27. Greg February 26th, 2014 8:29 am

    My main reason for touring with adjustable poles is that they’re the same poles I use for hiking in the summer, I’m just too cheap to go buy another pair :-D

    I’m very interested in the vacuum process, it’d be neat to see it in person.

  28. Kristian February 26th, 2014 11:14 am

    I find adjustable poles extended are great for long rolling approaches like we often have in the Rocky Mountains.

    However once when skiing (dropping) down into the 65+ degree Leia Skywalker Couloir, after the third jump turn, the lower pole plant collapsed, and I was suddenly tumbling like a rag doll in a front load washing machine.

    Fortunately, the evil collapsed pole was also a whippet and I was able to finally self arrest.

    The learned lesson is to be sure to periodically tighten the screws that hold the pole clamps.

  29. dmr February 28th, 2014 3:15 am

    @anders: companies rebrand bindings for marketing/sales reasons, allowing them to provide a full package to retailers, and thus making pricing easier/more competitive, etc. I don’t think that they’re trying to fool or hide anything from anyone.

    @adjustable vs. non-adjustable poles

    As a data point of one, I like adjustable poles and do indeed adjust them during an outing. While I’m no rando racer, I like a longer pole for the ascent (many rando racers in my area use cross-country poles), allowing the arms to be more involved in the ascent. However, I keep the pole at one length on the ascent, simply moving my grip up and down on switchbacks. Then for the descent, I shorten the pole to the right length.

    For truly steep terrain the verdict is still out for me.

  30. Lou Dawson February 28th, 2014 8:36 am

    DMR, true, there is no nefarious intent, but it’s still annoying and I wish they’d stop doing it.

    To be clear to our readers, the idea with this is that when a retailer buys product to sell in their store, if they buy more from a single source, they can sometimes get better payment terms, and the source gets to sell more of their own stuff to the retailer. So the wholesale source has incentive to offer as many products as possible in their “line” and try to convince the retailer to hook their wagon to that “line.”

    When a wholesaler can’t develop their own product from scratch to round out a line, that’s when the re-branding occurs. It happens in everything from tires to garden shovels. The wholesaler makes an arrangement with the other company so they can get the product rebranded. They probably don’t make much money specifically off the re-branded product, but again, it allows them to sell bigger complete packages of goods.

    One company in the ski industry that’s dancing around this is Black Diamond. It’s been obvious they are aggressive in developing a complete line of backcountry skiing hardware and clothing, and kudos to them for not, for example, re-painting a Fritschi binding with a Black Diamond logo. I’m sure someone somewhere was tempted to do that…

    Again, my gripe is the re-branded bindings are confusing for consumers as well as people trying to communicate about the products. Same with skis or anything, really. But re-branding won’t go away, that’s for sure.

    At least with a binding it’s obvious what it is. What’s really annoying is when they re-skin skis.

    Lou

  31. Lou Dawson February 28th, 2014 8:42 am

    RE the adjustable poles. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve seen a person actually adjust them while on the mountain in normal ski touring circumstances. For that vast majority it’s absurd they spend the money and carry the weight of adjustables. On the other hand, you guys who actually adjust your poles, fine, it’s terrific that such good adjustable poles are now manufactured. In the old days, we had to pee on them and let them freeze so they wouldn’t collapse. If the weather was warm that wasn’t an option, so we’d bend them and duct tape them.

    Don’t think I’m a crazy luddite with this, I still use adjustable poles when I need them, for example when using Whippets and wanting a short pole for booting up steep snow. But most of the time I’m using my beautiful feather-light non-adjustable carbon sticks.

    Oh, and yes this is WildSnow.com where we have a quiver of, everything! (grin)

    Lou

    P.S., Martin, I make my poles out of name brand carbon alpine poles. They’re super strong. While you can tap on your skis with them, you can’t whack on stuff the way you would with an all aluminum pole. I got out of the habit of doing that a long time ago as it eventually ruins aluminum poles as well. When I do want to hit my skis or bindings to knock off snow, I flip the pole around and use the grip.

  32. JCoates February 28th, 2014 10:08 am

    Question for you Lou or anyone who knows the gear industry well and wants to chime in:
    Who do I get to blame for a gear shop only carrying certain brands , ie “We carry Marmot but not Patagonia” etc.? Is this the shops just getting lazy and not wanting to do the research to find the best products and then make multiple orders from different companies, or do the big name brands sort of monopolize this in that they say “We won’t provide you our gear if you are also selling a competitors brand?” It’s frustrating as a consumer when I know Brand X’s ice-screws are better than Brand Y’s screws and I end up having to go to a different shop. Invariably I think it pushes a lot of consumers to say “Screw it…I’m just going to buy the stuff I want online.” Thanks in advance for educating me on something I’ve always wondered about.

  33. Lou Dawson February 28th, 2014 10:33 am

    Retailers, correct me if I’m wrong about any of this, I worked in retail a long time ago, but now my knowledge is more broad based on just being an industry insider…

    J, pretty common knowledge and a no-brainer when you think about it, many brands do all they can to make sure their ” brandX ” is carried in the shop, and not competing “brand Y.” As mentioned above, by offering payment terms, discounts or downright only letting the shop carry their brand if the shop will agree to not carry another brand. Further, the distributors will often not sell to just any shop, as they’re careful of geographic distribution (in other words, not having two shops next to each other with the same brand), and often they will make agreements with the shops about said geographic distribution (you carry our brand, we won’t distribute to that other shop).

    More, shops have to carry inventory, it’s expensive, so they have to pick certain brands. Think of a grocery store. They might have three brands of chocolate, but not 16 brands. Not enough room nor enough money to carry more brands.

    As mentioned above, the brands have ways of coercing the shop owner, mainly through discounts and payment terms, but also with geographic distribution. It’s all a big bunch of negotiation.

    If a shop has a lot of buying power they can cut through a lot of this stuff and carry what they want if they can afford to, but smaller shops tend to have to do what they have to do to survive. Etailers have a lot of stuff sometimes because they either have buying power, or are in the grey zone of etailing that’s still being figured out by everyone, or they’re getting product through other channels that bypass distributors.

    Don’t to strictly compare etailing to brick-and-morter, two entirely different animals that are both evolving as we speak. The result of that evolution is unknown at this time. Could be ugly, could be beautiful. Or a bit of both?

    Lou

  34. Bruno May 8th, 2014 3:18 pm

    Lou, with regards to your Somatec (duck footed) comment, if you have a slow day, do a 3degree abducted mount on a familiar pair of skis, and take it for a spin. If you’re currently using any binding cants to improve alignment, make sure those get transferred to the abducted mount as you will still need them.

    I’ve been playing with it a bit the last week to reduce lateral knee pain from over rotation of my right knee, and it does seem to be a game changer. For me it increases the power I can apply to the ski with less leg/knee rotation. Also, seems to skin very well.

    This provides a decent explanation:
    http://hendryxskis.com/en/info/duck-stance/

  35. Lou Dawson May 8th, 2014 3:57 pm

    Very cool Bruno, I’ve considered messing around with this, but I’m probably not the best candidate since I have to stay standardized for ski testing. It’s bad enough for me now that I’m used to tuning my binding delta so they’re all the same.

    Please keep us informed. Perhaps we need to get a blog post going…

    Oh, one other thing: When punching my boots for forefoot width, I usually try to punch on the outside so as to rotate feet in the best direction for my ergonomics. I’ll bet I’m getting around 1 degree of rotation out of the deal, without having to mess with binding mount.

    Lou

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