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.”
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.
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.