It is undeniable that overlap shell ski boots flex better and ski better than almost all boots with tongue (cabrio) construction. There’s a reason that they are used for most alpine ski boots (e.g., with the exception of three piece boots such as the venerable Raichle Flexon, which have their diehard fans). Thus, overlap boots still have an important place in the world of AT ski touring boots.
The Scarpa Freedom SL is a lightweight overlap boot that focuses on balancing skiing well with being usable for long backcountry ski tours. I’ve been testing out the boot since the beginning of this year’s ski season. The Freedom comes in two versions: the SL, made from lightweight Pebax plastic, and a heavier, stiffer version made out of polyurethane. I’ve been using the SL, so I’ll focus on that in this review. However, the PU version is very similar, while simply being stiffer, heavier, and with a slightly less flexible walk mode.
Scarpa Freedom SL is surprisingly light for an overlap boot, weighing in at 1978 grams in size 28. It has four buckles and a standard power strap. The lean lock is a new design from Scarpa meant to be simple, robust, and have a solid connection in ski mode.
Foremost with any boot: the fit. It’s been a while since I skied in any Scarpa boot but the Maestrale series, so it was a bit of a surprise when I first stepped into the roomy Freedom. Scarpa’s fit has traditionally been ultra-roomy in the toebox, which got toned down a bit for the Maestrale, but at least in the case of how my feet are shaped, volume returns in the Freedom. Personally, I find the Maestrale boots to fit better, but a little heat molding and foam-cutting fine tuned the fit in the Freedom. In some ways, more volume helps the boot fit a larger variety of feet, since the volume can simply be taken up by the heat-moldable liner, while customizing for various foot shapes. Also, the volume makes the boots super toasty warm. However, a boot shell that’s close to your foot shape will always provide the highest performance due to less foam squishing between you and the actual “control surface.”
I’ve been using the Freedom for all sorts of skiing, from long ski mountaineering days to short powder laps. The boot is stiff, but not as stiff as some of the stiffer AT boots I’ve been in. The overlap construction indeed makes it ski quite well, even though it is a slightly soft boot for my taste. For reference, I’ve previously found the stiffness of the Dynafit Vulcan to be perfect, and on the ski area I ski a Full-Tilt boot with the stiffest (10) tongue which makes it a fairly stiff boot. The progressive flex of the overlap Freedom is very nice. The walk mode of the boot is incredible, far and above any other overlap boot out there that I’ve tried. To get full use of the walk mode I find it necessary to unbuckle the buckles and loosen the power strap, albeit that’s something I do on all AT boots.
Bottom line: An excellent choice if you’re looking for a moderately stiff backcountry skiing boot that still walks well and has the sweet flex only an overlap boot can provide.
Also, check out our first look review here, for some more information and photos of the Scarpa Freedom.