Scarpa Freedom SL Boot Review

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Riding the Scarpa Freedom's in Nelson, BC this winter.

Riding the Scarpa Freedom's in Nelson, BC this winter.

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.

Overlap construction and still plenty of cuff mobility for the uphill. Excellent combo.

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.


22 Responses to “Scarpa Freedom SL Boot Review”

  1. AndyC March 27th, 2014 8:40 am

    The PU sounds a bit like my Zzeus; I like it that my Zzeus are not so gaudy! LOL

  2. Pascal March 27th, 2014 11:34 am

    Hello nice blog, I’m reading for years. I’d like ton insist on the word cabrio instead of cabrillo. Cabrio stays for cabriolet which means an open top car. I’d be glad to drive one to Cabrillo monument CA. ;-)
    Have fun on ski.

  3. Lou Dawson March 27th, 2014 11:54 am

    Pascal, you are correct, but common use does use cabrillo for shoes so I tend to fall back to that by mistake. “Cabrio” is much better. Thanks, Lou

  4. stevenjo March 27th, 2014 12:25 pm

    Can you get tech compatiable soles with the PU version – or are those limited to the SL?


  5. Lisa March 27th, 2014 12:44 pm

    Looks like you’re giving them a good test in the opening photo. Beautiful shot!

  6. Kelly March 27th, 2014 1:56 pm

    Louie – how does the Freedom SL compare to the Maestrale RS in terms of stiffness/flex on the down and weight, tour-ability on the up? Which boot would you prefer for the type of skiing/touring that you do?

  7. Hayden Beck March 27th, 2014 3:05 pm

    I didn’t find the Freedom SL to be a very roomy boot at all, even when I went up half a size… Of course this was just from me trying them on at the shop. I went with the BD quadrant instead and couldn’t be much happier

    Maybe I have massive feet:lol:

  8. MtnMama March 27th, 2014 6:27 pm

    louie, could you give us a run down on the freedom sl vs vulcan?

  9. Lou Dawson March 27th, 2014 6:36 pm

    Hayden, I did see marketing talk that said Freedom had _less_ volume. But our reviewers are hopefully speaking from personal experience, and if that’s what was for one guy, than that’s what was. In your case, not so. Probably has to do with foot shape indeed! Lou

  10. mark borland March 27th, 2014 6:53 pm

    Hi, thanks for the review. I’ve been using the SL for 3 weeks in all conditions and the lateral stiffness, uphill and downhill is excellent, much better than any AT boot used before. But the fit is a real issue. These boots come up longer than expected from the mondopoint sizing. With a 26.5 foot and the correct boot size, after 3 weeks, i’m floating around in these boots. So I’d really suggest sizing down. I now have a long discussion with my boot shop in front of me and need to find a 26. Has anyone else had similar issues?

  11. Dave J. March 27th, 2014 7:53 pm

    Agree, Louie. I’ve got the SL’s and had only a few days on them (dry Sierra’s) before spending a week at Valhalla Mountain Touring in mid-March. Wow. Best fitting AT boot I’ve ever owned, and I go back to the old days skiing with your dad in the 70′s. Not a trace of a blister in 7 days. I put my custom footbed in and that was it. The walk/ski mode is awesome, so easy with a great range of motion. They ski much better than my old Green Machine’s, all the stiffness I need to drive a pair of BD Convert’s. Highly recommended if Scarpa suits your foot.

  12. Daniel March 28th, 2014 6:42 am

    Looking for comparo w/ Zzero4.

    Last shape?
    Walk mode?
    Stiffness comopared to the zzero4c?

    Thanks in advance!

  13. Michael March 28th, 2014 7:57 am

    Mark, one issue may be that Scarpa boots break on the half size. So a 26.5 is the same shell size as a 27 (as opposed to most companies where the 26 and 26.5 share a shell size). Anyways, hope you find the boot that fits

  14. Louie March 28th, 2014 10:40 am

    The freedoms definitely felt roomy compared to other boots out there. More volume than dynafit boots, or my scarpa maestrale. I took up the volume by taping a 1/4 in thick piece of foam to the top of the liner, then they felt great.

  15. Daniel March 28th, 2014 10:51 am

    Wow. How do they ski and walk compared to a Zzero?

  16. Louie March 28th, 2014 10:56 am

    As far as comparisons to other boots: the Freedom sl actually feels very similar to the maestrale rs, both on the up and the down. I’ve been skiing the maestrale rs this year as well quite a bit. The freedom skis a bit better, and the maestrale is lighter, but they are surprisingly similar. The fit is another big differentiation between the two boots.

    As for the Vulcan, they definitely less stiff than the Vulcan, and also heavier. The cost is much different too. A better comparison might be the mercury.

  17. Louie March 28th, 2014 11:00 am

    It’s been a while since I skied zeros. The freedoms ski better than a zzero, and walk very similarly, however I think the freedoms are heavier.

  18. Oli C March 28th, 2014 1:19 pm

    I actually bought a pair of these yesterday after dreaming about them since I first saw early athlete release versions of them last winter.

    And today, my first ski?
    After a typical sunny day’s long que at the Aiguille du Midi we eventually got going. Skinning they seemed really comfortable as we headed up to towards the Italian boarder. We followed a track up something steeper and they gripped nicely on the boot back. Time to lock and load! Soft steep powder felt great, put even my old boot would have in this perfect snow. As the slope became more gentle they skiied like a downhill, i jumped off little sections of windpacked snow and made little turns, and big turns. I headed through a bit of changeable snow, still great, responsive and comfortable!

    We joined back up with the Vallee Blanche which was mogulled and choppy. horrendous basically. In my old boots this would be a nightmare, but I was able to power through stuff like i was in downhill boots.

    Fit wise I have extremely wide feet, aswell as a high arch. I did suffer today with pressure points, but will be returning to the boot fitter in Cham to get the shells blown out slightly where my foot is tight. Otherwise the heel is very spacious, but there is no heel lift. The toe box area is also very spacious, perhaps too much on my left foot. Today I didn’t ski with the boots very tight and they felt secure and comfortable!


  19. rangerjake March 28th, 2014 1:31 pm

    The weights of the SL vs. regular Freedom are mainly different due to the heavier non-moldable liner in the Freedom. Plug an Intuition in there and the weight goes down considerably. Also the touring ROM is the same between the two boots. All components are the same excepting liners, plastic in shells, and what sole block comes stock.

  20. John Gloor March 28th, 2014 8:01 pm

    I keep hearing the cheaper PU version is stiffer than the Freedom SL, but the Scarpa site lists the Freedom SL at a 120 flex and the Freedom at 110. Whats up with this discrepancy. Is Scarpa wrong?

  21. Verbier61 March 29th, 2014 4:47 pm

    I skied with a pebax SL freedom on one foot and a PU on the other one. This is imho the definitive test. The pebax SL, like the vulcan I skied before, is a bit more more stiff than the PU, but definitely less smooth and progressive. For the way I ski, I prefer the PU, exactly like (in another two boots on two feet test) I liked the mercury a bit over the vulcan

  22. Chris April 1st, 2014 9:06 am

    Hi John Gloor and others,
    The PU version is not stiffer in the standard sense of the word, but the FEEL of the boot is more rigid due to the properties of the PU material. I ski the PU boot with a hard injected foam liner and it feels almost like a race boot. I use the Pebax boot with the custom Intuition liner it comes with for light weight and super comfort. So really it is a question of how the different materials feel rather than a marketing number, 110 or 120, which as you all know is based on nothing but the American consumer’s desire to have some number to base their choices on.

    As for the sole blocks- yes, the Freedom SL comes with the Vibram Tech sole and the regular PU Freedom comes with the Mountain Piste sole- and you can buy the former or the latter as a $45 accessory if you like from your shop.

    I’m in Italy right now and just spent two days working on the next gen of Freedom at the factory. Cool things coming down the pipe in the future.


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