I only spent part of one day skinning in these boots, and got about what I expected from them. The walk mode is very solid in downhill mode and has developed zero play for downhill skiing, but it does not provide a lot of rearward ROM when compared with any of the other touring boots I’ve used recently.
I cannot feel any difference between the walk mode on the 15/16 XT 130 and the Freetour. The boots are a little tough to pop into “Walk” mode, so I found it best to do this before unbuckling the upper cuff.
I have had no difficulty popping them back into “Ski” mode, but this is also best done after re-buckling the upper cuff to get a little more leverage on it.
For my skinning technique, the ROM of the Freetour isn’t a deal breaker for long days of touring, since I tend to skin with a relatively short stride. For long, flat approaches, or for those who prefer a long stride while touring, the ROM may be a limiting factor.
Of note: Lange’s version of a “flex zone” in the Achilles area of the stock liner is labeled “Motion Control,” and it does seem to provide a little more rearward ROM than my ZipFits or an Intuition liner.
The Freetour features Dynafit-certified tech fittings. Overall, I think it’s a good thing that Dynafit is providing certification for other brands of boots. This standardization of tech fitting dimensions should help prevent the kinds of binding boot / interface issues that have resulted in inconsistent release and performance issues in the past.
Sole Blocks / WTR
In my review of the 15/16 XT 130, I noted that I was not a big fan of the WTR sole blocks that were included with the boots, since those sole blocks make the boots compatible only with WTR bindings. Fortunately, the 15/16 XT 130’s came with alpine-style ISO 5355 sole blocks, thus making the boots compatible with any alpine binding on the market.
The 16/17 Freetour comes only with the WTR sole blocks, so they are not designed to be used with any bindings that aren’t WTR compatible. As a result, I can’t use the Freetour with any ski setups that have a Marker Jester binding or older Look Pivot.
When we emailed Lange about the availability of alpine sole blocks for the Freetour, they responded that “XT Freetour meets ISO 9523 (Alpine Touring) and WTR standards only. When you put pins in the toe of the boot, it no longer meets the Alpine standard – ISO 5355. I have to assume any manufacturers or shops that are putting pin boots into an Alpine binding are either comfortable taking this risk, misinformed, or are ignoring ISO standards.”
This is frustrating to me, since after months of using both the XT 130s and the XT Freetour boots with both the ISO 5355 alpine soles and the WTR sole blocks, I don’t see any significant benefit to the WTR soles. They still don’t walk, crampon, climb, or rock scramble as well as the short, weight-saving, rockered soles of dedicated AT boots.
(And BTW, I did try to throw the alpine sole blocks of the 15/16 XT 130 on to the Freetour, but the hole pattern doesn’t work with the Freetour.)
The Freetour’s WTR sole blocks are also a little wider, have a little thicker rubber (and are consequently a bit heavier), and are a little more rockered than the ISO 5355 sole blocks, but in my experience, the real-world difference between lightly treaded ISO 5355 alpine soles (as seen on so many “freeride” boots on the market) and WTR soles is minimal when clamoring around on snowmachines, rocks, and helicopter skids. I do have one ski partner who prefers the WTR soles for sled skiing, but even he would be fine just skiing in lightly-rubberized ISO 5355 soles all season.
The bummer here is that the XT 130 Freetour could easily be a one-boot quiver for skiers who want a relatively lightweight, full-on alpine boot that can still tour in tech bindings. I know quite a few people who would find this appealing, but many of them will be disappointed to find that they’ll have to ditch their current bindings, purchase WTR-compatible bindings, and redrill their alpine skis in order to use the Freetour.
Overall, the XT 130 Freetour has held up well. As some of my ski clients like to remind me, I frequently ski with my lower buckles open and flopping around, and I haven’t yet damaged the buckle or the shells.
The only issue I’ve noticed is a small ding in the heel of one boot near the binding interface point. I don’t remember striking anything with my heels, and it looks like it happened just clicking into the binding.
I’ve owned a lot of alpine boots and have never put a ding in them like this, so it does seem a bit odd. But I don’t think it will affect the retention or safety of the binding interface.
For years, manufacturers have claimed that their tech-compatible boots ski and fit “just like an alpine boot.” Boots like the Tecnica Cochise series have been a great step in that direction, and aside from the higher-volume fit, the MTN Lab is a great touring boot that is plenty stiff but lacks the same progressive flex and fit of the best alpine boots.
The Lange XT 130 Freetour LV is the first boot I’ve used that really does combine a lower volume fit with a smooth, progressive flex and tech binding compatibility. If this is what you’re looking for—and if you’re willing to carry a couple hundred extra grams per foot compared to dedicated touring boots like the Salomon MTN Lab or Dynafit Vulcan, and don’t mind being limited to WTR alpine bindings—then the XT 130 Freetour may be the best boot out there.