The new Freedom RS ski boot is the new stiffer version of one of my favorites, the Freedom SL. This new addition to the Scarpa line stands out immediately as it is bright orange and you can’t miss it. Besides the color, what are the differences and is it worth considering the new RS over the SL, or is the SL the boot for you? There are many new boots out there and all will be a little different. Scarpa is a great company with a long tradition of creating and producing some of the best back country ski boots on the market. As a reference for this review, I am an avid skier who enjoys skiing aggressively and grew up ski racing. I am five foot ten, and weigh 170 pounds.
I had the chance to ski the new RS at a few areas in many conditions: a few short backcountry tours, as well as two longer (over 6 hour) tours. The boot and liner (Scarpa’s new Cross Fit Ride liner with a moldable lower half and race inspired upper) were incredibly comfortable after the fitting and I almost never had to loosen the lower 2 buckles. The one downside to the comfort was the liner was not as high performance as if I had the intuition wrap liner inserted. The new RS has a forward Flex 130, up from the SL 120, and actually feels substantially stiffer than the SL. This difference is most notable in tricky, variable snow conditions and when trying to push a bigger pair of skis (for me this is more than 114mm underfoot). The range of motion for the RS is 25 degrees and for the SL is 27 degrees. While this may seem like a small difference, I was surprised at how I was actually able to notice the slight loss of range of motion. This loss did not make me more tired and I got use to it, but I could tell it was there.
Both boots come with the mountain plus sole (tech binding compatible) and these can be swapped out for a pair of Piste alpine soles. These soles are DIN compatible and work with all alpine bindings. The walk mechanism in both boots are easy to use and don’t ice up in spring conditions. There is almost no friction in the walk mode, and the boot feels locked in when in ski mode.
For the boot geeks out there, both shells are made of Pebax (nice and light) and seem to hold their stiffness across a good range of temperatures. With that said, if it is really cold or warm you will notice a change in the flex of the RS. The forward lean on the RS can be 13 degrees or 21 degrees (compared to 10-18 degrees for the SL) and you can certainly feel when you are in the 21 degree position. The forefoot last is 101mm in the RS and SL. The Freedom RS in a size 27, one boot, weighs 4lbs. 6oz. while the SL in a size 27, one boot, weighs 3lbs. 15 oz. That is a 14 oz. difference for a pair and all of this can be attributed to making the RS significantly stiffer.
Now back to the fun part. If you are an alpine skier looking to get into the backcountry, or a backcountry skier looking for a stiffer and more aggressive boot, then the new RS is for you. If the RS seems like too much of a boot, then the Freedom SL could be the boot for you. I enjoyed skiing fast (usually in control) on big boards with the RS and will always choose these if the approach is not too daunting and the skiing is steep and challenging. Give them a try and let me know what you think.
Hope to see you in the Mountains