In granting our review awards, we have some options. The highest scoring product, overall, gets our Editors' Choice. Sometimes, two Editors' Choice awards are justified. In granting the Top Pick awards, we have some creative license. We get to look at the sub categories of products, look at the ways consumers use the equipment we review and choose Top Pick award winners for certain niches. For the niche of consumers that ski downhill hard and fast and doesn't mind compromised uphill performance and heavy weight, the Lange XT FreeTour is an easy choice. At the other end of the spectrum, we granted another Top Pick Award to the lightest, best touring, and almost the poorest skiing product in our test. The Atomic Backland Carbon is an AT ski boot, but otherwise is nothing like the XT FreeTour 130. Check out the Lange, but read on to know what you're "in for".
Lange XT Freetour 130 Review
Cons: Very limited uphill and foot-travel performance
Compare to Similar Products
Our Analysis and Test Results
Lange is a ski boot company. They make nothing else. For this, we applaud them. In a world of "vertical integration", where every company seems bent on taking over the world, it is refreshing when one outfit focuses. For years and years, even as the AT ski business boomed, it seemed that Lange would stay focused on alpine only boots. We, for one, are thankful that Lange has bucked this inertia and decided to enter the AT ski boot market. Their XT FreeTour 130 brings alpine performance with just a touch of touring functionality to make it a specialized backcountry downhill ski tool for the modern market. This is an alpine ski boot that tours. Nothing else.
This is an alpine ski boot that tours. It doesn't tour nearly as well as the other products in our test, but it doesn't pretend to. The "walk mode" has limited range and a great deal of friction. The fore-aft flexion of the FreeTour is the lowest in our entire test and the associated friction of the tight pivot rivets and closely engineered ski/walk mode switch makes for a tool that, even in walk mode, feels like an alpine boot. This is ok. In fact, our lead test editor and dyed-in-the-wool "touring dork" has had his whole world upended by the Lange XT. Jed came to this AT ski gear review through the back door. He nordic skied as a kid, learned telemark in the 90s when that was the best way to access the backcountry, and was an early adopter of tech style bindings and "skimo race" style boots for all-around ski touring. He's never skied in boots weighing more than 7 pounds. He's never skied in overlap cuff boots. He's never skied in boots he couldn't drive a stick shift with. His downhill skiing shows it, but he's a dedicated human powered skier. His gear choices have always been in that vein. Now, when we "forced" him to try these Lange boots, he wasn't stoked.
What he found, however, was that the limited touring range wasn't all that bad. For your normal, skin-accessed, largely straight up and straight down ski touring, he hasn't noticed any real drawbacks to the touring mode of the Lange. Even if the downhill skiing performance weren't so much better, he could forgive the compromises in uphill efficiency. That is high praise. Now, let us qualify this. For flat approaches, for huge days, and for any sort of non-skinning (cramponing, walking, scrambling), the limited cuff mobility will indeed be noticed. In those settings, situations in which most backcountry skiers will find themselves from time to time, the XT Freetour boots will not be ideal. That is the reason we recommend our Editors' Choice products; the Dynafit TLT 7 Performance for all-around use and Atomic Hawx Ultra XTD 120 for those more concerned with their downhill experience) as your first or "quiver of one" boot choice. The uphill performance of the XT Freetour (or remarkably similarly constructed Tecnica Zero G Guide) isn't bad, but the others are much better.
These are the heaviest boots in our test. That weight comes correlated with excellent downhill performance, but it makes touring, walking, and step kicking harder. The theme through our entire testing and review of this boots has been one of compromise. Are you willing to compromise some attributes (weight and uphill performance) for another (downhill performance). That's all you need to ask about these boots. The other Top Pick, the Scarpa Alien RS, suitably, is about half the weight of the XT Freetour. That is significant.
These are the best downhill skiing boots in our test, basically tied for that honor with the Tecnica Zero G Guide. While our test team was largely unable to come to any consensus over the differences in downhill performance of these two, our lead test editor used them the most and he slightly prefers the XT Freetour. The only other boot in the review that comes close to the downhill performance is the Editors' Choice Atomic Hawx. The Atomic approximates the smooth, even forward flex of the overlap-constructed Tecnica and Lange, with a more touring-oriented weight and a more reliable ski/walk mode latch. The Hawx isn't quite as stiff nor as smooth in forward progressive flex, but it comes close. All the other boots we tested are in an entirely different downhill performance category.
Comfort and Fit
The XT FreeTour is one of the rare boots in our test that worked for most testers straight out of the box. Only the Dynafit TLT 7, Scott Cosmos, Dynafit Radical, and Fischer Transalp Vacuum TS share this honor. All the others required some sort of work to be usable by the bulk of our test team. Now, our test team is pretty resilient. They need to be to swap ski boots one day to the next for long days of ski mountaineering and backcountry skiing. You may very well need to customize any of the boots we didn't. The Salomon and Tecnica are both narrower and lower volume than the XT Freetour. The Cosmos and Fischer are slightly wider.
Further enhancing the value of this model of boot, Lange sells it in a "low volume" version. This version, presumably (we did not test it), offers the same performance attributes with less space inside for a given shell length. This is amazing, and will further sell the boot to those tougher to fit.
With almost eight pounds of material around your foot, the XT Freetour is plenty insulating. Even when fit close for downhill performance, as they should be, we found them to be insulating and comfortable. The Tecnica, Radical, and Fischer Transalp are similar. No boots seem warmer than the XT Freetour. The ultralight Atomic Backland Carbon, Arc'teryx Procline Carbon Lite, and La Sportiva Spectre 2.0 are all considerably less insulating than the XT Freetour.
Ease of Use
In order to optimize downhill performance, the XT FreeTour is built with "overlap construction". This means that the entire boot is two pieces. In order to get in and out of the boot, one must flex overlapping flaps out of the way on both cuff and lower boot. "Three piece" or "tongue constructed" boots have a front tongue that folds out of the way for entry. In short, it is easier to get in and out of tongue boots than overlap boots. In some instances this difference is unimportant. If you can put your boots on in a warm lodge or hut, it doesn't matter very much. If you are on the tailgate of your car in a cold and windy parking lot or, even worse, in a tent on an expedition, overlap boots can be a battle not worth fighting. For this reason alone, and we know it may seem silly but trust us, we don't recommend the XT Freetour for overnight ski touring camping.
Otherwise, the four standard buckles, velcro power strap, and tightly engineered walk-mode are familiar and reliable. The external walk mode switches on boots like the TLT7 Performance and Dynafit Radical Boot are easier to operate, but not by much. We found the walk mode switch of the Tecnica Zero G to be a little more finicky than that on the XT Freetour.
One major attribute of the XT FreeTour 130 is its sole. This model of boot is more versatile - in terms of binding compatibility - than any other in our test. Like all the boots we tested, and this is how we tested all of them, the Lange can be used in modern "tech" style touring bindings. These are the best for all sorts of backcountry skiing. Also, the sole of the Lange is built to be compatible (and safe for use) with so-called Walk To Ride (WTR) alpine resort bindings. For use in-bounds, WTR bindings are better than touring bindings. The XT Freetour boots, then, are more versatile for those that want boots for inbounds and out.
In case it isn't clear by now, we recommend these for that niche of users that highly values their downhill performance and experience. For going fast and hard downhill, on big gear and in tough conditions, the XT Freetour is great.
These boots, especially considering their high-performance attributes, are rather inexpensive. It must be due to the economy of scale that comes with simply converting an existing alpine boot design, but the end result is a high-performing product at a reasonable price. Additionally, we are confident that the FreeTour will perform at a high standard for a long long time. There is little to wear out, and the design is proven and unlikely to obsolesce. This is a good value.
These are strong, durable, well-performing downhill ski boots with just a couple concessions to uphill touring.
The XT FreeTour comes in LV (Low Volume) version. As the only boot in our test that does that, it further enhances its award winning status.
— Jediah Porter