The “Dav Boot,” or Freedom SL (1800g; $769; available fall 2013) as it’s officially known, has arrived, the lovechild of artisan shoemaker SCARPA and big-mountain ski honch Chris Davenport. SCARPA’s known across the range for its hand-crafted shoes, from slippers for bouldering to featherweight rando boots to alpine rigs developed in conjunction with Ueli Steck. Add to that list a big-mountain boot that packs thuggish strength, comfortable touring, and a surprisingly anorexic weight…and welcome to the Dav Boot/Freedom SL.
The mundane: All the hardware is top-notch–micro-adjustable buckles, a simple and apparently reliable walk/ski mode lever in the rear, canting adjustment, etc. It’s an Italian-made boot, crafted by people who spend days making boots, not hours. This isn’t the “easy part” of the equation, but it’s to be expected of a company like SCARPA (or LaSportiva, Lowa, Raichle, etc.).
The sexy bits: This is where things get interesting. An Intuition “Speed Ride” liner with a customized touring flex-zone in the rear/Achilles area (stroebel construction), lacing option, and standard premium Ultralon foam. A carbon stiffener in the guts of sole (SCARPA calls it their “Carbon Core Technology”), effectively lightening the boot, increasing torsional rigidity, and saving on heavier materials. Indeed, a full Pebax overlap design with an advertised flex of 120. (There will be a PU version available in the fall, the Freedom, with a less deluxe liner called the “Instant Fit,” which is not an Intuition product. This boot will retail for $599.)
If you look closely in the pic, you can see the carbon core, just where the sole begins to swoop down to the heel. The interchangeable sole connects directly through the carbon, making the unit seamless and burly. Zero slop and all power transfer. Tech fittings were perfect; no weirdness like some other brands on the market these days!
The “Ride Power Block” ski/walk mechanism is “friction-free,” which sounds nice…but more important feels like a score based upon my limited time in the boot. For a boot this stout, the Freedom SL has nicer touring action than heavier, softer models of yesteryear (like the older Denali). It’s surprising how well the boot walks–once you step in you’re expecting clunky touring, but the Freedom SL opens up for 27 degrees of easy-listening cuff range. I’ll try and get a tour in the things this spring, but for now I had to settle for an in-bounds day. More on this in a sec.
In a Mondo 27, the sole length is 307mm, about what you’d expect. Less rocker and an additional centimeter in length than my Dynafit TLT Performance, you immediately feel the “platform” of the Freedom SL. You can imagine how the thing’s going to drive a big ski and happily, once you step in, you’re not disappointed.
I had the good fortune to test skis last Monday with the crew from Backpacker, up at Copper Mountain. We had 8-10″ of fresh on the ground, with some scraped-off groomers to play on, too. Paired with a bigger, heavier ski like the Rossignol Soul 7, the Freedom SL puffed out its chest, threw its gloves to the ice, and got busy. I’d LOVE to get these molded to my feet (I just stole ’em for the day) and see what they can really do with a carving ski on hardpack and a long, stout stick in the backcountry. I did, however, try to downshift and ride a slightly lighter ski (Black Diamond‘s sure-to-be-a-fave-next-winter “Convert,” a 105mm-waisted touring ski that is GORGEOUS–7.0 lbs. in a 172cm) and the pairing didn’t fly. I could barely feel the ski (7.4 lbs. in the 180cm–dying to try it with my TLTs!) and couldn’t flex the boot. As much pilot error as anything, I suppose, but if you’re going to rock the Freedom SL, you may as well haul the tonnage of a big ski to get the most out of the boots. I didn’t get to pair them with BD’s Carbon Megawatt, either, which would’ve been interesting, as it’s a light-but-charger ski.
Anyway. The Freedom SL is a traditional overlap boot, with four buckles, and a monster power strap. When you’re locked down, you’re locked down. I wish there were a way to incorporate the “instep buckle,” of SCARPA’s lighter touring boots (see pic below). I love how that buckle locks the heel back into the boot, but the last on the Freedom SL feels like a deep, secure home for one’s heel, so maybe I’m chirping about nothing.
My wife’s SCARPA Geas, with the over-the-instep buckle, which I absolutely love in terms of fit.
The Freedom SL came in at 1803g on my home scale, exactly four grams heavier than the published weight. Dudes, you owe me a donut. Seriously, I’ve found SCARPA’s weights are generally “on” when verified…much appreciated. For a boot with this much umphf, that’s a serious achievement. Dynafit’s Titan Ultralight ticks the scale at 1820g; Garmont’s Radium at 1800g. I haven’t skied the Titan, but spent a day in the Radium and the Freedom SL feels more like an alpine boot when it skis than the Radium, and also tours better. Right on, bullseye.
I’m betting the Freedom SL is going to crush next year, across the board. For the meat-ride crowd (read: skiers way stronger than me), the Freedoms ski in-bounds, mechanized (cat or heli), and for the weight-weenie crowd like me, they will be a great option as the “heavier” set-up. I hope to get a set molded to my feet later this season and talk more intelligently about the touring/climbing/uphill capabilities. At a first glance, though, the Freedom SL seems like a slam dunk.