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EpicSki › Ski Equipment and Resorts  › Ski Gear › Alpine Ski Boots › Men's Alpine Ski Boots › 2012 Fischer SOMA Vacuum RC4 Pro 130

2012 Fischer SOMA Vacuum RC4 Pro 130

Posted

Pros: Little to no break in period.

Cons: Price

By way of background, I am a strong skier (raced and taught in the past) and previously worked in a ski shop, so I understand ski equipment—generally. Additionally, I have extremely flat feet and bow legs. As a result, I avoid buying new ski boots like the plague (my last boots were 25 years old—Lange Yellow Fever race stock boots). Finally, I broke down and decided to buy new boots. At the behest of my friend who manages a ski shop, I tried on the Fischer Soma RC4 Vacuum 130s. He thought that my feet problems and bow legs make me an ideal candidate for this boot. In the liner, I used my Peterson Orthotics (30 years old). After a one hour boot fitting session where they heated up the shell to allow it to mold to the shape of my feet, I tried it out on snow. The boots felt as if I had worn them for an entire season! They were warm and had no leakage issues at the toe. The boots felt responsive. I also had no issues with wearing my ACL brace with the boots. Price notwithstanding, I would highly recommend this boot—with or without the fitting challenges that a person like me would typically experience. Boots should last a good bit longer than skis, so I would consider it a worthwhile investment.

Posted

Pros: amazing fit,perfect alignment,incredible dynamics,nicely damped,and not bad looking either

Cons: fiddly hardware,somewhat difficult entry

Let's get right down to it: These boots are not only astonishingly good ski products, they are one of the most astonishing products I've ever encountered, period. What's astonishing about them? Before I answer that question, I thought I'd share my experience with boots and how I happened to get my feet into these particular boots. It's been a long time since I've posted here, and I hope all of you bears will indulge me a bit while I meander toward my point.

 
I should point out that I don't have money to burn; immigrating to a different country, starting a new career and raising small babies has meant very little disposable cash lying around. Okay, none, really. So getting new equipment is not a decision I make lightly. And I've always been cheap. My choice this year was between a) decent powder skis, b) new slalom skis, helmet and armor so I could do some Masters racing, and c) (yawn) new boots.
 
Being cheap is easy with skis -- I don't care about having the latest and greatest boards, I don't care what the top sheet looks like or who else is skiing it, and I don't even care much about what the magazines say. There are very few brands of skis that suck, and my general strategy of a) figuring out the basic characteristics of the ski I want, and b) finding the cheapest possible high-quality incarnation of the basic formula (usually from a season or two before) has never served me wrong.
 
But boots are a different story. For truly dedicated skiers like you and me, boots represent the most significant investment we make -- not just in money, but in sweat -- and yes, even tears. If you're like me, you buy new boots once every 5-10 years. Boots are the only thing I ever consider paying retail for. And they're expensive. And unlike skis, you don't get a chance to try boots out before you commit to them. Once you wear them on the slope, they're yours, whether you like them or not. So I don't think I'm the only one out there for whom the idea of buying a new pair of boots gives great pause.
 
And it wasn't as if I hated my old boots. In fact, I have great affection for them. I've been on my Atomic RT Tis (130 flex) for 7-8 years now. I got them fitted by John Feig in Salt Lake -- one of the great boot-fitters in the country in my opinion. I learned a lot about boots from John, and even more about skiing and life -- and had a great time hanging out with him in the basement of the Snowbird racquet club, talking while he worked on my boots. As it turned out, I got to spend a lot of time hanging out with John. I still joke that paying for boot-fitting is probably cheaper than therapy but about as time-consuming.
 
My RTs were semi-plugs, and I had had a lot of foot issues, including: a) bunions that I had to have surgically removed (something you don't ever want to have to do!), b) a nasty achilles issue caused by a combination of poorly chosen Salomon boots and skating after kids during a part time ski-school stint, and c) very weird stance geometry -- my canting actually changes as I extend and retract, which is one reason I benefit from an upright boot. So even though the RTs weren't a terrible fit to start out with, there was still a good deal of punching, grinding, and planing, with a fair amount of experimentation involved and at least one trick that John swore me to secrecy on. (Seriously.)
 
One of the things that John convinced me of was that with my biometrics and skiing style, what I needed was an upright, powerful boot. "But how am I going to get these to flex in the bumps?" I asked. "If you think you need your boots to flex like that, you're not skiing them right." And damn, if he wasn't right. Over the next couple of 100+ day years (if 1-2 hours playing hooky from work counts as a "day"), I learned that you don't so much absorb the energy of the hill as throw your body down it and let your skis describe clean arcs around it -- you don't fight the mountain, you roll with it.
 
So those Atomics absolutely changed the way I ski, and so as tired out, painful and cold as they had become, I had grown very fond of them. With all of the time and effort I'd taken to get them "almost perfect", how could I go through all of that again? Plus, there wasn't anyone in our little town of Nelson that I thought I could trust to work with me on boots. Whenever I brought the subject up, I'd get the "are you from Mars" look and the stock reply: "Why do you need boot sole canting? We only get soft snow here!" And this was from the few shop boot folks who had actually even heard of boot sole canting.
 
But my first day on the hill on year convinced me that it was time for me and my well-loved boots to part ways. There simply was not one more "one more year" left in them.
 
I'd seen the Vacuum boots, and was intrigued. Okay, I was more than intrigued -- I was secretly lusting after them. But as of last year they weren't widely available -- maybe a dozen shops carried them in all of Canada. So I was thinking that I might have to check them out the next time I was in Vancouver.
 
But amazingly enough, I discovered that our local alpine shop -- Village Ski Hut, on Baker street -- was one of the first boot-fitters to sign on to the Vacuum program. That's not a small investment for a little shop in the middle of nowhere with about 1,000 sq. ft. feet of floor-space. (They've also just bought a full Wintersteiger machine -- these guys care about skiing, and if you're ever out here in Nelson, please consider giving them your business. And give me a shout while you're at it.)
 
So I went in there and asked the owner about his experience with the Vacuum technology. Ian said he'd been doing a great business with them and has had fantastic results fitting very difficult to fit folks. He was skiing the RC4 130 Pros and raved about them. Not "ski shop owner trying to get you to buy something" raved, but just "plain-old-skier raved". So I let it slip that I had been lusting after the full Race boot -- but probably couldn't actually afford them. Rather than trying to talk me out of it -- which is what every other shop owner had done ("why do you need a stiff boot like that? We only get soft snow here!") he understood where I was coming from. Then he mentioned that he never ordered them, but he just happened to have a pair of RC4 Pros. The boots had been bought for one of the shop staff, but she'd been injured and needed a softer boot.
 
"What size are they?"
 
"26.5."
 
"Gee, that's my exact size…"
 
Fast forward a month or two to last Saturday. Out of denial over my boot situation, and reluctantly putting aside the dream of a new pair of skis for my quiver, I stop at the shop on the way back from the hill and ask after them. Ian still has them, and with very little prompting offers to sell them to me at 25% off -- not bad for a current season boot in December. I went home to talk to my wife, and she reassured me that we could swing it. (One of the many reasons I love her.) So back I went, excited as a kid on Christmas morning.
 
Anyway, talk about making a short story long…
 
Ian got me fitted in 45 minutes or so as we chatted about -- what else -- skiing. We worked out my stance -- with Ian actually listening to what I was saying rather than trying to argue me into some kind of pre-arranged formula. The stand is set up to support you in basically any stance you want, and we ended up with full upright at 14 degrees and fairly narrow. I think one mistake a lot of people make is putting their stance where they think it ought to be, as opposed to where it actually is! (Now that I've skied them, I'm considering remolding w/ a bit more angle, maybe 15 degrees.) He heated the boots up while we put some padding around the previous bunion sites, and then it was time to step into them. (One thing he said -- don't flex in them at all when they're hot… that's a good thing to keep in mind because it's the first thing many of us want to do when we first step into a pair of boots!)
 
When I stepped up on the stand with the boots, I felt like there was something odd going on, but I couldn't put my finger on it. Then Ian asked me how the stance was -- and it clicked: I hadn't even thought about it, because there was nothing "wrong" with it! I remembered standing on the platform shims earlier, acutely aware that I wasn't actually standing on the boot soles -- just sort of awkwardly balanced on their inside edges. Now I was firmly, totally, solidly, perfectly planted on the soles!
 
With the vacuum bags on we started out at 320 -- I was going for a nice close fit. I could feel the boot begin to envelope me -- amazing! -- sucking itself up and around all of the complex convex and concave shapes that make up my foot and shin. After a bit of this the heel pocket still felt a bit loose so we bumped the pressure up to 360. Then we hung out for a bit as they conformed to my foot. I didn't find the process at all uncomfortable. 
 
Now, this is where my story get's really weird: New semi-plug ski boots, one to one-and-a-half finger fit. You don't so much "try them on" as "cram your foot in and try to guess which parts of it will be experiencing the most trauma six months from now". Am I right, people?
 
When I stepped off the machine, I couldn't believe it. I felt… nothing. Because the pressure on my foot was so even, it was almost as if I was wearing nothing at all. (I mean on my feet, silly. Part of my release conditions were that I had to stop shopping naked.) Plus, the damn things are so light. (For ski boots anyway. I probably wouldn't have bought them if they were advertised as "shoes", say.) I won't say they were perfect; I still had some hot spots, especially around my ankles -- probably in part from wearing my old boots earlier in the day. But I'm totally confident we can dial those in.
 
I took the boots off and we looked at them from behind. I couldn't believe how they had adapted themselves to the peculiar shape of my foot. It was cool to contrast them with the Ian's 130 Pros, because he's bow-legged and I'm a-framed. It isn't as though the sole is somehow bent over in the direction of your foot -- the entire length of the boot conforms to the shape of one's ankle and shin. You sort of have to see it with your own eyes to understand how different that looks from a typical boot fit; photos don't capture the dramatic subtlety of it.
 
Next day, I woke up early… I just couldn't wait to get up to the mountain. I was a bit tense, honestly -- I'd just dropped serious dime on these boots. What if they sucked? Well, at least then I could complain about them then. So actually, my worst fear was not that they would suck, but that they'd just be so-so. Nice fit, but nothing to write home (or my first EpicSki post in seven or eight years) about. Would I spend the rest of the season feeling like a shlub for spending so much money on something I didn't really need?
 
I got them to the lodge and eagerly put them on. I had a bit of difficulty, but nothing like I was used to. (Fischer has this wacky setup where you're supposed to put the liner on first and then shove the whole thing into the boot; not as traumatic and time-consuming as it sounds.) And imagine that, they were still totally comfy. I didn't appreciate how many little aches and pains I felt walking around the lodge in my former boots until they were suddenly, magically gone. I'd just gotten used to assuming that ski boots would always hurt (cue manly stoic voice) "a bit, but that's the price you pay for having boots that actually perform".
 
I walked out to the front of the lodge and clicked in. Immediately I noticed how flat my skis felt. I'd been concerned about the Soma stance -- I'd pronated severely as a kid; would it work for me? As I glided over to the lift, the skis tracked straight and true, with no input or subtle adjustments from me. Getting off the lift, I stopped to talk to my son's coach for a few minutes and then took off down a cat track with a narrow downgrade. Again, the skis felt almost totally flat. Lift my right leg, roll left ankle left and right and the ski moves cleanly from a flat glide to each edge. My right leg is a bit funkier and it felt a bit less fluid there, but that's due to some very wacky biomechanics -- biomechanics that will require more than the perfect boot to get right. But the point is that there was little to none of the awkward counter-rotations and other subtle movements I usually needed when doing these kind of drills.
 
At Whitewater, a very flat green run called Little Mucker (get it?) leads into Racers Line (where yes, we do actually set gates), a pretty wide open moderately steep hill. This was the moment of truth -- and thanks for your patience while I get there -- would they ski as well as I'd hoped? I was wearing my 11m slalom skis and rolled over into an arcing turn, than back, than another, than another.
 
Yesss!!! I had the immediate certainty that the turns I was skiing now were better than any turns I had made in my life. I've been working with a difficult transition to my new right outside edge for ever. It's sort of the last thing I need to put together a full turn that I'm really happy with. And the hangup, this little hip rotation thing I have to do to get that new edge was gone!! All I had to do was roll through the transition, and I was on the new edge. I found myself able to get through the transition higher and higher in the turn. And I know that I can keep pushing this; I feel like they've opened up a whole new potential in my hard snow skiing. Before I could get a really sweet turn in every once in a while when the moon was just right, but now I was cranking them off one after another. Ian had said something that stuck with me… Something about how you have lots of days when you feel like you can't do anything right, and then you have those days when you feel like you can't do anything wrong -- and with this boot everyday feels like that.
 
I could have kept things going further, holding edges and cranking turns better than I ever have before, except that to be perfectly honest, I was picking up too much energy off the mountain -- no matter how far I was cranking them back around and across the hill. These boots are really serious boots for sure, and my slalom skis while a bit tired can still kick you in the ass if you're not on top of them. Things began to happen too quickly and with too much energy for me to keep up with in the "don't catapult yourself into the trees on the first day of the season" sense. So, the bad news is that I'm going to have to become a much better skier.
 
Because here's the thing that I think a lot of reviews miss about the Fischer Vacuum boots in all of the justifiable obsession with fit:
 
They ski way better than I could possibly imagine a boot could ski! They're amazingly powerful, refined and dynamic. My Atomics were stiff, and had nice rebound, but they didn't have anything like the energy of these boots. These boots are definitely stiffer than the Atomics but somehow don't feel that way. The Pros apparently use an especially fast-reacting plastic..I don't know, but I could sense a real snappiness to them. Not aggressive or unmanageable, but insistent. But married to that, they have a dampness to them as well. They don't have any of that skittery, nervous quality. The best comparison I can make it to how Volkls ski next to every other brand I've skied; you know how most skis seem to trade-off between energy and snow feel and dampness, but Volks seem to get all three right? These boots are like that.
 
So a stiff racey boot like this must really suck in the soft stuff and bumps right? Time to test that theory. We've been really blessed for opening weekend here at Whitewater; 200 cm base, with shin deep light cold blower nicely layered on top of it. Not that I would mind someone giving me a pair of Big Mountain skis for Christmas (and I didn't have my Elan 888s with me), but still perfectly fine material to play with on a pair of Slalom skis!
 
I don't buy the assumption that you aways want soft boots and soft skis for soft snow, see above, but second, these boots work much better than my Atomics did when the going gets rough. Those worked great, but you had to plan ahead if you know what I mean -- hitting a sudden dip or divot without setting things up well could be a bit of a jarring experience. I'm not saying these boots couldn't kick you in the ass, but their responsiveness allowed me to react and reorient much more easily and quickly, giving soft snow a more playful feel. And here is where the stance really comes into play; just like on the hard snow, perfect alignment makes it so much easier for me to initiate a new turn and get my legs around and into a new turn. That's why I think people who say that you don't need good alignment are so completely wrong -- soft snow and bumps are exactly the place where you need to have a consistent, matched angle to the snow. When all of the angles are changing and you're moving through a totally dynamic space, the more variables you can get rid of, the better.
 
One more thing that I didn't expect -- and this one goes into the too good to be true category: My legs felt unstoppable; the limiting factor on bumps was all cardio. And I wasn't exhausted at the end of the day -- as they should have been the first day of the season and with practically no off-season exercise. I'm guessing thats down to a few factors; the energy that the boots seemed so eager to give back, my ability to ski more efficiently, and even their lighter weight.
 
Way past time to wrap this up…
 
What's really astonishing about these boots? Think about it this way: In every kind of product made, there are tradeoffs. The products that are really revolutionary are not the ones that do the best job of optimizing those tradeoffs. They're the ones that make the tradeoff obsolete. That's what Fisher has done with the Vacuum boots; they've erased the tradeoff between performance and fit. The Fischer Vacuum RC4s are not just the best performing and best fitting boots I've ever skied or can imagine skiing -- by either metric they're in a different class altogether.
 
I guess it's pretty obvious that I love this boot, and my sincere advice is to ignore or at least heavily discount the random negativity you hear about these boots. I'm sure that there are people that have legitimate gripes, but the cynic in me can't help but wonder if part of that is vested interest speaking. I had more fun on these boots and felt a greater sense of mastery than I had imagined in my best case scenario, and I'm convinced they will have more of a positive impact on my skiing than any equipment choice I've made since the decision to go with a so-called "race boot" in the first place.
 
There will always be naysayers -- the random "ex-racer" who claims the boot is "junk". In response to them, I can only say: I would buy this boot again even if I knew that there was a decent chance that the boot would completely disintegrate in a few years -- its polymers returning to the land of magical materials from whence they came. They are that good.
 
I'll try to follow-up with my experience as I go through what I'm guessing will be a couple of more remolds to fine-tune things. I think I want to try increasing the forward lean a smidge, I've got a few ankle pressure points, and some tenderness on my left achilles area, which given my experience with the Salomons I want to address right away. Plus, the whole thing is so cool that I just can't help wanting to go through it again. I think a lot of us skiers are naturally kind of geeky, and these boots are the perfect geek toy. Put them on the Christmas list for that special ski geek in your life!
 
 
 
 
 
2012 Fischer SOMA Vacuum RC4 Pro 130
Description:

100 % Worldcup Equipment VACUUM technology for a perfect fit and direct contact to the shell mean faster reaction times and greater precision. VACU-PLAST for optimised temperature stability, 15 % less weight, direct reaction to control impulses and better acceleration. With Racing Canting, Gel Flow Pad, Rapid Slide System and Antislide Velcro. Available in sizes 23.5 - 29.5

Details:
DetailValue
Binding Compatibility
Cuff
Flex Rating
Last (mm)
Liner Material
Micro Adjustable
Model Year
Number of Buckles
Recommended Level
Replaceable soles
Shell
Shell Material
Sizes
Thermo-moldable Liner
Models:
Model Name/TypeMPNEAN/UPC
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