Pros: Excellant Response and Control. Comfortable once it is customized to foot . Good for mortals like me who want a racey fit.
Cons: Probably going to take more work than usual to get a comfortable all-day fit.
Based on comments I heard, I tried the Raptor on in the store at the beginning of last season and was intrigued by the way the boots fit my feet straight off the shelf. I was skiing on the Falcon 10 last season,and around February, I found a sweet deal on the 07/08 Raptor for $199. I couldn't pass it up. I also skied in Atomics but will compare it to the Falcon, as they have the most in common, IMO.
I am 185 Pounds, 6'2". I ski aggressively, but not fast. My current quiver is quite small and limited to the Fischer RX8 -170, Dynatsar Contact 10 -172, and Head IM77 - 177. I spend most of my time on the RX8. I ski mostly the front side. I don't want to overestimate my ability and really never understood the arbitrary nature of the level rating system, so I will say I am a solid Level 7.
I discovered about five seasons back, that I ski best in boots in the 100-120 range. I am not a 'fast' skier(most of the time in the 15-25MPH range, outside of NASTAR),but I am relatively tall and anything softer, leverage becomes an issue and control suffers when edging the skis, especially on steeps.
IMO, the Raptors have a true-to size fit in that you might want to be carefull when downsizing. I downsized with the Falcons but no way, now how, would that works with the Raptors. I am a size 10 street shoe and anything lower than the 27.0, my toes were getting in the way and there wasn't enough space when shell fitting.
I had to have the right boot punched out a bit on the sixth-toe area and had a small amount of grinding on the heel pocket. These are pretty form-fitting lasts(at least they feel like it to me) and the toe box has a unique shape to it that seems to allow the forefoot to spread out naturally. This really is where the feel differs from the Falcons, IMO. The Raptors seem to have a much more soilid and natural 'connected' feel in the forefoot. The insteap is a tight fit and the heel and ankle pocket is also narrow and tight. Surprisingly, even though it's a tight fit, there is enough shape up front to not have the kind of mashing I get when I try on boots like the Dobermanns--ouch. I have had fitters try to reccomend the Dobermans before but something about the last just rubs me the wrong way when my feet get inside them--it's called severe pain all-around. I know they can be punched, but it never felt quite right. YMMV and thats not a knock on Dobermanns.
Anyways, excuse my skills with the new camera, just playing around. The forefoot has an anatomical shape to it and it resembles the outline of a real foot, rather than a general hollowed-out cavity that the foot fits into. The boot is bare-bones and relatively light but has a solid and substantial feel to it. The materials and components are all top-notch. No plasticy feeling junk on the buckles or cant screws. I would say the Raptor has the edge over the Falcon in this area. The bail-style buckles and general materials feel more substantial, all-around. There is also some type of rubber insert near the front of the toe box and I believe this dampens the shock you get when you get jarred. The Raptor comes with the large velcro straps, but I have replaced them with the boosters.
The default flex setting is 110 and the flex can be adjusted by drilling and seting two screws in the rear spine. This will boost the flex to 120 and 130, respectively. The forward lean can also be adjusted and I have shown the adjustment range on the rear spine lever that inserts into the back of the boot. The cuff cants out +/- 2 degrees via the standard dual pivot screws on each side. Adjusting the cant is much easier than with other boots I have owned. A multi-tool comes with the screws and turning the screws with the supplied lever is very easy.
My first impressions were that I feel much more neutral in the Raptor, without modifications, than I have with any other boot, both on the snow and just standing around. The feel I got from trying them on is the same feel I get on the snow, which was totally unique. I think the Ramp angle is listed as 4 degrees and the boot has a more upright feel to it than boots I have used previously.
The ramp does not have an aggressive feel to it, and for me, this has translated to a more fluid and natural fore-aft balance. (See cheesy bootboard photo.)
I could not get the Conformable footbeds to work in this boot -- too tight and it took too much space. I went with a Sole utlralight footbed with a small heel wedge to adjust for some over-pronation that was still around.
IMO, What has made the Raptor a great boot, is not whats happening on the outside, but the inside. The Leather liner is superb, IMO, and I have not needed, nor wanted a third-party liner such as the Intuition. I had replaced the leather liners in the Falcon with an Intution power wrap, but not so with the Raptors. This is the first time I have ever preferred and enjoyed the stock liner. Like all things custom, YMMV.
The liner has the thermo material placed in the right spots to mold to you ankle, heel, and shin. The fit and ankle retention is superb, IMO. After molding, it locked me in like a glove in every nook and cranny in the heel area. Unlike other liners, they seemed to have got this right.
The liner is relatively thin along the forefoot, ankle, and instep. The heel pocket is very, very tight and once molded, the tongue wraps the contours of my shin to perfection. YMMV.
The neoprene tongue is comfortable and firm, without any excess pressure.
In short, there is something about the feel of this liner that I have never obtained from any other stock liner in the past. Also, the feel of leather in contact with the shell seems to give a totally unique and connected feel with the boot. There is no 'laggy' feel.
At first, I had to get used to the tighter fit and higher response over the Falcons. The Falcon is a very responsive boot but the Raptor beats it in this department, IMO. YMMV. There is no lag and no delay -- turn initiation is instant and superb. Although I can relax on these, I had better be paying attention, because the level of response is very sharp, especially when it's 10 degrees and the boots harden up. This is a good thing, but it comes with a price. I still need to work on my mogul technique and these boots can be a handful on the hard and icey bumps in the East, especially when it's cold and the boots are especially stiff. I will not blame the boots and operator error has more to do with this, but I prefer the Falcons if I am going to be hitting the moguls -- that, or loosening the buckles on the Raptor. Hitting the bumps can be quite jarring in the Raptors if I am not not in the right place at the right time, which I frequently am not -- this boot has taught me I still need to work on moguls. It can get very tiring.
Other than that, I prefer the Raptors for groomer crusing and NASTAR. I prefer the Falcons in crud, moguls, and fresh snow.
As far as comfort, once I finally had the neccesary punch and grind, the Raptor is an all-day boot. My feet were falling asleep a bit at first and I had to get them ground to alleviate this. Shin bang is not an issue in the least and I attribute this to the tight, form-fitting tongue.
The Falcon is a good boot, but if someone were to tell me I could only keep one boot, it would be the Raptor. Hands-down, the best boot I have skied on to-date. The added bonus is I discovered that I really need to work on mogul technique this year.