First of numerous editions.
Priced like a magazine- awesome value for the information presented!
Photo: Bob Peters
Not wanting to get lost in the volumes of (sometimes mis)information and mudslinging in the other thread, I have started my own. The other thread was a train wreck nearly from the start, and I pride myself on having viewed/seen very little of it. Enjoy!
My information and perspectives on the Fischer Vacuum is authentic and fresh.
I'm in the season 120+ days or so and I love my Fischer Vacuums. I've been skiing on two sets of Vacuums.
I've been sitting tight, collecting information on the Fischer Vacuum. I've molded a bunch of them, and have gotten quite good at getting them to fit a lot of different feet.
First off, it's still a good stiff boot at the end of the day.
That's the first thing I tell potential shoppers. In the beginning of the process, we had a number of naive customers who expected this was the boot to being their foot problems to rest. I don't know what would make a guy go out and purchase a 130 flex boot and think its not going to be uncomfortable in either the break-in process or after skiing for the day.
Skiing is athletically demanding and your foot, at best, takes a lot of compression and rattling from the act of skiing alone. Building up the muscles to adequately ski a race boot takes patience and effort. Understanding the relationship between control and compression is key. Your foot has to be squeezed into a boot to be able to deliver the forces required to ski with control and comfort. Ahhhh, the trick is squeezing your foot in a manner that won't cause pain, fatigue or long term damage to the foot.
All good skiers want control. Not all skiers are strong enough to handle the compression it requires.
Flat out, if a guy looked soy, I started elsewhere on the boot wall.
This boot and all of the associated media (mine in Powder Magazine included) made it sound like the fit was going to be so custom, your foot would never be uncomfortable again. Well, the boot conforms sooo well to the foot, it is almost spray painted on. The tightest areas are in the toe box and upper instep. My shell size is a 318mm (27.5 mondo) and it was short for me. I've spend considerable time in Garmont Shamans @ 317mm (350 days) and Salomon Falcons @ 315 mms (200+ days) and the Vacuum 318mm was the shortest of them all. Odd shell sizing was the first obstacle I ran into. We did a number of Morton's Toe expansions.
Seen here on the left boot and eventually performed on the other foot, it gave this guy a just a bit of relief. Sure punches do best when allowed to sit for a long time, but with the Vacuum, it was definitely an overnight procedure. Being slopeside, we knock out punches and grinds in minutes and have gotten good at “speed punches”- allowing people to get back on the slopes ASAP. I thought the Vacuum held punches well:
The Fischer Vacuum responds well to low volume inserts. Higher volume cork and synthetic cork inserts didn't work well at all- when I saw them. Too much volume in the insert forces the skier into the front of the boot, compounding an already tight toe box.
As with any bootfit hoping to deliver comfort and control (not necessarily in that order) a good custom insert is key. Tweaks in a racy fit are likely and are worthless without the solid foundation of a custom insert.
As my and the other bootfitters' knowledge grew throughout the season, we became my confident jumping into other problem fits from around the country. Remolds were common. #1 reason for a remold: most people overestimated their stance. Everybody thinks they're out posing for a new Heisman Trophy. Poor stance casting led to numerous other problems in the boot. From the start, I suggested skiers let me pick their stance- with a few objections here and there- I usually overrode most stance decisions.
“Nope.” Too wide. “Nope.” Too wide again. “Nope.” Still too wide! This process repeated itself time and time again. Even good skiers greatly overestimated their stance width.
This is me figuring out stance at Fischer's Park City race HQ last Winter. I eventually casted myself wider than this. The boot never skied well until I was able to remold at the start of this ski season. A grid board probably isn't used in many fits- but measuring stance is, I figure out stance on the machine and with a carpenter's square.
I eventually built custom shims that sat into the trays on the machine itself. This enabled skiers with a narrow stance to get casted correctly. The metal flanges on the Vacuum Machine on the medial sides are too long- it forces a wider stance. I thought about taking the stance trays apart and getting the boys in the JHMR machine shop to trim them down a bit- but the authoritative powers shut that down pretty fast. That's when I made the shims. The effectiveness of the shims (allowing for a more narrow stance) were somewhat mitigated by the size of the pressure pillows. They inflate too big to get a really narrow stance. Plenty of skiers have a narrow stance- a stance way more narrow than the machine allows.
A few skiers wanted to reduce the forward lean. We put heel lifts under the heel of the boot to decrease forward lean. This worked with mixed results. I have no hard measurements. Anecdotal evidence showed it seemed to work- although the primary test case- for a woman ski instructor proved to be unsuccessful.
From around the country, many skiers look to our slopeside boot bench at Bridger Gondola's side as a soldier looks to a M*A*S*H unit. I saw Fischer Vacuum fits from around the county. It was great. I remolded a number of them that were poorly performed, again, casting the stance way too wide.
@ 98mm the interior volume of the boot is pretty low. The Vacuum responds well to the low volume, medium arch/instep with a narrow forefoot. Fat feet didn't work. Extra padding to force width in the exterior of the liner and between the shell didn't do too much.
Seen here are extra padding around the 1st Met joint and a heel lift under the toe to provide room. Again, getting the boot plenty hot was the key to making these modifications work.
I made a few different custom pads that nestled over the instep between the liner and shell. If you had a tall instep, you got these pads. Constructed from a high durometer synthetic cork, they didn't compress under the heat and pressure from the mold. They were essential elements of the high instep fit.
The ten minute cook time wasn't enough to get the boot hot enough to mold well. After a few sessions we completely abandoned the times method and started to go for the “squish test”. It worked well. We cooked them on average for about 12-??? minutes. Sometimes more for the larger sizes.
The stock liner was said to be cold. I didn't find this true. Sure I was cold side on frigid days- there were many in December that were freezing. Adding Hotronics or Thermics defeats the purpose of having such a light and expensive boot.
This is foot of a woman in her forties with Raynaud's Syndrome. It was purple. This Fischer Vacuum fit eventually ended up with Intuition Plug Liner. No word on the Hotronics though, I suggested using the Intuitions liners first, then adding the boot warmers later. I think the warmth has been fine (it has been warm lately). The only problem this skier has was with the instep pressure... Still developing...
The liner was the major pitfall of this boot. Soft and on the cold(er) side it hobbled many fits from the start. It never expanded or conformed to the foot. The aluminum ??? material under the exterior mesh of the liner prevented the liner from expanding/contracting to conform to the fit. We had to fish gill the liners every time. Our bootfitters figured this out pretty quick. Placing gill cuts the liner on the first and fifth metatarsal head was essential. For a while there, every one came back that wasn't gill cut.
I understand what may have been an issue for Fischer. Getting the liner soft enough to conform to the vacuum process, yet still be tough enough to live up to the expected reputation of the boot. A tough choice.
I skied the stock liner 70+ days before I put in an Intuition Plug liner. It was the de facto fix for many of the fitting problems I encountered. For most of December we were following Fischer's guidelines that the shell should be molded first, then cooled, then mold the intuition. It never worked. I couldn't get a decent fit. For a coworker's boot, I heated up the Intuitions and the shell at the same time and vacuum molded them at the same time. BAM! Perfection! Worked like a dream.
The best part of the the Fischer Vacuum was the weight. I've mentioned it before, weight complicates all issues. Whenever a skier came in complaining about boot pain with a Surefoot ™ boot/shell/liner/combo I'd just go over and pick up a Fischer Vacuum and hand it to them. Which one do you think will make your foot happier at the end of the day? I firmly believe many boot issues start with weight. Skiers aren't strong enough to move around the heavy boot/rental binding combo.
The Fischer Vacuum (with the Intuition Plug Liner upgrade) is so light that I believe many boot issues are solved immediately- just by weight reduction.
Be a weight weenie. I am. You should be too. Let the Big Guys push around the heavy metal. You setup is too heavy, I know it. Don't come to me complaining about how your feet hurt and have a set of heavy, obsolete cinder block ski boots on your feet! Slightly off topic- but trash those old skis too! They are heavy, cumbersome and are messing up your vacation. Don't even bring them home. Fat skis are easier to ski in all conditions and are ultimately easier on your joints.
Again off topic: So some guy comes in and drops major coin on a Fischer Vacuum or another high end boot and is still skiing on two shit show pieces of railroad track from 12 years ago!?! Hobbled from the start he is! Poor guy.
Back on topic:
Being as conformable as it is, the shell material is soft. I see potential issues as skiers let their toes and heel pieces wear down to the point they are going to mess up the shell. That's the #1 way a ski boot dies. Skiers won't ever check the toes and heels- until they start popping out prematurely. At this point the actual shell may have been worn down to the point it is unusable.
The first Vacuum I received was a prototype boot. There was no replaceable heel or toe. It wore quickly. After about 80 days I began popping out of the boot- a few time on big turns. The boot material is soft. I have to walk very little and the toes went pretty quick. Even on the test boot I've skied since then, the toe piece wore very fast- too fast!
Here almost worn though the second toe after 30 or so days. All skiers need to be careful to look at heels and toes on a regular basis. This boot is now close to shot. I thought the toe piece material was too soft. Not really a problem for a recreational skier logging 10-20 days/year on the hill. For an industrial skier- those working in their boots- the light weight makes these boots great for working, but the softness of the toe pieces need to get figured out. My heel barely wore at all.
From the start, the Fischer guys recommended exterior heel padding to force the medial and lateral heel tighter to the foot. I never found that to work. Besides, the heel pocket was sufficiently tight for most skiers.
After molding a few of the test boots Fischer gave us, the general pressure setting we choose for most fits was #220. It seemed to be the magic number. One of our bootfitters did a pair at 120 (or something very low) and it seemed to work fine. They guy came back in and liked the fit.
I found most skiers and customers I deal with were already pretty solid out on the hill and were looking for some high(er) pressures. I molded mine at #360 with the piping hot Intuition liner and a very soft Vacuum shell. The pressure wasn't unbearable.
Standard Intuition toe caps worked best at creating space during the mold. I got a lot of call and emails from other ski shops selling the Vacuum looking for counsel and ideas on molds. I always told other fitters I thought the toe caps worked best under the liner. One shop called and asked about putting the toecap on top of the liner- I said... “whatever works”. Later in the season, we were putting heel lifts under the toe to force more elevation from the toe box. Here, notice the heel lift placed under the toe of the liner:
I love this boot! 115+ days and counting! Light and stiff, it combines many of the features I'm looking for in a boot. Never mind all of the bad press.
A properly molded Intuition liner was key to the fit.
You'll like this boot.
Here @ the top of the Headwall. Hiking in this boot was especially nice- nice and light. Notice Damaris' (8 y/o) skis behind mine in the shot. HA! She's so strong!
Burgess Custom- best custom made 3 layer Gore-Tex pants on the market- designed by you, built in the USA by her! The nicest pants I've ever worn!
Edited by Skiing-in-Jackson - 4/5/12 at 3:02pm