Are you more into Freeride then park or maybe nothing makes you happier then boot packing a couloir or taking the split board for a thrash, then no doubt you've struggled to find a boot that is stiff enough in the right paces without feeling like you wearing a ski boot.
My trouble was that no matter how stiff the manufacturers said the boot was it always collapsed after hard use, not to mention the pain of kicking in steps with a soft toe.
This winter i am lucky enough to have mountaineering brand Fitwell sponsoring me and they were kind enough to send me out a pair of their latest boot, The Freeride.
This boot is brand new this winter and comes off the back of their massively popular split board specific boot the Backcountry.
First impression of the boot is the build quality, its second to none. Most snowboard boots look a little bit patched together but this has a real craftsmen feel. The sole is tough and looks like it will cope with most terrain. Its definitely on the stiff side and although it will soften slightly i think not as much as most boots.
After testing the boot out a few times i can backup the stiffness, its not for jibbing thats for sure. The ATOP lacing system works great, its nice being able to easily slacken off the laces when in touring mode and then be able to tighten again quickly. The powerstrap is another highlight, its something that every snowboard boot should have, i don't understand why its not standard. You can never get that snug fit around the top of the boot with standard lacing, the power strap just pulls it in and gives your shins something to push against to power through a turn. Its also a great addition when in touring mode, you can adjust the tightness around your shins to match the terrain. The sole is fantastic, i tried it on ice and also scrambling up rock and the boot gripped fantastically.
They do seem to have a bit more forward lean then most boots but paired with a slightly softer flex makes for a supportive fit.
Overall this boot is exactly what i have been looking for. A stiff boot that holds you ankle and offers lateral support, this is particularly useful when traversing as it gives you control over your edges and takes away that awkward ankle pain.
They are bit on the heavy side, so if you are into saving a few grams then it may not be for you....personally i like knowing that something is going to hold up so weight doesn’t bother me. The main reason i like these boots is that i can use them for general Freeriding, as the name suggests, its not just a split board boot and will easily cope with a day of charging around.
One thing i will say is that if,like me, you are used to regular snowboard boots then the Fitwell will take a few days to feel right. It will punish you if your not on your game, but once you accept that then be prepared to never go back to regular boots again. The last test is to see how they cope with a season of heavy use, but i get the feeling they are going to outlast me!