Raichle checks in with two introductions this year: the Carver series for shaped-ski use and the Diamond series of boots uniquely engineered for intermediate and beginner women. The Diamonds were not ready for testing, so we'll report on them in a future issue. Raichle's top-end F-One models return as medalists this year. Note: Several Raichle models (designated "Lite") come with Thermoflex custom-moldable innerboots. Tester consensus is that unless you have a high-volume foot, the standard liner may offer better performance.
F-One Racing Series
F-One Pro $600 F-One Vertical $575 F-One Edge $545
The precise F-Ones have slight hints of Raichle's trademark Flexon technology in their tongues, but the boots now march to a decidedly overlap beat. With a highly anatomical and asymmetrical design and a rear power booster called a Flex Whip, the F-Ones have strong power transmission.The F-One Vertical retains Raichle's heritage of relatively soft race boots, which are well-suited to recreational racers. Cygielman called the Vertical "a great softy, with even flex sensation all over." Evans found the Edge "lightning quick to the inside edge both in short and long turns."
Key Features Forward lean, cuff cant, mechanical heel lift.
Thumbs Up Easy in and out.
Beware Flexon tongue and buckles still a bit clumsy.
Who They're For Pro: Racer, All-Mountain Expert Vertical Edge: All-Mountain Expert, Executive
Flexon Original $475
The Energizer Bunny of ski boots, the Original Flexon keeps going and going. It brought back oh-so-sweet memories for former U.S. Men's Downhill coach Steinberg: "It's 1982 and our Downhill Team is just beginning to get respect on the World Cup for the first time since the early Seventies. The Original then called the Comp did that for us."
Though brawny skiers might overpower it, those with less mass will appreciate the Flexon's ease and lateral stoutness. "It's great for someone who doesn't get much flex from their ankles," said Thoren. "Stand upright and you can easily roll them in and out of the turn."
Key Features Silky-smooth flex tongue.
Thumbs Up If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
Beware Rube Goldberg buckles have been somewhat simplified, but the cables still get hung up in the wrong channels.
Who They're For Racer, All-Mountain Expert, Executive
Like many carving boots, the Carver was strong laterally but a bit gooey fore and aft. "For lighter-weight skiers this is a winner," said Evans. "It responds instantaneously to forward ankle movements." Testers were disappointed by the lack of a cant adjuster, "especially at this pricepoint," said Hoffmann.
Key Features Flex whip, and asymmetrical ankle flex joints that make it strong to the inside of the ski.
Thumbs Up No frills, unique cosmetics.
Beware No cuff cant. Toe box is short for its size.
Who They're For Supercarver, Executive, Player