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2017-2018 HEAD Raptor 140 RS

Paul Forward reviews the HEAD Raptor 140 RS for Blister Review

HEAD Raptor 140 RS

2017-2018 HEAD Raptor 140 RS

Stated Flex Rating: adjustable from 130 – 150

Stated Last: size 26.5 – 96 mm; size 27.5 – 98 mm; size 28.5 – 100 mm

Shell Material: PU Performance

Liner: Performance Pro liner, HP Frame Footbed, 40 mm Double Power Booster Velcro Strap

Buckles: 4 micro-adjustable Spineflex Racing alloy buckles, RD low profile buckles

Features: Flex Performance tuning, Double Canting, Rear support tuning, FIS approved sole thickness, Low racing wedge

Blister’s Measured Weight (size 26.5):

  • Shells + Boot Boards: 1892 & 1899 g
  • Liners, no footbeds: 547 & 548 g
  • Total Weight: 2439 & 2447 g

Test Locations: Mt Bachelor, Bend, Oregon; Chugach Mountains & Alyeska Resort, Alaska

Days Tested: 25+

Intro

Jonathan Ellsworth and I have both been putting a lot of days in the HEAD Raptor 140 RS since the beginning of March, and most recently on our Mt Bachelor trip. And the results have been good. So I’m going to offer my review first, then Jonathan will be weighing in soon with his take on the Raptor 140 RS.

Paul Forward reviews the HEAD Raptor 140 RS for Blister Review

Paul Forward in the HEAD Raptor 140 RS.

About this boot, HEAD says, “The Raptor 140 RS combines both comfort and performance for all-day, performance-driven skiing. The boot is customizable, delivering wrap and support that is second to none.”

Flex

First things first: If you’re thinking to yourself, “I don’t need a 140-flex boot,” don’t stop reading. Because out of the box, the Raptor 140 RS comes with only one cuff rivet in place, which, according to the HEAD manual, means that the Raptor 140 RS is actually a 130-flex boot. So you’ll need to add a second rivet to the spine of the boot if you want to bring the Raptor up to a “140-flex,” and the Raptor 140 RS actually has room to add a 3rd rivet to bring the boot up to a stated 150 flex.

I skied the Raptor with just the single rivet in the back (i.e., as it comes stock) for a few days, but started wondering if screwing in a 2nd rivet (okay, it’s technically not a “rivet,” it’s a screw / bolt with t-nut) would give me a little more support for heli guiding with my heavy pack (I weigh about 195 lbs, ~220 with pack) so I pulled out the 9mm drill bit (as per the HEAD instructions included with the boots) and drilled out the hole for the next t-nut/bolt placement.

After adding that second bolt, I went for a few laps at Alyeska to see if I could tell the difference between the two boots and found that it was quite subtle on that day (in temps around 5 degrees F). I ended up going with two rivets in each boot, bringing the boots up to HEAD’s stated 140 flex. I’ve been curious about adding the 3rd rivet, but haven’t had the need for a stiffer boot for most of what I do.

Flex Pattern and Comparisons

From the standpoint of progression, the Raptor 140 RS feels smooth and ramps up nicely. To me, the Raptor has one of the nicest flex patterns of any boot I’ve used recently, and feels smooth in a wide range of temps from sunny spring days in the 50’s F (where they do soften up a bit) to sub-zero F temps in cold pow.

In comparison to other boots I’ve used recently, the forward flex of the Raptor 140 RS feels stiffer than the Nordica GPX 130, and quite a bit stiffer than my old Lange XT 130’s (in which I have over 150 days). The 17/18 Salomon X-Max 130 (the new black plastic version) is comparable in stiffness, but feels a little less progressive to me. And I’ll be weighing in soon on the Raptor 140 RS vs the new 17/18 Lange RX 130 LV.

Laterally, the Raptor 140 RS has provided me with every bit of stiffness I’ve needed, and the edge control is excellent even with superfat pow skis on firm snow. Similarly, the rearward support is also very good, and even with my heavy guide pack, I’ve always been able to pull myself out of the backseat when I end up there.

Paul Forward reviews the HEAD Raptor 140 RS for Blister Review

Paul Forward in the HEAD Raptor 140 RS, Mt Bachelor.

Fit

My first impression of the fit of the Raptor 140 RS was that the boot feels slightly shorter than any of the other size 27.5 boots of similar design (like the 17/18 Salomon X-Max 130, 16/17 Nordica GPX, Lange XT LV 130, 16/17 Tecnica Zero). I did not need to get a punch for length, but my shell fit is a bit tighter.

I did find that like most high-performance alpine boots I’ve owned, I needed a 6th toe punch, but I wouldn’t say that the toe is any narrower than any of the boots mentioned above, except for the Lange XT 130 LV, which is a touch roomier.

My favorite aspect of the fit of the Raptor 140 RS is the heel and ankle. For my foot, the heel/ankle hold of this boot is about as good as I’ve had, whether I was using the stock liner, an Intuition Powerwrap Plug, or an Intuition Plug Pro liner. In all cases, my heel and ankle were cupped securely into the back of the boot with little to no movement.

The primary issue I have with most ski boots is dealing with my relatively high, bony instep. In this sense, the Raptor 140 RS wasn’t any better than the boots I’ve mentioned above, and required some work to gain some comfort. I have a very thin set of custom insoles which help, but for me to use the stock liner, I had to grind away at the plastic portion of the tongue quite a bit, and even after that, there was still too much pressure for long days in my boots. I ultimately spent most of my time skiing the Raptor 140 RS in the Intuition liners mentioned above primarily because of the instep issue. I did not try grinding the bootboard, but that would be another option to give me more room for my tall, bony cuneiform and navicular. As with all 4-buckle boots I’ve owned, I rarely use / tighten the buckle over the instep for this reason.

Booster Strap

I love the booster strap on the Raptor 140 RS, and would be happy if all high-performance boots came with one like it. In my opinion, it’s the best Booster strap I’ve ever used. It’s made by Booster, but instead of the cam buckle that I often associate with Booster products, it has what HEAD calls a “Double Power Booster,” which allows the user a 2:1 mechanical advantage when cranking down the stretchy velcro strap. I find it to be easy and convenient and quite comfortable.

Once I get the right tension figured out each day, I could guide long days of heli skiing or ride long days at the ski hill without ever having to adjust it.

It’s also worth noting that there are two different placements for doubling back the strap to accommodate both thicker and skinnier lower legs.

Buckles

They’re kind of funny looking, but I love the Head Spineflex buckles. They do seem to distribute pressure a little bit better, and they’re super easy to handle in deep snow and with gloves on. Overall, I’m a big fan and haven’t had any issues with them. Out of laziness (and also for instep comfort), I often ski without either of my lower buckles unbuckled. When I do this with the Raptor 140 RS, I’ve had no issues with the Spineflex in this regard.

Cuff Alignment

I tend to do best with boots that allow significant cuff canting to accommodate for my relatively varus knee alignment. I maxed out the outward motion on my Raptor 140’s and it’s been great for me so far. In my experience, the maximum outward cuff alignment of the Raptor’s provides for a few degrees more accommodation than that of the Nordica GPX 130, and dramatically more than the 17/18 Salomon X-Max 130, which has no cuff alignment option aside from what can be achieved by the “Custom Fit” option.

Soles / Rubber Soles

Because I spend three month a year heli skiing almost every day, I much prefer boots that have rubber soles. They are much better on heli skids, slippery hangar floors, and when scrambling around on rocks. So as soon as the Raptor 140 RS showed up, I screwed in the red and black rubber soles that are sold separately for the Raptor 140 RS.

Paul Forward reviews the HEAD Raptor 140 RS for Blister Review

HEAD Raptor Vibram Sole (right).

It took a little while and some careful screwdriver work to get all of the small-diameter wood screws into the boots without stripping the heads or getting them sideways, but it worked out. I then had to take the boots to my local bootfitter, Powderhound Ski Shop in Girdwood where the boot soles were routered down to accommodate for the extra sole height that was added by the rubber soles.

After getting the boots back, I headed into the field with them and had some mixed results. While they were definitely grippier than the hard plastic soles on the X-Max 130’s I was using the day before, much of the HEAD add-on sole blocks is still made up of hard plastic — the red-colored parts of the sole blocks. I had to learn which part of the soles would give me a little extra grip so that I could angle the boot to optimize contact with the rubber when climbing around the helicopter. I still took one good fall on the concrete near the hangar after getting a little too confident with them. Compared to thicker, larger rubber sole blocks like those found on the Lange RX or XT boots, or the Nordica GPX, the HEAD’s are definitely less grippy.

(For what it’s worth, Jonathan Ellsworth has about the same number of days in the Raptor 140 RS, and he has yet to attach the vibram sole blocks. So if you’re accustomed to plastic-soled ski boots, you should get along just fine with the Raptor’s stock soles.)

Stock Liner

The stock liner for the Raptors is thin throughout the forefoot and toe box, and provides just enough paddling through the heel and ankle to comfortably allow excellent heel retention. The tongue is plastic reinforced and quite stiff and well padded. I spent much of my time skiing these boots with the Intuition Powerwrap Plug just because they are dramatically warmer and much of my heli season this year was during very cold temperatures.

Feel

I’ve been skiing a lot of different boots this winter, but settled on the Raptor 140 RS for the remainder of my season for a variety of reasons, some of which are noted above. While fit is always the most important aspect of any boot, the feel of a boot on the snow is also important to me, but much harder to articulate. I have no idea what design features allow for a boot to feel more sensitive and allow a better feel for the snow under the ski, but the Raptor 140 RS does this better than any boot I’ve used in recent memory. Whether I’m on my Rossignol Hero FIS WC slalom skis or my DPS Lotus 138, the Raptor 140 RS gives me a better touch on the snow than other boots I’ve used recently, and that’s something I’ve definitely learned to appreciate.

Bottom Line

The Head Raptor 140 RS — with the add-on rubber soles — has been an excellent boot for me. The fit is quite good, the flex profile is excellent, and the buckles and Booster strap are among the best I’ve ever used. I do wish that the rubber soles were a little grippier and that adding them didn’t require a trip to a ski shop with a router, but other than that, they are among the best boots I’ve ever used.

8 Comments

  1. Blister Member
    Dane May 5, 2017 Reply

    The Raptors are nice boots and I just picked up a pair for my 12 y/o daughter in the 80 RS flex. I really like the dual cuff alignment on these as she’s very knock kneed and needs some good adjustment.

    I realize some people consider the Lange RS 130 more of a race boot (inspired maybe) but I wonder why there is no reference to it on your website as I know plenty of guys using these as their all mountain resort boot and I absolutely love mine for everything! Perfect progressive flex, so precise with good torsional rigidity and heels locked in like they are super glued. Mine are the wides with removable sole blocks (like the RX) so I’m considering adding the same Raptor Vibram blocks or do you happen to know if the RX/XT ones are compatible since they are both 100mm last?

    Anyway, thanks for the review and every time I read one of yours I start thinking about planning a trip up to AK to heli ski so I need to make that a reality in the next year or 2.

    • Author
      Paul Forward May 8, 2017 Reply

      Hi Dane, I’ve been trying to get in a pair of RS for a while now but so far haven’t skied a pair so I can’t say how they compare. I don’t know about sole block compatibility and that’s probably a question for your local shop. And re: Heli skiing in Alaska, I highly recommend it! ;-)

  2. Tim May 5, 2017 Reply

    I put in about 45 days on this boot this past winter and have loved it. wish i would have known about the Vibram blocks, ill be adding those next winter for sure.

    You made the comment “Once I get the right tension figured out each day, I could guide long days of heli skiing or ride long days at the ski hill without ever having to adjust it.” did you have a hard time dialing in that tension each day?

    Having 45 days on the boots I was never once able to get them buckled perfectly from the get go. I found that on a typical 8 hr day of skiing I would have to re-buckle the boots 2-3 times within the first hour and then they would be dialed in. it was almost as if the buckles would “settle” out a bit and require re-tensioning. Did you notice anything like that?

    • Author
      Paul Forward May 8, 2017 Reply

      Hi Tim, I can be kind of lazy about buckling my boots and sometimes just leave them on the loose side unless I’m skiing something really consequential. The comment you quoted was mostly related to the powerstrap because I found it easy to make it too tight. Regarding the buckles, when I’m skiing lifts I usually readjust once or twice but haven’t noticed them to be any different than other boots in this regard. I have not noticed any “settling” of the buckles. That’s an interesting observation though and I’ll pay attention to it. Best, Paul

  3. Blister Member
    Bob May 6, 2017 Reply

    Great review Paul. You mentioned in the post you would comment on the lang 130 lv 17/18. I did not see that comparison. I understand the 17/18 lv has a narrower heel than previously. How would you compare the head and lang heel width and retention? I need very narrower heeled boot. I have found the technica Mach 1 lv to have the narrowest heel so far.

    • Author
      Paul Forward May 8, 2017 Reply

      Hi Bob, I’ll post a separate review of the 17/18 RX 130 LV soon. To me, the fit of the new RX is very similar to the old RX/XT. I even swapped in my old liners and honestly couldn’t tell any difference based on my recollection. When I get home I’ll put a foot in each boot and include that info in my review. I too have a narrow heel and ankle and am quite happy in the Raptor and the Lange. I do have some relatively large heel spurs from ski boots. The best fit I got out of both the 16/17 and 17/18 Lange was using a Zipfit liner which created a fit with virtually zero heel/ankle movement.

  4. Jon September 23, 2017 Reply

    I’m looking into the Raptor 140s or 120s. Fit seems to be great while trying them in the shop. My big issue is what flex to go with. I’m an aggressive skiier but not a huge guy, 6’0 155-160lbs. I’d love to have a flex in the 120-130 range, but it looks like I’ll have to choose 110-120 or 130-150. I’m currently skiing on some old black diamonds that are 120 flex, but they feel pretty soft. Tried on the Lange RX 120 and felt like those were butter — definitely needed the 130 flex for Lange. Any recommendations?

    • Hi, Jon – given everything you’ve said here, you should go with the 140s — because they say 140, but the out-of-the-box “130” flex is not beastly. Just nice. Paul and I both have skied the Lange RX 130s, and we would both call the RX 130s and the Raptor 140s comparable in terms of flex. I can switch boots between laps, and there is really no adjustment / learning curve in doing so.

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