Gear Review: Alpina Alaska 75 ski boots & Voile Hardwire 3-pin bindings

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I wanted to share the details of my ski setup as it is not very common (at least in Australia) and I get a few questions from people I meet on the mountain. If you are looking for a versatile combo for backcountry touring read on…..

The bindings

The bindings are accurately described by Voile as the “Swiss Army Knife of telemark bindings”. As shown on the left in the photo above – the boot is secured using the standard 75mm 3-pin old school rat trap. A well-proven and reliable arrangement for backcountry touring. On the right you will see that the boot is secured by the rat trap at the front AND a hardwire style cable at the back – and this setup makes the boot/binding combo stiffer for more control going downhills and making turns.

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The steel rod and the spring-loaded cartridge of the hardwire system really helps to lock the boot in but the extra tension on the heel can be a bit annoying on flat ground or uphill – which is exactly when you disengage the hardwire and revert to 3-pin mode.

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You can easily take the hardwire off and leave it at home if you are planning on an easy kick and glide trip or you are a good skiier and trying to keep the weight down.

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You can see the climbing wire in the raised position in the photo above. These are intended to make it easier on your legs when you are skinning up long steep hills but I don’t have skins and try to avoid steep hills so I haven’t had an opportunity to use them apart from a brief test on a moderate uphill.

20160828_Alpina_002The hardwires are shown here in the stowed position. If you get the heel riser installed in the right location relative to the length of your boot the hardwire will lock in position behind the riser.

The bindings come with some anti-icing tape which you stick on the blue metal toe plate.

Overall I would say that these bindings are pretty awesome and I am really glad that I purchased them. The versatility is exactly what I want for my type of skiing. It sometimes takes me a couple of goes to clear the snow and get the pins engaged in the duckbill when locking in the toe but that would be the same with any 3-pin binding.

It is worth noting that like most Cross Country bindings these have no release function so there is potential to break your ankle or something in a bad crash. Some of the high performance telemark bindings have the ability to release your boot in a crash.

Bretto Rating: 9/10

Would I buy it again: Yes

The Boots

I wanted a heavy duty boot but I didn’t want to go plastic. I am a big fan of leather (footwear that is) and anyone who has an old pair of leather hiking boots knows how comfortable they can especially when well worn in. Think of the Alaska 75 as a heavy duty hiking boot with a 3-pin sole. It is insulated, has a waterproof liner and a great lacing system. What more could you want? Well if you are a gun tele skier you will probably want something stiffer and that is going to mean a big heavy plastic boot.

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Is it just me or is this a sexy boot?

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The rubber rand means that most of the wet slush doesn’t come into contact with the leather keeping the boot drier and warmer.

Warmth and Waterproofness

The boot has Thinsulate insulation and only on one occasion have my toes felt cold and that was after a period of inactivity. If you keep moving you are not going to get cold. The boots have an Alpitex membrane which I assume is Alpina’s version of Gore-Tex. Does it work? I think so…..I have noticed my toes get a bit damp and clammy on a few occasions after a long day or a few strenuous miles and I put that down to the inability of the toe section to breathe through the rubber rand. Obviously any membrane isn’t going to help breathability in that area but for most of the boot I think the leather and membrane combo seems to do a decent job of keeping your feet dry – from both the snow on the outside and foot vapour on the inside. With the exception of the rand section I would say it performs similar to a Gore-tex lined leather hiking boot.

When putting my feet back into the boots on the second day of a trip I have noticed the boots being a bit moist and taking a bit longer to warm up than when completely dry but there isn’t much you can do about that. One time I wore a pair of large plastic freezer bags over my socks as a vapour barrier to try and keep any moisture out of the boot lining and it seemed to work but the small amount of moisture is probably not a big deal unless you are going for a trip of many days somewhere really cold. If you are that much of a princess about getting a damp sock you probably need to find a new hobby.

I have not yet tried testing the waterproofness of the boot by standing in ankle deep water.

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The Vibram sole has the standard 3-pin holes and 75mm “Duckbill” at the toe. The grip is aggressive and provides good traction when walking around in the snow.

Sizing

I would say these boots run true to size or maybe half a size large. I normally wear a size 46 to 46.5 in Asolo and Salomon boots and shoes (which may be half a size larger than I really need but I hate my toes hitting the front of the boot). I tried on the Alaska in both the 45 and 46 and decided to go for the 45 for a firmer fit hoping for a bit more control on the slopes. They normally feel quite snug when I put them on but after 20 minutes or so they seem to bed down a bit and the lining or my socks compress or something and then my foot feels very comfortable. Maybe a 45.5 (if they make it) would have been perfect for me but I have no regrets going for the smaller size. I recommend you try them on before you buy a pair of boots – any boots. There is no point saving a few bucks buying something online if you spend the next 10 years with a pair of boots that don’t fit properly.

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The boots are a bit higher than a normal hiking boot so I don’t normally feel the need to wear gaiters when skiing or walking around. I have never had snow come in the top of the boot although if you are walking around in very deep and/or soft snow gaiters would be handy.

Comfort

This is where these bad boys shine. I have never had any rubbing, blisters or discomfort. While they are intended for skiing, these boots also perform well walking up tracks to get to the snow and when hanging around camp. Just like walking in solid hiking boots and I have never found the duckbill to be a problem. My threshold for walking in plastic boots up a road would be about 20 minutes before I got really angry and started swearing – which means for some trips you may need to wear a pair of shoes to walk to the snow and carry your heavy plastic boots. With the Alaska you only need one pair of boots for the trip.

Bretto Rating: 9/10 (I deducted 1 point for clammy toe syndrome)

Would I buy it again: Yes

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DISCLAIMER ON SKIING ABILITY AND MY EXPERTISE: The opinions expressed herein are based on my limited experience of cross-country / backcountry skiing. I have had this setup now for 2 years and used it on about 7 trips ranging from day trips with no pack to overnight trips carrying a pack up to 25kg. Before purchasing this gear I spent a couple of years looking into different skis, boots and bindings and trying out a few different setups. This included hiring “backcountry touring” gear for a 3 day trip consisting of plastic boots (Garmont/Scott Excursion or Scarpa equivalent) and Rottefella Chili bindings. This was just horrible. The boots were so stiff and uncomfortable that me and my 3 friends (who had the same equipment) couldn’t wait to get the boots off. I acknowledge that if you buy your own good quality plastic boots and have them heat moulded to your foot it is probably much more comfortable and you will have much better control when going downhill and your feet will stay dry and warm. But if you plan on a mix of kick and glide touring, a few hills and hanging around camp I don’t reckon you can beat a leather boot like the Alaska 75.

Buying this gear isn’t cheap and you will hopefully use it for many years so I recommend you hire some skis and boots or borrow them from a friend to work out what type of equipment is right for you.

Full details of the bindings can be found here:

http://www.voile.com/voile-hardwire-3-pin-telemark-binding.html

Unfortunately no one in Australia stocks these bindings that I could find so you have to order them from the US.

More details on the boots can be found here:

http://www.alpinasports.com/product/alaska_75/225

If you live in Australia you can get the boots from these guys in Bright. No affiliation but great customer service. https://www.everestsports.com.au/

I purchased the skis and got the bindings fitted at EMC in Melbourne. No affiliation but always great customer service from Doug and the team: http://www.snow-ski.com.au/

And in case you are wondering the skis are Madshus Epoch 195cm. What can I say – they are long and slippery.

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4 thoughts on “Gear Review: Alpina Alaska 75 ski boots & Voile Hardwire 3-pin bindings”

  1. On snow camps,in the old days of spring skiing and damp leather boots,we found shoving Chux cloths into the boot would dry them overnight. Chux cloth would dry quickly next day to be used again.
    Interesting boot and binding combo Bretto. I’m happy with Garmont Excursions but they can be stiff and uncomfortable to walk up and down Bogong or Stirling and runners/trail shoes preferable for approach to snowline.

  2. Thanks for the tip on the Chux cloth in the boot Ian. I will give it a shot next winter.
    You are not alone with your choice of Garmont Excursions. They are a very popular boot and everyone I have spoken to who owns them seems very happy with them. If I can improve my skiing skills over the next few years I might consider getting a pair for the steeper stuff.
    Cheers

  3. I’m in AU 🙂 I have the NNN-BC Alaska and am considering the 75mm for paring with Epochs or Fischer 98s for greater control. I’m hearing feedback that the ‘newer’ Voile bindings – focusing on plastic boots – are now too big for the Alaska duckbill and that there is some slop. How old are your bindings?

    1. Hi there. I got the bindings direct from Voile about May 2015 [no one in Australia could get them for me at the time]. I can use mine on the second click but normally I click it into the third slot (tightest) with no slop at all. Hope this helps.

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