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Touring in Alpine Boots

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Touring in Alpine Boots

Postby coloradokevin » Sat Jan 02, 2010 2:59 am

Have any of you tried ski touring in your regular downhill ski boots? If so, did you notice a night-and-day difference if and when you made the switch to a dedicated randonee/alpine touring boot?

I can't possibly be the only one who is dumb enough to think that it was a good idea to tour in heavy/stiff downhill boots, but for some reason I've been doing my backcountry touring in my downhill alpine boots for the past few years. I'm not in my peak form at this very moment, but I wouldn't consider myself out of shape either. Still, my current backcountry ski setup sure seems to be slowing me down these days. Despite the theory that skis are faster than snowshoes in most conditions, I've been finding that the friends I normally outpace (or match) on snowshoes are now moving much faster than I am un uphill sections (clearly the downhill is no contest when I'm wearing skis and they are walking).

Anyway, my slower rate of climb made me begin to take an objective look at both myself and my equipment. Since I'm still moving at a pretty respectable speed by foot or snowshoe, I started looking more closely at my ski kit. When the scale came out I was a bit shocked to learn that my current setup (boots, binding, skis, skins) tips the scales at about 23 lbs 10 oz (give or take probably 2 oz for scale accuracy). To me that sounds very heavy for a backcountry setup. On the other hand, I don't have any idea how much anyone else's gear weighs.

The weights for my gear breakdown as follows:

11lbs 3 oz (Dalbello downhill boots)
11lbs 7 oz (older model Fischer Tour Extreme skis, mounted with Naxo NX01 bindings)
1lb 0 oz (G3 skins)

I've held off on buying true Alpine Touring boots for a few years now, mainly because I didn't feel like putting $450-750 into a set of boots. But, I'm starting to wonder if I'd (literally) get a lot more mileage out of my AT setup if I was skinning with a proper set of AT boots? Granted, I am starting to build the leg muscles of an Olympic sprinter on my current gear, so I can't really complain from an exercise standpoint!

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Re: Touring in Alpine Boots

Postby mtngoat » Sat Jan 02, 2010 5:50 am

I'm in the same boat with nearly the same set up. And the approach with alpine boots is always painful. Hoping to convert over in the next few weeks so I will let you know.
-Dave

If your life's work can be completed within your lifetime - you are not thinking big enough.

Re: Touring in Alpine Boots

Postby summersja » Sat Jan 02, 2010 6:59 am

I just got started out in AT gear and here is where my stuff weighs in at:

AT boots (older Nordicas): 8.5 lbs.
Skis (Volkl with Fritschi Titanal 3): 11 lbs.
Skins (G3 Alpinist): 1.2 lbs.

I bought everything used this year (skis, bindings and skins- $240, boots- $30). The boots are pretty warn out but they will get me through this season. I think it is about a wash for uphill speed- I am about the same uphill vs. snowshoes. But sure is more fun coming down! :D

Re: Touring in Alpine Boots

Postby sstratta » Sat Jan 02, 2010 8:32 am

I was in the same position last year, and this year I decided to made the switch and got some AT boots for Christmas. I toured a lot last year in my downhill boots, and besides the weight (maybe) slowing me down, I never had foot issues or blisters becasue they were so worn in after 6 years of use. So, I figured this year it was time to either get new downhill boots, or spend a little more money and get AT boots. I got some Black Diamond Method's at REI, and so far I LOVE them. The walk-mode is a lot more efficient than my other boots, and the flexibility you get going uphill makes it a lot more enjoyable. The only downside I've found so far is that my toes are getting a little more cold in these boots compared to my others...but it's not that big of a deal. I've found I get similar control and performance going downhill, so to me getting these new boots was totally worth it. It depends on what kind of AT boot you get, and also what kind of bindings you have...some are lighter and will alllow you to tour faster (unlike the marker duke bindings I have), but you might not get as good downhill performance.

Also consider the soles that your AT boots are compatable with...I decided to get some alpine soles that I switch out for the AT soles whenever I use these boots for resort skiing on my other dowhill skis. It only takes a few minutes to do this, but some people find it a pain.

As far as skis vs. snowshoes...I guess it depends on whether you can (or want to) keep up with other snowshoers, and how enjoyable you think skiing down will be. I've always used skis when I go along with friends that either snowboard (and are using snowshoes) or don't know how to ski, so are snowshoeing. While it takes a few extra minutes at the start to get the skins on, etc. I've found I can always keep up. Plus, if they have to wait for you at the start or on the way up, you'll have to wait for them on the way down after you make a few turns. And in my opinion skiing down is way more fun than walking. I guess it also depends on where you are...certainly not all areas call for skis, so snowshoes might be a better bet.

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Re: Touring in Alpine Boots

Postby TomPierce » Sat Jan 02, 2010 10:41 am

Kevin: Wow...I'm shocked at how heavy the modern set-ups are. Your post made me go out and weigh my stuff, which was easy to do since my skis still had the skins on from a short outing Thursday. I readily admit everyone would call my stuff "antique" but it's still full-blown AT gear and saw a tour on Denali, etc. Anyway, here's my set-up and weights:

Skis = 10 lbs, 8oz. with skins (Ascension) and Ramer bindings
Boots= 6 lbs, 2 oz. (Asolo Expedition shells with a slightly modified/homemade footbed & an Intuition ski boot liner, i.e. the liner goes halfway up the calf; these are not the norm for plastic mountain boots but add another measure of warmth. BTW, they are incredibly warm).
------------------------------
Total weight= 16 lbs, 10 oz.

I think the skis are great, they work well & are in relatively good shape. The bindings are pretty antique by modern standards and every real BC skier would pooh-pooh them but (a) they are one of the few that will fit any boot with a plastic welt, and they fit my plastic mountain boots well. I just refuse to climb in ski boots (I mean climb, not hike in snow...),and (b) I can field strip them, reset them for new boots, replace parts, etc. with my bare hands, no tools needed. The downside, of course, is that they are not nearly as safe from a release standpoint as the modern stuff, so I watch the speed/terrain and rarely lock the heel down. Pretty pokey, e.g. I may keep skins on downhill, but I'm also usually carrying a heavy pack with a rack & rope. But there may be lighter gear out there that meets your needs. I agree with Lordhelmut below that tracking e-bay like a maniac is probably your best bet, but of course you're usually bidding not buying outright so you have to really monitor it or you'll get outbid.

But as to the genesis of your post, there's a simple problem that can't be denied. Even the lightest AT set-up (I'll use mine only as an example) is going to be shy of 17 pounds or so. Heck, call it 15. Snowshoes? Mine are Tubbs Mountaineers. Beefy 25" tanks that I love. They have an aggressive claw and heel risers; there's no way anyone would call them featherweight. How much do they weigh? 2 lbs. 5 oz. for each, 4lbs. 10 oz for the pair. Given the excess weight on your feet with AT gear, that probably explains the difference in uphill performance vs. much lighter snowshoes. Hard to stay even going uphill with such a disadvantage.
Last edited by TomPierce on Sat Jan 02, 2010 2:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Re: Touring in Alpine Boots

Postby lordhelmut » Sat Jan 02, 2010 11:45 am

Kevin,

I paid 200$ for a rarely used pair of Garmont Endorphins on ebay. I had just received my tax returns for 08 and finally had some money for AT, plus I lucked out with the exact size and boot I wanted for my wide foot available on the site. Bentgate and Alpenglow carried the same Garmont for maybe 100-150$ more in the spring (brand new), but that still would've been a solid purchase. Bottom line, track ebay like its your second job and good things usually occur. Also, the gear classifieds on here are a decent place to look as well.

And yes, it is night and day, my Endorphins are a lot lighter, more comfortable and have vibram soles, which more or less saved my life on Snowmass last season, or atleast made climbing on exposed rock a lot easier. Anyways, goodluck finding what you want.

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Re: Touring in Alpine Boots

Postby cheeseburglar » Sun Jan 03, 2010 12:38 am

Cutting the weight that your feet drag does make a big difference.
When climbing, if I use my old leather tele boots I am much faster then when I climb with my newer plastic boots. I think some of it is due to the weight, but most is due to the the flexibility of the old boots. I just can't move as fast in a plastic boot because my stride isn't as long.
There is a lot of info out there. Lou Dawson's blog is probably the best place. But they try out really high end gear that is very light. If you do a race like the COSMIC, there will be men in tights with the latest light weight gear. Those guys get really into cutting the weight down. But they are racing, which isn't the same as a day out skiing for most of us.
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Re: Touring in Alpine Boots

Postby ktimm » Sun Jan 03, 2010 7:42 am

I decided to snow shoe up to an area carrying my alpine setup last year .. it was heavy. I went home and weighed it and it was over 20 lbs not including skins. It was a good workout :) . At the end of the year I put together a very lite Tele setup which consists of Garmont Excursion, Alpina Lite Terrain skis, some Voila 3 pin tele bindings. This setup wieghs in at around 10 lbs. I also don't need skins on moderate terrain because the Alpinas have a partial fish scale pattern. As far as downhill performance, I really can't compare to much, sine I'm not a great downhill skier. I can ski moderate stuff at the resort using Alpine style turns, I'm getting the tele turn down ok. In the backcountry, I've fallen on my ass a bunch with both setups :)

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Re: Touring in Alpine Boots

Postby tenpins » Sun Jan 03, 2010 9:26 am

they say a pound on your foot is worth ten on your back.

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Re: Touring in Alpine Boots

Postby Chris P. » Sun Jan 03, 2010 10:06 am

tenpins wrote:they say a pound on your foot is worth ten on your back.


Then I must be carrying over 230 pounds around every time I go touring, plus what is actually on my back.

I'm in the same spot as you Kevin. My current touring setup is an older pair of Noridca alpine boots (65 flex index, plus walk mode which makes a big difference), Rossi B94s (the lighter weight version), Naxo bindings and Ascensions. Total weight is around 23 pounds. I always feel like I'm making slow progress in this setup, but I don't really know if I would actually be much faster in snowshoes or with a lighter setup.

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Re: Touring in Alpine Boots

Postby centrifuge » Sun Jan 03, 2010 2:45 pm

lordhelmut wrote:Kevin,

I paid 200$ for a rarely used pair of Garmont Endorphins on ebay. I had just received my tax returns for 08 and finally had some money for AT, plus I lucked out with the exact size and boot I wanted for my wide foot available on the site. Bentgate and Alpenglow carried the same Garmont for maybe 100-150$ more in the spring (brand new), but that still would've been a solid purchase. Bottom line, track ebay like its your second job and good things usually occur. Also, the gear classifieds on here are a decent place to look as well.

And yes, it is night and day, my Endorphins are a lot lighter, more comfortable and have vibram soles, which more or less saved my life on Snowmass last season, or atleast made climbing on exposed rock a lot easier. Anyways, goodluck finding what you want.


Which Garmont's did you get? I have really wide feet and am looking at getting a AT set up this month or next and would really dig the input from someone else who had wide feet (mine are really more like giant flippers than feet, but I guess we can call them feet). I am looking at the Dynafit zzero 4 c-tf or scarpa skookum because of how light they are + their fairly wide fit... but they are ridiculously expensive.
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Re: Touring in Alpine Boots

Postby timstich » Sun Jan 03, 2010 4:37 pm

Kevin, it's cool that you have done this whole experiment for two seasons. I took my alpine boots out for a skinning day at Monarch just to try that out and was surprised that it worked. It wasn't a full day of skiing, but we did skin up several times and do some lines.

One day I'll have to buckle down and get some good AT boots it sounds like.

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