UNBOXING – You float like a feather… ♪ ♫
Wow. I ordered from Alfa’s website on Wednesday morning. They left Norway the same day, and they arrived here in Canada two days after on Friday! Best shopping and customer experience ever. I was so excited when I received an email from Fedex saying that my boots were already delivered. Unfortunately, my excitement soon turned into bitter deception.
My mom was with me that day and she picked up the magical box from Norway first. She asked what was in there, and I told her it’s boots. “Ski boots?!? That is not possible” she exclaimed. I picked the box myself and she was damn right. There was no way there could have been a pair of boots inside that box, it was just WAY too light for this. I felt terribly sad. Alfa made a mistake in my order and they only sent me one boot, not a pair. Or maybe they sent me some minimalistic shoes or something. But definitely not a pair of Guard Advance GTX sturdy full leather ski boots!
I sighed, grabbed a knife and opened the box with sorrow. To my surprise, there was really TWO boots inside! Yes! A whole PAIR of Guard Advance GTX leathers! I was totally amazed. How can they possibly achieve this?
The Guard Advance GTX weighs only a stunning 725g per shoe. That is more than 50% lighter than your usual leathers. That also means that they are actually 27% (!!!) lighter than the Alpina Alaska BC boots! That is quite something. It sure will make a huge difference for longer tours and hikes. I stepped into the boots and the magic kicked in instantly. They are so light, you just don’t feel them. You can jump around and dance and feel totally naked. The feeling is beautiful, feeling so light and free, but fully in control with a super-supportive boot. I never felt something like this before. Best XCD feeling ever. The most natural, yet supportive telemark feeling you can get. The closest thing to skiing barefoot with metal bars surgically installed into the bottom of your feet.
According to Alfa, this brand new model is designed For optimal stability on tougher trips and descents, with superior construction and function. This is their most advanced boot available. They feature premium full-grain leather, with a GORE-TEX waterproof, durable, breathable and insulating layer for use in very cold weather conditions. Reinforcements around the complete lower part of the boot adds durability that increases life span and provide stability for skiing in tough terrain. They also include a very cool Memory foam feature, affected by body temperature that allows the shoe to fit comfortably in the ankle area.
SOLE STIFFNESS OR ANKLE SUPPORT?
Simple: both. The Guard Advance GTX has the stiffest sole of them all, the stiffest you can get from any NNN-BC Alfa boots. But according to the specs, the sole stiffness is 4 out of 5. Actually, they do not produce a NNN-BC boot with 5/5 stiffness. And that is a good thing, because stiffer than this, touring would not be possible.
I have always found the Alpina Alaska BC sole stiffness quite problematic for several reasons, poor kick and glide performance, heel lift problems, blisters, fatigue etc. The thing is, the Alaska BC and the Guard Advance both have exactly the same sole, same stiffness. But comparing both boots side by side, I finally found out why I find the Alaska BC problematic.
Yes, the sole on the Guard Advance GTX is just as stiff and the Alaska, but the Guard Advance sole offers a MUCH more natural feeling when pressuring the ball of foot. While crunching the sole with my hands, I could feel that the Alaska BC was very slightly harder to bend than the Guard Advance. But actually, this is not due of the sole itself, but because of the boot construction. After examination of both boots, I realized that the difference is that the Guard Advance have a much more natural “bellow”. Same sole, but the overall structure and leather construction of the Guard Advance is smoother than the Alaska BC.
Not sure I explain myself clearly here, this is a very important feature. The sole flexes the same way around the toes, but not the upper part of the boot above the BOF area, the bellow itself, which flexes much more naturally on the Guard Advance. Standing with a pair of each boot locked into the bindings, the bellow was slightly harder to flex on the Alaska BC, even if the sole stiffness is the same. And to my surprise, the flex point, or bellow position on top of the boot was NOT the same. The Alaska BC flexes somewhere between BOF and the toes, quite a strange thing, something I had never noticed before. While the Advance is smoother and flexes exactly at BOF where it should. Very, very interesting! I have used different pairs of Alaskas for several years and I have just discovered this. Maybe it's just my toes, but I like the flex point tuning on the Guard Advance A LOT.
So again, the sole is the same, the stiffest you can get from both companies. But the boot construction is quite different. The Guard Advance is made of full-grain leather, but offers a smoother, more natural flex while being very supportive. The Alaska BC is made of split leather, but the area on top of foot is a tad stiffer. While this offers slightly more “power” to the Alaska BC, it is also the very source of the problems I mentioned previously. No heel lift on the Guard Advance, just a super nice smooth, round and natural flex with tons of power and control. Almost the same downhill power as the Alaska, but with much more touring capabilities.
Ankle support is better of the Alfa Guard. Squeezing and twisting them in every possible way, I can definitely feel more ankle support on the ALFA. The very best you can get from a leather XCD boot! But again, the difference remains in the lower body of the boot. You can feel more ankle support on the Guard Advance, but the lower leather body is smoother, more natural. I use the Alaska BC for downhill only, because I find the forward flex way too stiff for touring, and I use the Alaska 75 for touring and XCDing around. Now the new 2019 Guard Advance will be used every day here for every single thing! From pure XC to pure DH! Finally, a one-quiver boot?
And on snow Johnny?
They are simply amazing. You are just not aware of wearing boots anymore. They are so light, they make you forget everything except the scent of evergreens and the reason why God put you here. They definitely have more ankle support than the Alaska, but once again, with a smoother body. They feature the featherlight weight of a XC shoe, combined with all the power of a sturdy extreme full-grain leather boot. Really, the feeling is amazing, something I have never felt before on skis. Complete freedom of movement, but still with all the power and control required on the most extreme and demanding terrain for memorable downhill performances. My new favorite XCD boots. Unique, super comfortable and super powerful.
I still have to try them in very cold weather to test that nice Gore-Tex insulation. I always have cold feet so I have big expectations here. I am also looking forward to put that Memory Foam thing to the test later in the season. I’m very, very excited about this new Alfa boot model. Yes, it is not cheap, but it’s humbly the highest quality you can get. After all, these guys have been making leather boots in Norway since 1931. For over 87 years, they have provided footwear to professional explorers, the Norwegian Police, the Norwegian Defense Forces and other occupational groups with non-negotiable standards for function, comfort and quality.
Yep, you will have to pay close to 500$ USD with shipping and custom duty charges to get your hands on the new ALFA Guard Advance GTX M, depending on where you are located. But seriously, you get exactly what you pay for: The very finest XCD boot available on the planet right now. One-quiver boot? Absolutely so. At your door from Norway in only 2 days...
Retail: 385$ USD
Alpina Alaska BC:
Retail: 250$ USD