Alpina Alaska XP XPlore Boot review

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Johnny
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Alpina Alaska XP XPlore Boot review

Post by Johnny » Thu May 06, 2021 10:24 am

Alpina Alaska XP XPlore Boot.jpg

Don't get fooled by the name. The new Alaska XP is NOT simply an XPLORE version of the old orangees. Quite the opposite. It's A LOT more than this, it's a totally different boot! A totally new boot in the Alpina family.

The Alaska we have here has not been updated with a few details to make it look more attractive or give the buyer a excuse to replace their boots. It has not just been upgraded with a new XPlore sole. Nope, the Alaska BC has been TOTALLY redesigned. And it's simply the finest XCD boot I have seen. I've been an early adopter of the old Alaskas, and while it was love at first sight, there has always been a few things that bothered me and my entire Alaska fleet. (Mostly the tongue and the lacing system.)

Remember several years ago, when I used to brag here how much I loved the old Alaska, and how it was THE most comfortable boot in the world? Well, the new XP's are even better, and even more comfortable than ever! The new XP Springpin technology is amazing. I am not going to go into details here, because honestly, the new boot design is much more important than the XPLORE sole itself. But it does offer a big improvement over lateral control, no doubt about it. It's amazing how a few millimeters can completely change the power of a boot.

Yes, it's easier than ever to get any ski on edge with the XPlore soles. And it's also easier to control and steer the ski. No matter how much I play and crush the soles with my hands, I can feel a different feel from the old boots. While the XP soles are much stiffer than the Alaska 75 ones, the stiffness is very similar to the Alaska BCs. But the thing here is that the flex point is slightly different. As you can see in the picture below, the flex point has been fine-tuned to allow an even more natural flexing, making the boot *potentially* (see further) easier to flatten the whole BOF flat on the ski. (Instead of flexing a tad more on the toes like on the previous Alaskas.) The flex is actually more complex according to Alpina: "New shoes have more than one flex zone for better fitting and that necessary kick you need during long skiing."

Alpina Alaska XP flex points.jpg

The tongue guys. THE TONGUE! The tongue too has not simply been updated, but is totally new. No more fighting with the tongue! No more training the tongue for months and months! No more exotic oils treatments in order to make the tongue softer to try to forge it properly so it stays in place comfortably. WOW, just wow. The new synthetic tongue molds itself magically around your feet perfectly, without any training or break-in period. They feel like a 10yo fully trained tongue straight out of the box. BRILLIANT. AMAZING! Finally! "The addition of the shaped tongue increases the comfort and fit and prevents lace bite. "

The eyelets placement is totally new too (Now with only 6 eyelets instead of 8). They are WAY EASIER to lace, the bottom section of the boot can now be tighten very easily (Something that was almost impossible on the old ones). Same with the instep, it can be locked and super-tight the way it should be. I always struggled trying to lace the old Alaska. Not anymore! They are even easier to lace than the Alfa Guards! Woooooooaaaahhh!!!

Wait... What the...?
With the boots on, perfectly laced-up, you stand up and start walking around. And you instantly say "Man, wait a second... what the hell is going on here?!?". Because yes, there is something going on here. There is something different, they do not feel like the previous Alaskas. At first I thought it was magic. After all, they are magical boots. They are not yet on the market, they are still top secret, and I am one of the very few lucky skiers who got a pair for testing. It totally makes sense that the XCD Knights at Alpina in Slovenia put some magic into the boots to enchant me and put me under a spell. Yeah, but come on Johnny, you cannot talk about magic in a serious review, people already think you're completely nuts, this is not going to help you.

Keep in mind here that I was sent the new Alaska XP boots without any literature. No product description, no specs, nothing at all. I was only expecting a XPLORE version of the Alaska, nothing else. I was definitely not expecting magic at all. So I surrendered to science, and decided, just for fun, to put the new XP's on the scale. Holy ****. I could not believe it. I recalibrated and zeroed the scale a few times, sat for a few seconds and took a deep breath, but the scale was still indicating 740g. Yes, 740 grams!!! At size 43, that is a 21.2% weight reduction over the previous model!!! One of the lightest XCD boot ever. (Not to mention the weight reduction of the XPlore bindings!)

The feeling is amazing. Amazing. I am not going to use different words and synonyms to make this piece of review more pleasant to the eye, the new boots are just AMAZING. This substantial weight reduction changes everything. It changes the whole feeling of the boot. Suddenly, by the time you start walking, you feel like being relieved of gravity. Like walking on the moon. Literally, it feels like walking on air. While still being in full control. The exact same feeling I had when I first tried the Alfa Guards.

Of course, the XP is obviously Alpina's answer to the ALFA Guard. It's no secret to anyone, the 725g Alfa Guards were a game changer for me when they came out a few years ago. I couldn't be happier to find that same feeling of complete freedom of movement with the new Alpina Alaska. The upper part of the Alaska XP boot is MUCH softer than both the Alaska 75 and BC. Just like the Alfa guard, making XC skiing a lot more comfortable. That means a bit less support for downhill, but on the other hand, as I explained in detail in my Alfa Guard review, it also *potentially* makes it easier to flatten the ball of foot on the ski, which means more downhill control.


On the snow Johnny?
On snow, it takes half a second to feel the leverage of the pins and their 70mm width. Cross-country style, they are mind-blowing. I was mostly excited about the downhill potential of the system, but I never, never expected they would make such a huge difference for cross-country! Whether classic or skating, groomers or powder, the Alaska XP gives the most amazing skiing experience ever. Perfect control, the skis are going perfectly straight, with a degree of freedom and agility you never experienced before. Their superlight weight, the perfect forward movement of the binding and the complete control is just unparalleled. Yes, I was really skeptic about it. I never thought it would be that good. Now the only thing I want is to jump back on the XPlore bindings and feel that new sensation again. Suddenly, I go faster, further, and I have a lot more fun doing cross-country ski. And the upper cuff being much softer, skiing on the flats in much smoother. The Alaska XP is really bringing back the FUN and that FREEDOM feeling out of cross-country skiing.

Okay! And on the downhill?
Yes, its true, I have a real crystal ball at home. I have always been very passionate about the future. I have been studying the future for decades. But another thing I have been studying very seriously is that tribe of skiers who call themselves "Telemark Skiers". They are great people, a very nice tribe actually. But some of them are very reluctant to change. Some of them just won't accept any form of progress. They will never accept to change their old ways for the sake of having more fun in the end, being pathetically narrow-minded about new ideas and stuck into their old vintage obsolete gear and their old-school double-planting techniques. So I can tell you that this is going to be THE MOST CRUCIAL thing about the future of the XPLORE. And I am talking here about what the common telemark skier will think of the flex of the XPlores soles.

We are all aware of the Pål Trygve Gamme saga about the ALFA XPLORE boots. And about Crister from Asnes mentioning "Flex" problems with ALFA boots from the beginning. I also heard about flex issues and complains on ALFA boots from other insiders too. Because it's true, the soles are PRETTY stiff. Nothing unexpected here, they are just as stiff as the Alaska BC. As stiff as your old heavy-duty, military or extreme 75mm boots. Now the thing is, the forward flex of the sole is indeed ridiculously stiff, to use telemark vocabulary. While the sole is quite stiff laterally, it takes a HUGE amount of force to crush the ball of foot flat on the ski. And that brings A LOT of change, a lot of questioning and some serious rethinking. Some concerns for certain people, some absolutely brilliant advancement for others.

Alpina Alaska XP Flex.jpg

It's pretty hard to know what the designers at Rottefella had in mind when they conceived those super stiff soles. (PLEASE note that this applies for all XPlore soles, no matter the boot model or manufacturers, because the sole itself is the same for all boots. ) There is no user manual out there yet telling us exactly how to ski those new XPlore soles. While I don't have the correct answer, I have been thinking about it for quite some time, and I narrowed it down to a few possibilities:

1- There is nothing wrong, the soles just need a break-in period
2- There is nothing wrong, we just need some time to get used to it
3- There is nothing wrong, we just need to use the harder flexor for downhill
4- There is nothing wrong, the XPlore system is so powerful that we do NOT need to press the ball of foot anymore.

A break-in period? Perhaps. Why not, all the boots have a break-in period. Maybe the XPlore soles change a lot over a short period of time. Too early for me to say.

Skiing with leather shoes requires a different technique than skiing with 4-buckle plastic boots. Skiing with NTN does require a different technique. Remember the old "Driving the cuff" campaign when NTN came out? That was the way to make the switch to NTN less drastic for most people. Same sport, telemark skiing. But the complete opposite technique of weighting down the ball of foot! The complete opposite approach. Thank God, there were influent people back then who pushed NTN, convincing skiers that this was the future despite their reluctance. And I think this might be equally true with the new XPLORE system. (Hey, nobody is using the ball of foot with NTN gear...)

Remember those super-stiff plastic NNN-BC boots in the 90s? Please tell me true, why did they disappear so quickly? Because they did require a slightly different technique. And because they did require a stiffer flexor to make the most out of it. But mostly, because there was nobody to promote them and show the world what could be done with them, and especially how to use them. The new XPlore "Hard" flexors are still not available, but I really believe they will make the sole much easier to flex for pure downhill skiing.

This XPLORE thing is SUPER-powerful. But I think it might require a few normal adjustments in our technique. Or as I said, perhaps the whole concept of the ball of foot is now obsolete with the XPlore? Perhaps we need to move in a totally new direction? What do you think? In any case, it's too early for me to tell. I only have a few hours on the XPlore system, in very bad snow conditions.

I really can't wait for next season to come out with the key of the mystery. I can't wait to solve that case, because I know it's going to unleash a million miles of downhill fun for everyone! And it might possibly turn the Alaska XP into my new all-time favorite XCD boot... 8-)
/...\ Peace, Love, Telemark and Tofu /...\
"And if you like to risk your neck, we'll boom down Sutton in old Quebec..."

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Re: Alpina Alaska XP XPlore Boot review

Post by Woodserson » Thu May 06, 2021 3:10 pm

The moved back flex point is totally crux. The most important modification. If the stiffer flexor comes out I’ll buy the Xplore system.



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Re: Alpina Alaska XP XPlore Boot review

Post by Johnny » Thu May 06, 2021 5:19 pm

Woodserson wrote:
Thu May 06, 2021 3:10 pm
The moved back flex point is totally crux. The most important modification.
1- Yep, totally. And I was screaming "Genius!!!" all around when I first stepped on the boots and squeezed the soles. But one should ask himself, did we ever hear someone complain about the flex point before? Because as far as I know, the flex point of 75mm and NNN-BC was never problematic. And I never heard of someone saying it would be time to change that. For me, the century-old flex point was perfect. If it ain't broke, why did Rottefella change the standard? (Just food for thought... 8-) )

2- I wouldn't call it a flex point. A flex point implies that it's going to actually flex. I should have said a "semi-flexing" point. There is quite something here... So we have a moved back flex point, but that new point is only half-flexing... This is something TOTALLY new...!

Woodserson wrote:
Thu May 06, 2021 3:10 pm
If the stiffer flexor comes out I’ll buy the Xplore system.
It sure will come out next season... I already heard about people skiing the hard flexor in Europe. Only Rottefella are not yet satisfied with it, and the final flexor is going to be different than the prototypes...
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Re: The new Rottefella XPLORE OFFTRACK Binding System Review

Post by Tom M » Thu May 06, 2021 5:37 pm

Part 1 of my review of the Alpina Alaska XP / Rottefella Xplore / Alpina Discovery 80 system. We can't let Johnny have all the fun. :D




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Re: Alpina Alaska XP XPlore Boot review

Post by riel » Thu May 06, 2021 9:38 pm

Johnny wrote:
Thu May 06, 2021 5:19 pm
Woodserson wrote:
Thu May 06, 2021 3:10 pm
The moved back flex point is totally crux. The most important modification.
1- Yep, totally. And I was screaming "Genius!!!" all around when I first stepped on the boots and squeezed the soles. But one should ask himself, did we ever hear someone complain about the flex point before? Because as far as I know, the flex point of 75mm and NNN-BC was never problematic. And I never heard of someone saying it would be time to change that. For me, the century-old flex point was perfect. If it ain't broke, why did Rottefella change the standard? (Just food for thought... 8-) )

2- I wouldn't call it a flex point. A flex point implies that it's going to actually flex. I should have said a "semi-flexing" point. There is quite something here... So we have a moved back flex point, but that new point is only half-flexing... This is something TOTALLY new...!
I am happy to hear Alpina redesigned their Alaska boot to take full advantage of the XPlore binding system.

The moved back flex point sounds like a significant change from that video last year of somebody flexing an XPlore sole (not attached to any boot), and the change that would actually allow the skier to control their setup without NNN-BC like ridges or an NTN-like attachment to the rear of the ball of the foot.

Thank you for this detailed review.



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Re: Alpina Alaska XP XPlore Boot review

Post by bgregoire » Thu May 06, 2021 9:48 pm

This is amusing!

Fun review J.

Sounds like we really do need a stiffer flexor to get a good review of the downhill potential of this boot/binding.
I live for the Telemark arc....The feeeeeeel.....I ski miles to get to a place where there is guaranteed snow to do the deal....TM



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Re: Alpina Alaska XP XPlore Boot review

Post by riel » Thu May 06, 2021 11:08 pm

Thinking about the flex point some more, I think it may have an effect not just on control during downhill, but also on kick and glide.

Looking at a diagram of foot bones, the NNN-BC flex point is at the toes, where the joints in the foot are in a diagonal line.

The XPlore flex point is where the joints in the foot are in a somewhat straighter line. That might make it easier to keep the skis straight during kick and glide, which is what Tom reported.

Also, it might give the skier more leverage during the extension of the foot during the last phase of kick and glide. More muscles to push the ski than just the toe ones.

That will be very interesting to try!



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Re: Alpina Alaska XP XPlore Boot review

Post by Woodserson » Fri May 07, 2021 1:22 am

Johnny wrote:
Thu May 06, 2021 5:19 pm
But one should ask himself, did we ever hear someone complain about the flex point before? Because as far as I know, the flex point of 75mm and NNN-BC was never problematic. And I never heard of someone saying it would be time to change that. For me, the century-old flex point was perfect. If it ain't broke, why did Rottefella change the standard? (Just food for thought... 8-) )

Me. My Alaska 75's flex differently than my BC's. I get better BOF on the 75's than I do with the BC's. Actually, on the BC's I get some pretty good big-toe rub too, especially K&G over time. The 75's are softer flexing, but also the flex point is a bit further aft than the BC's. It's noticeably and why I went back to 75 on my FT62's.

Now, if this is more due to softer flexing sole vs flex point, I am not sure.

If the Xplore isn't flexing, but rather semi-flexing, but further aft, maybe the point of the system is to load up the toes more than the BOF.

Your 1 2 3 4 hypotheticals are still that, and still apply. I think I'm really hoping on #1 with a bit of #3 behind it.



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Re: The new Rottefella XPLORE OFFTRACK Binding System Review

Post by Johnny » Fri May 07, 2021 3:30 am

Tom M wrote:
Thu May 06, 2021 5:37 pm
Part 1 of my review of the Alpina Alaska XP / Rottefella Xplore / Alpina Discovery 80 system. We can't let Johnny have all the fun. :D
Niiiiice! Gorgeous boot isn't it?
Glad to see that you have pretty much the same first impressions as I have... 8-)

riel wrote:
Thu May 06, 2021 9:38 pm
sounds like a significant change from that video last year of somebody flexing an XPlore sole (not attached to any boot), Thank you for this detailed review.
Yep, and that's the thing. You really need to work inside the boot to make it flex.

Thanks, but I feel like my review is too complex, with way too many details... I really have (and still have) a lot to say about that boot! 8-)

bgregoire wrote:
Thu May 06, 2021 9:48 pm
Sounds like we really do need a stiffer flexor to get a good review of the downhill potential of this boot/binding.
Something that was NOT the case with NNN-BC... I can get all the control I need with a soft flexor on NNN, thanks to the grooves in the soles. Hard flexors are just a fun and entertaining option, not a necessity. But again, it's too early for me to conclude about the XP...
/...\ Peace, Love, Telemark and Tofu /...\
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Re: Alpina Alaska XP XPlore Boot review

Post by Johnny » Fri May 07, 2021 3:50 am

riel wrote:
Thu May 06, 2021 11:08 pm
The XPlore flex point is where the joints in the foot are in a somewhat straighter line. That might make it easier to keep the skis straight during kick and glide, which is what Tom reported.
Yep, that's my feeling too... That's why I love the XPlore so much for XC skiing...!
And that is also why the more I think about it, the more I think the XPlore system was designed mostly for touring, despite the incredible potential for downhill with proper boots.

Woodserson wrote:
Fri May 07, 2021 1:22 am
And I never heard of someone saying it would be time to change that.

Me.
Ahahahaha! I should have known that too... ;)

75's and BCs definitely flex slightly differently, as they rely on a totally different binding system. And so is the XPlore.

That's why I loved the Alfa Guards so much. Because while I consider that they have pretty stiff soles (unlike Lilcliffy who consider them "soft"), they are quite easy to flex around the BOF point despite their overall stiffness. Not the case with XPlore soles. But I still believe I am going to love the XPlore a lot... 8-)

Woodserson wrote:
Fri May 07, 2021 1:22 am
Your 1 2 3 4 hypotheticals are still that, and still apply. I think I'm really hoping on #1 with a bit of #3 behind it.
Actually, there was a #5 and a #6 in my original review. But I deleted them afterwards, thinking my review was already overloaded and too long for the average reader. But hey, maybe you would like me to undelete them just for the fun of discussion? ;)
/...\ Peace, Love, Telemark and Tofu /...\
"And if you like to risk your neck, we'll boom down Sutton in old Quebec..."



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