Boot Review- Long-Term Test- Alaska BC-Guard BC-Svartisen BC

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lilcliffy
Posts: 2932
Joined: Thu Jan 01, 2015 7:20 pm
Location: Stanley, New Brunswick, Canada
Ski style: Nordic backcountry touring
Favorite Skis: Asnes Ingstad BC; Asnes Gamme 54 BC; Asnes Storetind Carbon; Madshus Annum; Asnes Comabt Nato
Favorite boots: Alfa Guard Advance BC; Alpina Alaska BC; Crispi Svartisen BC; Scarpa T4
Occupation: Forestry Professional
Instructor at Maritime College of Forest Technology
Husband, father, farmer and logger

Boot Review- Long-Term Test- Alaska BC-Guard BC-Svartisen BC

Post by lilcliffy » Tue May 04, 2021 8:58 am

Boot Review- Long-Term Test: Alpina Alaska BC, Alfa Guard Advance GTX BC, Crispi Svartisen GTX BC

What follows are my notes, thoughts and perspectives on three fantastic backcountry-cross-country ski boots- each with NNNBC outsoles:
- 2013 Alpina Alaska BC
- 2018 Crispi Svartisen GTX BC
- 2018 Alfa Guard Advance GTX BC

The Alaska has the most miles on it- the Guard is getting close. The Svartisen has much less.

All three of these boots are beautifully made of high-quality materials. They offer excellent support- designed for touring on backcountry Nordic touring skis (i.e. fjellskis), and on variable hilly terrain.
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2013 Alpina Alaska BC
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I bought the Alpina Alaska early in the 2012-2013 winter. I had been having fit problems with NNNBC boots with synthetic uppers- suffering from toe-pinch. I had been considering ordering a leather boot from Europe, but discovered that I could get the Alaska in Canada, and therefore could easily return it if necessary. The Alaska was a massive step-up in quality- comfort, warmth, waterproofness, and performance. I have not used my Rossi BCX6 or my Fischer BCX6 since. I have been thrilled with the Alaska boot from the beginning, and after many years and many thousands of kilometers of backcountry touring- the Alaska is still in good condition, the sole is still completely stable. The Alaska is well made of high-quality materials. The leather is stitched, thick rough-out leather that- once treated properly- is very supportive, comfortable, form-fitting and durable. The Alaska has a glued, thick, wrap-around, rubbery rand that protects the boot from abrasion. The Alaska has ample insulation, and a waterproof-breathable liner (“Alpitex”) that is as good as Goretex in my experience. The heel of the boot is well-contoured. The achilles portion of the boot and the ankle have supportive and comfortable foam inserts. This boot has excellent heel-retention and a close, comfy fit from the heel up and around the ankle. The outsole is Rottefella’s NNNBC III. The outsole has a fair bit of rocker- facilitating an efficient stride. The Alaska has a stiff and stable mid-sole offering superb power-transfer when both XC and downhill skiing. This boot has an excellent lacing system- easy to dial in a custom fit. The top of the boot is very soft- designed to offer comfort and flex when XC skiing. The Alaska fits true to Euro sizing- the last is a medium-width. Boot volume is fairly customizable due to the design of the fabric and the lacing system. I have small volume feet and can still get a custom fit. I know other skiers with large-volume feet that get a good fit as well. If you have very wide feet, you might need to size up. Considering the quality of this boot, the Alaska is very reasonably priced and an excellent value.


2018 Crispi Svartisen BC
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Made of gorgeous, thick full-grain leather, plus a well-designed and durable instep strap, cuff and powerstrap, the Svartisen is quite a boot. These boots are beautifully made and very durable. The concept of the Svartisen boot is to offer the versatility of a XC striding boot, with the straps loosened- as well as offering significant power transfer and ankle support with the straps tightened. The Svartisen delivers- it offers very smooth, flexible striding performance and once tightened up, the ankle support rivals that of my Asolo Extreme 75 boot. The heel of the Svartisen has no contour to it, nor does it have any foam inserts in the achilles-ankle section. I had a lot of painful trouble breaking this boot in. It can still chew my ankle up without the perfect sock combination! The Svaristen has a stitched, soft and flexible protective rand- that works well and offers an excellent, smooth flex. There is not very much insulation in this boot- it is not very warm. The Svartisen has a Goretex liner. The outsole is NNNBC III. The outsole is level- with no rocker. The Svartisen has a soft midsole, that is fine for XC skiing, but I have had the sole bend and twist when trying to really drive and charge downhill. In the end, the cuff and straps of the Svartisen do offer excellent ankle support, but the soft midsole limits the downhill potential of this boot. The lacing system on the Svartisen is both excellent- and terrible- or rather- absent. There are no lace cleats above the ankle!?!? This is a serious design flaw in my opinion and tightening up the powerstrap is only reasonable when downhill skiing. I have made the mistake of XC skiing on rolling terrain with the powerstrap tightened up- with awful heat spots, blisters and open wounds on the front of my shin from the powerstrap. Take my advice- loosen that powerstrap before you do any serious XC striding! The Svartisen fits true to Euro sizing. The last is medium-narrow width and relatively small volume- expect to have to size-up if you have wide and/or large volume feet. The Svartisen is remarkably light- noticeably lighter than the Alaska. This is an expensive boot.


2018 Alfa Guard Advance BC
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Ultralight. Very soft. Very warm. Cavernous inside. Superb lacing. This is a beautifully made, full-grain leather boot. The leather is very soft and supple. This boot has a soft, stitched protective rand, that is very flexible, but not very durable in the long term. The insulation throughout the boot and in the midsole is second-to-none- this is a very warm boot. These boots are very soft- much softer than the Alaska and the Svartisen. The outsole is NNNBC III and the midsole is soft. The outsole is level- with no rocker. While the XC striding is very good, and the flex is good for pressuring the ski- I have had the midsole bend and twist all over the place when I have tried to charge and carve downhill. The ankle support is very similar to the Alaska when laced up, but the midsole has nowhere near the stability of the Alaska. The Guard fits true to Euro sizing. This boot has a medium-wide width and is truly cavernous inside. That being said- with a thick wool insole and a thick wool sock, I can get a superb fit in this boot- even with my low-volume foot. This boot is expensive- if you live in a country with a weak currency (like Canada), the price is outrageous.

COMPARISONS

Sole Stability
From highest to lowest:
- Alaska BC
- Svartisen BC
- Guard BC

Ankle Support
From highest to lowest:
- Svartisen BC (with powerstrap tightened)
- Alaska BC/Guard BC
- Svartisen BC (without powerstrap tightened)

Fit- Comfort
From most comfortable and contoured to least:
- Alaska BC
- Guard BC
- Svartisen BC

Lacing System
From best- most adjustable- to least:
- Guard BC
- Alaska BC
- Svartisen BC

Warmth
From warmest to least:
- Guard BC
- Alaska BC
- Svartisen BC

Weight
From lightest to heaviest:
- Guard BC
- Svartisen BC
- Alaska BC

Width
From widest to narrowest:
- Guard BC
- Alaska BC
- Svartisen BC

Volume
From largest to least:
- Guard BC
- Alaska BC
- Svartisen BC

Durability
From most to least:
- Alaska BC
- Svartisen BC
- Guard BC

Summary and Conclusions

From my perspective and experience with these boots, the Alaska BC clearly offers the broadest range of performance for backcountry Nordic ski touring, and it also offers the best value- offering very durable high-quality construction at the lowest price point of the three.

The Alaska BC does have a stiff midsole. This could actually be problematic for a very light skier and/or a skier with small-short feet. The Alaska could be so stiff for some skiers that it would be uncomfortable to XC ski and downright useless in a telemark turn- encouraging the dreaded tippy-toed rear foot.

Personally I love the stiff and stable midsole of the Alaska- both XC skiing and downhill. The power transfer when XC striding is wicked. The stability of the sole when charging and driving a ski downhill cannot be beat. And- the secret to avoiding the dreaded tippy-toed rear foot- when you get off balance- is to insert a stiffer flexor. A stiffer flexor creates more resistance, making it easier to flex the stiff sole and pressure the ski.

The concept and design of the Svartisen is mostly brilliant. It needs a higher top- with a lace cleat above the powerstrap. It also needs more shape and padding/foam through the heel-achilles-ankle for those of us that don’t have square ankles and heels. The Svartisen needs a stiffer more stable midsole in order to fully unlock the downhill potential this boot has to offer. From my perspective this boot is still in development.

The Guard is my favourite true XC boot. Ultralight, supportive and toasty warm. It needs a stiffer and more stable midsole- and if it did it would be my top pick.

In general, I would like to see manufacturers making these boots with variable midsole-stiffness. The midsole should get stiffer and more stable as the boot gets bigger and longer.

And another unrelated- but related- note. Why do you have to commune with the Norse Gods to get stiffer flexors? Why can’t Rottefella just throw in all three flexors in the binding box? (HINT!!!! If I end up forking out a week’s income to buy a damn Xplore binding- the least you could do Rottefella is give me all the damn flexors for it!!!)

The final word here is on price.

Someone high up in the Alpina company has clearly made a decision to adjust the MSRP of their equipment to the currency in which it is sold-

Example:
- The Alpina Alaska BC in Canada retails for $300CAN (free shipping)
- The Alfa Guard Advance BC in Canada retails for $500CAN!!!!!!!!! (free shipping)
- Alaska BC at Varuste in Finland: $311CAN + shipping
- Guard BC at Varuste in Finland: $360CAN + shipping

I must admit that the Guard BC has spoiled me. It is sooo light, warm and comfy.
But, if I had to choose one- or recommend one- it would be the Alaska BC.

Gareth Davies
May 4th, 2021
Snow Glade Farm
Stanley, NB
Canada

May the 4th be with you.
Cross-country AND down-hill skiing in the backcountry.
Unashamed to be a "cross-country type" and love skiing down-hill.

User avatar
Stephen
Posts: 328
Joined: Thu Aug 06, 2020 12:49 am
Ski style: Aspirational
Favorite Skis: Gamme (210), Ingstad (205), Objective BC (178)
Favorite boots: Alfa Guard Advance
Occupation: Beyond

Re: Boot Review- Long-Term Test- Alaska BC-Guard BC-Svartisen BC

Post by Stephen » Tue May 04, 2021 1:35 pm

As always, excellent review and comments!
You take fantastic care of your boots to have them look that good after so much use.

I wish the Alaska was a tiny bit wider and I would own a pair.
As it is, even with my low-volume feet, the Guard was pretty great this winter.
I did feel it lacking when I really needed to edge wider skis on hard snow or traverse steep slopes.
And it did take 100s of miles for the heel counter to finally shape to my feet enough to make them close to ok.
I’m hopeful the new boots will keep all the positives, while adding some additional stiffness for edge control.

Did you really save this post for the 4th?!
:lol:





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Woodserson
Posts: 2239
Joined: Wed Feb 11, 2015 11:25 am
Location: New Hampshire
Ski style: Bumps, trees, steeps and long woodsy XC tours
Favorite Skis: DH: Voile V6, Altai KOMs, XCD: Asnes FT62, XC: Nansen, E99, Bonna 1800
Favorite boots: T2Eco, T4, Rossignol BCX10
Occupation: Retro Rager-grouch. Flailmeister. E99 Nerd

Re: Boot Review- Long-Term Test- Alaska BC-Guard BC-Svartisen BC

Post by Woodserson » Tue May 04, 2021 1:57 pm

I scored the attributes, minus "comfort" "volume" and "width".

Lowest score wins:
Alaska & Guard tied at 11
Svart 13

Add points for the three above attributes to find your boot.

I am surprised that the Svart is less volume and width than the Alaska. I have quite low volume feet as it is, I couldn't go lower.





User avatar
fisheater
Posts: 1263
Joined: Fri Feb 19, 2016 9:06 pm
Location: Oakland County, MI
Ski style: All my own, and age doesn't help
Favorite Skis: Gamme 54, Falketind 62, I hope to add a third soon
Favorite boots: Alpina Alaska, Alico Ski March
Occupation: Construction Manager

Re: Boot Review- Long-Term Test- Alaska BC-Guard BC-Svartisen BC

Post by fisheater » Tue May 04, 2021 7:09 pm

Thank you Gareth for taking the time to write this. I could see a possibility of picking up a Guard someday. However for me that makes the Alaska so great is the fit. I have never had any footwear fit so perfectly, like an expensive custom boot maker made it just for me.
So I’ll probably just be happy for you Guard skiers when you gush about what a comfortable boot the Guard is.





User avatar
lilcliffy
Posts: 2932
Joined: Thu Jan 01, 2015 7:20 pm
Location: Stanley, New Brunswick, Canada
Ski style: Nordic backcountry touring
Favorite Skis: Asnes Ingstad BC; Asnes Gamme 54 BC; Asnes Storetind Carbon; Madshus Annum; Asnes Comabt Nato
Favorite boots: Alfa Guard Advance BC; Alpina Alaska BC; Crispi Svartisen BC; Scarpa T4
Occupation: Forestry Professional
Instructor at Maritime College of Forest Technology
Husband, father, farmer and logger

Re: Boot Review- Long-Term Test- Alaska BC-Guard BC-Svartisen BC

Post by lilcliffy » Sun May 09, 2021 9:41 pm

An update-

Brand new 2020-2021 Alaska BC- just bought on clearance (less than $200CAN!!!!):
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I have not skied them yet- some intial impressions-

They are updated from my first-gen Alaska BC described in this review-

The lace-cleat just below the instep loops is now an open cleat. (I had already noticed this on my friends newer pair).
At first glance, I thought that this would be an immediate "improvement" to the lacing system-

My mountaineering boots have open locking cleats at this position- as well as the instep position.

The problem with the setup on the current Alaska BC is that the open locking cleat is followed by a closed nylon lace-loop at the instep-

When I try to tighten up the laces-the laces keep popping out of the locking cleat- and it appears to be confounded by the closed loop above it...

A bit frustrating at the moment, but I predict I will get used to it and figure it out.

Otherwise this boot remains unchanged and is magnificent!!!

I like- perhaps prefer- the darker red color.

The stock laces are not as exciting as the original bright orange.

Another note-

The heel-achilles section of the new Alaska is noticably straigher and less contoured than my old Alaskas.
At first I thought this was a design change-
I have compared the the older and new boot and realized that my old Alaskas have conformed to the contoured shape of my heel-achilles-ankle. I am confident that my old Alaskas had the same shape out of the box.

My Svartisens are not conforming to the shape of my heel-achilles-ankle like the Alaska.
My Guards are conforming above the pastic heel cap.
Cross-country AND down-hill skiing in the backcountry.
Unashamed to be a "cross-country type" and love skiing down-hill.





User avatar
lilcliffy
Posts: 2932
Joined: Thu Jan 01, 2015 7:20 pm
Location: Stanley, New Brunswick, Canada
Ski style: Nordic backcountry touring
Favorite Skis: Asnes Ingstad BC; Asnes Gamme 54 BC; Asnes Storetind Carbon; Madshus Annum; Asnes Comabt Nato
Favorite boots: Alfa Guard Advance BC; Alpina Alaska BC; Crispi Svartisen BC; Scarpa T4
Occupation: Forestry Professional
Instructor at Maritime College of Forest Technology
Husband, father, farmer and logger

Re: Boot Review- Long-Term Test- Alaska BC-Guard BC-Svartisen BC

Post by lilcliffy » Sun May 09, 2021 9:58 pm

Stephen wrote:
Tue May 04, 2021 1:35 pm
I wish the Alaska was a tiny bit wider and I would own a pair.
Size-up and install a thicker insole to take up boot volume.
I’m hopeful the new boots will keep all the positives, while adding some additional stiffness for edge control.
Are you speaking of the Xplore vesion of the Guard?
Did you really save this post for the 4th?!
:lol:
Yes- I did- but only for a couple of days.
Cross-country AND down-hill skiing in the backcountry.
Unashamed to be a "cross-country type" and love skiing down-hill.





User avatar
lilcliffy
Posts: 2932
Joined: Thu Jan 01, 2015 7:20 pm
Location: Stanley, New Brunswick, Canada
Ski style: Nordic backcountry touring
Favorite Skis: Asnes Ingstad BC; Asnes Gamme 54 BC; Asnes Storetind Carbon; Madshus Annum; Asnes Comabt Nato
Favorite boots: Alfa Guard Advance BC; Alpina Alaska BC; Crispi Svartisen BC; Scarpa T4
Occupation: Forestry Professional
Instructor at Maritime College of Forest Technology
Husband, father, farmer and logger

Re: Boot Review- Long-Term Test- Alaska BC-Guard BC-Svartisen BC

Post by lilcliffy » Sun May 09, 2021 10:02 pm

Woodserson wrote:
Tue May 04, 2021 1:57 pm
I am surprised that the Svart is less volume and width than the Alaska. I have quite low volume feet as it is, I couldn't go lower.
I think that the width of the Svartisen and the Alaska are actually pretty close.
The Alaska definitely is larger volume for its width than the Svartisen.
I can get my thick wool "Winter Warmer" insloes into my Alaska- I cannot with the Svartisen.
The Svartisen feels "open" around the heel-achilles-ankle compared to the Alaska.
Cross-country AND down-hill skiing in the backcountry.
Unashamed to be a "cross-country type" and love skiing down-hill.





User avatar
lilcliffy
Posts: 2932
Joined: Thu Jan 01, 2015 7:20 pm
Location: Stanley, New Brunswick, Canada
Ski style: Nordic backcountry touring
Favorite Skis: Asnes Ingstad BC; Asnes Gamme 54 BC; Asnes Storetind Carbon; Madshus Annum; Asnes Comabt Nato
Favorite boots: Alfa Guard Advance BC; Alpina Alaska BC; Crispi Svartisen BC; Scarpa T4
Occupation: Forestry Professional
Instructor at Maritime College of Forest Technology
Husband, father, farmer and logger

Re: Boot Review- Long-Term Test- Alaska BC-Guard BC-Svartisen BC

Post by lilcliffy » Sun May 09, 2021 10:02 pm

Woodserson wrote:
Tue May 04, 2021 1:57 pm
I am surprised that the Svart is less volume and width than the Alaska. I have quite low volume feet as it is, I couldn't go lower.
I think that the width of the Svartisen and the Alaska are actually pretty close.
The Alaska definitely is larger volume for its width than the Svartisen.
I can get my thick wool "Winter Warmer" insloes into my Alaska- I cannot with the Svartisen.
The Svartisen feels "open" around the heel-achilles-ankle compared to the Alaska.
Cross-country AND down-hill skiing in the backcountry.
Unashamed to be a "cross-country type" and love skiing down-hill.





User avatar
Stephen
Posts: 328
Joined: Thu Aug 06, 2020 12:49 am
Ski style: Aspirational
Favorite Skis: Gamme (210), Ingstad (205), Objective BC (178)
Favorite boots: Alfa Guard Advance
Occupation: Beyond

Re: Boot Review- Long-Term Test- Alaska BC-Guard BC-Svartisen BC

Post by Stephen » Mon May 10, 2021 12:15 am

lilcliffy wrote:
Sun May 09, 2021 9:58 pm
Stephen wrote:
Tue May 04, 2021 1:35 pm
I wish the Alaska was a tiny bit wider and I would own a pair.
Size-up and install a thicker insole to take up boot volume.
I'm a 47 and I think 48 and up is more difficult to buy?
But really, will probably wait to see Xplore before buying more boots.
lilcliffy wrote:
Sun May 09, 2021 9:58 pm
I’m hopeful the new boots will keep all the positives, while adding some additional stiffness for edge control.
Are you speaking of the Xplore version of the Guard?
Yes -- but getting the impression that may not be the case.





User avatar
lilcliffy
Posts: 2932
Joined: Thu Jan 01, 2015 7:20 pm
Location: Stanley, New Brunswick, Canada
Ski style: Nordic backcountry touring
Favorite Skis: Asnes Ingstad BC; Asnes Gamme 54 BC; Asnes Storetind Carbon; Madshus Annum; Asnes Comabt Nato
Favorite boots: Alfa Guard Advance BC; Alpina Alaska BC; Crispi Svartisen BC; Scarpa T4
Occupation: Forestry Professional
Instructor at Maritime College of Forest Technology
Husband, father, farmer and logger

Re: Boot Review- Long-Term Test- Alaska BC-Guard BC-Svartisen BC

Post by lilcliffy » Mon May 10, 2021 9:10 pm

Stephen wrote:
Mon May 10, 2021 12:15 am
I'm a 47 and I think 48 and up is more difficult to buy?
Alaska comes in a 48.

I’m hopeful the new boots will keep all the positives, while adding some additional stiffness for edge control.
Are you speaking of the Xplore version of the Guide?
Yes -- but getting the impression that may not be the case.
I have no doubt that the "Guard XP" or whatever its called will have a stiffer sole than the Guard BC- if it doesn't, there is no way it will stay in the binding clamp.
Cross-country AND down-hill skiing in the backcountry.
Unashamed to be a "cross-country type" and love skiing down-hill.





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