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12/5/2013 12:23 PM
 

It is time for a different pair of ski boots, and I am having a difficult time deciding which way to go. The type of skiing I do is probably most easily described as off trail cross country. I am not seeking out big downhill runs or using groomed tracks predominately. I am just out cruising around checking out country sometimes that means big down hills are involved and sometimes it means I end up on a groomed trail. I also use the same set of skis and boots for everything including lift served skiing. Given my bindings I need a boot with a heel and toe welt, and I am not going to change either my skis or bindings up. I am also not looking for a tall boot designed more for downhill skiing, which means I am more in the mountaineering boot section than the ski boot section based on what research I have done since the ski boots seem either to light or more downhill oriented.  
For the last, I guess about 6 years I have been using the same set of Asolo Annapurnas, and I feel like they are getting a bit long in the tooth, plus there are two things that have always bugged me about them. First is that for some reason the tongue has a tendency to ride down on top of my toes. It is a lot worse when I am walking than skiing, but still something that is really annoying and may contribute to colder toes since they are taking up part of the toe box and impacting the toes. I have never gotten a blister, but I am tired of just living with it. The second thing is that given my size the boots loosen up around the ankle while I am skiing, which means I need to stop and tighten them. Again not a huge issue and my current skis have really cut down on how quickly it happens, but kind of annoying. For lift served downhill I have an ankle cuff that I use, but it sucks for striding out.  Last winter in anticipation of colder temps here in CO than in OR and better snow, which means getting out more, I was in the market for a pair of double boots. A friend scored me a pair of virtually brand new Koflach Arctis Expes. I only used them once last year because they are a bit narrow with the existing liners, and with the heavier sock I usually run I ended up with a lot of pain around the outer edge of each foot. I wore them again this morning with a very thin sock, and there was a bit of discomfort, but no pain. They are still too tight with the existing liner, but workable.
Most of my skiing is done before work or other activities, and it is not unusual for me to spend time walking around in the boots either before or after skiing or both.  The Annapurna is definitely a better walking around boot, and from that stand point just replacing them with a pair of boots that don’t have the tongue issue seems to be a good bet. Since I have plenty of room in the Koflach shell, and I don’t have issues with them loosening up and they give me a more control as a result and warmth (for reference it was between -4 and -7 this morning) getting a set of lower volume custom liners also seems a bit like a no brainer. Thus my quandary do I go with a boot that is a bit more comfortable and versatile or a warmer boot that seems to give me more control because it doesn’t loosen up, or is there a middle ground (hybrid) I don’t even know about? 

 
(for some reason this is the year of the boot for me)

Co-Owner Hill People Gear "If anything goes wrong it will be a fight to the end, if your training is good enough, survival is there; if not nature claims its foreit." - Dougal Haston
 
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12/5/2013 12:50 PM
 

Might be worth looking into having those Koflachs punched for width in the relevant spots. 

 
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12/5/2013 12:58 PM
 

That is another option, and I know right where that needs to happen, but is that a better route than a slimmer liner?


Co-Owner Hill People Gear "If anything goes wrong it will be a fight to the end, if your training is good enough, survival is there; if not nature claims its foreit." - Dougal Haston
 
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12/5/2013 2:50 PM
 

Aside from the Intuition Denali liners that I wrote to you about, you might check into a pair of the modern "hybrid" insulated boots meant for high alpine and ice climbing.  I bought a pair of Scarpa Phantom Guides last year and used them ice climbing every day in single digit temps during the Mount Washington Valley Ice Festival in New Hampshire.  They are comfy and nimble like leather boots, but warm and waterproof like plastic mountain boots.  They are expensive, but maybe you could find a deal on a pair of used ones or maybe when places like Whittaker Mountaineering or Backcountry.com are having a big sale.  There are similar models available from other manufacturers like Salewa, Lowa, and Kayland, too.  Mine fit nicely into my Silvretta AT bindings.

That said, they will in no way offer the control of a plastic mountain boot or actual AT boot while skiing.  Since you want to keep the height of the boot low and have them be comfortable enough for walking around, there is another option that I just checked into.  As a matter of fact, I think I am going to make a pair of these for myself to use with both my Scarpas and also my leather mountaineering boots while skiing.

The new option I just read about is called a "Rando Cuff".  It's basically just a cut out piece of a PVC elbow, that is of suitable diameter for your boot.  Then simply attach a pair of straps, one to run under your instep and another around the top of the boot.  This serves as a nice supportive cuff for skiing, and can be easily removed for walking around. 

 photo randocuff_zps5b6bac26.jpg

Looks like it's worth a try!


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12/5/2013 4:12 PM
 

It was your mention of only using your Phantom Guides, and having my never having ran a pair of plastic boots that has made me pause on ordering the new liners.  I really liked the flexibility of "well the snow conditions aren't conducive so we are hiking instead" or ending up on snow shoes instead of ski, etc... that I have had with the Annapurnas.  Also the ability to end up wearing them all day if I somehow don't get home after the morning trip.  I suspect that if I hadn't had the tongue issue I would probably be looking for a similar boot.  As it is I am wondering if I shouldn't be biasing towards a ski boot for skiing, but with the exception of the Scarpa T4 they all seem either to lightweight or to downhill oriented.  The T4 is an interesting looking boot with its features, but again I have no experience with buckles on a boot so I am bit leery to drop the coin and find I don't like them. I had already looked at the Salewa, and now having looked at Kayland, I can't help being intrigued by the M11 as well. It seems like a nice and supportive/stiff boot, and having read a few reviews on the Salewa they might be really nice for striding out.  However, am I back to the issue of the boot always loosening on me? I just don't know.  I am probably overthinking, but want to get a good pair that will last for several years.

That cuff looks similar to the one I have been using for extra support on lift served for awhile.  What I use is the upper portion of a pair of inline skates with a strap under the insole from the pivot point hole. The ratchet strap and plastic is great for keeping the ankle locked in for icy ski slopes. However, the few times I have tried it for striding out it bit me.  I will be interested to see how you like that one.


Co-Owner Hill People Gear "If anything goes wrong it will be a fight to the end, if your training is good enough, survival is there; if not nature claims its foreit." - Dougal Haston
 
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12/5/2013 7:06 PM
 

scothill wrote

It was your mention of only using your Phantom Guides, and having my never having ran a pair of plastic boots that has made me pause on ordering the new liners.  I really liked the flexibility of "well the snow conditions aren't conducive so we are hiking instead" or ending up on snow shoes instead of ski, etc... that I have had with the Annapurnas.  Also the ability to end up wearing them all day if I somehow don't get home after the morning trip.  I suspect that if I hadn't had the tongue issue I would probably be looking for a similar boot.  As it is I am wondering if I shouldn't be biasing towards a ski boot for skiing, but with the exception of the Scarpa T4 they all seem either to lightweight or to downhill oriented.  The T4 is an interesting looking boot with its features, but again I have no experience with buckles on a boot so I am bit leery to drop the coin and find I don't like them. I had already looked at the Salewa, and now having looked at Kayland, I can't help being intrigued by the M11 as well. It seems like a nice and supportive/stiff boot, and having read a few reviews on the Salewa they might be really nice for striding out.  However, am I back to the issue of the boot always loosening on me? I just don't know.  I am probably overthinking, but want to get a good pair that will last for several years.

That cuff looks similar to the one I have been using for extra support on lift served for awhile.  What I use is the upper portion of a pair of inline skates with a strap under the insole from the pivot point hole. The ratchet strap and plastic is great for keeping the ankle locked in for icy ski slopes. However, the few times I have tried it for striding out it bit me.  I will be interested to see how you like that one.

Well...it's true that these hybrid alpine / ice boots will give you more flexibility, but it's also true that they will never be as warm as a plastic boot with a good liner, unless you buy something like the La Sportiva Spantik or one of the hybrid boots meant for 8000 meter peaks in the Himalaya.  They also won't offer the control of a plastic boot for skiing, but you'll at least reach a decent level with some type of rigid cuff and using a good power strap for the downhills.  

I'm not sure how you'd be able to use the Scarpa T4, since it is a Telemark boot, with the 75mm duckbill front, meant for free heel bindings.  Maybe if you ground down the duckbill to modify it for an AT binding.  You're using Fritschis, right?  That actually gives me an idea.  What about getting a good used or new discount priced pair of backcountry telemark touring boots and then grinding the duckbill for use with an AT binding?  Now....BC 75mm touring and tele boots are built with a different flex point than AT boots...the tele boot flex point will be over the ball of the foot to allow bending during a tele turn, but since you are mostly using your skis on less than radical terrain and mostly for touring with your heels not locked down, such a boot just might work.  Maybe getting a pair of 75mm backcountry touring boots like ones offered by Rossignol or Alpina and modifying the duckbill for an AT binding is the answer.  You would have control around your ankle and instep, they would be warm (as long as you don't stand around a long time in them), and they would feel fine for walking.  If you got them a bit big, you could then use a thick sock for extra warmth.  Also, using an insulated supergaiter overtop of them would give more warmth and waterproofness.  I have a pair of Rossi BC touring boots that I use with some Fischer Snowbound BC touring skis with Voile 75mm bindings for light touring.  The boots are decently warm when moving and are comfortable enough for walking.

A set-up like that might give you the options you want at a far lesser price than dropping the coin for full-on high alpine hybrid climbing boots like the Phantom Guide, Phantom 6000, etc.  A pair of Thinsulate insulated Rossignol BC touring boots can be had for around a $100 (even less if you search around), and a pair of insulated Supergaiters from Mountain Tools run about $135.  Then you'd just need the judicious use of some files and a Dremel grinding wheel to get the toe profile right for your Fritschi AT bindings.  They would be good at touring, walking, and less than radical downhills.  Compare that to anywhere between $450-$700 for a pair of Scarpas, Salewas, Kayland, or Lowa insulated ice boots....plus you'd still need ankle support for any control for the down.

Below are the boots and supergaiter I'm talking about.  Take a close look at the toe portion.  Just like the T4, that toe profile would need to be modified for use with an AT binding.  I'm not certain it can be done, as that the height of the sole at the toe may not be tall enough to fit securely into an AT binding, but then again maybe it is.  You could compare the height against the toe profile on your Koflachs.  That's why it may be best to experiment on a pair of discount priced Rossi or Alpina boots.

NEW EDIT: I just went out to my garage and checked to see if a standard 75mm BC touring boot and a plastic Telemark boot could fit into an AT binding.  In my Silvretta 404 bindings, the answer is a definite yes!  I checked my pair of Rossignol 75mm BC touring boots and also a pair of Garmont Veloces.  Both fit the front toe bail no problem, and my heel throw engaged the rear groove as well.  I don't know for sure whether this will be the case with your Fritschi binding or not, Scot.  I haven't been on Fritschis since 1993 in Swiss Mountain School.  The toe bail on that FT-88 may not be as wide and accomodating as the Silvretta.  It's worth a check, though.  If it works, you could then buy a pair of BC touring boots like the ones pictured below and be able to use them without modification.  Add a pair of supergaiters and you're in business for warmth, comfort, and decent ski control.  If your Fritschis have a plastic housing around the metal toe bail, you might have to remove that plastic piece in order to fit the duckbill of a 75mm touring boot in there.  I'm very intrigued by this potential solution now, and I sure hope it works out for you!

One final thing to keep in mind is that any softer boot..whether it's a modified 75mm BC touring boot, hybrid full-on alpine ice boot, or even a plastic mountain boot...won't give you the control that an actual AT ski boot with buckles will, especially if you are running wide planks of 100mm underfoot or more.  But if you are willing to trade off some control in exchange for the comfort and versatility you seek, then it may be worth it.  Just keep those knees properly over the front of your bindings on the downhills!  If you sit back in the bindings and try to cruise...yard-sale time, for certain!  I spent years skiing Volkl AT skis with Silvretta 300s and Lowa mountain boots, with a ruck on.  The old "white rockets of death" and leather Chippewas before that.  Always the same outcome if I got lax in my form on downhills.  We always had a few guys end up with tib-fib boot top fractures every winter warfare season with these set ups!


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12/5/2013 7:15 PM
 

 Sorry for the monstrously huge photos....don't know why Photobucket uploaded them so big.


Hill People Gear Coureurs des Bois (Brand Ambassador). Victoria faveat paratam. De Oppresso Liber.
 
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12/6/2013 7:51 AM
 

scothill wrote

That is another option, and I know right where that needs to happen, but is that a better route than a slimmer liner?

 

It is certainly a warmer and cheaper one.

 
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12/6/2013 9:48 AM
 

Depending on your use, leather boots (with or without GTX) are still available from some very reputable companies like Scarpa, Crispi, Allico and Lundhags.  These boots that will fit 75mm bindings (and some up to the 87mm bindings incl cable bindings for telemark and back country skis) and are often warmer and more forgiving on your ankles.  Not recommended for novice telemarkers from what I have been told and read.

I personally like the Crispi Antarctic and am waiting on my first pair.  I have a few mates that served in the Royal Marines that still speak highly of the Allico boots they use.  What is nice about these type of boots is the ablility to walk around comfortably in camp or when hunting, No plastic or zips or overly rigid ankles, if you want them more for x-country and back country, as opposed to pure telemarking.  The ones I have order are a half size bigger to allow for a second set of wool socks when cold or a slim insole if the weather is warmer.

Just another option for consideration.

 
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12/6/2013 10:03 AM
 

I am rocking the Fritchis (Ft88 if memory serves), and they allow me to either tele, lock the heel in, or just drive them like downhill skis without locking the heel (parallel turns), which is what I typically do on downhill.  I can bust a few tele turns, but my knees don't like the up and down, and I have found locking my heel doesn't really provide a huge benefit for the type of downhill I am doing. I hadn't really thought about the bigger pin sole being an issue, but you are probably right they would need trimming. I stumbled across the Rossignol boots yesterday, but couldn't really find any reviews in my limited searching. Fischer had a similar pair that had a lot of poor reviews on REI.  Again something to look at. 

Craig,

I kind of put the all leather boots in the same position as the mountaineering single boot I have been wearing. In fact come to think of it my Annapurnas are mostly leather with a large rand and heel cup. 

To cross thread post I just don't want to end up with to specialized a boot that limits its use.


Co-Owner Hill People Gear "If anything goes wrong it will be a fight to the end, if your training is good enough, survival is there; if not nature claims its foreit." - Dougal Haston
 
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12/6/2013 10:13 AM
 

Scot - I have just finished reading that article, very well thought out and written and I agree completely. 

Similarily, I cannot see myself ever doing pure telemark as the knees still need to serve their purpose in years to come - I have downhill skis and boots for fun on the slopes.  The backcountry skis with leather boots give two (perhaps three if I really "needed" to telemark) very different uses - backcountry skiing for fun, camping and hunting and for pure x-country skiing for fitness training.

Therefore are these now specialized, in some ways yes.  Ideally your everyday hill walking boot would be great if they could strap on your skis but, these boots a generalized enough to serve multiple functions in multiple environments.

 
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12/6/2013 10:37 AM
 

Craig Robertson wrote
 

Ideally your everyday hill walking boot would be great if they could strap on your skis but, these boots a generalized enough to serve multiple functions in multiple environments.

Trust me, Evan has spent a lot of time on that, and done some fun post holing as a result. This is clearly a case were some specialization is called for, but I am not sure how much. I lean by nature to something more versatile, but I am beginning to think bird in hand, meaning just getting some new liners.


Co-Owner Hill People Gear "If anything goes wrong it will be a fight to the end, if your training is good enough, survival is there; if not nature claims its foreit." - Dougal Haston
 
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12/6/2013 10:38 AM
 

Not to muddy the water, but if you can tweak the pinch points in your Koflachs and then get heat-molded custom fitted liners from Intuition, those boots should actually be fine for walking in, unless you are talking about many miles on bare earth.  The Lowa Denalis (now called the Lowa Civetta) that we used when I was active duty were decently comfortable for all-day wear in winter environments.  It is quite possible that my feet were just so used to them (feet broken into the plastic boot, instead of the plastic boot breaking in), but I really never got blisters in them...maybe a couple hotspots, but that's it.  A lot has to do with the right sock or sock combo, too.  I'm a big believer in using silver duct tape on suspected foot hotspots, pre-treated before going out for a long day in plastics.  Now that I have home custom-fitted Intuitions in my Koflach Degres, they fit like a glove.  One thing about plastic boots....they are no doubt waterproof and warmer than any leather boot.

You might even try hand-sewing a web tab onto the tongue of your Asolos, then run your laces through there to keep the tongue from sliding down.  Those boots with an insulated supergaiter overtop would offer decent warmth in cold conditions.  Still, a plastic boot will be warmer and drier.

At the end of the day, it will all come down to whether you want more performance or more comfort.  Unfortunately, there's no silver bullet out there that will give everything you want, in all winter conditions, at least from what I've found.

Bottom line....don't cheat your feet!  I got that drilled into my head early on during my military career!


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12/6/2013 10:52 AM
 

"Don't cheat your feet!"  Amen to that brother.  Of course plastic/GTX boots will be better for the real hard stuff and for pure skiing.  The only reason I like the leather's is for the all-round idea.

 
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12/6/2013 10:55 AM
 

I don't think there is anyone closer than about 2.5hrs that does the shell tweaks, or at least not that I could find online.  I am leery of letting anyone get after the shell unless they know what they are doing.  The problem isn't so much rubbing or pinching, as there just isn't enough room in the boot for my foot with the stock liners.  I also would prefer to be able to run a bit thicker sock. The ones I ran yesterday are basically ultra light running socks. My feet were perfectly warm, but even with that sock my big toe and little toe down to about the back of the ball of my foot on each foot were banging the shell.  At this point, after everyone's help talking it out and research yesterday I am back to thinking intuition liners are the way to go.  I have the boots already and the liners are cheaper than the cheapest boot alternative. Even if I end up with a different boot long term I will still have a nice pair of double boots that should last me a lifetime.


Co-Owner Hill People Gear "If anything goes wrong it will be a fight to the end, if your training is good enough, survival is there; if not nature claims its foreit." - Dougal Haston
 
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12/6/2013 11:21 AM
 

Craig Robertson wrote
 

"Don't cheat your feet!"  Amen to that brother.  Of course plastic/GTX boots will be better for the real hard stuff and for pure skiing.  The only reason I like the leather's is for the all-round idea.

No doubt....I am definitely a fan of quality leather boots, exactly for the same reason you mention.  It's that age-old quest finding that "Holy Grail leather mountain boot"!  I've skied in my La Sportiva Nepal Tops and older Scarpa Eigers....to get into and out of ice climbs.  They did fine for the up and general touring, but I always felt a wee bit sketchy for the down.  No pretty turns....just basic survival skiing with those!


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12/6/2013 11:26 AM
 

scothill wrote
 

I don't think there is anyone closer than about 2.5hrs that does the shell tweaks, or at least not that I could find online.  I am leery of letting anyone get after the shell unless they know what they are doing.  The problem isn't so much rubbing or pinching, as there just isn't enough room in the boot for my foot with the stock liners.  I also would prefer to be able to run a bit thicker sock. The ones I ran yesterday are basically ultra light running socks. My feet were perfectly warm, but even with that sock my big toe and little toe down to about the back of the ball of my foot on each foot were banging the shell.  At this point, after everyone's help talking it out and research yesterday I am back to thinking intuition liners are the way to go.  I have the boots already and the liners are cheaper than the cheapest boot alternative. Even if I end up with a different boot long term I will still have a nice pair of double boots that should last me a lifetime.

Don't discount your old Asolos as the back-up plan either!  If you can fix the tongue issue and then throw a supergaiter on 'em, they would certainly give you the walk-around comfort you want.  Then you'd have two good options: Koflachs for big snow days when you intend to mostly ski and leather Asolos for when the conditions are warmer or more iffy.  Throw both sets of boots into your Jeep and then (hopefully) choose the right pair at the trailhead.  If you put your Wild Things booties in your pack, you'd then at least have something warm to slip on if you need to give those dogs a rest at a campsite.


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12/6/2013 11:48 AM
 

I had already planned on talking to Evan, to see if our sewing machine and go through the tongue and webbing for the anchor. I never thought of doing something like that, and probably should have.  The boots themselves are still serviceable, it is more I am just tired of messing with the tongue issue.  That way I still have both bases covered.


Co-Owner Hill People Gear "If anything goes wrong it will be a fight to the end, if your training is good enough, survival is there; if not nature claims its foreit." - Dougal Haston
 
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12/8/2013 9:17 AM
 

 What a great thread! I have been trying to get my skiing footwear sorted more and more each season, there are some great points here. I ski in much the same capacity as Scot, and I am working on gettin my "winter living" setup dialed each season.

I really like my plastic boots for control and warmth. Around here, they are mostly too warm. This winter, I may experiment with wearing a thinner sock to see how that works out. I have considered getting custom liners for them as well, and may do that at some point.

for the record, the boots are Scarpa Invernos. I picked them up at a used gear store for around 50 bucks. I really like the ability to remove the liners and bring them in my sleeping bag for multi day trips. Those super gaiters are interesting. I would never really need that kind of warmth here in the PNW though. 

Keep ep the discussion up!

 
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12/8/2013 10:43 AM
 

 Super badger, for the warmer conditions, you could use an un-insulated supergaiter over a leather mountain boot with your skis.  That's worked for me on multiple ocassions.


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