Hill People Gear Forums
HomeHomeDiscussionsDiscussionsGeneralGeneralAlpina Alaska / Altai Kom / 75mm Cable ImpressionsAlpina Alaska / Altai Kom / 75mm Cable Impressions
Previous
 
Next
New Post
7/14/2017 3:16 PM
 

A little late posting this...

When I put together the Winter Locomotion video, I talked about the ski setup I like but also the fact that it's not really available despite how good it is. I recommended instead a combination of actually available things I hadn't tried but looked good. Alpendrms, being the inveterate gear hoarder that he is, put together the package that I recommended (he already had the skis and bindings) and then sent it home for me to try out after he used it at Winter Skills class. I was able to ski this combination a couple of different times before winter was gone.


Here are my impressions -

Alpina Alaska 75mm Boot
This is an extremely nice boot. One of my big requirements is multi-purpose gear. To that end, a dedicated boot that is only good for skiing isn't of much use to me. So the first thing I did was put these boots on and wore them around town for the day. They're good. Very good. I liked them so much I was tempted to buy a pair just for hiking boots. They're light, warm, comfortable, and supportive. The 75mm duckbill doesn't particularly get in the way. No more than if you wore a pair of boots a size larger than you were normally used to. As a ski boot, they didn't offer quite as much support as my Scarpa Mont Blancs, but I think they gave as much or more support as the old leather Asolo 75mm boots that were the gold standard for so many years. Overall, I'd say that these boots - even with the duckbill - are a fine choice for a general purpose winter boot.

Altai Kom
I don't need to buy a pair, I don't need to buy a pair... or so I'm trying to convince myself. These skis aren't too incredibly different than the skis I've been on for the past few years (Rossignol BC 110). They're both relatively short and fat skis that do well for busting brush. They're the same width in the tip and a little wider in the tail. But the Koms are WAY wider underfoot and also have a much softer camber. On the trail, they feel light and stable underfoot and they climb nearly as well as my BC 110s *with* kicker skins. Both on icy hard pack and deep soft stuff. Having a ski that has nearly kicker skin traction without the skin is a big plus. The fishscale pattern on both skis is the same length and the same location underfoot. I don't know if the Kom has way more traction because of the softer camber, the wider section underfoot, or a combination of both. On the flip side, I can move out a lot faster in the right conditions with the BC 110s. Part of this is undoubtedly the stiffer camber. To the extent that it is camber, that's a trade off decision. Do you want more traction, or more ability to move out? For general purpose backcountry travel, traction wins the day. As luck would have it, I picked up a used set of Karhu Guides this spring for a very good price. They appear to be the spiritual predecessor of the Kom (The Altai guys used to work at Karhu). The Guides have a similar tip geometry to the Kom, are a little wider underfoot than the BC110s (although not nearly as wide as the Kom), and most importantly have camber very much like the Kom. I didn't get a chance to ski them this spring, but I think they might offer just about everything the Kom does. The only difference between the two is width underfoot.

75mm cable (Rainey Superloop)
It's been a long time since I skied any bindings but FT-88s. I was immediately reminded just how good those early AT bindings are in freeheel mode. The 75mm cable weren't bad, just not nearly as good. This is true in two ways. First, the AT bindings pivot much more easily so kick and glide doesn't have very much binding resistance. You could run 75mm bindings without cables, but then you'd be dealing with the snow packed pinhole issue and the boot to skin interface would be even sloppier which brings us to the second way that AT bindings are noticeably better. The solid foot platform coupled with mechanical hinge on the AT binding means there is NO lateral twisting to deal with in the boot binding interface. I found myself having to use a lot of finesse with my big toe to get things done with the 75mm binding that I would merely have to angle a knee to get done in the AT bindings. You could use a stiffer 75mm boot like the Scarpa T3, but then you'd be wearing something that is virtually useless for anything but skiing. Still, I wouldn't recommend against 75mm cable bindings for a general use backcountry binding mainly because they appear to be the only thing available right now that can be made to work.

Overall impressions
This is indeed a very good package for backcountry travel. It is light, breaks trail well, is mostly controllable, and the boots are a general purpose winter boot that would work just fine for hiking, roped glacier travel, and snowshoeing in addition to driving skis.

There were two things that bothered me about the overall package. First was "stride-ability" and the second was lateral stiffness. These are flip sides to the same coin and demonstrate how the 75mm bindings offer the worst of both worlds compared to my old style AT bindings.

I can move out a lot quicker in my BC 110 / Fritschi FT-88 setup. To the extent that this is due to camber, I'll take more traction and content myself with moving slower. To the extent that this is due to the limitations of 75mm bindings, I'm looking forward to seeing what the Karhu Guides move like when paired with the FT-88s that I got mounted on them. That removes the limited binding from the mix and leaves soft camber.

When sidehilling in crust and also trying to cut in turns in hard packed spring snow, I had a devil of a time getting my edges to bite. I believe this was a combination of the relatively weak boot / ski interface and the width of the Kom underfoot. There is no issue cutting Scot's BC 125s in (with the FT-88 binding) and they are the same width underfoot as the Koms. I would be interested to try the 75mm cable binding / Alpina Alaska boot combination on a ski that was narrower underfoot. I tend to think that would be more controllable for sidehilling and turning.

So, does my recommendation stand? Mostly, yes. It's a good general purpose backcountry travel package that you can put together with products that are currently available. The only change I might make is to try that boot / binding combination on a ski that is narrower underfoot and perhaps more amenable to cutting in an edge with the limited bindings available. Is my recommendation as good as what I'm actually using myself (antique AT bindings on modern skis with mountaineering boots)? No, the FT-88 and Silvretta 404s are still the best general purpose backcountry ski bindings by a pretty fair margin for a number reasons. It's just that they're hard to find now and then nobody will mount them for you. And just to be clear, I never use those bindings with the heel locked down. To me, they're just freeheel bindings.


We are fortunate in this matter that your conduct will be your marker and, thus, your reputation. The conduct of others on this forum has been, and will continue to be, their marker, and thus, their reputation. In the west, a person invests in one's reputation carefully. - 112Papa
 
New Post
7/15/2017 9:18 AM
 
evanhill wrote:

Is my recommendation as good as what I'm actually using myself (antique AT bindings on modern skis with mountaineering boots)? No, the FT-88 and Silvretta 404s are still the best general purpose backcountry ski bindings by a pretty fair margin for a number reasons. It's just that they're hard to find now and then nobody will mount them for you. And just to be clear, I never use those bindings with the heel locked down. To me, they're just freeheel bindings.

Just to add a slightly different perspective, AT bindings are more what you're used to.  The simplicity and lightness of a freeheel cable binding can offer plenty of control and move-out speed.  Based on my own experiences having skied AT / Randonee set-ups for a good part of my adult life, and then adding freeheel / Telemark gear into the mix about 12 years ago....I have come to love the simple utility of a freeheel cable binding....moreso than a 3-pin or even AT...for all-round backcountry travel.  Certainly, technique and tons of practice (along with plenty of trial and error) come into play.  To be fair, there are folks out there (the Altai guys among them) that can do amazing things on 3-pin and 75mm cable bindings.  AT bindings such as the Fritchi FT-88s and Silvretta 404 (of which, I still have two sets mounted on other boards like my Karhu XCD Guides) do allow an initial feeling of control over the ski that must be developed more slowly with a 3-pin or 75mm cable binding.  However, I do not feel that the AT bindings tour more efficiently in the BC than true freeheel bindings.  Heck, if that were the case, every single person doing classic BC touring would use nothing but AT bindings.  Now, to be sure, AT bindings are undoubtedly extremely versatile and I do still ski them and like them, but 75mm cable bindings can fall into that same versatile role, as long as the time is spent on developing the technique and body mechanics needed to get them there.  I think at the end of the day, it really becomes an apples to apples choice....some like Granny Smiths, and some like Galas, and some like...etc.  Much depends on personal preference and intended application.  There's a movement afoot (pun intended) where 10th Special Forces Group is moving back toward a true freeheel set-up with cable bindings, more akin to that used by Alpine Troops in the Nordic countries, and harkening back to the gear used by "The Heroes of Telemark" (great film, BTW).  I learned of this during a very recent chat with an old buddy of mine from my Mountain ODA days.  More XC / overland-focused, less bombing of couloirs or open faces.  Also, they are intending to get back to pulling the backcountry load on ahkios / pulks.  A lighter, freeheel cable binding underfoot is a good choice for this, but in truth, I did a helluva lot of long touring pulling an ahkio with an AT set-up during my years among them.  


Hill People Gear Coureurs des Bois (Brand Ambassador). Victoria faveat paratam. De Oppresso Liber.
 
New Post
7/15/2017 1:23 PM
 
An A/T binding in freeheel mode is essentially an overbuilt NNN binding. There is a reason the entire groomed surface world (track-set, skate) uses some form of NNN and not 75mm anymore. A mechanical hinge offers complete torsional stiffness and completely free heel lift. A piece of rubber trying to act like a hinge doesn't do either of those things very well. The rubber "hinge" works OK, but isn't as efficient as the mechanical hinge.

The ideal backcountry binding looks a lot like a crampon without teeth -- it has all three crampon binding options (step in, semi-automatic, universal strap on) engineered into a single plate; it has a hinge just under the toe in the same place that NNN places the hinge; it has rudimentary if not DIN spec releasability; it mounts to the ski using the traditional 75mm 3 hole drill pattern; and it works in concert with a heel plate with climbing wire. Yes, I've got a design in mind. Dunno if there's enough of a market for it or not.

We are fortunate in this matter that your conduct will be your marker and, thus, your reputation. The conduct of others on this forum has been, and will continue to be, their marker, and thus, their reputation. In the west, a person invests in one's reputation carefully. - 112Papa
 
New Post
7/15/2017 2:00 PM
 

Yes, but groomed and track skiing surfaces aren't where we're taking them.  We are both in agreement about the downsides of a NNN or NNNBC binding.  Much the same for the classic 3-pin.  Even NNN / BC bindings still alow flex of the foot & boot at the proper spot, but pretty much all AT bindings do not.  A 75mm cable & boot binding combo can last many years, and have very few things break on them.  I've busted dovetails off of Silvrettas and have seen Fritchi AT bindings break in Switzerland, so the answer could be a morph of those worlds.  The "hinge" isn't happening simply at the toe of a 75mm boot at the duckbill, it is further back behind the ball of the foot, which is why plastic Tele boots have the bellows built into them at the instep.  It's not just relying on a tip of rubber.  Basically, the flex does not occur in front of the toe, but rather just aft of the ball of the foot, providing control and the torsional stiffness.  That is the downside of traditional hard platform AT bindings in freeheel mode....everything hinges in front of the toe, which then does not offer the same control.  For moving the ski forward and for touring, no problem.  But for any true freeheel turning, a problem.  That is the problem I would see with the "toothless crampon" style of binding you have in your mind, because it would still rely on all of the hinge action out in front of, or just under, the toe.  Depending on the boot used, I suspect control would vary quite a bit.  Once again, that's not an issue for just moving the ski forward and for touring, but to have any kind of control to turn them would be tough.  Maybe if the forefoot portion of the design still kept in good contact with the ski it could work, but then you are kind of back to what cable and hardwire Telemark bindings are already doing.

There was an old binding made by Asolo that sort of went there.  Can't remember the name of it.  Today's Dynafit bindings with robust pins engaging from the sides of the boot offer yet another solution....but, of course, they require yet another boot.


Hill People Gear Coureurs des Bois (Brand Ambassador). Victoria faveat paratam. De Oppresso Liber.
 
New Post
7/15/2017 2:04 PM
 

Found 'em on eBay.  Interesting design, and possibly something to be built upon, but the 3-pin plate would not be the way I'd go with them.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Asolo-XC-T-3-...e-/232393927315


Hill People Gear Coureurs des Bois (Brand Ambassador). Victoria faveat paratam. De Oppresso Liber.
 
New Post
7/16/2017 12:53 AM
 
Looking around it seems odd that all the universal bindings I can find (Berwin, Hummocks, IceTrek, Altai) use a plastic flexible plate while nearly all the splitboard bindings (Spark, Voile, MTN approach) use a hinge. Looking at it from the outside with practically zero experience I wonder if the later wouldn't work better if you didn't mind no release. I'm sure there is a simple reason that someone can point out why this is a bad idea, or why no one seems to be using them other then splitboarders, but until then it is on my "to try cautiously" list.

The second idea that I'm sure is a bad one or someone would have tried it already is a flat plate that uses a tech binding for releasability and then has whatever flavor of boot interface you prefer (something like the Voile Mountain Plate Kit, ratchet straps like the Altai binding, or something like any number of snowshoe bindings). I'm sure the interface would have to be very secure or the release wouldn't work properly, but they do sell resoles with the tech toe and heel piece that I'm sure could be bolted or epoxied to something other then a tech boot. The prices of the tech bindings keep this a hypothetical thought experiment though, a fact which might be better for health.
 
New Post
7/17/2017 7:57 AM
 

The flexible bindings like the Berwin allow the use of boots with a flexible sole, the hinge type need a mountaineering boot.  Flexible bindings will be MUCH faster on flat/gentle terrain.  So it really boils down to boots and terrain.

I covered a bit a winter ground on White Stars/Balata (sp?) bindings in AK many, many years ago. That set up isn't for mountain use.  Talent and skill will only go so far.

The Berwin is the binding of choice, as I understand, in the BWCA, where it is as flat as a tabletop.

 
New Post
7/17/2017 11:02 AM
 

Alpendrms, you've hit on the crux of the problem -- hinge at the ball, or hinge at the toe. There are pluses and minuses to both. Here's how I see it breaking down:

  • Hinge at the ball is nicer for cutting tele turns if you have a plastic tele boot that provides both torsional rigidity and hinge (albeit limited) at the ball of the foot. The problem is that this is very limited when it comes to touring. That's why there are now tele bindings like the 22 designs Axl that have a freeheel mode you can switch to. It hinges at the ball for cutting tele turns on the way down, and hinges freely at the toe for touring and climbing.
  • If you are running a boot heavy enough to cut tele turns using a tele binding, it isn't that useful for other things. Witness the T3. If you are running a boot like the Alpina Alaska that is useful for other things, it is way easier to cut tele turns using a freeheel AT binding. This is direct experience talking -- I've done quite a few days cutting lift served tele turns in mountaineering boots with freeheel AT bindings. On the other hand, I couldn't even cut an edge well enough to traverse a spring slope with the 75mm cable / Alpina Alaska combo. No way would I want to try to cut turns of any type with that combo on anything but forgiving powder.
  • For freeheel wedge and parallel turns, AT bindings are easier to use than cable 75mm bindings unless you are running the aforementioned good for skiing but very little else tele boots. In the real world (not groomed resort), I find that there are only certain conditions where telemark turns are better than parallel or wedge turns. For the most part backcountry ski travel consists of parallel and wedge turns and you really don't need the tele turn at all, it just feels cool as hell and is nice on moderate slopes in powder. Do skilled tele skiers do much harder things? Of course, but I don't think a single one of them would say that the tele turn is easier or more efficient than parallel in the same conditions.
  • For touring, hinge at the toe is faster and more energy efficient than hinge at the ball. Again, direct experience talking. I skied both kinds of setups within a single week last year so the comparison was easy to make. The difference is that hinge at the toe utilizes major muscle groups but hinge at the ball requires the use of smaller stabilizer muscles. It's the difference between front pointing on hinged crampons with a 3/4 length midsole versus front pointing on rigid crampons. Plus hinge at the toe gives you a greater range of motion.
  • Hinge at the ball requires a very specialized boot. We've found that even normal hiking boots don't work particularly well in the "universal" strap on berwin style and Altai style bindings. They're a little too stiff to allow more than an inch of heel lift. On the other hand, hinge at the toe with plate doesn't care one bit about how stiff the midsole is -- it will make a too soft midsole plenty firm to drive the ski, and it will allow a completely rigid midsole to rotate freely.
  • My personal opinion is that releasability in the event of a crash is an absolute requirement for a backcountry ski. Antique AT bindings have this, very few 75mm offerings do, and certainly not any of the lighter more touring oriented 75mm offerings.

So you can see why I think hinge at the toe with rigid plate is the best all around backcountry plan. You're giving up tele turn performance, but you're ahead of the game in just about all other regards. Right now, the only way to get there is using antique AT bindings and you're limited to using boots that fit step in crampons. But if you set out to purpose build one like I describe above, you'd have something simpler, lighter, and adaptable to just about any boot you wanted to use... although I've found through experimentation that you need a certain base level of ankle support to be able to drive a ski. Luckily, that level of ankle support is still PLENTY usable for everything else. In fact I think my current hiking boots are stiff enough at the ankle to drive skis with provided I had a semi-automatic adapter on my ski binding.

NNNBC is probably the most efficient setup available right now but it's not releasable, you end up with a fairly specialized boot, and good luck getting into your bindings if you're not standing in a hard packed parking lot to start with. It's a non-starter for those reasons.


We are fortunate in this matter that your conduct will be your marker and, thus, your reputation. The conduct of others on this forum has been, and will continue to be, their marker, and thus, their reputation. In the west, a person invests in one's reputation carefully. - 112Papa
 
New Post
7/17/2017 12:14 PM
 

Okay, that makes sense.  I had a couple ideas pop into my brain while thinking about what "The" binding might look like, and to be able to achieve what you are describing.  Once I get some time to do so, I might mess around with some old bindings I have to create a Frankenbinding of some sort to try out.  

BTW way....I have AXLs on my Karhu Team 100s.  They are very powerful bindings and I like them a lot.

"That's why there are now tele bindings like the 22 designs Axl that have a freeheel mode you can switch to. It hinges at the ball for cutting tele turns on the way down, and hinges freely at the toe for touring and climbing."


Hill People Gear Coureurs des Bois (Brand Ambassador). Victoria faveat paratam. De Oppresso Liber.
 
New Post
7/17/2017 12:19 PM
 
Timing on this is uncanny -- my wife's in-home nurse was just over and mentioned that she had a horrible knee injury that had her in a wheelchair for a year and she's still very limited mobility and in a lot of pain. Method of injury? Cross country skiing accident on non-releasable bindings. She was a very experienced downhill and backcountry XC skier who was out with a friend for the day on the friend's first XC ski trip. It was spring conditions and she unexpectedly hit a soft spot that broke her leg and injured her permanently because her ski went one way and her body went the other. Her first surgeon wanted to amputate above the knee. She specifically said it happened because the bindings were non-releasable.

We are fortunate in this matter that your conduct will be your marker and, thus, your reputation. The conduct of others on this forum has been, and will continue to be, their marker, and thus, their reputation. In the west, a person invests in one's reputation carefully. - 112Papa
 
New Post
7/17/2017 1:08 PM
 

Holy catfish!  Yep....there were many times during the old days skiing in the Alps or in the States where the release on the Silvrettas were a God-send.  Even still, we never finished a Winter Warfare iteration without a few bad strains, sprains, or fractures.  I have a couple ideas that I am going to draw and write on paper for a binding with a mechanism that would "grab" the sides of the boot at the forefoot, with a toe plate to accomodate any mountain boot. Then, figure out a way to couple that with a plate and heel piece to allow for it to provide torsional control and hold the toe of the boot in place.  Making it releasable would be the toughest part.  There are actually release plates made for Voile bindings, and I have thought about them...but they do add some weight.

http://www.voile.com/voile-release-kit.html

And....I am seriously considering a pair of these for my current boards.

http://www.telebry.com/shop.html

Although the Telebry is designed for Telemark bindings, if I actually got a pair of them in my hands, I could think about how they might be employed into a binding like you've described.  Certainly gets the creative fab juices flowing.


Hill People Gear Coureurs des Bois (Brand Ambassador). Victoria faveat paratam. De Oppresso Liber.
 
New Post
7/17/2017 2:18 PM
 
I actually think the silvretta 404 is a great starting point for the design, but with a fritschi style heel bail (for step in and semi-auto styles). Releasability would be all in the toe ahead of the pivot, but that should get it done. Front half of bar rotates in a spring loaded clamshell with tension adjustable via screws on the springs. Then you need to design an optional front end for semi-auto and full strap in. I think you also need an optional different rear end for full strap in style. Like I said, I've got roughly the design in mind.

We are fortunate in this matter that your conduct will be your marker and, thus, your reputation. The conduct of others on this forum has been, and will continue to be, their marker, and thus, their reputation. In the west, a person invests in one's reputation carefully. - 112Papa
 
New Post
7/17/2017 2:38 PM
 

Hmmm....yes.  Bares some thinking.  For releasability, I was thinking more along the lines of the Telebry system, except adapted to an "all-boot binding design", where the entire binding detaches from the ski during a fall.  

I do have a pair of older Silvretta 300s that are virtually identical to the 404s, except they use more metal and less plastic.  I also have another pair of way-old AT bindings (can't recall the name of them), that could be useful for testing designs.


Hill People Gear Coureurs des Bois (Brand Ambassador). Victoria faveat paratam. De Oppresso Liber.
 
New Post
7/17/2017 8:33 PM
 
Take-a-knee wrote:

The flexible bindings like the Berwin allow the use of boots with a flexible sole, the hinge type need a mountaineering boot.

evanhill wrote:

Hinge at the ball requires a very specialized boot. We've found that even normal hiking boots don't work particularly well in the "universal" strap on berwin style and Altai style bindings. They're a little too stiff to allow more than an inch of heel lift. On the other hand, hinge at the toe with plate doesn't care one bit about how stiff the midsole is -- it will make a too soft midsole plenty firm to drive the ski, and it will allow a completely rigid midsole to rotate freely.

 

TAK, can you expand on this? Evan's experience matches my assumptions (and my brief experience with the Altai binding), why would a stiff plate require a stiff sole? Looking at something like the Sparks splitboard binding as a baseline for a universal hinged binding, if the straps and chassis is secure enough I don't see why you couldn't ski in something with no sole stiffness at all if you wanted to. Am I missing something or are you just refering to the boot-to-binding attachment method on most hinge bindings?

 

evanhill wrote:

NNNBC is probably the most efficient setup available right now but it's not releasable, you end up with a fairly specialized boot...

 

Is there a reason that NNNBC would be more effecient then a tech binding, or would they be about the same? The later of course requires an even more specialized boot but there has always been talk and rumor of retrofitting mountaineering boots with toe pieces, although nothing conclusive seems to have surfaced. Is there anything about the tech binding release that would make them undesirable as a starting point for a releasable universal binding? It seems most of a perfect binding could be fabbed up in a garage, but in my case I wouldn't dare touch the release side of things; I'd rather leave that to larger companies with more engineers on the payroll.

 
New Post
7/18/2017 8:01 AM
 

I would expect NNNBC and Tech to perform nearly identically in freeheel mode. They also both have the same achilles heel -- the boot itself needs to have a fairly rigid midsole because it is part of the hinge. As you captured above, hinged plate doesn't rely on the boot to have a rigid sole at all.


We are fortunate in this matter that your conduct will be your marker and, thus, your reputation. The conduct of others on this forum has been, and will continue to be, their marker, and thus, their reputation. In the west, a person invests in one's reputation carefully. - 112Papa
 
Previous
 
Next
HomeHomeDiscussionsDiscussionsGeneralGeneralAlpina Alaska / Altai Kom / 75mm Cable ImpressionsAlpina Alaska / Altai Kom / 75mm Cable Impressions