Colin Samuels, photographer and all-around denizen of La Grave in France, sent me an email about an interesting innovation that’s now reaching a somewhat mature state of design. Colin is friends with pioneer extreme skier Anselme Baud, who recently returned from a Cho Oyo climb and ski expedition where he used a ski boot device called “Alp Control.”
Alp Control is essentially a brace system that’s supposed to provide skiing ergos while you’re using soft climbing boots. Application is for routes where most of your up travel is without skis, perhaps even with crampon or rock climbing on steep terrain. When you get to the top you strap on the Alp Control and make your way down while still wearing your mountaineering shoes. Perhaps you even carve turns.
|Baud’s setup, Alp Control on modified Emery Chrono binding.
Devices like this are not a new idea. Back in the 1970s Rossignol sold a cuff contraption that was intended for somewhat the same purpose, though more for transforming soft nordic boots to something you could use to crank more than simple survival turns.
In its marketed configuration Alp Control has a cord attaching your upper leg to the forebody of the ski, ostensibly to allow for rearward support that substitutes for having a boot cuff behind your leg. In the early 1980s Mike Lowe and Paul Ramer tried to market a similar device they called the “Knee Leash.” According to Ramer, you just “leaned back in the powder, the Leash pulled your tips up, and making turns was unbelievably easy.” You can imagine the ribald humor the term “knee leash” engendered, and as skiing powder isn’t that tough anyway, the “Leash” never caught on. But it no doubt did function and it’s interesting to see that same concept applied to skiing in a boot without rearward support.
|Photo from the Alp Control website tells an interesting story. What’s with that binding? Looks like a hybrid that includes elements of the Naxo?
Blog not over yet, Colin wanted to mention his work with Black Diamond in managing the BD test center at La Grave. Which begs the question, can we start a WildSnow.com test center over there?
Hi all, Colin Samuels here, I will manage once again the Black Diamond Ski Test Center in La Grave this coming season at the Edelweiss Hotel. We will have all the New 2008 mid sized freeride skis and fatties (including Havocs, Verdicts, Zealots the new Megawatts!) set up with touring, alpine and telemark bindings. We will have women specific skis, and we will also some skis set up with skins so people can test skis while ski touring in the local area. We also will have newest packs (including Avalung packs), shovels and probes for people to test, as well as adjustable poles and Avalungs. The test center is open to all skiers. Interested people need to stop by the Edelweiss Hotel once in La Grave. No reservations are needed. The test is free and we let people try different pairs of skis if they wish; all we ask is that testers give us some written feedback the the gear they try out. All testers will receive a 10% discount off any BD Skis that they buy at the two local La Grave Ski shops (Magasin Twinner and Objective Meije).
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.