Want To Ski In Your Climbing Boots? Alp Control Might Be Ticket

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | October 17, 2007      
Backcountry skiing boot support system, Alp Control.
Anselme Baud showing Colin the Alp Control setup he used on Cho.

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.

Backcountry skiing boot support system, Alp Control.
Baud’s setup, Alp Control on modified Emery Chrono binding.

Backcountry skiing boot support system, Alp Control.
Rossignol sold this lashup in ancient days of soft floppy tele boots — a crystal ball to the present state of telemark monster boots.

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.

Backcountry skiing boot support system, Alp Control.
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).


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17 Responses to “Want To Ski In Your Climbing Boots? Alp Control Might Be Ticket”

  1. Matt Kinney October 17th, 2007 10:18 am

    thanks lou…good report. Gotta really enjoy the tinkering on those boots. That forward shin bar is real innovative. Hey but if it works on Cho Oyo……….

    The knee leash really worked well as intended by ramer, with a full pack and/or sled on a down-hill run. Huge control gain.

  2. Scott Bower October 17th, 2007 10:52 am

    That looks pretty cool.

    I’ve done a fair amount of skiing into ice climbs with Koflachs and Silretta 500s. As a result I’ve also taken many awkward backward falls with a heavy pack. I finally got tired of this after tweaking my knee and started carrying leather ice boots and wearing AT boots on the approach and egress. Of course, this only works with climbs where you start from and return to a common point.

    This is exactly the type of thing that might tempt me to try again.

  3. Halsted October 17th, 2007 12:24 pm

    Looks like lots of recycled Ramer ideas to me. That is not a comment to put down Paul. He was way ahead of his time (plastic telemark boots, self-arrest grips, climbing plugs, plate AT bindings, etc…). Its interesting to see other reinventing some of Paul’s ideas.

  4. Dostie October 17th, 2007 1:16 pm

    Must echo Halstead’s comment: Paul Ramer was WAY ahead of his time. WAY, WAY, WAY ahead. Anselme Baud’s Alp Control combines, in a slightly different configuration, two of Ramer’s classic ideas that were never accepted by (many) customers…the Motivaider and Knee Leash. Paul’s rolling in his grave, LOL and reminding us, “I told you so!”

  5. Tony October 18th, 2007 11:00 am

    Lou, two questions:

    What material is the brace made of?

    Also, what binding currently on the market do you reccomend for use with mountaineering boots?

  6. Tony October 18th, 2007 11:00 am

    Lou, two questions:

    What material is the brace made of?

    Also, what binding currently on the market do you reccomend for use with mountaineering boots?

  7. Chris Davenport October 18th, 2007 11:15 am

    Hey Lou,
    My friend Colin Haley used a knee strap setup with Sportiva climbing boots and short Trab’s to ski the Orient Express in June. Looked scary to me but he made it work and man, that setup was LIGHT!

  8. Lou October 18th, 2007 11:31 am

    Tony, I’m pretty sure they’re molded out of carbon fiber. As for what’s on the market that works with climbing boots, as far as I know the only thing out there is the Silvretta 500. Used Silvretta 404 is a good bet too.

  9. colin October 19th, 2007 8:39 am

    in response to bindings, i sent some photos of the old emery chrono set up Anselme used, even going so far to reverse the toe piece to give added toe hold on his mountaineering Asolo boots which would pre release otherwise. the light emerys are still commonly scene in the alps for approach skis in addition to the 404’s which are still sold.

  10. palic October 20th, 2007 7:44 am

    🙂 It seems, that the binding on the last photo is Nic Impex Evolution Light (Arva), that is not the same as Naxo (also mentioned at http://www.alpcontrol.com/summary.html).

    Anselme Baud is cool to use Emery Chrono at Cho Oyu. In my opinion, this binding is for good just for traversing mountain ranges or some easy ski-touring, but not high altitude skiing or extreme. BTW, do you know, where he had got this Chrono binding? I suppose, that it is not produced for a long time.

  11. Neven February 20th, 2009 8:11 pm


    More and more people in France, Germany and Switzerland have the opportunity to try AlpControl, and once they have tried (which is my case), they are astonished.

    The Army of several european countries have equipped their groups of skiers with AlpControl, and people like Charles Hedric and Anselme Baud keep using it, which is a good sign.

    This year, AlpControl was selected as a finalist at the ISPO in Munchen (Germany).

    The concept is just great, and I wish you to be able to try it soon.


  12. Daniell May 4th, 2010 4:22 am

    That looks pretty cool. Thanks lou…good report. Gotta really enjoy the tinkering on those boots. That forward shin bar is real innovative.

  13. Daniell May 5th, 2010 11:03 pm

    That looks pretty cool. Thanks lou…good report. Gotta really enjoy the tinkering on those Boots. That forward shin bar is real innovative.

  14. Steve March 12th, 2011 9:34 am

    Has anyone tried the Mountain Spring device by Alp Control, used for stabilizing mountaineering boots on the ski down? This looks to be an industry changing product, but with no US retailer, at over $500 with shipping, it could be big gamble. Does anyone have in anything to say about seeing or using this product?

  15. Brice September 18th, 2011 9:03 pm

    Where can I buy these?

  16. Lou September 19th, 2011 6:25 am

    Brice, I’d contact them, use alpcontrol for a message to g mail, let us know how it goes.

  17. Brice July 25th, 2012 9:54 am

    I bought a pair and used them this last season with silvretta 550s. They are stellar and you can ski for fun not just for survival to get down. They were a pretty penny but I have skied some pretty gnarly terrain in them. They are softer than normal ski boots, of course, and I wouldn’t take any jumps in them but they give you great control at little cost of weight in your pack. The buckles need some fine tuning in further development as they are fiddly to put on and make putting them on a bit time consuming. This makes them great for an approach and ski out or climb and ski down but not well suited for laps. Which is really the intent of this device anyway. Also when you attach it to your foot and lower leg you want to ensure that it flattens your foot so the ski is not tilted to one side or the other when you are standing neutrally. This takes a little time just doing some laps in a safe and familiar area to figure out. I would highly recommend these to anyone wanting to skin in their mountaineering boots. This opens up possibilities like stashing the skis and supports at the summit and then climbing a harder route that you wouldn’t carry skis on and then have a speedy and fun descent cutting hours off on the way down. Although both of these could have been done (and I’m sure have) in ski boots I climbed Liberty Ridge and skied down Emmons glacier in this setup with a buddy and I also soloed the North Face route on Hood and Skied the Coopers Spur back to the car. Here is the video from Hood: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gTM9H3eKCjQ
    In summary I would highly recommend this setup for the purposes stated above, the only downside being the cost and the buckles.

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