The Pioneer 80 is Alpina's next year's all-terrain backcountry ski. But I was lucky enough to receive a pair of 196cm in the mail! Woaaah! Of course I had already seen the picture on the web a few weeks before, and I remember my very first impression was "Wow, at last, a ski with nice cosmetics!!!" And no, it's not fake wood, it's real wood! Just like the Discovery 80's clear top sheets, but without the red paint... So cool!
I was really delighted when I received the skis, they are really beautiful. Natural and simple. No useless graphics. But I was not super excited, thinking they were just yet-another-ski with fishscales. Nothing ultra-special, nothing extraordinary, nothing groundbreaking. Just beautiful, very nice Alpina planks. Well, to be honest, I was more excited about the XPlore bindings that came on it! So they stayed in the kitchen for a few days... (all the other rooms being overloaded with skis already.) I would touch and flex them several times a day, a real pleasure for the eyes, and a real pleasure for any skier's right hemisphere. But then I took them for a ride. Woo! It only took a few kicks and I was totally in love!
According to Alpina, the upcoming Pioneer 80 ski is "The perfect choice for skiers that demand stability, control and edge grip in the ungroomed terrain. Full metal edges provide grip when you need to head downhill or control when you need to traverse across steeper terrain. The camber design aides in flotation and issues easier maneuvering when you need to change course. The skis will be equipped with a new Rottefella Xplore™ mountain ski binding system that provides better mobility when walking and more stability."
On snow, the ski is flying. It's really fast for a backcountry ski of that class. I find it faster than the Ingstad. In fact, with a nice sidecut of 80-58-69, it's quite similar to the Ingstad (84-64-74). The sidecut is also similar to the Madshus Eon ( 83-62-70 ) the Rossignol BC 80 (80-60-70) and the Fischer Traverse 78 ( 78-61-69 ). I would be curious to see the difference between the Pioneer and the Discovery 80, which seems identical... (Reinforced mounting area for XPlore bindings perhaps?) Unfortunately, there isn't much information about Alpina products on their website, as it always been the case...
They are a bit straighter, having a longer radius that the Ingstad. Tracking in powder in very fast, and these beasts are going straight ahead, never wiggling a bit. I'm not 100% sure if this is due to the ski or the XPlore bindings, but the feeling is amazing! I have never seen a ski going that straight with such a sidecut profile. Very impressive! And yes, they also have REAL tips for real powder skiing...!
The flex is actually similar to the Ingstad too but with a few differences. First, the camber strength and height is similar, but the Pioneer seems to have a slightly stronger "wax pocket". (It's quite small, I wouldn't call it a second camber). With the same about of force, there is like a 1mm pocket on the Pioneer that I can't crush completely. They do have a bit of nordic rocker, but not as much as the Ingstad. Imagine an Ingstad ski but with the camber of the Nansen, or the original non-NR'ed Combat NATO. Quite similar to the Rossignol BC 80 in terms of flex, but with a bit of that famous FT68-style "Marked Chamber"... ; )
The simple waxless pattern is very efficient. The pattern length is much longer than on the Asnes WL line, offering better grip, especially for my 130lbs at 6'. Maybe that is also why I feel they go so fast! The Ingstad is obviously optimized for glide, while the Pioneer is optimized for grip. See picture below... Yes, you're right, it's grip wax that you have noticed on the Ingstad... )
I use the Ingstad for exploring the woods, when I want to take a walk in the forest with skis on, when performance is not involved. The new Pioneer will be even better for this, meaning I can explore a bit further and faster! And I think this is exactly what the Pioneer was designed for. (That said, I can't wait to compare them with other XPlore-equipped skis of that class!) The dimensions of the Pioneer are a perfect compromise for a perfect mix of speed, stability and flotation. They are Alpina's only skis that will come pre-mounted with XPlore bindings, meaning this is really the perfect combination. At only 1045g at 196cm, they are lighter than the Traverse 78 and the Eon. Same weight as the Rossignol BC 80 and just a few more grams than the Ingstad (1025g)
Really, it's a very nice surprise for me. (Or should I say a nice discovery?) I knew I was already in love with the Pioneer cosmetically, but I was not expecting to love it that much on snow! A fast 4x4 backcountry tool for any terrain. The Alpina Pioneer 80 + Rottefella XPlore combo is a total blast. The perfect 4WD machinery for backcountry exploration and an explosive arsenal for traversing down your favorite 4,000 footer.
UPDATE December 30th, 2021
Just a few more words about these beauties... Even at 196cm, they offer MUCH better grip than the WL Ingstad and Nansen, while also offering better glide and being much faster! They go straighter too. In fact, I think I'm beginning to like them better than the Asnes ones... A really fascinating ski... Quite a winner for Alpina, and a perfect match for XPlore bindings... And most importantly, at almost half the price of Asnes skis!
After using different skis with the XP bindings, I realize that a significant part of my stoke about the XPlore system came from the Pioneer 80 ski itself!
UPDATE February 19th, 2022
Although I have 100+ pairs of skis, I find myself using the Alpina Pioneer 80 more than 50% of the time! (Another 25% is on the MR48s, the other 25% on other various tools) TOTALLY different stats compared to the previous years! So I thought perhaps this was worth yet another update on that ski!
Very surprising those little Pioneers. Faster than the rest for touring, and a perfect waxless pattern offering both perfect glide and perfect grip under all conditions. And as soon as there are a few inches of new snow, it makes a great downhill powder ski as well! A bit hard to turn because of its camber on hard snow (Who the hell is skiing on hard snow?!?), but soooo smooth, awesome and easy to turn in powder! First, tour a little to get some fresh air and enjoy the great outdoors, then find your favorite spot for a quick meditation. Then head for your favorite hill: Climb, dance-and-turn, and repeat. My new favorite waxless ski for touring!
No bling bling, no new special features, no flashy top sheets, no exotic camber or sidecut, no trendy ambassador, just a great, solid, all-around backcountry ski. I really have no arguments or evidences to support my find. I am just sharing my joy here. The Pioneer has nothing futuristic or innovative. But somehow, no matter the conditions or where I go, I find myself picking up the Alpina 80's most of the time when I go out the door. Yep, I really really love that one!