Woooah! Wait, did I ever mention that it was such a super exciting time to be a telemark skier? I know, all my reviews have been starting like this lately. But it's true, what can I say! There are so many new and innovative products on the market now, it's crazy! And the new 539L-1 boot from Alpina is just as great as its little sister the Alaska XP! From the picture in the official catalog, the 539L-1 is called the Discoverer Pro. From the same catalog, the description says Pioneer Pro. And on the Alpina website, it's called the Pioneer Vital. Quite confusing, I know. But it seems like the final name of the 539L-1 is officially the Pioneer Pro. Here are my first impressions after a few days on them.
This is definitely a new generation of boots here. Alfa were the first to start this trend in 2019 with the Guard GTX boots, and now it's time for Alpina to be part of the game too. Just like the Alaska XP, it's like nothing you ever seen before. A new concept from Alpina, a new design. The power of a heavy military boot, the comfort of old slippers (almost!), and the superlight weight of a world-cup skating boot. All of this, combined with a new 2-pin nordic norm! Remember when the original Alaska came out in 2012? It was a new generation then, a complete revolution for XCD skiers. Well, the new offering of XPLORE boots from Alpina is just as refreshing as the Alaska was when it came out over 10 years ago. Well, MUCH more than this actually! (Also notice the new Discoverer Vital and the Discoverer FREE NNN-BC boots in the 2022 catalog...)
The new Pioneer Pro has a lot in common with the Alaska XP, so I am not going to repeat the 14 pages / 4500 words I wrote about them last fall. But still, it's quite a different design in itself. And really, it is just as mind-blowing as the Alaska XP. The sole is stiffer, pretty much as stiff as the Alfa Free. But somehow easier to flex, thanks to that same perfectly tuned flex point, exactly like on the Alaska XP. And there is more ankle support than the Alaska XP too. And one of the most amazing thing is this: While the soles are stiffer and they offer more support, the forward flex of the Pioneer is almost the same as the Alaska XP. Which makes them awesome cross-country boots with plenty of power, but it also makes them pretty easy to flex for turning too. Brilliant! Almost all the support and power of the Alfa Free, but without the semi-robotic feel, and as an added bonus, the comfort of the good old Alaska!!!
A few words about feeling now, because this is where the Pioneer shines too. Blindfolded, I could identify any of my boots just by wearing and skiing them. The first thing that struck me with the Pioneer is that I had the feeling of wearing no boots at all! It was the first time I felt something like that. I was pushing the boots to the test: downhill, XC and skating and I just couldn't feel the boots at all, like if I was barefoot! The design, perfectly molded to my feet, the comfort and the super-lightweight just gave me the impression that was not wearing any boots at all. I just totally forgot that I was wearing ski boots. WOW! And all the while feeling totally in control at the same time. Mind-blowing again. Really, mind-blowing.
The Pioneer is so natural that you don't even notice it. Quite funny you will say, but this is exactly how I felt the first time. On my second day, I really tried to keep my focus on the boots to write a decent review without any silly stuff. My feeling was exactly the same: I just completely forgot about the boots after a few seconds! Yes, these little marvels are really self-effacing boots! I just couldn't explain it the first few days... Until I put the boots on the scale. Really, by the time you wear them, they instantly disappear from your mind. And the only thing that remains is the thought (and feeling) of pure skiing.
Comfort is just as good as it can get for such a stiff boot. Super tight fit for maximum control, no heel lift, no blisters. Remember how I emphasized on the word precision when I reviewed the Alaska XP? Well, here's even MORE PRECISION! This is how I would describe the Pioneer Pro in two words: More precision. MORE precision, more control, and the feeling of skiing barefoot. It doesn't get better than this.
Made from natural leather with a traditional-yet-modern look, the Pioneer features Alpina's Alpitex Waterproof Membrane for good boot ventilation as well as comfort. But wait, here is THE BEST PART. Sit comfortably on your easy chair and get ready for a shock: The new Pioneer Pro is only 657g!!!
Yes, 657 grams! That is freaking crazy. It's lighter than the Alaska XP (740g), and much lighter than the Alfa Free (845g). That is a 40% (!!!) weight reduction compared to the original Alaska 75! And without any compromise (Quite the opposite in fact!) No, this is no mistake, a 40 percent weight reduction. Stop reading and think about it, seriously. And try to imagine. I'm telling you, it's the closest thing to skiing barefoot!
The flex zone #3 is the bellow, which flexes very nicely despite its stiffness, to get more control and edging power while turning. Flex zone #2 makes striding very smooth for nice and effortless transitions while XC skiing. And the flex zone #1 adds some extra comfort while also making the end of the kicking phase very smooth and natural.
Here is the updated chart below. (You might need to refresh the page or delete your browser's cache for the Pioneer to appear or press CTRL-F5.) As you can see, the new XP boots are all clear winners here, each of them with different strengths. Once again, to make things fair, I have to reiterate that the comparisons were made without any combination of cables, springs, cartridges or flexors, which obviously would change the numbers and would be just too complex to compile. (Click to enlarge)
The new boots from Alpina are simply marvelous. Real marvels of innovative Slovene technology. Progress and innovation. Not cheap cost saving and labor saving improvements, or supply chain efficiency. But real technological progress for modern skiers. Lucky for us, telemark skiing never progressed so fast in history! A brand new generation of boots, a brand new generation of bindings. Right here, right now. The finest of the finest. The lightest of the lightest. Marvelous. Mind blowing. Seriously.
(Optionally combine with the Alpina Pioneer 80 ski and feel the whole Pioneer magic experience...)
MSRP: 500$ USD
(Yes, that is only six hundred fifty seven grams. 1.44lbs. Really. Can you believe it?!?)
UPDATE March 16, 2022
A little update after 10 days (and a nice snowstorm!) on the Pioneer. Ok I found it. I found the right word to describe the Pioneer Pro: DELIRIOUS. Totalement délirantes! as we say in french. Delirious, like in the sense of "wild excitement or ecstasy."
Despite their quite neutral and pioneer look, the Brownies shine like diamonds on the inside. It's totally crazy how just a few hundred grams can change the whole skiing experience! As soon as I finish lacing them, they suddenly completely disappear from my mind and feet. A very unique feeling you won't find with any other boot. They give the straightest, most stable and most uniform nordic XC ski experience ever, while also providing all the power and control needed for everything else. Driving wider powder planks is just sooooo smooth and easy with the Brownies! Absolutely no interference here, that blissful telemark feeling goes from the ski straight to your nervous system! Yep, directly from the earth to your Ajna chakra!
A really fascinating boot. On one hand, its a fine European, old-school, sturdy, utilitarian boot for humble pioneers and hardworking loggers. And on the other, it's the lightest and most advanced technical boot conceived for the most demanding modern ski enthusiast. Like a moon boot designed by the NASA for the most extreme and challenging lunar exploration conditions.
Delirious, really. Delirious, the boot in itself, but also the totally new ski sensation it provides to the skier. The ultimate Nordic XC boot. The ultimate XCD boot. The ultimate BC telemark boot.
657 grams guys... 657g!