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Typical failure modes of NNN-BC system?

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  • Typical failure modes of NNN-BC system?

    Alternate Thread Title: What type of breakdown is going to leave me hosed in the backcountry?

    I’m very much in the honeymoon phase of NNN-BC. I found a sweet pair of boots that fit (Alpina Alaska), switched out the pins on my Glittertinds and Karhu Ryders, and am having a blast with low angle touring. And as much as I have visions of clocking huge mileage under them (some bigger days do happen), I am more often using them for 1-3 hour roadside ski tours so I can get my powder fill before work, or still have time to spend with my family on weekends. So in essence, these are my tele skis. If I’m going somewhere steeper, or with tight trees, or crap snow (pretty fortunate in that department here) out come the dynafits, which I have a long standing love affair with (the honeymoon is over and it’s still sweet). However, I love the thrill and feel of telemarking in soft snow and I’m finding the NNN-BC setup satisfies that craving. I haven’t turned my back on three pins for good, I’ll definitely hang onto the binders if/when I find a suitable pair of boots in the future.

    I’ve noticed the odd bit of ‘system gear bashing’ around here in terms of performance and durability. I can understand why lots of people have no interest in using this type of setup, and I’m not going to be the one to try to convince anyone (except maybe one or two more friends in town so that I have people to go with; 3 pin or system I don’t care as long as it's light and flimsy!). I’m more than happy with the performance of the system; my question regards the durability. What are people's experiences with these? How much punishment have they given to their boots and bindings with or without fail, especially in pushing them onto steeper terrain and less than ideal snow conditions? I’d like to know if there’s some extra parts I should be carrying to properly outfit myself for any of the common(?) failure modes.

    I suppose one day I should take the four extra-long Voile ski straps out of my pack and see if I could actually strap my boot well enough to the ski to be able to do a gimpy shuffle out to the car. That's awful just thinking about it though...

  • #2
    [QUOTE=MajorJ;8009]Alternate Thread Title: What type of breakdown is going to leave me hosed in the backcountry?

    For the last four years I've used the NNN BC system boots and bindings in steep, tight trees, powder and crud snow on Madshus Epochs and Fischer sbounds. I usually ski about 80 days a year or so and have had no problems that would leave me stranded. I have used Fischer BCX 6s, Rossi BCX7s, and Alpina 2250s and except for the Alpinasports which I haven't skied as much, the 2 pairs of Fischers and 2 pairs of Rossis all have gotten torn out heel counters from the stiff flex soles.
    I've been very interested in the Alpina Alaska system boots and called Alpina last spring to get a pair to test but forgot to follow up. They seem like they might hold up better.
    I've gone to 3 pins and Fischer BCX 875 boots on most of my nordic BC skis because it's getting expensive tearing up the heels on system boots. They weigh about a pound per boot more but have a bit more ankle support and can just barely drive my Rossi BC110 skis whereas the NNN BC boots really aren't adequate for anything much wider than 70mm at the waist IMO.
    i would recommend the heavy duty Magnum binding. We've never had an issue with them either on my wife's skis or my three pair.
    Please take with a grain of salt any criticism of the system approach from individuals that either have never actually skied them or don't possess the skill to effectively ski in lighter boots like these. I wish they had the durability of the old stitched sole leather boots which lasted forever. But they were heavy, had to be snow sealed, and usually gave me heel blisters


    • #3
      Thanks Bend! I appreciate your insight given the number of days and type of terrain you are putting in on this gear.
      I was wondering about carrying a single spare binding if I were to do any hut trips, but it sounds like that might be overkill.

      The Alaska's seem to be a well made boot, and I really do hope they hold up for a reasonably long time. I switched over from the BCX 675 because the heel pocket totally shredded and just left a large hole exposing the plastic inside after very little use. This was the result of a huge amount of heel lift I was getting in these boots; they really did not fit my foot.
      Is the tearing out of the heel counters that you mention where the entire upper separates from the sole around the heel?


      • #4
        Basically, ya. The fabric in the heel counters did the same thing as your 675s. I haven't put as many miles on my 875s yet but my heel is anchored a bit better in them. More importantly I think, the longitudinal flex of the NNN BC sole is stiffer and pulls against the heel as it lifts more than the 75mm sole boots, stressing the crappy fabric they put into the lining of these fabric/plastic boots. I'm guessing the manufacturers figure the average skier won't be skiing in them as much as some folks do so they figure they can get away with it.
        What is the lining material in the Alaska?


        • #5
          All I can report is having a toe bar snap, but not detach from the toe, on a pair of well abused Garmonts. This was while descending a creek bed, instead of using a well packed hiking trail which was the easier "normal" route out of this particular tour. It was immediately apparent that something was wrong, but we were less than a km from a groomed xc trail at that point so getting out was easy. It looked like metal fatigue to me. And yes, continue to carry those ski straps. I have never had to strap a boot to a ski with them, but they have come in handy several times for other repairs.


          • #6
            I've skied them for years 20-30 days a season. The only breakdown that left somebody hiking home was a friend's toe bar broke off with a chunk of the sole. I am sure that if he had checked the boot occasionally he would have seen cracks in the sole and avoided the problem.


            • #7
              Bend - the lining in the Alaska is still just some sort of fabric, so I probably shouldn't get my hopes too high that these won't suffer the same fate. At least the good fit and lack of heel movement should slow the rate of wear inside. If you want any more info on the Alaska check out the awesome review submitted on this forum right around Christmas.

              Thanks to others for your input on the durability front.