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Dec 07 2012

Fondling Salomon’s Guardian

 

This rig is made for walking uphill, ‘n’ rippin’ down. In free heel mode you can chose between 12° or 3°.


Well I’ve finally shook hands with a pair for an extended period of time, but my feet have not had the opportunity to dance again with Salomon’s Guardian — yet. There is no doubt this is a binding that carries some clout. At 6½ pounds per pair, when you decide to kick it in gear, the Guardian adds some meat to that kick.

Which also means on a long tour it will kick your asterik and make you long for a two-pin binding like the “distinguished” beards on the trail are using. However, if you’re an active member of the Blue Angels using skis for wings the Guardian is the sort of cockpit you want to be locked in to, with a bomb proof ejection seat.

Besides the metal frame, a honkin’ 16 DIN spring allows a retention range from 7 – 16, so lightweight skiers or those who set their release below 8 or 9 should not consider this binding seriously. Better to wait for next season’s sibling, Salomon’s version of the Baron.

There are a few things on the Guardian that raise questions though.

Ice? What Ice?

Metal always attracts ice. How much and how often remain to be seen.

There’s an awful lot of exposed metal on the set of four metal hooks under the heel that ice can glam on to. Some sort of teflon skin couldn’t hurt, but local sponsored athletes swear it “hardly” ices up. Hopefully I’ll be able to get reports from customers before long, as well as some personal history. It doesn’t look like icing can be avoided, only minimized on the occasional day when conditions conspire to turn the Guardian into an icehole.

Slop? What slop?
The other “interesting” thing is the lateral jiggle in the heel when it’s locked down. It’s about 1 mm, something that is probably evident for less than a hundredth of a second, so who knows how noticeable it is. I’m sure there are some racer jocks who can feel it. Laterally speaking NTN is the tightest tele binding in the world, but it has more slop than the Guardian (duh – it IS a tele binding). It’s a lateral slip like the Guardian but once it reaches the end of its travel NTN zealots will readily swear “it’s solid.” For most alpine skiers the 10 milliseconds (if that) of lateral travel on the Guardian will be invisible too, but expect a few to complain.

Touring Minutia

Hard to imagine the plastic hole not wearing except maybe with metal bushings (mia).

That lateral slop with a locked heel may be invisible, but the lack of bushings around the touring axle when the heel is free gives me the most pause for concern. The axle is held by beefy plastic triangular towers, but it is still a metal against plastic interface so I question the durability of the plastic over time. It may be strong enough to resist cracking, but not an enlargement of the holes leading to slop. I may be making a mountain out of a molehill because if it takes more than 200 days of touring to notice, that is probably an acceptable level of long term degradation. Put another way, if you tour 200 days on these bindings and still haven’t switched to a tech system binding Salomon deserves another shot at your wallet. ;)

More Props
In tour mode it is obvious that the metal frame invokes a lot more confidence for holding an edge on a hard, icy traverse where your skins don’t want to hold too well and you’re tempted to stomp a bit harder. A better tact is to roll your skis to get more surface contact but the instinctive reaction is to stomp, a reaction that is certain to test the durability of a Radical climbing post but probably won’t phase the Guardian.

One thing that is sure to impress users is the ability to free the heel without exiting the binding. Please note, however, the switch is not as easy to operate as the Freeride and takes a bit of force to open far enough to lift your heel. Nothing that won’t get easier with practice though.

The climbing posts can be levered up with your ski pole to two heights, 15° and 3° of inclination. The lower setting isn’t so much for climbing as simply preventing the heel from locking when you need a free heel for crossing the flats. However, if you find yourself following this tortoise, you’ll notice it makes a 12° track easier to follow without having to engage the high heels.

The Salomon Guardian Alpine Touring binding

Salomon’s Guardian. Atomic’s Tracker is the same, only yellow.

The question of ski crampons comes to mind but I think if you’re that serious about mountaineering with an AT binding then you need to start considering the weight of all the metal you’re lugging around to sooth your fears and stop risking your neck for a stoopid photo and ski farther but safer (sort of) with lighter gear. For fun jaunts in and around the boundaries though, the Guardian may just be your new best friend.

Salomon
Guardian
MSRP: $450
Weight/pr: 6 lbs., 8½ oz. (2.96 kg)
DIN range: 7 – 16
Sizes: Small (260mm < BSL < 320mm), Large (305mm < BSL < 360mm)

Atomic
Tracker
Same specs, different color.

Related Posts
First Look at Salomon’s Guardian

© 2012