Although there is no standard for calibrating the release values of lightweight, 2-pin tech bindings (Dynafit), Thomas Laakso, Black Diamond’s ski products manager says, “it passes all safety release tests for existing alpine and AT norms.”
The current trend in AT skiing has resulted in a polarized market. Experienced backcountry skiers know that light is right so they buy Dynafit or tech bindings that are knock-offs of the original, patented Dynafit concept. On the other hand, alpine resort converts think weight is great so they prefer heavier plate style bindings that work with alpine boots with DIN standard soles.
Fritschi led the charge to appeal to alpine converts with their paradigm shifting Freeride binding. At the time it was the heaviest plate binding available that allowed resort skiers to use DIN standard alpine boots to earn their turns with. In the interim Marker developed the still heavier Duke binding with release values up to DIN 16, followed by Salomon’s DIN 16 Guardian and Tyrolia’s DIN 16 Adrenaline. Sales of the Freeride have declined ever since.
Despite the obvious benefit of lighter equipment for backcountry skiing, interest in heavier, alpine compatible bindings has remained strong due to better skiing performance. The key difference between tech and alpine bindings is largely due to greater elasticity and resistance to premature release.
Fritschi’s Zenith 12 addresses this limitation with a tech-style binding that allows for 11mm of lateral motion in the toe before releasing. Besides improving the lateral retention and elasticity of the binding the Zenith 12 will feature a heel unit that slides fore and aft to switch between touring and turning modes without having to exit the binding. The method is reminiscent of G3′s Onyx binding.
The actual binding shown in the Black Diamond booth was clearly a prototype. The parts were molded using the latest 3D printer technology. In spite of obvious limits to durability the basic functionality of the Zenith 12 was adequately demonstrated in the following, equally crude video.