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Aug 14 2013

Passport Bindings for the ’14 Season

 

Spirit Dan rips freshies on Tahoe's West Shore.

Spirit Dan rips freshies on Tahoe’s West Shore.

Lured by the Backcountry?
There are roughly three different styles of backcountry equipment you should consider if you’re hunting fresh powder: alpine, snowboard, or telemark. Of the three disciplines, alpine offers the easiest to understand, and adopt, set of options.

The style of alpine binding that appeals easiest to budding BC skiers are what I call Passport bindings. These are essentially alpine bindings mounted on a plate with a hinge. To ski uphill you need gumption, climbing skins and a free heel – that’s what the hinge is for – so you can simply walk up the mountain while sliding on top of the snow. It’s ridiculously easy as long as you enjoy the workout going uphill; that’s what the gumption is for.

Passport Bindings for 2013/14

Brand/Model Shift-
on-fly
3
Height (toe/heel) DIN Range Weight / ft.
ounces (grams)
M$RP
Tyrolia1 Adrenaline Y 28½ mm 5-16 46 oz. (1300 g) $495
Marker Duke N 36 mm 6-16 49 oz. (1334 g) $495
Salomon2 Guardian Y 26/32 mm 7-16 52¼ oz.(1480 g) $495
Tyrolia1 Adrenaline 13 Y 28½ mm 4-13 42½ oz.(1195 g) $425
Marker Baron N 36 mm 4-13 43¼ oz.(1225 g) $445
Salomon2 Guardian 13 Y 26/32 mm 5-13 50¼ oz. (1445 g) $415
Tyrolia1 Ambition Y 35/40 mm 4-13 36 oz. (1030 g) $425
Fritschi Freeride Pro Y 38/44 mm 4-12 36 oz. (1020 g) $570
Fritschi Eagle Y 38/44 mm 4-12 35½ oz. (1 kg) $490
Marker Tour F12 N 36mm 4-12 37 oz. (1042 g) $429
Marker Tour F10 N 36 mm 3-10 37 oz. (1042 g) $399

  1. Tyrolia’s Adrenaline, Adrenaline 13, and Ambition may be marketed under other brand names such as Elan, Fischer, or Head.
  2. Salomon’s Guardian and Tour 13 may be marketed under other brand names such as Atomic or Look.
  3. Shift on the fly means you can switch to touring (free-heel) mode without stepping out of the binding.
  4. All Passport bindings come with brakes and optional ski crampons.

Don’t pay too much attention to backcountry snobs who denigrate these as side- or slackcountry bindings. Of course they’re heavier than Dynafit’s, but that hasn’t prevented thousands from using them on hut-to-hut tours in the Alps or the high Sierra. The important point is these bindings all provide the key ingredient — a free heel — to unlocking the secrets of the backcountry.

They’re the quickest way to access the goods without having to buy a rash of new equipment, particularly boots. Keep your alpine boots but get one of these and a pair of climbing skins and you’ll be set to go. And you need to get an avalanche prescription – that’s where you play roulette with the avalanche lizard in search of fresh tracks and you admit so. Then, once you’re hooked, you’ll want to get a different pair of boots and bindings and poles and a pack and….but just to get started this is the best way to go.

About those boots
All Passport bindings work with alpine ski boots with a DIN sole, meaning the toe and heel of the boot has a specific height, width, and shape, but more importantly, has a smooth bottom surface for interfacing with the AFD of an alpine binding. It is a critical factor in the reliability of alpine’s much touted safety release feature. What is not as reliable, nor recommended by manufacturers scared spitless about the possibility of someone sueing them because their binding didn’t release, is the marriage of a lugged AT boot with an alpine binding. If you used an AT boot in an alpine resort binding and sued because it didn’t release on you, it could be grounds for dismissal. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that a lugged, sticky rubber surface (AT boot sole) won’t slide like smooth hard plastic (Alpine DIN sole). To overcome this, many passport bindings use an AFD that slides. Those that don’t are less reliable.

All Passport bindings have an adjustable toe, to account for varying toe heights and improve their releasability. Resort bindings generally do not. Marker’s new Lord binding is the exception to that rule, so it can work reliably with lugged AT boots for those who want full alpine safety release when they’re skiing under the lifts, but use the same boots with Dynafit bindings for the backcountry.

There is always the question of whether you can use a lugged sole boot in an Alpine binding. Legally speaking – NEVER! But let’s leave the sue-happy mentality behind and get real. Backcountry skiing is not about safety, it is about embracing adventure, which includes danger. Part of the danger is that your equipment could fail you. Nonetheless, that doesn’t mean you can’t rely on it, within bounds.

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

Salomon’s Guardian takes the heavyweight prize
6 lbs. 8 oz. (2.96 kg) per pair. Ooof.
In free heel mode you can chose between 12° or 3°.

Lugged soled boots don’t release reliably with alpine bindings. Period. So ski in recognition of this fact and have a great tour. Safety is dependent on your actions more than your equipment. If you’re far from Ski Patrol, ski like it or pay the price. If you’re unwilling to pay the fine, don’t do the crime. That said, there’s a whole bunch of us hooligans enjoying the backcountry and some of us regularly lock out the safety release of our equipment. Sometimes it is the “safer” choice. ;)

Picking your Passport

Adrenaline: Tyrolia's beefy passport binding.

Adrenaline: Tyrolia’s beefy passport binding.

Ambition: Tyrolia's weight conscious passport.

Ambition: Tyrolia’s weight conscious passport.

Now there are lots of options to chose from. Four models from Marker: the Duke and brother Baron, plus the Tour twins, the F12 and F10. Salomon has the blue hued Guardian, also sold as the yeller-colored Tracker from Atomic plus Rossi chimes in by having the Guardian done with a Look logo and paint job as a package deal with Dynastar’s High Mountain Cham ski. Add to that a DIN 13 version by the same brands, Salomon, Atomic, and Look. Tyrolia joins the fray with the Adrenaline, sold under the Elan, Head, and Fischer brand names, plus a lightweight version called the Ambition. Lest we forget the original passport binding, there are three variations from Fritschi Diamir. The most widely distributed are the Fritschi and Marker brands, followed by Salomon.

Fritschi's beefiest plate binding ever!

Fritschi’s beefiest plate binding ever!

Which one is best depends on how much time you plan to use the binding in-bounds versus out and how many landings you plan to subject them to. The more you keep your feet on the ground and/or spend time away from the lifts, the less weight you need to put up with. In that case, concentrate on the touring performance features best exemplified with the Fritschi Diamir Freeride or Eagle, Tyrolia’s Ambition, or Marker’s Tour F12. In Europe, you have the option to consider the Hagen brand too.

New colors on the The Duke signify a wider, stronger frame for more power.

So far only the Duke has a track record to stand on with a large and largely satisfied customer base.

If you expect to be mogul bashing and stomping lotsa landings, you want high DIN numbers. The extra beef is all about absorbing the big hits without letting go. For that flavor of earning turns, you want to play both sides of the line and bindings like the Marker’s Duke, Salomon’s Guardian, Tyrolia’s Adrenaline, or the MFD plate gives you the option to go wherever geography beckons.

So far, only the Duke has a track record to stand on with an established and largely satisfied customer base. Guardian promises the same and looks fully capable of stomping regular landings with a shift-on-the-fly touring switch. Adrenaline uses a plastic plate but Duke proved that is not necessarily a problem and, like the Guardian can switch to a free heel without exiting the binding. When you’re flipping the switch to go uphill that has little advantage, but if you want a free heel for the flats, without skins, shift-on-the-fly is a nice feature to have.

This year (2013/14) the EPF frame migrates down to the Tour F12 and F10 bindings.

This year (2013/14) the EPF frame migrates down to the Tour F12 and F10 bindings.

In the end the main thing is to get one of these if you’re itching to add a little taste of adventure to your skiing and feast on freshies from both sides, in- AND out-of-bounds. Add climbing skins and some avy savvy and you’ll be ready to rock.

If you’re thinking these bindings are too heavy for long ski tours, you’re right. If you don’t, that’s okay, after a sustained 4-thousand foot climb you will. If you’re willing to sacrifice a bit of safety you can jettison a lot of weight with a tech-style binding. More on those later. Ski you out there.

Related Posts
Review: Fritschi Freeride
Review: Marker Duke
Review: Salomon Guardian
Review: Tyrolia Adrenaline

© 2013

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  • Fernando Pereira

    Lots of good information, but the discussion of lugged AT soles with respect to these bindings is a bit confusing. You say that the Marker Lord, with its sliding AFD and toe height adjustment, is an exception to the prescription against lugged soles in alpine-style bindings. But isn’t that true also for all other bindings with a sliding AFD and adjustable toe, like the Marker bindings in your list, and maybe others?

  • Dostie

    Ja, I probably need to revise that a bit. In the meantime, the difference is the Lord binding will be indemnified, meaning Marker stands behind it and has done the testing to certify that it will reliably release with an lugged AT boot. Other bindings do have toe height adjustment, and are probably used with AT boots, but the manufacturers will say that this is NOT acceptable use. With the Lord it is. That’s the difference.

  • Fernando Pereira

    Thanks for clearing it up. I use tech bindings for touring, but I’ve been hoping for an alpine binding that I can use with my touring boots, which are my favorite, when I ski the lifts and would like a more consistent release than with tech bindings.

  • JeffWarnerPHOTO

    FYI, I think you used the weight for the ’13 Marker F12 in your table. The ’14 has the EPF plate from the Duke, and I think it increases the weight to around 1120g. Great info, wish I’d found it before I dug all that info up by hand…

  • Kyle

    You list the adrenaline stand height at 28.5 mm, everywhere else says 36 or 38 mm. Does this years adrenaline have a decreased stand height?

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