Jan 21 2013

OR Report: Backcountry Bindings for 2013/14

Alpine Touring
In the AT realm, there are a ton of new bindings headed our way. I don’t know if this is better or worse, but there are many more to follow in the years to come from the likes of companies like Salomon, Look, and probably from K2 too. For now, it’s mostly familiar faces.

Dynafit’s Beast. Over 4 pounds per pair (1 kg)
for a cool $1000. Skis not included.

In case you didn’t hear, Dynafit is chasing the freeride chargers with the first $1000 dollar binding called the The Beast. It weighs in at an paradigm bending 4 pounds per pair. Actually, in the world of plate bindings four pounds is sort of an unobtainable dream anymore. What do you get for all that weight and cost? The weight buys the unbeliever’s trust along with DIN-16 release values on the heel for added assurance along with a toe that pivots to allow for more elasticity in the system. The climbing pegs are simple and easy to engage. It is somewhat reminiscent of G3′s Onyx in that you don’t have to exit the binding to switch to touring mode, or spin it. It appears easier though, just flip the pegs forward to cover the heel pins for free heel touring.

The result is a Dynafit binding that is optimized for charging hard in or out-of-bounds without sapping your energy when skinning back. Two questions naturally arise. Can Dynafit deliver on The Beast’s promise? Are there enough customers willing to pay for it?

Diamir’s Zenith 12 – ready to rock!

Fritschi is joining the fiddler crowd with their version of a two-pin tech binding called the Zenith 12. Like Dynafit’s Beast it will have dynamic heel and toe travel so that it has the elasticity of an alpine binding for holding on when the going gets rough with safety release at the heel and via toe wings. Unlike the Beast it weighs in at a moderately svelte 1000 grams (2 lbs., 2 oz.) per pair. Although there is no ISO DIN certification that exists for tech bindings, according to Thomas Laakso, BD’s Ski Products Manager, “it passes all safety release tests for existing alpine and AT norms.”

Bring it on!

Plum Yak — All metal, pure allure.

Rumors that Plum would be providing a Look branded tech binding with a ski brake remain just that. Look will be offering the Alti 12 next year but only in Europe, not stateside. However, Plum has developed a binding that a lot of folks have been dreaming about for quite awhile, the Yak. It’s a tech binding raised up on an aluminum mounting block that has a 50mm wide mounting pattern – the better to save your skis but not your tibia. So far the ski brake remains in development, but the safety strap deserves kudos for being one of the easiest straps to take on or off. If that detracts you, just let the anodized blue finish on the Yak’s machined aluminum construction spark your desire with a little lust of the eyes.

What’s good for the Duke is good for the Tour.

In the plate binding world Marker migrates the Extended Power Frame from this year’s Duke down the line to the DIN13 Baron and even the lighter weight Tour F12. This is a much needed improvement to the Tour, though its place in the market now appears even more suspicious than Fritschi’s Freeride with everyone else pursuing their own Dynafit knock off.

As expected, Salomon will be offering a lighter weight, lower DIN Guardian next year, simply titled the Guardian 13. For many folks the 16 DIN is overkill, especially when it weighs in at 6½ pounds, ugh. The smaller springs allow skiers who want a binding with a release value less than DIN 8 to earn their turns with Salomon. This same binding is, of course, also available as the Atomic Tracker. Next year Look will order a few and put their brand name on it in combination with a pair of Dynastar High Mountain Cham skis as a touring package with climbing skins.

Salomon’s Guardian will offer a DIN 5-13 version next year for those without flight certs.



Tyrolia’s Ambition – a lighter, leaner Adrenaline.

You won’t see Tyrolia’s Adrenaline with the Tyrolia name much, but you may see it under the Fischer, Head, or Elan brands – probably Fischer. The opened celled plastic frame of the beta version shown last year has been sealed under the toe for this year, but not throughout the entire plate. There are also rumors of a 4-pound version called the Ambition for those who are weight conscious but Dynafit challenged.

Not much new in tele. Axl is mature and solid, so are the Switchback brothers, and BD’s O1. All decent choices and now joined by G3′s Enzo which lived up to my expectations of shedding snow and not icing up. NTN is taking root now that there are four choices, Rottefella’s first NTN binding, the Freeride, now joined by the Freedom which is getting rave reviews for excellent downhill performance and kudos for improved touring performance. Tele mavericks have other options with the Telemark Tech System and Burnt Mountain Design’s Spike – a true step-in tele binding that can work with either tele norm, 75mm or NTN.

Mark Lengel, the creator of the TTS binding will be offering the first American made tech toe for next year, along with longer springs for those who want Dynafit touring efficiency, but won’t stop dropping their knees to their skis. Though it may not happen simultaneously, the longer springs seem to suggest a new cable mounting assembly is in the works as well. While I’m dreaming, I’ll ask for a braided cable assembly with a pivot location that can be adjusted without using inserts in the skis.

© 2013

  • http://ThompsonPass.Com/ Matt Kinney

    Dynafit actually made a “tech” binding that is heavier than a pair of BD 01′s telemark bindings and……cost three times as much.  OMG.  That is so funny.