Mar 22 2016

Binding notes from BC Mag’s 2017 Gear Test

Darren Padgett adjusts a Radical 2.0 for size and release settings.

Darren Padgett adjusts a Radical 2.0 for size and release settings.

After a week in the trenches wrenching bindings at Backcountry Magazine’s annual Family Camp, also known as their annual Gear Party, er, Test at Powder Mountain, Utah I can tell you a few things about what Alpine Touring bindings were liked, and what were not. Bindings at the test included G3′s Ion, the Dynafit Radical v2.0 and v1.0, Fritschi’s new black Vipec 12, Marker’s Duke, Baron, F10 and F12, Tyrolia’s Adrenaline (under various mfg. names) and a carbon Ambition, Salomon’s Guardian and their new tech binding, and race tech binding from Hagan. In the tele world there was the Meidjo, Outlaw, and TTS to be tested, and some Axls, Vices, Enzos, and Freerides for testing skis in telemode with duckbilled boots.

As a ski tech at the test it was my job to adjust the size and release values on all the bindings for each tester so they could put the skis through their paces. From a tech perspective the most annoying binding was the Dynafit Radical 2.0, requiring three different tools for every fitting, plus adjusting toe position. No complaints on the size adjustments — the rental plate for positioning the toe was great, but that rental toe sure attracted a lot of ice (more on that later). By contrast the Ion was the easiest AT binding to adjust with a single posi-drive bit for length, rotational release, and upward release.

ION - less fiddle, same function.

ION – less fiddle, same function.

From the skier perspective, there were zero complaints about the plate bindings, but no one used them on a tour either. For 2-pin tech bindings testers agreed the Ion toe was the easiest to get into and the entire tech team agreed. We witnessed the results and Ion won the ease of entry award by a long shot, with 90% getting in on the first try.

The Marker Kingpin was runner up; most folks got into it on the first try about 80% of the time. Dynafit’s Radical 1.0 might actually be tied for second, but there weren’t many at the test so the data in my memory banks is thin, but not concerning the Radical 2.0, which there were many examples of.

The ability for the toe to rotate on the Radical 2.0 allowed misalignment which resulted in skiers taking an average three-to-four tries to get in to the toe, or about a 25% success rate on the first try. And then, we techs found it wise to manually guide the heel into position so their boot lined up properly for locking the heel. Not only was the Radical 2.0 noticeably more difficult to click in to than other bindings, it had a corollary problem when trying to get out; the jaws iced shut, refusing to let go your boot. I’m not sure if the propensity for icing was due to the rental plate, or the rotating mechanism, but this was a common complaint.

Vipec, though vastly improved (I had zero problems myself), still flustered a few people and they expressed their reservations in no uncertain terms. Overall it seemed like half got it the first time, and those that missed the first try didn’t have their boot flat enough; it usually took another three tries before pins and inserts mated correctly. Like the Ion, when properly aligned, the connection was fast. One guy did prerelease while skiing but I suspect that may have been because some tech, perhaps yours truly, didn’t set the release value on the toe correctly.

There were also two pairs of minimalist tech bindings, one from Hagan, and a slightly more robust version from Salomon. Salomon’s binding had a nice alignment post on the toe. While the Hagan was spartan on features, the few who tried it had no complaints, even commenting how easy it was to get in despite no alignment features. Zero complaints for both in the turns department, which surprised the users since the lack of mass did not inspire confidence, even with a baseline of tech binding experience.

The absolute hardest toe to get into was Olympus Mountain Gear’s Telemark Tech System toe. Part of this was due to inexperience with tech toes. Two NTN newbie testers (long time duckbilled telemarkers) with no prior “dynafiddle” experience simply could NOT get in without a person guiding and holding their boot in place. These same people had some trouble their first go round with Meidjo, but did figure it out in a short time.

There are two reasons Ion is so easy to get in to:

  • They provide intuitive alignment posts for the front of the boot to line up with. They are not alone in this feature, so does Kingpin, Meidjo, Salomon, Vipec, and to a less visible degree, Dynafit.
  • The fulcrum point of the jaws (or arms) holding the pins is taller, allowing them to close with force and speed, so the probability that you will accidentally move your boot while the pins are closing on the inserts is reduced. (When properly aligned, the Vipec shares the speed of pin closure, based on different design elements).

With most other tech bindings (with the possible exception of Meidjo and Vipec) the fulcrum point is so low that you must apply force from the boot to get the jaws to close. The necessity of applying force with the boot also allows the boot to become misaligned while pushing down. IOW, the jaws of most tech bindings close relatively slowly, with the rate of closure loosely controlled by the speed/force of pushing the boot down. With Ion, it only takes a tap to trigger the jaws biting tight on your toes.

Now, as to the performance of these many bindings while turning, the complaints were few if any. They all worked the way any good alpine binding works — reliably, invisibly — as it should be.

© 2016

  • Peter Taylor

    I spent much of February watching my mate disappear down the hill in his Ions while I tried yet again to line up my Vipec toes. I’m sure some carpet practice would help, but I wasn’t improving in the field. So far I haven’t found the alignment posts to be much help, but maybe I just need to work on that. I was getting pretty consistent for a while there, but then just lost it. Also suffered a lot of very frustrating and delaying times with icing up of the insert pin holes when stepping out of relatively warm cable car/gondola into the cold snow. Interestingly, the other guy on Vipecs wasn’t having that problem.

  • Tim Macartney-snape

    I only have trouble with my Vipecs if I try to rush it. I’ve set myself couple of rules: 1. relax, 2. make sure the boot and ski are in roughly the same horizontal and vertical plane – with those in place, the toes always lock in first go. I love them!