Backcountry skiing pioneer Dynafit unveiled at the SIA Snow Show in Denver this week that it will expand the reach of its alpine touring (AT) tech binding and insert technology through partnerships with competing brands
Popular with AT skiers who's focus is "light and fast," tech bindings are made up of two parts at the toe and heel, relying on the rigidity of the boot sole itself as the frame that connects the two ends -- a double-duty that saves weight and provides smoother mechanical action.
In tech bindings, Dynafit (owned by Italy-based Salewa Group) has entered an exclusive, five-year original equipment manufacturer (OEM) agreement with three brands -- Movement, Fischer and Look -- which will offer their own named tech bindings “engineered by Dynafit” next season. Under the deal, Dynafit will supply its partners with OEM versions of its Radical 2.0, and Beast 14 and 16 bindings.
For boots, (which must be tailored to work with the tech bindings) Dynafit will manufacture tech inserts for six brands, including long-time partner Scarpa. The five new partners – Scott, Hagan, Roxa, Movement and Fischer – will carry Dynafit-certified inserts, with Scarpa also offering Dynafit’s patented Quick Step In Insert.
The goal of the partnership is to bring the brand's technology to more consumers, while at the same time, keeping an eye on safety, said Dynafit Communications Manager Eric Henderson. “It allows us to get away from the whole issue of when a brand launches a tech-compatible boot, but not knowing how reliable it is. And it will allow our key alpine partners the same measure of reliability and confidence in bindings."
“We have exclusive five-year agreements with all three partners, who will offer 100 percent, Dynafit-manufactured “Made in Germany” bindings under their own label,” says Dynafit brand manager. The bindings, he adds, will be technically identical from those offered directly by Dynafit.
“More and more ski boot brands are manufacturing their own tech inserts, without us being able to offer any sort of control and guarantee of the production,” said Dynafit Brand Manager Benedikt Böhm, adding that a clear, red “Dynafit-certified Insert” tag will indicate it abides by Dynafit standards. “The interaction of unseen boot inserts with our bindings is vital, so this means that our certified inserts will be made and inspected from start to finish by us.”
“We’ll sell more bindings to all these brands, which is lucrative,” Henderson said. “But it also solidifies us as the leader of tech-binding manufacturing.”
Dynafit’s partners are equally excited about the agreement.
“Numerous companies developed their own inserts around 2010 when Dynafit's patent expired,” said Scott’s Paul Parker. “Prior to that it was quite expensive to use the Dynafit inserts as there was a significant royalty fee along with cost of the insert. These days Dynafit's price for the inserts is considerably lower. And it makes sense to use the Dynafit-brand inserts for standardization. It takes any question about compatibility off of the table.”
He adds that Dynafit’s efforts to standardize the tech binding interface, as well as those regarding TUV certification, also play into the partnership’s favor. “It makes sense to support that effort and use their insert,” he said.
As for the specialty retail front, it should be a win-win as well -- especially for those with a focus on freeriding. “It will give retailers more confidence selling Dynafit product. They’ll be marketing a binding with 30 years of history that has now partnered with marquee alpine brands,” Henderson said.
Plus, adds Movement sales director Peter McConkie, it opens up other binding options for dealers who don’t currently carry Dynafit. “But they’ll still be able to get a Dynafit binding,” he said.
Switzerland-based Movement will offer two versions of the Radical, called Speed Tracks and Free Tracks, as its first binding offering ever at a price point 10 percent above Dynafit’s. “It’s instant credibility,” he said. “You don’t have to wait for it to build. We didn’t want to lose brand integrity.”
It made sense from Fischer’s perspective as well. The company was already doing the boot inserts through Dynafit, as well as building their skis. It will offer the Radical under the Tour Classic name and the Beast as the Tour Freeride 14.
“Who doesn’t want to work with the market share leader in a category?” said Fischer alpine marketing director Matt Berkowitz. “We had a relationship with them already with inserts and skis, so it was easy and obvious to continue with them. To be partnered with a company with as much clout as they have is great.”
It also benefits Fischer on the retail front. “Now we have a full package for retailers,” he added. “Companies looking to get into the backcountry category that are already partners of ours can now get into it easily.”
“By partnering with these leading alpine brands it broadens the tech world to traditional alpine strongholds that we as a backcountry brand might not have been able to reach,” Henderson said. He added that the world’s wide open as to where these partnerships might lead, and the possibility exists to open it up to more partners in the future. “We wanted to lead with partners we knew had the reach and are dedicated to backcountry skiing,” Henderson said. “But the bottom line is that as the ski industry continues to embrace tech binding and boot technology, we want to ensure the safety and norm of this growth.”