On- and off-piste performance: Alpine binding manufacturers join the backcountry crowd

SNEWS recaps the design features being addressed in alpine bindings introduced at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, including compatibility with AT, alpine and tech-fit bindings, lighter weights and range of motion for ascending, and rock-solid alpine performance on the downhills.
Author:
Publish date:
Updated on

Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2013 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Jan. 23-26. It's an opportunity for you to catch up on stories you might have missed in O.R.D., and for us to update and upload the articles to our searchable archives.

While manufacturers continue to perfect downhill-only alpine bindings, more and more are investing in those that blend on- and off-piste performance. That is, they have a solid lock-down mode for descending coupled with a free-heel mode for climbing.

“It’s become a little bit of an arms race,” said Marker/Volkl Vice President of Sales Geoff Curtis. “A lot of companies are getting new products in the pipeline.”

Design features being addressed include compatibility with AT, alpine and tech-fit bindings, lighter weights and range of motion for ascending, and rock-solid alpine performance on the downhills.

Once the domain of such backcountry-oriented companies as Dynafit (new beast pictured above), G3 and Silvretta, the touring binding category now is being courted heavily by such traditional alpine binding companies as Marker, Salomon and Tyrolia. “Backcountry skiers are looking for that perfect combo of alpine and backcountry technologies in one binding,” said Salomon Spokeswoman Sammi Johnson. “They need high performance on the down, but easy and reliable hike modes for the walk up.”

Salomon accomplishes this with its revamped Guardian 13 AT binding (MSRP $449), which comes with a 4-13 DIN range; a low-profile (26mm) chassis for terrain feedback and power transmission; an oversized (80mm) platform for today’s wider skis; a flat nose for 90-degrees of climbing pivot; and Double Full Flex heel piece for downhill performance.

Marker, the first alpine binding company to enter the category, has three new additions to its AT fleet, all designed to be lighter, higher performance and easier to use than their predecessors. The Baron EPF (MSRP $445, DIN 4-13) brings the wider platform of last year’s Extended Power Frame technology (EPF) to its Baron offering, producing a lighter version with less metal. The Tour 12 EPF (MSRP $429, DIN 4-12) does the same for its more touring-oriented offering. Finally, the new Lord SP (MSRP $425, DIN 5-14) is a non-tourable binding that can accommodate both alpine and AT boots via a unique pin system allowing the toe to be set in two distinct positions.

Trend-setter Dynafit, originator of the tech binding, ups the ante again with the release of its new Beast touring binding (MSRP $1,000, photo above), which it calls “a complete redesign of AT bindings as we know them.” Co-designed with freeskier Eric “Hoji” Hjorleifson, the bindings come with a DIN setting up to 16 while weighing less than 2 pounds. “Frame AT and alpine bindings are dead,” said company spokesman Eric Henderson. La Sportiva, meanwhile, is discontinuing its sold-out-for-2013 RT tech binding after this year due to rising production costs.

--Eugene Buchanan

Related

boots_bindings_La_Sportiva_SideralThumb.jpg

Boot, bindings advance in weight, walking modes

Throughout the month of February, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2012 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Jan. 19-22. It’s an opportunity for you to catch up on stories you might have missed in O.R.D., and for us to ...read more