The Conehead here is smiling, because -0- ramp delta in the bindings and a -.5mm boot pin delta makes the lwt skis really fun and more importantly for me, comfortable to ski in and ski on!
Some background? I wrote this in July of 2011:
In the past couple of years I have learned a few things about tech bindings I thought worth passing on. I find it interesting is that out side the limited back country skiing market, understanding the tech bindings from both the positive and the negative has so often obviously been missed or simply misunderstood.
Sometime just prior to 2010 I had decided to go all in with Dynafit/tech bindings. No more alpine boots for me. I wanted to be able to walk in my boots. (not climb mind you just walk and tour in my ski boots) I still have 3 or 4 pair of new, perfectly serviceable alpine bindings hanging in my gear from that change over. Lost souls in the battle of the ski style I wanted to adopt. My last alpine boot is now a decade old.
I had little clue then even how one might use a Dynafit binding correctly, let along the differing models of tech bindings. I was to be pummeled shortly by my bad choices in AT boots, skis and the wrong binding models.
My hope is some of this content will help you avoid the same mistakes. So I'll start at one of the most confusing pieces of gear in that combo, the tech binding..invented by Fritz Barthel 30 years (1984) ago, and marketed by Dynafit originally. First pair I saw, my thought was. "that will never work!". Ya, well I surely got that one wrong!!
Dynafit, Trab, Plum are among the few now making tech bindings. One might argue one brand being better than the others. That discussion holds no interest for me.
For the sake of a better explanation let me just use Dynafit products as examples. I use their bindings. And I'm more aware of what each model has been capable of on my skis. But there are other bindings, Both Trab and Plum make several variations of excellent tech bindings.
Listed are the weights of each binding and the resulting "ramp delta" in mm listed. Weight is self explanatory and easy enough to sort out. "Ramp delta" is going to be a big part of the conversation so if you don' t know what it is and how it relates to tech bindings part of this discussion will be worth reading. Ramp delta is basically the difference in mm between a level foot on the ski. A +(plus) means the heel is higher than the toe. A - (minus) means a toe higher than the heel. -0- means for the most part you have a flat foot/boot on your ski.
At that point the minor detail of internal boot delta comes into play. I won't be discussing how the internal boot delta effects your foot. Rest assured it isn't anything as drastic as what 15mm+ of binding delta will. In the alpine world single layers of duct tape make a difference there.
It is worth noting the tech fitting deltas of the better AT boots I have on hand here. I suspect it is a good representation of what is out there from the industry for tech fitting placement.
Boot tech fitting deltas:
Dynafit One/Vulcan/Mercury +4mm (25 and a 28 shell measured)
La Sportiva Spectre +1mm 28 shell
Dyanfit TLT6 +1mm 29 shell
Dynafit PDG/EVO -.5mm 29 shell
You need to add that delta number to your binding delta...and then wonder where your foot bed is at!!?
Here are some examples of the ramp deltas on the more common BC and Alpine ski bindings.
Plum Guide +17mm
Marker Duke/Baron/Tour -0-mm (with alpine boots)
Marker Duke/Baron/Tour +6mm (with AT boots)
Marker Jester/Griffon +4mm
Look/Rossi/VIST + 5mm
Look/Rossi Pivot/FKS +5mm (only flat with their 5mm toe shims)
Dynafit Radical Speed/ST/FT +15mm
Dynafit Radical ST/FT +15mm
Dynafit Beast 16 +6mm
May be the best thing to take from that list is you really want to have a ramp delta of below +5mm. and mimic Alpine ski technology.
Over the years the ski industry has spent a lot of money and time getting to where they are today. The Dynafit binding and BC skiing in general has really been the red haired step child getting hand me downs for the most part until just recently. Worse yet BC/AT skiing was and still is to a great extent unsure where it actually wants to go and what is needed. Skis and bindings are no more one size fit all than boots are.
What I use on the Haute Route is not what I want to ski off the top of the Midi. Or the gear choice I want for side country at Crystal. Sure I could make do with one set of gear but to do so I want to know the most important attributes of the initial gear selection. And that may not be obvious to the new user or the experienced pro.
TLT Radical FT on a DPS Lotus 138 @ 138mm under foot
TLT Radical FT, 599g, RD + 15mm
TLT Radical ST, 531g, RD of +15mm
TLT Speed Radical, 341g, RD +15mm
TLT Speed Superlight, 185g, RD +3mm
Low Tech Race on a PDG @ 65mm under foot
Low Tech Race, 115g, RD -0- mm
My thought is mate the appropriate binding to the ski's intended mission. Then define each mission and pick the right ski. The real question for me isn't binding weight. Is it important? Sure. I think how much ramp angle are you willing to live with and the mount location can be as important as which ski you choose.
I have a long history of skiing traditional boots and ski. Which generally means that the boots were flat on the ski and your feet for the most part at least comfortable in the boot for ramp angle. Your foot was locked into a natural/neutral position. As times and techniques have changed heel wedges and boot shims became popular. At some point even walking in an alpine boot became difficult. We use to be able to wear our ski boots to school with no undue negative effect while waiting for the afternoon trip to the local ski hill on the school provided bus. Free ski school and lift tickets! You weren't walking like Frankenstein between class in the older boots. Imagine doing that now in modern alpine ski boots? Ungainly at best! Dangerous at worst! These days you could easily wear the best of the modern AT boots to school. I drive my manual transmission pickup down from the hill in comfort wearing my TLT 6s!
My idea for skiing comes from packing a shovel, chainsaw, explosives or a toboggan around on skis more than I have an over night pack. So I look at skis as a tool for transportation. I want to ski any terrain, any snow in comfort giving up little or no technical advantage. But it would be nice to be able to walk naturally in my ski boots as well.
I need my feet not to hurt, ever. So I am really careful on how I fit my boots and the support used in the boot. I wrote previously about fitting ski boots tight for the elusive "performance fit".
For me ramp delta is just another part of "ski/boot fit". I rather not ski with a too tight boot or a binding that has too much ramp delta or a ski boot with too much forward lean. It is an up close and personal issue once you know what ramp delta is and how it effects your stance. Too much ramp delta forces you forward and to over compensate by adopting a "back seat" and unnatural body position. Too much ramp delta puts you out of balance and into a physically fatiguing position.
Can you ski that way? Sure....but there are easier ways to ski. Ramp delta isn't that hard to identify or correct. You only need to understand the position excessive ramp delta forces on you and know what you desired end result should be.
I sat through an instructor's clinic this fall listening to how, "we want an up right, natural stance" and how to modify your boots to get there. At lunch I pulled apart the Lange plug boot the instructor was using. Leg shim glued in behind the upper cuff on the inner boot to get him as far forward as possible, a fair size after market heel wedge to get him up on the ball of the foot and off a "natural balanced stance" plus the fully custom insoles needed to support the foot in that forward and unnatural position.
What he was saying made no sense if you knew what he was doing in his own boots. One of those, "do what I say, not what I do" moments.
There is no question in my mind that 15mm of ramp delta (common on Plum and Dynafit) is a hard pill to swallow. Harder yet to ski with. The smaller your boot shell size the more it will effect you. Brakes on the bindings make the ramp delta worse by adding stack height at the heel. Ditching brakes is not a big deal for me as I grew up in the era prior to ski brakes so going back is not real hardship. And to be honest I like the added security of leashes in steep or glaciated terrain where I am pulling my skis off on occasion. Not a fan of being at risk of totally loosing a ski on unforgiving terrain in a fall with brakes .
The 'shrund on the North side of the Midi is full of single skis with brakes still firmly attached.
Binding setting and how a tech binding works of sorts?
In my alpine days I required by the charts a DIN of anywhere between 7 and 9. If I was skiing hard in difficult terrain I needed DIN of 10 or 11 to stay in them. I used Marker, Salomon and Look bindings. Generally preferred Salomon for no better reason than I liked how they looked I suppose. As shop monkey I was certified to mount every one's bindings at one time or another.
Obviously my ski technique and skills could have been better. Still could be. But I was a strong strapping kid...not the best skier for sure but strong enough to twist out of a binding set at a DIN of 11 with little effort, at will, back in the day.
These days I am not nearly as strong and my ski technique is thankfully a little smoother. I have been skiing lifts on my Dynafits set at 4 with the toes unlocked and very, very seldom come out of my bindings. To date only when they should come off, have they. And I am skiing harder and faster than ever.
At a DIN of 11 I knew it was going to hurt me if I came out of a binding at that setting. But I also knew the binding wasn't going to be reliable keeping my ski on when set much lower than 11.
Now I ski in the Dynafit system at a trivial number compared to what is recommended and have yet to pre-release. I think having the Dynafit toe piece doing most of the work is a good answer for my skiing style. For the "safety binding" part of it I have to date been safe and sound in Dynafits all the while taking some big tumbles. Painful? Sure! But not to my ankles, legs or their joints. All this, skiing hard as I might dare, on 115mm skis under foot and a binding setting of 4.
Admittedly now the setting of 4 was a mistake on my part and I will be cranking them up to 6 :-) But none the less I have been skiing hard @
a 4 and 6'1", 190#!
Sure they are a bit finicky to get in and out of. But practice makes it easier. I don't find it annoying these days. I think the advantages of less weight and a more secure ride an easy trade off. The harsh steel to steel connect took me a bit to get use to compared to the bungee cord feeling of a typical alpine binding. That uncomfortable feeling has passed as well. But it will always come back a little to remind you it is there when the snow conditions are really hard or icy. Not a deal killer but I (and my knees) do notice it.
This is a comment that simply bewilders me:
"a ton of people in EU tour on this stuff. It’s very popular, especially in
social groups where racing and super fitness are practiced. I’ve tried touring
on some lightweight rigs and really don’t like the lack of ski brakes, but it
seems a lot of people don’t care one way or the other about brakes. Most of
those folks are such good skiers they rarely fall and hardly ever release from a
ski. Lot’s of them ski with the toes locked. It’s actually gotten pretty crazy.
Reminds me of telemarking at its peak in North America, e.g., all sorts of
innovation, and who cares about safety release or ski brakes?"
I am neither racing or super fit. I don't consider myself crazy or unsafe. I find the comment utter nonsense.
Guides argue all the time about which is better, brakes or leashes, in avi and crevasse terrain. I try to stay out of avalanches. So mute point to me. I do however ski in avi terrain a good deal of my ski outings, if not all. You get caught in an avalanche with leashes on your skis, and the ski windmilling or keeping you buried is likely the least of your problems in my opinion. But pretty common to loose a ski with a brake any where on or off piste. If you have to walk out 10k on one ski you might have a differing opinion of just how effective the "brake" is.
I do care about a safe release. Experience on the snow has proven to me the Dynafits are up to the task even on a setting of 4 for my own skiing. The Low tech version with a auto locking toe has been super solid for me in no fall terrain.
Locking the toe? There are places I simply do not want to loose a ski...leashed or not. I don't want the ski coming off in no fall terrain. That is the kind of terrain I would have a client roped up on. Might even have an axe out for self arrest. I like having the opportunity of locking out the toe and keeping my skis on if at all possible. What you do with your ski is up to you. Several of us have quoted a 17 DIN at the toe once locked. I think that is in error from my experience. More like a DIN of 11 or 12 I'd bet in use. But I am not recommending you ever lock your toes! I do, I have and will continue to do so on occasion. It seems to work for me. It may not for you! When doing so, a trivial fall, might just snap your leg like a dry twig ;-)
TLT6 P with a soft green tongue, no power strap, Praxis carbon GPO and Dynfit Speed Super light bindings and BD leashes. All of which I have been skiing hard for the last month @ a setting of 4. Ramp delta is a measured +3mm., added to the boot pin delta is +1mm. Easy to live with +4 on both on hard and soft snow.
More here on that particular set of kit:
Above are pictured 4 sets of slightly differing Dynafits. Three are hybrid versions that have significantly changed ramp deltas from the factory versions. 2 for the better..one worse.
Left to right: Radical Speed with a Dynafit 6mm shim under the toe. RD is 9mm.
Radical toe with 6mm shim and a TLT heel. RD is 6mm
Stock, Speed Superlight. RD is 3mm
Low Tech Race with rear adjustment plate. RD is 5mm
The typical answer to a TLT Radical ST, RD of +15mm? As shown above...stick a second 6mm shim under the toe to get a +9mm or ramp delta (RD) and excessive 12mm (1/2") of simple stack height off the ski deck (stack height). Common but not the right answer IMO. The added insecurity of longer screws in the toe piece and more leverage on ski and binding is well known. If you go this route you need more than the 4 binding screws doing all the work. Not the best answer IMO. Ditch the brakes and the extra toe shim. That gets you down to +6mm of RD with a cleaner profile with the older TLT Speed heel. Exactly 1/2 the RD as the weaker and the proven to be unreliable 12mm of shim and 4 long toe screws. If you need more track adjustment do the same by using a 6mm factory toe shim and a Speed Radical heel to get +9mm of RD.
Depends on what boot you ski the double shimmed binding with....as to just how much good you have really done to improve your ramp angle on the ST/FT. TLT gives you a +10. One/Mercury/Vulcan gives you a +13.
I use some B&D after market Dynafit parts. They also make high quality Dynaft toes shims in differing thicknesses. The heel top plates on the adjustable Dynafit heels are all interchangeable with the same 4 screw patterns. Easy to mix and match old and new lifters (or no lifter as I do now) depending on your personal preferences.
My point to all of this? First if you really want to use your skis as transportation tools the current generation of tech bindings and just as importantly, boots, will fill the role nicely. As a skier doing everything from teaching in a ski school, slope maintenance, patrolling or avi control there are some sweet gear choices available these days. May be not a good choice for everyone. I am just speaking for my self and my experience on snow. As a skier going from lift yoyos to a week of cat or heli skiing (ya, I wish these days), some combo of what I have mounted with a tech bindings is going to be my first choice in gear. In the mountains any time there is snow on the ground? I wouldn't think there is even a question there today.
Distinct advantages? Weight drop, and much easier boots to live in day in and day out. May be a better ski retention mode with out using high release values.
The one caveat for me endorsing tech bindings is the various levels of ramp delta options. My first suggestion is be prepared to ditch the ski brakes with the current technology to get something reasonable for ramp delta. Reasonable being something below + 9mm. ramp delta. Half that would be even better. If you have a small BSL get a binding that starts out @ or below +6mm.
Distinct disadvantages? Ramp deltas can be difficult or impossible to over come. Likely you will need to loose the brakes to get a reasonable ramp delta. Cost. The added fiddle factor. Low max DIN settings on most of the tech bindings. Not a lot of elasticity or a soft feel on tech binding by comparison to modern DIN alpine bindings.
I think currently the best choice in tech binding when you look at the binding weight, binding settings and consistent release is the Dynafit Speed Super light. The down side, without a adjustment plate which would add 5mm to a 3mm RD, you are stuck with one specific BSL and no options other than redrilling if you change boots. (Boot Sole Length).
I suspect within a year or so there will be more lwt options with low ramp deltas easily available.
So if you are interested in skiing very steep lines in stiff conditions (lock you toes!), I’d suggest using a heel with DIN, or find a light heel that doesn’t rotate (they do exist).