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The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Careful what you ask for on Tech bindings!

Bend, break or drop?

"If you’re not getting accidental releases (pre- release) you are way ahead of the game on any binding, provided you’re the type of skier who seldom falls. Nonetheless, main thing is if you _can_ ski the binding unlocked, at reasonable settings, so you might get at least a smidge of leg bone and knee protection out of the deal."  Lou Dawson @ WildSnow

From the mind numbing discussion of tech binding linked below:

If you are here much it is obvious I hold some strong opinions. And in turn I have no problem voicing them  But I don't publish opinions (and that is all they are, opinions) with out some thought and actual experience (my own experience unless noted other wise) behind the thought process.

And I have made mistakes..

One I hope to rectify now or at the very least clarify so that the reader won't make a decision based on faulty info.

Lou has published a wealth of information on the tech bindings in that blog post.  If you ski tech bindings now or are about to you need to read it IMO.

For me, in general, this is how I think about tech bindings:
"If you’re not getting accidental releases (pre-release) you are way ahead of the game".

I use tech binding in several flavors on many skis and in all sorts of conditions.  Any thing from lift skiing to using lwt race gear while mountain touring.  Terrain can be beginner lift serviced on piste with students or for me and my skills, "death fall" serious in the alpine back country.

Friends and I  have skied "race" bindings in all sorts of terrain and snow conditions.  Only one of us hurt to date that I know of.  And in that instance the skier thought it might well have been a binding failure or a prelease the cause.  Broken binding at the end of the drop, after banging off the rocky gully walls, so the details will never be known.

I do know the two or three times I have pre-released in race bindings I would have preferred it didn't happen.   Both times via hop turns on steep terrain i nthe first 1/2 turns, after a boot pack fwiw.  So now I am very careful on how I clean my boots and bindings after a boot pack.  Seems to have solved the problem.

More recently here on Cold Thistle I have suggested a few combos of tech race bindings, that are new to me,  Bindings I am currently skiing this season.

To be specific I am using:
Dynafit Speed Superlight...which has never disappointed in the 4 seasons I have used them on daily drivers.  And never a prelease.

Dynafit Low Tech Race...again 4 seasons.  2 preleases that I distinctly remember and a couple of  very scary situation on really steep hard snow when I looked down and saw my heel pins in a  "about to release" position.     To be fair I am using boots and skis in a situation the binding were never intended for.  But it is a binding I trust 100% within its limitations.   Call this a comparable DIN of 11.  But there is not "real" comparison to a DIN setting and not much to a DIN of 11.  It is a lot more complicated that that.

Easy way to think of it for me is..."if you wouldn't ski a DIN of  11 on alpine race bindings,  stop looking for lwt touring bindings  beyond the Dynafit Speed Superlight (SSL). 

Let me repeat this...

Easy way to think of this:  "if you wouldn't ski a DIN of  11+ on alpine race bindings,  stop looking for lwt "race" binding set up beyond the SSLs.

Dynafit SSL Toe and  plum 135 heel:
This is a new combo to me.  Picked to eliminate the fright of dropping into something like the Cosmic is less than optimal snow conditions and not loosing a ski.  Heel offers a lot more retention that a Dynafit Low Tech Race heel.  But I am still locking my toes in no fall/most terrain.  And I'll use my skis more like a crampon that a ski part of the and all.

Dynafit SSL toe and a Kreuzspitze race heel:
Same advantage or disadvantage as the Plum 165 heel.  Two peas in a pod as far as I can tell.

After skiing in the last two heel/toe combos this winter I believe I may have gone too far.  As in .."this might be a non releasable binding" for my weight, skill and age, too far.  YMMV of course.  And a binding that seldom, if ever, releases might be just what your doctor ordered.

The majority of bones I have broken in my body have happened while I'm not mentioning any of this to my Doc!  There are times I simply do not want a ski to come off.   But then there are times (the majority of my skiing?)  I'd rather have a "safety" binding bolted to my boots. 

You can't make good decisions for yourself with out good information.  I would caution anyone  mixing and matching tech bindings in general and LWT Tech bindings specifically to gain some realistic idea of what kind of pressure your own binding choice will release at .   I might be willing to play in the freeway at odd hours.  But I don't recommend you play in the freeway during rush hour.

You all be careful out there! 


Bruno Schull said...

Hi Dane,

It's been a long time. All is fine here in Switzerland. I hope you are doing well.

This year I settled on a similar binding set up to what you describe: a Dynafit toe (the kind you with a release option or a manual lock out) and a Kreuzespitze heel. Simple and light. I tried the Kreuzespitze toe but it did not work with my boot.

Anyway, I'm trying to understand your reasoning: are you suggesting that for your characteristics and preferences the release values on the Kreuzespitze heel would be too high?

I read through and contributed to the long post on Wildsnow. Quite a lot of information there. I did take away the point that some race binding heels, such as the Kreuzespitze, have higher release values than previously thought, even though they can not be directly compared to alpine bindings.

I weigh 90 kilos without any climbing/skiing gear. I am basically a beginner skier using these skis to get in and out for climbing. I stay on low angle terrain, and I try to never ski anywhere where a pre-release would be very dangerous. I do ski on glaciers, but if I'm worried above crevasses I rope up. I am more worried about damaging my tendons than pre-releasing.

Do you think the release values on the Kreuzespitze heel would be too high for me?

Thanks for all once more time.


Dane said...

Hi Bruno, "Do you think the release values on the Kreuzespitze heel would be too high for me?"

I think the risk of injury in that set up and my Plum race heel SSL toe combo is too much of a risk for "me" used in the kind of skiing you have described. Low angle terrain is likely the place I'll get hurt by being inattentive.

The release value of the Low tech Dynafit Race in a similar situation is much lower and something I think either of us could live with...even at that the buy in price required. But frankly I'd just buy the cheaper and MUCH safer IMO Speed Superlight, add just a few grams to my bindings and be done with it. Will I see you in Cham this year?

Unknown said...

So, in general, do you feel that mix and matching heel and toes from different manufacturers is a bad idea? What about mixed Dynafit pieces - i.e. toes and heels not sold together by Dynafit - or any of the other brands heels and toes mixed together? I was kind of hoping I could find a cheaper way of upgrading from my Speed Turn heels.

Dane said...

Easy to mix and match Dynafit parts. Do so myself. I'd be cautious of mixing between brands.

brian p. harder said...

Hey Dane,

Sounds like a return to the promised land for you soon? I'm jealous. I'm sure you know it's way leaner over there this year. Still, I'm sure you'll have more fun than you are in the PNW.

Anyway, I'm curious why you think there's any increased risk of mixing brands that would be any more risky than the individual parts. Seems like the "problem" is in the parts themselves rather than the act of mixing. Maybe I'm splitting hairs her but I don't see the contribution of "mixing" to the overall risk of using any of them.

Coincidently, I ended up mixing this year on my new Volkls (BMT 94) with a Speed Radical toe and an older Plum Race 165. I basically did it since Jason at would sell me toes only and that toe is bomber, IMO. Plus, I was taking them on a hut trip with SME and I knew Ruedi would have an aneurism if I showed up with locked out race toes. As it was, he was incredulous looking at the heels. Seriously, the guy needs to get out more.

Dane said...

Hey Brian, Good to hear from you. Yes dismal conditions every where it seems. I'm hoping we get some more snow this week. But the coffee and beer taste the same. Full on Spring at home with the flowers blooming in the front yard.

Not so much a condemnation on mixing even though I wrote it that way on purpose. Just a warning as to the binding brands ARE different and just because they can snap on to a boot doesn't make them safe for everyone's intended use. When I decided to mix last Spring I wasn't totally aware of just how stout the Plum heel was. All I knew was, I wanted a STOUT heel for certain conditions. Now I think I may have over done it.

Because of the reach of the blog I needed to clear my conscious, and be a little more conservative on the suggestion. I want to be sure no one was taking the original spiel as gospel.

Three guys telling me last week that despite the warning, they intend to or are using mixed brands of race gear. None of them as any where close to being as experienced with the gear or as good of skier as you. Frankly, that worries me.

Tracy is on Radical toes (bomber as you say) and SSL heels, mostly because I wanted the SSL toes to mix with. And I could buy the spare parts/toes.

But with a Rad/Race toe and a Plum heel I suspect you would never have to lock the toe skiing down. Not sure most would want the spring setting/release value how ever if they knew what it actually was even unlocked.

I don't worry much about falling or coming out of a binding to prevent an injury. Just as importantly I am willing to live with the likely results. Suspect you have a similar outlook. But have reversed my public opinion on the "safe and sane combos" for public consumption. :)

Be interesting to hear a more detailed opinion from your perspective having used all this stuff for a much longer time than I.

brian p. harder said...

Isn't it funny, Dane, that in this day and age, we have to publish CYA on blogs? I wonder if anyone has ever been sued for opinions/advice given in such formats. Sad state of affairs, if so. People seem to be unwilling to accept the consequences of their decisions. I think you blog sets things right and puts the responsibility back on the shoulders of the user where it belongs.

That said, I celebrated the gist of your original piece as it supported what me and others have been doing for years to good effect. True, I had one Plum Race toe break but, as you pointed out, I think, the mechanism of that failure was unclear.

Like you, I don't worry about binding release for injury prevention and accept the consequences of that decision. I've popped out of bindings (heels) a few times going over the tips. The toes stay engaged and nothing came of it. I've skied plenty of no fall lines in this gear so I think it can be trusted.

I like your comment that, with Plum heels, I can leave the Speed Radical toes unlocked on the down for powder skiing without issue. I did that in Canada without any issue. Obviously, I'll still pull them up for the steeps.

Yeti said...

Lots of people in the Alps, including me, lock their toes constantly, uphill and downhill, in no fall terrain or just flat powder runs. And when you fall, you still have the vertical release, which in fact provides enough security (for good European skiers ;-). The first time I took notice of the "open" mode was when a friend, who just bought his first skimo gear, told me that it is not recommended to ski down with closed bindings. Aha...I still ski fully locked. What else...? Auto lock is a big improvement for security, especially when your first skimo gear was telemark