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Climbing made easy - market overview of touring bindings

by Lorenzo Rieg 01/29/2009
Off-piste skiing is booming. For many, the real adventure begins where marked pistes and lifts end. However, hiking on foot is difficult to manage without suitable equipment. Touring bindings with a walking function offer the adventurous a comfortable way to discover the vastness of the mountain world on their own. As everywhere else, different systems have developed, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. In order not to lose the overview in the jungle of materials, we present the most important bindings here and tell you which system is suitable for which purpose.

Variant skiing is booming. For many, the real adventure begins where marked pistes and lifts end. However, hiking on foot is difficult to manage without suitable equipment. Touring bindings with a walking function offer the adventurous a comfortable way to discover the vastness of the mountain world on their own. As everywhere else, different systems have developed, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. In order not to lose track in the material jungle, we present the most important bindings here and tell you which system is suitable for which purpose.

Dynafit

The company Dynafit has been building its very own system for years. The boot is only fixed in the binding at the front during the ascent. This means you don't have to lift a binding bar together with the rear jaw with every step. The two bindings TLT Vertical ST and TLT Vertical FT 12 are still characterized by their simple but ingenious construction and are by far the lightest touring bindings.

But even this system is not without its disadvantages. With Dynafit, only the rear jaw releases, the front jaw has no release function. In addition, the boots require special inserts on which the steel pins of the binding can engage. It is therefore impossible to use Dynafit bindings with alpine boots or even normal touring boots. In recent years, however, the range of Dynafit-compatible boots has grown considerably, so you have a good chance of finding a boot with a suitable shape and flex. Getting into the binding also requires a little more precision than with other bindings. However, this has already been greatly improved in newer models. Another problem is the possibility of the inserts on the boot icing up (e.g. after walking for a long time in the snow), which can make it very difficult to get into the binding.

The power transmission of Dynafit bindings is very good, according to independent tests even better than the majority of alpine bindings. To prevent the front boot inserts from tearing out on wide skis, there are plastic plates that can be mounted behind the toe piece to create a larger contact surface on the ski. At the rear, this is done with the optional stoppers. Defects are relatively rare with Dynafit due to the "low-tech"concept.
Crampons are available up to 92mm, stoppers up to 100mm wide.

The bindings are therefore not only suitable for weight fanatics and participants in ski touring races, but actually for every ski tourer and freerider. Only their unusual appearance and the limited availability of compatible (harder) boots as well as the lack of release on the toe piece prevent the bindings, which are already very popular in touring circles, from becoming even more widespread.

Fritschi

The company Fritschi from the Swiss Kandertal valley currently has three bindings with ascent function in its range. The Freeride Plus binding is advertised as a freeride model. It is characterized by a high Z-value (force required to release the binding) of 4-12 and a large mounting surface on the ski. Thanks to an additional screw, the power is transferred very directly to the ski on the descent. The Freeride can be mounted on skis with a width in the middle of over 67mm. However, with a weight of 1950g per pair, it is not exactly one of the lightest. As accessories, crampons in various widths (up to 100mm) are available in addition to return springs. The special crampon Axion, which is attached to the binding at the start of the ascent and can be folded out if required, should be emphasized. As you don't have to take off your skis or backpack, this is not only very convenient, but also offers additional safety on steeper terrain. Unfortunately, the Axion crampon only has a width of 82mm. Unfortunately far too narrow for freeriders. It is also available in a "long"version; the longer blades offer even more grip in extreme situations.

The touring bindings Explore and Experience differ only in the material used and therefore also in their weight. Both can be mounted on skis with a center width of 58mm or more. Return springs for comfortable hairpin turns are standard on both models.

A common feature of all Fritschi bindings is the (limited) free-sliding binding bridge, which allows the ski to flex freely under the binding to a limited extent. The three-stage climbing aid, which can be easily adjusted with the ski pole, is also standard. Switching from uphill to downhill mode works easily with the ski pole. All Fritschi bindings also fit both touring and alpine boots and are relatively torsionally stiff on the ascent. Stoppers are compatible with all Fritschi bindings and are easy to replace (available up to 115mm).

All in all, Fritschi bindings are simple but effective and have been working for years with very few faults. Disadvantages arise especially for heavier and very good freeriders. Cliff drops, extremely wide skis and hard action don't particularly like the bindings.

Marker

The Marker bindings Duke and Baron can justifiably be described as genuine freeride bindings. They have a wider contact surface on the ski than all other touring and alpine bindings and therefore offer the stability and power transmission of an alpine binding due to the materials used and their strength on the descent. The Duke also offers an unprecedented maximum Z-value of 16 for bindings with an ascent function. However, the bindings are also by far the heaviest bindings with an ascent function and have other handling disadvantages. For example, the boot must be removed from the binding to switch between ascent and descent mode. Of course, this has the advantage that unintentional switching is practically impossible. However, the Duke and Baron are also very torsion-resistant on the ascent thanks to their stable construction. Crossings on steep terrain in hard snow are therefore relatively pleasant.

Due to the transverse spring built into the toe piece, the Marker bindings are quite short on the ski, but for this reason it was not possible to realize a vertical release on the toe piece. The height adjustment is also unusual, as the sliding plate is screwed to the boot from below. This means that you stand on the ski at different angles with different sole thicknesses. The climbing aid is also not quite as comfortable to use as the climbing aids from other manufacturers. Crampons are available up to 113mm, stoppers even up to 130mm.

To sum up, this is a binding for all those who place great value on downhill performance, although long ascents are of course also possible if you are in good shape. The Duke is probably the only binding with an ascent function that can withstand cliff drops or similar action. The disadvantages are the ease of use and some problems with the sliding plate on the toe piece, which does not always hold up with heavy skiers and very wide skis.

Silvretta

The touring bindings from Silvretta had a market share of around 80% in the 1980s (who still remembers the Silvretta 404?) and are still widely used in the touring and freeride binding market today. There are currently three bindings in the range, the freeride binding Pure Freeride and the two touring bindings Pure X-Mountain and Pure Performance. All have a double carbon bar, which makes the bindings not only relatively light, but also very torsion-resistant on the ascent. At just 1340g, the Silvretta Pure Performance is the lightest frame binding with complete safety functions and therefore also the lightest binding that holds alpine boots. Walking with the bindings is very comfortable thanks to the pivot point being shifted backwards and slightly upwards. However, due to the raised toe piece, skiing with the Silvretta bindings takes a little getting used to. Silvretta only supplies the Pure Freeride with stoppers, but wider stoppers (up to 100mm) or stoppers for retrofitting to the Pure Performance and Pure X-Mountain are available separately. Crampons are available up to 90mm. There is also another binding, the Silvretta 500, which does not have a release function on the toe piece. In addition to ski boots, it can also be used with crampon-compatible mountain boots. However, it offers no real advantages for freeriders and ski tourers. Silvretta bindings stand out due to their low weight and comfortable walking, especially on the ascent. The downhill performance is sufficient for ski tourers, but freeriders would like better power transmission.

This article has been automatically translated by DeepL with subsequent editing. If you notice any spelling or grammatical errors or if the translation has lost its meaning, please write an e-mail to the editors.

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