Tech Bindings: What’s new for 2016
In case you’ve been living under a backcountry rock, you’ve probably noticed that tech bindings are the new ski touring normal. In the words of Powder Magazine’s 2016 Buyers Guide:
“The next time you tour in a frame binding, like the Salomon Guardian or Marker Duke, will probably be your last.”
Yet as much as lighter weight and easier tourability has invaded backcountry freeride bindings, not all tech bindings are created equal.
“Alternatively, bombing chair laps on a tech binding feels like bringing a knife to a gun fight.”
Striking the balance between strength and stiffness versus weight savings and touring versatility has been a continuous battle for backcountry skiers over the last 10 years. You either had to bear through the suffering of lugging kilos of plastic and metal up the skin track or ski more conservative on the descent.
Such trade offs are now becoming less of an issue. The Dynafit Beast 14 and Marker Kingpin have been designed to cope with the mixed conditions found in resorts, all while managing to tour easily and efficiently. Let’s take a look at the hot touring bindings for 2016.
In 2006, Marker were the first company to introduce the Duke, a frame bindings that could withstand heavy freeride abuse in resorts but still lift the heel on the skin track, all with an attractive release value (RV) of 16. The Kingpin changes the game again by utilizing a pin tech toe piece and a traditional alpine-style heel piece. Switching between walk and ski mode is not as elegant as Dynafit, but the security and piece of mind of DIN/ISO certification should make any serious freerider weak at the knees. An excellent choice for the resort/backcountry ready setup.
Dynafit Beast 14
Two years ago Dynafit debuted the Beast 16, the one binding to finally rule them all. But as burly and secure the Beast felt for a Dynafit binding, it was closer to the weight category of its alpine cousins and cost more than most pairs of skis. The compromise is the Beast 14, which while still heavier than the Radical lineup, shaves grams while maintaining a DIN-certified rotational heel piece. Still not for the weight weenies, the Beast 14 can handle it all.
G3 Ion 12
Vancouver’s G3 have been keeping guides supplied with their backcountry gear for 20 years, but it was only recently they entered the touring binding market. After a learning experience with the Onyx binding, the company came out with the light and simple Ion, a take on the classic Dynafit design with a few modifications. The heel piece has been updated from its first incarnation (that produced some wobble) and now sits comfortably in a crowded field, standing out with its attractive design.
Dynafit Radical 2.0
Don’t let the name fool you, the Radical 2.0 has made quite a number of improvements on its predecessor, including a beefed up heel piece, redesigned rotation and brake lock and a rotating toe piece. Not a resort basher by any stretch, but if you’ve got a set up for backcountry freeriding and want the express ascent, the Radical 2.0 is a work of art.