I love my Dynafit touring bindings. The fundamental design is a work of genius, and much of the skiing I’ve done over the past 10 years would have been much more difficult without them. As to be expected there were initial issues with durability (heel post fatigue) and functionality (truly reliable hold and release), but rather than methodically addressing them, Dynafit has squandered multiple major revisions trumpeting a succession of poorly conceived and inadequately tested new features (tri-step toe-piece, comfort volcanoes, F12 stiffener, anti-rotation pin, heel pin spacing etc.). They sometimes operate like an cliched eccentric designer is calling the shots, when what they really need is a competent mechanical engineer. I’ve been known to rant on the subject, but suffice to say there is room for improvement.
oooh – shiny anodized metal parts.
Fortunately we’re about to see what could be a couple of new viable alternatives, the Fritschi Vipec and the G3 Ion, which both promise to incorporate features such as fore-aft heel piece elasticity and functional brakes into their designs. G3 are based in Vancouver, and their product development engineer Cam Shute lives and skis here in the Kootenays. After underwhelming skiers with the innovative Onyx binding, recent pre-release pics and info on their new Ion binding caught my attention. Cam recently took some time out from teaching his son to ski on the magic carpet at Red Mountain to run me through the features of his personal prototypes. Rather than reinventing the tech binding, G3 have clearly set out to create a more durable and refined version of a Dynafit Radical series binding. No one feature is revolutionary, but when you go through the list in detail it seems that each has been thoughtfully considered, and the execution appears to be of the highest quality. To top it off, they look great. G3 has coordinated an effective media blitz this week, and a thorough analysis of the various features can be found over at Wildsnow. I’m hoping to get my hands on a pair, so that I can ski the shit out them, and help determine if the Ion actually delivers on a lot of promise.
I’ve been getting DPS skis onto the feet of quite a few local skiers over the past few years. It’s been allot of fun, operating a low-key retail outlet from my house, and selling skis that I use and can honestly endorse. But the brand is growing, and to expand sales beyond the limited circle of people I’m connected to would require a conventional storefront, which I’m happy to leave to one of the established players.
Instead I’m now focusing my restless energies on establishing a backcountry ski cabin. I have a particular vision that I’ve long dreamed of creating, and for the past few years I’ve been systematically exploring the region for a suitable location. Finding high quality ski terrain isn’t too difficult in the Kootenays, but finding an area that doesn’t conflict with the multitude of existing commercial, cultural, and environmental interests and issues was much more challenging.
After ruling out many possibilities, I eventually settled on what I hope will be an available area in the Southern Valhallas, and recently submitted a formal application for a commercial recreation tenure. Now the government is conducting a comprehensive review and referral process, and within a few months I’ll find out if my dream can progress to more practical matters.
100m from the proposed cabin.
I ski about 120 days per year, for both work (guiding) and pleasure, on Dynafit bindings. Until this last season I’ve been their biggest advocate, but their new model bindings are (in my opinion) fundamentally flawed, and the company is doing nothing about it. I purchased new Dynafit Speed Radical bindings at the beginning of last winter, and mounted them to my new DPS Lotus 138s . I immediately noticed a significant and unusual amount of play at the boot -binding interface. I feel it, see it, hear it, and it annoys the shit of me. I hold it responsible for several instances of premature release while skiing, and while difficult to quantify, mechanically it must be compromising the precision and performance that I value in my skiing. I’m forced to ski much more conservatively than I can with my 2011/12 bindings. To confirm what I felt and observed I measured (with calipers) and confirmed that the heel pin spacing is ~0.3mm wider than my 2011/12 Speed Radical bindings. Here are a couple of short videos’ demonstrating the difference in the amount of play between the 2011/12 and 2012/13 bindings.
When I initially contacted Dynafit (Salewa) on the issue, they postulated that I might just have a faulty binding, and sent me a (single) replacement heel piece. It measured exactly the same. I put it out for discussion on the TGR skiing forums, and had an on-line conversation with Lou (Wildsnow) Dawson, but no-one seems to have any idea what I’m referring to, or has offered a solution. I pressed Dynafit on the issue, and they (Eric) eventually acknowledged that the heel pin spacing had been widened, apparently a decision by Dynafit Europe that has not been publicized to my knowledge. Eric suggested that I should look to Plum or G3 bindings as a solution, which although refreshingly honest, does seem a tacit acknowledgement that Dynafit have and are continuing to sell what I characterize as a defective product.
I’m currently investigating Plum and G3 bindings as an alternative, and am even considering how I might fabricate boot heel inserts that precisely match the wider pins (a potentially simple solution – Dynafit?), but right now I would advise against anyone purchasing Dynafit Radical series bindings for high performance skiing.
The Old Canon – RIP.
Virtually every photo that I’ve used in the 332 posts I’ve made on this blog since November 2006, has been taken with my trusty Canon Powershot SD400 digital camera. I’ve been carrying it in my thigh pocket, sans case, whenever I’m skiing, through every variation of cold and wet you can imagine, and it’s always worked flawlessly. I’ve considered upgrading, but figured I’d just use it until it died, and that day has finally come. So from this point on I’ll be using my new Canon Elph 300HS, which is close as I could find to the latest incarnation (same battery, same memory card) of my old camera. It’s got a bunch of fancy new features that’ll take me a while to learn, or more likely ignore, but all I really need is for it to be there when I need it on whatever adventures are to come.
I’ve been trying out rockered skis the past couple of years, and have appreciated the turning ease and flotation of skis like the Rossi S7 and the Salomon Rocker 2. However with both these popular mass produced skis, I felt that the overly soft tails and lack of torsional rigidity limited their performance and range. DPS are a small boutique ski manufacturer based in Utah who have developed a reputation for building the most technologically advanced carbon fibre skis, and their Wailer 112RP model has been receiving glowing reviews in magazines and on the internet as a no compromise, rip the shit out of all conditions ski. Similar in shape to the Rossi S7 and Armada JJ, but engineered and manufactured to higher standards. They seemed like the perfect ski for me, and perhaps for many other passionate skiers. So I contacted the company, convinced them I could represent their skis effectively, and have begun selling them in Rossland. The traditional model for retailing skis out of a storefront seems antiquated in a world where a larger selection is available for less on the internet, but I’m gambling that there might be an opportunity to sell a select range of high quality skis, at competitive prices, with personalized expert service. They’ve been so popular that availability is limited, but please do contact me if you want to know more, and I’ll have demos available if you want to give them a try.
Of all the new models released of late, these are the skis I’ve been most curious about. Pre release reviews have been gushing, and it from what I’ve read they seem targeted at exactly the type and level of skiing that I do. So about to jump on the lift for yet another day of powder skiing at Red, I was stoked to see a pair in my size (192cm) available for demo, and with a minimum of fuss I got to take them out for half a dozen runs on Granite.
They’re long and fat (122cm waist), light weight and soft flexing, with a pronounced rocker at the tip and tail. From first turn to last they were easy and predictable. On the limited amount of groomed snow that I skied, they carved relatively short turns with a soft smooth railing sensation characteristic of Salomons. In open powder they danced through turns of any radius, and when it got tighter and steeper they whipped around the tightest of arcs with the subtlest of initiation. They were light and fun, and are my favorite of the bunch of new model skis I’ve demoed this year.
However because they’re so soft I found it easy to over ski them with my usual aggressive angulated technique. Channeling my inner jibber I found that a centered body position and rather passive technique worked best, though above a certain speed I felt that I was skimming rather than carving, and I couldn’t ever really get into top gear. In smooth consistent snow I didn’t have any problems, but they’re deflected by heavy and inconsistent conditions. In situations like lumpy high speed run-outs and cut-up crud on groomers I had to adopt a bit of a survival stance, whereas on my regular boards (185cm Dynastar Sixth Sense Huges) I’d just rail through that shit without thinking.
In conclusion I think Salomon are onto a winner with Rocker 2, and should cut in to sales of the popular Rossignol S7s and Armada JJs at places like Red Mountain. They’re a perfect do everything ski for most intermediate to advanced off-piste skiers, but (like the aforementioned skis) are just too soft for real charging. I still haven’t found anything that can compare to my beloved Dynastars.
MEC Navigator Glove
I carry both warmer and a lightweight gloves when ski-touring, but 90% of the time I’ll be wearing the lighter ones, and these are my current favorites. Sure leather gloves provide delicate sensitivity, and reliable grip, but when they get wet (and gloves always get wet) they stay wet, and if you’re using and abusing them, they wear out fast. So I stick with fast drying synthetics, and have until recently found that cheap construction and gardening gloves do as well as any. This year I splurged on the Navigator model gloves from MEC. The palms are made of notoriously durable and waterproof Hypalon fabric, with Schoeller softshell backs, and a light fleece lining. Hard to go wrong for $29 (now on special for $21). A couple of weeks back they got completely soaked in a minor snowmobiling incident (it was raining and there was a small creek involved), but I continued wearing them for several hours of skinning up through a blizzard, and by the time I reached the top and was ready to ski, both my hands and gloves were dry. I expect they’ll be too warm for the sunniest spring conditions (though otherwise cover a remarkable range), and would be even better if they fit like ArcTeryx’s latest and greatest, but so far they’re everything that I need.