Tristan T. (10 years old) and his dad showed up at the WildSnow mod shop after a productive internet shopping tour.
We pulled one of the torsional release springs out of the Dynafit Comfort heel and set it to about 5 on the scale imprinted on the binding housing. We dialed the vertical (upward) release down to between 4 & 5 on the scale and made sure the heel gap was set to a “loose” 6 mm, resulting in the vertical release force being noticeably lower than with a tighter gap. Release checks with Tristan twisting out of the binding on the floor of the shop verified that it was all within range for Tristan’s size (70 lbs, 57 inches tall). Doing the ‘carpet’ testing had the added advantage of practice getting in and out of the binding.
The trick with this is to know you can’t really get a normal tech binding set to below a release value of around 3. Thus, they don’t work kids smaller than Tristan, who can probably be skiing at release value of approximately 4, or perhaps 5 if he’s aggressive. Indeed, once he gains some weight I recommend his dad puts the second spring back into the heel unit lateral release and do another test and tune.
The first test of a system like this should be for the kid to do some aggressive snowplowing and fooling around on moderate terrain at slow speeds, to see if he tends to come out of the bindings. Due to being conservative, it’s likely you’ll set them too low, thus increasing the likelihood of accidental release.
Tristan’s boots are a pair of Scarpa Velvet 22.5 acquired at deep discount from Sierra Trading Post. The Dynafit Comfort bindings came via Ebay. Skis were easy to acquire Volkl Mantra 128, with a pair of reconfigured pre-owned skins.
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.