Around here in Colorado, we have a legend called the “curse of the Utes.” Gist is the Ute indian tribe were driven from their ancestral lands, cursed the interlopers and their descendants, and ever since when anything goes wrong we Anglos might as well give up upon we are hexed.
I’m not a big fan of the curse theory when it comes to the Utes as it’s unfair, negative and probably apocryphal, but regarding tech bindings I have to think that something similar and actually real is afoot — though I have no idea where the ski gear voodoo might have originated. Early plate-frame binding designers cranked up against Barthel Low-Tec? Telemarker pin heads sticking needles in dolls? Who knows. All I know is that time after time, year after year, we test touring-tech bindings and they break.
Latest, we got our mitts on retail Fritschi Tecton and mounted up for evaluation. Apparently a plastic shoulder the brake arms drop into was perhaps made from weak plastic, simply not designed with enough beef, or possibly needed more TLC than we were giving. How do we know? It broke — and Fritschi has some suggestions on TLC.
We are told this problem is rare to non existent — which is what bloggers are typically told about these sorts of things — but the Fritschi guys are straight shooters so I’ll believe. Moreover, if you do experience this breakage in the field it’s not a day breaker, the binding remains for the most part functional (though it should be renewed under warranty as soon as possible in our opinion). So consider this a PSA on something to watch out for, as well as a reminder of Fritschi’s binding care recommendations (full disclosure, we did NOT spray with silicon before use, as Fritschi recommends below, so perhaps this was user error?):
Fritschi believes this situation is related to friction between the rubber boot sole and ski brake plate.
From Fritschi, lightly edited: “During the step-in process in a new Tecton 12 or Vipec Evo 12, or likewise other bindings on the market, there is typically friction applied on the ski brake plate, usually due to dry, soft and new non-gliding rubber soles on AT ski touring boots. In this case, the ski brake pushes the heel unit back before the ski brake is moving down. Because of that, the ski brake will be pressed with the associated metal rods in a wider position resulting in more pressure to the heel plate. Therefore, in extremely rare circumstances, the pressure on the heel plate could compromise it. This is not something that would happen after boot is officially clicked into binding, so not a safety issue while skiing. Again, this is the very first we have heard of this situation so I suspect this is extremely rare? In the rare event it happens, Fritschi will of course replace any broken heel plate. The solution or prevention is a simple one – spray silicon on the brake plate and heel plate, this will reduce the unusual high friction of boot rubber on the brake plate. According to buyer instructions, Fritschi strongly recommends spraying silicon on the brake plate right after mounting the binding.
Test Skier Data: Skier 150 lbs with heavy day pack, bindings mounted on 116 width skis using brakes with enough width to function properly, estimated air temperature during failure 15 degrees F, failure occurred while stepping in for downhill.
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.