Another gem from the collection. Possibly the weirdest backcountry skiing binding ever made, Su-matic resembles a mechanical beast from Star Wars, or perhaps a horror flick nightmare. Full museum display here, with a movie! Comments are on, let me know what you think. Is summer insanity taking me over the edge? Want to see more old junk? Should I admit I actually skied on these things?
These Su-matics were imported by business in Aspen called Company 3, started in the 1970s by a group of local hardcore skiers that included Terry Young and Al Burnham. At first Company 3 imported Euro backcountry gear, then got involved with Paul Ramer as the first distributor of his binding. My old backcountry partner and ski mentor Kendall Williams got involved and designed some skis they had made. I worked in their shop as a ski tech and general gopher (and resident wildman). All the rando gear of that day really was crummy, so Young and Burnham got involved in the telemark revival (I’d already been through a telemark phase by then and was exploring rando gear as it was rapidly improving). Soon Company 3 was trying to make telemark skis. They sold a few decent skis, then went through a business evolution and became Phoenix Skis, the first company in the world dedicated to making high performance tele planks.
No doubt bindings like the Su-matic are one of the reasons we have such amazing high-performance telemark gear. If these clankers had worked better and been lighter, guys like Terry and Al would have probably have stuck with randonnee, instead they helped create modern telemarking.
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.