Sitting here in the backcountry skiing blog command center, I can’t help but look up and out the window and thrill at a sky full of nice dark clouds. Last night’s storm dumped up on the mountains, I know because Mount Sopris peeked out for a few minutes during the morning cloud lift, and it is coated. Rain is falling here. That’s a good thing as it indicates the snow up higher is coming in nice and dense, which will perhaps help bridge over facet layers I’m certain have formed above timberline during the last week of clear-cold nights.
Today, I’m building a tech binding “boot holder” for heat punching boots. Does your boot fitter have one? Turns out that when you aggressively punch a backcountry skiing boot with tech fittings you can easily throw the fittings out of alignment, necessitating having a right and left ski so the bindings will line up with your boots. By using a boot holder consisting of a Dynafit toe unit and some kind of heel holder, you can keep the boot straight while heat manipulating the plastic. Ditto for boot sole toe rocker, which needs to be held up while punching for added length, otherwise the rocker will flatten out.
Project number two for today or tomorrow: Quiver Killer sent me a sack of ski binding inserts to play around with. With the cost of bindings and continued popularity of owning more than one ski (the quiver), methods of swapping bindings between skis continue to make sense. Onyx bindings include a swap plate system, but other bindings require aftermarket options. I like the idea of inserts because they add insignificant weight and no stack height. But plate options such as those from Binding Freedom and B&D have their pluses, such as ease of installation. (Note: B&D is working on an insert system that we hope to be reviewing soon, said to be highly engineered specifically for ski binding application.)
The thing I’m curious about with inserts is this: When mounting Dynafit backcountry skiing bindings, even with a jig you usually end up biasing the binding toe a bit one way or the other so the boot heel centers perfectly on the heel unit pins. Do machine screw type inserts allow this, or eliminate the need for it? We’ll know in a few days.
One aspect of binding swap plates that interests me is the pop theory that somehow wider skis need a wider binding platform. Two reasons for this come up: resistance to binding screw pullout, and less flex in the ski/binding interface. See comments below for my take on the pullout issue. As for the wider stance somehow being better for skiing, Marker touts this as a plus of their Duke/Baron series, and Binding Freedom claims their plates are designed to “maximize torsional stiffness.” My take is that most skiers, no matter how wide the ski, simply do not have to worry about how wide their binding platform is. Considering the amount of flex you get in ANY binding/boot/foot combination, the small amount of flex you get in the binding/ski interface is so minimal as to not be a factor for anyone but perhaps a racer seeking to have hundredths of a second off a run. More, even the widest bindings and plates are really not that much wider than the base plates of present AT bindings. In other words, to really make a difference in the tiny amount of flex you get in the ski/binding attachment, the binding platform would need to be out near the edges of the ski, not just a bit wider than normal. Unless you’re going that wide (no product does), this whole thing about wider binding stance being “stiffer” or “flexing less” is nothing more than an urban myth.
Well, there you go, a bit of blog fodder for a snowy day here in Colorado. Now, out to the shop to make some stuff!
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.