Hi Lou, I’ve got a knowledgeable customer at our shop who is well versed in Dynafit tech, but is having problems with his current binding setup.
He has a fairly old pair of TLT model that have several issues. They appear to be high mileage, so we’re of course first thinking thimble bushings need replacement to fix obvious play. Beyond that, the rivet that terminates one heelpiece length adjustment screw is missing, at the front of the heel unit base. Even so, it appears the adjustment screw is working. The toe lock levers are VERY hard to manipulate, and one of them appears to allow the boot toe to come out much too easily even while locked. Customer says he’s been careful about ice issues and such, and I believe him.
I really want to get this guy set up well, as he will be attempting to climb and ski Denali. As I mentioned, he is well versed in the whole Dynafit realm, so I don’t think this is a case of a greenhorn getting confused and feeling his bindings are more problematic than they really are. Instead, the bindings seem to be somewhat past their prime… Any thoughts you have would be very much appreciated.
To G. from Lou:
What never ceases to amaze me, and is wonderful about Dynafit bindings, is that many owners refuse to let them die. The same guy who will buy new car tires when necessary, or even a new car, will run the same bindings till they’ve nearly disintegrated into their component atoms.
They could make a zombie movie out of this syndrome. WORLD WAR D! I chopped off the Dynafit’s heel unit; it kept skiing! I bashed the toe lever with a rock; it kept working! Quick, hand me that 12 gauge and a handful of shells, I’ve got to put these things to rest! What makes it stop, only a head shot? Where is the head!? Oh no, the toe pins bit me, now I’ve got the virus, I’ve become, OMG, a Dynafitter!
Yeah, the customer is always right, and you should apply that principle to this guy. Understood. But he needs to know that using a worn out pair of ski bindings on the icy crevassed terrain of the highest peak in North America is just, well, not smart. I said that, you didn’t. Instead, how about just sharing with him how our successful WildSnow Denali ski expedition of 2010 (7 guys, mostly newbies, unguided, all make ski descent) was 100% equipped with Dynafit bindings in new or near-new conditions. No one tried to skimp on bindings and skis, and that was intentional.
The idea is to bring skis and bindings that work, that way you can concentrate on little things like eating and drinking (which become big things above 14,000 feet, which is the equivalent of 15,000 feet or more when you’re on the BIG ONE.)
So, my advice: You shouldn’t even touch rebuilding those old TLTs because getting a toe base that’s compatible with that touring lock lever might be impossible, not to mention the need for at least one new heel base, which may also be incompatible. Instead, just give your loyal customer and long time Dynafitter a 10% courtesy discount or advance sale price on a nice new pair of ST bindings, with brakes.
Speaking of which, I would advise anyone using skis on West Buttress Denali to use ski brakes, as they reduce a lot of mental stress and potential disaster, especially if you get in situations with a lot of wind hardened snow or ice where a ski could take off sans rider even on low angle terrain. Leashes are good too, but frankly, after my experience last spring are not as important as I thought they’d be since the chances of falling in a crevasse with skis on are pretty minimal so long as you’re careful. And even if you do loose a ski you’re still getting out on foot if necessary. All that said, advise your customer that the ST is going to have more ramp angle than the TLT, and that he needs to get out and try the new bindings with his Denali boots and makes sure everything feels correct.
Another thing. With one-owner high mileage Dynafit setups, beware of damage to the ski topskin under the heel unit spindle. This can cause play in the system with who knows what consequences, as well as getting to the point where the underlying ski is weakened. If your customer opts to fix the bindings himself for something like that, at least be sure he is warned of this issue. Evaluation is easy. Just remove heel unit from spindle, then manipulate spindle in a rocking motion and see if you feel any play. You should feel very little to none.
Which brings us to boots. What’s he using, and does he need any help in that area? Bad boots will break a Denali attempt more times than not…
—- All the best, Lou, who still can’t believe he finally skied off that top of that thing…
(Editor’s note: Above is a montage of several questions. More about Dynafit ski touring binding durability.
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.