As part of our Dynafit Tech Tips, we bring you some updates on of the most important tip list of all. Follow these tips to ensure your faithful bindings are working properly.
For years the battle for universal tech binding acceptance raged on in the touring world. User error, from both ski techs and the backcountry skier, led to many myths about pre-release. Now that the knowledge is out there and tech bindings have landed firmly on top, complacency with the system can still lead to (now rare) binding pre-releases. Is our faith misplaced as we hurtle down the mountain with absolute certainty in the tiny steel pins and sockets of the tech system? Not necessarily, but given how much we trust tech bindings, these ten tips are more important than ever for keeping you on your skis.
Before you take your new bindings skiing
Proper binding function starts at home. It’s important that you understand this thoroughly to avoid sad days in the field. A good shop will walk you through the functionality of a new binding. If you DIY, be sure to study the documentation, and use Google like your life depends on it. Which of course in this case, it might.
1. Mind the heel gap
A maladjusted heel gap can make you more likely to pop out of the binding, or conversely, compromise safety release. Mounting a tech binding without a heel gap used to make even Achilles shutter. Then as history progressed, some touring bindings eliminated the gap all together, creating a range from 6mm of space to touching — depending on binding model. See this post for some general tips on adjusting your bindings. Cripple Creek Backcountry compiled a list of popular touring bindings and all of their instructions and manuals here.
2. Check boot toe in binding
Inspect fit of boot toe in binding as sometimes bits of plastic or rubber can be scraped off your boot and clog the binding holes. There should be a metal-on-metal system for both toe pins and heel (as opposed to an alpine binding which is typically plastic-on-plastic).
3. Inspect before you ski
Regularly inspect binding for damage or cracks, especially the metal supports under the toe wings and in plastic heel casings. To prevent damage due to leverage from wider skis, use bindings with wider support under toe area. It’s somewhat of a myth that wider bindings ski better, but it’s no myth that the base of a ski binding needs good support to prevent damage such as metal fatigue. By the same token, be sure your binding screws are tight. Bindings rarely fail catastrophically all at once and careful inspection can catch a crack before it is a loud “FAK” as you pitch head forward into a large spruce tree.
4. Bench test binding and boot for release
A ski shop has tools for rating the release, but even a DIY bench test can diagnose an inconsistency. Side release should be smooth, without catching and then violently releasing. Certain boot fittings over past years have been defective and not provided the smooth action necessary for proper tech binding function. If you’re the hands-on type or want a deeper understanding of binding release testing, check this post and video.
5. Adjust your vertical and side release value (RV)
Check your release values against a chart or use an online calculator. Know that while tech bindings usually have adequate elasticity in side release, vertical release at the heel is less elastic. Consequently, be aware that for aggressive skiing you may need a higher release value (RV) for your vertical release than you do for your side release. Note that many new lightweight bindings, such as the Dynafit Speed Superlite 2.0, have only one screw that adjusts both the vertical and side release. You may want a more configurable binding.
What to watch for on the snow
You have taken every care to practice operating your binding in the comfort of your warm and dry garage or living room — the classic “carpet test” — now it’s time to take them out for a ride. Beware that compared to your carpet, skiing is a cold and icy sport; unforeseen problems may arise on the slopes. Keep on your toes so you can stay in your toes through different temperatures and snow conditions.
6. Look for ice under the toe of your binding
Before skiing downhill, clear ice under binding toe wings and check your work by snapping the wings open and closed by hand. In warm temperatures especially, a snow glob under your toe will give a false positive when stepping into your binding and not allow the jaws to clamp down firmly. Learning to transition without taking your skis off can prevent this evil, though taking your skis off is sometimes unavoidable.
7. Be super careful about ice in your boot toe fittings
This can be especially bad after a long boot pack. You can clear the fittings by attaching the binding and then swinging your foot so the binding pins pivot in the holes. Better, begin with a quick clearing of the boot holes using a tool such as the tang at the end of a Voile strap, multi-tool, or other pointed object. But do the “swing” anyway to clear any last bit of junk out.
8. Step, wiggle, then stomp
When you enter binding for downhill, before stomping down to latch heel, wriggle boot heel left and right while watching and feeling toe unit for solid attachment. If the toe wings are not engaged to the boot properly it is quite noticeable. There you have it, do the swing and wiggle, it’ll keep you happy.
Advanced tips to prevent prerelease.
If you experience an accidental release after messing with all the tips above, there a few methods for keeping the skis and the skier right side up on the snow. Before we begin, know that a vast variety of tech bindings are now available, purposed for everything from jogging uphill to high-speed resort skiing. If you’re having troubles, consider you might be using a mis-purposed binding.
9. Adjust your RV higher with care
If all else fails, consider dialing that part of the settings up a number (vertical and side). Although you can correlate your touring binding RV to your alpine binding, there is greater variability in release for tech bindings. Start with the recommended RV number and only crank it if you notice a problem.
10. A warning against skiing with your toe locked
You will see skiers lock the toe of their touring bindings before launching downhill. This goes against the operational manual of every touring binding and should be attempted only at your own risk (or when necessary for no-fall situations when popping out of a binding is certain death). Doing so provides no calibrated RV setting and reduces elasticity. Some say that with one well known brand, you get RV values with locked toe that would fit in the range of 18 DIN, if such a thing existed (DIN scale doesn’t go that high). It is a myth that you can pull the toe lever up 1 or 2 clicks for a partially locked toe. It is either locked or unlocked.
Also, know that when you lock the tech binding toe, you are only locking your side release, you will still release just as easy in vertical mode at the heel. In my view, if you’re finding you must ski with your tech binding toes locked, that could indicate you either don’t take the care to adjust and use your bindings correctly, or perhaps you need to switch to a binding system more compatible with your style of skiing.
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.