ION G3 Tech (Pintech) Binding 2014 — First Look Review


This post by WildSnow.com blogger  
G3 ION tech ski binding, copy of the standard tech binding with enough added features to set it apart.

G3 ION tech ski binding, based on the standard tech binding but with enough added features to easily set it apart. Click images to enlarge.

Look out garage entrepreneurs — G3 is in town and they have a really big garage. Indeed, the days of essentially copying tech bindings and selling them out of your workshop are probably over for good. Today’s proof: Witness G3 ION — a backcountry skiing tech binding with a long list of supremely innovative features that you’d be hard pressed to develop without extensive materials and mechanical engineering skills.

Note: It’s becoming common among some Europeans to call tech bindings “pintech.” We had a lot to do here at WildSnow with the word “tech” coming into use to name these types of ski bindings. If the trend is to use the word “pintech” we’ll support that as well. Thus, we’ll use the word “pintech” occasionally to see how it lifts off the tongue.”

Our bloggers have skied the ION; I’ve given it a once-over clinical exam that even included digital methodology. Results are in two blog posts: Below, as well as Louie’s on-snow ION abuse.

Looking down at ION from user perspective, the Toe Stops are the most obvious difference.

Looking down at ION toe unit from user perspective, the Toe Stops (indicated by red arrows) are the most obvious difference. They rise up when binding is set to receive boot, then move down when the boot is inserted. Quite nice, though they only work for standard DIN boot soles, not for trimed toe boots such as skimo race shoes and lightweight touring optimized boots.

ION PR claims and more, with comments by Lou:

Partial heel teardown reveals typical tech binding construction. Improvements are subtle.

Partial ION heel teardown reveals typical 'pintech' binding construction. Improvements over the standard and ION's unique features are subtle.

Another view of heel post with brake system. Everything has a nice finished appearance.

Another view of heel post with brake system. Everything has a nice finished appearance.

“Lightweight.” ION catalog weight of 585 g, 20.6 ounces per binding (1/2 pair) with 115 mm brake and no screws is claimed. That’s not particularly light for a “pintech” binding (competitor major brand with similar features weighs slightly less though exact models and brake widths cause apples/apples comparison to be tedious), but if the heavier duty toe wing springs and heel fore/aft elasticity help with reliable retention, the added weight could be worth it. As we advise time and time again, “if your tech bindings work for you, added features will not change your life, but if you have problems with current tech bindings these new features could be answered prayers.”

Our pre-production binding weighs the following with no screws:
ION toe: 6.1 ounces, 172 grams
ION heel with 105mm brake: 14.8 ounces, 420 grams

Total pre-production ION 20.9 ounces, 592 grams

“Class leader; no other binding with RV12 and brake is lighter.” True to the extent of comparing to complete stock bindings, but remove the pretty much cosmetic connector plate between toe and heel of Dynafit Radical FT and it weighs in at 552 grams (new model with heel spring elasticity), ST model is similar in weight and goes to RV 10.

“G3 ION jaw retention is industry’s best.” Could be, as G3 started their quest for this with the Onyx binding by using strong springs in the toe wing mechanism. We continue to try and measure this on the WildSnow bench, but field testing by aggressive skiers is probably the best way to evaluate. That being said, G3 does have the electronic equipment to test toe jaw retention in a controlled but dynamic fashion. I’ve seen the charts with the graphing and I’ve also seen the test machinery in action. It’s not child’s play but rather the real deal. Their values are consistent and high. Of any feature in a tech binding, this could be the most important as it allows the binding to be skied unlocked, aggressively, with less chance of accidental release.

“Wide freeride mount.” ION is said to be “30% wider than traditional tech bindings, with 40 mm spacing of all the toe unit screws. We continue with the opinion that most people will notice no difference between this and a traditional tech binding screw hole pattern. Nonetheless, some of you do need more strength in this area and you prove it by pulling bindings out of skis. In that case, ION may deliver your desires. (Wider screw patterns and binding base plate widths probably come into play more realistically with skis over 110 mm wide at the waist, combined with stiff boots and larger more aggressive skiers. But wait and watch, just about the time most tech bindings get wider, I’ll bet the touring skis market will stabilize at more the sub 110 mm width due to weight concerns and such. Funny if that happens. Dog chasing tail and all that.)

“Neutral delta (ramp) angle matches freeride alpine bindings.” In any case, center of binding/boot pins from top of ski: toe 40 mm, heel 53 mm, difference of 13 mm which is virtually same as early Dynafit TLT and our favorite binding delta angle. (Also, virtually same as G3 Onyx). This is not what I’d call “neutral,” though it is said to match that of alpine/tour bindings such as Duke which are known to have less delta than some of the harshly tilted tech bindings on the market. See our ramp angles post and chart here.

Snow clearing channel is a function of the binding toe being raised up to reduce ramp angle.

Snow clearing channel is a function of the binding toe being raised up to reduce ramp angle. This in turn allows G3 to include lots of space under the toe wings where snow or ice can block proper function of the binding. All tech bindings require great care with this, as ice blokage may cause your binding to appear closed on your boot toe, when in reality you can ski out of the binding and take a nasty fall. Anything to help with clearing ice and snow from this area is a welcome improvement.

“Snow Clearing Channel” Is an excellent idea. G3 molded in a lateral (left/right) space under the binding wings that drops close to the ski top and is big enough for a ski pole tip. One of the biggest problems with tech bindings — and something that in my opinion has probably caused a few deaths — is that the binding wings will not close fully if ice gets jammed underneath. But, in such situations they may close just enough to give the illusion of full function, only after a few turns you can pop out of such an ice jammed binding and take a nasty fall if you’re in high consequence terrain. Addressing this issue at retail, without consumer modifications, shows that G3 is in the real-world with their product engineering.

Snow clearing area accepts a ski pole tip. Could this be the best feature of ION?

Snow clearing area accepts a ski pole tip. Could this be the best feature of ION?

Ice clearing channel under binding wings. Another view. We really like this.

Ice clearing channel under binding wings. Another view. We really like this.

Boot toe stops are the black prongs sticking up in front of the boot sole.

Boot toe stops providing what G3 calls 'Step-in Guidance' are the black prongs sticking up in front of the boot sole. I'm impressed by this feature, though its effectiveness is reduced by ice or snow getting in the way, and it doesn't work unless your boot sole is the standard DIN shape at the toe. What's slick is that the prongs raise and lower as you exit and enter the binding. They're 'active.'

“Step-in Guidance.” This cool feature is probably not 100% effective, but attempts to address the buggabear of getting your boot toe in position to snap in the toe wings — a particularly heinous challenge for the newbie and what makes tech bindings demand superior athletic ability. Basically, the two black plastic towers rise up when the binding is open, help index your boot toe, then lower down when the binding closes. I know for a fact that other companies have been working on similar systems. Other than the major brand’s “Power Towers,” I know of none that made it into retail.

Looking down at ION from user perspective, the Toe Stops are the most obvious difference.

The toe stops again... an excellent feature. They appear to be easily removed by advanced users seeking to make the binding lighter.

“Stow BRAKE on first step or in your hand.” This deserves exposition. When you rotate the heel unit to touring position it engages a series of catches to hold the brake up,on ly the brake does not rise and stow automatically, instead you either step on it (in heel-flat-on-ski mode) or squeeze it closed with your hand. When done correctly you’ll hear a satisfying click and the brake is ready for touring. Worth mentioning again that the brake could be left deployed as a climbing aid or to save your skis from running away while you’re messing around clicking in. It’ll be interesting to see where that idea of brakes as climbing aid goes. Oh, also, G3 says their brakes are heavier duty with engineered tips to increase stopping performance. We’ll see if they’re really much different once consumer testing commences. To me this is a non-issue, but ski brake performance (or lack thereof) is indeed a constant thread in discussion of tech bindings — perhaps ION will be the standard setter?

Additional observations: The bi-directional heel unit and climbing lifters are impressive. Simple. When changing modes, you can rotate the heel unit either clockwise or counterclockwise — the flip-up heel lifters work either way. This results in a much more ergonomic and intuitive feel to the system. Just reach down and turn the heel unit, don’t bother remembering which direction. Anti rotation? Taken care of by the brake interlock. Ah, and lastly, can the brake be removed for weight savings? Not easy, but we think it’s possible.

Medium 'regular' climbing lift is a simple flip-down tab that works either direction depending on which position you rotate the heel unit to.

Medium 'regular' climbing lift is a simple flip-down tab that works either direction depending on which position you rotate the heel unit to.

High lift, same deal. Aftermarket could easily make an extension add-on.

High lift, same deal. Aftermarket could easily make an extension add-on.

ION heel-flat-on-ski mode rests on brake and moves it a bit each step. Not sure that's ideal but time will tell.

ION heel-flat-on-ski mode rests on brake and moves it a bit each step. Not sure that's ideal but time will tell. Perhaps production version will have some sort of solid heel support in this mode.

Once binding heel is rotated to touring mode, the brake lock also takes care of blocking accidental rotation.

Once binding heel is rotated to touring mode, the brake lock (indicated by arrow) also takes care of blocking accidental rotation. In our view, nearly any tech binding can 'auto rotate' on ocasion, but ION appears to be nicely secure in this way. Consumer testing will render the final verdict.

“Forward pressure.” Energy absorption (ski flex compensation) in the heel of tech bindings is the latest craze. Is this a solution without a problem? For myself that’s most certainly the case. But the aggressive skier with big boots and skis could benefit from the binding heel unit sliding fore-aft a few millimeters under spring load to compensate for the ski flexing. Yet any new mechanical system introduces issues. For example, if the system moves with every step, will it wear out prematurely? Or is it durable enough from the start?

Consumer testing will answer those questions, but one thing we like about G3′s “energy absorption” solution with ION is that the fore-aft movement of the heel is locked out when you’re in touring mode. My guess is that high mileage individuals may find the lockout be a highly desirable feature to prevent wear. Just a guess, however. We’ll know the reality by springtime after some of these ‘heel spring’ bindings have several hundred thousand steps on them.

Important thing to know is that these “forward pressure” systems have NOTHING to do with release elasticity, their sole function is to compensate for ski flex and keep release values consistent. Thus, they may have little to no effect on accidental release behavior of the binding.

(Note that boots that flex at the ball of the foot are verboten for this system, due to the sag of the boot interacting in unacceptable ways with the heel unit movement.)

So called 'forward pressure' spring is visible underneath on the demo board. Six millimeter of travel.

So called 'forward pressure' spring is visible underneath on the demo board. Six millimeter of travel. Our seat-of-pants engineering side has to ask how a tiny spring with only 6 mm of travel can really make any difference in how a binding skis. Getting it on snow for extended use will tell the tale -- though one has to suspect that this sort of thing is more for the purpose of getting the binding certified by TUV to the DIN touring binding standard, rather than any revolutionary real-life quantum improvement in tech binding technology.

Forward pressure system allows the binding to be mounted with no 'tech gap' behind heel.

Forward pressure system allows the binding to be mounted with no 'tech gap' behind heel. Most tech bindings compensate for ski flex by the heel pins sliding fore-aft in the boot heel fitting. This is an innovative and incredibly simple solution, but has the problem of unpredictable friction as well as limited range. We've always felt the system could be improved by adding longer pins with a slightly wider tech gap, but binding engineers seem to be going the other direction by closing up the tech gap and building the shock absorption and movement into a spring loaded heel unit.

A few points specific to the so called ‘forward pressure’ of ION binding. First, when the binding and ski are at rest, the heel unit is adjusted so it just touches the heel of the boot. In this situation there is NO forward pressure. When the ski flexes and the boot presses back against the spring loaded heel unit, then yes, something you could call ‘forward pressure’ exists. In other words, this is not the ‘forward pressure’ of the type you adjust a conventional alpine binding for — those usually have some pre-load. More, as mentioned above it bears repeating these sort of “pintech” binding ‘forward pressure’ systems do not provide release elasticity, meaning they’re not providing any sort of return-to-center help with vertical (upwards) release. Instead, they’re simply there to allow the ski to flex and possibly make release values more consistent depending on ski flex.

With ION and most other tech bindings, despite the heel springs the amount of vertical elasticity in the release system remains the same: minimal. Thus, we still wait for tech 2.0 — though don’t forget at least one tech type binding does exist that provides additional vertical heel release elasticity — and more may be coming.

Another view of toe unit. Left arrow points to a nice PU pocket for your ski pole tip. No more shattered plastic?

Another view of toe unit. Left arrow points to a nice PU pocket for your ski pole tip. No more shattered plastic? Right arrow points to the boot toe locators. The front lever locks and unlocks the release as with most other tech bindings.

Underside, with hand for scale.

Underside of rear unit, with hand for scale. The screw pattern of the rear is about the same width as other tech bindings, but is designed to mount over other hole patterns without unacceptable overlap of screw holes -- a smart sales touch for the 'new kid on the block.' More, if a shop has demo skis mounted with the rental ION version, they can re-mount with the regular ION and the rental holes will be covered up. Perfect for selling out those rentals when the time comes.

More specifications:
•Release value (RV) range: 5-12

•Boot length adjustment range: 22 mm (similar to other major brand)
–(62mm for Demo/Rental Version)

•Brake sizes
–85, 95, 115 and 130mm

•Ski crampons
-85, 110, 130mm, can be mounted to any backcountry ski by using available hardware.

MSRP
- Street price will probably be around $500.00 once the initial buying panic is done. Actual MSRP is $549.00 USD

And get this: G3 even has as an accessory a set of M5 mount screws to use with insert kits, at the correct length and with thread locker already applied. How excellent is that?

In all, we are highly impressed by ION. This machinery appears “mature.” Unlike virtual copies of the original tech binding hailing from Fritz Barthel’s mind nearly 30 years ago, ION has a long list of features setting it apart from nearly any other “pintech” product. The bi-directional heel unit alone is enough to cause extreme joy (rotate either direction for touring mode!). Add the boot toe location system for your tech-virgin friend, along with what may be supreme durability, and yes it can.

Oh, and don’t forget the cosmetics. Industrial design is important. Things should look good and finished when you’re using them for an aesthetic activity such as ski touring. With its anodized aluminum parts and nicely molded plastic, ION has a completed appearance that’ll have you enjoying just looking at it — at least when your eyes are not drawn to the sublime alps this equipment is allowing you to enjoy.

Comments

30 Responses to “ION G3 Tech (Pintech) Binding 2014 — First Look Review”

  1. D. January 6th, 2014 3:30 am

    Nice review Lou. One comment – forward pressure is definitely not solution without problem. The numbers in stats about tech bindings rip-off by aggressive skiers is growing and growing.

  2. Macharza January 6th, 2014 4:59 am

    Very interesting solution, thanks for review

  3. Frame January 6th, 2014 8:24 am

    Cheers Lou. Any abiltiy to use the onyx swap plates or are there iON swap plates? I don’t have the quiver and it doesn’t appear that way, just interested.

  4. Lou Dawson January 6th, 2014 9:58 am

    Frame, the answer is nein, but they’re optimized for inserts by the OEM machine screws available for inserts. Lou

  5. Lou Dawson January 6th, 2014 10:15 am

    D., yes, perhaps the heel spring will prevent binding damage in extreme situations. Good point. But let’s not mistake it for something it is not.

    Be clear. If the heel spring machinery has 6 mm of travel, and the tech gap used to be set at 5.5 to 6 mm and is now near zero (as it is with ION), you have LITTLE TO NO net gain in how much the ski can flex before the boot heel bottoms out against the binding heel. With the new Dynafit Radical heel spring, you combine a tech gap with the heel spring travel, so there might be more allowance for movement. But I’m not sure about that. I have to get both bindings on the bench to really evaluate this. Don’t just blindly assume that in either binding this tiny spring with just a few mm of travel is some kind of answered prayer. I believe some of this is simply an effort for TUV certification and may have little to do with real-life (proof being the zillons of vertical feet skied every day on tech bindings without heel springs).

    We are delighted at how the ION appears to have turned out, but on a scale of 1-10, I’d rate the heel spring feature as a 1 and the bi-directional heel unit with anti-rotation brake lock as a 10. The colors? Probably 11. Lou

  6. zeaphod January 6th, 2014 11:04 am
  7. slcpunk January 6th, 2014 11:35 am

    I don’t see any info on crampons ( or an obvious place to attach them to the toe) … deal killer for me?

  8. Charlie Hagedorn January 6th, 2014 12:12 pm

    Very cool, and a very quick Wildsnow review.

    It’ll be interesting to see how this crop of springloaded heelpieces holds up from a durability/function standpoint. It’s easy to imagine snow getting packed into the volumes that must be clear in order for the heelpost to slide. In summer, at least in Washington, that area may be a magnet for volcanic pumice, too.

    G3 offering an insert screw kit is a nice touch. Sourcing insert screws of the right size and length is annoying for the community and for individual skiers.

    For a binding offered with inserts in mind, a quick-change/removable brake will be important. I have inserts in skis that span 70-125 mm in width, and regularly swap bindings across them.

    Nice work, G3!

  9. Lou Dawson January 6th, 2014 12:20 pm

    SLC, I thought I mentioned the crampons somewhere? The fitting goes under the toe unit, and can also be used on any ski independent of the ION. Rest assured they DO have available crampons. Lou

  10. Charlie Hagedorn January 6th, 2014 12:44 pm

    Whoops – forgot to ask: Are they holding true to one of the Dynafit-standard bolt patterns?

  11. EasTim January 6th, 2014 12:55 pm

    Interesting idea to use the ski brake as a poor man’s crampon. I hope it’s burly though; the loads from taking a skier and his gear on one little brake arm (either laterally or forwards) are a lot more than it takes to stop a runaway ski!

  12. Lou Dawson January 6th, 2014 1:26 pm

    Charlie, NO, but they are designed to offset from such holes so a remount is easy.

    Tim, it’s just a thought, you are correct, it might need to be a much beefier brake!

    Lou

  13. dimitri January 6th, 2014 2:33 pm

    i might of missed it from this extensive write up, but the black toe stop levers/locators, what material are they made out of? do they actually actuation the toes to crimp down or do they just stop the boot and act as a guide?

  14. louis dawson January 6th, 2014 2:44 pm

    D they are made of plastic and just act as a guide. Can easily be removed.

  15. Phil January 6th, 2014 3:12 pm

    I ran into a G3 group doing a photoshoot behind Whistler a few weeks ago and was talking with Lars Andrews about the Ions he was using. He was obviously quite amused by how easy they were to get into. As we were talking about it he was stepping in/out/in/out/in/out very easily/quickly. Not everyone cares about something that makes that easier – but it did appear to work very well.

    [While not surprising, G3 will continue their extremely light ski progression (e.g., ZenOxide105CS) into fatter/rockered skis next season - Lars was pretty happy with the prototypes he was on… I'm sure we'll be hearing more about those later in the spring!]

  16. Charlie Hagedorn January 6th, 2014 4:24 pm

    Whoa, the bolt-pattern thing is a bummer. An understandable design choice, but with a bunch of Dynafit-pattern-inserted skis, it’s hard to switch.

  17. Michael January 6th, 2014 5:14 pm

    Good looking product. If it’s durable I think G3 will have a winner. Reasonably low ramp angle (at least compared to current tech binders), easy to use heel risers, some elasticity in the heel, weight on par with dynafit FTs, etc.

    Compatibility with dynafit mount would be awesome, but understandably not the case. Hell, dynafits have 2 different toe patterns already, and that doesn’t count the beast, which is probably a 3rd. Oh well.

  18. B632 January 6th, 2014 8:10 pm

    Prices are high on a lot of this stuff, I currently ski dynafit radicals. I am putting a new set up together and am looking at Plum, Diamir Vipec 12, and the ION. What do you think? Face value the ION seems to be a good choice. Is there a head to head comparison ??

  19. Jailhouse Hopkins January 6th, 2014 9:20 pm

    Hey Lou, is a remount possible with an existing Vertical mount? Thanks in advance.

  20. Bjorn Naylor January 7th, 2014 12:34 am

    Orange is my favorite color.

  21. Lou Dawson January 7th, 2014 1:27 am

    Jailhouse, you’ll drill new holes but probably doable. G3 told me they intentionally made their hole pattern so it’ll offset from most other pintech binding mounts to avoid screw hole overlap. Lou

  22. Werner Amort January 7th, 2014 1:37 am

    ““Class leader; no other binding with RV12 and brake is lighter”” ?

    I´m lucky to live here in Italy. Here can I buy the ATK Raider 12, with Skistopper RV12 and as optional a realy wide plate for Skis wider than 100mm.
    The binding weights only 330gr. and does a very good job for me.

    I use It for everything, aggresive resort skiing an freeriding.

    works great.

    Greets Werner

  23. Lou Dawson January 7th, 2014 1:54 am

    Werner, true. I should have written my commentary slightly different in that I agree ION is indeed light weight for a “freeride” tech binding with brake, but not necessarily the “leader.” In fact, it would be hard to pick a “leader” since the definition of “freeride” is not any sort of standard, so the word “class” is ambiguous. Main thing is that ION weight is totally reasonable for what you get. Lou

  24. dimitri January 7th, 2014 4:04 am

    hole pattern makes sense i suppose to avoid overlap, but would have been nice to see some compatibility there.

    B632: if you are looking at PLUM, i can highly recommend them. the newest incarnations have a lot of improvements over the first couple of generations that had some toe breakages and heel unit plastic issues. i suppose im most happy about never have had any pre-release issues with them (86 kg), so they at least work for me.

    I’m really liking the look of this binding though and their latest video is very well done too, i think G3 have a winner here if testing doesn’t uncover any drastic issues. few questions thou, is this die-cast aluminum? what type if so?

  25. werner amort January 7th, 2014 4:15 am

    i totaly agree with you :-)
    Anyway if someone maybe is interested in the Raider 12.
    I wrote a mini review in the austrian forum in german, with many pictures

    Greets
    W

    Hope the link is ok

    http://www.gipfeltreffen.at/showthread.php?72873-ATK-Raider-12-mein-erster-Eindruck

  26. Geoff January 15th, 2014 9:34 am

    A minor quibble: after 8 years of backcountry skiing in the German-speaking Alps (including working at a Dynafit Test Center in Tyrol for a spell), I have never once heard the term “pintech” used.
    Most Europeans I know refer to all tech bindings as “Dynafit (style),” similar to the way we in the U.S. often refer to all facial tissues as Kleenex. I always thought this was a nice (if unconscious) tribute to the original inventors of the binding, especially now that the patents are long expired, and think it would be a shame for that subtle gesture to be replaced by such a contrived-sounding word.
    Then again, maybe my European ski pals and I are just a bunch of fuddy-duddy paleoliths who aren’t tapped in to the dynamic, fast-changing world of backcountry ski lingo.

  27. Lou Dawson January 15th, 2014 9:51 am

    Geoff, indeed, I’m not sure the word ‘pintech’ is going to fly, but I can tell you that using the word ‘Dynafit’ to speak of any tech binding is something that will fade due to dozens of binding makers who are NOT Dynafit speaking about their products in a small community of skiers. Believe me, the marketing branding guys are going to be working overtime on all this now. Lou

  28. Mat January 25th, 2014 8:08 pm

    Are the brakes removable (i.e. can the bindings be used – are they functional – w/o brakes)? Can’t seem to find this addressed anywhere. I’m not a race binding type of guy (don’t trust them for the way I like to ski), but like to lighten my load as much as possible and prefer tech bindings w/o brakes. The ION’s seem like they’d be nice, if possible to drop the extra weight of brakes and still maintain functionality.

  29. Marc February 16th, 2014 8:58 pm

    Thanks for the review Lou. Looks like G3 might be on to something here, which would be great in light of the Onyx flop. Like you, I’d be interested to see if the brake was removable, as I don’t tour with brakes on any of my tech bindings – Dynafit or Plum. I am curious about the ski crampons and how they attach as well and whether other brands of ski crampons are compatible. I’m looking forward to learning more.

    As far as “pintech” is concerned, I’m with Geoff… double thumbs down! I feel like “tech binding” is just starting to be used and understood here in the States, rather than always calling them Dynafits (even if they aren’t Dynafits) – why do we gotta start calling them something else, specially a wimpy name like “pintech”!

    Cheers, Marc

  30. Mike May 7th, 2014 9:06 pm

    Any idea how much weight the ski crampon attachment will add?

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Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information opinion website and e magazine. Lou's passion for the past 45 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about backcountry skiing and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free back country news and information here, and tons of Randonnee rando telemark info.

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