Fritschi Vipec Factory Tourism

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This post by WildSnow.com blogger  

Some folks think I’m nuts, but I have just as much fun visiting ski touring equipment factories as I do Europe’s historic cities, lakes and mountains (though the ultimate gasthaus might be superior to any of those). The Fritschi plant in Switzerland looks, well, Swiss. Clean and well lit, lots of space. Binding parts everywhere along with specialized assembly machines and jigs, much of the stuff made custom in their own machine shop.

The release checker in video above is important. They run every binding toe through it and record the results. Serial number is stored along with the numbers in a database. We watched several tests and the results were impressively consistent. Way closer than what I recall the DIN/ISO binding standard allows for variation.

Where is the Vipec? Can you spot the telemark binding? Ever use it?

Where is the Vipec ski touring binding? Can you spot the telemark binding? Ever use it?

Aha, a Vipec toe in 'walk' mode, with small white plastic tab (circled) jammed in slot to block play in the binding.

Aha, a Vipec backcountry skiing toe in 'walk' mode, with small white plastic tab (circled) jammed in slot to block play in the binding.

Play that the 'lockout' blocks is caused by the release mechanism. Shown here, the 'carriage' that slides left and right, allowing the binding to open up and hopefully prevent things like ripping ligaments.

Play that the 'lockout' blocks is caused by the release mechanism. Shown here, the 'carriage' that slides left and right, allowing the binding to open up and hopefully prevent things like ripping ligaments.

At this station, the carriage gets more assembly. Manufacturing of individual parts happens around Europe, final assembly is at Fritschi facility here in Switzerland.

At this station in the plant, the Vipec toe carriage gets more assembly. Manufacturing of individual binding parts happens around Europe, final assembly is at Fritschi facility here in Switzerland.

Brakes for Diamir bindings, similar selection will be available for Vipec only with Vipec you'll simply swap in the metal arms.

Brakes for Diamir ski touring bindings, similar selection will be available for Vipec, only with Vipec you'll simply swap in the metal arms.

The 3-D printer. These things are so radical. Soon just about anything you buy will be printed at the UPS store.

The 3-D printer. These things are so radical. Soon just about anything you buy will be printed at a local location? Even ski bindings?

Ah, lunch. One of the best potato soups I've ever had and the historic gasthaus wasn't too shabby. During these press trips we appreciate being hosted to authentic local cuisine, even if it seems a yawner to the locals.

Ah, lunch. One of the best potato soups I've ever had and the historic gasthaus wasn't too shabby. During these press trips we appreciate being hosted to authentic local cuisine, even if it seems a yawner to the locals.

Brakes? We have brakes!

Brakes? We have brakes!

Screws? We have screws!

Screws? We have screws!

Assembly is mostly a hand process, automation of this is quite difficult.

Assembly of this backcountry skiing binding is mostly a hand process, automation of this is quite difficult.

Yeah, we published this before but did it again. The adjustable toe pin is factory set to what Fritschi feels is the 'standard' pintech width dimension. And indeed, it's adjustable because no real standard exists.

Yeah, we published this before but did it again. The adjustable toe pin on Vipec is factory set to what Fritschi feels is the 'standard' pintech width dimension. And indeed, it IS adjustable because no real standard exists.

Safety release checker screen, see video above.

In our Switzerland hotel we watched watch wide-screen TV, it's tuned to the Fritschi binding safety release checking machinery. Seriously, anywhere in the country you can hit channel 142 and see the Fritschi release checker, real-time action. See video above for an example. Remember, channel 142 for binding checker action!

Each binding is packed with a user manual stamped with the binding serial number.

Each binding is packed with a user manual stamped with the binding serial number. This occurs after the safety release check, the data set of which is stored for later retrieval if for example someone does get hurt while using a binding.

Packing is done by hand, carefully arranged.

Packing is done by hand, carefully arranged.

Heel unit, showing the length adjustment 'forward pressure' spring.

Heel unit, showing the length adjustment 'forward pressure' spring.

Reception area has a nice historical display.

Reception area has a nice historical display.

The binding toe side units (wings) are pressed from hollow aluminum pieces, very strong.

The binding toe side units (wings) are pressed from hollow aluminum pieces, very strong.

Since the question keeps coming up, another photo of Vipec in walk mode showing how the

Since the question keeps coming up, another photo of Vipec in walk mode showing how the small white plastic tab inserts into a slot and blocks some of the toe carriage movement. Again, know that this is NOT a release lockout, the binding can still easily safety release in tour mode.

The usual CAD action, but it always looks good.

The usual CAD action we see during most industry visits, but it always looks good.

And finally, what I was told is an injection molding masterpiece.

And finally, what I was told is an injection molding masterpiece.

In all, a fun visit that inspired a lot of confidence in what Fritschi is doing with tech ‘pintech’ backcountry skiing bindings.

Comments

12 Responses to “Fritschi Vipec Factory Tourism”

  1. Matus January 15th, 2014 3:00 am

    Interesting report. Did they allow you to see all that you desired? No verboten zones in the factory?

    I would let others adopt and user-test the bindings for at least 2 seasons. With such a new approach and change of paradigma, there is a great chance that reality will reveal unknown imperfections.

    Yes, I am one of Tristep owners;)

  2. Lou Dawson January 15th, 2014 3:41 am

    Matus, they were quite relaxed. Perhaps put a few things away before we got there, but it was yes, relaxed. Nice guys. Fun. Lou

  3. Greg January 15th, 2014 5:39 am

    Skyhoy telemark binding right in the middle of the first photo. I skied them once. Not bad for resort skiing. The design was way ahead of it’s time, although durability issues killed it.

  4. Frame January 15th, 2014 6:09 am

    Only moderately nuts for enjoying the binding factory visits, the needle starts to head up the scale when you are watching it on TV at the hotel.
    I’d visit a binding or ski factory at the drop of a hat, though there would be a lot of withering looks if I tried to take my wife with me.

  5. Lou Dawson January 15th, 2014 7:42 am

    Frame, good on you for catching the joke. Let’s see if the Fritschi boys catch it (grin). Lou

  6. Mark W January 15th, 2014 8:19 am

    Amazing the apparent depth of that owner’s manual. Some similar pintech bindings have reduced the manual to virtually no useful information–and they used to come with mounting instructions (no more). Can’t wait to see these Vipecs in a couple seasons. Oh, and I did see a pair of Tri-Steps in use in Montana recently. Guess a few survived unscathed.

  7. Andy January 15th, 2014 10:37 am

    I too skied some skyhoys. I think they might still exist up in the barn somewhere.

  8. Tim January 15th, 2014 10:55 am

    I too had the Skyhoys. I liked how they skied. I found the brake to be near impossible to step into so ended up running them with leashes. They were way ahead of their time.

    Soon after the Linken binding hit big popularity and I moved to them, better for touring.

  9. Ben2 January 15th, 2014 11:04 am

    What’s truly impressive are the amount of machine tools in your hotel room along with the binding checker TV. In the US, all I ever get is a little coffee machine. Must put visiting Schweiz on the to do list.

  10. gringo January 16th, 2014 6:00 pm

    wow, Skyhoy’s and a Gurten beer in the same post…..only on Wild Snow!

  11. Dan January 23rd, 2014 10:58 pm

    I love all the info on this site about these bindings. One of the only places online right now with actual hands-on experience. So my real question for you, Lou, is this: given your ski tour with these bindings, combined with the factory tour, would you be an early adopter? I understand the risk with “first-run” products, but somebody has to do it, right?

    I need to replace an old Fritschi Freeride rig for a big trip this spring, and already use Radicals on another setup, but a lot of the features in these bindings seem really appealing. How comfortable would you be using these on a multi-day trip? Any concerns about the amount of plastic vs metal? Other thoughts? Thanks.

  12. Lou Dawson January 24th, 2014 2:29 am

    I’d never use a first-year product on a multi-day trip. That’s just plain dumb in my opinion, looking at past history of nearly all binding brands… sad but true.

    Regarding plastic. Know that many of the failures in past bindings have been the METAL parts. It’s not a matter of plastic vs metal, everyone needs to get over that misconception about materials engineering.

    Lou

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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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