CAST Binding Review


This post by WildSnow.com blogger  

Mark Zitelli

DPS Spoon, Cast and Dynafit toes.

DPS Spoon, Cast and Dynafit toes. Marker Lord used for heel and alpine toe. Click images to enlarge.

My take on using DPS Spoons with the CAST system: I was surprised with how easy everything was. I was half expecting field use to be a pain after Lou and I found the installation to be a bit tedious due to screw length issues. Instead, CAST was user friendly once the shop work was done.

Putting the plates in and out took a little fidgeting (and by little I mean 5 seconds and only with the Marker plate) but once they were in, the shop sessions and hardware store trips were an afterthought.

(Note, for a detailed look at how this system works, please see our previous CAST post.)

Having a big ski like this with tech touring function is amazing for the uphill. I have been struggling with my Moment Comis and Marker F12′s for two years now. Every time I tour with them I have serious knee pain from the way the binding pivots (frankenstride) combined with lifting weight, but CAST combined with Dynafit toe totally took care of that and the weight of the Lord heel piece didn’t feel like it made much difference.

The hidden penalty of frame touring bindings is you lift the binding up with each step; CAST eliminates that, so perhaps that’s why it felt better than expected. Nonetheless, know that the main purpose of CAST is to allow skiing downhill with a full alpine binding while touring with a tech toe. The weight savings is a byproduct and varies according to which alpine binding you use with the system, as the alpine binding heel unit remains on the ski while you climb.

Riding Spoon, Hayden Peak, Colorado.

Riding Spoon, Hayden Peak, Colorado. CAST configured with Marker Lord for descent.

Configured for touring.

Configured for touring.

The up track in Marble, Colorado was nothing more than some dust on crust and even when kicking the edges into side hill, I couldn’t tell there was a touch of play with the plates. Overall, they were super solid on the uphill and as soon as I clicked in for the downhill they felt locked and loaded.

The Spoons were a total trip as well. As soon as I clicked in for the uphill, I was driving an Airbus A380. They were light and agile with a great swing weight, but they are huge, blowing out the sides of the skin track like a bulldozer. Because the rocker is so dramatic, combined with slight forward positioning of the Dynafit binding I needed to back weight the heel a little to get the proper purchase on the snow. Typically I can lead with my nose on the steep up-track, but with these it felt much more like leading with the naval so I wouldn’t slip back. It certainly wasn’t the fastest I have skinned up, but I would say it still beat the Comis.

West Elks, Colorado.

West Elks, Colorado. CAST. Spoon.

The downhill took a couple laps to get a grasp for what the skis wanted to do. When I tipped the skis over the lip of the bowl, it was like the guy in Avitar trying to fly the dragon. Spoons just want to go FAST. These aren’t powder farming skis. They want big fast turns and even with the 6-7″ we found on the east side of the bowl, the fluff wasn’t slowing them down. As soon as my weight was a little back, it was full acceleration… and so much fun.

I have to say that I have been super impressed with the bindings and the system. It certainly isn’t foolproof, but I would recommend it over something like the Duke or even the lighter F12. Touring with the Dynafit toe piece makes all the difference in the world for me and while I haven’t tried to fidget with the bindings during some nasty stormy weather, some of the turns this weekend were getting a little wet and there does seem to be a little snow that gets in the plates while touring. I could see that being a problem if ice forms. I have been using a small flathead screwdriver to scrape the plate and slide the downhill bindings in. I’d say at most it adds one minute to a transition, but I don’t think anyone is racing on a ski with 148 underfoot.

CAST in full touring mode.

CAST in full touring mode.

Lou says that publishing weights of this system is like talking about the fuel economy of his Silverado 2500. Sure, in touring mode the increase in efficiency as compared to the same setup with a Duke or F12 is noticeable, and you don’t get that twisting stuff going on with sidehills. But in truth, rather than overall weight the added efficiency probably has more to do with the ergonomic toe pivot of a tech binding, as well as not lifting a frame binding each step. In other words, if you’re weight focused don’t lose sight of the main purpose for CAST: It allows you to tour with an efficient touring binding setup — and ski down with an alpine binding.

At any rate, we did get some current weights from the freeriders at CAST, per ski:

Look Pivot 18 alpine binding (lighter bindings are available), 1250g stock without cast (2500g per pair).

CAST with the alpine components, 1480g (2960g per pair) which would be a difference of 230g per ski.

CASt with Dynafit Speed Radical toe and Look heel components 1135g .

Comments

25 Responses to “CAST Binding Review”

  1. Jason Gregg June 24th, 2014 10:20 am

    The toe piece slop seems to be a common “issue”, but it’s so minimal, I guess it doesn’t really matter. I get it wanting the full alpine binding for the down for skis like this, they really do encourage very high speed powder skiing. Personally, I’m leaning on Quiver Killer’s for mine, I’ll run tech when it’s a touring day and Lord’s when it’s not.

  2. Lou Dawson June 24th, 2014 11:26 am

    I checked the play, it is so minimal as to be a non issue. Remember the heel unit is screwed to the ski.

  3. OMR June 24th, 2014 11:38 am

    Not sure what the point is on those bindings. Seems like half a commitment to two extremes. I hear folks complain about the “feel” of a tech binding, but they’ve always been rock solid for me. I ski Dukes when riding lifts and, if anything, the Dukes are more prone to pre-releases than my Dynafits. That said, when skiing inbounds I ski bumps whereas out of bounds it’s powder.

  4. Lou Dawson June 24th, 2014 12:00 pm

    Well, for example, sometimes guys who do freeride competition need to tour a bit, or, folks just ski in a way that an alpine binding is totally appropriate for, and a touring binding simply is not.

    Remember the saying “It’s a (fill in the blank) thing, you wouldn’t understand?”

    CAST should have their website lead titled: “It’s a Freeride thing, you wouldn’t understand.” (grin)

    Disclaimer: Above is not intended in any way shape or form to disparage freeride, but is rather and attempt at levity about overall ski culture, of which freeride is an important part.

  5. Tom June 24th, 2014 1:32 pm

    The CAST system really does fill a gap for some skiers. I’m what you would call a ‘freerider’ – I just prefer to call myself a skier. When its appropriate I like to be able to ski hard, fast and take solid air. Some days I tour on a super lightweight carbon setup with plum guides, and ski them as they are intended. As it turns out you can do most things on them. Other days I tour on a slightly fatter ski with the guide, its a great set up when things are a bit deeper. But no matter which way you slice and dice it, you can’t ski really hard on tech bindings. By hard I mean DIN at 15 on a full metal race binding – going really fast, jumping off stuff and having a great time – it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for plenty of people it is. This is where the CAST system is amazing. Dukes and Guardians suck due to frame weight per step. CAST allows tech (ish) touring performance on the up, on a binding that lets you ski how you want to. Would I use it everyday? NO. Is it nice to have when the conditions are good and the location is appropriate to riskier skiing? YES.

  6. Jason Gregg June 24th, 2014 2:09 pm

    Mark were you able to play with mount point much on these skis? Mine came with rental Marker plates so I was a bit, and i’m now planning on going with Quiver Killers. Guess I’m thinking +2 for the tech mount point and +3 for the Alpine one. That’s assuming the hole spacing works out. I’d consider staying with +2 for the Alpine but then I couldn’t use any of the existing toe piece holes and given the limited time I’ve had on these, about 6 days worth, I’m thinking +3 will be fine with Alpine boot/binding.

  7. Lou Dawson June 24th, 2014 2:23 pm

    Tom, perfect, thanks!

  8. Joe Risi June 24th, 2014 4:19 pm

    Tom I 100% agree. There is a gap it fills. After seeing Lars Chickering-Ayers(one of the founders of CAST) ski his home mountain of Mad River Glen I agree its not for everyone. Super tight trees, mandatory 25ft+ jumps, rock exposed blue ice to powder conditions, and skiied at way past machsnell is the way Lars skis. I honestly don’t know of many that would be able to keep up with him and I sure as hell wouldn’t want to be on tech bindings trying to do so.

    Watch any of his videos from the Freeride World Tour and you’ll understand why he always is on the podium.

    For skiers that are pushing the envelope in venues and specific backcountry locations it’s ideal.

    Additionally I tap my hat to a product that was successful on Kickstarter and is 100% made in the USA.

  9. Lou Dawson June 24th, 2014 4:24 pm

    Ditto on Kickstarter, very cool. Lou

  10. gowgo June 24th, 2014 5:29 pm

    CAST system can using Dynafit Crampons?

    I did few questions about CAST system.
    But I disappointed they ignored my questions.
    Do not intend to sell outside the United States?

  11. Tom June 25th, 2014 12:59 am

    Joe, Lars (and Silas) are pretty dam impressive skiers! I think there’s a couple of interesting discussions in this space:

    1.) The new Marker [tech] package must follow a fairly similar concept…?
    2.) I’m from NZ (New Zealand). Over here there is still a real reluctance to use tech bindings. Lots of people still using framed bindings. While we are starting to see more of them people have this perception that on our snow (tends to be harder and variable) tech bindings just don’t perform. I disagree, but – there’s definitely a real market for non tech systems here in NZ. I think CAST and the new tech developments will do well here.

  12. Frame June 25th, 2014 6:44 am

    Apologies for potential topic drift. Is their any strong opinion on the usefulness of the Lord binding toe piece with it’s ability to handle alpine and touring boot soles? I have Dynafit Titan’s, so can swap sole blocks, but interested to hear if I could lock in the touring sole blocs for use in wither AT or alpine bindings and save a minute or two of faff (and in doing so look the shizzle in the lift line).

    Thanks for the review of the Cast system, agree it’s a niche, but could be useful if you have one set of ski’s (&/or flying and needing to limit baggage), but keeping a degree of flexibility in how you get up the mountain.

  13. Jon June 25th, 2014 7:30 am

    Great review, Mark. I also used the CAST this season, also on DPS (Wailer 112s) and really enjoyed the setup. Wrote my own review (http://bit.ly/1jhWRmF) recently and wanted to share that the main drawback I found this year was it’s not always the quickest transition when swapping the toe piece out in the field. Ice and snow got into the forward groove of the toe plate every time and needed to be scraped out with a sharp edge in order to let the Lord piece get fully locked in. But a small price to pay for best-of-both-worlds ability on either end. Looks like you had a blast on them!

  14. Drew Tabke June 25th, 2014 1:08 pm

    Good review. Toe slop that could be an issue is in touring mode… This was intentional over earlier versions to make sliding plates in easier with a little bit of snow buildup. So now, there is a slight amount of play that may stress the lock pin through excessive use. Not an issue in ski mode as the heel binding maintains forward pressure. But as mentioned, Lars is pretty much the ultimate field tester so they are definitely very burly.

    I’ve found icing to be an issue sometimes, but you learn to knock skis and plates clean before switch overs and is rarely an issue. Snow gets in the system during transitions, not skiing. Lars has milled up a bunch of multitools/scrapers specific to the binding, ask him for one if you’re getting a setup.

    My main gripe is changeover time, but that’s only an issue when doing lots of changes. Generally for longer runs/side country it isn’t bothersome. Integrated brake retention is a definite missing piece.

    Re: this guy, “Not sure what the point is on those bindings.” I think many backcountry-centric skiers may be unfamiliar or unconcerned with concepts of alpine equipment performance. You might feel solid skiing bumps on your dynafits under the liftline, but to everyone witnessing this, it is truly horrifying. For a skier with a solid alpine foundation the benefits of the CAST setup (zero torsional flex, power transfer from boot through binding to ski, wide screw pattern, low stack height) are readily obvious.

  15. SteveR June 25th, 2014 3:48 pm

    Did you remove the brakes from the Marker Lords Mark? Would be interesting to know your thoughts about that.

  16. Parker June 25th, 2014 6:06 pm

    @SteveR

    DPS Spoons are 150mm wide, can’t find brakes for that!

  17. Lou Dawson June 25th, 2014 6:07 pm

    Steve, the bindings did undergo an brakektomy. Mark never falls and with the bindings set to DIN 19 he wouldn’t come out anyway (grin). Lou

  18. Jeremy June 27th, 2014 2:48 pm

    My 2 ski quiver consists of DPS 112RP Quiver Killer mounted for Dynafit Radical STs and Marker Lord SPs, and DPS Spoons Quiver Killer mounted for the Marker Lords. This was mainly to minimize weight when flying, so I only needed one pair of boots.

    I agree with the reviewer (Mark), the Spoon’s are so much fun in even the smallest amount of powder, and they are much more versatile than the deep powder ski DPS markets them as.

    Whether I want to tour on the Spoon’s would depend greatly on the conditions when ascending. The Spoon only gives you a very short ‘edge’ underfoot (15″ or 35cm), so traversing hard snow pack would be an issue. But if there is any powder on the way down, it would probably be worth it.

    To answer some of the questions:

    1.The Marker Lord 132mm brake can easily be bent outwards to work correctly as brakes. A little grinding of the inner plastic tips is required though. However, they are not great for locking the skis together when carrying them due to the extreme rocker, so some form of ski tie is pretty much mandatory for any distance.

    2. The Lord toe piece works very well for both AT and alpine boots. I have Atomic Waymakers110 Tours and the different in toe height between the touring and alpine soles is around 8mm. To avoid constant sole plate swapping I last season I usually left the AT soles on, and used the Radicals on the 112RP’s and the Lords on the Spoons.

    It is nice to see another pair of the limited edition Spoon’s in the wide, as according to the DPS importer, I have the only pair in the UK. I did not see another pair in Canada or Switzerland.

  19. Jason June 28th, 2014 12:43 am

    May be too cost prohibitive, but if there was a way to do custom inserted tech fittings on alpine boots (for uphill ONLY: wouldn’t even need to be that precise, it could be just something that the binding can clamp on to), it seems like they could really provide what is wanted by the target market.

  20. ObeeWhaaaFreeNobi June 28th, 2014 7:18 am

    Jason! Get yer web surfin’ mojo on! CAST does that as a service!

    I can’t say a whole lot about what I’ve seen out there, but I can say that having the TOE fittings just for the uphill is most certainly going to be a trend. In fact, I would go so far as to predict that you’ll see toe fittings in a wide variety of boots within 24 months, including in alpine climbing boots for approach use.

    ObeeWhaa has spoken.

  21. Brian June 29th, 2014 8:23 pm

    Was on the CAST system this year. To me, the biggest difference was heel retention when sending larger cliffs. In Dynafits, once I get above about 20′, my heel starts releasing, unless perfectly balanced. if it wasn’t for this, I’d probably be on Dynafit most days. Most days, midwinter (Jan-Apr), I ski a lot of sidecountry, almost all powder, about 3-5 lines per ski day, each line having 1-3 20′-40′ cliffs. I used to use Dukes (heel release value degrades – had to run it higher). Going to CAST with STH was a major improvement on both ends. After being on Dukes for 3 years, I had forgotten how poorly they ski inbounds. It was a noticable improvement going back to STHs on the few days I’d spend mostly inbounds. Dynafit on the up? Different worlds. I knew what to expect, as I ski Dynafit a lot, later in the season, but it was so nice having that Dynafit stride all winter long. Much more effecient, especially when sidehilling.

    Slop when touring (none when skiing) was never really an issue. You can definitely feel it, but it doesn’t affect effeciency or anything like that. Just a tad annoying until you get used to it – you do.

    Icing is definitely an issue and would be way better if the Dynafit plate was longer – its shorter than the base plate, which allows snow to build up in the slide-in tracks when skinning, not just when transitioning (contrary to what Drew mentions). Cleaning ice/snow out was pretty common in spring, but not a big deal. Maybe a minute at most. The black diamond tail clip is the perfect size for cleaning.

    That said, I did have one real problem from this. One day I was unable to get snow and ice cleaned out (left my skis in the car overnight), so I couldn’t get the Dynafit plates to lock in. I bootpacked and was able to slide the alpine toes in, unlocked, and then stepped into the binding. The forward pressure kept everything tight and functioning, and the ski down was just like always, but it sucked bootpacking that day. So, not bad overall, just don’t let your skis/plates freeze with snow left on them, overnight!

    I’d buy this product again in a heartbeat. You still feel the extra weight, but the effeciency in stride is huge. Love being back in real alpine bindings for the ski down, as well (Dukes can find the trash bin). Not a Dynafit replacement – still use them late spring and summer – but a wonderful compliment for someone that skis hard.

  22. Brian June 29th, 2014 8:59 pm

    Oh, also forgot to mention that I used Cochise 120 with tech soles. The STH gave me enough adjustment to get predictable and normal releases in this configuration.

  23. Frame June 30th, 2014 6:02 am

    Thanks for the review and all the comments.

  24. See June 30th, 2014 10:14 am

    I’m tempted to try using my AT boots with alpine bindings, but the lugged sole-afd interface looks dicey to me. Seems like it would be pretty easy to put a smooth, flat spot on a lugged and rockered boot sole with tech fittings. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen one in real life.

  25. Maz June 30th, 2014 6:12 pm

    June, I’ve been skiing Scarpa Maestrales in Salomon STHs for three years now. The STH’s adjust a lot, so I only did the slightest flat spot using a sharp, straight bread knife. Yep, very easy to control, and it cuts cleanly as opposed to messy sanding.
    I have NOT had them DIN tested, but have done all the usual subjective tests: twisting, whacking, punching the boots to release, and I’ve never felt them to be sticky or awkward.
    Imagine how more smoothly a three year old, well-worn plastic DIN sole would release than a clean Vibram sole? That’s right, it wouldn’t.
    Just my $0.05 worth, and sorry about the thread drift :-)

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