G3 Onyx Backcountry Skiing AT Binding Review

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This post by WildSnow.com blogger  
New G3 Onyx binding.

G3 Onyx binding.

G3’s web-site and launch of Onyx AT binding to the world is a model of sophistication. Onyx is scheduled to be released into production in March of 2009. In development for more than three years, Onyx is G3’s entry to the category of bindings known as “tech.” These are binding systems (originated under the Dynafit brand but now public domain) where boots are held only at the toe, without the binding heel attached to the boot during touring mode; attributes which contribute to an ephemeral feeling of weightlessness in the touring stride.

(Onyx weight is specified by G3 at 1430g / 50oz, with screws, pair of bindings. While heavier than Dynafit, Onyx is still light compared to bindings such as Fritschi Freeride, and again, you’re not doing extra lifting of the binding during every stride.)

Backcountry Skiing

Onyx heel unit, the heel lifters are easy to flip up and down.

NOTE: I only had a day on the binding with one tour uphill and one run down, during which I tried to immerse myself in its technical features. To be fair, that’s not enough time for a considered discussion of any binding’s performance. Therefore a review of Onyx’s on-snow action will follow once we’ve used the binding extensively.

Backcountry Skiing

Oliver Steffen and Dave Norona skinning up in new G3 skis, skins and bindings

Disassembly and field servicing
Onyx can be easily adjusted, disassembled and overhauled. Parts will be stocked by G3 dealers with prices to be set when Onyx is shipped. Different levels of disassembly and binding adjustments require different tools (#3 Posidrive;Torx T10; #1 Phillips). Details for this will be provided in the manuals and on G3′s website.

Base plate mounting system
Perhaps the salvation of skiers on a budget, Onyx is mounted on a plate that allows swapping bindings between skis. (“Perhaps” because the price of the plate is yet undetermined.) The plate mounts with the same screw hole pattern as Dynafit. The binding is placed on rails on the mounting plate; position is adjusted with machine screw. Because the toe and heel position can be adjusted independently (the toe has three mounting positions so you can tune ski performance somewhat) you can maintain boot sole center on a ski even after adjusting for different boots. Onyx can be swapped between plated skis in about eight minutes.

Backcountry Skiing

Oliver gets leashed by Tele the wonder dog.

DIN settings
G3’s full TUV test facility at its premises got a workout during Onyx design. G3’s engineers drew their inspiration from release and flex curves of alpine bindings; unofficially, Oliver Steffen of G3 cited the Look turntable heel’s “return to center” characteristics as a standard for which to strive. As described to me, this means if a sudden shock or impact administered over an exceedingly short time span (eg. hitting a hard bump in the snow while skiing fast) temporarily causes the boot to almost pull sideways off Onyx’s heelpiece, the heelpiece will tend to return to its center position, allowing the skier and the ski to remain united. Conversely, a longer duration shock (eg. an avalanche or a twisting fall at slow speed) will overcome return-to-center characteristics, causing the binding to release.

If you are in ski mode and pull up on the toe-piece lever you get an increase in the effective lateral DIN of Onyx, a feature G3 calls “DIN Boost.” The fact that G3 endorses the use of this feature in downhill ski mode puzzled me in this risk-averse, liability-fearing world of binding manufacturing and design. After all, you can do this with Dynafit as well, but it has never been endorsed by the company.

Backcountry Skiing

Onyx toe unit, marked area designed to flex even when binding is locked with DIN Booster engaged.

G3’s confidence in the safe use of this DIN boost feature became more clear when it was explained that DIN boost does not rely on static friction built into the toe lever that would effectively lockout the toe-piece, thus making a skier locked into a ski. Instead, a structural component of the toe-piece is designed to flex (see photo above). Accordingly, DIN when boosted is higher but still elastic (G3 unofficially pegs effective DIN as approximately 14 when using the Booster).

Toepiece
Onyx was designed for easy step-in. There is a hard boot stop on the toe piece so tech fittings at the toe do not need to aligned with toe pins. You simply slide your toe forward on the toe piece where its meets the boot stop, then depress the toe lever to open the pins and allow the pins to engage the boot. Features of note:
1. ALL boots with tech fittings are Onyx-compatible.
2. Onyx is not adversely affected by boots with worn or poorly machined rubber as the boot sole is not involved in engaging the toe clamping mechanism.
3. Since the toe jaws are always down Onyx is not susceptible to icing up under the toe piece. Ice simply has no space to build up.
4. The toe jaws have quite a bit of clamping force. You need to press down on the toe lever (I used a pole) with more force then you might think to open the jaws; something I got used to in about ten minutes. This strong clamping force may assist with clearing ice out of your toe fittings (a common problem with tech bindings).
5. According to G3 you don’t need to use the “DIN Booster” to lock out the toe when touring. This implies that you would have some degree of safety release in touring mode. While making straightforward touring strides I did stay in without locking, but I popped out when I made aggressive snap kick turns deliberately trying to test toe retention. Thus, my short experience with Onyx found me engaging the tour lever while in touring mode.
6. You will need a shim if you are using a flexible bellows boot.

I found it easy to get in and out of the toe piece — during limited test circumstances and ideal conditions. Verdict is out when it comes to more challenging, realistic conditions (eg., wet heavy snow, steep slopes, side hills etc.).


Heel unit

Boots in Onyx latched heel mode rest on heel pins, sharing a similar design trait to the Dynafit and other tech systems. Six millimeters of clearance is required between the boot’s heel fitting and the binding heel piece. The heel lifters rest on the top of the heel piece and on the heel pins.

Backcountry Skiing

Onyx heel piece being prepared for ski mode -- an easy press with the ski pole.

1. Ergonomics are excellent. You don’t have to bend down to change from ski to tour mode and vice-versa. A heel piece lever latch is easily engaged to accomplish this.
2. Ditto with respect to the heel lifts. Little tension is required to move heel lifters up and down.
3. It is easy to take skins on and off without taking off skis.

Summary
Other key aspects of the Onyx are on our list for review (brakes and crampons are obvious). We also need to test Onyx over a meaningful period of time before touring, skiing and useability can be assessed in the thorough style WildSnow is known for. However, at first glance, Onyx is a binding which has received a considerable amount of thought and refinement and I look forward to acquainting myself with a pair.

Our other G3 Onyx blog posts.

(Guest blogger Lee Lau is an avid skier and outdoorsman embarking on many adventures with his loving, and sometimes concerned wife, Sharon. He has over 15 years of experience skiing, ski-touring and dabbles in mountaineering. In the “off-season” he is occasionally found working in his day job as an intellectual property lawyer when he is not mountain biking. As a resident of Vancouver, British Columbia, Lee’s playground extends mainly to Western Canada, including South West B.C. and the Selkirks.)

Comments

82 Responses to “G3 Onyx Backcountry Skiing AT Binding Review”

  1. Gregg Cronn February 20th, 2009 10:31 am

    Nice write up Lee. Can’t wait for a long term report. The ability to switch between skiis is a big advantage. I can see mounting these on my gordo skiis and switching them to my touring skiis.

  2. Bob February 20th, 2009 10:55 am

    As a point of reference….it just took me 7 weeks, numerous emails and 2 shipments to get the correct (simple) warranty parts from G3 for my tele bindings. Be careful if you plan to depend on them….you may lose a number of ski days. I was less than impressed by their level of customer support.

  3. John Gloor February 20th, 2009 12:23 pm

    I just bought my first pair of “tech” bindings yesterday, going with the TLT FT 12, which Dynafit lists at 500 grams with the 92 mm brakes. Is this new G3 binding really close to THREE times the weight at 1430 grams, or am I leaving some Dynafit component weight (brakes) out? The adjustability and swapability of the G3 don’t seem worth the weight gain if that’s the case, but please let me know if I have it wrong.

  4. Lee Lau February 20th, 2009 12:39 pm

    John,

    That’s the weight on one FT12.

  5. Lou February 20th, 2009 12:49 pm

    According to G3 website, Onyx is 1440 g, 50 oz for a PAIR. Unclear if that’s with brakes or without.

    Also, we weighed the FT12 and our real-world result was 560 grams, 19.8 oz for one binding, or 1120 grams, 39.6 oz for a pair.

    Thus, according to specs G3 weighs 320 grams, 10.4 ounces more per pair than a pair of Dynafit FT.

    It remains to be seen EXACTLY what the G3 binding will weigh in the real world, as the production version will no doubt be slightly different, and the brake might be a factor.

    Gloor, just know WildSnow has a couple of really big strong guys testing FT12, and they’ve been doing fine.

    Our weight chart: http://www.wildsnow.com/articles/weights/backcountry-skiing-weights.html

  6. John Gloor February 20th, 2009 1:01 pm

    Lee, thanks for clarifying that for me. Almost deceptive of Dynafit as everyone else lists pair weights for skis and bindings. The FT12 is still 1/2 Fritschi weight and 2/3 of the G3 though. If G3 lost the porky rail plate, any idea what their binding would weigh? I don’t care about binding swapability. Just speaking for myself, when I shopped for a Tech binding, I was looking for high DIN and low binding weight as the main criteria and the Dynafit appealed to me the most. Other than the mass of the plate, the Onyx seems like a well thought out binding.

  7. Evan Stevens February 20th, 2009 3:53 pm

    Whoa folks, these things were a disaster at the trade show! I broke a toe piece clear off the ski on a groomer on my second run…a direct result of the base plate mounting system that lets you swap between skis. It cracked in half, leaving the toe piece on my boot and the ski somewhere in the woods. The Din 9-10 settings were totally undependable as well, lots of weird play and releases on groomers. Apparently a small woman ( I am a big guy 190lbs) broke a heel piece off a ski as well.

    As far as I am concerned they need some more development time…not quite there yet…and they are heavier, and less dependable! Beware!

  8. Bryce February 20th, 2009 4:34 pm

    Wow, Evan. I didn’t hear anything about that at the trade show. Was that at Snowbasin at the OR show or at SIA or something? I took a couple of runs on some icy groomers at Snowbasin and had no problems at all. Obviously not enough testing to know, but my first impression was more like Lee’s than Evan’s.

    They showed us what they’re going for with the brakes and one thing that looked pretty cool is that you could just stomp down on it when the heel piece was backed out of the way and it would snap into place even with the ski, you know, undeploying the brakes for touring. Dynafit brakes are kind of a pain that way and make it tough to make that first heel-piece turn when moving from ski to tour mode.

    Hopefully those issues that Evan mentioned are just a pre-production problem…?

    http://www.randogear.com

  9. Lee Lau February 20th, 2009 5:31 pm

    Evan,

    That’s interesting. I suspect I’m not the best person to really test stuff hard. Although I’m not all that smooth and not a really refined technical skier I’m also just not that heavy. Having said that, I will try to give the Onyx a good hard test in different snow conditions (heading up to Northern BC and Stewart-Cassiar for couple of weeks).

    My reviews try to emphasize that I’m fairly light (160lbs) and have meadow-skipping tendencies so take my input on that for what it’s worth

  10. Randonnee February 20th, 2009 7:35 pm

    The Dynafit FT12 binding with brakes has none of the heel-turning friction that I had on Comforts. The new brake is a well-done improvement.

  11. Michael February 20th, 2009 9:40 pm

    Nice review and comments !…. thanks !

  12. Fernando Pereira February 20th, 2009 10:33 pm

    @Randonee: So the brakes on the FT12s are fundamentally different from those on the STs? When I compared them last year, they seemed similar, but I didn’t check closely. I went for the STs because I don’t need the high DIN and they are less expensive, but maybe I should have, because the brakes on the STs are a PITA. If the heel turns to ski mode while skinning, which sometimes happens from ice buildup in deep snow, I find it impossible to turn it back to walk mode without major contortions.

  13. Randonnee February 20th, 2009 10:46 pm

    Fernando,

    I have no experience with the ST, perhaps Lou can elaborate.

    So far, my FT 12s work great for two days’ touring, no problems, very clean function. I will report back as I use them.

    Rob

  14. Samson February 21st, 2009 7:30 am

    “3. It is easy to take skins on and off without taking off skis.”

    Are you saying it’s easy to put your skins on without removing the skis? If you’ve got that dialed to make transitions faster let’s see a video post!

  15. SlaveToTurns February 21st, 2009 4:41 pm

    At a recent demo, a friend pre released on the Onyx FOUR TIMES WHILE SKIING A CATTRACK to the next lift. Another pair we watched in horror continue to eject while the ski was simply put on edge over and over again…YIKES!

    No one makes a better Dynafit binding than Dynafit.

  16. John Gloor February 21st, 2009 5:53 pm

    I like the idea of taking out the rotary heel function even if the added lifts add a little weight. Too bad the Onyx has the adjustable plate and maybe some retention and durability issues. First generation products are sometimes best to be leery of. I’m confident G3 will figure it out.

  17. Ziff February 21st, 2009 7:28 pm

    Although I have not skied the bindings myself, I ripped groomer after groomer at very high speed today with three people who were all skiing on the Onyx binding (all on plates) and nothing broke and nobody pre-released.

    Sometimes when a product malfunctions, it is the fault of the user.

  18. Evan Stevens February 22nd, 2009 8:43 am

    Just to clarify as well from my earlier review…It was at Snowbasin, skiing groomers. I skied two different sets of binders, and they both had the DIN/pre-release issues for me, but only broke one.

    I am very skeptical of the ‘mounting plate’ system, as it does not have the direct mounting like a dynafit does, and just seems like one more weak link in the chain. There are also just too many moving parts, it just totally seems like they complicated the system, adding weight with not too many features.

  19. Lou February 22nd, 2009 2:23 pm

    Fernando, as far as I know and can tell from looking at them the brakes are virtually the same.

  20. Lou February 22nd, 2009 6:17 pm

    With tech bindings, it is of utmost importance to clean all ice out of boot fittings. If you’ve been touring they’re usually clean already, but when people test on the ski hill, I’ve seen time after time that the boot toe sockets fill up with hard ice because of the walk from parking lot, to ticket counter, and so on.

    So aAll, when you’re testing bindings be super careful with icing or you’ll get a false read.

    What’s more, really watch those DIN settings. Know what you use on your alpine bindings or other AT bindings, and set the tech compatible binding to the same or slightly stiffer settings.

    Lastly, any binding can pre-release if the DIN is set low enough to actually provide modern binding safety the way the manufacturers intend it. That sad fact is one we should all keep in mind.

  21. Greg Floyd February 22nd, 2009 9:54 pm

    Bob – I just wanted to comment on your experience with G3′s customer service – sorry yours was not a good one.

    From my side as a retailer, G3 is among the best to deal with regarding any potential warranty claims – especially with known issues. They usually do their best to get the customer back on the snow as quick as possible and have allowed us to exchange out of stock when that was best for the situation. Our local reps are excellent with their product support as well.

    As far as the Onyx – it’s great to see some new ideas on such a time tested binding design. Maybe we’ll see some new stuff come out of this as an answer from Dynafit?

    I’m looking forward to testing our own pair of Onyx’s soon…

  22. Adrian February 22nd, 2009 11:53 pm

    I saw these bindings at the OR show and am also keen to try a pair. One thing to note about the mounting plate is that similar systems have been used on Alpine bindings for years, it is something that can work quite well. I’ve also seen many early production bindings from NUMEROUS manufacturers malfunction and almost every time the issue was sorted out, after which there were few other problems. All in all, I think this is good for the AT market which has been kind’ve at a standstill on the binding side for awhile, with the exception of the Duke, which is an example of a binding that had early durability issues, but now performs very well for the kind of skier Marker was targeting.

  23. krisopf February 25th, 2009 10:13 pm

    I am really happy to see that others have had problems w/ this binding. Evan, i
    I had the EXACT same thing happen to me at the WWSRA demo at Keystone. Pre-released the heel (set at 9) on a steep, icy run and watched in horror as the ski took off w/ the toe piece (and leash) still attached to my boot. I sheared the plastic mounting plate as well. To be fair I had a pre-release w/ a Dynafit ST (except the binding didn’t break) in the same place an hour earlier. I’m a recent convert to Dynafits for touring and love them in the BC. Even at the resort, they’re fine in softer snow and even soft bumps. Hard snow & high speeds seem to be the kryptonite of the whole tech system, but then again it was never designed for that.

    At 200lb, I accept I am NOT a lightweight guy and and harder on my gear than the average joe. However lets all keep in mind the Onyx is a pre-production model and hopefully we can just chalk up these problems to “working out the kinks”. Personally I love the heel design of the Onyx and it’s super easy to switch modes and climbing wire heights. The toe is a pain. Getting in these of moderately steep slopes is NOT fun. Hopefully someone out there has a Jedi trick b/c I sure don’t.

    In closing, I really want this binding to succeed and frankly don’t care about the weight issue. Everyone is quick to criticize the extra ounces but bottom line is you’re not carrying the binding with each stride. If the ease of use trumps Dynafit, both can exist in the market comfortably. Durability seems to be the big issue and hopefully G3 can get it dialed for F’09.

  24. Lou February 26th, 2009 6:27 am

    Krisopf, if weight is not an issue, why not use something totally bomber that’s equal to an alpine binding, such as a Duke or Baron?

    You are correct in that the tech system was never designed for high speed hardpack, but even so it’s held up fine for that kind of use for many people. Larger guys, however, do sometimes easily exceed the limits of the system.

    As for prereleasing at the heel, both vertical and lateral release occur at the heel with either G3 or Dynafit, so do you mean you prereleased vertical at the heel, or lateral? Sometimes it happens so fast you don’t know which it was, but if you do that would be good to add here. Since you use Dynafit, you probably know that if you prerelease vertical, sometimes you have a few moments of “insta-tele” before the toe lets go, did that happen with Onyx at Keystone? Or did you prerelease lateral? Or perhaps it did happen too fast to know?

  25. krisopf February 26th, 2009 9:18 pm

    In regards to the type of release, it was quick but definitely lateral. It happened during a quasi hop turn over a thin spot on the vertical skating rink. I felt it give almost instantly and had that “oh crap, here we go” feeling.

    And weight does matter, but to a point. I’m not going to suffer on the climb in a Duke just because it’s a DIN 16. Big, big difference. Onyx weight vs ST…not so much. Just like I’ll never tour on the Low Tech Race for the extra couple ounces I don’t really care about a few in the other direction. Either way, its still far more efficient than anything else out there. For now ST for big tours, Baron or tele rig in bounds & quick slackcountry. All problems solved.

  26. Lou February 27th, 2009 7:40 am

    Krisopf, regarding lateral pre-release of tech type bindings, it’s hardly ever a problem with Dynafits if you set the DIN high enough, perhaps your prototype G3 was not quite ready for prime time. More likely, you had a bit of ice in your boot toe sockets, or you simply needed DIN 10 on the lateral setting. Remember that DIN charts and settings are only guidelines, due to style of skiing, terrain, etc., DIN settings have to be tuned for the individual skier. At 200 lbs and skiing aggressively on ice or hardpan, I’d say you simply needed a bit more DIN tension.

    I should use this opportunity to state that skiing a binding for a few hours will not produce a real evaluation. That’s why Lee in his review stated several times that we need to do more use testing before we can get firm about our take.

  27. Johni February 27th, 2009 3:58 pm

    i’ll stick with my Emery’s!!!!!!

  28. Bbbbruce April 20th, 2009 2:35 am

    These look like complicated toys that should go back to the workshop to get redesigened with an original idea & not make a botch up of someone elses reasonable idea.
    Maybe you will find them in the bottom of the same old toy box in the attic as the ‘good’ old Rotomat Tours or even the Spademans.

  29. Bryce April 27th, 2009 3:47 pm

    Hey kids. Looks like these are a reality. They’re shipping a couple of them my way today. I for one am looking forward to trying them out a little more. And to seeing what the wildsnow folks have to say after the next round(s) of testing.

  30. Lou April 27th, 2009 4:12 pm

    I mounted a pair a few days ago, and have been skiing them. Reports coming soon.

  31. trollanski September 30th, 2009 11:15 am

    Fall…Time to obsess about gear. Two points about the ONYX binding. We’re going into October, the binding is for sale, and still no info about the brakes…. Why?
    Think about what the total weight will be if they add say 5 ounces… Getting closer to Fritschi weight. Also, I noticed that the stack height will be higher than Dynafit because of the plates. Personally, the system looks good for some folks who don’t need DIN 10+, and who could use them on multiple pairs of skis. Still, doesn’t it seem a little wierd to not have a weight on the brakes yet?

  32. Stefan October 7th, 2009 10:40 pm

    Does anyone know if the ONYX can be mounted without the plates?

  33. Jan Wellford October 29th, 2009 8:38 am

    @Stefan: no, they can’t be mounted without plates.

    I just got a pair, mounted them on some old beaters with Dynafit holes to check them out. I didn’t get brakes–will probably do that when I decide what ski to mount them on.

    They look pretty darn nice. Lifters and mode switches are easy to operate with a pole. The mounting is very simple. Can’t wait to ski them and see if the retention characteristics are any better than the competition.

    Interesting to note that the user’s manual doesn’t mention any “DIN Boost,” in fact it explicitly states that the binding is not designed to be used in downhill mode with the toe-lockout engaged. Here’s the quote: “Warning: The G3 Onyx binding is only recommended to be skied with the tour lock lever unlocked in ‘ski’ mode. If the product is skied with the tour mode lock in place you are effectively removing the safety release features…could void your warranty should you damage the binding in the event of a fall.”

    Weight came in at 52oz per pair with all hardware, no brakes. If using brakes you’d remove the “rear cowling” and leash attachment ring losing 1.5oz, so the weight would be 50.5oz + brake weight (unknown at this time as far as I can tell).

    52oz is exactly twice the weight of my normal binding, the TLT Speed. However it adds the benefit (for me) of being able to use multiple boot lengths, so it really should be compared to the Vertical ST, which is 30oz without brakes. That’s a pretty big weight jump too, but if the retention is better (i.e. I can occasionally ski them hard and fast at the resort without the toe locked) it will be worth it, at least on one pair of skis. The plate-swapping feature is awesome too, although I will definitely stick with Dynafit on my touring only skis so it’s not too important for me.

  34. Jonathan Shefftz October 30th, 2009 8:40 am

    The wording is even a bit more harsh than that:
    “WARNING: The G3 Onyx binding is only recommended to be skied with
    the toe tour lock lever unlocked in ‘ski’ mode. If the product is skied
    with the tour mode lock in place you are effectively removing the safety
    release features of the binding (as well as release in avalanche
    conditions), and putting yourself at risk of injury or death. Skiing the
    binding this way will also void your warranty should you damage the
    binding in the event of a fall.”
    The user’s manual has been on the G3 website since at least early June (i.e., when I first downloaded it), and maybe even earlier. Yet the “DIN Booster” video persists on their website (fifth selection under “Performance”). I wonder if the user’s manual reflects a . . . design change? . . . legal concern? . . . someone torque tested the binding when the toe lever in tour mode and got horrible results?

  35. Jonathan Shefftz November 4th, 2009 11:27 am

    Whoops, just realized that Jan and I are both correct:
    – the original version of the user’s manual warned, “Skiing the
    binding this way will also void your warranty should you damage the
    binding in the event of a fall.”
    – the revised version substitutes “could” for “will also”

  36. Clyde November 4th, 2009 3:49 pm

    Brakes are now in production. 9.6 ounce/pair for the 95mm. Looks a heck of a lot nicer than the Dynafit and should make step-in easier but I’ll find out when mine arrive.

    http://tinyurl.com/ylydckg

  37. Jonathan Shefftz November 6th, 2009 9:27 pm

    Just noticed that the “DIN Booster” video is still on the G3 website, and was even reposted in September.
    Yet it claims regarding skiing with the toe lever in tour position:
    “… while still remaining in a reasonable [or?] releasable range. What’s unique about this feature is that with the Onyx when you lock the toe out, the binding remains releasable and it’s in a reasonable range.”
    By contrast, the user manual states:
    “WARNING: The G3 Onyx binding is only recommended to be skied with
    the toe tour lock lever unlocked in ‘ski’ mode. If the product is skied
    with the tour mode lock in place you are effectively removing the safety
    release features of the binding (as well as release in avalanche
    conditions), and putting yourself at risk of injury or death. Skiing the
    binding this way could void your warranty should you damage the
    binding in the event of a fall.”

  38. Mark W November 7th, 2009 8:27 am

    I can release a boot from a Dynafit binding “locked” in tour mode while it sits in a ski vise. Otherwise I would not expect a locked toe tech binding to be releasable in any real skiing scenario. I wonder if the DIN booster is too much of a liability for G3.

  39. Lou November 7th, 2009 8:31 am

    It sounds like a classic case of engineers vs marketing.

    Engineer: “Locking this lever will increase your lateral DIN rating to 65, effectively locking out lateral release for most people.”

    Marketing: “Check out the DIN booster! You need it! Chicks dig it!”

  40. Randonnee November 7th, 2009 2:04 pm

    In my use, locked Dynafit toes release, no problem. Quote, “Otherwise I would not expect a locked toe tech binding to be releasable in any real skiing scenario”

    I am large and have lots of years working and playing in the mountains. I release locked Dynafit toes when I walk, if I do not pay attention. The release is dynamic and smooth, since I do it so well I have felt and seen this, sometimes I feel the Dynafit toe start to spring open and then go back into the holes- again, when walking. As I have often repeated, I also can walk out of Fritsches easily. I can recall twice needing release from dynafit bindking in the past 8 years, it all worked just fine, smoothly. Release is not a problem, prerelease with my bulk and strength causes me to ski in a balanced and smooth fashion, but with that Dynafits work well, I have confidence in them.

  41. Jan Wellford November 7th, 2009 3:14 pm

    “In my use, locked Dynafit toes release, no problem”

    I’m surprised. I can’t do that on the bench, floor or anything. Well, if I only “lock” the toe to one click I can, but that’s not actually locked at all. Give it two or more clicks and I can’t even kick the boot out of the binding (from the side when I’m not in it and have all the leverage I want). I’m reasonably certain my tib/fib would spiral fracture before my boot came out of a locked Dynafit.

  42. Lou November 7th, 2009 5:31 pm

    Jan, the release of a Dynafit with the toe locked varies with the flex of the ski topskin, among other things. Thus, when a larger person is standing in the binding it can behave differently than when on the bench.

  43. Randonnee November 7th, 2009 10:50 pm

    Yes, Jan, I am not encouraging anyone else to do what I do. I just come out so easily on a firm surface, except for the FT 12 I have been able to pressure the ball of my foot in the boot and open the Dynafit toe when unlocked while standing on the carpet floor. I am 225 lbs at the fit end of my year, and strong enough to move it, so I am probably far beyond the designed operating margin of the gear…anyway Dynafit bindings work for me after learning their limitations and adjusting my style. It was surprising when I made my first easy turn using Zzero4 boots on a FR 10 ski on piste and instantly opened the unlocked toe (yes the binding was on properly with no icing, I had just got the gear out of the car and put it on). As Lou has mentioned, I can confirm that a locked toe does not increase vertical release, I have left a locked-toe ski behind when pedal-turning up out of PNW mush with a crust.

  44. Drew November 13th, 2009 2:15 pm

    Just a quick question…anyone have problems fitting the heel cowling back on after adjusting the heel piece back. Seems that if you adjust it towards the back of the settings the heel cowling won’t fit back properly.
    Any ideas.
    Thanks

  45. Lee Lau November 13th, 2009 3:38 pm

    Drew – I didn’t have a problem. I’ll check with my binding again.

    Might be a good time for me to note that this review is now probably obsolete. This review was on the beta version of the Onyx. Quite a few things were changed for the production version

  46. Drew November 13th, 2009 3:54 pm

    It just seems that the piece is not designed to fit throughout the full range of adjustment. Just wanted to make sure I wasn’t doing something wrong before I start trying to modify things.

  47. Jan Wellford November 14th, 2009 8:25 am

    I can get the binding about as far back as it is supposed to go before the cowling won’t stay on anymore (when the cowling isn’t screwed in place). Looking at the side length adjustment meter it appears the binding is supposed to go back two or three more clicks, but after that you’re past the rearmost point of the binding anyway.

    I assume if the cowling is screwed in place it prevents the binding from going back farther than it’s supposed to.

  48. Drew November 14th, 2009 1:02 pm

    Thanks for that. My adjustment needs to be about one or two clicks back from where the howling fits properly. Only option re-drilling? What about when the onyx brake is put on. Will it screw into place where the cowling should fit. And if so would this so the same job as the cowling in terms of holding the binding secure.

  49. Jan Wellford December 5th, 2009 2:55 pm

    Just got my brakes. They do the same thing as the cowling. Try screwing the cowling or brake in place with the binding forward, then backing it off to where it needs to be. If it won’t quite get there you could try skiing it with a bit less space between heel and binding, but you’ll probably want to redrill. If your front holes are still intact to accept another mount I’d just redrill the rear holes one cm back or so.

  50. canwilf December 7th, 2009 3:10 am

    Just skied one day back-country and two days at Whistler-BlackCombe and gotta say I love these bindings.

    A bit of a challenge at first with the press-down to step-in feature, but once learned, not too bad and the bindings were solid on all the crud and groomers, and deep wet powder encountered.

    * Had a few mild wipe-outs and no-release (set to 9) so works as expected.
    * Had one release on a flat traverse run (unexpected)
    * My brakes mingled and grasped each other after getting on the lift so my ski was stuck to the binding of the other ski. Carefully looked and moved ski away and released. So watch for stuff like that.

    The ski brake is a wonder especially the way it stows in tour mode. Very genius of them.

    Did one wet day (rain) and two days at minus 13c-18c and no problems with lever movement of plastic parts or other.

    G3 should make a small metal insert on the toe piece so that the ski pole tip does not ruin the plastic. Some Rossignol bindings have this. Otherwise your new Onyx (shiny new) will get marked at the binding entry lever. I have been pressing down with the ski pole handle to prevent this until I find my own insert to stick in there and save the plastic from getting gouged.

    Would be nice if G3 included screw bits for the Torx and PoziDrive bits required to properly switch the bindings from ski to ski. Could not find any pozi-drive bits at local hardware or automotive store.

    Much better than my old Naxo’s for overall ease and ski touring convenience.
    Lighter, but also easier to use heel lifters.
    Feels more solid connection to ski which is nice at resorts for carving turns as well as has a little gap under boot sole so back-country powder doesn’t get mucked up to interfere with step-in.

    That’s my two cents.

  51. Cody December 7th, 2009 3:46 pm

    Does anyone know what the modifications were from the beta version to the production version? I am debating on if it is worth it to send my beta Onyx bindings back to G3 for upgrade. Thanks, Cody

  52. canwilf December 7th, 2009 9:58 pm

    They changed it to allow for less force to hold open toe jaws on entry.
    There were some other changes, see their ‘blog’ section on website for all the changes they integrated into non-beta.

  53. canwilf December 15th, 2009 1:09 am

    After skiing a day at Ontario ski resort, wet packing snow also builds up under the front lever assembly.

    This made it impossible to press the toe release lever down to release toe pins from binding.

    Otherwise, the binding handled the Ontario’s first day of real skiing just fine.

  54. Mark Winter January 1st, 2010 9:12 pm

    I had a chance to demo the Onyx in Sun Valley and Galena Pass ID two weeks ago. There is much to like about these bindings and I think they are very well made. I love the idea of a “mobile” binding that I can move around the quiver… I’ve got more than $1600 in duplicate Fritschi bindings spread all over the place… and that’s dumb.

    However, I think there are several flaws in the basic design that caused me not to buy in. The first problem I think may be endemic to all Tech bindings… I find that ice builds up in the pin receiver holes (n the boot toe) that makes it difficult to enter the binding. This problem combines with (a) difficulty getting alignment of the toe in the sweet spot and (b) excessive pressure needed to open the jaws, makes this a bitch of a binding to get into. Just add deep, crummy snow and a 35 degree+ slope and you have a formula for frustration, if not serious risk.

    I found that multiple attempts at entry tended to chew up the plastic around the receiver holes, making the problem even worse and progressively decaying entry reliability. I put marks on my boots for alignment, but it was still chewing the hell out of the plastic and causing the pins to go astray. Please note that Dynafit is now selling their boots with metal guides to mitigate the problem in Dynafit bindings. I wonder if they patented that feature to get another upper hand, even though their patents have expired on the basic tech binding design.. hence G3′s Onyx.

    On other problem… the rear lever that sets tour or downhill mode has an issue where if you push down the lever all the way (with your ski, boot or pole) to release the heel allows the brakes to stay up… that’s right, they do not drop which means the ski is now on the loose. If you push the lever to the 50% position (between up and down) this solves the problem BUT this position does not have a positive lock so its really tricky to set it. People will lose skis due to this bit of illogic.

    This is all unfortunate because I loved the way the Onyx skied and climbed. Until these issues are worked out I will have to stick with the FreeRide Plus’ which may be heavier but are inherently reliable for entry and exit.

  55. Lou January 2nd, 2010 10:17 am

    Mark, yes, just as you can’t use a Fritschi binding with a wad of ice on your boot sole, all tech bindings have the issue with ice in your boot holes. You get used to it, just carry a small sharp thing to clean them out. It doesn’t happen all the time, and if you can get your boot into the binding, the Dynafit toe unit has small cutters on the toe pins that will cut the ice out after you’re in the binding, if you swing your foot in a touring motion.

    I did notice that the Onyx toe open/close method (pushing down with ski pole) tends to cause a person to try it over and over again and can result in the pins getting closed on the boot plastic. Same thing happens with Dynafit, only it seemed less prevalent in my tests, perhaps because the Dynafit forces you to concentrate on alignment of the boot before it’ll trigger the binding toe to close.

    No reason Dynafit wouldn’t ski and climb in identical fashion to Onyx, only it’s lighter. Reason to buy Onyx would mostly be the swapping feature, and perhaps the switch modes on the fly feature, in my opinion. Am waiting to see how the Onyx brake works.

  56. Mark Winter January 2nd, 2010 12:08 pm

    Lou, do you think this pin guide feature of the new Dynafit boots will help to solve the entry/alignment problem? I was inspecting my Scarpa’s this morning and just a few days with the Tech binding on demo chewed the living hell out of the toe hole area on my boots.

  57. Lou January 2nd, 2010 12:36 pm

    Mark, it does help a bit, but know that the width of the boot sockets in relation to the distance between the toe pins is such that if you move the boot toe forward into the pins, and keep it straight, they’ll line up nearly perfectly. Experiment on the workbench.

    I’d agree that now that tech bindings are mainstream, the sockets in the toe should be surrounded by a wider metal “shield.”

  58. canwilf January 2nd, 2010 10:33 pm

    I luv the mounting plate feature. Yesterday I skied at Burke mountain in Vermont on nice groomed and natural snow, tonight I switched the Onyx binding to my fat powder skis and they will hopefully see 12″ of fresh powder at Jay Peak. Gotta luv it :-)

    Also, I skied moguls and still have not had any premature releases. So far so good.

  59. Lou January 2nd, 2010 10:58 pm

    If you use it, that is a VERY cool feature. Sounds like you’re using it well!

  60. Mike Marshall January 24th, 2010 7:48 pm

    I’m not impressed with the Onyx brakes. I am on my second pair of brakes and these are also broken – remaining in the down position (ski mode) while the binding is in tour mode. On a recent 6-day trip I had to strap the brakes in the up position while in tour mode, having to strap and unstrap during change-overs. The second set of brakes lasted 1 day for one break and 4 for the other.

  61. Mark W January 24th, 2010 9:43 pm

    Brakes, while convenient for resort use, are VERY problematic when they go south–on any binding.

  62. Lou January 25th, 2010 7:30 am

    Mike, hopefully we’ll soon be testing the latest. Thanks for your take. Common to have some bugs in something so new out of development.

  63. Odd Harald Nygård January 29th, 2010 3:38 pm

    I just bought myself a pair of 188 Rossi S7, and I want to use it for touring on powdery days.. I know this isnt an ideal touring ski, and I have a pair of 06 Gotamas with TLT for longer tours. The S7 will be my resort, slackcountry ski, and some longer tours if the conditions are perfect.

    I have heard that the Onyx is a better than Dynafit FT 12 on such a wide ski. (145-115-123) What is the reason for this?

    Duke and Baron is not an option since S7, Dynafit Titan (the boots i have), Duke/Baron setup will just be to heavy. I have tried the Fritschi and I thought it felt to wiggly.

    So my final question is: Do you think the Onyx is a good option for me?
    I am 170 lbs, not the most aggressive skier, not dropping of huge cliffs, but i like to pull the throttle a little and ski steeps. (a few smaller jumps and drops)

    I come from Norway and there is very little info on the Onyx here so I would really appreciate some advice.

  64. Lou January 29th, 2010 4:05 pm

    Odd, while the Onyx is a good binding, I see no reason why it would be better on wide skis than any other “tech” binding. The attachment of boot to binding is exactly the same mechanism as Dynafit, the screw hole pattern is the same as well. If an Onyx fan wants to give use their take, fine with me. But that’s mine.

  65. canwilf February 11th, 2010 11:01 pm

    I’m a bit disillusioned with the G3 and their Onyx binding:

    1) Front binding mount started pulling out of my ski – a new Head Monster ski with metal laminate and wood core.
    2) Plastic part that holds one of the heel pins secure broke.
    3) While waxing ski, noticed that the brake is not smoothly retracting anymore.
    4) The toe piece collects snow under it, and I live in the East, so that is cold dry snow that is accumulating.
    5) Still an art form to open the toe while inserting boot – too much pressure.
    6) I had pre-releases of the heel at a DIN 8.5 setting, while at moderate speeds on-piste. This is unusual.

    I asked my local dealer to mount my REPLACEMENT Onyx on my REPLACEMENT ski using longer screws than the ones provided in the Onyx box, G3 advised against it citing ‘reliability’ concerns of using other screws that might void the warranty. Pray tell, the ski warranty, or the binding warranty?

    Previously, I used Naxo’s Nx21. It was heavy but reliable and I never had pre-releases or problems of any kind. I switched to Onyx so I could swap my binding to different skis and save some weight on the uphill.

    Anyway, that was the last straw. I am returning my unused Onyx binding to the store, returning my used but now defective brakes, and selling my extra mounting plates.

    In a few days, I hope to get my Dynaduke swap plates and see if that is a better way to swap a Dynafit FT12 binding on my touring quiver.

  66. Mark Winter February 12th, 2010 10:10 am

    Message to binding manufacturers: WHAT IS DRIVING ALL THIS INTEREST IN THE ONYX IS NOT THE TECH BINDING (old news)… IT’S THE BINDING MOBILITY.

    If others can produce a binding that moves from ski to ski with ease and no performance compromises, you will have a market winning product that many of us will buy. PLEASE FOCUS ON THIS. Onyx, you have things to fix but kudo’s to you guys for getting this first generation product out with the mobility feature.

    Many of us with quivers of narrow and fat boards have a small fortune tied up in duplicate bindings. Make this go away and you will have our undying support.

  67. Jan Wellford March 2nd, 2010 11:44 am

    An update after a winter of light use by my wife (and a couple days by me–love the plate system):

    She had the ‘brake getting stuck’ problem. G3 sent me a new piece that fixed it (it was kind of a pain to replace the piece, though).

    The binding is occasionally very hard to get back into ski mode from walk mode. The rear lever resists pulling up, to the point where it will snap a ski pole if you keep trying. It took me about five minutes of pulling and fiddling (with bare hands) to finally get the lever up into ski mode the other day. It seems to be worse on one binding than the other. I think there must be some icing happening under the heel unit or brake or something, although it’s possible it’s a defect in this particular heel.

    Anyone else have this problem?

    Otherwise we like them.

  68. Curtis Pauls February 1st, 2011 12:01 am

    New failure to report on an otherwise good binding. This weekend while demonstrating “efficient transition” technique to a group of new ski tourers, my Onyx decided to dis-allow exit from the binding! Seems the “triangular-ish plastic piece” that slides under and forces the toe “jaws” to open when the toe lever is depressed can and does, break off. I spent the rest of the weekend manually opening the toe to step back in (Dynafit-style), and twisting my toe to get out of it. Good thing I can take my skins off without taking the skis off, but a pain in the butt nonetheless. I’m going to get G3 to send me some spares of the plastic piece….and in future I’ll be carrying the requisite Torx bit in my repair kit (not that it would’ve helped without the spare part).

  69. Mark Winter February 1st, 2011 12:29 am

    The Onyx is not ready for prime time. In sketchy conditions, steeps or deep powder they are a nightmare to lock into. They chew the hell out of the plastic around the sockets if you aren’t aligned just right.. which amplifies entry problems over time and damages your boots. Add in some of the release problems cited here, parts breakage, sticky brakes and so forth…. you’ve got a formula for disaster on a tour. I love the idea of these bindings, especially their reuse on a quiver of skis BUT the basically functionality and predictability is just not there. I wish Fritschi or Dynafit would wake up and take the challenge of a workable “mobile” binding. Are you guys listening?.

  70. Ben April 6th, 2011 7:01 am

    Lou and others:

    I’m looking the Onyx as an option to Dynafit Speed toe for use in the TTS (Telemark Tech System). I esp like the swap plate with fore/afte adjustability.

    Do you think that the Onyx toe piece is as durable )or more so) than a Dynafit in terms of wing strength?

    Has G3 resolved the sticky tour/ski mode lever? And the various breakage issues?

  71. Lou April 6th, 2011 7:09 am

    Ben, latest Onyx is easily as durable as any Dynafit toe unit. Previous breakage issues have been resolved to the best of my knowledge, provided they were really “issues” and not one incident out of 10,000 bindings in use (beware internet shouting about gear breakage, in other words).

    As for TTS system, are tech bindings really strong enough for that? Seems like you guys need to have an extra beefy tech toe unit manufactured specifically for your system… your take?

  72. Ben April 6th, 2011 1:49 pm

    Lou, I agree, a TTS special built toe unit would be best, but then so would have a special build boot interface…cuz you just know those cones are wear quicker doing tele turns.

    I don’t know how my TTS is going to stand up, I will be flogging it hard out Utah way in mid April, so we’ll see.

    I guess what I’m trying to do now is figure out which toe piece is the least likely to fail in the short term. I already have one set of Speed, and with the G3 on sale it seemed like a low cost option.

    Dostie has me working on a review of my Dynaxl :)

  73. Lou April 6th, 2011 3:08 pm

    Ben, while I applaud the innovation I have to say that the constant and extreme forward pressure, if you ski the TTS quite a bit, is going to have consequences. That’s not saying someone couldn’t build a tech toe unit that would work for a TTS, but I just don’t see existing stuff holding up well in the long term, especially for larger skiers with active bindings. If nothing else, watch the binding base for cracks, and track how solid the boot fitting stays in the boot sole.

  74. Norwegian June 3rd, 2011 4:26 am

    Hi! I’m a decent cross country skier, but a newcomer to alpine skiing. I’ve been carving my way downhill for two winters. Now I’m looking to buy my first touring set. I’ve got the skis and the boots, but I’m really torn between the G3 Onyx and Dynafit Vertical FT12 bindings. What would you recommend? Is the ease of use of the Onyx crucial for a newcomer? Or will the Dynafits be just as good, or better for me?

    I’ve been searching, reading blogs, reviews and forum posts, but it’s still really hard to decide what’s more important; The weight and track record of the Dynafits, or the features (and safety?) that the Onyx provides. The price here in Norway is the same for both.

  75. Lou June 3rd, 2011 5:46 am

    Nor, it’s kind of a strange tradeoff between the two in terms of use, as the Onyx heel unit is easier to use in some ways but most people feel that getting your foot into the binding is more difficult than with a Dynafit. On the other hand, the rotating Dynafit heel unit is sometimes a pain. I’d look at your terrain. If you’re planning on a lot of mode changes (heel lifters up and down, and changing from downhill to uphill and back without removing the skis) Onyx is a clear choice. If you’re going for pure vertical without as much messing around, the weight savings of the Dynafit is attractive.

    All that said, know that the flip style heel lifters on the new Dynafit Radical for next year work just as well as the Onyx, so in that case only clear advantage of Onyx would be that you can change modes without removing skis.

    Hope that helps. Lou

  76. Norwegian June 3rd, 2011 6:01 am

    Lou, thanks for your advice! Since I’m a first time alpine tourer, I’m not sure what terrain to expect yet. I’m mainly looking for bindings that will do the job on a few backcountry trips every season. I’m thinking of selling my carving skis. In that case, I will be using the touring bindings more in regular groomed, lift served pists, than for backcountry. Are there any pros/cons with Dynafit vs Onyx for pure downhill skiing?

  77. Lou June 3rd, 2011 6:28 am

    Norwegian, I don’t know of any difference between Dynafit and Onyx when it comes to use them as a resort binding. Frankly, I recommend neither as a resort binding (other than passing through the resort now and then when accessing backcountry).

  78. Norwegian June 3rd, 2011 11:56 am

    Lou, thanks again! One more question, if you don’t mind: Do you see any difference on Dynafit vs Onyx when it comes to mounting and riding them on wider (95 mm and up) and heavier (2 kg/70 oz and up) skis? Is it all down to the mounting plates, which are equal? Or do the toe and heel parts play any role here, that would make one binding more suitable than the other, for heavy skis?

  79. Wookie September 12th, 2013 6:53 am

    I picked up a pair of these online because I got a nice set of Voiles coming this fall with a waxless pattern on them. I like the idea of being able to switch back and forth between touring mode and downhill mode without taking the boot out of the binding. Has anybody got anything to say about that particular feature of the Onyx?
    I should note that I’ve also got a set of Dynafits around here with the volcano on them. I’ve seen some guys do some serious Dyna-Mojo and get the boot out of skiing mode without taking off their ski, but I’ve never been able to do it myself- I’m asking because I want to know if I should mount up the Onyx to take advantage of this feature, or if I should take a week off work, meditate, speak to an Indian guru and practise Dyna-Yoga until I can do the mashed potato…so to speak.

  80. Lou Dawson September 12th, 2013 7:11 am

    Wookie, if you’ve never figured out how to do the mode change trick with Dynafit, my advice would be stick with Onyx if mode change on the fly is a priority since its a feature of the binding, not a hack.

    But if you want to try it with Dynafit, here is the method I use:

    1. Use binding with no brake, preferably a version with the red volcano heel lifter.
    2. Be sure binding heel gap is set correctly.
    3. Lift our heel and ski up to your butt.
    4. Insert ski pole grip between volcano and boot heel, and twist.
    5. As you twist, boot should pop out of binding and ski drop down.

  81. thumperflipper December 31st, 2013 9:27 am

    Lou:
    First kudos to all the work keeping this site up. I just bought the G3 ONYX and rode them at the resort all day. About 2″ of powder, I’m 5’8″ 175# and on 176 Karhu Kodiaks. Performed flawlessly. I keep reading in posts that these are a good combo binding for inbounds and out of bounds. So after reading your note above (“Frankly, I recommend neither as a resort binding”) Am i endangering myself or my gear? Your opinion is valuable to me
    thx
    eric

  82. Lou Dawson December 31st, 2013 9:49 am

    Eric, it’s more on general principles, plus the fact that most tech bindings do not have much vertical (upwards) elasticity and thus may require setting at higher release values to prevent accidental release. The fact that no tech binding has any sort of safety certification like alpine bindings do might give you a hint.

    Also, high mileage at the resort does cause certain types of wear that the small components of the normal tech binding may not accommodate

    BUT, plenty of people DO used tech bindings for alpine bindings, so they prove me wrong. Also, we now have bindings coming out such as Beast, Vipec, heel-spring Radical and Ion that may have beefed components and systems to allow more shock absorption and more elasticity.

    Thus, in the end my opinion is only that, an opinion. Who knows, in a few years the tech system might be in use by every skier on the resort hill!

    Lou

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