Ask Lou, part 6194, can I use worn out bindings to ski Denali?

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Hi Lou, I’ve got a knowledgeable customer at our shop who is well versed in Dynafit tech, but is having problems with his current binding setup.

He has a fairly old pair of TLT model that have several issues. They appear to be high mileage, so we’re of course first thinking thimble bushings need replacement to fix obvious play. Beyond that, the rivet that terminates one heelpiece length adjustment screw is missing, at the front of the heel unit base. Even so, it appears the adjustment screw is working. The toe lock levers are VERY hard to manipulate, and one of them appears to allow the boot toe to come out much too easily even while locked. Customer says he’s been careful about ice issues and such, and I believe him.

I really want to get this guy set up well, as he will be attempting to climb and ski Denali. As I mentioned, he is well versed in the whole Dynafit realm, so I don’t think this is a case of a greenhorn getting confused and feeling his bindings are more problematic than they really are. Instead, the bindings seem to be somewhat past their prime… Any thoughts you have would be very much appreciated.

G., what never ceases to amaze me, and is wonderful about Dynafit bindings, is that many owners refuse to let them die. I mean, the same guy who will buy new car tires when necessary, or even a new car, will run the same bindings till they’ve nearly disintegrated into their component atoms… Shoot, they could even make a zombie movie out of this syndrome: Ayiiiiii, I chopped of the Dyafit’s heel unit, it kept skiing! I bashed the toe lever with a rock, it kept working! Quick, hand me that 12 gauge and a handfull of shells, I’ve got to put these things to rest! Oh no, the toe pins bit me, now I’ve got the disease, I’ve become, OMG, a Dynafitter!

Yeah, the customer is always right, and you should apply that principle to this guy. Understood. But he needs to know that using a worn out pair of ski bindings on the icy crevassed terrain of the highest peak in North America is just, well, not smart. I said that, you didn’t. Instead, how about just sharing with him how our incredibly successful WildSnow Denali ski expedition of last spring (7 guys, mostly newbies, unguided, all make ski descent) was 100% equipped with new condition ST or FT bindings. No one tried to skimp on bindings and skis, and that was intentional.

Thinking on this: Bring skis and bindings that work, that way you can concentrate on little things like eating and drinking. Which become big things above 14.000 feet, which is the equivalent of 15,000 feet or more when you’re on the BIG ONE.

So, here is my advice: You shouldn’t even touch rebuilding those old TLTs, reason being that getting a toe base that’s compatible with that touring lock lever might be impossible, not to mention the need for at least one new heel base, which may also be incompatible. Instead, just give your loyal customer and long time Dynafitter a 10% courtesy discount or advance sale price on a nice new pair of ST bindings, with brakes.

Speaking of which, I would advise anyone using skis on West Buttress Denali to use ski brakes, as they reduce a lot of mental stress and potential disaster, especially if you get in situations with a lot of wind hardened snow or ice where a ski could take off sans rider even on low angle terrain. Leashes are good too, but frankly, after my experience last spring are not as important as I thought they’d be since the chances of falling in a crevasse with skis on are pretty minimal so long as you’re careful. And even if you do loose a ski you’re still getting out on foot if necessary. All that said, advise your customer that the ST is going to have more ramp angle than the TLT, and that he needs to get out and try the new bindings with his Denali boots and makes sure everything feels correct.

Another thing. With one-owner high mileage Dynafit setups, beware of damage to the ski topskin under the heel unit spindle. This can cause play in the system with who knows what consequences, as well as getting to the point where the underlying ski is weakened. If your customer opts to fix the bindings himself for something like that, at least be sure he is warned of this issue. Evaluation is easy. Just remove heel unit from spindle, then manipulate spindle in a rocking motion and see if you feel any play. You should feel very little to none.

Which brings us to boots, what’s he using, and does he need any help in that area? Bad boots will break a Denali attempt more times than not…

—- All the best, Lou, who still can’t believe he skied off that top of that thing just about a short year ago…

(Editor’s note: Above is a montage of several questions we’ve had over the past week or so.)


8 Responses to “Ask Lou, part 6194, can I use worn out bindings to ski Denali?”

  1. Tay April 18th, 2011 11:50 am

    “now I’ve got the disease, I’ve become, OMG, a Dynafitter!”, perhaps that should be a Dynafixer in this case.

  2. Lou April 18th, 2011 11:57 am

    Tay, LOL

  3. Caleb Wray April 18th, 2011 2:14 pm

    Good advice Lou. The only point I disagree with is the importance of leashes on a big ski expedition. Not sure if you remember but I got caught in my own sluff skiing the north side of the 16k ridge. I only slid a few feet before arresting, but my sluff continued all the way down to the Peters Glacier. Had I not had my ski leashes attached, my chances to ski that big daddy would have been over, not to mention getting back to base camp would have been quite a slog for me.

    Of course I guess I could just ski with the toes locked but you know how Dynafits can sometimes just spontaneously release no matter what you do.

  4. Jordan April 18th, 2011 2:20 pm

    Second for Caleb’s need for leashes!

    Bring new dynafits!

  5. Lou April 18th, 2011 3:20 pm

    Hmmm, I think you guys are pretty much correct.

    If a person is serious about skiing the big Daddy, they should use both leashes and brakes as a lost ski would blow their whole dream. But if they’re up there just using skis for transport with the possibility of skiing summit, then perhaps just leave the leashes off. I can see going either way, depending on importance of skis to the ultimate goal.

    For example, if I went up there again to just mess around looking for optimal conditions and _perhaps_ ski it again, I’d probably forget the leashes. Have to admit, though, that the time I stuffed my leg and ski in a crevasse and scared the stuffing out of myself, it was probably good I had leashes since the possibility of the ski popping off and getting lost in there was pretty good, and that would have left me tromping around in a crevasse field with one ski — though plenty of other people were walking through there on foot, so it wouldn’t have been that bad…

  6. Christian C April 19th, 2011 1:19 pm

    I’ve found the least humane solution to the old gear problem…

  7. Bob April 20th, 2011 10:23 am


    Off topic question… would a dynafit 110mm ski crampon fit a 111mm ski? Does dynafit make a crampon larger than 110mm?



  8. Jonathan Shefftz April 20th, 2011 11:07 am

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