Dynafit Contracts Free Skier Eric Hjorleifson — Is Uphill Oriented Spirit Old-School?


This post by WildSnow.com blogger  

We think long and hard before re-printing industry press releases. But this one has a spin on Dynafit that’s worth pondering. To wit, Dynafit went ahead and worked out some sort of “contract” with free skier Eric Hjorleifson, to represent the company as well as work on product design. More, they’re saying “The brand’s reputation as uphill oriented is long over.” (Dynafit had a previous arrangement with Eric we reported on last year, so this must be some sort of re-up or extensive contract change.)

It is said Eric had a lot of influence on the design of the Dynafit Vulcan boot, and that he’s going to have similar involvement in binding design. Judging from what happened with the Vulcan boot (one of the most radical stiffness/weight/touring-comfort ratios out there), “Hoji’s” involvement with binding development could yield interesting results. Is this the start of tech binding 2.0 and more? Or will we simply see a massive DIN 25 Dynafit contraption attempting to interface with the same tired boot heel and toe fittings that were designed more than two decades ago for lightweight European uphilling?

As for the brand’s reputation changing from being uphill oriented, words are words. Until they start making bindings used by World Cup downhill racers, I think the jury is still out on that one. To be fair, I’m thinking they’re talking about simply being more well rounded and addressing more segments of the backcountry skiing market. But saying it that way is kind of boring (can you tell why I’m not writing press releases?).

Press release follows, lightly condensed. Your comments, oh esteemed WildSnowers?

DYNAFIT PRESS RELEASE — Dynafit Disrupts the Image of Backcountry

Eric Hjorleifson signs a long term deal with Dynafit.

August 9, 2012- Dynafit … recently negotiated a long term contract with professional skier Eric Hjorleifson. In July of 2011, after an extended informal friendship, Dynafit originally signed Eric “Hoji” Hjorleifson as a North American athlete and boot consultant. Now a year later Hoji is a member of the International Team, and lead consultant on boots and bindings.

Human powered athlete Eric Hjorleifson is already hard at work designing and testing new products for 2013 and beyond. His influence in the Vulcan/Mercury/ONE boot development (launching this Fall 2012) has already changed the way the industry looks at alpine touring boots. …Imagine what will happen when Hoji gets his hands on the bindings.

“Officially signing on to work with Dynafit’s boot and binding product development teams is fantastic,” Hoji explained in a recent conversation. “I’m excited for the next few years, I believe there are going to be some very interesting developments with product in these segments, enabling skiers to go further, climb higher and shred harder than ever before.“

Jim Lamancusa, North American Sales and Marketing Director, believes the brand’s reputation as uphill oriented is long over. “We still believe in moving fast through the mountains and making transitions seamless, but the next generation skier makes no compromises in their backcountry gear. The ‘Complete Skier’ needs gear that performs great in-bounds, in side-country, and the backcountry. Hoji is coming into a team that is helping us create great products for this next generation.” 

Comments

22 Responses to “Dynafit Contracts Free Skier Eric Hjorleifson — Is Uphill Oriented Spirit Old-School?”

  1. Jen Dial Santoro August 13th, 2012 9:17 am

    It’s great when a company tries to innovate to reach more people – and as always in the sporting industry, if you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backward.

    That said, I sought out Dynafit equipment because it is the lightest/most reliable and tested lightweight uphill gear on the market. As I am small and ski conservatively in the backcountry, the downhill performance of the ski and boot have been great (except for a few times when I should have pulled on those toe locks for the first few turns, but that subject has been worn out). I would hate to see them steer towards the “freeride” market entirely and ignore why they got into this in the first place. You spend a giant part of your day in the backcountry going uphill, therefore that performance is really important.

    If you’re riding helicopters and snowcats most of the way and hiking for ten minutes, weight isn’t as much at issue. But when your initial ascent is pre-dawn and hours long, you’re thankful for the loss of 2 pounds a foot. There are plenty of companies in on that market, but you can see why Dynafit would want a piece. Here’s hoping they will hold onto their roots and avoid alienating those loyal customers for whom “old-school” means they aren’t riding in a helicopter.

  2. Josh Masur August 13th, 2012 9:28 am

    “Until they start making bindings used by World Cup downhill racers, I think the jury is still out” overstates the case. There are plenty of good downhill bindings — including the Marker Jester — that have no use in racing of any kind.

    That said, I certainly agree with the sentiment: Look at their actions, not their marketing puffery.

  3. Steve Howe August 13th, 2012 9:40 am

    To my mind, the press release just says that Dynafit is increasing their emphasis on downhill performance in AT gear, and addressing the reality that many skiers ski lifts, sidecountry shots, and backcountry – not that they’re abandoning the muscle-powered aspects of touring. The phrase ‘the brand’s reputation as uphill oriented is long over’ is not actually a quote by Lamancusa; It’s just a simple phrase choice by the PR writer. Personally I’d like to see less compromise in backcountry gear, assuming weight and b.c. functionality remain the same. For example, ultralight boots that lock to a > 20 degree forward lean (in the spoiler, not the shin).

    It’s worth noting that there is already a movement in freeride to become truly muscle-powered, rather than rely on choppers and snowcats — which are primarily film-centric modes of travel, way too expensive for day to day use by most skiers, and wildly over-represented in ski media culture.

  4. Steven August 13th, 2012 9:57 am

    A semi-bizarre past week with Greg Hill moving to Salomon and the entertaining thoughts of that company moving in the direction of tech bindings, or at least toying with the idea of lightweight equipment production by pairing with Mr. 2 Mil himself. Now with the official signing of Hoji combined with the poorly chosen PR statement from Dynafit has us all scratching our heads. All in all I agree with the general consensus that a major change in direction by either company in the short future is highly unlikely and we will just have to wait and see what new treats are in store in the future.

  5. Lou Dawson August 13th, 2012 10:13 am

    Steven, I suspect that in both Dynafit and Salomon’s cases they over state the involvement of their signed athletes in the day-to-day grind of designing and manufacturing gear. That’s done by engineers and industrial designers with huge skill sets and deep experience. Sure, those guys listen to some of the athlete feedback and glance at user modifications some times, but most of this stuff about signing athletes is in my view just positive and upbeat marketing, using accomplished individuals to associate with a brand, and with a sprinkling of actual design work from the athletes.

    I like Hoji’s skiing, he’s obviously a gifted athlete who’s also put in the time to train for top performance, but I have to say that in my opinion Dynafit would have been wise to at least given us some kind of resume of his ski alpinism and mountaineering accomplishments. Nearly everything I can find about him is just basically heli skiing and film segments, though it’s pretty obvious he’s a ski tourer as well and must have grown up around the Canadian component of that culture. Or was he just a park rat kid?

    In the end, perhaps Hoji himself will drop by here and give us his take?

  6. Andy August 13th, 2012 10:41 am

    On the other hand – This could be a really interesting development. Binding technology has been relatively static for decades. Downhill bindings made in 2012 will work with boots made 20 years ago. Ditto for backcountry (Dyna-fit) bindings.

    During that same 20 years boots and skis have changed radically. I can comfortably say that I am able to ski more easily and more confidently thanks to radical changes that have happened to skis and boots.

    Would anyone here willingly give up their shaped skis? I rather doubt it.

    It seems silly to me to think that the current generation of bindings are somehow perfect. I don’t have the mechanical engineering skills to improve them: but I am convinced that modern manufacturing and engineering can deliver safer bindings that are both light and durable. If this same process results in a new system that works equally well in-bounds and out-of-bounds, even better. My fingers are crossed.

  7. mike August 13th, 2012 10:43 am

    Living the dream, what a lucky bastard!!

  8. Arthur August 13th, 2012 12:13 pm

    As an aside I think the likely reason that Greg Hill signed with Salomon has more to do with the fact that the company is under the Amer Sports Group umbrella along with his other sponsors (namely, Arc’Teryx and Suunto) than any sort of statement about Dynafit vs Salomon products. Seems to be a move to avoid conflict of interest and is fairly common these days among athletes with multiple sponsors owned by competing conglomerates.

  9. Pete Anzalone August 13th, 2012 12:20 pm

    Wow! Great ski footage and a nice little diversion for a raining day here in Snowmass but I’m curious, was he skinning to the ‘copter?

    Dynafit + Heli = Very Expensive Binding.
    :-)

  10. Scott Nelson August 13th, 2012 1:10 pm

    I liked Jen’s comment. I went from alpine to tele to AT because of Dynafit’s lightweight and seemingly bomber construction (at least in my experiences over the last several years). I can’t imagine Dynafit would alienate their core audience, which I think would be skiers who love to climb for their turns and dread the thought of lugging a heavy binding uphill. My guess, its just marketing to capture another segment of skiers. Can’t blame them for wanting to branch out, it’s just business. But, this could bode really well for companies like Plum and others that target those of us who love lightweight tech bindings.

  11. Kevin August 13th, 2012 3:38 pm

    For anyone who’s worried that this means Dynafit is now catering to heli-dropping hucksters: you are missing the point. One of the many reasons Hoji is so rad is that when TGR isn’t dropping him on top of the gnar, he’s happy to skin up after it. That being said, his small stature and willingness to *LOCK OUT* his bindings let him do things on Dynafits that most mortals wouldn’t dream of on any setup. He is/ has been working on filling the just-right-beefy gap in AT gear from his particular standpoint. Also, while he trusted his Franken-Titans (http://www.powdermag.com/stories/whats-on-hojis-feet/) for many a heli-descent, they were often clicked into alpine bindings. Dynafit renewing his contract and seemingly placing him in a more substantial role is great news for everyone. His tinkering has already made it into the Vulcan, he is a great brand ambassador for North America, and skiers like him deserve as much coverage as they can get.

  12. Lou Dawson August 13th, 2012 3:43 pm

    Good take Kevin, thanks. I didn’t intend to be too cynical in my post, just trying to really vet the PR instead of taking it at face value. Better for everyone that way.

  13. David steels August 13th, 2012 4:08 pm

    Hoji in the Rockies..sans film crews..

    http://www.biglines.com/articles/clemenceau-n-face-may-272012

  14. Kevin August 13th, 2012 4:12 pm

    I think Dynafit’s PR guys could have sold the idea it better, FWIW.

  15. Shoveler August 13th, 2012 6:07 pm

    Hoji doesn’t have any corner on designing frankenboots. Some appeared here on WildSnow years ago and inspired a lot of modders out there:

    http://www.wildsnow.com/tips/lazer_mod.html

    And see this out for more:

    http://www.wildsnow.com/1738/la-petite-fille-dynafit-tlt-4-size-22-frankenboot/

  16. Jonathan August 13th, 2012 6:33 pm

    I like Andy’s comment about boot binding evolution compared to that of our skis. I immediately thought of Shane McConkey. Before he passed, someone asked him what he thought would be the next big change after this ski design revolution and his thoughts were that the changes would be how we attach ourselves to these crazy boards. I’m sure an obvious design is starring us all in the face and I can’t wait to ski it.

  17. See August 13th, 2012 8:46 pm

    Aside from the fantastic skiing, I really liked that the video starts with a meat huck, and ends with an formidable line skied by an apparently sane person who nails it. I’m tired of movies where they’re skiing like they’re playing the lottery.

  18. Andrew August 13th, 2012 8:51 pm

    Heel lifter, heli lifter… what’s the difference? :)

    I think what has really changed is the definition of “backcountry skiing.” Heli skiing used to be called, uhmmm, heli skiing. Ducking ropes used to be called out-of-bounds, snowmobile assist wasn’t even invented and car shuttles were few and far between. Nowadays it is all lumped under “backcountry skiing” and for that matter, super heavy gear with marginal touring abilities works fine for a lot of it.

  19. Oli C August 13th, 2012 10:06 pm

    I believe Andreas Fransson is also on Salamon these days, and I’m sure he doesn’t always use their chunky binding to tour with.

  20. Mark Worley August 13th, 2012 11:30 pm

    Greg Hill on Salomons? What? Must be something LIGHTER in the works.

  21. Ron Birknell August 14th, 2012 9:05 am

    Andreas Fransson is not on Salomon, I saw a video recently, yes the video is crazy…..

  22. JCoates August 15th, 2012 4:22 am

    Anyone see the recent Dynafit post about a speed attempt on Cho Oyu with the usual Dynafit suspects but filmaker (sic) Greg Hill? Is this true? Whats his kit going to be?

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