Technical – Fritschi Crampon Penetration Depth

Post by blogger | June 17, 2008      

You asked for it; an overview of how deeply the standard Fritschi crampon penetrates under your ski, dependent on heel lift height. Binding shown below is on a demo board that’s slightly thicker than some skis, but you get the overall idea.

Fritschi backcountry skiing.
Fritschi standard model crampon penetration at various heel lift heights.

With heel height set to flat-on-ski mode, penetration is of course very good. Go to the next step up and it’s okay as well. But got to the top two heel lift heights and you’ll get minimal to no grip from your crampons. In our opinion, the crampon should be longer so it grips better with higher heel lifts — but it still works if you’re aware of its limits and use it with lower heel lift.

Yet using the Fritschi medium lift height is very common, and the high lift gets used quite a bit as well, so that’s the problem. Downside of a longer (taller) crampon solution is such can stilt you up and trip you when on hard snow or ice.

As always, we’re led to the conclusion that the best ski crampon is one of moderate height that’s fixed to the ski and does not move up and down. To that end, the Voile or B&D crampons can be easily fitted to skis with Fritschi Freeride binding. (Know that Fritschi also makes a crampon called the Axion, which is available in a taller height for use with higher heel lifts, and folds up out of the way when not in use. Sadly, Axion is only available for skis up to 82 mm at the waist, thus obviating its use for most of our’s and many other folk’s ski touring quivers.)


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18 Responses to “Technical – Fritschi Crampon Penetration Depth”

  1. Jim Clarke June 17th, 2008 10:54 am


    A friend mentioned a modification you might have done for the Dynafit TLT crampon so that it can be locked down onto the ski rather than just flappin’ & draggin’ along when skinning in a higher post…is there a way to do this?


    Jim C.

  2. Lou June 17th, 2008 11:06 am

    Jim, to solve that problem just go to B&D crampons with their crampon lock. Request his new stronger cramps made with slightly thicker alu. We’re very happy with how these have been working.

  3. Eric Holle June 17th, 2008 3:14 pm


    We have been discussing your webpage a bunch as we have been mountaineering and skiing like madmen lately. One of the topics that came up last weekend while we (including the aforementioned Mr. Clarke) were in the Maroon Bells was how steep a slope ski crampons are a viable option. Obviously there is a point where you are skinning up steep slopes with the heel height at the max and the crampons won’t touch the ground, but is there a point where the slope is too steep that the crampons don’t provide any extra traction?

    Eric H.

  4. Lou June 17th, 2008 6:02 pm

    Hi Eric, sure, the way I judge it is simply by when it gets too awkward and is taking more energy than it saves to be on skis instead of boots. That assuming the snow is solid enough for booting. Otherwise, you take it to the max on skis to avoid post holing. Also, the ski crampons that don’t raise up with the foot are way better when it’s steep. If you have not tried them, I think you’ll be surprised at the difference.

    With solid steep snow, I do tend to boot rather than be on skis.

  5. john Gloor June 17th, 2008 6:51 pm

    Thanks for this review of the Fritschi crampon. Hopefully no one else will make the mistake I did and buy it! I cannot believe they pawned this off on backcountry skiers after making such great bindings. In the medium height step, if the snow is not bulletproof, it provides next to no shear resistance and it is useless in the high step. I emailed Bill at B&D and he sent me a crampon that will operate efficiently in an unfixed mode in the lower two steps and can be locked down at any height. If your skis are between his crampon sizes, I believe he will custom shape them for you. Visit his website and see the options he has for AT and telemark setups. I think he has put a lot of thought into his products and I am very pleased with them

  6. adam olson June 18th, 2008 9:03 am

    I own and use the Axion crampon w/ my Fritschi Freerides. What a great design. I just purchased a pair of Elan 888’s, they have an 88mm waist. The Axion works just fine on this width of ski. It looks to have 1mm clearance on each side of the crampon when engaged. The 82mm max width seems to be a typo.
    The overall design of the Axion seems to offer the best all around performance. I can appreciate the B&D design and feel it comes in a close 2nd. Once the Axion is installed, usually done when skins are being put on, the user can w/ a ski pole “activate” the crampon by flipping it down. It flips up out of the way just as easy. When flipped up you are able to use the glide of skins without the drag of crampons, especially on more moderate terrain. For me this glide is important. Also important is the ability to use the crampon when I choose. The B&D design is an “always on” crampon, once installed it is ALWAYS biting the snow. The flatter the terrain the more bite it has. (What a drag!?)

    I find that I only use the crampon during spring type conditions. In these spring type conditions I use a narrower ski. I have large powder skis for softer conditions. In these soft winter conditions where the skin track can be set flat, I never use ski crampons. The modern skins have more than enough bite for all skin tracks around here.
    The Axion crampons do not work well w/ the heel inclinator in the highest position, I have learned to climb steeper terrain in the middle position. Here the crampon gets acceptable bite to climb and traverse.


  7. Scott B June 18th, 2008 9:58 am


    Can the crampon be mounted backwards? This would put it down into the snow lower.

    I wonder why they don’t make it so the tines come strait down from the mounting point. It would be less effected by the binding lift that way.

  8. Lou June 18th, 2008 10:09 am

    Adam, I was looking for some Axion comments so thanks! Review of those coming soon, but you took care of most of it.

  9. KenR January 4th, 2010 1:07 pm

    I use my Diamir crampon lots with the heel elevator in the 3rd highest position. I find it works just fine for me. I do lots of touring in Europe where there’s lots of steep hardpack slopes to be climbed, and there’s lots of other skiers there who use the Fritschi harscheisen in the 3rd position. I’ve trusted it in lots of situations where the consequences of failure to grip would be long accelerating sliding fall.

    I almost never use the Fritschi crampon on the 2nd heel elevator position recommended on this page.

    True the crampon does not work well in the highest 4th heel elevator position — but there’s little call for that in real touring situations.

    Bear in mind that out on real tours the crampon in the 3rd heel position is not used with the ski base flat on the snow, as shown with that board on that sheet in the photo on this page. The ski is edged and tilted substantially, so the crampon teeth penetrate deeper into hardpack than the vertical geometry of those measurements would suggest.


  10. KenR January 4th, 2010 1:57 pm

    I suspect the real explanation for how it works in the 3rd heel position is that the role of the “ski crampon” is kinda subtle. Perhaps using the word “crampon” is not helpful because it suggests that it’s supposed to work like a boot crampon for ice-climbing. But the points on a boot crampon really do have to “hold” most of the body weight (except what rests on ice axe).

    With harscheisen / couteaux / ski-crampons, _most_ of the climbing skier’s body weight is held by the metal ski edge plus the partly the friction of the edge of the climbing skin. So there’s no need for harscheisen points to penetrate as deep as boot-crampon points.

    I remember when I first tried Fritschi harscheisen I was convinced just by looking that I would never trust them in the 3rd heel position. So at first I used them in the 2nd position. But I kept experimenting on steeper hardpack slopes, and before long I was using the 3rd position confidently.

    So I suspect that if you look at the points of the harscheisen in isolation, you end up over-engineering them. If you test the total climbing system out in real touring situations, you discover that less is sufficient.

    My own complaint about the Fritschi harcheisen is that they’re so bulky to store in my pack, and kinda heavy. I guess the new Axion ones address that, but I haven’t been motivated to switch.


  11. Malcolm Rowe December 1st, 2015 3:34 pm

    Do Fritschi Diamir crampons work with Freeride Plus bindings? I know Axion crampons will, but I have a set of Diamir crampons that I can’t seem to get to work with my newer Freeride Plus bindings.

  12. Malcolm Rowe December 1st, 2015 3:35 pm

    Do Fritschi Diamir crampons work with Freeride Plus bindings. I know Axion crampons will, but I’d like to use my Diamir crampons with my new Freeride Plus.

  13. Malcolm Rowe December 1st, 2015 3:36 pm

    Do Diamir crampons work with Freeride Plus bindings?

  14. Bruno Schull December 2nd, 2015 2:21 am

    Hi Malcolm,

    I am not familiar enough with old Diamir bindings to speak with authority, but as far as I know, there are “old” Diamir crampons, with attach to the binding with two small metal tabs slipped over the back of the tow piece, and “new” Diamir crampons, which attach to the binding with a sliding plastic lever or “gate.” I don’t think the old crampons will fit on the new Freeride Plus bindings. Like I said, I don’t know exactly what years/models you are talking about, but that’s the way I understand it.

    This, of course, is frustrating, not just because the the cross-compatability of old and new parts, but because the new crampons are heaver…so if you want to use new Diamir bidnings (which are already heavy) you have to use new crampons (which make them even heavier).

    I think there is deep potential to make Diamir style frame bindings much lighter and more functional…as much as I love to watch allt eh technological innovations in pin bindings, I wish that some attention was paid to developing frame bindings as well.

  15. Lou Dawson 2 December 2nd, 2015 7:09 am

    Bruno, I agree, I think they could make a really cool frame binding that was quite a bit lighter. Problem is there is probably just not the volume of sales to support, and also don’t forget that the hidden advantages of tech bindings include more natural stride as well as not lifting binding plate and heel unit with each step. Some frame bindings also have the disadvantage of being really twisty in touring mode. Tech bindings have their problems as well, but in human powered skiing lack of weight trumps nearly everything except durability. Lou

  16. Bruno Schull December 2nd, 2015 8:21 am

    Hi Lou. I find the engineering challenges, and all the implicit compromises, fascinating. For example, consider the toe pivot point/natural walking stride issue. It seems like Diamir wanted to move the pivot back, to make the stride more natural, so they did, but then they ran into more problems with the toe of the binding hitting the ski when the binding rotates forward, so they added the spring loaded sliding pivot, which of course also added weight and complexity. And, as you pointed out, no matter how light you make the rest of the binding, there’s no escaping the fact that, with frame bindings, you are lifting the heel pieces with each step…On the other hand, frame bindings make ski brakes really elegant: step in, brakes lift, step out, brakes deploy.

    What do I think could be improved about frame bindings? The weight of course. I think they could find a better compromise between the position of the toe pivot, natural stride, and simplicity….the Tyrolia Ambition might strike a nice balance here, the pivot is in a not too bad place, and it looks like the binding can rotate forward just fine.

    I think with a wide double bar or strip under the foot, and some judicious use of carbon fiber or similar materials, they could make a light, strong, stiff connection between heel and toe, so the binding wasn’t flexible in tour mode. I don’t think they need the highest riser setting, so they could make the heel lifter a little lighter and simpler. They could make light crampons that slip onto the fixed base of the toe unit, much like Dynafit. That would lighten up the whole system. And it would be cool if they could bring the binding down a little closer to the skis. Oh, and with frame bindings, you could remove the tech fittings from the boots, and save a little more weight 🙂 That would be my wish list. But, of course, I would not want to sacrifice the smooth entry and exit, the release functions, the simple operation, and so on. I definitely think that they could bring the weight very close enough to the heavier freeride pin bindings.

    Just out of curiosity–you probably know the answer–do you think there are more people touring on frame or pin bindings around the world today? Maybe the direction the market is going provides the obvious answer?

    I have alpine skis for the resort, and I use my back country skis maybe 5-10 times per year–not enough to develop fluency and comfort with pin bindings, to say nothing of real downhill off piste competence, avalanche awareness, and so on. Some of my touring outings are simply slogging to the base of alpine or ice climbs, and then skiing back down afterwards, often on the piste, for example, in Chamonix (easy climbing stuff…I don’t want to present the image that I’m some kind of alpine bad ass, which is definitely not the case). Most of the rest of the time, I’m touring with my wife, nearly always with a guide. On these mellow days, saving weight is not really an issue. Every so often, I do a moderate ski tour with a ridge climb or something similar. On those longer days, I appreciate saving weight, but not enough to offset what I see as the advantages of frame bindings.

    For these reasons, I bought a pair of light, wide, modern, rockered skis, to help me as much as possible with the down, and put a smile on my face occasionally, and I bought a new set of the lightest Diamir bindings I could find, the Scouts. Bindings with brakes are about 1800 grams.

    I’ll report back on how this works for me after a get some time on them this year. All the best, Bruno.

  17. ph December 2nd, 2015 2:34 pm

    I have nearly 10 year old Fritschi bindings called Freeride FR+, and these support both the old/simple crampons from Fritschi and a newer style like the latest Axion style but in red plastic. There is no recent Freeride Plus as far as I know, but the current Freeride Pro, Eagle and Scout all use the same Axion model which is black plastic and not compatible with the old Freeride FR+.

    Regarding lighter weight frame bindings conversation, have you noticed there is a now a Tyrolia AAAmbition Carbon model that claims to be 200g lighter, but not sure lighter than which frame binding.


  18. Bruno Schull December 2nd, 2015 3:00 pm

    To ph–my mistake, I was definitely talking about the new Freeride Pro and not the older Freeride Plus, which I have no idea about. That Tyrolia carbon binding looks cool…but yes, hard to tell which binding it is compared with in terms of weight. I assume they are comparing the AAAmbition Carbon (1780 grams) to the AAAmbition 12 (1980 grams). I also assume that those weight include brakes (otherwise why the lower/higher weights with an asterix?) In any case, cool looking binding, but I have no idea how durability and function compare to tried and true Diamir….awesome that some technology and development is going into frame bindings! I saw a pair of the AAAmbition 12’s last year at a shop in Cham…maybe they will have the carbon versions this year to play with?

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