G3 ION Ski Binding Field Test


Post by WildSnow.com blogger | January 6, 2014      

SHOP FOR G3 ION

(For ION technical details please see our extensive ION backcountry skiing binding first look review.)

Wildsnow’s gone fully mobile lately.The older generation is in Europe, and I’ve been in the Canadian Kootenays and Selkirks (although my trip might more accurately be described as “transient”).

While on our trip in Nelson, I was able to get a day testing out G3’s new ION touring binding (they like it spelled with all caps). Cam Shute, one of the G3 engineers, lives in the powder paradise of Nelson. Cam trusted me enough to let me throw a pair of new skis and ION bindings in the car for a day of touring in the Whitewater backcountry. Although only a one-day tryout, I attempted to abuse the new binding. Fresh powder reduced the abuse level, but I did get in a good test session.

Testing G3's new ION tech binding in the Whitewater backcountry near Nelson, BC.

Testing G3's new ION tech binding in the Whitewater backcountry near Nelson, BC.

It’s important to note that the ION bindings I tested were pre-production prototypes with small issues still being worked out. With that caveat, I did feel I was able to get a good feel for the ION. Comments on durability will have to wait until full production bindings are available.

My first impression of the bindings is that they look sexy! On a less superficial level, they feel and appear well-made, with unique new features that push the development of touring bindings.

The brake system is one of the quality parts of the ION. Brakes on tech bindings have long been a compromise resulting in a brake that is lightweight and removable, but doesn’t perform as well as a brake on a standard alpine binding. ION brakes are held down by a small catch that engages when the binding is flipped to touring mode (same as G3’s current ONYX binding). This allows two things; the brakes have a much stronger spring pressure so they work better as ski stoppers, and they are deployed until you step into the binding, in tour or alpine mode. In other words, you’re less likely to lose a ski at the top of a peak because you’ve got your brakes locked up in touring mode.

I was impressed with the brakes during my little tour. I could see it being convenient on exposed transitions to have the brakes deployed all the time. (They might also work as make-shift ski crampons on icy skin tracks, since they can be deployed in tour mode. Indeed, perhaps the future of ski brakes on touring bindings is for them to have a “crampon” mode?)

ION bindings incorporate “forward pressure” heel elasticity into the design. This is somewhat similar to most alpine bindings (although the pressure is not constant), and very similar to some of the other other newer tech offerings. With ION, one small but possibly super important difference is the forward pressure slider is “locked out” in tour mode, so that the binding heel unit can’t move fore/aft while you’re stepping on it in touring mode. This could prove to be important to make sure the mechanism doesn’t wear out, and the binding doesn’t shift while using the heel lifters.

The brake/touring heel lock out also moves the binding back slightly, so there is more room between the boot heel and the binding when you’re in heel-flat-on-ski mode. To test this I jammed through a creek that made a sharp dip in the skin track, a situation that would make many other tech bindings “bind up” from the boot heel getting caught by the heel piece. The extra space successfully mitigated this problem. (Admittedly, I only experience such situations for only one or two steps every few tours. But still, the way to improve what’s essentially a copy of an existing product is to make many small enhancements, and this is one.)

The heel lifters are similar to other fold-up-down inspired heel lifters, with advantages and disadvantages. The biggest difference is that the lifters are symmetrical — the binding can be turned both clockwise and counter clockwise to set for touring. In my view this is an advantage, making the binding both easy to use and more durable. The lifters are also not as spring loaded as Dynafit’s version, making them not “snap” into place as easily. They are still fairly easy to operate with ski poles grips. However, when changing modes without removing skis, you can’t switch modes with a ski pole tip as easily.

Flipping the heel lifter is easy with the handle of a ski pole.

Flipping the heel lifter is easy with the handle of a ski pole.

And yes, ION has no specific feature for switching from downhill to touring mode without exiting binding, though you can learn a technique similar to other tech bindings that allows you to pop your heel up out of the binding while at the same time rotating the heel unit. Within a few minutes I was able to figure out how to use a method similar to the one I usually use with the handle of my ski pole and leaning forward in my boots. G3’s brake system actually makes the mode change slightly easier, since the turning binding doesn’t press the brake down, like it does in other tech bindings. In our experience, on-the-fly mode changes are one of the more over rated features of some ski touring bindings. Sure, the extra 30 seconds you save by doing so is nice, but it’s not going to change the outcome of your day. So moving on…

ION has “nearly neutral” ramp/delta angle, like most alpine bindings. (WildSnow.com measures ION ramp to essentially equal that of most early tech bindings, meaning it still has ramp/delta, but not nearly as much as some of today’s excessively ramped tech bindings.) Although ramp angle is somewhat based on personal preference, I favor neutral, and people switching from alpine bindings will find it easier to get used to as well.

A few other small features are nice design details. My favorite: all adjustment and mounting screws are #3 Pozi. My repair kit suddenly got simpler. Also, the binding has a clever mechanism that raises two plastic posts in front of your boot toe to help locate your boot when you enter the binding. These “boot stops” are probably unnecessary for the experienced tech binding user, but might be quite nice for newbies. What’s cool is they fold down once you snap into the binding. (Note that the boot stops only work for DIN sole ski boots; those with trimmed toes don’t index close enough for the system to function.)

ION binding weight is not final, but similar to other tech bindings with brakes. (Our other, technical blog post about ION has specific weights.) I’d like the binding to be lighter, and it’s possible ION could be stripped down by removing the boot location feature from the toe unit, and removing the brake. On the other hand, the fully featured ION is an exciting new offering in the beefier, tech binding “freeride” segment.

Although mine was just a quick test, I was impressed. This is a welcome iteration of tech bindings, with innovative improvements that go beyond a mere copy of existing products.

ION will got to full retail in fall of 2014.



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Comments

27 Responses to “G3 ION Ski Binding Field Test”

  1. Lee Lau January 6th, 2014 1:02 pm

    Thanks Louie! Now how about some more pictures of blower Koots and Rogers Pass pow and less about gear?

  2. JPee January 6th, 2014 5:51 pm

    Any idea what the price point will be?

  3. Alin January 6th, 2014 6:39 pm

    Lou was saying something around $500 (or over) in the other post. I was hoping for something more like the Onyx, not like the Radical…

  4. Sam January 7th, 2014 3:05 am

    Louie, appreciate your first hand account. Like the photos of the beautiful winter land too. Way to get after it!

  5. Lou Dawson January 7th, 2014 1:24 am

    Yeah, around $500.00.

    Seems reasonable to me, especially if ION has good durability. The development costs for these things are high, and they’re amazingly difficult to make due to the constraints of miniaturization and weight.

    Have to say I’m sitting on pins and needles waiting for consumer testing to commence, based on what’s happened with nearly every pintech binding brand over the past few years in terms of breaking this and breaking that. Getting tired of it, frankly.

    I’m going from the point of view that G3 learned lessons from Onyx, and from watching other brands release products that broke. But on the other hand, it is incredibly difficult to quality control what comes after manufacturing begins. Totally unanticipated problems sneak in, such as defective metal and plastic, and on and on. As always, I’m not sure early adoption is the best approach for any of this stuff since your personal safety and even life depends on it. On the other hand, again, G3 no doubt learned some lessons and they’ve told me their pre-production “beta testing” process is very thorough, they said they “took their time and didn’t rush.”

    Lou

  6. Greg Louie January 7th, 2014 9:15 am

    Pintech? Sounds like a new telemark system. What was wrong with “tech?”

  7. Skian January 7th, 2014 9:20 am

    Great first impression write up. Louie’s capability to put POW to paper might have his father quivering. Thanks for the first field impression, next hard snow test please. All bindings ski well in pow, it’s the 30 mph chatter bang that really tests a bindings real prowess. IMO

  8. Pietro January 7th, 2014 1:28 pm

    How about those scarpa boots? How would you compare them to the maestrale RS?

  9. Lou Dawson January 7th, 2014 1:39 pm

    Greg, as you probably know we had a lot to do with the common use of “tech” to describe the system made popular by Dynafit. It turns out that in many parts of Europe people are calling it the “pin” system or something like that. We just spent two days with the Fritschi guys and they are suggesting we all call it “pintech.” So I thought I’d float it. We’ll see how it goes I like “tech” but WildSnow has much to our surprise gone international, so I’m trying to be more sensitive to words folks are using in the European alpine countries.

    Some of you might be amused to know that we’ve had a few days with a lot of North American traffic, but with more traffic from Switzerland than North America (and large amounts from the other EU alpine countries). I have to admit I was a bit surprised (grin), Quite fun, though as a writer it’s quite intimidating. Our theory is the Europeans like suffering through our powder skiing trip reports after they get back from a day of ice and breakable crust (grin).

    The question is, how can I get all those Swiss girls to shop at backcountry.com?

    Lou

  10. Lew January 24th, 2014 2:44 pm

    These look very promising. Is there a chance that the screw holes for mounting match Dynafits if one were to swap over to the Ions?

  11. gnarwhal January 30th, 2014 12:46 pm

    Perhaps this is a dumb question, but its a nagging one on my mind. Are you still able to ski with the toes locked out should you say lose confidence in the RV setting of the binding?

    Personally I’m quite excited for these bindings. They seem to have improved on at least a few minor annoyances and are going to be coming in at $550.

  12. Jacob February 8th, 2014 7:41 pm

    Lou,
    Do you have any idea on the mounting pattern for the ion? ( same as dynafit or not)

  13. Doug CCBC February 9th, 2014 8:58 am

    Jacob, It is not the same mounting pattern as Dynafit. Definitely a bit wider in the toe as I remember.

    I was really impressed by this binding at the show. It may not get the hype of some other bindings out there, but there were some worthy improvements made by G3 with the Ion.

  14. Lou Dawson February 9th, 2014 9:04 am

    Jacob, you missed our original and detailed first-look of Ion, with mount pattern details.

    http://www.wildsnow.com/11763/ion-g3-ski-binding-backcountry-tech/

    The mount pattern is intentionally designed to prevent overlap with existing holes.

    Lou

  15. Ben February 28th, 2014 2:20 pm

    Not to take this post off subject but I was wondering if you had any impressions on the Synapse 109? Initial beta on the ski seems to be pretty sweet.

  16. lederhosen42 October 4th, 2014 5:01 pm

    Hi Lou, just wondering what your opinion is regarding the potential vulnerability of the ion heelpiece heel risers from breakage. Not 100 percent sure but it appears that in downhill mode they either stack to one side and protrude laterally or hinge down the middle and protrude laterally to both sides. I’m thinking of vulnerability in situations of difficult snow conditions where the inside ski edge is erratically wandering and smashes down on the protruding part of the riser, smashing it off. (just look at scuff marks on the medial cuff of ski boots to ski the proof of this occurance in real world conditions). careful users would stack both risers attachments the outside of the ski minimizing the issue but it would still exist in the form of scrubbing rocks, tree trunks, etc and being torn off…in real world hard use conditions.

  17. powtown November 25th, 2014 11:04 am

    The heel lift mechanism broke on my first day out. The part that broke is a small plastic plate under the heel lifts. As soon as it broke the lifts just flopped around with every stride, engaging under my foot randomly. Had to use a ski strap to hold the lifters down the rest of the day. My local shop said I wasn’t the first to come in with this exact problem. Fingers crossed this doesn’t happen again.

  18. agbagel January 26th, 2015 11:38 am

    I’ve been on the new ION’s for a handful of tours and thought some input for the big, lug-of-a-skier would be useful: I’m 6’4″ 220#, riding 186 Busters. I’m new to the AT setup for little over a year. I’d been tele-ing for 20+ years in the backcountry and was ready to try something new. I was rarely dropping a knee, anyways, due to new mechanical issues. The simplest process was my tele setup w/ Axl’s, but boot and binding weight seemed like too much when all I’m doing is sticking the knees together. The Ion step-in by far is way easier than the Onyx, which I tried for a season last year, and a far simpler process (Onyx felt like I was aid-climbing, again. Lots of little things you had to do to get in and out or switch modes; lifters were a bugger to work with…).
    I’ve read that some of the above people were able to tour without locking out the toes on the Ions. I don’t find that I have the same luck. Some of this may be due to my poor technique as a new AT skier, but when I weight it just right, or wrong, I come out of the toes during the hike up, or once during an uphill kick-turn with a lotta snow on the boards and kicking the heels to get the nose up. Again, maybe when I get out of AT puberty, this won’t happen so much.
    I did come out of the toes during a fall when I caught my edges. It seemed warranted. The lifters are a huge improvement. Brakes did come down once in tour mode during early use, but I found that I had not twisted the rear tower to its fully locked position.
    Also, just a big thank you for all input the bloggers and outside sources who add to this site. I learn a ton and make quality decisions based on this collective effort.

  19. Eric B January 28th, 2015 11:24 am

    Thanks to help from this site chose the G3 IONs for my new Volkl BMT 94s (also see comments on that thread). Been on the bindings since Dec with some good early season tours. Overall very happy with them. Solidly made, easy to operate. Heel popped from tour to downhill mode once, but probably because I didn’t fully click them or clear snow. Brakes are real ski brakes, (unlike some others). Also got the ski crampons which click in fast and easy. Heal lifters easy to flick up and down, feel solid. Also like the little plastic toe guides, fewer mis-hits getting in. But the best thing for me is the ski feel of them – a very responsive connected feeling with the ski, more alpine like than other tech’s I’ve used – maybe this is a result of the binding’s forward pressure (worth fine tuning this adjustment on the bench). And they look the business on the skis! Will report back if any issues come up after more k’s on them…

  20. Greg Smith February 25th, 2015 11:34 am

    Something that never seems to come up with these reviews is the business of touring/skiing with an overnight pack; every time you have to take the ski off, or bend over, to change modes, it’s a mighty pain, and cumulatively exhausting. I’ve come to hate my Dynafits for touring/peak descents for this reason and am going back to Teles! They are good for straight up and down… I’d like to be able to afford a pair of bindings which are completely operable from a standing position (heel-lifters as well).

  21. Eric B April 15th, 2016 1:42 am

    An update on the G3 IONs one year on. Still much to like about them, particularly how well they ski and easy step in, brake system, etc. But two issues have come up. First. I still get the occasional heel rotation into downhill mode when skinning. I don’t think it’s an ice issue as I usually clean them out and ensure they are firmly locked into uphill. It seems to happen going up in dense woods when perhaps a branch or rock pegs them. So far it hasn’t been consequential, just annoying, but wouldn’t want it to happen in the wrong spot. Second, the spring on one of the heel risers that snaps it into place seems to have gone so they flop around. This is really annoying as they occasionally flip into the wrong position and the second riser won’t stay in place for long at all. Not sure what the fix is for this. As the review notes the riser springs are pretty loose even when working. My friends on Dynafits don’t seem to have any issues like these. If G3 can fix these issues as they iterate the binding I’d highly recommend them, but if not, I’d look at other options.

  22. William F April 15th, 2016 11:44 am

    That(the springs in the heel riser) is an issue other users have reported with the ions, which they have been replacing for people with the claim that a new design fixes this issue. Not sure if it actually does, but I do know people have had good luck getting g3 to replace them.

  23. Eric B April 18th, 2016 1:51 am

    Thanks William, I’ll contact G3 to see about a fix or replacement.

  24. Lou Dawson 2 April 20th, 2016 6:03 am

    I got a current read on the ION heel flip-lifter “spring” issue. There is a plastic compression fitting part that gives resistance to the flip-lifters flipping to different positions. Apparently this part either wears too quickly or outright comes out of the binding, after that the flip-lifters have no resistance to flipping into different positions while in use. Not particularly a safety issue and won’t totally ruin your life as is possible with some of the tech binding defects we’ve seen over the years, but most certainly an annoyance.

    The fix is warranty replacement.

    According to a dealer I spoke with, G3 is doing a good job with this and will replace defective heel units with an entire heel unit incorporating an improved lifter part.

    We suspect that working through a competent dealer is the best way to go about getting a defective heel unit fixed with little or no downtime. But it appears that on their website G3 has options for warranty process.

    http://www.genuineguidegear.com/

    Commenters, please let us know how your experience goes with getting the lifter issue taken care of.

    Lou

  25. David April 20th, 2016 11:31 am

    This has happened to both of my heels, one after 0.5 season and one after 1.5 seasons of use. Both replaced replaced heels are now fine.

    Solution in the field was to wire both lifters together as the higher mass wouldn’t flip as much into an unwanted position (but then you don’t have an intermediate position for climbing.)

    I contacted G3 who told me to go to the dealer. Fortunately, MEC had heel units in stock and swapped them on the spot.

  26. Eric B October 5th, 2016 5:48 am

    Thanks Lou for the helpful info on the heel lifter issue back in April. My dealer has now removed the heel unit and sent it to G3 for repair/replacement. My only concern is I had these mounted on Volkl BMT 94s which as you know have a narrow H shaped mounting area in the midst of lots of carbon and air channels (you posted useful info on this on the BMT 94 thread). Is there any risk from removing/remounting bindings on these skis? Any instructions I should give the shop doing this for me to ensure its done right? I’m planning some trips to some pretty remote spots this season and have nightmares of popping the heel unit off in the middle of nowhere!

  27. Eric B April 14th, 2017 2:55 pm

    Just a follow-up on my G3 Ion saga. After 3 seasons on them I’m going to get rid of them and get some Dynafits. The G3s just aren’t reliable enough. After the issue of the broken heel lifter above (which to G3’s credit they repaired it for free even though they were past warranty), I keep having repeated issues of the heel unit popping from skinning to downhill mode. This is despite my carefully cleaning ice out at each transition, checking they are fully engaged, etc. Sometimes it is just an annoyance, but I’ve had two situations where it was genuinely dangerous. In addition, I’ve had repeated problems with the brakes freezing in locked position, again mostly an annoyance, but in the wrong situation could result in a lost ski in the BC. It is a shame because there is much else to like about the binding – simple operation, skis really well, looks cool, etc. Hopefully G3 can address these issues as they iterated the binding, but until they do it is hard to have confidence in it.

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  • Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information & opinion website. Lou's passion for the past 50 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about ski touring and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free ski touring news and information here.

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