Frameless “pintech” tech system bindings — try them and you’ll fall in love with how much easier it is to ski tour with less weight. But the bindings can be tricky to operate, intimidating technically challenged backcountry skiers into sticking with simpler alternatives. Diamir Fritschi seeks to win them over with the Vipec. We field tested during a lovely tour in the Bernese Oberland. Ease of use and solid feel “made it a perfect day” — bringing the Diamir Fritschi motto to life.
Vipec bindings are cleverly designed to switch between downhill skiing and touring (and back) without removing the boot from the toe piece of the binding. This is a wonderful feature since it is famously fiddley to get into a tech binding, and then after you’ve succeeded, it can be painful (or even dangerous due to icing) to step out of your binding into knee or thigh deep snow when needing to switch modes. (Granted, you’ll usually remove your skis to apply skins when switching to touring mode from alpine — but not always, and that’s where these features come into play.)
Switching the Vipec between touring and skiing mode is done by moving a lever on the heel piece up or down. I was able to change modes by using my ski pole. Push down on the back piece to set it back for touring. In walk mode, your boot heel is flat on the ski. Flip the medium and high spacers with a flick of your ski pole basket. After a few tries, I got the hang of it and it was convenient to select the appropriate spacer when the angle of the slope changed.
Switching back to downhill mode was not easy to do with the flexible powder baskets on my poles. But, it was simple to twirl my pole around to use the handle. I have Black Diamond grips on my poles which have a nice lip — perfect to grab the heel piece and bring it to lock mode for skiing down.
A note about Vipec toe “lock” modes for touring: Yes, the toe “lock” lever essentially has two positions you can use while in tour mode. In the down position there is no “locking” action whatsoever and the toe of the binding has full elasticity. When striding in this mode, you can see your boot heel move side-to-side due to the binding elasticity. Even so, neither Lou or I ever came out of the binding during kick turns and such while leaving the lever totally unlocked. The other mode occurs when you pull the lever up to a “walk” position that jams out most of the elasticity, but DOES still allow the toe to safety release. Again, neither Lou nor I (or the Fritschi guys) had any problem staying in the binding in this mode. Thus, two points. One, Vipec has full safety release in tour mode. Two, it has NO true release lockout as many other pintech binding do have.
The bindings felt solid and the stable hold was indeed welcome since conditions were variable Swiss chowder. Near the end of the day, the snow deteriorated to windcrust and chop — the most challenging type of snow for me to ski. Having my boot securely in contact with the ski allowed me to struggle less and maneuver through the glop without falling once — always a victory in my book, worthy of celebration at the nearest gasthaus. The Fritschi boys did not disappoint. We dined on a local specialty — Käseschnitte — perhaps one of the tastiest après-ski meals ever. So good, the recipe has to follow.
Käseschnitte for Two
2 thick slices of bread
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup grated cheese such as Emmentaler or Raclette
2 thin slices of ham
Optional ingredients: onions, mushrooms, chives, tomatoes
Melt butter in fry pan and toast bread lightly. Place each piece in individual baking dishes (like the photo above) if you have them, or if you don’t, place both in a casserole pan. Sprinkle with wine and 1/3 of the grated cheese. Add sliced ham, onions, mushrooms, etc. Top with remainder of cheese and bake until golden brown and bubbling. 350° F for about 15 minutes.