Tech Bindings for Ski Touring – 10 Things to Know


Post by WildSnow.com blogger | October 24, 2014      

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Dynafit Radical ST backcountry skiing binding.

Dynafit TLT Radical ST 'tech' backcountry skiing binding.

1. Here at WildSnow.com we define “tech” binding as any ski binding that uses special steel boot TOE socket fittings invented by Fritz Barthel and popularized by Dynafit. Most of the Barthel binding patents expired some time ago, thus allowing the tech binding and associate boot toe fittings to become a de facto standard that’s “copied” by numerous makers.

2. Most tech bindings use special steel boot heel fittings as well, with the exception of Marker Kingpin. (A broader category is “frameless” bindings, simply meaning the heel and toe units are not connected by a plate, but could use any type of boot fittings. Trab TR2 binding is a good example of a frameless binding that we would not call a “tech” binding as it uses proprietary boot fittings at both toe and heel.)

The usual tech fittings for Dynafit and other types of tech bindings.

The usual boot toe tech fittings for Dynafit and other types of tech bindings. Click images to enlarge.

3. Unlike alpine bindings that are quite forgiving as to the shape of the boot sole, tech bindings are dependent on the quality and tight tolerances of the steel boot fittings on the boot toe and heel. There is no official industry standard for the exact shape of the boot fittings, though the sizing and metallurgy of the Dynafit brand fittings is a de facto standard. Apparently, the ISO ski touring boot standard 9523 is under revision for the location of the boot fittings in relation to the rest of the boot, but does not appear to address the manufacturing standards for the actual fittings other than in brief terms. The ideal fittings are quite sophisticated, with a varied radius of the toe sockets that resists pre-release in touring mode (heel somewhat elevated) but smooths out release when the boot is in the flatter alpine position. Most current fittings have been dumbed down, without the varied radius. Sad, but they still work if the user is diligent about locking the toe for touring mode.

Clip removed. Should be obvious to folks who know tech bindings, but one has to wonder how many boot buyers will be seen using frame bindings with this clip still in the boot toe? And, WildSnow kudos to the first person to find one in a skin track.

Boot with the red Dynafit fitting clip “seal” separated; it clips to the toe fittings.

As far as we know, Dynafit provides their fittings to two other boot makers, Scarpa and Fisher. The Dynafit fittings are indicated by a red plastic “seal” clip that’s attached to the new boot. All other boot makers have their own fittings manufactured by various third parties. In our experience ALL boot fittings, including Dynafit, must be immediately tested for proper release function by an experienced do-it-yourselfer or ski shop technician. The boot should release to the side at the heel smoothly (if the binding releases at the heel) without catching at the toe sockets during the second stage of the release movement. There should be no rattle or slop, no clicking while striding in touring mode, and (with reasonable uphill technique) no problems with coming out of the binding while locked in touring mode.

4. Beware of blaming tech binding problems on the binding, when they’re actually caused by the boot fittings. Test interface problems such as play and sticky release by substituting several other pairs of boots, of various brands. If the problem goes away, it is probably the boot!

Fritschi Vipec opens to the side at the toe for lateral (twisting) safety release; most tech bindings instigate lateral release with heel rotation while the boot simultaneously comes out of the binding toe.

Fritschi Vipec opens to the side at the toe for lateral (twisting) safety release; most tech bindings instigate lateral release with heel rotation while the boot simultaneously comes out of the binding toe.

5. Know that all tech bindings that side release at the heel actually have a “two stage” release. This means the heel of the boot moves to the side, then the toe wings open or do a combination of rotating and opening. Fritschi Vipec is the notable exception to this; it opens to the side at the toe as the first and only stage of lateral release (and is similar to most alpine bindings in this regard). It remains to be seen which (if any) of these ways of releasing are safer than others. Companies are making claims, but we’ve seen no studies or data based on real world use.

6. There has never been a major brand tech binding design family, of any brand, that did not have subsequently corrected problems in the first retail versions. In the opinion of certain informed insider sources, it is a miracle some of these episodes have not come under the purview of certain government entities that shall remain nameless herein.

7. Tech bindings were originally designed for ski touring and ski mountaineering using narrow skis and soft ski mountaineering boots of the 1980s. Repurposing the design as a freeride binding is problematic. We feel a “tech 2.0” complete redesign of the system — including boot fittings — is the solution. But standards, even unofficial ones, die hard. The engineering being done to force freeride performance from the tech system is amazing. It’s like making a Formula 1 racer from a Volkswagen — on a limited budget. See our ski touring binding museum.

8. It is an open question if ANY tech binding matches the safety (injury protection) of recent and top quality alpine bindings paired with alpine boots. In our opinion, most tech bindings do NOT match the safety of a properly adjusted alpine setup. That being said, expert skiers commonly adjust their binding release values to excessively high settings, thus obviating any meaningful comparison of safety between binding types and models.

G3 ION is a good example of a beefy high quality tech binding that, while not certified to DIN 13992, appears to offer excellent performance and beef.

G3 ION is a good example of a beefy high quality tech binding that, while not certified to DIN 13992, appears to offer excellent performance and beef.

9. Few tech bindings are overall appropriate for more than occasional resort skiing for two reasons: excessive wear on the binding, as well as safety release and shock absorption that’s in some cases not as good as alpine bindings. Possible exceptions are the DIN/ISO 13992 certified offerings such as Marker Kingpin and Dynafit Beast, as well as certain non certified tech bindings that are obviously beefed and marketed for hard use. A good example is Fritschi Vipec. In any case, know that while the DIN/ISO 13992 standard for backcountry skiing bindings is NOT an alpine binding standard, it is quite similar and does give you some idea of a binding’s level of sophistication. That said, the ISO ski binding standards are not as modern nor as rigorous as one would assume. Do not regard them as the end-all be-all in criteria for picking a good binding. ISO 13992 standard explained.

10. Some Europeans call tech bindings “lowtech,” “pin” bindings or “pintech” bindings. We sometimes use the term “pintech” but shy from the term “pin” because that’s traditionally used for telemark bindings. For more terminology please check out our ski touring glossary.

For more information, please see our Dynafit and tech binding FAQ, as well as search results on our 3,000+ blog posts.



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Comments

48 Responses to “Tech Bindings for Ski Touring – 10 Things to Know”

  1. Rod October 24th, 2014 9:01 am

    Lou, why do you have to lower the rv if you’re over 50?

  2. Lou Dawson 2 October 24th, 2014 9:02 am

    Because your bones and connective tissue are not as strong.

  3. Greg Louie October 24th, 2014 9:55 am

    Rod, YOU don’t have to, the guy setting the RV at the shop does.

  4. Lee Lau October 24th, 2014 10:44 am

    So good. A must-read

    This especially

    add… TGR wannabes (my addition) and “expert skiers commonly adjust their binding release values to excessively high settings, thus obviating any meaningful comparison of safety between binding types and models.”

  5. Steve October 24th, 2014 11:04 am

    But Lou if you had to pick one model to ski for the rest of your life and there was not going to be any further evolution or development, which model would it be? For me it’s the Dynafit Speed. This is still the cleanest, lightest, most-affordable, least-problematic binding out there.

  6. Lukas October 24th, 2014 11:50 am

    In Tyrol the common name for tech bindings is “Lowtech”

  7. michael hilton October 24th, 2014 12:11 pm

    Hey Lou love your site, I’m getting more and more into touring and am now using a Marker F12 but do not like the stand height, or weight for that matter. Im thinking on the ions, would they be significantly lower? Thanks again your blog has been a huge help in my mountain progression!!

  8. Lou Dawson 2 October 24th, 2014 12:41 pm

    Forgot about Lowtech, my bad!

  9. Rod October 24th, 2014 1:32 pm

    Competitive Road cyclists have low bone density, no impact and hard to replace the calcium they sweat on long rides.

    I wonder if people that bc ski, instead of resort, have the same issue.

  10. andrew October 24th, 2014 2:55 pm

    Nice article Lou. A quick addition to point #3 – Fischer boots now appear to have dynafit certified inserts (according to the small tag on a pair of my new 2014/2015 dynafit bindings). Can you confirm this?

  11. Lou Dawson 2 October 24th, 2014 3:24 pm

    Andrew, I just so happen to have a brand spanking new pair of Fischer Transalp (Vacuum ts lite) here at HQ! I took a closer look, and sure enough, here in the box, is the red “Seal” used for showing Dynafit certified boot fittings! Thanks so much for calling my attention to this, amazing how hard it is to track every detail. I was focusing on the boot fitting aspects of the Vacuum system, wasn’t paying attention to the fittings. Thanks, Lou

  12. David October 24th, 2014 3:34 pm

    Lou,

    Here are some “ISER SKI MOUNTAINEERING BINDINGS” for sale $30 if your museum needs such a piece.

    http://preview.tinyurl.com/kahbxxw

    from the MEC gear swap site.

  13. Scott Nelson October 24th, 2014 6:15 pm

    Good reminder to bench test the release every so often. Problems would probably show up with skiing, but preventative steps aren’t a bad idea.

  14. Lou Dawson 2 October 24th, 2014 6:52 pm

    Thanks David, we’ve got some in the collection. That looks like a nice set… Lou

  15. John October 24th, 2014 7:43 pm

    I did not realized that the Trab binding used a different toe fitting as well as heel. I think I read something on TGR about modifying the heel fitting of a set of BD boots to work in a set of the TR2s. That said I’ve never seen one so take that with a big grain of salt. I like #6 too, so many people forget that.

  16. Mark Worley October 24th, 2014 9:53 pm

    A customer was trying boots in the Vipec binding, and when he had a bit of trouble stepping down into the toe wings, one of the wings moved laterally quite significantly to the point of being stopped or frozen far from the position in which the wings would rest before the pins enter the boot toe sockets. Seemed quite odd. Unable to move the wing back toward center, I eventually set the ski fully on edge and pushed the wing back. It required a good deal of force. This would not have gone as well in deep, soft snow.

  17. Mark Worley October 24th, 2014 9:55 pm

    Did I mention I want the Dynafit Radical 2.0? Saw them this week. Forged heel top plate, improved AFD on brake, rotating toe. Cool. Unfortunately, not available until January 2015. Rep thinks this binding may be next in line for certification.

  18. Matt October 25th, 2014 12:50 am

    Chiming in on Mark’s mention of Dynafit’s redesign of the Radical series.
    Did I miss it, or has there been air silence here on Wildsnow about the Radical 2.0 series since it was announced right after the new year?
    Mark mentions a January 2015 release date.
    Does Wildsnow have any further beta on this release from its sources at Dynafit?
    Is Dynafit confident in the January date, & will they have enough product so the new bindings will be readily available at most retailers? I’m currently leaning towards the Radical FT 2.0 over G3’s Ions for a new set of Voile V8s, but am wondering just how bankable that release date will be.
    Will Wildsnow be fieldtesting the new production Radicals prior to the official release?

  19. Rimtu October 25th, 2014 3:17 am

    In my mind best combination for Freeride tech binding would be combination of front piece of Trab TR2, and back piece of Kingpin…

    Untile they make something like this I’m sticking to Dynafit Radical

  20. Lou Dawson 2 October 25th, 2014 6:14 am

    Matt, we did cover the pre-production launch at Press Event last winter, as well as checking them out at ISPO. They’re a fairly major redesign. They shouldn’t have used the “Radical” name in my opinion. Just confusing. In any case we didn’t get testers last spring when we could ski on them, and we’re planning on making that happen sometime sooner than later. It’s super tough to build a tech binding with rotating toe, I’m thus neutral in my opinion on the 2.0, might work, might be a solution without a problem. I’ll check in on it and see how it’s going and report back here. Lou

    https://www.wildsnow.com/11958/dynafit-new-bindings-2014-2015/

  21. andrew October 25th, 2014 5:39 pm

    no problem Lou, am happy to contribute when i can. its the least i can do for all the great info i’ve taken from this site over the years.

    did you consider mentioning the CAST system’s use of tech toe pieces? (and hardboot split boarders too)

    also a mention of the pros/cons of race bindings?

    seems like you could easily go well beyond 10 things to know..

  22. Matt October 25th, 2014 7:40 pm

    Thanks Lou!
    For purely unselfish reasons, of course, might I propose Wildsnow lead off with an early season shootout test between the Ion & the FT 2.0 ?
    Would no doubt be popular with those eager for new bindings, but hesitant to pay for the privelege of being beta testers…

  23. Lou Dawson 2 October 25th, 2014 7:42 pm

    Matt, good idea, we’ll try. It’s all about when they start retail shipping. Oh, and I’m not so sure that’s apples to apples. Lou

  24. Matt October 25th, 2014 8:19 pm

    Not comparable? You have my full attention, Could you please elaborate? All I’ve seen is pretty pictures & specs, to my uninformed eye they looked to be gunning for the same niche.

  25. Lou Dawson 2 October 25th, 2014 9:01 pm

    Dynafit rotates at the toe, ION doesn’t. Huge difference. Other than that, sure, we can compare weights, stand height, stuff like that. And of course ski on them both… Lou

  26. Allan Campbell October 25th, 2014 10:24 pm

    Lou – one of these days could you do an article outlining proper bench testing techniques demonstrating release?

  27. Schleppingham October 25th, 2014 11:54 pm

    Has anyone (any entity) done any kind of even remotely scientific survey of tech binding durability and breakages across brands? Im in the process of putting together a lighter weight mountaineering and shallow powder setup but im having trouble with all the options and newer technology currently available. Not at all sure i want to guineapig untested gear but some of this shiny new stuff “sho is purdy”. Lou, as an industry insider you should pull some strings, get a science and statistic minded intern and put forth a study.

  28. Lou Dawson 2 October 26th, 2014 6:03 am

    Alan, I could do something so thanks for the reminder. The main thing is to check side (lateral) release for smooth action with no catching or blocking at the toe sockets. It’s easy to do on a conventional (side release at the heel) tech binding. Set your side release tension fairly low, say to about 5. Put a boot in the binding. Fix the ski to a workbench with a couple of clamps, or have an assistant help you hold it. Put a boot in the binding. Rotate the heel unit with one hand while you push sideways on the boot heel with the other hand. Do this lightly at first. You should see some elasticity, as the binding toe pins slide in and out of the toe sockets without the boot totally releasing. Push and twist harder, and the toe wings should open and allow the boot to come out, without any huge increase in the force you’re applying. If you feel a “stop” or the boot seems to catch and not release without pushing super hard to the side, then the interaction of the binding toe pins and boot fitting socket is working poorly. A good example is the subsequently fixed problem we documented with one boot maker a while ago. Their fittings are some of the best third-party ones on the market now, but they had some trouble at first. Educational, see:

    https://www.wildsnow.com/8655/garmont-cosmos-details-review/

  29. Did October 26th, 2014 3:07 pm

    Lou, an interesting test would be the FT 2.0 versus the Vipec 12 2.0… they are compteting in the same category since they rotate at the toe. Moreover Diamir has made several enhancements to be really competitive this year.

  30. riccardo milani October 27th, 2014 3:31 am

    Hi Lou,

    The article it’s very interest. But today there is so many different binding in the market for ski race, ski touring, alpine touring, free ride touring and so on.
    I think this article will be more better with all this considerations of target users and binding / brand that the market normally consider.

    Tech binding is to much smaller as frame for consider all the evolution in the market.

    Regards
    Ricardo

  31. Lou Dawson 2 October 27th, 2014 5:18 am

    Ricardo, thanks for the feedback. One of the challenges with writing is you have to ask the reader to make assumptions and read between the lines. The assumption with this article is we’re talking about the mainstream touring and freeride tech bindings, not the specialized race bindings nor the “garage” brands that deviate from the norm, such as with heel units that don’t release. What is more, I did make an effort to define what I mean by a “tech” binding. Perhaps I should add a sentence or two for clarification? Lou

  32. neversummer October 27th, 2014 9:43 am

    Any news of the future salomom tech binding?

  33. Peter October 29th, 2014 9:09 am

    Lou: Do you know if there are any changes made to the 14/15 version of the Dynafit Beast 16 vs. last years model?

  34. Lou Dawson 2 October 29th, 2014 9:42 am

    Pretty sure they made some changes… with these types of bindings I think I’d always advise buying latest iteration. Seems like in-line changes are the name of the game. Lou

  35. Andy November 3rd, 2014 3:35 am

    Lou:

    I having 106mm BC skis from Praxis. I am looking for bindings to match my propose of skiing. And I need your feedback and help regarding my selection – i do not have any experience with tech bindings.

    My attend propose would be to do bc touring and skiing as well as inbound skiing or using lift service to ski off-piste skiing. Since of lacking of snow here in EU it could be that i will do most of the time inbound skiing. Will see what winter will bring.

    So I am looking for touring and good in-bound binding. Reading your article I am getting more and more confused if tech binding would be my selection since lack of elasticy and safety is in question.

    I was looking into Beast 16 since most people told me that this is more than enough capable option to use it also for inbound skiing (compare to radical 2 for example).
    Also looking into Duke or Guardian for example but here people told me that standing point is to high. And also weight is higher compare to Dynafit style of binding.
    What about Vipec or maybe new Marker binding?

    Really confused ?!

    Can you please give me points to consider when picking the right binding for me. Dynafit is not cheap and I do not want to buy ferrari stuff and realize that I do not handle it or maybe was not the right choice for me.
    I am using one ski as do it all for now.

    Many thanks for your effort.
    Take care!

  36. Lou Dawson 2 November 3rd, 2014 5:37 am

    Hi Andy, first, just make a final decision as to if you want to use a frame binding (e.g., Duke) or a tech binding (e.g., Dynafit). If you will be on ski lifts and resort quite a bit more than touring, I’d suggest Duke or Baron as they’ll behave identical to an alpine binding. People make way to big a deal out of stand height. Once you are used to a binding the stand height is part of your timing and becomes relatively inconsequential compared to things like how you buckle your boots or if you are distracted by a good looking girl skiing ahead of you.

    If you will be ski touring much and want a tech binding that will work on resort, and you are new to tech bindings, I would indeed suggest something that is marketed for “freeride” and has the ISO cert. Beast is of course the one at this point as the Marker Kingpin is not available for a few more weeks, and is also unproven.

    As I’ve stated before, some of the other tech offerings seem to be working for freeride, especially for experienced expert skiers. I know a lot of freeriders who are happy with Plum and Dynafit Radical, and the new G3 ION looks to be a contender as well.

    Big thing, as stated above I do not recommend using a first-year product. The history of tech bindings is littered with design/engineering/production failures in first year product. Failures that the ski touring public seems to be the lab animals for testing. Best to avoid. To be fair, I get an overall sense that the bindings companies are being somewhat more careful with their product introductions, with more rigorous pre-retail testing. Still, caution is the rule.

    Lou

  37. Andy November 3rd, 2014 6:11 am

    Lou:
    what about Marker Tour EPF F12? or Maybe Tyrolia Ambition…seems lighter compare to Duke or Guardian.

    So G3 ION is first year product so maybe best to avoid this model for the moment?

    Beast 16 or Beast 14? What I am worried is security on piste. Also here the price is quite high compare to other options below.

    I would like to go more into lighter setup to be able to use is as touring option as well. But if you tell me that tech bindings do not ski as good inbound then I will go into direction of Duke, Guardian, Tyrolia Ambition etc.

    Can you drop me an email to ask you more detailed info about my selection?

    Thanks!

  38. Michael November 3rd, 2014 1:16 pm

    Andy,

    You need to decide if this ski will see more time inbounds or more time truly touring. You asked about pretty much every touring binding on the market. Do some research online and go to your local shop and ask some questions in person as well.

    For true touring (long distances of earned vertical, lots of earned vertical), a tech binding is the way to go, no doubt. I would personally avoid any first generation binding like the Ion. Dynafits are tried and true.

    If you are doing a majority of inbounds skiing, then I personally would steer away from tech bindings (with the exception of the Beast – which is unique). Lots of folks use them inbounds, but they still lack the elasticity/release characteristics of frame and alpine bindings. Especially if you’re skiing in the EU on variable snow.

    How big are you? For lighter skiers not hucking cliffs, the Marker Tour is a great 50% inbounds/50% touring binding that is proven. Dukes/Guardians are beefier but a lot heavier, so leaning much more to the inbounds only ski (90% inbounds, 10% touring). Don’t worry so much about the stand height, seriously. You’ll adapt to whatever in a couple of runs. I’d be more concerned about ramp angle which I find is harder to adjust to. Beast and all frame bindings have pretty flat ramp angles.

    The Beast is unique. I haven’t skied it, but reviews make It sound like it will hold up to inbounds punishment (as long as you’re not hucking big cliffs and skiing super fast over variable terrain). They will tour way better than any frame binding. But they are expensive and require a special boot (which you may or may not have) and modifications to your boot (the horseshoe at the heel). If you are OK with this investment and you have some touring boots that fit you well and you like to ski in, then it also is a good 50/50 option IMO. This applies to the Beast 16. Not a lot of info on the Beast 14.

    In summary, I think the Marker Tour F12 is a great 50/50 option for lift accessed skiing, lift accessed touring, and true ski touring, as long as you don’t huck cliffs regularly. It will ski well on piste and the Marker frame bindings have had years of real world testing and work well for most skiers.

  39. MacKnee November 6th, 2014 9:00 am

    Any views on the Tyrolia Ambition?

    There is one positive comment elsewhere on this site in a blog on Fischer skis. Has anyone else skied them?

  40. Andy November 10th, 2014 5:38 am

    @michael:

    As said i do not have any experiences in tech binding feeling inbounds or elsewhere.

    I am skiing in eu where conditions goes from icy packs to fresh snow. But for example last year we did not have many so i ended up skiing only inbounds + some fresh offpiste using lift service.

    I am 180cm / 75 kg. i would not rate myself as aggressive skier and i like to enjoy skiing rather than going 100km/h downhill.

    I do not jumps cliffs or similar. And since i am doing transformation to touring i would like to adopt 106mm ski first and also take slow approach to completely touring world.

    What i do not what actually is to invest (beast 16 is expensive )in twch bindings and then founs that elasticity and performance inbound suffer . I am seeing myself at the moment to use lift service with short tours (1-3h) on peaks and then ski down.
    As much i would like to tour i need more pow skiing experience where also safety is in question.

    I hope i give my view on bindings.

    Many suggested me baron over duke (to save weights) and baron over tour 12 epf as more durable solution with minimal added weight.

    I need size s for marker (having boots 315-320mm)

    Thanks for replay and effort.

  41. Lou Dawson 2 November 10th, 2014 5:48 am

    Andy, it sounds like you want a piste binding you can possibly use for touring. Again, just go for Baron or Duke at this time. Hire skis with tech bindings to learn how they work and how they feel. By the end of winter you’ll have a better idea of what you would like to do. Lou

  42. Andy November 10th, 2014 5:57 am

    Lou:

    Probably you are right. Now i only need to decide if i should go with baron epf or tour 12 epf which is lighter?

  43. Thadeus Davis November 10th, 2014 7:23 am

    Most women and small guys might be able to get away with the F12 for mostly inbounds skiing with the option to tour but it really sounds like you might want the Baron. Large F12s weigh 2180g, which is nice on the ascent, while the large Barons weigh 2630g and are more rugged with better downhill performance.

  44. Andy November 10th, 2014 10:32 am

    I just bought BARON. Thanks for help. Will test tech bind this winter and see how I like them. Then may decide if I wil go with another skis + tech or stay for a little while with barons.

  45. Tom November 28th, 2014 7:05 pm

    Does anyone on this blog have first-hand experience with the ATK Raider 12? Weighing only 330g including brake, it got a very positive review in the Skitour Magazin (http://www.skitour-magazin.de/alle-ausgaben/ausgabe-114/) and this year ATK has added a version with a 14 “DIN” setting. I am considering to place an order but am a bit concerned about their reliability, especially the toe piece-integrated brake.

  46. Seton Kriese November 28th, 2018 6:39 pm

    Hi, I have a really old (blue and read) pair of dynafit TLT bindings (I tried commenting this on a different post but couldn’t) that have issues with the toe lockout. When I lock them for touring, there is a little bit of play and they sometimes fall off when I am skinning. Any ideas what to do? Thanks

  47. Lou Dawson 2 November 29th, 2018 7:04 am

    Seton, would you use tires that old, or medicine? Time for the bindings to go on the wall, or in the dumpster. Lou

  48. Jim Milstein November 29th, 2018 7:47 am

    Hi Seton, I have a good use for a pair of old, wobbly tech bindings, a better use than the dumpster. If you are interested, contact Lou, and he can get us in touch, I hope.

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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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