Tristan — WildSnow Reader Rides

Post by blogger | February 23, 2015      

Tristan T. (10 years old) and his dad showed up at the WildSnow mod shop after a productive internet shopping tour.

The snowmobile remains at WildSnow HQ, but Tristan was digging his first real ski touring setup.

The snowmobile remains at WildSnow HQ, but Tristan was digging his first real ski touring setup.

We pulled one of the torsional release springs out of the Dynafit Comfort heel and set it to about 5 on the scale imprinted on the binding housing. We dialed the vertical (upward) release down to between 4 & 5 on the scale and made sure the heel gap was set to a “loose” 6 mm, resulting in the vertical release force being noticeably lower than with a tighter gap. Release checks with Tristan twisting out of the binding on the floor of the shop verified that it was all within range for Tristan’s size (70 lbs, 57 inches tall). Doing the ‘carpet’ testing had the added advantage of practice getting in and out of the binding.

The trick with this is to know you can’t really get a normal tech binding set to below a release value of around 3. Thus, they don’t work kids smaller than Tristan, who can probably be skiing at release value of approximately 4, or perhaps 5 if he’s aggressive. Indeed, once he gains some weight I recommend his dad puts the second spring back into the heel unit lateral release and do another test and tune.

The first test of a system like this should be for the kid to do some aggressive snowplowing and fooling around on moderate terrain at slow speeds, to see if he tends to come out of the bindings. Due to being conservative, it’s likely you’ll set them too low, thus increasing the likelihood of accidental release.

Tristan’s boots are a pair of Scarpa Velvet 22.5 acquired at deep discount from Sierra Trading Post. The Dynafit Comfort bindings came via Ebay. Skis were easy to acquire Volkl Mantra 128, with a pair of reconfigured pre-owned skins.


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19 Responses to “Tristan — WildSnow Reader Rides”

  1. NT February 23rd, 2015 10:59 am

    Great post. Can’t wait to get my kid doing this someday.

  2. wyomingowen February 23rd, 2015 1:15 pm

    Agreed great post, my daughter is Tristan’s size, and the free market is asking silly $$$ for used fritschi’s sz small and silvretta.

    I just can’t stand to expose anyone, especially my own, to Trekkers and the Contour seems way similar to that….suffer fest

  3. Joe Risi February 23rd, 2015 2:21 pm

    Tristan, Kids, Parents, and crazy college co-eds,

    I just got Aspen to approve $100 off for the Power of Four Race on Saturday to kids, teens, and stinky college kids!

    Use discount code “pofstudent” at Checkout and they/you can race either the REC or RACE division WITH a college or school ID.

    21 and under only!

  4. Lou Dawson 2 February 23rd, 2015 4:33 pm

    Good job Joe!

  5. g February 23rd, 2015 5:30 pm

    with the reticence to all things free heel on this site, I will give everyone some advice.

    I have found with my kids, starting at age 6, that mounting an old three pin setup, to include the old black diamond / riva that you can still purchase new with the small “female” cables for $50.00, that you can set your child up with a touring set up fairly cheaply. In my boys cases, you can find he smallest women’s tele boot setups for super cheap. Whole setup for less than 200.00 generally.

    Kids that are learning to ski or who are good skiiers developing their skiing, have no problem adjusting to the freeheel, even if just making alpine style turns.

    And, any kid growing up in the west skiing, should be comfortable on a free heel set up in any event [cross country, skating, etc.] At least that is my philosophy.

  6. Trent February 23rd, 2015 7:07 pm

    g, you see “mixed” families in Norway all the time. Dad skiing alpine, mom snowboarding and the kid either telemarking in nordic gear or in a junior telemark setup. If you spend a season in Norway, you understand how good this ecumenical system is at producing great skiers. I’ve never understood why Americans (and other nations and alpine zealots) are so sectarian about disciplines.

  7. George February 23rd, 2015 7:59 pm

    @G, good points on junior tele setup. In Colorado, we can find used skis and tech boots easily starting at size 23+ at $40 – $60/each. The nice thing about Tristan’s setup is that he can reuse the bindings for 7-10 years, the skis for 2-3 years and the boots 1-2 seasons. I expect a small loss on the new boots, but equal money on selling his used skis. We resold his Fritschi setup (skis, binders & boots) for $200 after 2 years use and a $250 investment. Once you buy the pricey tech bindings the big investment is followed by modest $ used ski and boot upgrades as your kids grow. I expect annual costs to run $50-100/year for Tristan’s touring gear. Watch your kids smile after a rewarding hour+ climb, looking for snow pillows to hit and talking smack on the ride home is priceless. Building the BC stoke one kid at a time in Colorado!

  8. UpSki Kevin February 23rd, 2015 8:20 pm

    I’ll may never be a sledder, but that is a sweet looking machine!

  9. Thom Mackris February 23rd, 2015 10:39 pm

    All, the following is unverified by me. I saved it from an old Couloir forum post. Trust but verify if you play with this …

    [begin quoted post]

    “Even by removing the inner spring I was unable to get the lateral release
    low enough for a 94 lb lady to be safe.”

    “I ordered some A9-29 springs from century spring and that did the trick.”

    “This makes the heel very easy to rotate as the resistance of the toe hooks
    at this low of a setting come in to play a much larger role.
    So far so good.”


    length 1.44″
    wire .081″

    [/end quoted post]


  10. Duncan February 24th, 2015 12:16 am

    Lou can you shell check the length and volume of Tristan’s boot. His lower leg angle looks vertical in that photo. A possible sign the shell is too long. It is all very well if the spring tension is set low but will be to naught if his foot is pivoting and lifting in the shell. Especially in undulating backcountry terrain.
    If the volume and length of the shell does not hold his foot with enough integrity I am always concerned the rotational and lifting force is not transferred throughout the shell and the binding does not constantly release. Just a thought.

  11. Wookie February 24th, 2015 1:28 am

    This is such a great thing. Hope this turns into a kind of Wiki for these sorts of projects, as I am certain that no one setup would be ideal for all kids in all situations.
    Lou – I can imagine that your liability organ (Americans have these) is having a spasm, but is there any possibility of a more “how-to” post regarding this?

    I actually know how to get to the springs – but rather than have others just hack at it – it might be better to lay it all out.
    The more kids that do this, the better – for all of us.

  12. Lou 2 February 24th, 2015 6:08 am

    Duncan, I agree that too big a boot is a concern. All you parents should take note. Tristan was able to twist and pull out of the binding pretty easily, so I’m not worried. Nonetheless, I’ll remind his dad to keep working on the boot fitting. If a boot is slightly oversized, throwing in an extra insole spacer and thick socks can make a world of difference, but there is indeed a point where the shell is simply too big. In that case it’s a choice by the parents of how far they want to compromise. In my opinion, if all you’re doing is short uphills and easy down, and the kid is already a good skier, I don’t think there is much to worry about. But if you live in Cham’ and you’re expecting them to take the cable up to the Midi then climb Mt Blanc and ski from the summit back down to the valley, boot fitting is perhaps more crucial.

    Seriously speaking, getting kids into touring is as much about easy fun goals as it is about the gear. Some kids enjoy the process of fooling around with the gear (I won’t mention “boys” in that sentence for fear of being accused as a sexist, but, still…), BUT don’t obsess on the gear. Just snapping a Trekker or Contour plate into an alpine binding and taking the kid on a 30 minute fun trek, with some laughing and fooling around, that’s often plenty. They grow up fast, no need to push.

    Tech note: If you do have access to a binding check machine and the operator knows how to test tech bindings, doing some release checks would be a fine addition to the carpet testing. Hand release checks are perhaps a lost art, now that everyone just goes to eleven?


  13. Lou Dawson 2 February 24th, 2015 6:53 am

    Wookie, we have a little thing called the First Amendment here in the evil empire. Published writing is covered, though anyone can sue anyone for anything if they feel like it. That’s also part of our freedoms (grin). Seriously, one way the First Amendment in journalism can be reliably obviated is in the case of egregious negligence. So long as we’re careful here to research, test, and thoroughly describe what we’re doing I’m not too worried about liability. Our disclaimer (bottom of page) is also part of the formula, though disclaimers are just foundational, not the main thing. Our attorney also told me some time ago that it’s always good to interject phrases such as “in my opinion,” but doing so clutters up the writing so I’m not keen on too much of that, though I do it. Same with “use at your own risk.” In the case of all our equipment writing, I’ll say it, THE PUBLISHING HERE IS FOR ENTERTAINMENT AND EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY, IF YOU CHOOSE TO DO ANY OF THE STUFF WE WRITE ABOUT YOU DO SO AT YOUR OWN RISK.
    There you go.

  14. Lisa February 24th, 2015 1:35 pm

    Tristan, you are awesome! Let’s go skiing.

  15. Frank K February 25th, 2015 10:37 am

    I wonder if a CAST binding would be another good option. Any kid’s alpine boot could get the toepieces installed, and any alpine binding that fits into the CAST slider would work, and at the recommended DIN setting.

  16. Lou Dawson 2 February 25th, 2015 11:01 am

    Frank, agreed. Cost and fiddle factor are the downsides, remember that a perfectly fit ski boot on a kid is only going to work for one season! … but yes it would be a way to use a junior alpine binding and junior boot.

  17. Frank K February 26th, 2015 8:32 am

    Lou, cost is actually what made me think of CAST. After all, it would be one pair of boots, one pair of bindings, and one pair of skis, rather than potentially having a BC and resort setup for all of that. Just another option, options are good.

  18. Lou Dawson 2 February 26th, 2015 9:19 am

    Yeah, in that sense, I can see your point… the main thing would be how often boot size requires a new boot, and if boots are available with tech fittings or a CAST tech toe install is required. Lou

  19. George February 28th, 2015 5:27 pm

    @Lisa: Tristan says, “When do you want to ski?”
    See you soon in Marble. Quarry road to study plot is a nice goal for Tristan.

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