Coming back to the demo tent area at the recent Outdoor Retailer trade show someone asked, “how did those G3 binding’s ski?”
They were referring to G3’s entrance into the world of alpine touring (AT) bindings with the Onyx. The name was chosen for its metallurgical properties, a tough, beautiful gemstone.
Considering my preference for turns with a dropped knee, it seemed an odd question to ask me how an Onyx skied. How to answer? The common jab “fix the heel, fix the problem” sort of mandated that power and control were no longer an issue. In telemark it is a constant adaption, an intrinsic part of the turn. Not that it can’t be controlled, there’s plenty of examples of folks to prove that, but once you lock the heel, for this telemarker anyway, there is precious little left to discern one binding from another.
AT skiers love to rib pinheads about how they chatter endlessly about the nuances and variations among telemark bindings. That’s why fixing the heel fixes the problem. It isn’t so much a problem of controlling skis, but controlling the endless yammering. I can hear those with training heels muttering under their breath, “Will ya just shut up about it already! Who cares?”
So it seemed an odd question to me. The heel was locked, control was not an issue, and neither was there much to distinguish. When AT skiers talk about noticing the difference in control and stability, free heelers roll their eyes. Talk about making mountains out of molehills. Geez, the heel is locked and any difference, certainly compared to the variations possible with floppy tele gear, is truly splitting hairs.
So how did G3’s Onyx ski?
Put it this way—even Crispi Evo boots with last season’s overly burly NTN bindings tele better than this rig.
Oh, you mean how well did it transfer power for parallel turns?
I couldn’t tell. Everything underfoot was new; boots, skis and bindings. The snow was fast, firm, and chalky. Easy enough to hold an edge, but I was chattering the whole way down. Was this the skis, or simply proof that when you don’t use it, you lose it? Considering I’ve averaged one parallel day per year for the past 20 it was probably the latter. The skis might have contributed, but it definitely wasn’t the binding.
Brian Litz managed to blow out of his G3 demo pair. I know that wasn’t for lack of practice since P-turns have been his preference for the last 2-3 years. (He’s not so much a dark side convert as a switch hitter who bats right-handed these days.) What that fall revealed was how difficult getting in to the Onyx can be, especially without brakes. The jaws of the toe are by default in the closed position. When open, they have a much tighter tolerance than Dynafit Tech bindings, which means there is less room to wiggle out of alignment, and something that did make getting in easier with the following caveat. The problem is how much pressure needs to be applied to the opening lever at the front of the toe. In simple terms, it’s too much, because the act of pressing the toe lever down can also cause the ski to squirt off down the slope.
The rest of the binding looked great. Switching between locked and free heel modes was simple. Push the rearmost, black lever down and the heel piece retracts from your boot. Flip the inside levers up for two levels of climbing pegs that rest on the spring bars of the heel assembly. All without having to exit the binding for mode changes.
At three pounds (with screws, without brakes) Onyx is almost a pound heavier than Dynafit’s heaviest offering, but is still a pound lighter than Fritschi’s Freeride, and almost half the weight of Marker’s Duke. New converts (especially the younger “freeride” crowd) may think three pounds is light enough for backcountry skiing, and the extra bulk will probably instill confidence where Dynafit’s lack of it requires an extra measure of faith.
One less obvious feature is the mounting plates that the toe and heel unit slide on to. This allows you to easily swap one binding onto several skis. It also makes for at least 30mm of length adjustment where both heel and toe can slide. When asked, G3’s president, Oliver Steffen admitted plates might be used with a future G3 telemark binding.
The Onyx will be available next fall for $399 retail, a price that practically demands a look see.
(Guest blogger Craig Dostie is well known in the backcountry skiing world as founder and publisher of Couloir Magazine, the publication that led the way in making it legal for mainstream ski magazines to cover subjects other than resort ratings and how-to-snowplow tips. Along the way he coined and promoted the phrase “earn your turns.” He mostly telemarks, but has been known to ride a snowboard and latch his heels down.)