Anti-Communist Binding — Polish Ingenuity Keeps Shipyard Workers Skiing


Post by WildSnow.com blogger | February 9, 2016      

The time, late 1980s. The place, shipyards of Gdansk Poland (where the Solidarity movement began that eventually liberated the country). Shipyard machinists and fabricators made 250 surreptitious copies of the Silvretta 404, obviously by hand. The bindings were called the “Trawers” (Traverse in English) and used the heel clamp from a Polish alpine binding called the Gamma. Any of you European readers ski on these? More details in our Trawers Gamma Polish ski touring binding museum display.

'Trawers' hand made copy of Silvretta 404.

At bottom of photo, ‘Trawers’ hand made copy of Silvretta 404 shown at top of photo.

See our Polish translation, thanks Sebastian!



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Comments

34 Responses to “Anti-Communist Binding — Polish Ingenuity Keeps Shipyard Workers Skiing”

  1. Sebastian February 9th, 2016 8:34 am

    Lou – I know it will could be funny – could I translate this article in to polish?
    I no one from my friends didn`t know about polish copy of S404 🙂
    Best Regards!

  2. Charlie Hagedorn February 9th, 2016 10:31 am

    Even today, that’s probably still the most pragmatic binding design that’s ever been made.

    The pursuit of mountain adventure knows no political division.

  3. Lou Dawson 2 February 9th, 2016 11:07 am

    Sabastian, could you translate and give me the translation so I can publish on the same page? You can then link to it and it’ll all be in one place, which I like as I prefer to retain editorial control of my content. Thanks, Lou

  4. ptor February 9th, 2016 1:00 pm

    Maybe if they remake some Emerys with surplus Russian titanium it could help take down corporate ‘crony’ capitalism.

  5. LUKAS0987@OP.PL February 9th, 2016 1:00 pm

    Best regards from Poland 🙂

  6. Sebastian February 9th, 2016 2:09 pm

    Lou – I will prepare this today and send – I invited you on Fb, bujt maybe better would be send this to your email.
    Best regards

  7. Lou Dawson 2 February 9th, 2016 3:45 pm

    Hi Sebastian, I’ll get in touch with you. Thanks, Lou

  8. Michal February 9th, 2016 4:17 pm

    Gamma is not the name of this bindings. Gamma was downhill binding produced by Polsport from Bielsko-Bia?a. There where apparently used parts of this binding to produce those.
    First when I read your note about this binding I was thinking that mabey they where produced for the army, for mountain troops but if that was the case then they would be produced by Polsport, so this seems to be private production.
    Another hypothesis is that they were made for polish himalayan expeditions – at that time there many winter expedition in high mountain and many of the most famous climbers where from Gda?sk (even now there are few high end down bags producers in that region).
    And mabey they were simply produced for sale.
    I can’t recognize any other parts of this binding but probably some of them are from other, even not ski related items.

  9. Morroi February 9th, 2016 4:24 pm

    Mmmmm…. I’m wondering if Jerzy Kukuzcka, aka Jurek, the best alpinist ever, used those bindings when submitting and down skiing the Shisa Pagma in the 80s (his 14th 8000m peak). Always wondered what sort of equipment he was using… Any info?

  10. Michal February 9th, 2016 4:43 pm

    I found only 2 pictures on the internet:
    http://ocdn.eu/images/pulscms/ZmE7MDMsMjZjLDAsMCwxOzAzLDAsMjU4LDAsMQ__/1edee3bae1830c116286a6caf4effded.jpg
    http://www.czar-gor.pl/galeria/20140504-istebna-i-ochodzita/DSC_2012-narty-na-ktorych-kukuczka-zjechal-z-shisha-pangma.JPG
    (second one is from small museum of Kukuczka in Istebna)
    Mabey you will recognize those bindings

    Jerzy Kukuczka by himself wrote about those skis in his book “My vertical world” that (my amateur, ad hoc translation):
    “We are moving on skis. Our planks are special. The are lighter than those used by skiers “pó?kowi” (this may refer to mountain troops or simple downhill skiers – i don’t know exact context of this fragment). They are equiped with climbing skins, modern, safety released bindings that are two functions allow us to shuffle (walk) comfortably in flat terrain and also lock down heels securely for effective downhill ride. Four pairs of those where given to us from Rossignol.”

  11. Lou Dawson 2 February 9th, 2016 4:44 pm

    Michal, I got that from the source of the bindings, did edit the post. Thanks, Lou

  12. Michal February 9th, 2016 5:04 pm

    Ok 🙂
    One note on legality. Those copy were in fact legal. As you can expect, capitalist legal rights where not recognized in communist Poland. So even those normal, downhill bindings produced by factory owned by governemnt, were probably copy of some bindings from wester europe. Just like many other sports equpment – primus or trangia stoves, backpacks etc

  13. Witold February 9th, 2016 5:11 pm

    @ Michal – you are right bindings were made for Mountaineering Club members and distributed all over Poland and few went to Slovakia. Yes, the heel was from Gamma alpine bindings, the main part of the binding was made as a “foreigner job” in shipyard” /a lot of gear was made this way at this time!/ .
    Witold

  14. Lou Dawson 2 February 9th, 2016 5:59 pm

    Michal, the binding on Jerzy skis are the plastic walking plate part of an early Petzel, that worked well to create a lightweight binding with no side release. Pretty sure. Lou

  15. See February 9th, 2016 8:18 pm

    Anti-communist but union-made?

  16. Morroi February 9th, 2016 11:11 pm

    Thanks for the photos Michal and for the info on the bindings Lou. Just read “My vertical world” the other week and those words had sparked my curiosity.

  17. Michal February 10th, 2016 3:53 am

    Thank you Witold – interesting piece of history 🙂 Did you ski on them? How they worked compared to others?
    Thank you Lou – I was betting rather on Emery or Sumatic – but only by scroll pictures in your museum.

  18. Lou Dawson 2 February 10th, 2016 5:37 am

    Witold, since we’ve got you here (grin), could you give us a little more information. What exact years were the bindings made, and did the work have to be done out of the view of managers, surreptitiously?

    Michael, by “illegal” I was meaning that the workers were not supposed to be making ski bindings, or so I gathered. You are correct about the “capitalist legal rights” not being recognized. Indeed, remnants of that philosophy is one of the reasons hackers who attack our data and websites pretty much run free in Ukraine, Russia, etc., or so I understand.

    Lou

  19. Lou Dawson 2 February 10th, 2016 5:38 am

    See, LOL

  20. Lou Dawson 2 February 10th, 2016 7:07 am

    Also, Witold, is there a name for the binding? Perhaps share it in Polish and English? Thanks, Lou

  21. Witold February 10th, 2016 7:42 pm

    The name of the bindings was “Trawers”, Traverse in English –as you can easily figure out. Some tooling for the bindings was made out of view of the management. Some of managers were skiers, which helped. Other parts were contracted between small job shops. Everything was assembled on my mum’s kitchen bench. Years 1991-1992.
    I stopped to use them about 2005. I had no technical problems in use but as you can imagine, I was able to fix any problems myself without even knowing that there is a problem. From very limited feedback I know that some people had problems with the adjustment. Those bindings, unlike Silveretta, did not have stabilised boot tension. It was set by Gamma or Marker Rotomat heel unit; quite tricky to get it right!

  22. Kuba February 12th, 2016 5:22 am

    Hi,

    Lou@ thank you very much for this article!
    Witold@ – I suppose that you are Witold G. – so, thank you for the binding again, after almost 25 years!
    Sebastian@ – You didn’t search enough. You have a colleague who knows about it and used it 😀

    I had and used Trawers binding around 1990 (probably started in 1991/92 season). I used back part from Gamma’s but I need stronger one so I switched to Marker Rotamat (the “explosive” version from early eighties). I bought that binding directly from Witold. I use it for a few seasons – they worked great. Only one big problem which I noticed was a lack of crampons and some problems with durability. After one or two seasons I changed the fiberglass bars (the green part of the frame visible on the picture) to aluminium ones.
    The bindings was mounted on Polish Polsport Tricore skis (an awful model of ski made in Polsport Szaflary ski factory at the end of it’s life) and used in combination with Koflach Valuga boots.

    Unfortunately the whole set was given to some one as a gift in the middle nineties.

    Kuba

  23. Lou Dawson 2 February 12th, 2016 7:31 am

    Koflach Valuga, probably the heaviest ski touring boot ever made! Truly, amazingly heavy. I know of a few pair in existence, just picking them up strains my back (grin).

  24. Lou Dawson 2 February 12th, 2016 8:20 am

    Thanks Kuba! This is WildSnow at its best, due to you guys chiming in!

    I’ve done some editing on the blog post and museum page, clarifying name of binding and how it was made, not exactly “illegal” just under the radar or so I understand. Mainly, it shows some very skilled workmanship and ingenuity on the part of those shipyard workers!

  25. Lou Dawson 2 February 12th, 2016 8:22 am

    Sebastian sent over some Polish versions of the text, I’ll get those up soon. Lou

  26. Witold February 13th, 2016 3:49 pm

    @ Kuba – thanks for not complaining about my bindings too much. I left Poland in 1993 and my partner Marek decided not to carry on with this project. Yes, we had quite a few problems to sort out with the bindings….. And I am pleased that Trawers experience did not put you off ski touring! It seems that a quarter of a century later we are still keen to go far from crowds on untracked snow.
    You replaced fiberglass bars by yourself – it was our way to deal with technical problems back then. These days, the first thing we would do would be checking when the warranty expires…
    @ Lou, when it comes to Valuga Koflach – half a year ago I managed to talk my wife into replacing them with new Dynafits! It was not easy, she really liked them, but my concern was that shells can crack somewhere far from civilisation. And I can add that she is also a keen skier.

  27. Lou Dawson 2 February 15th, 2016 8:35 am

    Sebastian sent over a Polish translation of this page as well as the museum display. I tried to embed the text in the article but had problems with the Polish alpha characters displaying correctly. So I simply linked to a PDF he sent over.

    Spent all morning trying to get the character set working correctly. Seemed like another series of tweaks that could break the website so I’ll hold off for now. Perhaps a project for summer.

    Lou

  28. Patrick O February 15th, 2016 9:38 am

    Someday I am gonna get my hands on some Silverettas. They just get gobbled up immediately. 1st world problem.

  29. Lou Dawson 2 February 15th, 2016 10:24 am

    Perhaps you need to learn to speak Polish?

  30. Patrick O February 15th, 2016 11:22 am

    mo?e

  31. Patrick O February 15th, 2016 11:24 am

    Well that didn’t work. I guess your site does not recognize the complete Polish alphabet.

  32. Lou Dawson 2 February 15th, 2016 11:32 am

    Patrick, yeah, there is something fundamentally wrong with my character set settings. Typical. It never ends. I’ll fix it when the winter slows down as it involves possible rework of the database and possibly totally breaking the site. Just so typical of this stuff. Sigh. Lou

  33. ted February 15th, 2016 2:16 pm

    Patrick- what silvrettas are you looking for?

  34. Patrick O February 15th, 2016 2:48 pm

    404s or 500s something for that will work with mountaineering boot.





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