Innovation and Refinement — Fritschi Diamir Vipec 12 TUV “Black” — Review

Post by blogger | May 9, 2016      

Note: What is this binding actually named? You’ll see it called “Diamir Vipec 12 TUV” or just “Diamir Vipec 12” or “Black Diamond Fritschi Diamir Vipec 12 TUV Binding w/ Brake.” In our case we call it Diamir Vipec 12 Black, or a condensate thereof. A previous “12” model exists as well. If shopping take care what you order. We don’t recommend the previous model; this “Black” version is way too much of an improvement.

Fritschi Diamir Vipec 12 Black.

Fritschi Diamir Vipec 12 Black. On snow testing results in skiing with two thumbs up. Looks odd, but I couldn’t help it.

Ok, I’ve been on these guys for multiple days. Even used Vipec 12 Black for lift skiing so I’d have to step-in fast enough to keep up with folks on their alpine clamps. Clearly, this model is a significant upgrade of the Diamir Vipec.

Most importantly for me, the binding is much easier to click onto your boot toe during entry. However, I did still find Vipec 12 a bit more difficult to enter than many other tech bindings, depending on how much snow or ice was shimmed between my boot toe and the trigger zone. I also occasionally had trouble exiting, due to ice or dense snow preventing my pushing the opening lever down to its full range.

Despite my life altering Vipec trials (oh, those 3 extra seconds to click in were so painful!), I’m certain that with a modicum of learning about positioning your foot and clearing snow the entry-exit process is now acceptable. This may not be so with other Vipec models (depending on your boot brand and willingness to learn, or at least willingness to fiddle).

We covered many details (including anti-icing improvements) of the 12 Black in previous posts, this summary review is intended to hit items I found personally significant. (Note that “White” model Vipec 12 sold for winter 2015-2016 also had improvements for the toe entry, but lacked the overall excellent changes of the “Black.”

Significant improvement for me was the more conventional tech binding closure trigger.

Significant improvement for me was the more conventional tech binding closure trigger. Nonetheless, I found this to be more sensitive to boot position and snow/ice buildup than other bindings I use, which to be fair are fiddly as well, just not quite so much. Note the black “boot toe locators.” Those help if your boot is the correct shape and you don’t have any snow or ice getting in the way. I found they can obstruct positioning of the boot as well (same as other brands with similar feature).

Exceptional lateral travel in the toe is impressive.

Exceptional lateral travel in the toe is impressive. This was improved by reducing material in the visible plastic center section the “carriage” rides underneath, thus allowing one side of the carriage to move farther in while the other moved farther out. I didn’t do any scientific measurement of travel distance but I’m certain this equals and perhaps exceeds most alpine bindings. Quite impressive.

As with all other Vipec, if you're in downhill mode just push on this lever with your ski pole and  snap you're in touring mode (after a stomp to stow the brake).

As with all other Vipec, if you’re in downhill mode just push on this lever with your ski pole and snap, you’re in touring mode (after a stomp to stow the brake). While this is not so much marriage enhancement option for myself and Vipec, I do enjoy on occasion and I know many of you readers do as well. Thus worth mentioning this feature has not changed. Getting back into alpine mode involves reaching down and pulling the white lever up — slightly awkward but doable.

Heel unit performance in downhill alpine mode, both excellent and problematic.

Most tech bindings incur safety release by rotating left-right at the heel. Problem with that is sometimes you need those same forces to turn a ski, and you’ll thus experience a bit of “softness” in feel. All Vipec bindings, on the other hand, have no rotation in the heel. If you’re used to classic tech bindings you can feel the difference. Does it ski any better? In my case I don’t think so, but larger or more aggressive skiers than I may beg to differ. Perhaps most importantly for everyone, with this machinery its impossible to pre-release to the side at the heel. But wait, there is more. Vipec looks so slick and modern, it’s hard to accept it has the same limited vertical elasticity as any other classic tech binding. If you like actually setting your bindings to “chart” release settings that can be a problem — especially with big high-leverage boots in rough terrain. The Fritschi guys are smart, they know this is an achilles heel of an otherwise amazingly improved tech binding. At ISPO last winter I asked about improving vertical heel travel. I got a knowing Swiss half-smile. Keep your eyes open for something innovative that builds on the Vipec 12 platform, only with a heel that rises higher to the occasion, literally.

I’d be remiss in not mentioning that yes, this version of Vipec received TUV certification for DIN/ISO ski touring binding standard 13992. What’s that mean? We think how a binding performs in general “consumer” testing is more important. If the honest opinions of professional skiers reviewers support that take, then TUV is just one pixel on the HD screen of real life. (In the case of 12 Black, the consensus is definitly good. Only glitch I’ve heard is a few bindings that “slip” at the heel when locked in downhill mode. Solution: warranty or perhaps user error correction.) We have lots of content about TUV certifications.

Conclusion: Vipec 12 Black is a viable and potent solution for those wanting a “tech” binding that releases to the side at the toe with impressive elasticity. It has a learning curve. While the toe has impressive lateral travel and elasticity, the heel unit has no more vertical travel than any other conventional tech binding (meaning it has very little). In terms of ski “feel” the non-rotating heel does yield a solid impression. How much of that is merely psychological, and how much it actually helps you ski better, is personal. Me, I don’t need the additional heel stability but I can indeed feel it. Overall Wildsnow thumbs up but we suggest you try before you buy (as with many other brands and models).

Check out this Vipec comparison we did last winter, for details.

Some of you have asked about perhaps combining a Vipec toe with a heel from another brand-model that allows side release or perhaps more vertical elasticity. We tried that here.

Shop for Fritschi Diamir Vipec


32 Responses to “Innovation and Refinement — Fritschi Diamir Vipec 12 TUV “Black” — Review”

  1. Willis Richardson May 9th, 2016 11:28 am

    I used the new Vipec all season and agree with the current comments. The new toe piece is an improved over last years but has another problem with snow build up under the binding if it collects while you are skinning which was not as much of an issue with the original binding. I agree the two black guide pieces are a hindrance, a real pain, they are more of an obstruction than a guide. I do like the release mechanism which has worked perfectly when I have done a beater even in the backcountry. I like the color differences and size structure with the climbing bars on the heel piece. I spent less time getting the the risers at the same height. I like the binding very much, and I think everyone of them has its quirks. You have to decide which set of quirks you can tolerate.

  2. Dabe May 10th, 2016 4:25 am

    Even using a 2.0 sportiva boot and no mention of the tr2 which has lateral toe and vertical heel elasticity. I feel like I’m taking crazy pills 🙂

  3. Lou Dawson 2 May 10th, 2016 7:35 am

    Hi Dabe, in some reviews I focus on one product, others are for comparison. This review is about 1,000 words, I didn’t feel the need to bloat it. The Spectre boots are here, latest version, being reviewed. I have a set of TR2 as well, which should indeed be compared to Vipec at some point. In a nutshell TR2 does have more vertical heel elasticity, but the TR2 heel is somewhat difficult to operate in my opinion. The interesting thing about TR2 heel is that unlike nearly all alpine bindings and unlike Kingpin, it does not use an overcenter pivot action for entry and exit, but rather is a simple spring-loaded clamp. As for TR2 toe, it allows about 9 mm travel of boot toe to side before releasing, Vipec allows about 13 mm. That’s a significant difference on the workbench, whether it makes any difference in real life is the question.

    I hope that helps you with the effects of the crazy pill you popped.


  4. Greg Louie May 10th, 2016 8:21 am

    Any issues with the Spectre tech fittings in the Vipec (do they need a slight width adjustment at the toe)? We’ve had some problems with the 2016 Spectre models; the fittings are shaped slightly differently on the interior and don’t allow the toepiece to seat fully – La Sportiva says there is nothing wrong with the boots, but testing them on a Wintersteiger yields roughly 40-45% less lateral retention than a comparable length boot with Dynafit branded inserts . . .

  5. trollanski May 10th, 2016 9:14 am

    Bit of a correction needed. Switching back to ski mode does not have to involve the “awkward” power-move of reaching down for the heel levers, but can be accomplished with the ski pole grip. This has proven to be a convenient and oft used feature on ridges and forest roads for kick-and glide on the way out.

    Unfortunately, my fear of “many small plastic parts” was realized with a broken toe piece, both around the toe trigger hinge (cracked and missing composite) and the base plate (cracked through). Perhaps not enough reinforcing fibers were swirling around in the mix just then. To be clear, I have been careful to treat them with kid gloves, and have tried to clear out the snow before pressing on the triggers so as not to jam them against the snow build-up. Happened on tour; function was affected; but was just (spooky) able to get back into the binding to get back up over the ridge to ski back out.

    Radical 1’s-Broken. Vipecs-Broken. Guess I’ll try Ions…..
    Caveat – Over 50 yr. old, 95% touring.

  6. Lou Dawson 2 May 10th, 2016 9:17 am

    Hi Greg, thanks for dropping by. I don’t see any issues with these particular boots, but when doing a very careful comparison on workbench I do notice that there is a slight difference in how far up the Vipec toe lever rises after the various brand boots are inserted. I’d imagine that would change release tension to some degree. Yet another reason the DIN standard requires machine testing to verify numbers printed on binding, and yet another reason why everything is a huge mess, and yet another reason why so many skiers just go to 11.

    I measured difference in Vipec toe pin insertion depth with a couple of boots including Dynafit. The pins seem to insert about .30 mm less on the Spectre (in other words, the toe wings are that much wider with the boot inserted). I don’t know what the manufacturing tolerances are on the toe fittings, but that’s probably getting pretty close. I’ll check.

    All that said, mixing the type of binding the fittings function with always seemed like a bad idea to me. Your testing appears to bear that out, and I don’t like what I’m seeing here. The insertion depth should probably have less difference than .30.

    We should both dig into this more. Spectre is an excellent 3 piece boot, I hope that attempting to make it work with three different binding types isn’t a mistake. Shoot, the next thing you know they’ll be adding 3-pin holes to the toe!

  7. Lou Dawson 2 May 10th, 2016 9:29 am

    Trollan, if I hear another broken tech binding report I swear, I’m moving to a nice little village on the Med and taking up sun bathing as a profession. Just watch me. (grin). Seriously though, ION has been proving out good in consumer testing, anyone have any problems they need to report? Only ION problem we’ve had is a few demo/rental bindings with some heel unit play, quick swap from G3 fixed the problem. Lou

  8. Greg Louie May 10th, 2016 10:54 am

    Yes, locking the toes is another way of checking the insertion depth. This was with a Speed Radical (obviously no width adjustment possible) – barely able to get one click with the Spectre, 3 or 4 clicks easily with a new Maestrale RS. We’ve been carefully drilling out the toe fittings a la the first gen Cosmos boots until the closed width is the same and the performance is much improved.

    I’m all for the trend toward standardizing with Dynafit certified fittings . . .

  9. Lou Dawson 2 May 10th, 2016 11:23 am

    Better, just use a caliper and measure width of outside of binding wings with different boots inserted. I was trying to get that clarified above. Counting clicks is pretty crude, but does work for direct comparison between boots. Sheesh, now we’re back to the old Cosmos issues ?! I feel like a spinning top, you guys must feel the same way… this stuff needs to STOP. Lou

  10. Greg Louie May 10th, 2016 11:25 am

    We’ve been doing exactly that, Lou – measuring outside of binding wings with a digital caliper.

  11. Erroneous May 10th, 2016 11:37 am

    The lifter spring on one of my Ions failed after just a few days of use. Not a simple fix, as it requires disassembly of the top plate of the binding for the repair. G3 made me send it in, through my retailer. It took well over a month to get a replacement. They would not sell me a replacement heel unit either. Claimed the body must be “mated” to the post for it to work properly. Not sure why mass produced parts with tight tolerances would need to be custom mated, but what do I know? I got tired of waiting to use my new skis, so I bought and installed Radical 2.0s. They worked flawlessly all season, and ski great. Also reinstalled the Ions on another pair of skis. They have been working well so far (less than 10 days, all touring).

  12. Lou Dawson 2 May 10th, 2016 11:50 am

    Erroneous, thanks for reminding me about that! We’ve not had that failure on anything here but I have indeed heard of it and should have mentioned. Kinda scattered at the moment… Lou

  13. Lou Dawson 2 May 10th, 2016 11:54 am

    Perfect Greg… Did you try adjusting Vipec pin width to compensate for the Spectre fittings? That could be a real plus of the adjustability “feature.”

  14. Greg Louie May 10th, 2016 12:13 pm

    No, this was a customer’s setup with Dynafits already mounted – but yeah, the adjustable toe wings on the Vipec would be very nice in this situation. Interesting that in our Vipec clinic, they just referred to a certain amount of “wiggle” at the heel of the boot in ski mode as the standard (“about like this”) – not too scientific, but they demonstrated and let us feel for ourselves.

  15. Lou Dawson 2 May 10th, 2016 12:43 pm

    Yeah, it’s pretty funny that with tech bindings we’ve gotten to the point where the slightest wriggle causes a question, while alpine bindings frequently have plenty of play. I show people by sticking a boot in an alpine binding and rocking it left and right with the ski clamped. Pretty funny. Not sure how we got so obsessed with 3 microns of binding play, when our knees and ankles have plenty (grin), not to mention foot and leg inside boot moving all over the place. Lou

  16. Dabe May 10th, 2016 1:46 pm

    No need to qualify Lou, I was so excited to see the spectre on you bench. I have the tr2 with the Sideral and just love it. I didn’t realize the vipec had more travel either. I’m excited to hear your thoughts on the sportiva (S3 or whatever they are called) fittings bc I want to get a set of speed rads for a more skimo setup, and hopefully finally hear some press for the tr2! #fanboy

  17. Jim Milstein May 11th, 2016 8:01 am

    BCA Scepter poles work perfectly with the Vipecs. All manipulations can be efficiently done standing upright, and this includes mode changes both ways. Their drawback (from Lou’s point of view!) is that they adjust. I’m okay with that.

    I am one of those who dislikes brakes. However, the Vipec brakes are easily removed. People who use brakes can lose skis on icy slopes or in very deep powder snow. They are also an unpleasant mechanical complication. I prefer the B&D leashes with which skis will not be lost except in an avalanche. Better them than you.

    I agree with Lou that the black vipec is significantly better than its predecessors, having skied it for more than sixty days this season. However, I’m pretty easy on bindings: light weight; seldom fall; hardly ever release. Large, violent skiers may have a different experience.

  18. VT skier May 15th, 2016 6:34 pm

    Speaking of compatibility problems with the La Sportiva Spectre boots. I have noticed with my Speed Turn (1.0) bindings, the sole of the boot at the front, sits high on the toe piece (crampon slot) base plate, causing the boot heel to be raised off the ski in tour mode.
    This isn’t a problem with my ST Verticals which have the same steel toe piece with a different , Vert toe plate.

    So IMHO you can’t use the Spectre boots with the original Speed Turn binding, without exerting a lot of upward force on the toe pins. I guess you could trim back the toe base plate and cut off the crampon slot.

    ps. it looks like the Spectre fits ok in this binding in ski mode only.

  19. Jeremy May 16th, 2016 7:26 am

    VT Skier – I’ve been using the set up you describe, Specters with Speed Turn 1.0s for 2 seasons without issue. While I’ve noticed the same boot/toe piece interface you mentioned, I rarely ski them in flat mode which has probably contributed to my lack of problems.

  20. Gordon August 17th, 2016 3:31 pm

    Got these beauties mounted on a pair of new Coombacks. Can’t wait.

    But, a question: At the end of every season, I’ve lovingly disassembled my trusty Dynafit heels. Then, cleaned and relubed them.

    Lou, is there any annual maintenance that Fritschi recommends for the Vipec?

  21. Peter Romaine October 10th, 2016 6:33 pm

    I skied the Fritschi Vipec 12 Black over 100 days in the Tetons last winter. All I can say is….They Rock. They even released perfectly two times when I snagged a tree. I can make all adjustments (heel lifter/lock mode) while skinning with my pole never having to bend over on steep slopes. I could hop off Big Red and shred 4000′ of pow or at high speed on a groomer if I wasn’t touring. I had NO issues.

  22. Dan January 21st, 2017 2:24 pm

    Hi Lou, A Vipec 12 cautionary note.

    I just had a new pair of Vipec 12 bindings mounted on new Wailer 99 Pure. If the sole length is adjusted to the point where the boot heel just barely kisses the little rectangle on the binding heel, the heel pins hit the bottom of the sole…as if the heel pins were too long. Certainly, I could carve out little sections of the heel or I could adjust the sole so that the heel pins can snap into place, but I think that would be bypassing the point of the binding, etc. Or, I could buy a new pair of boots. I have 2 pairs of boots, Backlanders and TLT6. Neither boot works with the Vipec 12s…unless I do some modifications. I was planning on buying new boots in the fall (2017) and can live w/o the new setup for the remainder of this season. I plan to talk to BD on Monday about the limitations of the Vipecs if the heel is not adjusted right up to the little rectangle. The Diamir on-line info is of no help. Although, I did find a small note buried in the on-line material that indicated TLT boots should not be used with the Vipec 12s. At any rate, a note of caution to prospective Vipec 12 buyers: Make damn sure your boots will work with the Vipecs before purchasing and mounting.


  23. Jim Milstein January 21st, 2017 2:52 pm

    Dan, just whittle the slots in your boot soles so the pins fit in. That’s what I did. No problems. Your boots won’t mind.

  24. Dan January 21st, 2017 5:20 pm

    Thanks for the reassurance Jim, that is exactly what I did. Most of the rubber is gone from the toe end anyway.

  25. Jeff April 22nd, 2017 10:11 am

    I am sure I am missing it somewhere do to poor search skills….does anyone know the boot sole length (bsl) adjustment range on the Vipec Black?

  26. Lou Dawson 2 April 22nd, 2017 12:38 pm

    I’m working hard on the FAQs, but yeah, some of this info is hard to find. The regular Vipec has three heel plate options, excluding the long rental plate, the two “regular plates allow 12.5 mm and 30 mm (latter is the “Guide” plate.) Vipec Black has the same options, but that’s just a guess.

    What’s for sure is the Vipec Black heel plate indeed has the same adjustment range as the original Vipec, I have both here and just compared them. So, I’m pretty sure for the Black you can configure for 12.5 mm BSL range or 30 mm range.

    Check back next week when we’ve got more options for info. Lou

  27. Jim Milstein April 22nd, 2017 1:47 pm

    My Black Vipecs have 25mm adjustment for bsl.

  28. Jim Milstein April 22nd, 2017 1:51 pm

    Actually, you can adjust further if you don’t mind going past the “stop” marks. Probably not advisable for large brutish skiers who don’t want their bindings to rip out.

  29. Lou Dawson 2 April 22nd, 2017 2:46 pm

    Thanks Jim, yeah, I noticed on the Vipec we’ve got here that you can “cheat” the heel unit back farther than the “stop” mark, but indeed, doing so results in some of the heel unit being unsupported so only for regular size skiers not going agro.

  30. Patrik Lind August 7th, 2017 4:07 am

    I just bought a more dedicated ski touring set up. After I got the gear I came upon a video* from Fritschi that stresses “four items to be checked”. One being a 3 mm gap between the binding and the sole of the boot.
    Having mounted my kit I realize that my La Sportiva Sideral 2.0 boots ever so lightly touches the binding. Is this an issue?
    It looks in the blog post above as you have a La Sportiva Spectre boot in the binding. As far as I can see they have the same sole profile.

    Do I have to grind away 3 mm of the rubber sole?!

  31. Lou Dawson 2 August 7th, 2017 7:51 am

    Hi Patrick, yes, you should clearance the boot sole. Very important. Normal stuff in the ski touring world… Lou

  32. Patrik Lind August 20th, 2017 2:07 am

    Thank you for guidance. Keep up the excellent work! I just love!

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  Your Comments

  • Lou Dawson 2: Sam, thanks, perhaps that's #7, as it can slip by the person installing the...
  • Sam: Another common problem I've encountered over the years is premature contact...
  • James Moss: Thanks Dave!...
  • Ted D: If you use the model with brakes, can they be easily removed if one wants t...
  • Thom Mackris: One nit I have to pick with manufacturers of most tech bindings is the fact...
  • Dave Smith: An interesting look back at a rudimentary technology. Snowy Torrents I doc...
  • Lou Dawson 2: Patrick, can you be more clear? Are you talking about the boot ending up to...
  • Patrick: An oddly frequent error from shops that don't mount many tech bindings: bin...
  • Lou Dawson 2: Mounting the heel first is key, but can be done _after_ drilling all holes ...
  • XXX_er: I asked the local shop guy/ski bud how he mounted AT and he gave me a real ...
  • JCoates: I agree with atfred. I'm about 50% success rate with shoulder reductions in...
  • Camilo: Thanks Lou! For #1, a key tip is to mount bindings using both boots, espec...
  • Lou Dawson 2: Sure, especially if the bindings was "worked" for a few days....
  • atfred: Would one stripped screw (out of four or five) really cause a binding to ri...
  • Trevor: Thanks Trollanski and Lou!...
  • Dave: I remember a version of the avalanche cord that was wound up on a reel that...
  • Rudi: I understand the "Tour Lite" wont be available in NA this year. Anybody kno...
  • Jim Pace: I've seen/experienced every one of these. You covered it all I think. On ...
  • See: It seems to me that if you attempt to fix problem 2 on Mt. Olympus using th...
  • Charlie Hagedorn: Great checklist, Lou! Especially valuable for someone new to tech bindings....
  • Lou Dawson 2: Trollan, thanks for noticing Trevor's message, I indeed missed it! Your com...
  • trollanski: Hey Trevor. Saw that you did not get a response on this one, but these two...
  • Jim Milstein: "Alpine ski touring" vs "nordic ski touring" is excellent! These phrases se...
  • atfred: One caveat re a dislocated shoulder (from personal experience), if you're j...
  • Lou Dawson 2: Russell, there is no one ski/binding/boot combo that will do everything. If...
  • Raz: Thanks for your answer. I am doing the first major gear upgrade in many yea...
  • Lou Dawson 2: Raz, with all due respect, it's ridiculous to evaluate a ski binding by its...
  • Russell McGinnis: Dave - It functions similarly to a regular Alpine bindings by having the la...
  • Raz: I am about to install the Tecton on a pair of Blizzard Zero G 108 - 185 cm....
  • Jonathan Moceri: VTskier, Thanks for bringing up the dislocated shoulder scenario. Wh...

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