Last winter, during a press trip I got in a few good runs with the G3 FINDr 102, and was impressed enough that when a pair showed up at Wild Snow HQ I snagged them post-haste. The testers (I skied the 179 cm; also available in 174, 184, and 189 cm) were mounted with brakeless G3 Ion LT 12 bindings. Alpinist skins, G3’s proven nylon model, rounded out the “pure Canadian” package.
Background: At 5’ 11” and 190 pounds I’m hardly the svelte skimo racer archetype. I stick to moderate terrain and would be best described as an average yet experienced backcountry skier. Now into my sixth decade, I’m more than happy with 2000-to-5000-foot days in the backcountry. No hucking off cliffs or straightlining for me — I figure if I’m going to walk that far I may as well get in as many turns as possible. I spend 30-70 days each winter on skis, mainly in the backcountry with a few lift-serviced days thrown in. My current boot is the Scarpa F1, which I reviewed earlier this winter.
After long-term testing spanning three months, my initial impressions were confirmed: the FINDr 102 is a terrific all-around backcountry ski, reasonable in weight (1492 grams on the WildSnow scale) and adaptable to a wide variety of snow conditions. I put more than 30 days on the FINDr 102 in everything from waist-deep midwinter powder to groomed man-made to spring slop. Smooth and stable, they responded well to a quick roll of the ankles and capably executed everything from short jump turns to sweeping arcs.
The 133-102-120 profile helps the FINDr 102 float the deep stuff and skip over windpack, perfect for winter in Colorado. The extra width didn’t prove detrimental for trail breaking, although the narrower and slightly lighter FINDr 94 and FINDr 86 would likely tour better and be worth considering, especially for longer tours and firmer snow conditions.
Minor damage to the nylon top sheet and polyurethane sidewalls (due to user error and poor technique) was easily remedied with a utility knife and sandpaper. Perhaps the worst I can say is that the FINDr 102 isn’t a particularly exciting ski. Competent, predictable, steady, and reserved, true to its Canadian heritage it gets the job done without a lot of fanfare. If you want a ski that challenges you, look elsewhere — I prefer a steady friendship to a gaudy display of emotion. The FINDr 102 even looks the part with its simple red-and-white graphics that echo the Canadian flag. (As a side note, I was born and raised in Ontario and have retained my citizenship despite having lived in the U.S. for most of my life.)
The ION LT 12 is a robust and well-finished binding. I was curious to see if its greater weight (456 grams for the Ion vs. 370 grams for my go-to Dynafit Speed Radicals) would be offset by any appreciable gains in performance and usability. I was pleased on both counts.
The ION toe clamps onto the boot with a reassuring “thunk” — I could tour with the toe unlocked 95% of the time, adding a valuable measure of safety in avalanche terrain (verified by Lou’s testing, resulting from well designed geometry and strong springs). The heel can be rotated in either direction and has a solid detent to lock it in position for touring.
The ION heel lifts are easy to flick into place with a ski pole, and unlike some bindings, the Ion allows you to tour with the boot flat on the ski. While we’ve seen a few reports of the ION heel lifters detent mechanism getting loose, I had no problem with this even after fairly extensive use. Even if this had happened it wouldn’t be a deal breaker for a backcountry day, and from what I’ve heard the G3 customer service system is reliable if problems do develop.
As a bonus, the ION ski crampons are excellent and easily taken on and off without removing your ski.
A side note on brakes vs. no brakes. While most use brakes for reasons of safety and convenience — you’re not tethered to a windmilling plank in a fall or avalanche, and you can step in rather than bend over and fiddle with a leash — I prefer the simplicity and lighter weight of a brakeless binding like the Ion LT 12. I use the B & D breakaway leash (you can also use the plastic fuse links with the cable leashes included with the Ion LT 12).
Last but not least, the Alpinist skins are a treat. The tip clips fit the blunt nose of the FINDr 102 to a T, the tail attachment is simple and robust, and the adhesive, sticky-but-not-too-sticky, worked well over a wide range of temperatures and through multiple daily transitions. The glue has also held up very well despite my less-than-sanitary handling of the skins. A worthwhile accessory is the G3 Love Glove, a spandex sack that keeps the dirt and pine needles off your skins. Or make your own.
Overall, pure Canadian understated excellence!