For years I resisted Dynafit bindings for backcountry skiing, not due to the bindings themselves, but due to what I felt was a lack of Dynafit-compatible AT boots that would offer the downhill performance I was looking for. Last year I began skiing on the Dynafit Zzeus boots, one of many new boots aimed at downhill performance rather than featherweight uphill performance. As an added bonus, these were the first pair of AT boots I had owned with Dynafit fittings, so I knew I would finally be giving the Dynafit system a go.
I believe that any good review needs to first be framed by some information about the reviewer. I’m 5’7”, 130lbs, former racer and IFSA Big Mountain competitor, and lover of skis well over 100mm underfoot. In other words, I’m a small skier but I do love to go fast and catch air, and the uphill performance of a binding is far less important to me than the downhill characteristics. I have been skiing Fritschi bindings for nearly ten years.
I mounted my FT12’s on my older Black Diamond Verdicts, my smallest ski and one that I only ski in the spring as I find they only ski well on backcountry corn. Clicking in the first time wasn’t nearly as difficult as I thought it might be — not as natural as clicking into an alpine binding or Fritschis, but fairly easy nonetheless. It took all of five seconds of skinning for the vaunted touring characteristics of the Dynafit binding system to become readily apparent. The light weight is obvious, but the ergonomics of the pivot point and the lack of raising a bar and heelpiece with every step is just as noticeable. It felt as though someone had given me a younger, stronger set of lungs and legs.
As our tour headed into steeper backcountry skiing terrain, I had my first chance to rotate the heel into a climbing position. Awkward was the first word that came to mind, as I struggled to get the heel to rotate (From what I hear, having brakes on Dynafits makes this rotation considerably harder). In fact, I bent the last couple of inches on both poles on that first tour, something I’ve heard other people experience when using carbon poles with composite tips. Even at the end of the spring after many miles of touring I found the heelpiece rotation to be far less ergonomic than the Fritschi heelpiece.
Another gripe I had with the Dynafit heelpiece is that the highest setting is quite a bit lower than the Fritschi high setting, making the steepest skintracks harder than they would have been with my trusty Fritschis. Because I like steep skintracks for backcountry skiing, I may just have to modify the “volcano” on the Dynafits this fall to make them climb the way I would like them to.
The first thing I noticed when clicking into downhill mode is how incredibly solid the Dynafit binding felt. There was no play whatsoever — in fact I would say that my Salomon 916’s have far more play than the FT12’s. That lack of play stands in sharp contrast to Fritschi bindings, which have a well-deserved reputation of sloppiness. Combined with the fact that Dynafits are close to the top surface of the ski (versus being up high with the connecting bar of the Fritschi), the downhill performance was far superior to that of the Fritschi.
My first tour with Dynafits ended up having a mandatory 10 footer with a sidehill landing on frozen spring snow, complete with exposure. Looking down at those tiny pins holding my boots, I wondered if they stood a chance at holding me in as I took off from the lip — but they performed perfectly. From that time on, I’ve had full confidence in the Dynafits, and have yet to come out of them.
The end of that first tour featured a rolling valley where the ability of Fritschis to quickly go from ski to tour mode really shined through, as my friends put a long distance between us as I tried to stay in one mode or the other. While this was overall a minor annoyance for me, it remains Dynafit’s Achilles heel for many Fritschi fans.
In conclusion, I’ve been impressed with Dynafit bindings. Even so, unlike many Dynafit users who instantly eschew any other type of AT binding, I can still see many features of my Fritschis that I still prefer over Dynafits. Taken as a whole, I believe the Dynafit to be the superior binding — but just barely. This is why I will be eagerly awaiting more innovation from Dynafit and other “tech” binding players in the market, as I believe there is room for improvement, especially in the heel piece.
(Guest blogger Frank Konsella is the 4th person to ski all 54 Colorado 14,000 foot peaks. He’s a skilled ski mountaineer who home bases in Crested Butte, Colorado. Frank blogs here.)