If there is any theme to this year’s Dynafit innovations, trimming weight has to be it. Most significantly as far as I’m concerned, the company has gone back to its roots with a couple of new boot models that are touring optimized. I can’t go into detail on those yet due to Dynafit’s PR plans, but suffice it to say I’m planning on getting our whole family into the new shoes just as soon as the full size run is popping out of the molds (next fall).
Where much of this gram counting is coming from is ski mountaineering (rando) racing. What’s happening is that for Dynafit to defend its image and brand, the company needs good race gear that gets used in the hugely popular European races. Hence, last year they came up with a good racing ski and their highly optimized Dy.N.A competition boot.
For this coming year, the comp boot pollinated to the new touring boots mentioned above, and experience with building race skis no doubt informed the construction of their whole ski line (most of which has become quite respected for the blending of weight savings and performance).
Indeed, since the Dynafit brand re-launch in 2006, the company has become a major player in the touring boot and ski market. That on top of owning the touring ski binding market.
In terms of numbers, Dynafit claims they grew an amazing 70% overall during their last sales cycle.
70% sounds crazy for these economic times, but my gut tells me that the company did indeed experience substantial growth. The staff is just too happy and the new gear too cool (and expensive to develop) for me to think otherwise.
As for bindings, it’s time anyone who thinks touring with Dynafits is a fringe sport to get real. Every year these guys sell a binding count in the middle five figures. Every year, thousands and thousands of new Dynafits — on top of the huge backlog of older but still functioning bindings you see backcountry skiers using worldwide.
Thus, since it’s the binding that defines the Dynafit brand, the company has not ignored the plethora of knockoffs that have appeared since (and even before) inventor Fritz Barthel’s patents began expiring a few years ago.
I don’t think anyone can know the exact number of “Dynafit” (AKA “tech”) style binding models you can find now, but it could be dozens, since any competent machinist can make a version in their garage shop and sell them out of the trunk of their car. And some of those alternative bindings are quite nice, with several going mainstream.
Thing is, because the non Dynafit brand tech bindings are usually (or at least ostensibly) built for racing, then makers don’t have to adhere to pesky safety standards and that sort of thing. Hence, the alternate bindings have gotten lighter — way lighter.
Talk about a thorn in your side. Can you imagine being Dynafit and watching all these companies come up with lighter weight bindings than yours?
We’ll, at least for a little while Dynafit may win the weight game. I can speak from personal experience that they’re using every last nuance of space age materials technology and design chutzpah to produce a fully functional ski binding which weighs 117 grams. That is not a typo. The things are real — In fact, I’m sitting a few yards from the shop where the prototyping and design was done, and where the last details are being tweaked for the retail production version.
(There are other bindings on the market that claim weights quite low, but some don’t have side release and others simply make weight claims that are inaccurate.)
Playing around with lighter weight gear is better than doing drugs and costs more. But other than those pluses, how does Dynafit making a 117 gram binding really benefit those of use who will never buy it?
The way it all works is this:
Ski touring gear is heavy. Look at it this way. You go for a mountain run or a hike with minimal gear, and you’ve got maybe what, five pounds of stuff including your shoes? Go ski touring, and even with the latest fully optimized kit you’ll still be lugging at least four times that. You’ll still have fun — and you had fun 40 years ago when the weight burden was double. But admit it, there are times going uphill on skis when the weight pulls back on your groin muscles, or your back hurts, and you’d have more fun with less mass.
So, we have a lively race scene going, and Dynafit uses their financial resources to do materials and design development inspired by competition. Eventually some of those things filter down to the regular ski touring products, your gear ends up lighter, and you have more fun.
It’s really no more complicated than that. You can sit around and moan about how stupid it is to spend upwards of $50 for a sack of titanium binding screws. And yes, just that one thing might be ridiculous. Yet a year from now, perhaps all bindings will have ti screws and we’ll be moving on to the next thing, and the combined weight of all our gear continues to drop.
Proof of life: yesterday, a casual ski tour in the Alps. We climbed 4,000 vertical feet in about 2 hours, without struggle. Just a nice cardio pace that squeezed out enough endorphins to make the summit feel special. Then some skiing. Nothing earth shattering. Just simple athletic fun enhanced by not having a load of gear dragging you down. The lighter the better, I say.