Last week I spent a few days in Colorado for the first time since we moved to Montana four months ago. With a stop in Carbondale, I wanted to show my friend Patrick some of my old backcountry stomping grounds. (Patrick is actually HS grad from this area, but left the valley before getting into backcountry skiing.) I easily fell back into my old rhythms: When the avalanche forecast in Marble is High, head to Willy’s instead.
It turns out that this change in plans was just what I needed for a couple reasons. First, this was my first tour in months after my ankle injury, so a casual 1,200 feet was much easier on the lungs and legs. Second, the lower angle tour that started out on the road made made for a shocking realization on the difference between my Dynafit’s and the new Marker Baron’s I’m testing on this trip. The Pivot Point.
The Baron is the little brother of the Duke. About $70 cheaper and a lower DIN (maxes out at 12 instead of 16), I set this up as the perfect binding on my Volkl Mantras, for a powder/travel set up. Lift-serviced face shots at Alta a few days ago proved the value of this monster clamp, now set up for low angled touring.
On the snow covered road, I immediately felt as if 10 pounds of snow had stuck to my skins. I felt awkward and nothing was fluid. After a season of pivoting from the toe of my AT boots, I suddenly understood the effects of the pivot point when touring. As with all step in AT bindings, the Baron forces you to lift your foot more to step forward on your skis. There is over an inch of distance from the toe of a boot beyond the toe piece of the Baron to the pivot point. It took a while to get re-used to the mechanics of skinning with a step in AT binding, but by day two it was natural again. For the other 98% of the time spent on this binding, mounted on my resort powder ski, I haven’t a complaint yet. I love the versatility of being able to climb without sacrificing downhill performance.
The importance of the pivot point had a lasting effect on me during my trip. As I skinned and skied across Colorado, I realized that I was making a similar pivot in life. With the recent move I’ve still been transitioning, and at first everything felt completely wrong. All things unfamiliar. The concepts were the same, but it didn’t seem like a natural movement. Things are changing though, and as I fly over one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen in Colorado, I find I can’t wait to land at home, in Montana.
In bindings and in life, easier is not always better. Harder is only a matter of perspective.
(Guest blogger profile: Dave Downing and his wife Jessica live in Whitefish, MT, where he is a freelance designer and owner of Ovid Nine Graphics Lab. Dave has been told that there is nothing to see in Montana, so please move along.)