Pivot Point? Barons, Dukes, Dynafits, and Life.

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | February 5, 2010      


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.

I have a constant feeling of euphoria whenever I ski my Marker Barons. Well, they are on my powder skis. Photo by Craig Moore at GlacierWorld.com.

I have a constant feeling of euphoria whenever I ski my Marker Barons. Well, they are on my powder skis. Finding the goods at Alta. Photo by Craig Moore at GlacierWorld.com.

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.

A look at the extra distance you raise your foot on the Baron v. FT12. Note: I did my test touring in the same Black Diamond Method boots.

A look at the extra distance you raise your foot on the Baron v. FT12. I should also point out that with frame bindings such as Baron, you lift the binding with each step. Another reason Dynafit feels more nimble is you're just lifting the weight of your boot as you pivot. Note: I did my test touring in the same Black Diamond Method boots.

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.)


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23 Responses to “Pivot Point? Barons, Dukes, Dynafits, and Life.”

  1. KC February 5th, 2010 10:54 am

    Dave – I also ski Barons on a pair of Line Prophets. They are a bit heavy, and a little awkward pivoting as you point out, but the downhill performance is as good or better than any binding that I have tried.
    I am looking forward to the reviews of the new Marker Tour F10 and F12 bindings. They are marketing them as a lighter weight alternative (1685 g (S) / 1720 g (L), with steeper heel lifters (7 & 13 degrees).
    Lots of info here: http://www.marker-tour.com/
    Thanks for the great post –

  2. Dave February 5th, 2010 11:50 am

    KC – It will be nicer to see an option of 2 lift sizes on the Marker bindings. The current lift is great for low/optimal angled slopes, but leaves you wanting more in stiff boots on steep skin tracks.

    Regarding downhill performance, I actually feel the dynafits are as good as the barons. However, on a daily basis at a resort, that’s were the step in ability of the Baron shines. No compromises when not in skin mode!

  3. Nick February 5th, 2010 12:09 pm

    Yet again, that nothing else even remotely make sense for a pure BC-setup than Dynafits. I agree with Dave that my Dynafits ski as good as Dukes/Barons.

    Note: I do have Dukes on my resort setups, but for pure touring rigs, the Dynafits are the clear winner.

  4. JonnyB February 5th, 2010 12:16 pm

    Dave, great post. Very timely for me too. The crew and I are taking a long weekend and doing some hut skiing starting tonight. As I drove to work today with so much excitement the commute was almost fun. Same roads, same traffic, same city but a very different feeling.

    It’s all about perspective!

  5. KC February 5th, 2010 1:19 pm

    Dave – agree completely. At this point I feel that two pairs of skis-bindings makes more sense: slackcountry and backcountry.

    If Marker can make a high performance AT binding 60% lighter than the Duke, and only +/- 300 grams heavier than a Dynafit TLT (per binding), I might be inclined to rethink that. One can only hope!

  6. greg February 5th, 2010 1:26 pm

    dave – have you noticed any unusual wear on your boots from the baron? i’ve got about 15 days on my marker duke and noticed that they have taken a nice chunk out of my heel area due to wear. just normal downhill boots. like you i have them on mantra’s and use them similarly.

  7. Blue Alpine February 5th, 2010 1:55 pm

    I love the Guest blogger profile — nothing to see in Montana, please move along. LOL

  8. dave February 5th, 2010 2:28 pm

    greg. I haven’t noticed any unusual wear on my boots yet, but i’ll keep an eye out. is the chunk missing from the sole of the boot, or the top of the “heel block”?

  9. greg February 5th, 2010 2:44 pm

    dave – thanks. it’s the top of the heel block. looks like it’s been compressing and rubbing the area on one side. maybe i have a mounting problem. i don’t have the skis with me so i can’t examine in more detail. i just saw you with same set up and wondered. in any case, i am super pleased with that binding. it is amazing how solid it is. and with mantra being so big and stiff, there’s a lot of feedback into the binding and resultant stress. so far, so good. cheers

  10. Dylan February 5th, 2010 4:30 pm

    I’ve been against Marker for any setup you plan to do any dedicated touring on, unless you weigh over two-hundred pounds.

    My feelings are starting to change with their new bindings. It doesn’t take long to pop a ski off to get into touring mode (your usually putting skins on or taking them off anyway) and now their lighter than the Freerides, I’d imagine they’re stiffer as well.

  11. bryan February 5th, 2010 6:20 pm


    Pivot point aside, the baron / duke design is fundamentally flawed as a “true” touring binding. The latch that release / locks for ski / tour mode is a clear deal breaker for me.

    If they can move that lever, I’d probably buy a pair.

  12. Lou February 5th, 2010 9:45 pm

    I should add, nice faceshot Dave!

  13. dave February 5th, 2010 11:31 pm

    You aren’t seeing the half of it lou. Had to pick a shot where I was actually visible 🙂

  14. Craig February 6th, 2010 12:28 am

    Dave, what a great trip to SLC, OR, ALTA. I love how people asked if we are storm chasing… nope. Just blessed. I will post a few more on my blog from that day.

  15. Omr February 6th, 2010 4:26 pm

    I mounted Dukes on my resort rig. Other than the brutal weight – does anyone really hike on these things? – I find that I must continually tweak the toe height adjustment. Running bumpss seems to loosen the toe lifter. After a couple of runs my ski rattles vertically at the toe. Anyone else experienced this problem? If hiking, stick with Dynafits.

  16. Gunther February 7th, 2010 4:40 am

    Dave, thanks for the post. I wanted to ask about Baron vs. Duke. I’m a mostly from-the-lift “sidecountry” skier and just want an AT setup for the few days a year when I go touring, so the main appeal of the Duke for me is that it’s rugged enough to be used regularly at resorts. Would you say the Baron has the same capability? As a guy who is only 160 lbs, I wouldn’t mind to save a few bucks and get the Baron. Thanks, Gunther

  17. Jason Gregg February 7th, 2010 12:53 pm

    I love my Zzero’s and Manaslu’s but I also love my Dobermann 150 Aggressors and Fatypus Alotta Rockers. Obviously these setups do not share a binding.
    A Barron means I could go on a 130 Dobermann and a ~100mm undefoot, all mountain ski and tackle stuff that I’m just not going to charge in an AT setup.
    That’s the theory anyway.

  18. Cory February 7th, 2010 8:26 pm

    How does the Baron or the Duke compare to Marker’s Rotomat TR tour from the 1960’s? Weight? Step-in ability? Switch to tour? It would be interesting to see how much has really changed in 40 years.
    p.s. thanks for implying that Dynafits “sacrifice downhill performance”. That should draw a few folks out of the Dynafit market into the Marker market (thus making it cheaper for me to get some dynafits someday).

  19. Cory February 7th, 2010 8:34 pm

    I got lots of error 404 messages as I was strolling aroung the binding museum and attempting to link the actual binding write ups. Just thought you might like the heads up.

  20. Lou February 7th, 2010 8:39 pm

    Hi Cory, thanks, I’ll work on that tomorrow. I converted to a WordPress page, and probably got a bunch of file paths wrong. Amazing how much work it is trying to keep all this content available. But i love it…

  21. dave February 8th, 2010 10:38 am

    Gunther, i’m 190-195 on Barons. If you need the 16 DIN of the Dukes, then you have ski sponsors that should give you whatever yon need free of charge 🙂

  22. Murphy February 12th, 2010 3:21 pm

    I’ve broken one pair of dukes and two barons. I have a pair of Dynafit st bindings I have skiid twice as long and just as hard with no issues. I’m done wither Marker. Coming soon to eBay: Line EP Pros with Marker Barons

  23. Pat February 22nd, 2010 4:35 pm

    Nice article, this is more or less the reason why Naxo’s were invented. After switching from naxos to dukes as my primary touring device, there was much more effort required. I still have yet to understand why lifting much of the ski off the ground (single pivots) is EVER more efficient than lifting a little more binding (naxos). There are, of course, many notable drawbacks to the naxos, but I’m disappointed that the multiple pivot system wasn’t better received and improved through engineering.

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