Su-matic Champion – Vintage Alpine Touring Binding

Post by blogger | June 21, 2006      

Another gem from the collection. Possibly the weirdest backcountry skiing binding ever made, Su-matic resembles a mechanical beast from Star Wars, or perhaps a horror flick nightmare. Full museum display here, with a movie! Comments are on, let me know what you think. Is summer insanity taking me over the edge? Want to see more old junk? Should I admit I actually skied on these things?

Su-matic in touring mode, heel lever raised.

Su-matic in touring mode, heel lever raised.

These Su-matics were imported by business in Aspen called Company 3, started in the 1970s by a group of local hardcore skiers that included Terry Young and Al Burnham. At first Company 3 imported Euro backcountry gear, then got involved with Paul Ramer as the first distributor of his binding. My old backcountry partner and ski mentor Kendall Williams got involved and designed some skis they had made. I worked in their shop as a ski tech and general gopher (and resident wildman). All the rando gear of that day really was crummy, so Young and Burnham got involved in the telemark revival (I’d already been through a telemark phase by then and was exploring rando gear as it was rapidly improving). Soon Company 3 was trying to make telemark skis. They sold a few decent skis, then went through a business evolution and became Phoenix Skis, the first company in the world dedicated to making high performance tele planks.

No doubt bindings like the Su-matic are one of the reasons we have such amazing high-performance telemark gear. If these clankers had worked better and been lighter, guys like Terry and Al would have probably have stuck with randonnee, instead they helped create modern telemarking.


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4 Responses to “Su-matic Champion – Vintage Alpine Touring Binding”

  1. Mark June 22nd, 2006 7:18 am

    What a crazy contraption! Looks like it worked, though with limited range for touring efficiency.

  2. Darren Glick June 22nd, 2006 8:46 pm

    Those things are a trip. It’s great to see some vintage ski touring gear. I am impressed to see people were trying to build bindings like that back in the early days.

  3. Don Mertle February 3rd, 2011 5:23 pm

    I used the Su matic bindings on Rossingol Ski Mountaineering skis to do the Chamonix – Zermatt haute route in May 1982 after meeting Paul in Saas Fee with the Neptunes in an unsuccessful try at finding a group going from there back to France. They did the job and all the trick turns. I was mentioned namelessly in “return to the Haute Route” piece in one of the mags later, as the Californian who could really ski. I was doing inside ski skating jump turns with a pack going down a steep chute with a pack…and they thought I was falling out of control. I wish I still had them.

  4. Peter Straub January 3rd, 2015 8:27 am

    I had a set of these SuMatic bindings. They were a plague, because each step was abruptly stopped.
    After a few hundred meters, the heels were sore with blisters.

    But after all: They were the first try for a modern binding.
    Before them, there was only these cable bindings where you slipped out of all the time while climbing and with no safety release at all at the downhill.

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