Binding Width Mythology vs Facts

Post by blogger | December 27, 2010      

I don’t know exactly how many of you have actually ripped a properly mounted AT binding out of a ski, but I do know that exalted badge of honor is reserved for a vast minority of backcountry skiers. Such a minority, in fact, that I can’t remember it ever happening to anyone I know, nor EVER having to deal with it in our shop.

Nonetheless, binding ripping happens, and when it does you can be sure someone will write about it on the web (sometimes with obvious relish for the attention their blog or forum post will garner). Following that, many of you will begin obsessing on ripping bindings and wonder if 1, if your bindings are going to rip out of YOUR skis. And 2, if somehow you could get a binding that would be more resistant to ripping out of our skis, even though you have never had a binding rip out of skis.

A subset of all that is that to prevent the possibility of backcountry skiing bindings ripping out of skis, many of you want bindings with a wider screw pattern or base plate platform — especially wider than Dynafit, which is perceived as being the skinny one. But, hold on, just how skinny are Dynafit base plates and their associated screw pattern, and how do other bindings compare? Here you go.

Backcountry skiing binding width at toes.

Backcountry skiing binding width at toes, from left to right, Dynafit ST, Dynafit FT, Marker Titanium 12.0, Marker F12 Tour, Fritschi Freeride Pro. Click image to enlarge.

First, toe units. Biggest surprise was that the Dynafit FT12 toe base is significantly narrower than the ST. I’d never noticed that, but it seems strange now that I do. Probably something that happened when design and marketing trumped engineering.

Other observations that keep convincing me that binding pullout and width of binding bases and screw patterns are not big issues to binding makers, (though they may be to their marketing departments): Marker alpine binding base is narrower than any other of our samples (though wider alpine bindings are most certainly on the market). Use of only three screws in Fritschi heel (plus one farther forward that obviously doesn’t contribute to heel pull-out strength). Dynafit FT toe base plate only 9 mm narrower than Marker Tour. Marker does market their binding as having a wide width for wider skis, but only 9 mm more than a Dynafit? That seems a bit less revolutionary than the marketing speak would indicate. More, the Dynafit isn’t necessarily “narrow,” it just looks that way because it is a lean machine without extra parts. For example, our sample Marker alpine binding actually has a NARROWER base than any of our evaluation bindings, INCLUDING Dynafit.

Binding toe unit base plates and screw pattern widths (dimensions slightly rounded):
– Dynafit ST, base plate 57.2 mm, 4 screws at 30 mm width, 5th screw centered.
– Dynafit FT, base 48.4 mm, same screw pattern as above.
– Marker Titanium alpine, base 45 mm, 4 screws at 34 mm width.
– Marker F12 Tour, base 66, 4 screws at 34mm width.
– Fritschi Freeride Pro, base 73 mm, screws at 34 mm width.

AT binding heel screw patterns and widths.

AT binding heels, left to right, Dynafit ST, FT, Marker alpine, Marker Tour, Fritschi Freeride Pro. Click image to enlarge.

Binding heel unit base plates widths at screw locations, and screw pattern widths (dimensions slightly rounded)
– Dynafit ST, base front width 32 mm, base rear 36 mm, front screws 32 mm, rear screws 36 mm.
– Dynafit FT, base front width same as above, screw pattern same as above, rear base width 54 mm due do bulge around screw holes.
– Marker Titanium alpine, 59 mm base width, front screws 22 mm, rear at 42 mm.
– Marker F12 Tour, base width 68 mm, 4 screws at 36 mm wide.
– Fritschi Freeride Pro, base width 75 mm, two forward screws at 24 mm wide, one rear screw centered (4th screw centered and located so far forward it is not a factor in heel pullout strength).


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42 Responses to “Binding Width Mythology vs Facts”

  1. RandoSwede December 27th, 2010 10:51 am

    Interesting how marketing gets the best of people, eh? Wider must be better if they say so!

    Off topic, but have you had to grind or slightly relieve boot soles so that they properly insert or eject from the front pins on DF bindings? My new BD Primes have a bit too much rubber on the sole, hindering step-in and release. After removing the boot I can see a small triangular indentation near the tech fittings caused by the end of the wings. Seems easy enough to surgically remove a small bit of rubber…

  2. Ian December 27th, 2010 10:56 am

    I have now ripped a dynafit ft12 toe piece out of my K2 coombas, not once but twice. once on each ski. it was on a groomed run, but only a moderate. I hope either K2 or my local shop will do something about it as this seams like either a problem with the mount or the ski. still waiting to find out though

  3. Lou December 27th, 2010 11:11 am

    Ian, when placing inserts in our pair of Coombacks, I did notice the binding plate in the toe area is not as beefy as some other skis I’ve worked on. That is good because it makes the ski lighter, but it also requires one to mount with care, using epoxy, not stripping, using screws that are long enough, etc. So, since Louie has skied his Coombacks (pre inserts) aggressively for literally hundreds of days and never ripped a binding, my only conclusion is that if one does rip a binding from a Commba or Coomback, it could possibly have been mounted better. Especially if it ripped on moderate run!!! What other conclusion could I infer?

  4. Lou December 27th, 2010 11:12 am

    Rando, that’s a common thing to do when mounting Dynafits. I use a Dremmel burr. Be careful not to remove too much rubber or the binding won’t close when you step in. It’s a delicate balance between too much and too little.

  5. dave downing December 27th, 2010 11:30 am

    9mm seems pretty significant to me lou, Having spend the last year so close to canada, i’ve become pretty good with the metric system, eh? And i believe 9mm is within 1.5mm of a centimeter! And a centimeter is considered enough snow worth mentioning in the great white north. So it MUST be significant, right?

    But seriously, 9mm does seem not worth IMHO…

  6. Lou December 27th, 2010 11:45 am

    Yeah, 4.5 mm per side in terms of leverage increase or decrease, doesn’t seem like a big deal. Especially when you think it through and realize that as long as the binding screws are not pulling out, how wide the binding is once it’s screwed to the ski (in terms of the differences stated above) makes almost zero difference in terms of any performance issues.

    More, I really wonder how much a wider platform would resist pullout of the same number/length of screws. I mean, how are we to know which direction the force is coming from that’s pulling those screws out? Lot’s of theory and marketing squawk in this, very little engineering.

  7. XXX_er December 27th, 2010 12:02 pm

    This reminds me of the anecdotal evidence often quoted by people when they talk about breaking mtn bike derailers … how can you accurately duplicate hitting that big rock and then say one der is more hardy than another ?

    But in regards to binding pullout what kind of force is being generated that does not result in the boot releasing from the binding ?

    It should be possible to rig up a way to actualy test the force needed to pull a binding/boot out of a junk ski

  8. Mike December 27th, 2010 12:09 pm

    Not considering a problem with a specific ski, you need to check your screws from time to time. On AT and alpine skis, they do vibrate loose, and holes ware out with lots of use. If there is any play or the screws are not super tight, they will rip out of any ski.

  9. Ptor December 27th, 2010 12:14 pm

    I personally know of 3 people that have ripped their Dynafits off of their Coombas. One did it twice. Statistically then, it shouldn’t be bad mounting, especially considering the obviously inferior quality of wood-like material that they are constructed of.

  10. Ryan December 27th, 2010 12:41 pm

    Shouldn’t the actual base plate of the binding, not just the screw hole location make a difference? The screw hole placement may not be that different but it looks like most bindings have much more material beyond the screw hole towards the outside of the ski. Theoretically you may not be talking about a binding ripping straight up and out of a ski. It may be pulling up on one side of the binding while pushing down on the other side, effectively tipping at a different rate than the ski. A wider plastic base on a binding would for sure make a difference in the effect this would have so a skinnier binding plate like the Dynafits would perform differently than any of its wider brethren. Don’t get me wrong; I have FT 12s on Megawatts and I’m 260lbs. so I certainly have faith that this matters little but to say that screw width placement is the only factor in bindings ripping out is not taking all the factors into play.

  11. aviator December 27th, 2010 6:06 pm

    Any stories about bindings ripping out without going through in detail how they were mounted is totally pointless.

    95% don’t know how to mount bindings. At home and in shops.
    In discussions about mounting bindings LOTS of people always show up and claim they don’t have to use epoxy, they don’t have to tap, bla bla bla.

    You have to do what Lou does or even better.
    Especially with the new 100% carbon skis like goode and merelli which often doesn’t even have ANY reinforcement, you are putting screws in pure carbon and foam.

    And with a locked dynafit toe in certain situations the binding WILL rip and you should be very thankful. It’s your safety fuse. The alternative is a broken ski, binding or foot or probably all of the above. That’s what I find scary with some inserts and plates that could make the mount way too strong. They might prevent my binding from ripping when I want it to.

  12. Scott December 27th, 2010 6:17 pm

    So Lou, speaking of ripping my binding(s) out of my skis, just yesterday I noticed that on my Goode’s that I am able to rock the binding (Dynafit) to the side and actually raise one side of the Toe piece off the ski and plate of the ski, by maybe 2-3mm. It was noticeable enough that I choose to store the skis until I had time to fix (by glueing I hope). It is happening on both skis and only on one side of the binding

    Do you have any suggestions (or does anyone) as to what I should do besides pulling the screw and and adding more glue? The local ski shop mounted them 3 years ago and I do not know if they were glued or not

  13. Lou December 27th, 2010 7:04 pm

    Scott, you’re about a day away from ripping the binding. And yes, they were probably mounted incorrectly. Lisa has about a zillion vert on here Goodes with Dynafits we mounted years ago, and never any trouble.

    If the hole isn’t stripped I’d check screw length and re-do mount with high quality epoxy. But if the screw is stripped go with inserts. Screw length for Goodes is tricky. They’re thin so it’s easy to end up being too safe and too short.

  14. aviator December 27th, 2010 7:12 pm

    I’m renovating a pair of goode vision 96 as we speak.
    The scary thing with goodes, there is no reinforced area, if you have a spinner or ripped screws you can’t just put epoxy in the hole, epoxy is way too fragile on it’s own. You need to fill the holes with glass fiber or even better aramid (kevlar) in there and then redrill when cured.

  15. Scott December 27th, 2010 7:17 pm

    Thanks Lou and Aviator. No spinners or ripped screws. I will try some epoxy and maybe longer screws, thank you

  16. aviator December 27th, 2010 7:25 pm

    If you’re not drilling out the holes bigger and fill with glass fiber like I would do.
    At least try and get some fine strands of glass fiber in the hole with the epoxy.
    You need to get everything 100% perfect when mounting goodes.
    People who rip their goodes multiple times never bother to get it right.

  17. Scott December 27th, 2010 7:30 pm

    Aviator, I just looked. If I drill a bigger diameter in the ski I think I am going to have to drill out the holes of the binding toe piece also. I will get some glass fiber tho, thanks

  18. Lou December 27th, 2010 7:46 pm

    Scott, be careful with longer screws. You’ll need to make sure the bore in the ski is deep enough.

    Also, if you rough up the surface of the ski a bit under the binding plate, and let some epoxy ooze around under there, you’ll get a bit more bonding action going on.

    Aviator is correct, you can’t just fill a stripped hole with epoxy and re-thread. Sounds like you don’t have any stripped holes, but I thought I’d just second Aviator’s emotion, as lots of people try to fix stripped holes by just wanking in a bunch of epoxy.

  19. aviator December 27th, 2010 8:08 pm

    just read your posts again

    hmmm, no spinners/rips and you can still lift the binding off the skin?
    sorry, but that sounds like the top skin has delamed from the ski.

    when you pull on the binding can you see if the top skin bulges and goes up with the binding?
    if you try this without the plate, put some washers on the screws so you don’t go too deep in to the ski.

  20. Scott December 27th, 2010 8:30 pm

    the factory plate that is on top of the ski rises when I pull on the binding. but I don’t see the top skin bulging. My estimate may be off a bit in that there is maybe 1-2mm movement max.

    What is interesting is that the movement is happening on both skis on only one side of the ski and it is the same side of both skis, in this case the left side

    So if I understand your approach I should 1. remove the toe from the ski. 2. fill the hole with epoxy and kevlar/glass fibers 3. re-glue the factory plate down. 4 re-drill the holes and remount the toe piece(s)?

    thank you

  21. aviator December 27th, 2010 8:38 pm

    The “factory plate” you mean the long piece of plastic under the whole foot some goode were/are shipped with, not the dynafit toe plate?
    I would def remount without that..
    I never understood how you mount with that thing still on?
    You’d have to mount with extra long screws to still get down in to the ski properly?

  22. Scott December 27th, 2010 8:46 pm

    Yes the factory plate I am referring to is the plastic plate that came with the ski.

    I bet if I remove the binding toe and heel, then remove the factory plate, then remount everything with epoxy/mix in the holes, I should have the appropriate depth on my screws into the ski.

    The shop here mounted them for me

  23. Lou December 27th, 2010 9:04 pm

    Scott, we always take those plates off. It’s a PITA, but things go much better after, and the ski weighs less. Heat gun helps, but don’t over-heat.

  24. aviator December 27th, 2010 9:17 pm

    as lou said, check the screw length, hole depth and ski thickness SUPER carefully.

    too short or too long on goode skis = disaster

    most people don’t understand how serious it is when your screw is too long for the hole depth

    the shop may have used extra long screws

    if they used std screws that ended up too short with the goode plate on
    then my delam fear is even stronger.

    For the very best result, epoxy the dynafit toe plate to the ski.
    rough up, vacuum and acetone clean all areas first.

  25. Scott December 27th, 2010 9:29 pm

    thanks guys. On a quick visual it looks like the screws will not be too long, but we shall see.

    Aviator, bummer about your thoughts of delam, I hope you are incorrect

    thank you for all the advise

  26. trevor Hunt December 27th, 2010 10:18 pm

    I ripped a tourlite toe piece out of a 180 Atomic Powder Ride. Proper mounting job from the dynafit guru at MEC vancouver. I loved those skis! Back on my first powder days with ultra-fat skis, having too much fun, too much speed, and too much air.
    Flew 30 feet into an old growth tree, knew I was going to hit in mid air so I stuck the skis out in front of me. The toe piece exploded out of the ski. As aviator said, it only happened because I had my toes locked. Luckily my binding ripped or else something in my leg would’ve really ripped.

  27. Tay December 28th, 2010 3:38 am

    Simple solution, buy a proper ski (i.e. wooden core) with a hefty layer of metal on top, problem solved.

  28. Lou December 28th, 2010 8:59 am

    You guys depending on binding screws for safety release, I really don’t know what to say about that…

  29. aviator December 28th, 2010 9:59 am

    I see people complaining about ripping their binding out of the ski and it seems they have the opinion it should never ever happen at all.

    The binding is the safety release.
    But when the toe is locked, for example when skinning, sometimes something else gotta give, ski, binding, leg or screws.
    I want the screws to be strong enough but still clearly the weakest link after the binding release.
    I want them to have at least a chance of ripping out.
    Be it in a Goode ski-breaking-while-skinning situation.
    Or caught in an avalanche with locked toes.

    Now Lou, I want you to get into the lab and work out how do I set the screw release at din 20, I think din 30 is a bit too much. :mrgreen:

  30. Lou December 28th, 2010 10:06 am

    One theory I have about screw failure with Dynafit bindings is that it’s sometimes caused by a person touring with the toe locked (as should be done) and taking a “knee fall” that pulls the toe unit screws partially out. They then ski downhill, and the toe pops off due to the screws being weak. My advice would be if you do take a fall while touring that rails on the binding, inspect your bindings soon after. And as always, a bomber mounting job is essential.

  31. XXX_er December 28th, 2010 1:39 pm

    I use woven fibreglass cloth which I cut apart with scissors so I get 1/2 ” long individual strands which I mix with slow set going heavy on the fibreglass

    I cram the screw hole with the mixture , screw the screw in the hole but stop just as the screw is about to spin and let the epoxy dry for a couple of days

    I remount the binding using more slowset & let dry ,crank the screw down HARD ,at this point if the screw hole doesn’t strip out using your screwdriver … you are good to go

  32. evan freeman December 29th, 2010 10:34 pm

    I ripped a TLT toepiece from a Surface Live Life last week. After skiing home with ski straps attaching my boot to the ski, I found that the holes had stripped on one side, and that the top sheet had cracked between the holes. To me this serves as evidence that mounting the Dynafit toe piece such that the holes were about 5mm from old binding holes was a very bad idea…. I have never had Dynafits rip from anything else, however.

    I repaired the skis by filling all holes with a mixture of epoxy and chopped up fiberglass fabric, then glassing with fabric over the entire toepiece area on both. I then redrilled for the bindings and put inserts in the holes that had stripped. I now have 2 days on the repaired skis and they seem to be holding, but I still don’t trust them.

    If nothing else this experience has taught me that buying skis with multiple mounts may not be the bargain I thought it was. It’s always worked for me in the past, but this time it didn’t.

  33. Al December 30th, 2010 1:02 am

    Interesting note bit Lou.

    Just a couple of comments and thoughts.

    What’s your guess on the number of bindings that actually rip out, given proper maintanence and mounting? I’m not even sure that 1-1000 would be accurate.

    I’m not sure that width the most important variable at play here. The density of the wood of the ski, the number of screws, and the weight/aggressivenss of the skier would seem as important.

    2 cents…


  34. Ptor December 30th, 2010 1:35 pm

    Was just at my local ski shop this afternoon and the ski man, who I trust very much told me yet another story of dynafits ripping out of Coombas.
    Sorry Aviator but there are always exceptions and the material in the Coombas is exceptionally bad and the binding rippage has occurred during normal use (not massive wipeouts) and proper installation. This should not happen so it IS worth mentioning. Someone could get hurt.

  35. Walt December 30th, 2010 11:42 pm

    I’ve never ripped a binding out. I don’t buy Chinese skis like K2s. The only other reason a binding gets ripped out is people being lazy by putting the screws with a drill and stripping the the screw hole. You got to run those in by hand. I use an torque wrench to finish them off at around 50 inch/pounds.

  36. Lou December 31st, 2010 9:25 am

    Walt, can you recommend a small accurate torque wrench one could use for placing binding screws? I’m thinking one is essential for using inserts, and would be nice for placing regular binding screws as well.

  37. Randonnee December 31st, 2010 11:07 am

    The Dynafit heel of my FR 10 ripped out as I was climbing too-steeply on skins several years ago when the skis were brand-new. All of this gear has a limit, and I found it with my weight and strength (required to move that weight).

    All of my Dynafit bindings locked toe will release, and also release with my intentional effort, from the toe. Again, it has to do with my size and strength which is likely beyond the design of the gear. But I have learned to compensate by smooth walking and skiing and enjoy and trust Dynafit bindings for 80 days skitouring per season. All said, I think that the gear works well, and one may apply excess force to rip out a binding or release a binding. In my case, as a fulltime Patroller in the ’80s I broke one of every brand of alpine ski binding, again enough force breaks anything.

    On my newest rig, Stoke and FT 12 I often walk out of the locked toe and am readjusting my technique. Also, I find a new propensity to release the toe while pulling the skin. I think that it is related to a longer length for my Stoke than my other skis and perhaps the additional width of skin and ski. When I want to pull skins without removing my Stoke, I must leave the toe locked or will likely just pull the ski off.

    My take is that someone like me can generate the force to release bindings and rip out properly-mounted bindings. As well, more normal-sized skiers also find ways to generated the forces required for release of breakage but are more surprised when they do so. The advantage for me is that I know it will break or release unless I use it within certain limits given my weight and strength, so I use the gear within those limits.

  38. Walt December 31st, 2010 12:31 pm

    Lou, I think a lot of the dial type (clicker) torque wrenchws will work. I just use a 3/8″ drive wrench in Inch/pound that I use to torque bolts on a mountain bike. You don’t need the bigger ones in Foot/pounds. Mine is made by SK tools. Model # 74530. (a good middle of the road wrench)
    But I think if you have inserts you don’t have to worry about it much…. maybe use some medium strength loctite. I’ve always been afraid to put those in because your alignment has to be perfect. I’ll only do on a stripped hole. You must have a good method. Do you have an article on it?

  39. Lou January 2nd, 2011 10:32 am

    Walt, all you have to do to get the inserts nearly perfect is do a mount first and get it right. Then pull the mount and do inserts. I’ve done three sets of inserts now and they’ve all turned out fine. It’s tough to get them micrometer perfect, but as long as you use a mount pattern that works, they turn out fine.

    Using a torque wrench and loctite is the way to go, in my opinion, as I’m finding it way too easy to over tighten the insert screws.

  40. vanessa January 23rd, 2011 7:30 pm

    I have worked in a shop for a couple years and I don’t think a properly mounted binding should come out except in extremely adverse conditions…like the bad touring fall when the toe is locked out that Lou mentioned. If you have a stripped screw fix it immediately with a helicoil…not an insert or epoxy/steel wool. Also make sure your mount isn’t too close to old holes or remounted just off an old mount without some sort of helicoil or very close attn to the threads. Once a hole has been plugged a lot of the old threads are crushed when the plug is inserted (usually with a hammer). It is possible to remount after removing the plug but I wouldn’t advise for anyone skiing hard or touring on their bindings. The shit I’ve seen done to peoples’ skis by lazy, untrained, or inattentive techs is pretty shameful, so don’t rule out shop culpability with binding pullout. Its usually very obvious when a shop messes up and there are cases where certain skis have issues with pullout which the manufacturer should be up front about. We had a shop that for a couple years would not mount any Volkl skis for similar reasons.
    Your binding screws should not ever come loose for any reason…if they are, suspect a lack of glue, stripped screws, or even a knot or defect in the wood…if you have to tighten a screw, take it to a shop and get it fixed or helicoil it yourself but don’t just retighten it…as soon as you are doing that you destroy the waterproofness of the screwhole (which is probably already compromised) and your core can be badly damaged by ice formation in the wet wood. If you loosen and retighten any screws for any reason, make sure to reglue them. Hope this is somewhat helpful and not too redundant.

  41. Lou January 23rd, 2011 8:15 pm

    Vanessa, that’s all worth repeating.

  42. John April 15th, 2014 12:26 pm

    The toe piece of my Dynafit TLT Vertical binding ripped out of one of my Coomback skis last weekend near the end of a back country tour. The good news is the tear out occurred in a relatively flat area and the wipe out didn’t result in injury. The binding was not locked down – I’d rather pop out of a binding than blow out a knee.

    I called K2 and their 1 yr warranty was up – the skis were new in 2011. Their recommendation was to helicoil the holes if the damage wasn’t too bad and possibly relocate the binding if the damage to the wood core was more severe (but won’t this change how it skis?). I had the bindings mounted at Pro Ski Service here in Seattle and will take them back for their opinion.

    From what I can tell talking with K2, my 2011 Coombacks and this year’s model are unchanged as far as binding area reinforcement. Next years model is redesigned in terms of the “snow phobic” top sheet, lighter core, different rocker profile, and reprofiled tip and tail edges, but again I didn’t pick up anything for binding area reinforcement, and it does sound like this is an issue with the Coombacks which is too bad since these are otherwise such awesome skis.

    If the helicoil fix works for my blown out ski, I think I’ll opt to have it done on the other ski as a pre-emptive move. The K2 tech I talked with emphasized the helicoil fix distributes stress from the screws over a much larger area than the regular screws.

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