That Bloggin’ Life – Today, Dynafit Ski Brakes for Backcountry Skiing

Post by blogger | March 31, 2011      

Whew, I thought the helmet thread would be a bit lively, but had no idea skin cutters would be such a hot issue. I need a vacation. How about Dynafit ski brakes?

By today’s standards a K2 Coomback at 102 mm underfoot is wide, but not jumbo. Dynafit’s third widest “stopper” is specified to handle a 102 mm ski in the enclosed paper but shown in catalog as ‘110’ and will indeed handle about 110 mm. Beyond that, they can be bent or otherwise modified to handle more, but now that Dynafit makes a 130 mm model that’s usually not necessary. Hey, I’m a blogger so some days I just write about what I’m up to. So, a few photos of my install of the 102/110 brake on the Coombacks. For the record.

Dynafit backcountry skiing brake.

Dynafit 110 mm brake on K2 Coomback, ski width at this point 102 mm, arrows indicate extra room that can accommodate a slightly wider ski, as well as plastic that can be skived off inside of brake feet for more clearance.

Info sheet included with Dynafit ski brakes.

Info sheet included with Dynafit ski brakes shows three widths, actually there is now a 130 mm width available.

Dynafit brake springs.

Overtly technical aspect of all this is that Dynafit brakes come with a replacement set of lateral release springs. They're colored black to differentiate from the stock springs (zinc galv), and are softer to compensate for added friction and resistance from the ski brake actuator plate under your boot heel. It's said these springs compensate for a movement of about 1.5 increments on the release value (RV) scale. Since you have to remove the binding springs anyway to do a brake install, the only reason NOT to install the new springs is if you tend to run your bindings at max RV. Otherwise, use them or remember to dial down your RV value by about 1.5 increment.

Dynafit brake clip.

Perhaps this photo is the reason for this whole blog post. The tiny 'clip' keeps the brake from sliding off your ski when you're out in the mountains. Be sure it's there, whether you did the install yourself or had a shop do it.

Check this out for Dynafit ski brake install step-by-step details.

The Dynafit brakes I added to the Coombacks weigh 4.2 ounces each. Considering that, one of the easiest and quickest ways to reduce your system weight is to drop the 1/2 pound of Dynafit ski brakes and go to a leash system. I like ski brakes for avalanche terrain, but I often shift to leashes for spring mountaineering when avalanches are less of a concern, and the days can be big and strenuous at Colorado’s high altitudes.

Blog post about Dynafit safety thong to replace brakes, designed to break away in severe fall or avalanche, use with caution.

Bollinger B&D ski leashes, very popular.


Please Enjoy A Few Suggested WildSnow Posts


30 Responses to “That Bloggin’ Life – Today, Dynafit Ski Brakes for Backcountry Skiing”

  1. Jonathan Shefftz March 31st, 2011 10:15 am

    “It’s said these springs compensate for a movement of about 1.5 increments on the release value (RV) scale.”
    – Said by whom?

  2. Lou March 31st, 2011 10:20 am

    That’s journalist language for “someone in the company told me that a couple of years ago and I don’t even remember who it was.” (grin)

    Happy to be corrected or accurized, did you test on your tester?

  3. Smokey March 31st, 2011 10:25 am

    Psss…throw the brakes and leashes out. Lock them toes down and roll…

  4. Jonathan Shefftz March 31st, 2011 10:28 am

    I tried testing, but the problem is that “passing” with the tester is +/- one full row on the chart anyway, and the variability from trial to trial is pretty high, especially given that the proper “technique” has to be used with the tester (i.e., anything but automated). This is one of the reasons why I’m not convinced that AT bindings are that much less accurate in their RV than alpine downhill bindings, given that the spec for alpine downhill bindings is so wide.
    Overall though, I’d say the brake effect is consistent with somewhere between negligible effect and one full RV.

  5. Lou March 31st, 2011 10:52 am

    Jonathan, I know in the case of G3, for example, that they made quite an effort to get their release settings to conform as close as possible to DIN/ISO standard even though they are not “certified” that way and need to be referred to as RV values. So I’d say at least in their case you’d find their binding to match or exceed conformance of an alpine binding. Thing is, the DIN/ISO standard itself allow a _range_ of values for a given setting on the binding scale. I forgot what that range is, but my recollection is it’s not particularly tight. The numbers printed on ski bindings are quite misleading, been that way for years. Heck, variables such as boot wear or dirt can throw them off so much as to be nearly meaningless… not to mention improperly adjusted binding length or toe wing height.

  6. Jonathan Shefftz March 31st, 2011 11:18 am

    The range is +/- one row on the standard chart — just look up any alpine downhill binding tech manual. (The formatting is different, but the values have remained the same for a long time, and across all companies.)
    For that matter, even the chart is kind of messed — very “lumpy’/binary when it comes to skier weights and boot sole lengths that are right on the edge.
    Clearly some sort of formula is underlying the chart, and ideally that formula should be used, i.e., enter actual weight, actual bsl, skier type, and then the formula would spit out the RV # along with the acceptable torque range when testing.

  7. Lou March 31st, 2011 11:31 am

    The state of sophistication in ski safety gear is roughly equivalent to that of body armor used by Fred Flintstone in his day. That’s about the size of it.

  8. John Gloor March 31st, 2011 12:53 pm

    I recently installed the 110mm brakes on some 112mm skis. With a little brake disassembly and vice time, I had some well fitted brakes which tuck up out of the way nicely. it is usually nicer to bend brakes a little bit than to have extra wide brakes on your skis.

    Lou, if the bindings need a dab of lube on the thimble, what type of commonly found auto grease would work? White lithium or a waterproof bearing grease?

  9. Lou March 31st, 2011 1:04 pm

    Gloor I should scold you for not using the search function. But, I’ll do it for you (grin). Here you go:

  10. John Gloor March 31st, 2011 1:13 pm

    I thought about searching, but then I thought anyone taking the binding apart might want to lube it then (not really, thanks).

  11. Glenn Sliva March 31st, 2011 3:06 pm

    I was about to post this question as I bought a pair of Stokes. Perfect timing Lou. The powder days just keep coming.

    RV values and DIN settings are very similar to helmets. Just don’t fall and stay away from tree wells!

  12. rob mainwaring March 31st, 2011 3:16 pm

    Hey Lou,

    I’ve been bothering one of your cohorts offline all morning, so thought I’d share the load since you happened to post this today.

    I recently broke both the heel cup units of my FT12’s, sheered pretty much clean off, both almost identical areas, both during the same tour.


    1. I have a pair of skis that these binders just came off. I’d like to reuse the exact same holes and remount the bindings. The holes have yet to be filled. In the past, you’ve said these holes can be used again with epoxy (search function!).

    My only caveat is the skis have been drilled for at least 3 other bindings (no holes overlap, no holes stack horizontally) and I am a moderately aggressive 170# skier, and will finish the season in terrain with some risk of consequence. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not skiing outrageous couloirs of death in JH, etc. but will be skiing over rocks and exposure. The skis are wood core and rohacell construction.

    If I do remount them, just do so with epoxy?

    2. Is there any risk of causing more damage to the heel units now that the heel cups are gone? Salewa has agreed to warranty them, but I’d like to finish the spring trips on my Dynas rather than alpine gear.

    3. 99.99% sure I can’t mount with brakes, as the heel cups are gone, according to Jonathan. Makes sense to me since the heel cup plastic retains the brake in tour mode. Your take?

    Thanks in advance and for all the accumulation of knowledge, Lou.

  13. RandoSwede March 31st, 2011 5:25 pm

    I’ve had a bit of trouble mounting new style brakes to to older (orange volcano) bindings. The FT/ST version seem compatible but I’ve had to do some delicate file work on the clip to get it to seat properly.

    Would like to hear your thoughts on future compatabilities with the Radical binders.

  14. Jim March 31st, 2011 7:39 pm

    Took the brakes off my Vert 12’s…oh what a relief, less hassle, better functioning of the heel, no brake lock during tour by accident. I needed the leashes anyways for the Alaska glaciers. Also gave me something to leash the ski to the ice axe on the transitions. Don’t miss the brakes at all.

  15. Harry March 31st, 2011 10:00 pm

    “The state of sophistication in ski safety gear is roughly equivalent to that of body armor used by Fred Flintstone in his day. That’s about the size of it.”

    When it comes to RV thats spot on. The max/min specs for a given RV are silly. When people bug out over an indicated 1 RV difference, or parse the consequences of identifying themselves as a type 2 or type 3 skiers, I don’t think they realize how little difference it makes.

    As an “N” skier with a 9.5 indicated RV, my release torque for forward release is anywhere in a 109n/m range. thats big.

    Also with how the chart is written I could chart to an indicated 6.5 and end up with the same torque value for a release by being on the low range of one and high of the other, and in both cases the binding passes.

    I think if you told most skiers who are used to a given RV and put them 3 RVs different they would not be happy.

    It also gets very complex with liability. When a shop employee goes over your binding setting when you pick up your gear, most people expect their indicated value and set value to be the same, for both axis, on both bindings. By torque testing we could put everyone into the middle of the range for each axis by adjusting the tension, but then customers assume they we sold them a broken binding.

    I think the non adjustable release tech bindings are onto something by just saying that it is around 8. Should work.

    If you read your dynafit manual the Germans have some wacky tibia length way to calculate your RV, the the disclaimer says to only use it in Deutschland. Wouldn’t work in NA I guess.

    I don’t know if any amount of fundamental research is out there on how the RVs and toque standards are set, or if using more consistent springs to hold acceptable torques into a smaller range would improve safety. It would definitely make bindings more expensive to produce.

  16. Jonathan Shefftz April 1st, 2011 5:54 am

    The tibia measurement used to be standard procedure in the U.S.: I remember having mine measured about, hmm, 35 years ago. Haven’t seen it in the recent alpine downhill binding tech manuals though.

  17. Lou April 1st, 2011 9:19 am

    Jim, the no brake option is definitely legit! When I convert in the spring, I love it. The weight reduction is noticeable, for starters.

  18. Sean Lohr April 1st, 2011 10:45 am

    As much as I enjoy the weight change, I can’t bring myself to leave the brakes at home simply due to the fear of seeing my ski rocket down some gigantic corn field without me attached to it!!

    Leashes are great and all, but certain transitions can be in places where putting leashes on and then clicking into the toe are daring enough that I prefer clicking into the toes with the heel in ski mode (brakes released) and then lock the toes into tour. Once I’m sure that my toes are in I then switch the heel and toe to ski modes. That way I can put the ski down without the fear of losing it or myself trying to keep it from taking off on me.

    I’m probably a little paranoid but the situation I’m describing has been common when skiing in Glacier National Park in the spring where you often have to make transitions from bootpacking to skiing whilst standing on a 40 degree corn slope with a very long runout that often ends in a cliff.

  19. Jim Predmore April 2nd, 2011 8:56 pm

    Hi Lou,
    I’d like to adjust my Vertical ST binding with brake to accommodate a slightly smaller boot shell (current shell is Scarpa Spirit 4 size 27; new shell is Dynafit TLT5 size 27).
    The TLT5 shell is about 2mm shorter than the Spirit 4. Do I just turn the screw? Or does the brake have to be moved? The brake appears to prevent the binding from moving. As a Tele convert with no experience fooling with bindings I’d appreciate some advice from the expert before I try to take the whole rig apart!
    2nd question is this: The TLT5 seems very snug compared to the Spirit 4. Do the Dynafits run smaller than Scarpas? I may need a 27.5.
    Thanks for you help, Jim P

  20. Lou April 2nd, 2011 9:07 pm

    Hi Jim, the brakes slides along with everything else, but does have a limit and if you crank too hard you’ll strip the adjustment threads. You probably have 2 mm but be careful.

    Correlation between sizes/brands is only a rough guideline. Just work with a person at a shop or do online swaps and get your best shell fit, then mold the liner. Only after that can you figure out if you have the absolute best size or not. Size you use in another brand would only be a starting point for fitting.

  21. Greg Louie April 2nd, 2011 10:12 pm

    Jim, look at the hole in the baseplate of the heel before you start cranking the screw – when the pivot post hits the rounded part of the grey plastic plate, that’s the limit; you can see if you have 2mm travel by looking in there.

    The TLT 5 is definitely a narrower, lower volume fit than a Spirit 4, especially in the instep and heel, so a tighter fit doesn’t mean you are in the wrong shell size. I had to do a lot of shell stretching to make the TLT 5 P work, hardly any in most Scarpas.

  22. Jim Predmore April 3rd, 2011 7:45 pm

    Lou , Greg,
    Thanks for the advice. I made those binding adjustments with no problem.

  23. stephen April 8th, 2011 10:24 pm

    @ Sean Lohr

    If you use the B&D leashes Lou linked to above there’s no need to take them off to make transitions. Or to sit down and have lunch. Highly recommended.

  24. Bill April 9th, 2011 8:09 am

    @ Sean Lohr

    To add On the B & D leashes.
    If boot packing you can attach the leashes to your boots before you even take the skis off your pack.
    I found this very handy after climbing down some rocks to put my skis on a icy 30+ degree slope. It was a blessing.

  25. Daniel Powers October 24th, 2012 1:11 pm

    Lou please help me. I’m trying to remove the brakes from some Dynafit radical ft12s; however, the large screw that releases the mechanism so the brakes can be released does not want to separate from the black plastic housing. I need to get the brakes off because I’m mounting the heal pieces across the 128 ski waist. How can I get the screw out> There is a nut on the reverse side that cannot be gripped by any wrench or needle nose pliers. Any suggestions?

  26. Lou Dawson October 24th, 2012 1:15 pm

    Daniel, you’ll have to more specific… Go ahead and email me with a photo, use contact link above.

    Also know that the latest Radicals have a non-removable brake, though I’m not sure that would be the problem you’re having…!!!

  27. Daniel Powers October 24th, 2012 4:29 pm

    You can see pictures of what I’m referring to at TGR blog post:

    Thanks for any help you can offer.

  28. Daniel Powers October 24th, 2012 4:47 pm

    I tried to send some pictures, but I’m pretty sure I did not sure the proper email. How can I track down your email so I can send them over? Thanks again.

  29. Lou Dawson October 24th, 2012 5:22 pm

    Hi Dan, I got your photos. You have bindings with the non-removable brake! We suspect there will be several ways to get the brake off, but not the easy old way! Stay tuned. Lou

  30. Lou Dawson October 24th, 2012 6:29 pm

    Addendum, as you can imagine I’ve taken apart _every_ part of the Dynafit binding. The adjustment length adjustment rod in the heel of the FT/ST/Radical/Comfort is removed by making a special wrench that can fit around that trapped nut. I made a wrench by grinding down a regular wrench. If you’re clever, you can jam a few things around the nut and sometimes hold it, but that’s crude and imprecise, especially when replacing it.

    I’m not certain this is the correct way to remove and re-install the “permanent” brakes but we’ll know as soon as I get my eval bindings on the bench.


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