Ask Lou, part 6194: Can I use worn out Dynafit bindings to ski Denali?

Post by blogger | July 3, 2014      

G. wrote:
Hi Lou, I’ve got a knowledgeable customer at our shop who is well versed in Dynafit tech, but is having problems with his current binding setup.

TLT ski touring binding circa 1992, when the binding was first branded by Dynafit.

TLT ski touring binding circa 1992, when the binding was first mainstream branded by Dynafit (they began selling it in 1990). We still see people skiing these, though some if not most are more appropriate in a museum.

He has a fairly old pair of TLT model that have several issues. They appear to be high mileage, so we’re of course first thinking thimble bushings need replacement to fix obvious play. Beyond that, the rivet that terminates one heelpiece length adjustment screw is missing, at the front of the heel unit base. Even so, it appears the adjustment screw is working. The toe lock levers are VERY hard to manipulate, and one of them appears to allow the boot toe to come out much too easily even while locked. Customer says he’s been careful about ice issues and such, and I believe him.

I really want to get this guy set up well, as he will be attempting to climb and ski Denali. As I mentioned, he is well versed in the whole Dynafit realm, so I don’t think this is a case of a greenhorn getting confused and feeling his bindings are more problematic than they really are. Instead, the bindings seem to be somewhat past their prime… Any thoughts you have would be very much appreciated.

To G. from Lou:

What never ceases to amaze me, and is wonderful about Dynafit bindings, is that many owners refuse to let them die. The same guy who will buy new car tires when necessary, or even a new car, will run the same bindings till they’ve nearly disintegrated into their component atoms.

They could make a zombie movie out of this syndrome. WORLD WAR D! I chopped off the Dynafit’s heel unit; it kept skiing! I bashed the toe lever with a rock; it kept working! Quick, hand me that 12 gauge and a handful of shells, I’ve got to put these things to rest! What makes it stop, only a head shot? Where is the head!? Oh no, the toe pins bit me, now I’ve got the virus, I’ve become, OMG, a Dynafitter!

Yeah, the customer is always right, and you should apply that principle to this guy. Understood. But he needs to know that using a worn out pair of ski bindings on the icy crevassed terrain of the highest peak in North America is just, well, not smart. I said that, you didn’t. Instead, how about just sharing with him how our successful WildSnow Denali ski expedition of 2010 (7 guys, mostly newbies, unguided, all make ski descent) was 100% equipped with Dynafit bindings in new or near-new conditions. No one tried to skimp on bindings and skis, and that was intentional.

The idea is to bring skis and bindings that work, that way you can concentrate on little things like eating and drinking (which become big things above 14,000 feet, which is the equivalent of 15,000 feet or more when you’re on the BIG ONE.)

So, my advice: You shouldn’t even touch rebuilding those old TLTs because getting a toe base that’s compatible with that touring lock lever might be impossible, not to mention the need for at least one new heel base, which may also be incompatible. Instead, just give your loyal customer and long time Dynafitter a 10% courtesy discount or advance sale price on a nice new pair of ST bindings, with brakes.

Speaking of which, I would advise anyone using skis on West Buttress Denali to use ski brakes, as they reduce a lot of mental stress and potential disaster, especially if you get in situations with a lot of wind hardened snow or ice where a ski could take off sans rider even on low angle terrain. Leashes are good too, but frankly, after my experience last spring are not as important as I thought they’d be since the chances of falling in a crevasse with skis on are pretty minimal so long as you’re careful. And even if you do loose a ski you’re still getting out on foot if necessary. All that said, advise your customer that the ST is going to have more ramp angle than the TLT, and that he needs to get out and try the new bindings with his Denali boots and makes sure everything feels correct.

Another thing. With one-owner high mileage Dynafit setups, beware of damage to the ski topskin under the heel unit spindle. This can cause play in the system with who knows what consequences, as well as getting to the point where the underlying ski is weakened. If your customer opts to fix the bindings himself for something like that, at least be sure he is warned of this issue. Evaluation is easy. Just remove heel unit from spindle, then manipulate spindle in a rocking motion and see if you feel any play. You should feel very little to none.

Which brings us to boots. What’s he using, and does he need any help in that area? Bad boots will break a Denali attempt more times than not…

—- All the best, Lou, who still can’t believe he finally skied off that top of that thing…

(Editor’s note: Above is a montage of several questions. More about Dynafit ski touring binding durability.


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12 Responses to “Ask Lou, part 6194: Can I use worn out Dynafit bindings to ski Denali?”

  1. Tay April 18th, 2011 11:50 am

    “now I’ve got the disease, I’ve become, OMG, a Dynafitter!”, perhaps that should be a Dynafixer in this case.

  2. Lou April 18th, 2011 11:57 am

    Tay, LOL

  3. Caleb Wray April 18th, 2011 2:14 pm

    Good advice Lou. The only point I disagree with is the importance of leashes on a big ski expedition. Not sure if you remember but I got caught in my own sluff skiing the north side of the 16k ridge. I only slid a few feet before arresting, but my sluff continued all the way down to the Peters Glacier. Had I not had my ski leashes attached, my chances to ski that big daddy would have been over, not to mention getting back to base camp would have been quite a slog for me.

    Of course I guess I could just ski with the toes locked but you know how Dynafits can sometimes just spontaneously release no matter what you do.

  4. Jordan April 18th, 2011 2:20 pm

    Second for Caleb’s need for leashes!

    Bring new dynafits!

  5. Lou April 18th, 2011 3:20 pm

    Hmmm, I think you guys are pretty much correct.

    If a person is serious about skiing the big Daddy, they should use both leashes and brakes as a lost ski would blow their whole dream. But if they’re up there just using skis for transport with the possibility of skiing summit, then perhaps just leave the leashes off. I can see going either way, depending on importance of skis to the ultimate goal.

    For example, if I went up there again to just mess around looking for optimal conditions and _perhaps_ ski it again, I’d probably forget the leashes. Have to admit, though, that the time I stuffed my leg and ski in a crevasse and scared the stuffing out of myself, it was probably good I had leashes since the possibility of the ski popping off and getting lost in there was pretty good, and that would have left me tromping around in a crevasse field with one ski — though plenty of other people were walking through there on foot, so it wouldn’t have been that bad…

  6. Brad July 3rd, 2014 11:17 am

    Just adding a vote on the side of caution. I have a pair of TLT Comforts that are about ten years old. I haven’t used them much since I got a fatter pair of skis three years ago. On a trip this spring the heel piece cracked and my boot pulled out on a jump turn in only very mildly mushy corn snow. Scary to think about the result if that had happened on bigger terrain. I’ll send pics by email in case that’s helpful.

    (I didn’t realize at first why I had released and I was able to get my boot back into the bindings. Then the bindings released in the same way and I noticed that the heel piece was cracked. I then walked down to lower angle terrain and cautiously used the heel on the way out, which is when the top of the heel piece cracked off entirely.)

  7. lederhosen42 July 3rd, 2014 2:05 pm

    DISCLAIMER–no, i wouldn’t use high mileage dynafits for any terrain that’s committing or would result in injury or death in case of binding failure.

    but (get ready to cringe, Lou 😉 )

    As a PROUD ultra high mileage dynafitter, I DO have a few tricks to absolutely milk the last drop of life out of the lil units. (14 +/- years, probably over 2 million vert feet of use including many years of heliskiing use and abuse getting beat on, battered and thoroughly trashed while skis got thrown in/out of helicopter basket…with nary a whimper or complaint)

    1. the heel spindle alu base cracked into two pieces and the adjustment screw broke off years ago. The easy fix? find the correct fore aft adjustment point and fill the space fore and aft of alu with epoxy or in my case, ptex. held firm for years now, extricated the material to readjust for new boots last year…another full season of use with success.

    2. the locking toe piece lever that doesn’t fully ‘lock’ the toe. in my case due to extreme wear of the plastic protrusion on the base plate the lever tensions against….my quick fix in the field was to stuff a washer under the plastic to boost the height of the baseplate…worked like a charm, the quick fix is still going strong a few seasons later.

    3. vertical plane rocking/lifting of heel piece. two issues: 1. internal thimble wear…easy fix; disassemble and rotate thimble to ‘clean’ plastic or replace thimble. 2. ovalization/flaring of bottom of plastic of heel piece….don’t think there’s an ‘easy’ solution for this, i’ve just lived with it though considering experimenting with inserting shims or attaching plastic band aid material to flared areas to form a more snug fit.

    once again, DISCLAIMER—-no, i wouldn’t use high mileage dynafits for any terrain that’s committing or would result in injury or death in case of binding failure.

  8. Charlie July 3rd, 2014 4:02 pm

    An aficionado of the older bindings will probably like Speed Turns if the old bindings require replacement.

  9. Lou Dawson July 3rd, 2014 7:31 pm

    Lederhosen, do you use porcupine quills to stitch your shorts (grin)?

  10. Daniel July 4th, 2014 9:57 am

    Speed Turn has more Delta than TLT Speed. Might put some skiers off. I recently stashed a pair of TLTs…

  11. gary maltin July 4th, 2014 11:32 am

    Lederhosen’s “ghetto works” fabrication shop is the stuff of legends.
    I hear he’s losing it over the porcupine quills comment though… 🙂

  12. Lou Dawson 2 July 4th, 2014 12:58 pm

    Well, Native Americans used quills for fabrication, why not Lederhosen ? (grin)

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