WildSnow.com Goes Euro – Day 3


Post by WildSnow.com blogger | January 5, 2007      

Guys, it is indeed a pilgrimage. I knew the ski touring roots here would blow me away, but the depth of the ski culture astounds me more than I ever imagined it would. As testimony to that, Dynafit bindings really were developed in a “garage” (actually, the livestock stable area in the renovated farm house I’m staying in here in Bad Hering, in the Austrian Tyrol.) The idea came about when Fritz Barthel skied Mt. Blanc with a super heavy touring setup that slowed him down so much the mountain became a somewhat unpleasant chore. After that experience, he figured there had to be a better way. Along with his father Manfred, Fritz built a prototype based on concepts from the Ramer binding, with a main goal of substituting a rigid AT boot for the heel/toe connecting plate of most touring bindings. That basic conecept evolved into the full function Dynafit bindings we enjoy today.

Backcountry skiing Austrian Tyrol.
Some of the Dynafit binding clan, Manfred Barthel on left, Fritz Barthel on right, their friend in the middle. Manfred’s touring journal from last season lists 70 days out on the snow.

Today’s agenda was, of course, ski touring (yes, there is snow, though not much for January) with Fritz and Manfred, as well as a friend of the family. The Barthel’s are a skiing family that reminds me of our own clan back home. While driving, Manfred regaled me with a funny story about how he and Fritz got the first Dynafit prototype working, then shopped it around to the different European ski binding makers. Any one of them could have bought the patent for pocket change, but they all balked. Manfred said it was as if they thought something made outside of the usual ski equipment development circles was by definition junk. By now, all those companies have come to regret they didn’t have more vision. And the blessing (or last laugh, depending on how you look at it) is the Barthel’s, as they still own the patent and license it to Salewa so the binding can be manufactured.

The skiing today reminded me very much of early season Colorado; thin snow (about 18 inches thick), but if you picked the right places you could actually make some nice powder turns. No base, however, so unless you stayed slightly back on your tails you’d get the old submarine effect and kiss the earth. I hadn’t fallen skiing all season in Colorado, so naturally had to take a spill within the first three turns of skiing with these guys, who of course ski variable backcountry snow like it’s groomed piste. I guess it was the jet lag (smile).

Dynafit lent me a pair of skis for the trip — their latest and greatest “Seven Summits” model. This is a somewhat soft, woodcore ski that was good for the types of conditions we found, though for my jet lag legs I would have liked a longer pair with a more relaxed ride (I’m on the 160 something centimeter length). Even so, I love short skis for the uphill so the compromise was okay.

Today was a long day and all away from the computer till a few moments before bed this evening. Please check back tomorrow afternoon for more extensive reporting.

Backcountry skiing Austrian Tyrol.
Yours truly on my first European summit, just a small thing in the Tyrol we skied during late afternoon, but what a feeling. Location: Hochfugen area, Sonntags Kopel mountain, or “Sunday Little Head” in English.

P.S., Austrian Tourism Board, if you’d like to compensate me for publishing photos of snow in Austria, my contact information is available in menu to left (grin).



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Comments

4 Responses to “WildSnow.com Goes Euro – Day 3”

  1. Eric Steig January 5th, 2007 6:23 pm

    Lou,

    Really glad you’re having fun in Austria. If you go to any spots that you’d consider “worth making a trip back to”, let us know. I’ll be in Europe a lot in the next year, and it would be fun to have some beta from someone this side of the pond. Best wishes.

    Oh, and P.S. See if you can’t get Fritz and the gang there to think about a telemark binding design. Since most of their work is now refinement of an already near-perfect design, perhaps they have some time to devote their creativity to something really new. Wouldn’t a Dynafit-built tele binding really add some fire to the BD/Rottefella competition?

  2. Greg Louie January 5th, 2007 10:54 pm

    Ya gotta love Austria. Cows living under the house, little crucafix shrines hidden in the woods, people on skis everywhere. They’ll tear your legs off going up the skintrack, then after watching you make 10 good turns, they’re brothers for life. Especially cool that you have the Barthels as your hosts.

    Stop at a hut for lunch if you get a chance, there’s nothing like entering a deserted-looking 200 year-old stone structure in the middle of nowhere and finding it jammed with people enjoying Frittatensuppe, Brot and Schnapps.

  3. Lou January 6th, 2007 10:51 am

    Eric, I asked Fritz about telemark bindings. Turns out he’s telemarked quite a bit and had already made a prototype Dynafit tele binding. I’ll cover that in a later blog.

  4. patricia dawson January 6th, 2007 4:43 pm

    lou…I am enjoying your trip and the pictures..
    keep traveling safely…love the armchair traveler , MOM

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