G3 Factory Visit — Keeping Secrets

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | August 14, 2012      

G3 wouldn’t let me check out their climbing skin assembly operation during our recent visit to their Vancouver headquarters. “Secret processes” was the story. Not to worry, just learning they basically start with skin fabric and come up with a full line of furs right there in their facility. That is enough to impress. I mean, how cool? Want to try a different glue forumlation? Have the chemist whip it up, smear on a pair of skin, then take a short drive out of town and do some testing on Mount Fromme or Crown Mountain. Fortunately, while even my hidden spy cam couldn’t penetrate the climbing skin room, G3 engineer Rob Moore did show us enough other stuff for photos and comentary.

Toe unit tester for Onyx backcountry skiing binding.

Toe unit tester for Onyx backcountry skiing binding. This rig tests the 'pinching' force of the toe wings, which needs to be reasonably consistent to insure the binding's safety release and retention work as expected. Rob told me that just a small metal filing or dirt getting caught in the mechanism during manufacturing can change things drastically, so serial numbering and testing _every_ binding is, in his view, essential to providing people with a quality product. From what I've gathered over the last few years, this type of individual testing is essential to the type of binding indemnification that ski shops need to protect themselves from liability issues. Also, perhaps it's something that'll be necessary for the ever illusive TUV certification of the Onyx bindings to ISO standard 13992?

Binding test results for one particular serial numbered toe.

Binding test results for one particular serial-numbered toe unit. The idea is they have an ideal profile, and each binding has to match it within a certain tolerance. What's impressive is they test _every_ binding and keep the results on file. Not all binding companies do that.

Skins and skis being readied for shipping.

Skins and skis being readied for shipping. As with many other companies, G3's product manufacturing constantly evolves to a mix of in-house work, actions elsewhere in Canada, along with the usual Asian component.

Durability testing of telemark backcountry skiing binding.

My favorite part of the G3 facility is their cold room. They created this space out of a refrigerated shipping container, which when you think about it is the perfect way to instantly create an effective walk-in freezer. Add a few testing machines like this one, and your'e ready to rock -- or crack. In this case, the heel lifter for a tele binding is being 'used' thousands of times, in the cold. Rob showed us a bunch of other contraptions used to simulate real-life abuse, but admitted that no in-house testing can totally simulate real-world use since forces in the field are complex and hard to totally duplicate.

Backcountry skis and skins at G3 are always being improved.

Bonus spy shot. The skis peeking out from behind Rob (who is showing us the High Traction Skins) possibly a test pair of their new super-lightweight plank, to be introduced during winter trade shows. The graphics are provisional, of course, just something they appeared to be having fun with. If I say more than that G3 will make me do a 50k nordic race on their High Traction Skins, so mum is the word. But they did look like VERY interesting skis. That in light of the fact that at least two or three other companies are attempting to main-stream manufacture and retail modern width backcountry skis that weigh around or under a kilo each in 'normal' lengths. I guess I should add that due to this, some people's wallets will probably become lighter weight as well.


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6 Responses to “G3 Factory Visit — Keeping Secrets”

  1. Dynamic Sports August 14th, 2012 2:11 pm

    This is a good article, the design technology is so good these days.

  2. Jack August 15th, 2012 8:11 am

    I love the Al extrusions used to construct the “stress” machine. Its seems you could build almost anything with it.

    On a total tangent: I’m thinking of using “Binding-freedom” inserts on my Coombacks to mount Dynafit Radicals, the theory being twofold: I could use the binding on another ski with locktite and a little fiddling and, secondly, the depth and width of the insert threads (epoxied in, of course) might reduce the chances of binding pull-out. Has anyone done this? I haven’t checked the interior thread dimensions yet.

    Thinking of doing this myself. I might go over and use my friends mill-drill machine. No worries on drilling depth or angle. Really easy to be precise.

    Any thoughts?

  3. Jason August 15th, 2012 11:40 am

    @Jack – search “binding freedom” on tetongravity.com, there will be tons of results. Here are a few:
    If you still need more info, “jondrums” on TGR is the guy who invented the binding freedom inserts, try to send him a message

  4. Pierce Oz August 15th, 2012 1:30 pm

    Lou and Lisa, cool posts from OR and G3!

    What’s striking me today is the “seeming” level of advancement and improvement in gear that we’ve seen over the last 10-15 years. Looking back on my ski gear as a kid, and remembering buying my first pair of AT boots from a total selection of 3 offerings makes it seem amazing. The options now seem endless, and much more developed!

    What’s your take? Are we really experiencing a more rapid and impressive progression of outdoor/ski gear and associated technology these days, or did the changes in 60’s, 70’s and 80’s have the same pace and feel? Just wondering if my frame of reference isn’t accounting for the progression that was experienced during the first AT/Tele/Backcountry skiing revolution. I’ve got to imagine those were pretty heady days in respect to what was being accomplished in the backcountry and how the perceived limits were being smashed, at the very least.

    Finally, where do you think this is all headed? Is ski gear going to progress exponentially year over year like pentium chip sets, or will we reach design limitations or perfection?

    Thanks in advance for waxing on this with me!


  5. Lou Dawson August 15th, 2012 2:17 pm

    Pierce, I’ll bite. The pace has definitely picked up. Back in the 60s and 70s we were basically using the same stuff for years on end, because nothing much better or new came along. For a while, in North America the telemarking fad drove innovation on backcountry gear, which was frustrating for the AT set (though we did have some Euro stuff to play with). But at the same time Fritz Barthel was inventing the tech binding, so we got the last laugh. That said, it’s hard to quantify “pace.” If you’re on a budget, the pace of innovation can seem slower. If you’re a blogger at WildSnow, it can seem like a hurricane (grin).

    As for the future, my take is that the pace of new design will slow somewhat after composites take over much of the material in our gear, but that doesn’t mean it’ll slow down much. For example, the handheld GPS is going to be a thing to watch, as is backcountry satellite communication. Also, I believe we’re just seeing the beginning of the airbag wars. And as the price of materials such as Dyneema fabric come down, we’re going to see a whole area of innovation in that as well, resulting in backpacks and shell garments that save literally kilos of weight overall. Athletic science is also an open book. The time will come (if it hasn’t already), when artificial knees and hips will be considered “gear” just like ski bindings, and subject to the same attention by the backcountry skiing consumer. And the pace of innovation in that stuff is showing no signs of quitting.

    On the other hand, it’s somewhat of a laugh to see what has _not_ changed. Perhaps that means sometimes we humans figure out pretty cool stuff? Or perhaps something else? Take ski boots for example. Sure, they’re lighter and walk better, but they’re really just about the same thing they were in 1978. Skis, however, wow.

    Bear in mind that much of this is simply driven by demand. Backcountry skiing grew, huge. Companies responded, and will continue to do so. Albeit it’s a small market compared to say, running shoes, but it’s big enough now to support quite a bit of R&D.

  6. Lou Dawson August 15th, 2012 4:26 pm

    Jack, lo and behold we’ve got some posts here at WildSnow about binding inserts.

    Check this link.

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