Got your fork and knife at hand? Beef is definitely the hot subject this year, but not the kind you get from cattle. Rather the meal at hand is burly bindings and boots for backcountry skiing. I was looking at my website stats this morning and was amazed at how much traffic our Marker Duke and Baron information page is getting. FYI, Along with that, interest in stiffer AT boots has certainly reached an all-time high.
Whatever happened to the weight weenies? Did they all go back to bicycle racing or something? Perhaps not, since the introduction of true carbon fiber structure in an AT boot (Dynafit Zzero to be specific) is indeed resulting in some weight savings that can be applied to stiffer boots, though we’ll need the full-on carbon fiber ski boot to really see significant results from that trend.
Worthy blog reader T.G. has been checking out this exact subject and sent me an email the other day that I thought I’d pass on:
In pure coincidence I happened to walk into a local mountain shop (Bag and Pack in Avon) during their Pro Night.” I’ve been a long time alpine ski instructor, so I’m familiar with pro nights usually being invitation only affairs. This was cool because no one seemed to mind a guy walking in off the street and perusing the goods. Of course I was immediately drawn to the Dynafit table and had the great opportunity to spend about 15 minutes talking with Kyle, who is apparently the Dynafit sales rep for this area.
I was able to look at the three different 4 buckle models in the Dynafit line, but the most interesting thing was the loose Power Stringer? pieces that Kyle had. I was able to handle the Power Stringer pieces made of both Rislan and carbon fiber. The Rislan stringers are really soft, they felt like Tupperware plastic, and I concluded that they can’t really provide much stiffness and are primarily cosmetic. On the other hand the carbon fiber stringers are very stiff and must certainly contribute more to the stiffness of the boot. It will be interesting to see ski comparison reviews of the Green Machine with the carbon stringers and the red boot with the Rislan stringers. Although the Rislan stringers probably don’t add much stiffness, the PU plastic used in the red boot is noticeably stiff than the Rislan used in the green boot, and will certainly get more stiff in the cold. On the other hand the red boot is definitely heavier, but it is quite a bit less expensive. In the cold the red boot could end up being more stiff and a better choice for side country or more alpine oriented skiers on snow tests should reveal the truth (hint, hint).
It was also interesting to see the growth in interest in alpine touring gear. This has been well documented, but it’s exciting to see. Of particular note was how much more widely available Dynafit products have become. When I bought my Dynafit bindings three years ago there wasn’t a shop nearby where I could get them, even in the central Colorado I-70 area. Now Kyle tells me that there are multiple shops within an hour of my home that are selling boots, bindings, and skis. One thing that’s really cool is that Bag and Pack in Avon is going to have a demo fleet of Dynafit gear this winter including skis, boots, and bindings. Wow. And Kyle added that the flow of Dynafit product being imported into the US is quite good so there shouldn’t be any problems getting a hold of the stuff.
T.G.’s experience with the stringers is exactly my take. The carbon fiber is amazingly stiff for such a small piece of material, while the regular plastic stringers do make you wonder if they’re really necessary. On the other hand, because ergonomics comes into play here, I suspect even the softer plastic stringers might yield a beefier feel in real-world use. As for plastic that gets stiffer in the cold, I’m not a big fan of depending on that for performance, as the temps we get while skiing vary from sub-zero to blistering hot. But for the person who does most of their touring in winter temps, plastic that hardens in the cold will indeed provide more beef than is indicated during on carpet testing. So that’s a good thing to keep in mind while trying on in the store.