Classic Su-Matic Tour, Plate Binding — 1980


Post by WildSnow.com blogger | April 18, 2013      

Recent backcountry (sidecountry!) popularity aside, when you consider the run AT bindings have had over the past five decades it’s obvious that backcountry alpine ski touring has been quite the viable sport for decades. Thanks goes to binding collector Matt C. for trading me this clean looking Su-matic plate binding from the early 1980s. Thus far I’ve not obtained a narrower manufacturing and sales date; if anyone has the info please leave a comment (Europeans, please speak up!). Nice addition to the WildSnow Binding Museum!

Su-matic tour is one of the early plate/frame backcountry skiing bindings.

Su-matic tour is one of the early plate/frame backcountry skiing bindings.

Su-matic Tour has your typical Swiss attention to detail and manufacturing quality. Cast aluminum toe unit is austere and functional, with the “TX1” moniker in raised characters. I’m assuming this is just your typical European trend to name products with multiple terms, but who knows? Binding frame consists of a hollow aluminum plate with cast alu pieces inserted in both ends. Boot is held by typical toe wire and pivot-latch at the rear. Boot length adjustment is done by loosening screw and sliding steel bracket fore and aft. A second screw hole is provided for boots too short for the adjustment range. Nicely done iteration of the classic plate binding concept still used in the ski touring industry by Fritschi.

Su-matic Tour ski binding in tour mode with heel lift engaged.

Su-matic Tour ski binding in tour mode with heel lift engaged.

Side view while toe in touring mode.

Side view while toe in touring mode.

In touring mode, an axle on the front end of the plate is slotted into the toe unit, as shown.

In touring mode, an axle on the front end of the plate is slotted into the toe unit, as shown. Arrow indicates a small rotating cover that caps the end of the slot to prevent the axle from sliding out.

Heel lift detail.

Heel lift detail.

This funky ski brake also acts as a spring loaded arm that when attached to plate in touring mode provides a return spring while walking.

This funky ski brake also acts as a spring loaded arm that when attached to plate in touring mode provides a return spring while walking. It could be easily eliminated while mounting the binding. In the 1970s, European touring binding makers all thought you had to include some kind of return spring mechanism that kept the tail of your ski held up to your heel while completing strides or side stepping. The first binding to not have a return spring was the American invented and made Ramer which was first retailed in 1976.

Ski brake retainer clips in touring mode.

Ski brake retainer clip before last step of flipping into place for touring mode.

Release mechanism. For alpine mode you remove the front of plate from the toe unit and insert it so it free floats.

Release mechanism. For alpine mode you remove the front of plate from the toe unit and insert it so it free floats. Thus, when the front of the plate moves to the side it camps out at the rear which in turn pushes the black plunger in so release can happen.

More about the safety release of Su-Matic Tour: In the late 1960s and 1970s a few companies attempted to make ski bindings that worked off a plate concept with the release springs in the rear, most notably Spademan (which is the alpine binding Bill Briggs used during his first ski descent of the Grand Teton in 1971). Having release mechanism in the rear allowed the toe of the boot to move freely to the side during release and was thus in theory safer. But retention has always been a problem with these types of bindings due to their extreme sensitivity to normal skiing forces, as well as inability to absorb anomalous variations such as snow packing under the boot while entering the binding.

Su-Matic is configured for downhill skiing by placing rear of plate in the heel unit, then sliding the plate into position as you insert the front of the plate in a slot under the rear of the toe unit. As you do this, a small spring-loaded piston at the rear provides release tension. It’s an ingenious system, though we suspect it did not provide much elasticity and would have been prone to pre-release unless run at fairly high release tension.

To use the ski brake in alpine mode this retainer is folded under the plate.

To use the ski brake in alpine mode this retainer is folded under the plate.

Side release.

Brake retainer clip with plate being installed. If the binding releases, the plate pops out which in turn lets the brake deploy.

Another view of binding toe in touring mode with return spring arm.

Another view of binding toe in touring mode with return spring arm.

Weight 35 ounces, 944 grams per binding.
Donated to WildSnow collection by Matt C.

Sumatic plate thumbnail.

Sumatic plate thumbnail.



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Comments

7 Responses to “Classic Su-Matic Tour, Plate Binding — 1980”

  1. Samuel Savard April 18th, 2013 10:23 am

    Great review! I’m surprised at how advanced these bindings were for the time!

  2. Jeff Miller April 19th, 2013 1:30 pm

    I have a pair of these on some Atomic Tourcap light’s. They are perfect with climbing boots as a climb approach binding.

  3. Lou Dawson April 19th, 2013 1:48 pm

    Jeff, any idea what vintage they are?

  4. Dave J. April 21st, 2013 8:46 pm

    Pretty ingenious for the era. I had the ski boots shown. They were my first plastic AT boot – much better than the leather boots I’d been using.

  5. Sarin April 22nd, 2013 11:55 pm

    Wow great!

  6. Darin Autry August 6th, 2013 7:45 am

    Didn’t have time to read the entire article here (sorry, I’m at work). But those bindings were manufactured by the Suhner corporation. The idea came from Willy Suhner who was the third generation (I believe) owner of the company. The company is very much alive and very well.

    http://www.suhner.com.

    Willy’s son, Otto Suhner, is still in control of the company and I’m sure would be delighted to see this.

  7. horst hoffmann October 30th, 2015 5:06 am

    hi, i am a retired but still a absolute fanatic alpinist. i still love my biggest playground my alpes where i can played each game each time of the year in all elements water,rock,snow and air. a lumbar problem forced me to change from a active to a passive onlooker.
    some days ago i told a friend about the best alpine tour ski binding i had for ever and i am glad to find some info’s about this great product via goggle and facebook in your blog. but i goes sad to see that the guy who made the demonstrating video has no knownelges how to handle this awesome binding.
    i know that if you do not have the handbook you operate the binding in a wrong way and do not see the hidden funktions which make the handling total simple and safe even in the greatest storm during darkness and without take off the handkerchief in a icy or deeply powder snow steep slope.
    in some delicate situations i can swich the binding from descent to climb without leaving the binding just with my ski- stick and this action lasts a few seconds if you know the trick.
    if you are interested w can arrange a skype talk and i would try to explain you some details. i am sure that the new bindings have less functions than this binding which is a proof for a great engineering skill, but the handling must be learned and trained. the binding has solutions for all thinkable situations.
    doyou know that you can assembele a comfortable akia sled??
    the problem is, that the alpine tour skining was in the 70 exotic and in the shops there was no guys with experience, time and knowledge to demonstrate this product. it is a pity,.
    best regards from germany nearby the lake of constance
    horst hoffmann

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