Su-matic Champion Backcountry Ski Touring Binding circa 1976

This is possibly the most unusual item in the WildSnow ski touring binding collection. Su-matic Champion was made in Switzerland during the mid to late 1970s. The complex piece of machinery was an attempt at providing full downhill performance with a touring mode — something modern bindings are close to achieving but was a nearly impossible goal in the early days. As seems to usually be the case with this type of design challenge, Su-matic was a compromise. It was certainly as good in the downhill mode of any 1970s binding, but left a bit to be desired in ascent. Only four centimeters of vertical travel allow a limited (to put it mildly) touring stride, and they weigh a ton.

Su-matic backcountry skiing binding was ingenious, but was heavy and allowed little heel lift.

Su-matic backcountry skiing binding was ingenious, but was heavy and allowed little heel lift.

Insofar as entering and exiting the Su-matic and switching modes between downhill and uphill, the binding is nothing less than a contraption. Without directions, figuring out how it works is a puzzle worthy of the best minds on the planet — and watch your fingers. Snap. It could take one off!

To enter you pull up on the heel lever while slightly raising the binding in touring mode, it then stands taller (where you wish it went for touring) and allows you to insert your heel. You then step down firmly and it pops into downhill mode. For touring, you lift the lever up yet again and off you go, heel tendons screaming at every step. Exit is the reverse of entry: while slightly lifting the backcountry skiing binding heel in touring mode, lift the lever again and up goes the jaw to let your foot out. Difficult to to describe in writing so check out the video.

Su-matic in touring mode, heel lever raised.

Su-matic in touring mode, heel lever raised.

One of the coolest design features of this grabber is the knurled brass visible to rear. This is easily rotated with a thumb to change binding for different sized boots. Few randonnee bindings are as easy to adjust. Vertical release tension is changed with a slotted screw on top of the heel jaw. Click photo to enlarge.

To enter the binding you solve the puzzle of how the top catch shifts to open it up, as shown in this photo. The thing looks like some semi-mechanical animal out of a horror movie. Notice the finger tip hanging from the jaws? (just kidding)

To enter the binding you solve the puzzle of how the top catch shifts to open it up, as shown in this photo. The thing looks like some semi-mechanical animal out of a horror movie. Notice the finger tip hanging from the jaws? (just kidding)

Toe unit details. Toe height adjustment is easily done with a small flat blade screwdriver, by rotating the visible screw heads. Conventional for its day.

Toe unit details. Toe height adjustment is easily done with a small flat blade screwdriver, by rotating the visible screw heads. Conventional for its day.

Thanks goes to Terry Young for providing these bindings.

Su-matic Champion thumbnail.

Su-matic Champion thumbnail.


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  • Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information & opinion website. Lou's passion for the past 50 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about ski touring and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free ski touring news and information here.

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