By Tracy Ross
Salomon MTN Tour Binding and Atomic Backland Tour Binding
The Backland and MTN are the same binding, but with different color and attached brand heritage. At 780 grams per pair and with a mounting plate of 40mm, both are both super-light for the uphill and amply wide to facilitate maximum power transmission. Both have a patented step-in aid that really does minimize the pain-in-the-ass-ness of achieving perfect toe lineup on some of the older tech bindings (several other new models also have toe guides). But the big news is the heelpiece. When used with a brake, you don’t have to futz with it to switch to tour mode. The brake locks in place simply by steeping down on a lever that lifts from the brake platform—no need to move the heel or step out of the binding. And on the downhill, each drove the skis they were mounted on with force, fostering easy turn initiation and decent charge-ability. They’re also crampon compatible. They’ll be offered with a brake (80, 90, 100, 110 and 120mm sizes available) or leash, which attaches to the toe piece.
Fritschi Tecton 12 Touring Binding
Fritschi claims the Tecton offers “ample power transmission with an emphasis on safety.” I saw them on a display—none had been mounted on skis yet. But Black Diamond (their exclusive U.S. distributor) says they’re made of “bomber plastic” and aluminum alloy, with the notable improvement of being able to step into the heelpiece and achieve the satisfying clunk of stepping into an alpine binding. The Tecton features a Fritschi Vipec Evo binding toe piece, the only on one the market that has a release value (like DIN). With the toe and heelpiece improvements (they’re reportedly easier to step into at the toe), they’re perfect for riding in-bounds at the resort, or anywhere else, with a heavy duty touring boot like the new tech-compatible Atomic Hawx Ultra XTD 130.
Fritschi Vipec Evo Touring Binding
The Vipec Evo is a solid plastic and aluminum alloy binding with one main feature that sets it apart from other bindings. Its toe piece has a release value, making it safer for inbounds resort skiing. Because according to BD, there’s a surge in skiers riding tech bindings at resorts. The Vipec Evo reduces the chance of injury by letting you adjust the RV, alpine style, so you pop out of the toe piece easier, even when that piece is under pressure. And with an updated design in the toe piece, which includes a bumper and two arms to guide you in, they’re notably easier to use than previous Vipec models.
La Sportiva Vapor Nano
Updated for 2017, the Vapor Nano—with carbon nano tube construction—remains in the featherweight category (at just 1.2 kilos per ski) but Sportiva says that modifications to the geometry improve performance and ski-ability in breakable crust and crud. Credit the redesigned tip and rounded tail, which help it surf, and slightly less pronounced rocker, which makes turn engagement smoother. And yes—I found these skis grounded and dependable, even in snow that could easily deflect them.
Scott Super Guide 95
We’ll be testing Super Guides in Utah in March, but as far as first impressions go, The Super Guide was my favorite ski of the day. Says Scott: The Super Guide is a “steep line catcher.” This proved true, as it consistently sought the fall line. An “Elliptic carbon core” gives it incredible weight-to-power ratio. I found it ridiculously quick edge-to-edge at speed while also providing a stable, trustworthy platform for longer, faster GS turns.
Black Diamond Route 105
BD calls this new ski “a versatile, everyday workhorse for dedicated backcountry skiers.” I’d add that it’s designed for skiers who like to ride fast and prefer long-radius turns. It excelled at big, round arcs, yet I could still skid-slalom it around to mix things up. BD calls it damp, which it was, and I thoroughly enjoyed it on soft manmade snow, even though it’s designed for 70 percent soft/30 percent hard snow use.
Atomic Backland 85
Atomic says the Backland is a “perfectly balanced touring ski for all skiers, from advanced tourers to new starters.” I found this to be true after skiing it in a 177 (my sweet spot length is 174). They turned on a dime, in snow ranging from manmade gloss to minimally recycled days-old. They feature an ultralight wood core and a carbon insert running the length of the ski “like a stabilizing backbone.” The result is a ski that chattered less than other carbon models I sampled.