February 4, 2009:
There's nothing like losing a few hundred grams off each foot to make you feel like you're in shape and ready to fly uphill, and carbon fiber seems to be the miracle common denominator in the search for lightness. It comes at a price, though. Witness skis, which have made steady progress in the weight reduction game, with rando race skis typically in the mid-800 gram range per ski (or lighter). Bindings have been light for a while, at least since Dynafit came out with the basic TLT (low-tech) in the nineties, and they continue to hone the concept.
Randonnée race boots have been stuck in a stagnant cycle since the F1 was introduced roughly six years ago, but get ready for the superlight boot market to take off next year. Boots have reached a Pebax-induced limit in weight, but skiability has definitely suffered - most of us wouldn't be comfortable using a WC rando racer's boots for our everyday touring. That may be about to change. A bunch of new (and very pricey) offerings from Dynafit, La Sportiva, and Scarpa are making their debut for the 2009-2010 season. Pierre Gignoux, who started the carbon madness with his all-carbon XP500 two years ago, is still in the mix, and is being joined by well-known boot maker La Sportiva with an all-carbon model made in conjunction with rando specialist Merelli. The La Sportiva boot seems to have Dyna-fittings at both toe and heel, and I'm sure there's an interesting story there. New binding in the works? Ski that gnarly couloir switch? Dropped the prototype boot off at the machinist's, and he wasn't a skier?
Dynafit is bringing out the DyNA and Scarpa the F1 Carbon, both utilizing Pebax lowers mated to carbon or multi-material uppers. All of the companies are taking aim at the elite rando-race crowd, who thus far have been content to hack and drill the crap out of normal Scarpa F1's or F1 Races. Prices are scary, with the low end (Scarpa F1 Carbon, 840 grams) nudging 1000€ and the La Sportiva (638 grams) hitting 1,400€. The DyNA is 1,000€/920 grams and the Pierre Gignoux 1,200€/570 grams. Yowsa. Perhaps the best we can hope for is that the technology will filter down to the touring level in a few years, and we'll all be skiing in 1,000 gram boots that have partially carbon uppers and are pretty damn stiff.
On the binding front, the lapse of certain Dynafit patents regarding the use of its toe and heel pin system is paying more immediate dividends. Last month G3 released the Onyx, with a Dynafit "like" toe and a fore-aft sliding heel. This month SkiTrab hit the Münich ISPO show with a prototype of its new TR-1 binding. It's a hybrid that uses jaws at the toe to grab Dynafit toe fittings, but a more or less alpine style heel, complete with cam/spring adjustment, at the rear. In contrast to the classic Dynafit system, the toe jaws hinge out laterally to allow release. No photos yet of the binding in touring mode, but it reportedly has three climbing levels and maxes out at 14 DIN.
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"Incoming" covers developments that have personal interest to me (ie. gear I might consider acquiring, or events I feel may impact the sport of skiing) - it is by no means meant to be a comprehensive enumeration of gear or events in the ski world at large. Feel free to contact me via the randosaigai.com link below with news or images that may be of interest . . .
© 2009 Gregory C. Louie