It’s pretty interesting to see how things are progressing in the AT binding market, especially in the big and beefy realm where skiers want the upmost level of downhill performance, security and boot retention. I’m quite happy and content with tech style bindings (in which nearly all models are based on the Dynafit binding design), light and stiff boots with a large range of motion in the cuff, and light, but fat, skis paired with mohair skins. However, there are some people out there that want/need more in their backcountry skiing setup and there are a couple new players in the industry worth noting.
First off, there is the MFD All-Time skiing binding developed by Jason Prigge, which consists of an aluminum plate that attaches to your ski at the front with a hinged mount and has a heel lock/climbing bar block at the heel. A simple design, really, and more-or-less lets the skier use all the ski gear they already own. Just slap the plate between your skis and alpine bindings, throw on your rigid downhill boots and you are good to go.
The MFD All-Time sells for $299 and comes in two models, one for use with Salomon and Atomic bindings, and another for Rossignol and Look binders. The simplicity of Jason’s creation is nice and IMO it’s technically more of an AT conversion plate, than a full on AT binding. The up-side of the MFD All-Time is that it has the â€œlowest standing height of all high DIN AT bindingsâ€ (not sure what the criteria is for that claim). However, the downside is that the pivot point appears to be located well in front of the mounted toe-piece and location of the skierâ€™s toe. Combine this with the fact that with each and every step you have to lift an entire alpine binding, it sure seems like one would get fatigued pretty darn quick. I guess one could write it off as â€œtrainingâ€â€¦right?
Another new option for those that want to lug their alpine gear up the hill is a company/product called Green Mountain Freeride AT. This is an interesting concept and again, is very simple. The Green Mountain Freeride AT system basically consists of hinged plates that are swappable for when you are on the up and down. For the up, you mount the plate that is mounted with your tech binding toe piece. For the down, swap that plate out for one that is mounted with your alpine binding toe piece. Waitâ€¦thereâ€™s more!
The Green Mountain Freeride AT System also comes with climbing bars and a heel block, as well as an allen head screw that one can insert into the toes of their alpine boots to make them â€œtech bindingâ€ compatible. Since the skier is only using the tech toe inserts for skinning, the theory is that the strength of the boot toe-sockets doesnâ€™t need to be as bomber as ones used for going downhill as well. That sounds logical, but Iâ€™d say the jury is out on the claim and I wonder if this is where the design will have problems.
The upside of the Green Mountain Freeride AT compared to the MFD All-Time however is that not only is the toe pivot point closer to the boot toe, but neither the alpine toe or heal piece have to be lifted on every step, which is definitely a step in the right direction. There is an increased fiddle factor with the swapping in and out of the plates though, which could be tough when you friends are waiting to rip the powder. Currently, the Green Mountain AT is in a beta test phase, so we will see if it goes into full production.
These new offerings are a step in the right direction for when â€œheavy is rightâ€, but sometimes I wonder if it is a good idea to have the beefiest ski/boot/binding combo when skiing in the backcountry. For instance, I feel like lighter gear sometimes acts at the defacto â€œhead checkâ€ for doing stuff that is too bury, risky or dangerous when in the backcountry. Itâ€™s much easier to say, â€œHell yeah, letâ€™s stomp that 20 footer.â€ when you are skiing in your alpine rig verses your lightweight AT setup. Yet at the same time, cratering, cart wheeling and mashing your face into your knees are all quite possible and more likely from hitting that 20â€™ jump, than just happily skiing by it.
It is cool to see all the pros in the movies shred those sick lines at mach-schnell in AK, but should skiers be attempting that stuff at every backcountry zone in the lower 48? Unsupported by heli-crews ready to respond instantaneously? I donâ€™t knowâ€¦food for thought I guess.