Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Everything necessary for a good tech binding mount! Plus, good modeling for the younger generation.
I love backcountry skiing. It is why I love skimo racing because of the doors that mindset has opened. I also love my family and love skiing with them. A while back I made a case for why women who love the backcountry (or maybe more importantly, those who kinda like it but think it is too much like suffering to really love) should seriously consider a skimo-type setup. A woman's typically lighter frame and smaller muscle mass means lugging those frame bindings and 4 buckle boots plus 100 mm under food pow boards up hill is a lot more difficult than it is for her male friends. The change in ratio of on the foot weight to body weight is significant. For lighter folks, lighter gear should ski just as well as beefy gear on beefier people. I remain convinced that this is true. Heck, even big strapping dudes would benefit from shedding pounds on the foot. I have a wonderful pair of K2 Coombacks with tech bindings that rip and I just never ski them. Way too heavy to cover ground in. If you want to buy them, email me!

So 2 winters ago, my son fit my wife's TLTs and I took him out for an afternoon in the bc. He had a blast. He talked about it for the last two years so I figured that now he almost skis a 160 ski so I should generalize my thoughts on light gear setups and think about including kids in my statements. It just makes sense. Light, small, not as much muscle mass. Quick to tire and recover. And my son is already a great skier who, at 11, I can have an absolute blast with anywhere in area I care to go in all but the scrappiest conditions. I think that baseline downhill competency is key since as we all know, bc snow conditions ain't anything like in area skiing on most days.

For a kid, once again, race skis seemed like the way to go. Most all mountain skis in that length are 75-80 mm under foot. You cant get lighter than skimo race skis so the 66 mm waist is close enough I figure. I settled on some Dynafit PDGs which Ive been skiing on for a number of years now. They are a great ski and it is hard to beat their price in the skimo ski market.

Boots are easy size wise but with a kid who will be growing for a few years yet it is inevitable that we will have to get a few pairs over the years to make it work. I found a pair of gently used Scarpa Aliens in mondo 26 on Craigs List. He wears a mondo 25.5 in a downhill boot. I figure Ill go up in full sizes in whatever I can find on Craigs List and pack them out with liner shims as needed.

That left a binding plan. I was helped out quite a bit by Jason at Skimo.co on selecting this setup and also got the PDG skis from him. Dynafit Speed Turn and Radical heels allow for 25 mm of adjustability. That is probably enough to allow the ski to grow with my son but I was concerned with moving too far away from the boot/ski center alignment since only heel adjustment is an option. That being said, I could theoretically handle a run of mondo 26-28 which might see him through college! To be safe though, I added in a KreuzspitzeToe Shift Plate which took the range of adjustment up to 5 Alien BSLs and also reduced the ramp angle of the Speed. Something discussed at great length on Cold Thistle, again on Cold Thistle and also on Wildsnow. I wanted the Dynafit Speed because of durability, BSL adjustability and DIN adjustability. As to Turn vs Radical, I merely chose Turn because of the price difference. The DIN adjustability was very important to me with a kid, just like with my wife who is going to have a hard time releasing from a race binding. Little people need more forgiving releasability. At least if they are not animals on skis. Better safe than sorry.

This will leave you crosseyed! I have superimposed a picture of my wife's Speed Radical/TLT 6 setup with my son's Speed Turn/Alien setup with Kreuzspitze toe shift plate. The skis are on the same plane and you can see that the ball of the foot on the Alien is higher while the heel is about the same. That whole ramp thing. Now I guess Id better fix my wife's skis!
Anyway, so that all set me back a little less than a grand which, while pretty good by skimo gear standards was a lot to add to the budget! I was going to pay for them to be mounted but totally miscommunicated on the order and further confused things by purchasing a mounting drill bit, tap and epoxy in the same order!  My plan was to prepare for an inevitable couple of upcoming changes. Anyway, since the skis didnt get mounted I was able to get a discount which was appreciated but left me having to unexpectedly mount my first pair of tech bindings. Jason at Skimo.co reminded me of the Wildsnow Dynafit binding mount article which was a huge help along with some web browsing where I found one additional great tip on Earnyourturns. Anyway, the Wildsnow post goes into great detail and is an excellent guide except for a few things. The printed jug wont help you with the Kreuzspitzetoe shift plate EXCEPT that one pair of heel piece toe holes are the same width. That lets you set up perfectly aligned holes with just a bit more work than going straight from a template. Also, the heel hole pattern didnt quite align on the front heel holes on the Turn heel. Measure three times, drill once and you are going to be fine! From Earnyourturns I got the great idea to put down masking tape on the skis first and do all my marking on that. There are really two advantages. First, you dont leave permanent marker all over your skis. Second, if you mismark something, it is easy to rip the tape and start over without trying to remember which line is the "good" one. Also, I could not find a boot center mark on the Aliens. It turns out that you simple measure the boot and find the middle. That was nice to know.
You can see one drilled ski and one taped ski ready for measurement and marking up. Tape really helps. The long ski centerline mark was super useful
I had pulled the trigger on a real binding bit and a tap (necessary for skis with metal plates in the binding area like Dynafits) and that $40 seems like a super investment now as I have a lot of confidence in being able to do this well.
The T handled tap
Dynafit sized bit. Having that integral depth stop is awesome.
Anyway, one trick was setting up the heel maxed out on its smallest adjustment and getting that correct on both skis. There is a weird heel spacer tool that comes with the Turns with no instructions but Wildsnow to the rescue! Another tip I figured out on my own was to use the same heel piece on both skis for the layout. I also found double checking the measurements on the second ski from the first measuring from both tip and tail to each point on the ski centerline was a great sanity check. Definitely dont start mounting any bindings permanently until you have all holes drilled in both skis!
The funky heel gap tool
When it came to actually screwing and gluing the bindings I found one packet of epoxy from Skimo.co was enough for both skis. Those little packs are handy!

Anyway, at the end of the day (or two evenings really), it was a fun experience. And successful! My son got to test drive this setup at the area and my wife said he was ripping it up! I had to work. Ah well...

Stay tuned for thoughts after taking these out and hitting the bc this weekend!!! Woo hoo!


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