2016-2017 Black Diamond Fritschi Diamir Vipec 12

Some Quirks:

#1 – Adjustable Toe Pin Depth

Like most tech bindings, the Vipec is not without quirks.

As part of the mounting process, one must adjust the toe pin depth. Even after some refinements, the nut that holds the toe pin in place can still loosen over time and generate slop. This slop is only noticeable on the uphill, and can easily be eliminated. But you do still need to keep an eye on it and re-tighten the nut once or twice throughout the season. I would be curious to know if Fritschi could eliminate the adjustable toe pins entirely, and work with boot manufacturers to meet tight specifications for the width of their metal toe sockets (there is no standard). Dynafit-certified toe sockets, available to all boot manufacturers, already meet tight specifications, so eliminating the adjustable toe pins and standardizing the Vipec toe pin width to Dynafit’s specification could potentially be a major improvement in this area.

#2 – Brake Width / Sizing

Another quirk of the Vipec is that the brakes are not entirely reliable, nor are they generous. The brake sizing is extremely tight. I very much advise sizing up when the ski width is close to the brake size. Unfortunately, there are a fair number of skis wider than 120 mm underfoot, so the Vipec brakes will not work, without bending, on the widest of skis. After bending the brakes, they deploy somewhat unreliably. The metal arms tend to hang on some of the plastic. I also have experienced brake deploy failure once on a pair brakes that have not been bent and have heard about others experiencing this issue as well. While the Vipec is not alone in brake deployment issues, I hope to see improvements on future models. That said, taking a file to the plastic brake retainer and areas around the housing where rub marks are present has easily resolved this issue. Just take it slow. You can shave off too much, causing the brakes to accidentally deploy in tour mode.

#3 – Stepping In

The Vipec also operates a bit differently from other tech bindings when clicking in. Instead of a spring-loaded platform, there’s a small trigger that, when pressed, releases the toe pin spring and the toe pins instantly clamp down onto the boot. This clamping action is much snappier on the Vipec than other tech bindings. Because of this, the alignment of the boot toe sockets is a bit more important.

Brian Lindalh reviews the Black Diamond Fritschi Diamir Vipec for Blister Gear Review.
Brian Lindahl in the Black Diamond Fritschi Diamir Vipec, Arapahoe Basin, CO.

While the new Vipec “Black” is easier to step into, I’ve experienced issues on one of my boots that has a chunk of rubber missing from the toe. The height of the trigger is critical in how it interfaces with the boot sole to align the pins to the boot sockets. It is important that, when stepping in, you keep the sole of your boot relatively flat — if you point your toe down as you press the trigger, it will release the spring too early, causing the pins to miss your metal boot toe sockets. If you have a chunk of missing rubber like I do, you can wrap some electrical or duct tape around the trigger to increase its height or add some epoxy to fill in the boot sole.

(Note that the 16/17 Cochise boot series comes with tech fittings and a DIN sole. This sole is shorter than typical touring boot soles, so adding electrical or duct tape to the trigger to increase it’s height will aid with step-in. The K2 Pinnacle series is likely in the same boat.)

There is also a second method you can use to step into the Vipec 12. This involves leaving the binding in the closed (ski) position, then pressing the toe lever down with your pole in a gentle manner to open the pins wide enough to insert your boot, and then releasing the lever and allowing the spring action to smoothly close the pins into the metal boot toe sockets. This method requires no step-in force, and actually can be an improvement over traditional tech binding step-in — the lack of required force allows easier step-in when dealing with soft powder conditions. A traditional tech toe (that requires step-in force), will often plunge the ski further into the snow during attempts to step-in.

#4 – Those Black Clips

Finally, while not necessarily a quirk, the Vipec comes with several black clips that can be attached to the toe piece. This is done to allow for proper vertical release for different shaped boot toes. When the heel pins release, the boot rotates forward, hitting this black clip and pressing the toe lever down, releasing the boot toe from the Vipec toe pins. To test, lock only the boot toe in the binding, and rotate the boot forward and ensure the boot toe strikes the black clip and releases it from the binding. If not, you may need to use one of the other included black clips.

Detailed History

The Vipec was originally released in the 13/14 season. It was revised in 14/15 with several features to prevent the adjustable toe pins from loosening (adding locking wire clips and relocation of the adjustable toe pin to the other side), to aid step-out (revised toe spring), and to aid step-in (added plastic toe guides). A mid-season revision also featured additional plastic covering in the heel piece to prevent icing.

For the 15/16 season, it was revised again, visually (by adding more black), and mechanically, with improved lateral elasticity; a new toe trigger and guides to aid step-in; a longer toe lever and spring with better retention in walk mode; and a disengaged spring in open mode to prevent early wearout. This most recent version is also the only version that has been TUV-certified to ISO/DIN 13992.

Bottom Line

This is a very compelling tech binding. Not only does the Vipec ski well, tour well, and have several unique design features, its lateral toe release gives the Vipec a unique position in an ever-growing tech binding market. Despite its quirks, unless another tech-binding design comes along that also offers lateral release at the toe and the corresponding safety implications, I don’t ever see myself on anything but the Vipec or an alpine binding when skiing aggressively in deep snow.

And when you couple all of that with the fact that the Vipec 12 is one of the least expensive tech bindings on the market, and that it offers better downhill performance than many of the tech bindings on the market (see our AT Binding Shootout), it becomes easy to see why this is one of our current favorite tech bindings.

23 comments on “2016-2017 Black Diamond Fritschi Diamir Vipec 12”

  1. Nice review, and nice Kusalas Lindahl.

    I’ve had the original Vipec since it was released, and unlike you I have had a few vertical prereleases from heel when dropping more than 10 ft. This was on TLT6s and Volkl Nunatuqs, heel setting 9-10 for a 150 lbs skier. I’ve also had appropriate lateral releases from the toe multiple times like you described.

    I’ve only had a single touring ski setup in the past. But this year I’m going to go Kusalas with Vipecs for deeper days and likely 4FRNT Ravens for the rest of the days (as an aside, are you guys going to drop your full Raven review soon?).

    You say you’d pick the Vipec for skiing aggressively in deep snow. But if you already had a pow touring setup with Vipecs, would you mount your daily driver/low snow touring ski with Kingpins? Vipecs? Something else?

    Thanks

  2. Interesting about your pre-releases. I run my heels on 11 and have definitely sent some pretty big cliffs on them (about 40′), and also weigh more than you – about 175lbs in street clothes. You might want to get yours checked at a local shop that can measure release force? If you’re in the Colorado front range, try Bent Gate Mountaineering. The Kingpins are definitely my choice for low snow touring when skiing aggressively – of the tech bindings, it’s the closest to alpine binding performance on the downhill. However, if it’s more mellow touring or ski mountaineering, I’m a big fan of the lighter bindings like the Speed Radical or Plum Guide. I also picked up a pair of Speed Superlight 1.0s to try out this season.

    As for the Raven, we need more days on them in a variety of conditions before a full review can happen. We expect to spend more time on them this season, so it will happen at some point – we need more snow first, of course!

  3. Would you be able to quickly verify that there have been no changes between the 15/16 and the 16/17 ones apart from the brakes going 115-120mm? I can’t seem to find a consistent answer =(

  4. Blister gear review to the rescue in the post-truth era! As you say it’s a binding that tends to fly under the radar and I’ve been searching for a decent review for a while, particularly after I sustained a very similar injury to my ankle at the end of last season. Afterwards I berated myself for skiing Völkl Katanas in heavy end of season slush and assumed I’d had the din setting on my marker dukes ramped up a bit too high. Do you think this injury could have been avoided on the Vipecs? Obviously I’d love to stop dragging this super heavy set-up up mountains but I’ve tried dynafits before and they just don’t cut it for my size and skiing style.

    • Ben, unfortunately I don’t believe the outcome would have been any different were you using Vipecs instead of Marker Dukes. Both have lateral release at the toe. The binding difference that I discuss is between lateral release at the toe (alpine, frame AT and the Vipec) versus lateral release at the heel (traditional tech).

  5. Regarding using them with large skis, Fritschi makes a replacement brake mount cover that allows you to use them brake-less, with a leash (like Speed Radicals or Ion LT). You basically take the brake unit off and replace it with a lightweight piece of plastic that snaps & screws in. This cover serves to provide a flat, firm surface for your heel when in touring mode. That’s what I got to mount them on my Lotus 120s & 138s.

    • Are you sure you need the separate part? You can remove the brake assembly, then remove the arms from the pad, and then put the pad back on the heel piece. It’s quite easy to do – it’s how I bent the brake arms in the first place.

      • I’m sure you could get away without it, but it comes with their official leash and is a bit lighter. I needed a leash anyways, so I ordered mine along with the bindings from Telemark Pyrenees (“Fritschi Vipec Safety Leash”).

  6. “it’s also the only tech binding that allows you to easily transition from ski mode to tour mode without removing your boot from the ski”
    Er, no. This function was lifted directly from G3’s Onyx.
    That said, I think this binding has the best feature-set on the market. I’m glad they are getting the bugs worked out.
    It would probably be my first choice if I hadn’t been able to get a deal on another model.

  7. Two questions on the Vipec. The fact that the toe piece moves side to side, do you ever feel that movement while skiing? Especially with a low DIN such as 6?

    Is there any way to shim the toe piece in order to reduce the delta angle?

    • Hi Patrick,

      I run my toes at 10, and no, I don’t feel that movement when skiing at all. I haven’t tried it at 6, as that’s just too low for someone of my size. It’s possible there’s no difference between the Vipec and an alpine binding in this regard (both binding styles are similarly designed to control the lateral forces at the toe).

      I know a number of people that have created toe shims for other bindings using a dremel tool and some stock HPDE plastic sheets (similar to a plastic cutting board). I’m sure the same could be done with the Vipec. I’d suggest skiing it in it’s stock form first – the delta angle isn’t as high as Dynafit Radicals and Plum Guide.

  8. Hi Brian,

    Thanks for the thorough explanation of the forces involved! I just spent a season on the 14/15 vipecs mounted to Armada JJ 185s. I only had two instances in which I was displeased with the Vipecs, neither of which led to injury:

    Once, I hit a buried rock at what was apparently just the wrong angle, which caused a pre-release at the toe. This was on the inside at the beginning of a turn, so maybe calling it a pre-release is too harsh, since maybe I’d have crashed I had taken all of the force, but as it was I finished the turn, stopped, and stepped back in. More of an annoyance than anything.

    Second, I caught an outside edge in fresh, wind-blown powder coming down the ridge at Loveland and got a face-full. The ski I caught released immediately. (Maybe a heel-release binding wouldn’t have let go), but my inside ski caught itself behind me, and stayed on my boot as I slid upside-down and backwards. Luckily this didn’t snap anything inside that leg, but it did lever into my opposite knee and leave a nice bruise there.

    Other than those two times, I’ve been very pleased with them, up and down.

    I just switched to Kingpins, mostly because they were already mounted on the demo Origin 96s’ I picked up, but also because I’ll be spending more time at resorts next year than I did this year. We’ll see!

    • Hi Trond,

      Most boots should be compatible. The main concerns would be toe pin width, and the shape of the boot toe hitting the piece that releases the toe in a forward (upward heel) release.

      The toe pin width is somewhat standardized across boots, so most won’t need to adjust it at all. The adjustment range is also pretty generous if your boots deviate from the somewhat standardized width.

      The shape of the boot toe is accommodated through several different-sized pieces that attach to the top of the toepiece. Given these multiple configurations, I doubt any boot would present a problem, but I can’t say with 100% confidence. So, if you have reason for concern, I’d suggest asking your local shop.

  9. Hi, I bought the Vipecs at the start of last season (mounted on Dynastar Mythic 97). Just recently I’ve started to have a problem with one of the heel units: the boot length adjustment screw has started slipping, to such a degree that I need to reset it several times a day. In fact I’m now checking it on every run. The other ski is fine. The adjustment screw feels normal when I turn it. I’ve detached both heel units from the mounting plates for inspection but I haven’t spotted any difference to explain why one slips and the other doesn’t. Anyone else had this problem?

    • Hi Josh,

      I had that problem with one of my early generations of Vipecs. Black Diamond was quick to replace it for me, by using their warranty system on their website. It was a completely painless process. Definitely wish all companies made it so easy and were as communicative as Black Diamond was, throughout the process!

  10. I spent Season 16/17 charging on and off piste on my Vipec Blacks. No problem – they handled some pretty aggressive on piste skiing as well as the off piste. I never required them to release me and they never did.
    Season 17/18 (December) I had my first fall that required a toe release, not going very fast, hit some soft snow on piste that grabbed the tip of my right ski and turned it 180 degrees. Unfortunately my toe binding took an age to release despite it only being set on 8 (I weigh about 200 Lbs). So I ended up with a dislocated ankle, broken fibula and serious ligament damage, operated on in Switzerland that evening and 2 screws in my ankle to hold it all together. It is now July and I am just starting regain some strength in that ankle but I am told it will never be the same again.
    I plan to try skis on about September and see how they feel but I am really nervous about using Fritchi Vipecs again. I have had similar and worse falls on Alpine bindings and they have always released really smoothly and usually from a much higher DIN setting.
    So is this a Vipec trait or would pin binding have done the same? I am not sure the Kingpin would have been so slow to release.
    Any thoughts?

    • Hi Colin,

      Sorry to hear about your injury. The Vipec, by releasing at the toe, is designed to be more likely to prevent this sort of injury compared to a traditional tech binding like a Kingpin or a Dynafit. That said, freak forces do happen and bindings are an imperfect solution. I personally would not consider switching bindings for this reason. However, I would get the release forces of your binding checked out at your local shop, just in case there’s something weird going on with your particular binding.

      From a recovery perspective, for what it’s worth, I’ve dislocated my ankle before and completely tore all ligaments on the outside of my ankle. It’s been about 5 years since that injury and it’s completely indistinguishable from the other ankle in all ways, so don’t give up hope that you’ll come back 100% – it’s quite possible! It may take a couple years to get there, but be very diligent about PT and really work on it hard. Good luck!

  11. I’ve skied on these for a few years. They are great in every respect except one – which is a deal breaker.
    The heelpiece accumulates ice up in side the mechanism which prevents the heel going back into ski mode. The only fix is to take the heelpiece of f the ski, but it inside your jacket, puffy over the top, wait 15 minutes and hope the ice softens enough to bang / pick it out – not something you want to be tonight at the top of every skin track. There’s a half way house where there is not enough ice to block the mechanism moving, but just enough to stop it locking in place – this results in the heel going back into walk mode half way down your ski down.

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