#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.
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.
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.
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.