2018-2019 CAST Freetour System
Stated Weight: 1000 grams per binding with the tech / touring toe
Stand Height: 20 mm
Climbing Bails: 8°, 12.5°
Boot Sole Compatibility: WTR, ISO 5355
DIN Range: 8-18
- Auto-locking brake retainer
- Ski crampon clip
- Quick swap AFD
[Note: Our review was conducted on the 16/17 Freetour System, which was not changed for 17/18 or 18/19.]
Lars and Silas Chickering-Ayers, the mad scientists at CAST, have been combining alpine bindings and Dynafit touring bindings for a while now, and we first covered their SI&I system back in 2013.
Today, they are announcing a totally new system, the “Freetour.” The Freetour looks to build on the success of the SI&I system, while making it more user-friendly and efficient.
The original CAST “SI&I System”
For those not familiar with the SI&I system, check out our review here. Basically, the system allows you to swap between an alpine binding and Dynafit toe, enabling you to tour up with a tech toe, then at the top, swap that tech toe out for an alpine, and ski back down with a full alpine setup.
When transitioning, the SI&I system is more of a hassle than most tech bindings, but it’s an attractive system for skiers who don’t trust tech bindings on bigger lines, or who simply want the security and consistent release values of alpine bindings.
But the SI&I system was not perfect. The toe-swapping mechanism would occasionally ice up, making for slow transitions (I’ve actually toured with people who carried a special brush for their CAST system), and having to hold your brakes up with a rubber band was inelegant and could be frustrating.
The new Freetour System addresses these issues and simplifies the system.
But … Is There Really a Need For This?
That’s the big question. When CAST first released their SI&I system, the Marker Kingpin wasn’t on the market, and tech bindings were a lot less reliable than they are now. So do we really need an updated CAST system when modern AT bindings are so much better? For some skiers, the answer is: Absolutely.
While the Kingpin does ski well, it is not an alpine binding, and it doesn’t have the same power transmission, elasticity, or release mechanism of an alpine binding. A lot of backcountry skiers accept all of that, and many skiers are willing to forego the performance and safety of a dedicated alpine binding. But some skiers are not willing to forego that … and the more you stop and think about why not … the more rational their position becomes.
With the Freetour system, you purportedly get the power transmission, suspension, and consistent release that should allow you to rally mediocre-to-awful conditions inbounds, where bindings like the Kingpin fall short.
In theory, with the CAST Freetour system, you get a binding that actually performs just as well inbounds as out of bounds, with a bit of a weight penalty — 230 g per binding in touring mode over the Marker Kingpin 13.
Cast Freetour vs. Frame-Style AT Bindings
The Freetour system should also have a leg up over frame bindings as well, both on the way up, and on the way down. The Freetour’s 20 mm stack height is lower than frame-style AT bindings. I recently was reminded of the shortfalls of using frame bindings inbounds when one of my Guardians went into surprise tele mode, leading to a not-so-fun high-speed crash. That’s just an inherent risk with frame bindings — it’s easy to fail to lock the heel fully, and in theory, this shouldn’t be able happen with the CAST system.
The Freetour system should also go uphill better than frame bindings, since instead of having to lift the weight of the entire frame binding with each step you take, you’re just lifting your boot in the tech toe, and you also get the more efficient pivot point of a tech toe.
Furthermore, given the recent increase in very capable tech-compatible alpine boots (both the K2 Pinnacle 130 and Nordica Strider I’ve been using as my inbounds boots this year have built-in tech fittings), there are a lot more compelling boot options on the market than when the original SI&I system was released.
A lot of this sounds very good on paper, so we’re excited to see how the new CAST Freetour system actually performs in the mountains. It looks like a clear improvement on the original SI&I system that’s proven to be popular among skiers looking for a burly touring option, and it has the potential to be a true, no-compromise 50/50 binding, something that works as well inbounds as it does out of bounds. Stay tuned for our full review.