Once the skis were mounted I emailed Jonathan and wrote: “I just had an orgasm.” This was one of the most beautiful setups I have ever owned, and I just hoped that it would ski as great as it looked.
I played around with the workings of the MFD, and was still very impressed with how it all functioned. The climbing aid did, indeed, reach 14 degrees. There are also options for a 6 degree lift, and flat. All three positions adjusted flawlessly and firmly.
It will come as a surprise to no one that this setup is heavy, period. This isn’t a big concern of mine, but I definitely joked around about needing some help to load them into the car.
After a night of fondling and 12″ of fresh at Alta, it was time to go stone grind the new Bibby Pros on Gunsight and see what these MFDs were made of. Due to the low base and light snow, it was pretty obvious I would just be looking at the touring aspect of these bindings, and any real alpine ski performance evaluation would have to wait for a bigger base that permitted real charging.
After parking at Albion base and strapping on the setup, I was off. The click in and out of ski and tour mode was flawless, and very easy with the flick of a pole. I start up the cat track in flat mode. The location of the pivot point is interesting. It had been a month since I toured on my Dukes (and I have never skied on Dynafits), so it is difficult to compare, but the MFD touring action felt very natural. I will update this when I get on the GMF Dynafit system or can jump back on the Dukes for a day. (What I can say is that the pivot point is much higher than the Duke’s, and closer to the front of the ski….) I continue on in flat mode.
When touring in flat mode, the climbing aid / lock slides over the entire heel connection and contacts the ski.
If you flex the ski torsionally, the plate can catch on the post when moving down or up. The plates are very accurately mounted, and don’t rub at all from side to side, so I don’t believe it is a mount issue. And it happens on both skis. (See the day three commentary below for a continued discussion.)
Once I switched to the 6 degree setting, problem solved. To avoid the flat position for a long, flat or slight downhill skin could be annoying, but for this trip, it was not, and the rest of the skin was very enjoyable.The 6 degree setting allows the climbing aid and lock to sit horizontally and rest on the top of the heel connecting post.
As expected, the 14 degree lifter is amazing. Going up steeps requires little effort compared to a duke with normal riser, at 11 degrees. (Note: The extended bail on a small Duke actually gives you a 15 degree riser.) As steep as my skins would hold, the bindings would continue to be comfortable. The switch from 6 degrees to 14 degrees on the MFD is extremely quick and solid. I didn’t hesitate to switch even for a 50 yard stretch. It is much more user friendly than a Duke, period.
The kick turn with this plate is also very efficient, and surprised me. The location of the pivot forces the ski to rotate to the point that you can flip your downhill to uphill ski around super easily. Neither the Duke nor the Freeride react like this in kick turns. I’m no expert at skinning, but I have done my fair share of kick turns, and I was blown away at how this binding performed as opposed to a Duke or Freeride.
The MFD is also incredibly stable when side hilling or for “technical skinning,” by which I mean, “early season rock climbing on skis.”
There was rarely a time on the Dukes or Freerides that I wasn’t concerned about snapping them in half while side hilling. The MFD is a different story. It is so well built, wide, and stiff, that there is no concern about the torsional strength in the toe connection. The added stiffness also allows you to be much more accurate and confident with ski placement in rocky situations. Even with the long mount length, the climbing aid would land directly in the center of the post even on steep side hills when the ski and binding was torqued to the max, proving the stiffness of the setup.
Overall, I am much more confident and happy skinning on the MFD system than on either the Freeride or Duke.
After 45 minutes of skinning, I was very satisfied with the performance of the plate. The only advantage I can see with a Fritschi or Duke is the weight.
I swap into ski mode and enjoy the face shots. The detail on the rear connecting plate leads to very little snow or ice build up, and as my buddies cleaned out their dukes, I easily swapped mine into ski mode and was ready to go. No issues at all.
If the MFD plate was used in flat mode, I could see some ice building under the main part of the binding. But the ice would have to stick to the ski, which I think is more unlikely than ice sticking to the rough plastic of a Duke, or other connecting plates. (Again, see the day three commentary.)
While day two of testing left me very impressed with the plate system, I did have one issue with the 14 degree position of the climbing aid not connecting directly onto the heel piece, inducing some movement and lateral spring engagement in the rear. This was incredibly minor, and only noticeable with a slight vibration on every step. I will investigate further on day three.
After two days of touring, I still had three questions to answer: (1) What is the deal with the flat position skinning? (2) Is there an issue with ice / snow build up? (3) Was the 14 degree minor vibration an isolated situation? (Plus, Jonathan is on my case to get a decent photo, to prove that I’m actually skiing the MFDs, and not just examining them under a microscope.)
Before I head out for the day, I email Jason Prigge again at MFD, and ask him about the flat touring position. He agrees with my analysis and says it can be an issue, but that the tight tolerance is critical for the added stiffness when in ski mode. (I can concur.) He suggests not using the flat position when sidehilling.
So I head out solo for a quick lap up Greeley to test out a few things and take a photo (solo). I start out of Albion with the MFDs in flat mode, and try and get the rear climbing aid to catch. Easily accomplished. I figure that this is less about sidehilling, then, and more about torquing the plate laterally around the toe connection. This offsets the plate, and the climbing aid / lock catches on the rear post. The more I walk, the more obvious it seems that this really isn’t an issue when you are aware of it, and I would much rather have a stiff connection for the descent.
In addition, after a half mile in the flat position, there is still no ice or snow build up, and the Alltime switches between skin and ski mode flawlessly. The Dukes have many small crevices and small pieces on the front and rear connecting plates that are always impacted with snow at the end of a skin. On three tours, I noticed no such issues with the MFD. The change from tour to ski mode was perfect.
I test the 14 degree setting out for the rest of the trip, and have no problems. I will chalk my previous issue up to an isolated situation, where maybe an ice chunk got stuck in the slider, or something along those lines.
I get to the top, click into ski mode, and ski High Rustler to the base with a big smile. I gave the Bibbys another nice stone grind on this run, too. (Man are they bomber! Very little damage.)
After three days of touring, I am left with little concern about the touring aspect of the MFD. There was no rubbing of the plates or screws; the climbing aid worked perfectly; there was no snow or ice build up; they were incredibly stable, and overall, they were just easy and efficient to tour with. I may have been slightly more tired than with a lighter Dynafit setup, and I couldn’t care less.
My initial impressions are positive after my first three soft snow, conservative ski runs, and I will update this shortly, probably with another 2000 words. (Editor’s Note: Sigh.)
After a few days of touring and skiing pow on the MFD/FKS setup, I finally had an opportunity to get on some hardpack bumps and crud to really test these beasts out. I spent the day at Solitude, and although it was basically only one trail, with about five turns of anything over 20 degrees in pitch, I was able to get a pretty good feel on these from charging bumps, crud, and water bars.
I started off by taking a half dozen runs on my regular Bibby Pros, since I hadn’t skied them in 6 or 7 months and wanted to get a feel for them again. Once I was warmed up and back in love with them, I swapped to the MFD/FKS setup. My previous concerns of the long mount length and its effects on the flex of the ski were quickly thrown out the window. The overall flex of the ski is slightly stiffer than the standard FKS setup, but it is still a very natural and even flex. As stated before, the natural flex remains given that the pinned connections do not induce any localized stiffness in the ski itself at their connection points (unlike an alpine binding connection). There was a very even edge hold and a fluid transition and pop from one turn to the next.
I believe the ski feels slightly stiffer because the cantilever from the front of the binding to the tip—and the back of the binding to the tail—is shorter than the normal setup. More force is needed to deflect the ski, making the ski feel slightly stiffer, especially in the tip and tail.
In these conditions, I actually thought the ski felt better than the standard FKS setup, as a stiffer ski was more stable and allowed me to plow through the water bars with much more confidence. In other conditions, I could imagine this to be a slight detriment, but in the big picture, the change in stiffness is very slight, hardly a concern.
One thing to keep in mind, however, is that my setup is a size S/M MFD mounted to a ski that is relatively stiff, and 190cm in length. I would understand more concern about the mount length if you were to mount a M/L MFD—which is 30mm longer than the S/M—on a softer ski that was, say, 175cm in length. Just something to keep in mind when thinking about this issue and your particular setup.
All other aspects of the ski flex and binding stiffness were perfect. There is absolutely zero slop in this setup. The lateral stiffness, which translates into the torsional force transfer into the ski, is unmatched by the Fritschi or the Duke. It feels as if the binding is mounted straight to the ski.
The stack height, or lack thereof, is just awesome. 26mm (FKS) versus 35.5mm (Duke) and even greater on the Fritschi.
Basically, the MFD/FKS setup skis as if the plates aren’t even there. What more could you ask for?
Simple: If you bought a Duke 5 or 6 years ago because you were looking for an alpine binding to tour with, I would suggest that you throw it away and buy the MFD. The Alltime might have a few minor annoyances, but in the bigger picture, this is a slam dunk. It is a gorgeous system from one end to the other, and it performs wonderfully from the moment you get out of the car, to the moment you get back and crack open a beer.
After half a dozen days on the snow, I haven’t found one issue that would lead me to say that this isn’t the best touring system out there that utilizes an alpine setup for touring.
I’m sure that the weight and the price of the Alltime system will continue to be considered and discussed by many. But again, it’s pretty simple: the MFD Alltime is not cheap, and it weighs more than most systems. Is it worth it?
To me, absolutely.