AT Binding Shootout, New Touring Skis, & Tiger King (Ep.96)



TOPICS & TIMES

  • Update: Luke’s mustache & cooking skillz (3:20)
  • Marker Duke PT (8:12)
  • Duke PT vs. SHIFT binding (11:08)
  • Daymakers (and Frame Bindings) (22:53)
  • Marker Kingpin & other tech bindings (31:28)
  • New J Skis Slacker (42:28)
  • A Rant (46:00)
  • Updated Sego Condor 108 (49:12)
  • Updated 4FRNT Raven (50:56)
  • New Volkl Blaze 106 (53:51)
  • Tiger King: Our Review (56:35)

Luke Koppa, Jonathan Ellsworth, and Luke’s mustache discuss the pros and cons of a number of current AT bindings, including the new Marker Duke PT, the SHIFT binding, Daymaker Alpine Touring adapters, frame bindings, and tech toe bindings. They then discuss four new touring skis: the J Skis Slacker, Sego Condor 108, 4FRNT Raven, and Volkl Blaze 106. Then it’s time to talk Tiger King.

Jonathan Ellsworth & Luke Koppa discuss on Blister's GEAR:30 podcast the new Marker Duke PT binding, how the Duke PT compares to other touring bindings; J Skis Slacker; Sego Condor 108; Volkl Blaze 106; 4FRNT Raven; & Tiger King
Jonathan Ellsworth on the Volkl Blaze 106 & Marker Duke PT 16, Crested Butte, Colorado
Luke's mustache (if you can call it that) as of 4.10.20

33 comments on “AT Binding Shootout, New Touring Skis, & Tiger King (Ep.96)”

  1. So i’ve had real issues with my set of Shifts (1st year, mounted on different pairs of Kore 105s). Lots of pre releases, like a scary number. Have checked forward pressure and toe height too many times to count, have used them with multiple different pairs of boots, ride at din 12 (187cm and 78kg very aggressive skier) where i’ve noticed them releasing the most is doing tricks off cliffs, jumps etc. setting a backflip off a cliff and feeling a ski ping off on take off is pretty damn scary! My question, do you think i just have a dodgy set? or do you think that the shifts are still just not quite at the level i want them to be? Ideal situation would be to get them calibrated on a machine but i don’t have access to one without sending them and my boots away.

    Is the duke pt a better option for somebody like me who ultimately wants a touring ski that i can still ski how i like to ski, or should i be looking at cast?

  2. w.r.t. high riser, it’s not so much a matter of Luke’s wimpiness (indisputable as that may be based on today’s photographic evidence) as how your local skin tracks are set.

    The argument that you shouldn’t need high risers because lower-angle skinning is more efficient is correct IMO, but that doesn’t provide much immediate comfort if all of the existing tracks are steep as f, as seems to happen a lot in the US.

  3. One factual remark: At around 33:00 Luke discusses the differences between Duke PT/Shift/CAST vs lighter bindings. He lumps the Kingpin and Tecton together as having an alpine-like heel but a rigid pin toe.

    While true with respect to the Kingpin, that’s incorrect in regards to the Tecton. The Tecton has lateral elasticity and release at the toe, like an Alpine binding (something Brian Lindahl has pointed out in the past). If I were going to ride any pin-based binding in the resort, that would be the one.

    And with that, I have thoroughly validated JLev’s critique of AT :-).

    • Very interesting discussion.
      I’ve bought a pair of 184 Katanas and I’m (still) not decided about the bindings. I find the Duke’s PT too heavy for them and the Kingpins unproper for inbounds.
      However, I don’t think that the scenario with the pocket is inspired. Anyone who will ocasionally tour the Duke is going to have a backpack to carry at least his skins.

    • Patrick – your comment on the Tecton deserves more attention! The Tecton does feel like an alpine binding on the down due to the heel and toe elasticity. I’ve mached out on the Lake Louise downhill course on that binding, and it performed perfectly, and then transitioned to a week touring at Battle Abbey. The binding has some faults on the touring side but downhill performance is not one of the faults.

      • But just to be clear here, I think we need to say that it “feels” or “performs” *more* like an alpine binding. I’m okay with that. But the fact is that it *is* still a tech toe. It’s also certainly another nice option to put into the mix, and for people to be able to select as they figure out where they want to be on the continuum of options.

  4. Certainly agree that the binding should be matched to the skier and intended usage. I do find it interesting that all bindings with a pin heel seem to get lumped into the same category in this discussion. There is a significant difference between how a G3 ion and a Dynafit Superlight work for example. Bindings like the Ion (and now the ZED!) and the Dynafit Rotation (and later years of the original Dynafit Radical) have a spring in the heel unit that allows the heel to travel backwards and absorb forces as the ski flexes, almost like the forward pressure on an alpine heel, but with no pressure being applied to the heel of the boot until the ski flexes. Both the Ion and the Radical/Rotation also have their own measures to reduce different types of unintended releases from the toe, above and beyond those on a Dynafit Superlight, other lightweight, racier binding options or older Dynafit Verticals. These Improvements in the toe and heel in the mid 2000s were enough for me to start being able to ski a tech binding for all my touring needs, and I haven’t had any need to go to a more minimal or more burly binding for my personal purposes. I count myself as a ski hill skier first, and spend most of my days on the cable couch with a full alpine setup. I personally have had more luck with variable touring conditions by picking a heavier ski as opposed to a heavier binding. I’m sure kingpins and tectons are great options for many people, including yourselves, but I think that many people disregard modern, fully featured pin bindings such as the current rotation/radical and ion/zed when they might serve them extremely well. I just checked the weight of the tecton though, and that’s not much more than an Ion, wow:) Sorry if I got too Wildsnow there. Thanks for all you do!

    • Reading some of the comments in this section, it certainly seems that the context of our conversation is getting a bit lost. We were clearly talking about the heavier / burlier AT binding options here — Duke PT vs. SHIFT vs. CAST vs. Daymaker. Those bindings are in a class and category of their own. Full stop.

      After that, we discussed how this category generally compares to the “tech” category to help people (as I believe I put it) understand what they are and what they are not getting by going to this heavier category of AT bindings.

      So we never said that “all” tech bindings are the same… but I thought it was obvious that we were not doing a micro examination of that tech category. That’s a fine conversation to have … it’s just a different conversation from the one that we actually had.

      All that said, it is very cool to hear that you have found a binding that is serving you well! That’s the whole point – find the right equipment that will allow you to really enjoy your time in the mountains. Cheers.

  5. The least nerdy touring ski! Love it. Can’t wait to see this graphic and demo a pair! More fun on the down than the up.

  6. I rode the Mantra M5’s all this shortened season(72 days) and loved them. Only place I didn’t love’em was in the tight trees. Volkl is saying the Blazes are supposed to favor short turns. Me 6’3″ 200lbs m5’s in 191cm.

    What did you guys think?

  7. Why are the Dynafit Rotation (Radical ST/FT 2.0) so under and even misrepresented binding in this review? In my experience these bindings are the best option for the XC MTB Category analogy (50/50). Reasonably light, lots of suspension, great release (no pre-release), and great on the uphill due to tech toe pivot point. I would put these ahead of the Kingpin or Tecton any day and unless you are sending it big in the BC are better option than the Duke PT and Shift.

    • Sounds like somebody has ventured forth from Wildsnow :-)

      Seriously, there are some burly, aggressive skiers reviewing for Blister. Eric is an ex-FWT competitor for example. I can see why they’d need something like the Tecton, Shift, or Duke PT. I also think that in general people coming from alpine go for heavier bindings. It takes a leap of faith to accept that those 4 little pins will handle everything you throw at them, especially given the well known pre-release issues with earlier generations of bindings.

      There’s also a matter of “feel” to consider. I agree that a binding like the Rotation is enough for most people as judged by the ability to get down the hill in one piece, but most people do in-area skiing for the feeling rather than just to tick off objectives. IMO solid boot-heel-to-ski contact, lateral toe elasticity, and vertical heel elasticity (beyond just the length of the boot fitting ramp) all positively impact the sensation of downhill skiing. The Tecton, Shift, and Duke PT stand out by checking all of those boxes (the Kingpin doesn’t have toe elasticity) and I think that’s a big part of why they’re popular for 50/50 use.

      I’m always skeptical of claims that any one piece of gear is the “best option”. People have different preferences/constraints. I chose the ATK Raider with heel AFD (and probaby R12/T14 in the future) when as a light, lowtech-type binding. I could bore you with why I prefer the ATKs to the Dynafits, or we could just agree that having options is good.

      • Thanks for the reply, yes to be honest i started in TGR, then got lost in the comments on Wildsnow, was shown the light on Blister and just to keep it interesting flirt with New Schoolers and Unofficialnetworks ;)

        I get that the reviewers on Blister are big senders and that will influence how the products are evaluated, i guess i’m not skiing hard enough because when i went from the frame Duke to the Rotation i could not tell the difference in suspension/elasticity (not a meat hucker). Sending tendencies aside i still maintain that the Rotations are more capable, safer, lighter, and have had less issues than the Kingpins (recall, lack of toe elasticity) and Shifts, which brings me back to my point that they should have been better represented in your mix against the Shift and Kingpin category.

        Cheers to having options!

        • Just want to chime in here – I think it’s probably safe to say that we spend more time than most people actually skiing on and cycling through the various binding options on the market.

          We’ve also published a few articles where we directly compare lighter AT bindings:

          1) https://blisterreview.com/gear-reviews/lightweight-touring-binding-shootout

          2) https://blisterreview.com/gear-reviews/blisters-at-binding-shootout

          And as I noted in a comment above, this podcast conversation was clearly discussing the pros and cons of the heavier / burlier AT bindings on the market. So please keep context in mind.

          Finally, having done this direct A/B work on multiple occasions over the past several years, all I can say is that if you have actually A/B-ed a Kingpin to a Radical and found the Radical to be “more capable,” well, then I am truly glad that you are happy with your Radicals (I really am), but I find that to be an impossible conclusion to reach – IF by “capable” you mean to say that you found a Radical to offer better power transfer or to ski more like an alpine binding than a Kingpin does. From multiple days of testing, none of our reviewers found this to be true. In fact, none of us think it’s close.

          Still, I’ll say it again: there are good reasons to use burly bindings, and there are good reasons to use lighter bindings. And the goal is to try to find the binding and the setup that will suit you best.

  8. Hi Jonathan, at the risk of appearing argumentative (which i am not) were you comparing the Rotation in your A/B comment above instead of the Radical? If the A/B was truly to the Radical (no lateral toe), then i would agree with your point. However, i was more advocating for the Rotation vs Kingpin/Shift in the mid weight category (XC Mountain bike).

    • Hi, we have spent many days using the Rotations and the Radicals, and did not find them to feel any different in terms of their downhill (or uphill) performance. You can see Luke Koppa’s review of the Rotation 10 here:

      https://blisterreview.com/gear-reviews/2018-2019-dynafit-st-rotation-10

      And just one other thing to add: many of us here will opt for different AT bindings depending on the day / mission. So Eric Freson owns a pair of Rotation 12s which he will break out for long tours, and he will opt for Daymakers if he’s skiing a particularly hairy line. Luke Koppa and Sam Shaheen both really like the Zed and other lighter bindings, and in the coming weeks, we are going to be putting more time on & cycling through options in this lighter market.

      So, yes, there are very good reasons to opt for and / or prefer different bindings. We just hope to help clarify for people the differences – what they’re getting and what they’re giving up by going for one option vs another. Cheers.

      • One request: If you include the ATK Raider or R10/R12/R14 in your survey of the lighter market, I recommend trying them with and without the optional heel AFD (“freeride pad”) if at all possible. I realize those are pretty hard to get in the US at the moment, but they make a noticeable difference to how solidly the binding finishes turns. I’ve tried Raider 12s with/without the plates on my Ravens, and I could definitely feel it.

        As Lou Dawson often points out, the nice thing about light bindings is that they enable you to “spend” more weight on the ski and boot within any given mass that you’re willing to attach to your feet. In most conditions I’d much rather ski a 184 Raven with Raider2s + stomp plate than, say, a 185 Zero-G 95 with Kingpins (both pairings come in around 2150 g, and I have actually seen several people with Kingpins on Zero-Gs).

    • Jonathan has already thoroughly addressed most of this better than I ever could, but there is one narrower point I’d like to tease out: The Rotation does not provide lateral elasticity (or lateral-anything-else) in the toe. Instead, the toe *rotates* to better accommodate lateral movement at the heel. Toe rotation arguably helps with pre-release and thereby allows aggressive skiers to use lower RVs (per Dynafit), but IMO it doesn’t provide “feel” benefits like the ~50 mm of side-to-side travel in a Shift or alpine binding, or the ~14 mm in the Tecton.

      Blister’s binding articles go into this quite a bit, and Wildsnow did an interview with Cody Townsend a couple days ago that covers similar ground.

  9. Guys here’s where i’m at, i began my touring adventures on Dukes/JJs/Maestrales (before i knew about Jeff Campbell’s research). After a couple of years switched to Rotation/JJs/Maestrales. I couldn’t tell the difference on downhill and of course uphill was night and day. I don’t have the breadth of A/Bs you guys have done, but my experience takes the other heavier options off the table (Duke PT, Kingpin, Shift, Tecton). Saving weight in a non discriminate article means fresher legs and broader ski choice, equals more fun downhill. Maybe it’s the ski/binding combo like Cody mentioned, or the skier (not super aggressive). Regardless, appreciate the comments and conversation. Is it an impossible conclusion? Maybe, but it’s a real world experience.

    thanks for listening,
    Jared

  10. Carole didn’t do it! Jeff Lowe is her first husband sent undercover to take over Joe’s ranch, google it. I’ll take that 1k Jonathon lol.

    But in reality yea she probably totally did it.

  11. Only made it to episode 2 of T King, but at least Baskin doesn’t breed tigers so gapers can take photo’s with them.

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