CAST Touring's new binding system, the Pivot Freetour. CAST Touring photo.
Ever since the start of the backcountry skiing boom, skiers have been up in arms about what is the best option for riding aggressive lines in the backcountry that require uphill skiing to get to. The options are no longer as limited as they were say 10 years ago, with several different frame bindings competing with a huge selection of pin-tech style bindings for skiers’ hearts and wallets. There is one outlier in the constant struggle between skiability and weight. Enter the CAST Touring Pivot Freetour—the brainchild of professional freeskiers Lars and Silas Chickering-Ayers—which combines the use of a removable tech-style toe for touring and a full-on standard downhill binding for shredding the gnar.
The brothers were frustrated with current binding options on the market, as tech bindings tended to pre-release during aggressive skiing, and frame-style bindings were simply too heavy for long tours to gnarly terrain. In 2012, CAST started experimenting with the use of a removable toe piece borrowed from a Dynafit binding and a modified ski boot. The concept was simple: take the best of both worlds and make the most badass backcountry binding out there. After raising money through Kickstarter, the first product was released as the CAST SI&I a few months later.
The back of the binding was a standard alpine DIN ISO 5355 (the standard for nearly all traditional alpine bindings) heel from that was drilled into the ski like normal, but the toe is where the magic happened. Instead of drilling the toe piece directly into the ski, both the tech toe and the downhill toe were mounted on separate metal plates that would slide into place on the ski. The skier could install the tech toe for uphill mode and then switch it out with the alpine toe when they were ready to drop in. The brakes were held up by plastic straps in uphill mode.
After a few years of testing and with the blessing of some of the hardest-charging skiers in the world, CAST just released a more refined version of the system, the Pivot Freetour. It is based off the tried and true Look Pivot alpine binding, and uses a tech-style toe made by CAST. Instead of using removable metal plates, the binding shaves a few grams by using a sliding bolt interface to lock the toes in. On the back, the brakes lock up for touring using a system similar to what is found on most modern tech bindings.
In terms of skiability, it seems like it doesn't get much better than this. Skinning on a tech binding is far more efficient, allowing you to access lines deep in the backcountry and still have some energy to give it your all on the way down. Being able to ski on the Look Pivot will no longer give you an excuse to not drop into that line with sketchy snow and the mandatory exit air.
A closer look at the locking interface. CAST touring photo.
From a consumer standpoint, the only weak link in the system is boot compatibility. While CAST addresses the issue by offering in-house conversions on nearly any boot to install tech fitting in the toe, it does seem limiting that one has to aggressively modify an expensive boot to make this work. Options on stiff, downhill-oriented boots with tech fittings out of the box are very limited, and let’s be real, why ski this binding on a touring boot?
Secondly, using this sort of binding still does not allow for the full functionality of a dedicated touring binding on tours where there are frequent transitions between uphill and downhill mode. Having to physically swap over pieces each time and risk dropping (or forgetting) a part could prove to be not just annoying, but potentially dangerous. However, this is something most our friends on splitboards have been dealing with since day one and they seem to be doing fine.
The question remains as to what place this piece of equipment has in an already saturated binding market. Will it signal the deathblow for heavy, inefficient frame-style bindings? Or has tech-binding technology, like what we have seen from the Marker Kingpin, the Dynafit Beast, or the upcoming Fritschi Tecton, progressed to the point where skiers would rather sacrifice some strength in the name of weight and ease of touring?
The binding is currently available for pre-order in a 14-DIN and 18-DIN version on CAST’s homepage, and will be officially released in the fall. It will retail for $650. For more information check out their site here.
What’s that, another new touring binding? Yup, Atomic and Salomon have announced the release of the new SHIFT binding, their attempt to combine a tech-style toe piece with an alpine-style heel, and thus create the ultimate freeride binding for the backcountry. What sets this binding apart from the likes of the Fritschi Tecton and Marker Kingpin is a unique toe design and MNC certification, that essentially turns the binding into full alpine-style unit, front and back. How does this work? The
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