There is a new market developing in the alpine touring world. More and more skiers are catching on to the pow-filled perks of owning an AT set up, while refusing to give up on the hard-charging performance of their traditional alpine skis, boots, and bindings. And as these descent-focused skiers continue to push further into the backcountry in search of untracked snow, AT equipment is scrambling to keep pace.
The dilemma to date? Gear that’s light enough for alpine touring isn’t tough enough, while the gear that’s tough enough…is heavy as hell.
Enter the Dynafit Beast 16 AT binding. Engineered with help from the cliff-hucking legend himself, Eric “Hoji” Hjorleifson, this tech binding is designed to finally bridge the performance gap between a skier’s needs during the climb, and his needs on the way down. When you’ve spent a good portion of your day getting to the top of your dream line it’s nice to make your descent with the added confidence of the performance and safety features proven in the alpine world.
16 DIN bindings are nothing new to the alpine touring market. The Marker Duke binding has used burly springs for years now, while Salomon/Atomic unveiled their big-boy-retention Guardian/Tracker bindings in the fall of 2012. What distinguishes the Dynafit Beast, however, is that it boasts a heavy-duty 16 DIN spring in a separate toe and heel piece design. The benefits to the AT skier are immense.
Performance, Both Up and Down:
First, the Dynafit Beast is the answer to lifted weight. With the traditional track system of bindings like the Duke or Guardian, each uphill stride is made with the added weight of the entire track and heel piece lifting off of the ski. And while for casual sidecountry touring this may not seem like a big deal, for those who tour from trailheads and make serious ascents an independent heel is key. With the Beast, like with all tech bindings, your boot becomes the interface. When lifted weight is reduced on the way up the door opens for distance-touring set ups that feature wider and burlier skis for the way down.
Secondly, eliminating the reliance on a track system in the Beast binding greatly improves the way your skis perform. A track binding disrupts the flex of your ski, and when a ski is prevented from flexing through its entire running length the result is the feeling of a dead spot underfoot. While not necessarily the most noticeable hindrance in bottomless powder, the blocky feeling of a track system underfoot is less than ideal when your skis are trying to react to the increased forces they encounter in heavy snow and chop.
Safety on the Way Down:
It is important to note when talking about the Beast that it is not just a standard Dynafit binding with a beefed-up spring inside. Rather, the Beast is designed to improve safety by rethinking the ways release is approached in AT bindings.
Elasticity, when used in the context of ski bindings, refers to how your bindings and boots work in unison to handle lateral forces. As your boots move off center in your bindings, elasticity serves one of two functions: either returning your boots to center as the lateral forces subside, or ejecting your ski boot completely if the forces reach injury-inducing levels. Rather than strict in-or-out retention, elasticity in binding toe and heel pieces provides more consistent, predictable release and retention.
The Beast 16 addresses this by incorporating pivoting side-to-side release in the toe piece, as well as side-to-side and fore-aft release in the heel. The result is an AT binding that provides unrivaled safety when confronted with the knee-busting forces of twisting falls.
Versatility on Both Sides of the Rope:
One last point of differentiation for the Beast 16 is its unrivaled versatility. By allowing for a natural flex from your skis, and providing the safety features of a traditional fixed alpine binding, the Beast opens itself up to hard-charging use both in-bounds and out.
As more and more mountains offer at-your-own-risk backcountry access, there’s a growing crowd of skiers who ride the lifts until the resort is tracked out, and then head out of bounds. If you find yourself in this category of hybrid opportunists, then the Dynafit Beast 16 is the answer to your needs on both sides of the rope.
*For more information, check out Dynafit’s interview with Hoji on the development of the Beast.
Nate Tomlinson, Senior Content Writer