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free-pivots: and the winner is…

By ccrossen | March 23, 2008

After spending the season skiing and testing out a number of different free-pivot bindings, it soon became clear that the most appropriate contenders were the Black Diamond O1, the G3 Ascent, and the Voile Switchback. Each company sent a pair for review. I also have some NTNs, but could not get any boots. I never heard back from 7tm about a loaner pair. Overall, I really like both the Voile Switchback and G3 Ascent. These are great bindings. As I have mentioned previously, due to a variety of reasons, I prefer the more “neutral” or “less active” feel of the side-cartridge routing of the Switchback and Ascent rather than the O1 design. My bias against the O1 from a pure skiing related capacity makes the binding a burden for me, and given its other problems, just isn’t a contender, though many, many people love the O1.  So after much testing these bindings in almost every conceivable condition we’ve had this year, the binding I will purchase is the Voile Switchback. 

voile_switchback.jpg 

In general, the Voile Switchback skis as closely to the feel I like with the fewest other problems compared to the available choices. I actually prefer the G3 from a pure skiing point of view. I have always liked the G3 feel, have all of my resort skis mounted with T9s, and really wanted to like the binding. And while it skis great, there are design issues that push it one notch below the Voile Switchback.

The Switchback skis enough like the G3 but comes with a couple of great features, namely a better engagement design and dual climbing wires, has fewer problems, weighs less, and costs less. Basically it all came down to whichever binding I bitched about the least while out chugging away numerous days each week. The Voile Switchback performed better on a whole and that’s what takes the prize.

I still have not had major icing issues with the G3, which everyone talks and complains about. Perhaps I never will. Maybe I will go through a horrible streak; the precedent is there. The main issues with the G3 binding are the potential for icing up given the engagement design, which invites snow build-up, and the lack of a good climbing wire system. Namely, there are two climbing wire options for the G3, low (standard) and high ($19 add-on). The problem is you have to choose between high or low. You cannot have both in the same setup. For those who like to adjust their wires a lot given the terrain, this lack of dual-wires makes it a pain in the ass in most scenarios: you’re either working too hard because you’re too high for the terrain, or too low for the steepness. There’s no middle ground, which is a necessity for moving efficiently. If G3 could address this problem, I would be more inclined to stick with the Ascent. If you do buy the G3, which many people should as it is an excellent binding, keep your old heel piece with the high and low climbing wires, shim it to the Ascent height, and stay with the adjustable climbing system.  


G3 Ascent Stainless Steel msrp: $269, 3.5 lb per pair 
G3 Ascent msrp: $299, 3.1 lb per pair
Black Diamond O1 msrp: $299, 3 lb 11 oz. per pair 
Voile Switchback msrp: $259, 3 lb per pair    

Topics: Free Pivot Journals, Gear Reviews | No Comments »

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