Friday, 10 January 2014

Diamir Fritchi Vipec 12 Ski touring binding

Kit Review. Ski testing the Diamir Fritschi Vipec 12 Ski touring binding

 THIS ARTICLE came  to me via my friend Alan Powell also a  BMG guide - original test and article from Backcountry

Backcountry UK Kit Review: Ski testing the new Diamir Fritschi Vipec 12 lightweight touring binding. 01.01.14
Having seen a sample of the Vipec 12 binding in November, I’d been looking forward to getting a pair of Diamir’s first move into the world of Tech (or Pin binding) systems on my feet and onto some snow. My chance to try the Vipec 12 came sooner than expected having bumped into Lee from Scott Sports in a lift queue up at Glen Coe Mountain ski area, a couple of days before New Year’s Eve.
Lee happened to have a demo pair mounted onto a pair of 13/14 Scott Cruis’Air in the back of his van, not only that but he was willing to let me take them on the hill in Scotland!
It was a very cloudy New Year’s Day, after an entertaining and packed Hogmanay session at the Clachaig Inn, when we next got on the mountain.
At 470 grams without brakes (I estimate around  570 grams with brakes) per binding and around 1.7 kgs (per ski) for the 179cm ski, the combination of the latest Scott Cruis’Air ski and the Vipec 12 bindings are indeed lightweight.
The bindings are quickly and easily adjusted by eye without the need for calibrated measures, simply clip the boot in at the toe and adjust the heel piece forward until you can clip the boot in at the heel, a final tweak forward at the heel until the plastic housing for the heel piece comes almost into contact with the boot and you’re set up.
The Vipec 12 has adjustable release settings at the heel and at the toe. These have a value range from 5 to 12 which will comfortably cover most people and are easy to change. With the bindings set up it was time to get onto some snow!
Stepping in at the toe requires you to stand on a wire which triggers the pins to clamp into the pin fittings on the boots. It is a little bit more awkward on the Vipec 12 than on the quick step Dynafit bindings, more like the earlier generations of Tech bindings but after a few times in and out I’d got the knack.
The step in function at the heel is easy to operate and, when in, the heel of your boot is stood directly onto the binding rather than being suspended by the pins and brake, which feels solid underfoot.
At the top of the first lifts and in very low visibility it was time to see how they ski. First impressions of the Vipec 12 are very good, the bindings feel smooth, solid and responsive through the turns delivering power quickly and precisely.
A couple of warm up runs to get a feel for the skis and to clear away the last of the new year’s single malt and it was time to try some steeper runs. I headed away from the piste to hit the steepest terrain I could find in the thick cloud.
After dropping away from the piste, I quickly came to a steepening section of windblown icy snow, a few quick scratchy turns into the murky whiteout, a short traverse above a rocky band, another few steeper icy turns and a short side slip through a narrow gap between rock outcrops saw me back onto soft snow and some easier terrain.
One of the things that quickly struck me about the Vipec 12 is how smooth the system felt, Diamir have incorporated lateral elasticity into the toe pins with 13mm of travel before release and the heel piece has elastic travel backwards and forwards to allow the ski to flex underfoot.
I must admit I was impressed, the elastic travel front at the front seemed to damp the harsh ‘rattley’ feel that some bindings have on icy surfaces without making the bindings feel slow or sloppy.
The elastic movement in the heel piece let the ski flex underfoot like no other binding I have ever skied, on the 16m radius Cruis’Airs this made for very enjoyable smooth fluid turns at lower speeds, when skiing faster and working the ski harder the skis would come round so quickly it would almost catch me off my guard.
I’d be interested to try the Vipec 12 on a stiffer and longer radius ski, particularly on steep or more chopped up and cruddy terrain.
On the lift on the way up I had been wondering how I was going to test how the Diamir Vipec 12′s release behaved in the real world, I was spared having to tactically wipe out when on the second run of the day, not looking where I was going, whilst staring into the clag off to my left trying to pick a line through some blocky debris I caught an outside edge and took a tumble. The toe calliper popped off to the side and my boot released with a smooth action. After getting up and being laughed at by my mates I clicked the calliper back into position and clipped back in.
It was time to get the skins on and take the bindings up hill, moving to touring mode is easy, a simple click with your pole disengages the rear pins and frees the heel. Skinning with the Vipec 12 feels smooth and natural like other Tech bindings. The climbing positions sit onto the rear set of pins when engaged, they feel solid and are easily flicked into and out of position with the baskets on your poles.
Another ten runs on varied terrain on and off the piste and the light was dwindling quickly, time to head back down.
In Conclusion.
All in all I’m impressed with the Vipec 12. Its offers all the weight advantages of Tech bindings for touring, with the safety advantages of the adjustable release at the toe and the sprung heel piece, or ‘active length compensation’ in Diamir’s words, maintaining the forward pressure to give a defined and dependable release at the heel even when the ski is flexed.
The step in and out function of the heel piece is great and no more twisting the heel tower for different functions just a simple click to lock and free the heel (just make sure that once you’ve stepped out of the binding the brakes are deployed again before you let go of the ski!)
The thing I really like about this binding is the smooth feel when skiing. The combination of the Toe elasticity and the sprung heel piece made for an enjoyable ride and allow you to really work the ski.
I’m looking forward to skiing the Vipec 12 on a day with better visibility to put it through its paces at speed.
I’ll be taking this binding on my touring trip later in the season to see how I find it on a multi-day trip.
Phil Evans.
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