While most every ski outlet posted news of Dynafit’s new Beast 16 on Friday, Freeskier was posted up in a remote hut in the Dolomites with the German based company, checking out the highly anticipated freeride touring binding first hand. Dynafit’s International Press Launch at the Refugio Fanes in a national park in northern Italy offered the first opportunity to see the Beast 16, as well as demo 2013/14 boots, skis and apparel in an authentic alpine setting.
You can read the PR about the products, but what we witnessed while touring with Dynafit’s brand managers and designers, was passion and authenticity. Every employee there was a competent backcountry skier. Many are serious ski mountaineers. One gave a presentation on his solo ascent of a notorious Himalayan peak.
So when Dynafit Product Manager and speed mountaineer Schorsch Nickaes says, “We don’t know if it’s work or leisure time, if it’s weekend or weekdays. We live what we do and do what we live,” it seems genuine. Two apparel managers and a boot line manager even drove two hours to take us on an all-day tour the day after the press event finished.
What’s clear is that the company listens to its customers. It’s innovation at its best—Dynafit is always tweaking, improving and progressing. Right now, they are listening to North American backcountry skiers and delivering exactly what you’ve been asking for—a burly freeride touring binding that’s almost a kilogram lighter than its competition.
Dynafit athlete and consultant Eric Hjorleifson teamed up with Swedish engineer and former professional big mountain skier Fredrik Andersson to create a tech binding to satisfy the most aggressive backcountry skiers. The Beast 16’s sophisticated release mechanism provides release at both the toe and heel units, while the rotating steel toe piece minimizes the chance of pre-release.
Weighing in at 935 grams per binding, the Beast 16 is now the lightest weight touring binding with a Release Value of 16 (the DIN of 16 isn’t yet certified to DIN/ISO standard). But it’s not only its weight that pushes it ahead of the field, it’s the fact it’s frameless. Not only are you saving effort by lifting nothing more than your boot each step, but your boot rests flat on the ski—a huge deal on both the up and the down. The lower the stackheight, the easier when it comes to challenging uptracks (think firm, sidehill skinning) and rocker ski performance. And a wide baseplate increases torsional rigidity.
Instead of focusing on price ($1,000 a pop) or availability (only 850 pairs will release in the U.S. this fall), think of this launch as a revolutionary step in binding innovation. For most, Dynafit’s popular TLT Radical FT, with a Release Value of 12, is still the best touring binding on the market. It’s light and unless you tour in huge skis and land big drops on a regular basis, it’s beast enough.
Dynafit’s stiffest, most downhill oriented touring boot, the Vulcan, is the Beast 16’s obvious match, but new this year is the TLT 6 boot. Combining the best attributes of the Vulcan and the current TLT 5, it’s the most versatile touring boot with widest range of use. It’s stiffer, lighter and more comfortable than its predecessor and unlike the Vulcan’s flat “freeride” sole, the TLT 6 retains a rockered sole, which if you’re serious about the up, greatly increases comfort and efficiency. You might have to get used to skiing in a lower shell, but its goal is optimal comfort on the way up. The boot isn’t compatible with frame bindings, so you’ll need a pair of tech bindings (which you want anyway). Dynafit articulated the cuff buckle, which eases walk/ski mode transitions. Once that UltraLock Buckle is closed, it’s a stiff downhill boot. The rear spoiler (patent pending) slides inside the cuff, allowing what Dynafit calls the widest and smoothest cuff rotation possible (60º). You can adjust forward lean by removing or reassembling two fastening Torx screws. The boot comes with two extra tongues to customize stiffness depending on the situation (alpine climbing or après).
The ladies have the Mercury Women’s TF to look forward to. Dynafit’s women customers used to choose between a lightweight but soft women’s specific boot (TLT 5 Women’s Mountain) or a high performance men’s boot. Now, no compromises. The hard charging female backcountry skier can drive any big mountain ski, in any touring binding on the market, with the Mercury Women’s TF. It has all the features of the men’s boot—adjustable forward stiffness with a removable Downhill Booster Tongue, a third buckle for added stiffness and heel retention, stiffer foam—designed for the female leg/foot.
Dynafit’s new skis include a high performance ski that weighs less than one kilogram. Yes, you read that right. But the ski you want to mount up with the Beast 16 is the Huascaran, Dynafit’s most aggressive ski. The 186 length is 114 underfoot. Staying true to the brand, it’s a clean, functional ski with the right amount of sidecut, taper, and rocker. Of course, it’s still lightweight thanks to beech and bamboo stringers. It’s a practical backcountry powder ski, and with the Beast 16 and a pair of Vulcans, you’re ready for anything out there.