WORDS BY TESS WEAVER
Salomon hosted the official launch of their Guardian 16 alpine touring binding at Alta, Utah on Tuesday.
A great binding is like a great sound mixer — you shouldn’t notice the craft, you should appreciate the end result. And whether the result is downhill performance, uphill function or transition times, it’s all positive with the Guardian 16.
Lucky for our group, the Guardians were mounted on next year’s Salomon Rocker 2s and Rockettes — the new women’s version of the Rocker 2. The pow boards weren’t in their element on the cold (-6 degrees) and firm conditions, but they performed exceptionally well and made the icy groomers, chalky chutes and rock strewn moguls not just manageable, but fun. (Note: Later in the week the long awaited storm arrived and Thursday was officially a powder day).
Maybe it had something to do with the bindings. Salomon stresses the Guardian 16’s downhill performance. And on lap after variable lap, the bindings performed as well as any alpine binding you’ve skied.
“The concept behind the Guardian was to take the performance characteristics of the STH, which already has a huge following, and create an alpine binding with touring capabilities that’s easier to use than anything on the market,” says Salomon Product Manager Jake Fuller.
Fuller, along with Salomon Alpine Brand Manager Jenny Naftulin and VP of Marketing Jean-Yves Couput were on-site to answer questions, while athletes Kim Havell, Jamey Parks and Grant Howard, along with Alta patrollers Jesse Weeks and Dave "Grom" Richards showed the group the famed nooks and crannies of Alta. And at the mid-mountain Watson Shelter, Alta’s PR maven Connie Marshall treated the group to a farm-to-table lunch.
But back to bindings… The Guardian 16s have a lower stack height than most AT bindings, ensuring stability and an oversize platform that beyond maximizing power transmission and responsiveness, is bound to keep the screws in for those who have been known to rip bindings out of skis (you know who you are).
The toe unit has the width (80mm) and strength (7-16 DIN) of a traditional alpine binding, and a 26mm rise (to base plate). The toe has a flat nose for full 90-degree range of motion for steep terrain, which Salomon markets as optimal climbing capability. The weight is 1480g per binding, or 6.5lbs for both. While this is “heavy” for the Dynafit crowd, it’s an adequate trade for downhill ripability.
Unlike many designs that require skiers to click out of their skis in going from tour to ski mode, Salomon created the Hike & Ride Switch, an impressive seamless interchange that switches modes with the flick of a pole and the click of a heel. Now you just need to work on the yoga move that’s required to take your skins off while clicked in.
The Guardian 16 hits retail fall 2012. Until then, learn more at salomonfreeski.com.