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Tested: Dynafit FT12 Binding

Or, how I shaved several pounds off my touring set up and learned to love going uphill.

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There are five myths about the Dynafit system:

1. They don’t hold you in.
2. They break.
3. They’re for Euros, weenies, and mountain guides.
4. The boots suck.
5. They don’t release if you’re caught in an avalanche.

These five myths have been drilled into North American skiers. As someone who skis with my heel pieces set at a high DIN, I’d been wary about the Dynafit system until last year, when they released their first-ever DIN12 model, the FT12. Then I waited a year. I figured I’d give it a season and see if any design flaws would work themselves out with updates. Only then could it be an honest test.

So, a couple of weeks ago, I got a pair, mounted them up, and took them to Aspen Highlands. It was an ideal set of conditions to test a binding: Over a foot of new snow blew into Highlands Bowl. It felt bottomless. Meanwhile, on the rest of the mountain, you could feel the bumps below the powder. So you could charge and put some serious impact into the bindings. After several days of skiing, I was ready to re-examine those myths:

They don’t hold you in: I turned them up to DIN 12, clicked in, and went for it. The first thing I did was lean way forward into a turn and lift my heel, trying to step out of it. They held. I did this both in powder and in the powder-covered bumps. They didn’t budge. I also sent a couple of ten footers and landed without incident. Keep in mind that I weigh 200 pounds and pushed them as hard as I could. There’s also a lock-out click that will keep you in no matter what you do. (More on this later.)

They break: I’ve only skied them a handful of days so I don’t truly know. But I have yet to hear about any breaking under the strain of skiing. A friend of mine, who weighs more and goes bigger than I do, skis them inbounds at Whistler and hasn’t had any problems.

They’re for Euros/weenies/guides: Sure. But they’re for the rest of us too. They’re much easier to get into than old iterations and ski great because you’re not so high above the ski.

The boots suck: There’s a pile of new Dynafit-compatible boots that perform superbly. Dynafit’s own Zzeus, Black Diamond’s venerable Factor, Garmont’s Radium and Scarpa’s Maestrale are all solid and ready for both resort and backcountry.

They don’t release in avalanches: Lucky for me, I haven’t been able to test this out yet. By Dynafit’s own design, the toes aren’t supposed to release in the locked-out touring mode. This is 90 percent of your day in the backcountry. That aside, it shouldn’t matter what binding you’re using: An experienced backcountry skier will take benches, ridges, trees, and other conservative terrain features on the way up and leave the bigger risks for the descent. If anything, lockout mode is a nice feature to have while skiing no-fall zones. In these cases, keeping your skis on can be a matter of life and death.

The verdict? So far, there’s nothing on the market that tours better than the Dynafit system. And they absolutely shred the downs. I’m a believer in this binding, and in a big way. The only downer is the cost.

Dynafit TLT FT12, $579; 19.5 ounces (each);