If you’ve read my other recent reviews (Fischer Hannibal skis and Fischer Travers boots) then you’ve probably guessed that I spent way too much time hanging out at our local specialized ski touring shop SkiUphill last winter. The time was well spent. I knocked a couple of pounds off my feet with my boot upgrade, and another couple of pounds with lighter skis. Next: bindings.
I dropped by SkiUphill in January to see what Joel recommended. Just so happened that my friend and colleague Matt Peter happened to be there at the same time. “Matt — what binding should I get?” He immediately and to my surprise pointed at the Gara Titan (aka Titan Vario) by Ski Trab. It looked like it was made out of beefed up coat hangers. There was nothing to it. But Matt weighs in at about two bucks thirty and swore he’s taken it on the bumps at Whistler so I thought it was worth giving it a try.
Joel looked a bit doubtful I would be happy with it. Not because of the durability of the binding but because of the fact that it’s a bit tricky to put on your boot. Instead of an “open” mode where you click the toe open and then step in at your leisure, this binding requires you to press and hold and clip it on. Skimo racers for whom this binding is designed have a technique of grabbing the ski and binding, squeezing the binding open and then lifting their leg and snapping it onto the toe holes. Joel explained his concerns: he thought I would struggle with the mobility and coordination to do that effectively. Joel’s a physiotherapist and has a good eye for a person’s limitations, and I have had my share of limitations recovering from my injuries. So I gave it a try. Bang, on it went in a split second. Joel had forgotten that four weeks after my last surgery in 2018 I won a ski touring transition contest at the Banff Film Festival. Transitions are nothing to me, and this new thing of holding down the toe piece was not a big deal.
I decided to mount them on my Fischer Hannibals with the “rental plate” that fits under the heel pieces and would allow just about any boot from size 9 to size 12 to fit. This adds a mere 29 grams to each binding. I’m glad I did as throughout the rest of the winter I was constantly loaning the skis out to my guests for various reasons ranging from “I like the way those look, let me try!” to “Uh. I forgot my ski boots in Czech Republic and the only boots available for rent on Svalbard are size 31 and don’t fit in my bindings….” So not only did I get a chance to try them out myself, but I also had a chance to see what a wide range of others thought of them.
The results were unanimous. The bindings are super easy to get on and off despite the short learning curve required. They release just fine. They don’t pre-release. They are burly and don’t break. They’re awesome.
[Edit 2020] Two seasons later and these bindings are still going strong. They are a rugged binding, fit for the abuses of heavy skiers who pound the miles. You can buy this binding with confidence.
On one hand this is appears to be an ultra-no-frills binding. Yet it has pretty much everything you need in a binding, plus a couple of features that I really loved and would like to see on other bindings.
First, the crampon mount. It’s tiny, it’s light, it’s mega tough, it’s simple, it uses existing tech crampons, it’s the absolute best. Why oh why don’t all binding manufacturers do it this way? (G3!!!!)
And next, the nifty little heel lifter. Again: tiny, light, simple, elegant. Every binding should do it this way.
every binding has its limitations and certainly a binding that weighs in at about 112 g is bound to have them. The first regards releasability. You can choose from one of just three release value options: RV 8, 10 or 12. This is probably just fine, but you can’t tweak it during the day — it requires time and tools to swap out the different springs — and in any case you don’t have the fine tuning theoretically possible with other bindings. It took me a while to figure out that I indeed needed the RV 12 — I started with RV 10 and it wasn’t adequate. Joel says from his experience he thinks that you might have to subtract one or two from the release values for a DIN comparison (e.g. Gara RV 10 is about DIN 8-9).
The other concern is the fact that it doesn’t have a good brake option. Kreuzspitze does make a clever brake that clips on to the crampon mount point. It’s mickey mouse though, and I doubt it would actually work to stop a sliding ski. So you’re stuck using leashes.
The Gara Titan (aka Titan Vario) is a really great little binding. It was designed for Skimo racing but it’s capable of so much more. If you want something that’s burly and light and you’re not worried about the safety concerns of releasability and lack of a good brake then this binding is highly recommended. Buy yours at SkiUphill and let me know what you think!
Tom Wolfe, September 17, 2019