Slightly active bindings: Voile Switchback or X2

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ColoTele

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Slightly active bindings: Voile Switchback or X2

Postby ColoTele » Sun Feb 25, 2018 8:59 pm

Hello fellow tele enthusiasts! I've been a tele skier in Colorado for 30+ years (and an alpine skier even longer). In making tele turns in the backcountry (and rarely at resorts), I've always been comfortable weighting the back ski myself on skinny to mid-fat skis without the need for springs or cables to help push down the back ski.

I would welcome your advice on which neutral to slightly active bindings I should consider pairing with new fatter skis, which probably require more than just the three-pin toe-plates on my other skis.

The new skis are Voile V6 BC waxless skis with 98 mm underfoot (129/98/110 overall). I'd like to continue using my solid but flexible Garmont Excursion plastic two-buckle boots with the skis in mostly tele-turning, while using alpine technique once in a while. The bindings I'm mainly considering are the Voile Switchback and the Switchback X2. (I know there are many other good binding options, but am mostly focused on these two after a lot of research.)

Switchbacks seem to offer a slightly to moderately active configuration, the possibility of even kicking and gliding in ski mode, and a touring mode which I understand is mainly intended for skinning rather than kicking and gliding (although I'm happy to herringbone or sidestep up moderately steep slopes instead of using skins).

The Switchback X2, in contrast, appears to offer springs with 25% more tension and a pivot point farther back from the toe, which generates more aggressive active pressure for edge control and turns, but probably poor kicking and gliding potential, and maybe a slightly greater risk of injury in light of the higher spring tension.

If you're familiar with these bindings, is it possible to dial back the spring tension on either the Switchback or the Switchback X2 if I'd like to kick and glide more easily, or want to use a fairly neutral downhill configuration? On the other hand, if I tighten up the spring tension, could I use Alpine parallel technique occasionally instead of tele turns? What other issues should I consider? Many thanks in advance for your comments.

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Woodserson

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Re: Slightly active bindings: Voile Switchback or X2

Postby Woodserson » Sun Feb 25, 2018 9:32 pm

The 3pin Hardwire is: MEDIUM Activity with softest cartridges
The Switchback is: MOST NEUTRAL Activity with medium cartridges
The Switchback X2 is: MOST ACTIVE with stiffest cartridges.

(activity being referenced between themselves, not other off-voile bindings)

Are you asking about Kick and Gliding WITHOUT going to free pivot in the Switchbacks? I think you are. If you go to free pivot the cartridge tension won't matter much. There is a K&G technique using the free pivot that many here use. I think K+G in locked down mode would be somewhat miserable, especially in the X2.

I have Scarpa T4's and I find the X2 Cartridges collapse the bellows. The Excursion is a bit softer, is it not? I'm still experimenting with tension on the black cartidges. Not enough tension and you can run the risk of the cartridges spinning out on their own. (ask woodchuck)

Lots of people here have great experience to share with these bindings

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lowangle al

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Re: Slightly active bindings: Voile Switchback or X2

Postby lowangle al » Sun Feb 25, 2018 9:46 pm

I think you would be happy with either the SB or the X2 or the 3 pin HW if you don't need tour mode. I typically prefer touring(k&g) with the SB when wearing T2s because of the better range of motion due to the more forward pivot point. I was out the last two days with T-4s on Voile Insanes (112 underfoot) mounted with X2s. What I noticed was that I didn't feel the limited range of motion with the T4s that I felt with T2s and I felt that the added activity of the X2 was a good match with the light T4.

If you will be doing much aggressive downhill you may want the X2.

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woodchuck

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Re: Slightly active bindings: Voile Switchback or X2

Postby woodchuck » Sun Feb 25, 2018 10:05 pm

Switchbacks pair nicely with Excursions. I inadvertently experimented with lower than standard tension on the cartridges and as Woods alludes. The cartridges will back themselves off absent a certain minimum preload and you'll shed a ski (in my case, happily, on the uphill).

As far as I can tell (I'm a beginner) switchbacks will support any technique you can apply within the limits of a boot like the Excursion. Paul Parker has some tips on parallel technique with tele equipment I found very useful in Free Heel Skiing.

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Woodserson

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Re: Slightly active bindings: Voile Switchback or X2

Postby Woodserson » Sun Feb 25, 2018 10:21 pm

lowangle al wrote: I was out the last two days with T-4s on Voile Insanes (112 underfoot) mounted with X2s. What I noticed was that I didn't feel the limited range of motion with the T4s that I felt with T2s and I felt that the added activity of the X2 was a good match with the light T4.


Hey this is interesting! What did you think of the X2 spring stiffness with the T4. Not too much? How did you tighten them?

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lowangle al

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Re: Slightly active bindings: Voile Switchback or X2

Postby lowangle al » Sun Feb 25, 2018 11:35 pm

They felt like the SBs for k&G. I had enough ROM with the T4 to allow a natural kick and didn't notice any extra tension from the springs either. I did notice the extra DH performance big time. Either the pivot point or the springs or both.

I tighten the springs just enough to keep my duckbill firmly in the toe plate when I move my foot side to side. You can ski them a little looser for better touring or on easy terrain.

I think the X2 matches better with a T4 or Excursion boot because it increases the capability of the boot. A soft, low boot requires more body movement to get the same results as a stiff tall one and an active binding requires less body movement than a less active one. It complements it.

ColoTele

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Re: Slightly active bindings: Voile Switchback or X2

Postby ColoTele » Mon Feb 26, 2018 2:55 am

Thanks so much Woodserson, Lowangle Al, and Woodchuck for your terrific comments. Here's what I get so far:

1. KICK AND GLIDE. I appreciate Woods's clarifying Voile binding options. Also greatly appreciate the explanation that free pivot tour mode on the Switchback and X2 works not just for breaking trail/skinning, but also for kick and glide, even though the rear boot pivots on its toe rather than maintaining forefoot contact while kicking. I appreciate the tip that I can find more information on the board about K&G technique with a free pivot.

I was uncertain whether waxless skis could get much K&G action from a free pivot because a commenter on the "I Hate My Bindings" topic said tour mode on the Switchback and X2 did not work well for K&G (or for some other touring moves such as lifting a ski to sidestep up a slope, etc.). He said he would choose the Switchback over the X2 for K&G because the locked down Switchback kicked better on its lighter tension springs than the stiffer X2 did. Sounds like free pivot mode on either binding would be a better option for K&G.

2. AVOID VERY LOW SPRING TENSION. I really appreciate Woods's and Chuck's heads-up that the Switchback and X2 cartridges can spin themselves right off if the initial tension is too low. Wow, that must have been fun. (I once watched a friend's rental ski go sailing down the south face of 14er Quandary Peak.) I'll be sure to watch out for this.

3. EXCURSION BOOT COULD WORK WITH EITHER SB OR X2. I appreciate all of your suggestions that the relatively soft Garmont Excursion boot, like the T4, could work reasonably well with either the Switchback or the X2, and Chuck's note that some parallel technique should be manageable as well as tele turns.

4. X2 MAY BE BETTER MATCH. I really appreciate Al's explanation that the X2 may be a better match for the Excursions because the greater activity complements the softer boot. I haven't skied active bindings before, and was concerned that the stronger springs might overpower softer boots, or require more knee tension or leg work from me, or feel like they were wresting control of my boots from me. It sounds like the greater stiffness actually may offer more control with less effort and without feeling overpowered, if I'm reading your comments correctly. I'm not a superfast or aggressive downhill skier, but do ski in all kinds of conditions including hardpack and breakable crust and on steeper slopes at times, so maybe a little more power would be okay (and I'm in my sixties now ; ).

5. GREATER POTENTIAL FOR INJURY WITH STIFFER SPRINGS? I've taken power dives occasionally, which generally have worked out okay with a completely free heel. I just wondered if there's more of an art to taking a safe fall with a moderately Switchback cable or stiffer X2 cable.

Many thanks again for your thoughts.

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lowangle al

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Re: Slightly active bindings: Voile Switchback or X2

Postby lowangle al » Mon Feb 26, 2018 12:08 pm

ColoTele wrote:Thanks so much Woodserson, Lowangle Al, and Woodchuck for your terrific comments. Here's what I get so far:



I was uncertain whether waxless skis could get much K&G action from a free pivot because a commenter on the "I Hate My Bindings" topic said tour mode on the Switchback and X2 did not work well for K&G (or for some other touring moves such as lifting a ski to sidestep up a slope, etc.). He said he would choose the Switchback over the X2 for K&G because the locked down Switchback kicked better on its lighter tension springs than the stiffer X2 did. Sounds like free pivot mode on either binding would be a better option for K&G.

I think that was me who said that but after skiing the X2 with T4s I've changed my mind. Whatever efficiency might be lost with the X2s over the SBs for K&G is worth the tradeoff for the additional DH performance especially with a light boot.



5. GREATER POTENTIAL FOR INJURY WITH STIFFER SPRINGS? I've taken power dives occasionally, which generally have worked out okay with a completely free heel. I just wondered if there's more of an art to taking a safe fall with a moderately Switchback cable or stiffer X2 cable.

This may be true but it is also true that the increased control with a more active binding may prevent falling in the first place.


connyro

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Re: Slightly active bindings: Voile Switchback or X2

Postby connyro » Mon Feb 26, 2018 12:59 pm

lowangle al wrote:...I think the X2 matches better with a T4 or Excursion boot because it increases the capability of the boot. A soft, low boot requires more body movement to get the same results as a stiff tall one and an active binding requires less body movement than a less active one. It complements it.


woodchuck wrote:Switchbacks pair nicely with Excursions...


I agree. But it sort of runs counter to traditional norms regarding active bindings being paired with tall, stiff boots. I run both SBs and X2s with Excursions and I really like the touring and DH performance of that combination, the X2's being even better for DH. Regarding K+G with SBs/X2s, it's pretty easy to develop a technique with the bindings in Tour mode where the ball of the foot (not just toes) makes contact with the ski during the kick, providing that you can compress the bellows and flex the soles of the boot.

ColoTele wrote:...5. GREATER POTENTIAL FOR INJURY WITH STIFFER SPRINGS? I've taken power dives occasionally, which generally have worked out okay with a completely free heel. I just wondered if there's more of an art to taking a safe fall with a moderately Switchback cable or stiffer X2 cable.


I don't think there's any difference.

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lowangle al

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Re: Slightly active bindings: Voile Switchback or X2

Postby lowangle al » Mon Feb 26, 2018 1:32 pm

connyro wrote:I agree. But it sort of runs counter to traditional norms regarding active bindings being paired with tall, stiff boots. I run both SBs and X2s with Excursions and I really like the touring and DH performance of that combination, the X2's being even better for DH. Regarding K+G with SBs/X2s, it's pretty easy to develop a technique with the bindings in Tour mode where the ball of the foot (not just toes) makes contact with the ski during the kick, providing that you can compress the bellows and flex the soles of the boot.


Traditionally active bindings make sense with tall stiff boots for those looking for maximum power and control. What I found with the T4 is that the X2 increased DH performance w/o significantly affecting touring capability.

K&G in tour mode is easy to figure out, it's just not something I do. I have to wait for my wife to catch up as it is. It's possible that if I did it more, I may wonder how I got by without it. I find It's important to keep an open mind because a new piece of gear or technique can change what I believed to be true for many years.


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