The mother of innovation is discontent. It’s as true with ski bindings as with other gear. Discontent is what inspired Lars and Silas Chickering-Ayers, brothers from Vermont, both young, pro skiers and members of the Green Mountain Freeride Team, to develop the CAST binding.
The name for the binding comes from the collective noun for a group of hawks—the brothers were developing the new ski hardware with their best friend and fellow Green Mountain Freerider Ryan Hawks, who died in competition during the Freeride World Tour. The trio was dissatisfied with available options for skiers who wanted top-notch skiing ability and touring ability from the same ski binding. Uphill-optimized tech bindings are light but can’t handle hard charging descents that involve dropping pillow lines or cliff jumps—they pop out and they’re not DIN certified. Alpine bindings restrict a skier to boot packing uphill. Framed touring bindings that fil an alpine boot sole are heavy and deaden the center of the ski.
CAST’s solution: a binding system that actually lets you swap the toe piece out on the hill, from touring to alpine. It’s a simple solution, and separates the ascent and descent components of the system. Plates mounted to your skis let you swap out tech for alpine tow pieces when you’re transitioning from climbing to descending. There is no binding frame, which lets the ski flex naturally and eliminates any additional weight on your foot. It’s a system that lets skiers use any hard soled alpine boots and some touring boots to ski where and how they want to.
“CAST’s product line stemmed from a desire for better equipment and the fact that none of the current touring bindings on the market met our needs,” says CAST co-founder Lars Chickering-Ayers “This is a sentiment shared by many top skiers looking to spend more time in the backcountry but who are unwilling to give up the performance of their alpine bindings.”
They’re on the right track. Silas Chickering-Ayers won the 2011-2012 Freeskiing World Tour stop at Snowbird on the SI&I system. Then he completed a 10,000 vertical foot day tour to the summit of Mount Rainier on the same gear to prove the versatility and ruggedness of the system. Compared to an alpine setup, the system is lighter on the up and down (five to nine ounces)—and it combines the best features of all binding currently on the market: no lifted weight when you’re touring—like a tech binding, and all the performance of any alpine system you like.
CAST has launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $50K by the end of April so that they can move from garage production to factory production. They’re going up against some well established manufacturers, including Dynafit and Fritchi, which are both launching bindings in Fall 2013 that aim to achieve the same goal: no compromise touring and skiing. But they’re building support from the ground up, and so far all reports are positive.
Available Fall 2013, price TBD