Fritschi Tecton 12 AT binding test: simply the best

Fritschi Tecton 12 bindings are simply the best!

Ease of use, safety, versatility, durability, the list of their strong points goes on and on. Some of these are matched by competitors, some not, but the overall package is pretty irrisistable for anyone looking for a seriously stable pin toe binding set up that skis as solidly as alpine toe set ups.

As COVID-19 shuts lifts and drives ever more regular skiers into the back and side country the demand for easy to use AT systems just keeps growing. The Fritschis will make that transition easier, starting with the bullet proof step in toe.

Owain Price reports, with some help from our BC guru Steve Leeder.

There’s plenty of space to give the Fritschis a run © Steve Leeder

A brief history of back and side country binding set-ups

For those who have never tried pin boots, leaving the security of alpine toe boots and bindings can be a stretch. Snap in systems like the Alpine Trekkers in the 1990s, and Daymakers today, were and still are often the first option they try.

These certainly do a job. Of course they also mean you don’t have to invest in new boots and bindings, although you will likely want to do that sooner rather than later.

I skied my Alpine Trekkers from Mt Franklin in the Brindabellas behind Canberra to Las Leñas in Argentina, and apart from snapping a heel lock once at Blue Lake (replaced under warranty locally), I never had a problem with them.

In the mid-90s some serious legends seemed to all be using them – the likes of the late great Shane McConkey and Kent Kreitler, who we would see regularly at events like South American Extreme ski comps and Harro’s Heli Challenge in Wanaka. We met their inventor in Las Leñas too, and put him in touch with an Aussie distributor back in the day.

Alpine Trekkers were a quick and easy option to get out back © Snow Action Archives

Looking back though, 204cm HEAD TR-18s were not the ideal touring ski, and the whole rig not the best. Even Blue Lake from Charlotte’s was a long haul in them. I guess I was younger and fitter then, so didn’t notice so much. Also, pin binding options were very finicky to use and just didn’t feel secure skiing hard.

Eventually when my skis got too fat for my skins I sold the Trekkers and switched to plate bindings.

Hauling up Kurodake on Marker F10s © Snow Action

Some of these, like the Marker F10s, were just too flimsy with their plastic plate for hard charging. Switching modes on them was finicky too, with a pull chord set up. I briefly had a set, but off-loaded them after just one roadie to Japan in 2013. That was nearly 8 years ago, they have likely been improved, but so have newer alternatives. Old technology.

These Rossi Squad 7s plus Look 13s debuted in Portillo 2014, still going strong © Owain Price

Next I switched to Look 13s teamed with Rossi Squad 7s in 2014, a potent combination on and off-piste. From day 1 in Portillo then they are still going strong and I still love them. Still solid too, after several hundred days hammering through the Andes in-bounds and on short back and side missions out of bounds. Stable as regular alpine bindings, easy to use, rock-solid, but just too heavy for long trips.

Had a lot of fun on King Pins, like this a short skin out from Aomori Spring © Snow Action

Enter the Marker King Pins in 2017. Finally, a pin toe set up with alpine heel that seriously looked the part, and mostly skied it too. I have still got them, and still appreciate their good qualities. In 2017 I had a massive ski year – 7 countries, maybe 90 days, of which 75 would have been on the King Pins. Compared to the F10s I was pretty wrapt there for a while.

But the toe pins can drive you insane, and your mates even more so while they wait for you to clip in. Ice or snow in the binding, or on your boots, and the general vagueness of the click in area (see the pic below) just gets frustrating over time.

Surprise premature release in tricky situations is another drawback, as it is with most pin toe set ups.

Like a couple who have lost the spark, my king pins and I still go through the motions. We have fun together, but the romance is gone. And I avoid anything too adventurous; after a while your mind starts playing pre-release tricks, remembering nasty surprises past.

Season of the Fritschi

So this season I switched to a demo set of Fritschi Tecton 12s mounted on Salomon QT 106s from Wilderness Sports in Nuggets Crossing. They had me at hello toes that you can practically stomp into, they work so well. The solid stopper on the toe setting lever means you step in almost just like in a regular alpine toe, and the pin arms snap into place with no mucking around. That alone would be enough to give them the edge over the King Pins in my book.

So easy to step into – compare the toe step in to that of the King Pin above © Fritschi

But there’s plenty more to love about the Fritschis. That ease of step in goes for clipping in to ski or clipping in to skin.

The mode switch over is super easy – push down on the brake plate, lift the heel up.

Succesive days have just built on those first impressions. Following our Super Tester Steve Crazy Leeder around is not for the faint hearted, but even in the iciest conditions I have never felt anything less than 110% confident in the Fritschis.

One rock solid day after the big July rain event we crunched across ice taking a short cut to Mt Perisher, zapped a few fast laps on the snowmaking there, then headed out to The Paralyser on mostly sheet ice looking for something better which we sort of found eventually. Across all of this the Fritschis were not even twitchy once, just as rock solid as any performance binding will be.

Scooting around in bounds you’ll never notice you’re not on an alpine binding with Fritschis © Steve Leeder

That in turn lets you choose routes and terrain with complete freedom too.

For skinning the mode change is so simple it takes seconds, and so does step-in.

Fritschi Tecton 12s and contour skins are the perfect combo © Owain Price

The Fritschi Tech difference

The toe-piece design is a key part of the Tecton 12’s success.

Premature release is the bane of most pin toes. Their simple pins systems are prone to vertical forces skiing hard that can and do pop you out.

The Fritschi’s dual system of sliding plate with 13mm of lateral movement and DIN settings keep you in when you need to stay in and let you out when you need to release.

When climbing the boot is held solidly but will release in response to high force levels.

The toe will also release in most falls when the heel releases. When the boot is pushed forward past 60° it will pressure a bumper on the toe to release. A 9mm elasticity prevents pre-release according to the DIN settings. Which is handy, stacking with pins in the toe is not a pretty sight or feeling.

The Fritschi Tecton 12 heel piece gives you the step in solidity and skiing power of an alpine binding thanks to a non-turning heel jaw with a rail system that engages when you step in. Drive them as hard as you like.

9mm of movement is allowed for, preventing pre-release when charging hard. As mentioned above, ripping around the resort the set-up feels as rock solid as alpine bindings, and out back you get the confidence to tackle anything.

You can switch the 3 levels of heel rise easily with your poles, and even switch modes from ski to walk without stepping out of the binding – handy for a short step up section if you don’t need to get the skins on.

Fritschi Tecton 12 Tech Specs

At 550gm or 630 with ski brake they are light enough to do long hauls in. Made from high quality metal alloys and high-tech synthetics they are as burly as most people would ever want or need. Ditto that for the 5-12 DIN range. Some seriously good free riders are on the team, or just on them, so no worries on the performance side of the equation.

They are not cheap, expect to pay over $AUD 1,000. But you’ll save on lift passes ..

DIN5 – 12
Ski width> 70 mm
Weight550 g / unit without ski brake
Ski brakes90 / 100 / 110 / 120 mm
80 g / unit
Ski brake standard90 / 100 / 110 / 120 – 80 g / unit
Ski brake accessories80 /90 / 100 / 110 / 120 – 80 g / unit
Certified idiot proof! © Steve Leeder

The Guru’s Verdict

Snow Action’s resident BC guru and top tester Steve Leeder says:

The Fritschi Tectron is the safest and easiest to use tech touring binding on the market.

It is also one of the best high performance bindings as well.

Mounted on a big free ride ski or a light touring ski this binding will let you make the very most out of your set up .”

Editor Owain Price adds:

After nearly 30 years looking for a perfect one quiver set up that will do everything I want to do in-bounds or out, the Fritschi Tecton 12s have nailed the binding part of the equation like nothing I have used before. Not cheap, but they make getting out there so much easier that you’ll save plenty on lift passes.

NB: The Aussie importers sold out ahead of the 2020 southern season, so they can be hard to find.

Demo (and buy) from Wilderness Sports in Nuggets Crossing.

Check out more on the Fritschi site here

Setting up demo Fritschi Tecton 12 bindings
Setting up demo Fritschis at Wilderness Sports © Owain Price