Voile Switchback X2 Binding Review

I tend to be a creature of habit.  I’ve had the same boot and binding set up – a series of Scarpa T1s and Cobra R8 bindings – for the past 5 or so years.  I love me an active binding and have found it hard to find one that both tours and skis well. While the Cobra R8 is great for descents, it’s not ideal for touring.  N did modify the bindings to make them a bit more touring friendly, though it’s a far cry from a free-pivot binding.

So when I had an opportunity last spring to try a pair of Voile’s Switchback X2 bindings (Voile was kind enough to send us a prototype pair for evaluation), I was very excited to finally see if this was the binding that combined ski performance with touring performance.  I had definitely sacrificed the latter the past few years with the R8s.  I mounted the X2s on a pair of G3 Zests, a ski I reviewed earlier, and did a mix of backcountry and resort skiing on them during the last half of the season.

backcountry skiing on the switchback x2s

The X2s in action

At 3 pounds 2 ounces (actual weight according to my scale), the X2s qualify as light, but they definitely don’t sacrifice weight for performance. They are far more active than any other binding I’ve been on – noting here that I have not yet tried NTN bindings.  As such, I had to back off the preload quite a bit to get the right feel for me.  But that said, they ski very nicely on a variety of conditions.

The touring mode is clean and simple.  The lever at the top of the binding means it didn’t take much effort to move between the two, and the free pivot gave my foot a range of motion on the skin track that meant skinning was easier and much more efficient.  I found that the pivot was in the right location and the locking mechanism worked well in all the Sierra conditions I encountered, and the touring mode never iced up.

The one issue I did have was an accumulation of snow and ice between the boot sole and the steel part of the toe piece, but that tended to be during those spring days where we started with cold powder and it warmed up quickly.  I’m not sure if it’s because I have a smaller boot size (24.5), but it did require me to stop on a number of occasions to remove the snow.

Despite this, I really like these bindings.  I’ve had a hard time finding a performance telemark binding that’s good for touring.  The X2s embody that versatility, and I suspect they’ll see as much time at the resort as they will in the backcountry this season.

Assuming, of course, that it snows soon…

Related Posts

Switchback X2 review on Earn Your Turns – Craig Dostie provides his thorough take on these bindings. Well worth a read!

Hungry for Winter

October typically marks the beginning of the ski film season, when filmmakers of all winter persuasions (telemark, alpine, snowboard) take their shows on the road, fueling the winter lust of die-hard skiers like me.  This weekend brought a double whammy of telemark films, including the newest film from the Powderwhores, a Utah based collection of rippin’ backcountry telemark skiers.

While non-skiers will probably never fully understand the addiction that is powder skiing, this trailer captures a bit of the energy and joy that I get when dancing through untracked snow.  I’m just hoping Mother Nature pulls through with this El Nino crap, as I’m jonesing for some deep snow after this movie.
For those in South Lake Tahoe on Monday, another tele film, Freeheel Life, will be playing at LTCC at 8pm.


Mammoth Fun

Despite sharing Mammoth Mountain with 80 trillion folks from Los Angeles this past weekend, we still managed to avoid crowds and find plenty of that glory wind buff snow that’s unique to the Eastern Sierra.   We planned our trip to coincide with Mammoth Mountaineering’s annual Telebration event, where freeheelers and meadow skippers descend upon the mountain to demo skis, take free lessons, and celebrate their weird ski binding.  Both N and I tested skis, and he got himself onto a new boot/binding system – the Crispi EVO NTN.  He was so enamored by it that he ended up buying a pair that night, which goes to show you that free demos do have their benefits.

I tried out a number of women specific tele skis, primarily to serve as comparison against those that I have and will review for Telemarktips.  I particularly liked the new G3 Luscious, if only because of the cool name and fun polka dot graphics that reminded me of my very first pair of telemark skis, Dynastar’s Fat Mollys.

While the warming temperatures at Lake Tahoe had created spring conditions at lower elevations, Mammoth’s snow was still wintery (hooray for high elevation!), and the winds buffed out a lot of the moguls, giving us a clean slate each morning.  I didn’t let the lingering effects of my cold hinder my ski days, which some thought might not have been a wise choice, but I’d have to be hospital bound before I gave up a day (or 3) skiing at Mammoth.

Overall a great weekend, even with the collective stupidity at level 11.  But what can you expect when you’re sharing the mountain with half of Southern California?