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