OnTheSnow descended on legendary Alta Ski Area in Utah today to meet up with Salomon's crew of athletes, reps and techs. The occasion: taking the new Salomon Guardian 16 backcountry binding for a spin.
The Salomon crew hauled along a quiver of 2013 Rocker2 skis, all outfitted with the new binding. After a hearty breakfast at the Goldminer's Daughter, we took to the slopes early—prior to the mountain opening to the public. It was a frigid early-morning but being led down untouched corduroy by Alta patrolmen made the single-digit temps bearable.
The Salomon Guardian 16 bindings were fit to a pair of boots at Alta's Motherlode Powder House in the Goldminer's Daughter Lodge. Photo by Dan Kasper.
Riding the Guardian atop a pair of lightweight 2013 Rocker2 108s crushed the groomers. We then took them off the corduroy and into some of Alta's legendary steeps. The setup performed as well as most alpine bindings would have. The Guardian's low profile chasis and strong rigidity felt more like a downhill binding than an AT setup—with the one exception being the lightweight construction.
"The Guardian brings downhill performance to skiers that gives them access to the whole mountain," Salomon Alpine Brand Manager Jenny Naftulin said. "Having the binding lowered to the ski with a wider platform for power transmission allows for quick edge-to-edge performance."
After checking out the inbounds performance, it was time to slap on the skins and take the ski/binding setup into the sidecountry. The ease of switching the Guardian into it's AT mode was fantastic. There's no need to click out of the binding—simply use your pole to free the heel and you're good to go. We skinned up Mount Baldy and the lightweight setup really shined. After a 30-minute climb up the ridge, the binding just as easily switched back to downhill mode with the use of a pole and driving your heel back into place.
Skiers test the Salomon Guardian 16 bindings' touring ability on Alta's Mount Baldy. Photo by Dan Kasper.
On our descent, the low profile twin rocker helped the Rocker2 108 float atop the few inches of pow that had fallen on Alta the day before. The ski's playful nature was great for linking quick turns in the little bit of fresh underfoot.
"The full twin rocker profile allows the ski to perform better than most skis out on the market right now in the deep stuff," Alpine Product Category Manager Jake Fuller said. "It's a great all terrain vehicle—you can take it pretty much anywhere and get great performance out of it. It's super lively and very bouncy."
After a few more inbounds runs, we popped into the Watson Shelter for a terrific farm-to-table lunch. Watson Shelter GM Jude Rubadue selected a menu consisting of butternut squash soup, an organic spinach salad with either grilled salmon or chicken and chocolate mouse for desert topped off with a homemade cookie.
The organic spinach salad at Alta's Watson Shelter showed off the culinary expertise of GM Jude Rubadue. Photo by Dan Kasper.
After lunch, we ditched our backcountry backpacks and headed for the backside of Alta. Following a few steep runs, the legs were burning and it was time to call it a day.
While the innovations found in the Guardian aren't necessarily earth-shattering, the binding's debut next season has the potential to make the backcountry more accessible to your average resort skier. The performance and ease of use allows skiers to mount the Guardian on their one ski quiver without sacrificing downhill performance while also giving them the option to venture into the sidecountry without too much fuss.
Freeski TV tests the Guardian Binding over several days in the Selkirks