Plum Guide Backcountry Ski Binding Review by Sky Sjue
Move over Dynafit, there’s something leaner. And stronger. And sexier. In the Tech era, with many innovations based on the Dynafit design and its expired patent emerging, Plum Guide bindings caught my eye with their silvery sparkle. These bindings are minimalist CNC-machine sculptures, everything I always liked about Dynafits with significant improvements to their limitations.
Before I further affirm my love for these bindings, I will mention the most important caveat for the masses. These bindings are not for the dilettante. They are slightly less user-friendly than Dynafits, which are already less user-friendly bindings than classic alpine step-in designs. Now let me describe the details of my devotion.
Removing these beauties from the box, they are a sight to behold. There is scarcely any plastic to be found. Looking beneath the base of the heel, the metal plate that makes the contact between the base of the ski and the post for the heel piece is approximately twice as thick as the analogous piece of metal in a Dynafit binding. Having broken more than my fair share of those base plates over the years, this reinforcement pleases me. (To the staunch Dynafit advocate who might suggest my heel pieces were misadjusted, this may have happened once or twice, but certainly not half a dozen times.) This fortification continues with the post that holds the heel piece.
The baseplate-toepiece apparatus is held in place by two torx wrench screws, one on each side in slots that run along the length of the heel’s mounting plate. These slots are long enough to allow a larger adjustment range than any of the Dynafit models, enough to accommodate a different boot size. In contrast, the Dynafit heel pieces owe their fore-aft adjustment to a threaded rod that goes through the post inside the heel. Here is one of my primary caveats for the Plum Guide bindings, to date. The torx screws are liable to become loose with time, due to vibration or torque on the heel while touring or whatever the cause may be. Therefore, it is important to check these screws before each trip or carry the torx wrench to tighten them. While this may seem annoying, it is much better than having the post or baseplate simply crack, in which case the only solution is to get a new one.
The holes for the screws that attach the Plum Guide bindings to the skis are countersunk thru holes. For anyone who has ever dealt with the dreaded diffulties due to the threaded holes in the plastic plate beneath a Dynafit toepiece, this makes mounting the bindings pure pleasure. The screws go into the ski like a hot knife through butter and the generous countersinks gently guide their heads into place. Like I said, sexier. Admittedly, it is possible to drill thru holes in the plastic plates of a Dynafit toepiece to sidestep this issue, but they still lack the generous countersink of the Plums. Also, why should excavating material from a binding be necessary or recommended before mounting it?
The toepiece of a Plum is slightly more difficult to engage, but that is because the springs are stronger. The snug metal does not feature any of the vibration that exists and grows in the metal-plastic interfaces of a Dynafit toepiece. It seems like it would be much more difficult to break the handle of the toepiece. The tolerances must be tight. The Plum Guides feel really solid both touring and skiing. There is no play.
The DIN goes to 12 and I believe it. So how is one to trust these newfangled bindings without some mileage in the mountains? I have been skiing these bindings for nearly two months and they have inspired nothing but confidence. This includes 30-m+ ski rappels with my skis grating against rocks with absolute confidence, sixty degree steeps in the Coast Mountains and icy moguls at Taos Ski Valley – a place legendary for moguls currently in a thin snow year.
The verdict is that these bindings are bomber. They offer the same featherweight as thte lightest non-racing Dynafit binding and they seem more durable than any other AT binding I’ve skied. Only time will tell whether that is really true, but mine have already withstood abuse that has broken multiple pairs of touring bindings in the past. When I ski these bindings, I don’t consciously (or subconsciously) modify my skiing when it gets bumpy and icy, which I’ve had to do with touring rigs in the past.
Plum, je t’aime.