The Gathering at Red Resort and Salomon's Guardian 16 Binding
The Gathering No. 4
Rossland BC March 23-24, 2012
Red Mountain Resort hosted The Gathering over Friday and Saturday last week. With not much idea on what it was all about, we decided it was the perfect opportunity to head over to Rossland, sneak in bit of Red Mountain's slackcountry and see for ourselves what all this gathering was about.
We discovered that the Gathering is really about bringing together and showcasing stories, talent and personalities from the ski industry. The Miners Hall in Rossland was an ideal venue for an eclectic range photographic and film presentations with some seriously unique stories. Ski legends and personalities such as John Eaves and John Faulkner presented alongside photographic stars including Mark Shapiro and Blake Jorgensen. John Eaves' film shorts from his days as a ski stuntman were seriously entertaining and crazy (think skiing a bobsled run or down 50 degree blue ice on toothpicks).
Salomon will be sponsoring the Gathering at Red Mountain for the next three years so if you missed this years there is always next year and Red has plenty of great on-resort accommodation if you're planning a visit.
With Salomon the major sponsor we had the opportunity to check out the latest Salomon ski line up and take a good look at the new Guardian 16 AT binding.
Salomon Rocker2 115 + Guardian 16 AT Binding
The second day of the Gathering at Red Resort we went searching for some left over powder from the weeks storm cycles. We were armed with the Salomon Rocker2 115 mounted with the Guardian AT Bindings. These are Salomon's (new for Fall 2012) fat rockered skis and their entry into the alpine touring Binding market.
We set our sights on Mt. Roberts but first had to make a quick detour into the Red Resort rental shop for some downhill boots as the Salomon Guardian AT Bindings would not safely accommodate my Dalbello Virus Tour ID AT boots. The problem it seems is that the boot has particular design features that optimize it for a tech binding but don't fit so well with a more freeride oriented touring binding. The boots sole rises slightly at the toe and the toe itself is pointier with a shorter binding fixture which doesn't sync with the Guardian binding toe wings. On top of this the Dalbello has a rubber sole to enhance walking which can be sticky with the binding release plate underneath the toe of the boot. This basically means you may not release as well as if you were in a plastic soled boot.
We did give a try with the Black Diamond Swift AT boots which fit the Guardian fine but still have the full rubber sole. Our friendly Salomon ski-tech Ryan was very knowledgable and let me know that most tech compatible AT boots are not ideal with freeride oriented touring bindings such as the Salomon Guardian or Marker AT bindings. The micro misfit of the boots can compromise the bindings ability to perform, and more importantly, compromise ski release. Short term solution was a pair of rental Tecnica boots, long term solution according to Ryan was a pair of Salomon's Quest AT boots.
With the Guardian AT Binding riddle solved we headed out to give them a test on a few side-country laps. The main advantage of the Guardian is that their lower, wider design keeps you close to the ski and effectively enables you to drive something as fat as the Salomon Rocker2 which was 115mm underfoot. The Guardian was super solid on the groomers and I wish the chop was not so frozen and the powder more plentiful so we could have given them a real work out. To better understand how the Guardian operates have a gander below of some shots of risers at work and the switch over from skiing to touring.
The switch over to tour mode from ski mode:
The Guts of the Guardian that make things happen:
Engaging the risers:
Risers in action:
Given that I was on rental boots I don't think it would be fair to assess the Salomon Rocker2 as the boots just didn't do the skis justice and we only had a few laps in marginal snow conditions. What I did experience I liked but we will have to leave the full review of the Salomon Rocker2 and Guardian 16 AT Bindings for when we are able to get our hands on these new products, along with of course the Quest AT compatible boots. Stay tuned.