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Fritschi Vipec Review

Price:   $600 List | $599.95 at REI
Pros:  Lightweight even by tech binding standards, toe and heel are DIN adjustable, heel risers are easy to engage, tour-to-ski mode is slick, rad heel and toe retention elasticity for a safer and more consistent release
Cons:  Harder to get into that other tech bindings, occasionally it's harder to get the binding to properly lock into downhill mode
Editors' Rating:   
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Manufacturer:   Fritschi

Our Verdict

The Fritschi Vipec is an excellent all-around touring binding that impressed our testers with its downhill performance, slick transitioning prowess, and most of all, a design that maximizes skier safety. It is the only tech style binding in our review that offers a toe and a heel piece with adjustable release values. This model also features 13 mm of travel within the heel piece; each toe prong operates and can open interdependently of the others, maximizing skier safety. This binding offers all these features, all while being around a half a pound lighter than its biggest competitors, the Dynafit Radical ST 2.0 and G3 ION 12. This model is a great binding; the one thing that kept it from being an award winner was its overall ease of use, specifically its challenging toe piece entry. Our testers eventually figured it out, but this pair of bindings had a much longer learning curve than most other tech style bindings.

New Version - January 2017
The Fritschi Vipec AT binding has been replaced by the updated Fritschi Vipec 12 TUV AT binding, keep reading to find out more!


RELATED REVIEW: The Best Bindings for Backcountry Skiing


Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results

Review by:
Ian Nicholson
Review Editor
OutdoorGearLab

Last Updated:
Tuesday
March 15, 2016

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New Version - January 2017


Fritschi has replaced the Vipec binding with a new version: the Vipec 12 TUV. The new binding looks slightly different, but the primary change has been in the toepiece. The updated toepiece is supposed to be easier to step into, and has achieved TUV certification for safety release. Fritschi has another update in store for the Vipec line next year that will replace the Vipec 12 TUV, the Vipec EVO. Check out a side-by-side comparison of the two bindings below with the Vipec 12 TUV on the left and the version we tested on the right!
Fritschi Vipec 12
 

Hands-on Review


Performance Comparison


Fritschi Vipec 12
Fritschi Vipec 12

Ease of Use


While the Vipec has many advantages, ease of stepping into the toe piece is not one of them. Even after four days of use, our testers found this model more challenging to get into than the Dynafit Radical ST 2.0, G3 ION 12, or Marker Kingpin 13. Its spring loaded toe too easily misalignes with the user's boot, closing shut prematurely. This is especially evident when trying to use more traditional techniques, which are commonly used when stepping into a tech style binding toe piece. We do recognize that all alpine touring bindings have their quirks, and we found that if we set our heel above the pins on the rear part of the binding, this set us up for the perfect distance for the front pin holes of our boot, and we were more likely to get it first try.

While skinning uphill, our testers sometimes experienced a small inconvenience: the brakes suddenly deploying. This was certainly more problematic on wetter days (where icing was more of an issue) and the problem never proved to be a permanent issue; just a slight pain to re-engage the brake into touring mode.

Touring Performance


This contender offers slightly above-average overall touring performance. This model offers all the same benefits as other tech bindings with efficient stride, and is the lightest tech binding to receive the ISO/DIN certification. This binding's heel risers are among the easiest to engage and disengage, and its relatively low weight and ease-to-transition design make this competitor a solid touring binding.

Transitions


To transition this contender from ski touring mode to downhill mode, you must flip a black leaver on the back of the binding upwards; this can be done with a little above-average force via a ski pole, or easily with your hand. We found the transition to be much easier than the Kingpin 13, which took more force and was more prone to icing. A sweet feature of this model is how easily you can transition back to touring from downhill mode. Our testers found this especially useful when using "Nordic Mode" (a term many backcountry tourers use to describe traveling on relatively level ground with heels free, but no skins).

Downhill Performance


We really liked the overall downhill performance; this model hit a nice balance between weight, energy transfer, and skier safety. A unique feature of this binding is it's the only tech binding to feature an adjustable DIN setting (to adjust the release value) in the toe and the heel of the binding. All other tech bindings merely feature two adjustable heel DIN settings (one for vertical release and the other for lateral), but the toe remains set. Another safety oriented feature is its 13 mm of lateral travel in the toe piece and independent toe prongs that allow a skier to be released (or retained) over a greater array of fall angles and possibilities.

All of these factors helped this contender become one of the earlier tech bindings to receive the TUV's ISO/DIN certification for skier safety and consistence in release values; our testers appreciated the particularly low 5 mm of ramp angle. This competitor skied downhill as good or better than most touring bindings, performing better on the descent than the G3 ION 12, around the same as the Dynafit Radical ST 2.0 and the Dynafit Beast 16, and close (but maybe not quite) in performance to the Marker Kingpin 13.

Durability


This model is a durable binding that provides confidence when touring deep into the backcountry in remote locations. After talking with several backcountry shops, AMGA and ACMG ski guides, and outdoor retail sales reps, we feel this competitor offers comparable durability to the G3 ION 12, and is likely very near as durable as the Dynafit Radical 2.0.

Weight


These bindings weigh in at 1090 g (2 lb 1 oz) per pair, which is around half a pound lighter than the Dynafit Radical 2.0 or G3 ION 12 (both 2 lbs 9 oz per pair), and over a pound lighter than the Marker KingPin (3 lbs 4 oz/1460 g). With that being said, this model doesn't give up much for its' lighter than average weight.

Other Features


There is no standardization among where the pins "have" to fit on a boot; while the ski-touring industry is moving towards this, not all boots will fit as well as others will into a given binding's pins. Fritschi has attempted to overcome this with adjustable pin lengths to help achieve a better fit with any given boot, thus resulting in better downhill performance. Fritschi had some issue with their pins falling out of their bindings, but this was more a result of the glue that Fritschi bought to use on their bindings rather than a design flaw. They quickly fixed this problem and the newer bindings don't appear to have this same issue.

Best Applications


This model is a super capable touring binding that will perform fine, but not amazingly, for in-bounds adventures. We'd highly recommend it for touring, but if you plan on riding chairs for more than 50% of your ski days, this pair of bindings isn't nearly as nice to ski as the beefier AT bindings, such as the Marker Baron 13 EPF, Marker Duke, or Fritschi Freeride Pro.

Value and the Bottom Line


At $600, this pair of bindings is in line with most other touring bindings; it's $50 more than the Dynafit Radical ST 2.0 or the G3 ION 12, but $50 less than the Marker Kingpin. Compared to the Radical ST 2.0 and the ION, you do save nearly half a pound of weight and this pair of bindings offers the fairly unique ability to adjust the release values of both the toe and the heel, rather than most tech style bindings only offering heel release value adjustment.

Conclusion


The Vipec is one of the safer tech style touring bindings on the market, with remarkably good downhill performance. They are one of our tester's favorite pair of touring bindings and would have been at least a Top Pick given their positives. However, this model's downfall is that the toe piece takes a little getting used to as far as entry goes.
Ian Nicholson

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Most recent review: March 15, 2016
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