Ski Trab Titan Vario Review
Cons: No brake option, narrow heel elevation range
Manufacturer: Ski Trab
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Among light to average tech bindings, there is surprisingly little actual variation in overall design. The primary differentiations are in weight (which does indeed span a large range) and, at the upper end of the weight range, DIN/ISO certification. Other than these two things, many of the differences between bindings are pretty small. The underlying design is pretty much the same across the board. The Ski Trab Vario Titan 2.0, though, bucks this trend. The toe piece of the Vario is very different than the others, and the working bits and main structure of the Vario toe piece is made of one piece of spring titanium. It serves as strength, release, and toe pivot hold. The end result is lightweight, simple, and brings some arguably beneficial performance attributes. The flip side of that is that getting in is more difficult than with other bindings.
When we discuss touring performance, we first examine toe pivot range, icing propensity, and heel elevators deployment, range, and options. In none of these ways is the Vario Titan anything special. The toe pivot range is more than you would ever need. Only certain bulky, specialized bindings have issues in this way. The minimalist form of the Titan and the special one-piece toe spring/bar reduces icing as compared to others. Finally, there are three heel elevation options, but they are all quite similar to one another. These three options cover the range of two of some of the other bindings in our test.
In our testing, downhill performance of the Ski Trab Vario didn't stand out in any significant way. On the surface, and in our testing, the Vario Titan is similar to any of the other bindings, downhill. The geometry (stack height and toe/heel delta) is about average. Release value is adjustable but in a very limited and rudimentary fashion. Other reviews, and Ski Trab's own marketing materials, makes much of the downhill "elasticity" advantages of the toe piece. It is true that the spring works in a fundamentally different way than other toe pieces. But our testing and our understanding of the engineering doesn't suggest any major actual advantage.
Similarly, this "2.0" version of the Vario has a "zero gap" at the heel piece/boot interface. The heel piece is then spring loaded to accommodate under-foot ski flex. This also has a theoretical and claimed downhill ski advantage. More to the point is that it "looks like" alpine binding "forward pressure". It isn't actual forward pressure, and we haven't noticed any actual advantage of any bindings equipped with a zero gap, as compared to gapped and non-sprung heel pieces. This isn't a bad thing; all these bindings ski downhill just fine.
Ease of Use
The Ski Trab Vario's primary differentiation, in terms of ease of use, is its toe piece. Depending on which boots you use, you will likely need to reach down with hand or pole and hold the binding open to get the pins into your boot toe holes. In practice, this presents a hassle and a learning curve that is similar to getting used to tech binding entry in the first place. With skins on your skis, it is much easier than without skins on. On uneven ground, without skins on, you need to reach down with your hand and simultaneously hold the ski steady while holding the toe piece open. Skins on your skis better stick the bottom of the ski to the snow, stabilizing everything. Certain boots, now, include toe fittings that will step into the Vario Titan. In our testing, we've used one pair (La Sportiva Sytron) so equipped and found that the ease of use indeed improves.
Aside from the toe piece thing, there is little to note about the ease of use of the Ski Trab Vario. The heel piece turns easily and transitions between the various modes with positive clicks. The toe piece locks as required. The bindings are equipped to use standard ski crampons. The "zero gap" between boot and heel piece is engineered for performance benefits.
The fact is, though, that its greatest advantage is that adjustments when changing boots are simpler. You need not measure when you change boots; just watch the boot/binding gap go to zero and stop there.
The Ski Trab Vario Titan 2.0 (we assessed the adjustable model) weighs 1.23 pounds for the pair. This isn't "ultralight", but it is in the mix with the lightweight, all-around options. In this same weight class you could get basic brakes but not much more. In order to drop much in weight, you lose some heel levels and/or length adjustment range. In order to get DIN/ISO certification, you need to double the mass of the Ski Trab Vario.
We had no issues with the integrity of the Vario Titan. This 2.0 version is brand new for 2019/20 and is brand new in our testing. The main changes for the 2.0 version are in the heel piece. The toe piece design has been around for years, and our test team has extensive experience that supports a hearty endorsement. The heel piece is simple, clean, and made using proven and established technology. We aren't worried about the durability of the Ski Trab Vario.
For sophisticated, lightweight equipment, the Ski Trab Vario won't break the bank. It is right in the same cost category as most of our award winners. You can get even greater reliability for a lower cost with our Best Buy winner, but it is heavier.
The unique toe piece of the Ski Trab Vario sets it apart. For many, and you can count some of our test team in that number, this differentiation is important. Overall, and in robust testing, we didn't notice huge differences, but you might. At the very least, the one-piece spring lends confidence and uniqueness that may inspire your greater performances. You can't discount confidence. Check these out.
— Jediah Porter