The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of gear

Ski Trab Titan Vario Review

Simple, unique, lightweight bindings for all around human-powered backcountry skiing.
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Price:  $500 List
Pros:  Unique toe piece, lightweight
Cons:  No brake option, narrow heel elevation range
Manufacturer:   Ski Trab
By Jediah Porter ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Feb 11, 2020
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70
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#5 of 14
  • Touring Performance - 30% 7
  • Downhill performance - 25% 7
  • Weight - 25% 8
  • Ease of Use - 15% 5
  • Durability - 5% 7

Our Verdict

The Ski Trab Vario Titan 2.0 has a growing legion of enthusiastic fans. This is with good reason, as it's a lightweight, innovative second-generation product. The first version has been well tested, and this second round keeps the innovation and only makes iterative and welcome upgrades. Given the simplicity of the performance, we wish it were a little lighter. However, you will readily justify the weight cost for the unique toe piece.


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Pros Unique toe piece, lightweightLight, solid, just the right set of featuresLight, innovative downhill performanceLight, simple, advanced features for the weight.Solid, reliable ski bindings, excellent toe piece entry and easy heel lifter transitions
Cons No brake option, narrow heel elevation rangeNot ideal for truly hard-charging downhill skiersunsophisticated heel lifters, untested aftermarket brakeCrampon mount and brakes not included, heavier than closest competitionNo ski brake option, heavier than bindings with the same or more features
Bottom Line A unique design and engineering that certainly doesn’t detract from its performance.If you truly need more performance features than this lightweight binding provides, you fall into a tiny sliver of skiers at the hard-charging end of the spectrum.For any sort of human-powered wild skiing, this is a reliable choice.For the weight and cost, you get great functionality and features.Solid, simple ski bindings that cram some unique attributes into a reasonably priced package; we only wish they were lighter, included brakes, or both.
Rating Categories Ski Trab Titan Vario Atomic Backland Tour Marker Alpinist 12 G3 Zed 12 G3 Ion LT 12
Touring Performance (30%)
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
9
Downhill Performance (25%)
10
0
7
10
0
6
10
0
7
10
0
7
10
0
5
Weight (25%)
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
6
10
0
5
Ease Of Use (15%)
10
0
5
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
9
Durability (5%)
10
0
7
10
0
9
10
0
7
10
0
6
10
0
8
Specs Ski Trab Titan Vario Atomic Backland Tour Marker Alpinist 12 G3 Zed 12 G3 Ion LT 12
Weight (pounds for pair) 1.23 lbs 1.26 lbs 1.18 lbs 1.6 lbs 2.13 lbs
Release value range 9 to 11 "Men", "Women", "Expert" 6 to 12 5 to 12 5 to 12
Stack height. (mm. average of toe and heel pin height) 40 37 36 41 46
Toe/Heel Delta. (mm difference in height between heel pins and toe pins) 9 10 3 4 12.5
Brake options No Brakes 80, 90, 100, 110, 120 90, 105,115 mm 85, 100, 115, 130 mm No brakes
ISO/DIN Certified? No No No No No
Ski Crampon compatible? Yes. "Standard" Dynafit/B&D style. Yes. "Standard" Dynafit/ B&D style. Yes. "Standard" Dynafit/ B&D style. With aftermarket part. Only G3 brand. With aftermarket part. Only G3 brand.

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.

Performance Comparison


Touring in relatively lightweight ski bindings is a joy. You will definitely notice the difference on the way up. You might notice the minor differences on the way down.
Touring in relatively lightweight ski bindings is a joy. You will definitely notice the difference on the way up. You might notice the minor differences on the way down.

Touring Performance


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.

Middle and high riser levels on the Ski Trab Vario. There isn't a ton of difference between these levels.
Middle and high riser levels on the Ski Trab Vario. There isn't a ton of difference between these levels.

Downhill Performance


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.

The silver wire in the toe piece of the Vario Titan is spring and structure to the entire front of the binding.
The silver wire in the toe piece of the Vario Titan is spring and structure to the entire front of the binding.

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.

Other than trickier entry  using the Ski Trab Vario is pretty straightforward.
Other than trickier entry, using the Ski Trab Vario is pretty straightforward.

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.

Clicking into the Titan Vario requires holding the toe piece open. In practice  you'll get used to it.
Clicking into the Titan Vario requires holding the toe piece open. In practice, you'll get used to it.

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.

These La Sportiva boots have toe fittings that include a metal  inverted v-shape that pushes the toe pins open. With boots like this you can step in without holding the binding open.
These La Sportiva boots have toe fittings that include a metal, inverted v-shape that pushes the toe pins open. With boots like this you can step in without holding the binding open.

Weight


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.

280 grams isn't ultra light  but it is likely more svelte than what you are currently using. These are half the weight of big guns  but you can still cut this weight to a third.
280 grams isn't ultra light, but it is likely more svelte than what you are currently using. These are half the weight of big guns, but you can still cut this weight to a third.

Durability


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.

Value


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.

Conclusion


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