Fritschi is king
- Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer
Been on these all season now skiing in and out of bounds, probably about 20 days in the northeast and 4 days in central CO. I won't list out the specific conditions I used them for, pretty much everything a decent skier would do I guess. I don't think I would buy any other touring binding besides these or the Tectons because they leave me wanting for nothing.
First of all they ski just plain great. The effect of having the lateral release occur at the toe instead of the heel is huge. In high pressure turns you feel rooted into the ski in a way you would only get from a tech binding with a rotating heel piece if you had the RV jacked up higher than it ought to be, or the toe piece locked. Obviously they still felt fairly harsh through vertically variable terrain, as would any tech binding that uses the two metal rods to secure the heel vertically. For that reason I could see myself buying a pair of Tectons in the future. But I will definitely be keeping the Vipecs on my Fischer Transalp 88s as long as I'm skiing them.
As for safety, I can vouch for their release reliability. Using a touring binding that skied so good just got me doing crazy stuff, and I fell a lot. They released when I thought they were supposed to several times and I just kept going with my day.
A lot of reviewers seem to critique these bindings for their ease of use, and I guess I agree but honestly I don't really care. I'm totally willing to put up with the fiddliness of the toe piece in exchange for what I get out of it. It's a learned technique anyway and I have gotten better at using it.
One really neat and unique thing you can do with this binding is that you can put the heel piece in walk mode without unclipping the toe piece. I've even tried this while still in motion (slowly) and transitioning from alpine skating to Nordic skating. Very fun!
Yeah there's a lot of plastic on this binding, and sure it's not exactly confidence inspiring at first, but I try to be nice to my gear and I've had no durability problems. The only way I could really see something breaking is if you stomped on the heel risers as hard as you could repeatedly, and maybe you could do it in. If you're someone who really pounds those suckers hard and you just can't help it, consider the Tecton instead which has metal risers that seem to clasp the heel piece a little more firmly.