by Paul Karchut
North Vancouver-based G3 has made a big splash this year with its latest ski touring binding. The Ion is meant to pick-up where the company's maligned Onyx binding left off.
Both the Onyx and the Ion are tech bindings; they use pins to hold boots to skis, just the two front ones for going up and the front as well as two on the heel for going down.
The Onyx was G3's first foray into alpine touring bindings. Users complained about the Onyx's heft and finicky use. Cameron Shute, the product developer for the Ion, maintains that the Onyx brought a lot of good things to the table, like the ability to go from tour mode to ski mode without stepping out of the binding or its ability to be serviced in the field easily. The Ion, on the other hand, needs no defenders, going toe-to-toe in both weight and DIN settings with any lightweight tech binding, including the industry leading Dynafit Radical
The Ion took three years to get from the concept stage to the market. And all the design considerations show. There's a small toe guide that makes stepping into this binding much less fiddly than in traditional tech-toe bindings. The clamping force of the toe pins is also much stronger and is meant to break up ice for you throughout the day so you don't have to bring out your pocket knife to deal with binding blocking build up on your boots. It's attention to little details like this that make the Ion a winner.
Another feature I appreciated — when you flip to tour mode, the brakes stay activated until you take your first touring step. This kept the skis from running away during transitions.
My biggest beef is that one of the pairs of test bindings constantly flipped itself back into ski mode while on the uptrack. I'd be touring along and suddenly my heel would be locked down again. Incredibly annoying! This is a common heel piece spring problem that G3 has been hearing about; I'm told it's a quick warranty fix.
All in all, this is a fantastic new offering to AT skiers and apparently people like it. Cameron Shute says this season's offering sold out months ago. Expect a bigger production run for next season.