Taking their name from the highest mountain in the Bavarian section of the Ammergau Alps, Kreuzspitze is a company founded by two dedicated ski mountaineers who also happen to be engineers. Headquartered Northeast of Verona, Italy, company founders Bruno Terragnolo and Alessio Trentinaglia have combined forces – and their knowledge gained through ski mountaineering racing – to create lightweight race bindings for human powered skiers. For the 2011/2012 season, it looks like they’ll expand the range of offerings to include Trail race skis and Trail Race Poles as well.
Ostensibly, the lighweight Kreuzspitze Race bindings are made for the ski-mo, or ski mountaineering, racing crowd. That hasn’t prevented me from using them as an everyday backcountry ski binding, however. They’re ultra light, offer only two heel lift positions – flat on the ski, and almost flat, and provide no DIN release setting. It is largely due to the lack of adjustable DIN release values that this binding is not sold in the Unites States. Americans love to litigate when they get hurt – as can happen when one uses bindings of any sort, which has resulted in the need for companies to pay a fee to help cover potential liabilities. These fees are substantial enough to prevent small binding manufacturing companies such as Kreuzspitze from offering their goods here. Fortunately, somebody invented the Internet, and bindings such as these can be ordered in from overseas, even if they can’t be purchased at your local ski shop.
Why go to such lengths? Well, the future of gear for human powered skiing is light. That’s been established, and continues to be established daily. And the Kreuzspitze Race binding is light. The company claims 70 grams per heelpiece, without screws. Surprise, surprise – this is the first piece of gear I’ve weighed on my calibrated gram scale to come in under the manufacturer’s stated weight. I came up with 68 and 69 grams. 4 screws per heel fasten both heels on the ski at a weight of 15 grams.
Any other reasons to consider Kreuzspitze? You bet. While the large Euro ski-mo scene has provided the impetus for the creation of upwards of ten tech binding manufacturers, there are only a handful of lightweight binding manufacturers selling product in the USA. Those are Dynafit, Ski Trab, Plum, and La Sportiva. Issues abound with Ski Trab’s offering, which has resulted in a highly necessary recall. Dynafit and La Sportiva’s race oriented binding offerings cost $700. The Plum is presently available at only a few stores across the nation, although that is likely to change for next season.
In a small but competitive field, Kreuzspitze is a contender. Pricing varies slightly for different material compositions, but a complete set of Snow Crab toe pieces and Race heels – with either steel (143 grams per toe/heel combo) or titanium (135 grams per toe/heel combo) forks – runs 429 Euros. That’s about $615 at today’s Euro to Dollar conversion rates (1 to 1.43) and doesn’t include shipping. But it’s close to $100 less than competitor’s offerings. The Snow Crab toe pieces (299 Euro) are available separate from the heels, and vice versa. The Race heels cost 130 Euro, while the Trofeo is 140 Euro. I like that they sell the parts separately – that could come in handy in several scenarios.
I’ve found that the binding operates solidly. It holds my heels in place snugly, yet if I twist my boot forcefully with the toepiece locked, the heel swivels smoothly. It will eject the boot in a fall, DIN rated or not. I won’t pretend to know what DIN setting this corresponds to, but in months of mountain use, I’ve popped out of my heelpiece only a couple of times. For the record, I ski a very large amount of the time with my toepieces locked out. Having heard that this corresponds to a DIN setting of anywhere from 6 to 14 explains my reluctance to put a number on the retention factor. But I ski all sorts of slopes in a wide variety of conditions, and this binding has treated me right. I don’t worry about it coming off when I don’t want it to, as when the slopes are steep.
More than one trail user has inquired if my binding is an old Dynafit model, and I can sorta see why. The appearance of the Kreuzspitze is a bit utilitarian and spartan. But the performance has been strictly modern and first rate. Stepping into them is smooth. When in freeheel mode for uphill approaches, they spin easily and ‘notch’ into any one of their four positions. The lever that prevents one from inadvertently stepping into locked heel mode on the uphill stays in place throughout the uphill travel. The same lever flips up easily, remaining unobtrusively in a raised position behind the ski boot when the heel is locked down for skiing.
Comprised of Ergal, hardened steel, and stainless steel (also available with a titanium fork for the same cost, and an 8 grams-per-side weight savings), this is no flimsy binding. It’s built to provide lasting performance. The hole pattern is different than the standard Dynafit heel piece however, so if you’re downsizing, take that into consideration. But if you’re looking to shed some gear weight in the binding area, Kreuzspitze is a definite contender for your dollar. Or your Euros, as the case may be…
New, negligibly lighter, ‘Trofeo’ heels are presently available for an extra 10 Euros. Also presently available are adjustment plates in various lengths, which allow for 14, 18, or even 40 mm of heel adjustability for those who use different sized pairs of boots. Plate prices range from 37 to 45 Euros. As is common with race heel bindings, there is no adjustability fore and aft with a standard mount.
If you’re tired of the same old, same old out of the binding market, here’s a company with ski-mo oriented products that are unique, light, and strong. Give their products a look at the Kreuzspitze website. You might just end up shaving some weight from your skiing rig, for which your legs will thank you..