ExoBindings – the new way of ski touring

The dream is simple. To travel free and fast in the snowy mountains. Not to be a beast of burden to heavy gear. To feel freedom, joy, and to travel with a light heart where your spirit knows of no boundaries. Every peak is easily ascended and the downhills are enjoyed with bounty.

This is the dream I have had since I was a young boy looking at the mountains. Over the last 5 years I have invented and developed the idea of the exoskeleton ski binding. The concept was to create a touring “ski boot” from  a normal flexible walking boot and a carbon fibre exoskeleton structure which provided the stiffness and rigidity required for skiing. I also wanted a binding I could clip in/out of the ski without bending, which resulted in a crampon being incorporated into the design. What I have ended up with is a very light and versatile ski mountaineering system, something which I believe is not equalled in existing ski equipment.

When up in the snow I typically attach the ExoBinding at the start of the day and it stays there unless I am walking long distances over rocks (more than 1 km). I have found the integrated crampon priceless and on one occasion it might have saved my life when ski traversing an icy slope above cliffs.  I soon realised the terrain was not what I had expected and had to take my skis off and continue with crampons. Often when touring you will be climbing up an icefall or basin and when you come to a major ridge the nice snow disappears and you are left with polished ice. To be able to step from your ski to the snow with your crampons already on has incredible time savings and safety benefits.

My current design is for telemark skiing, however the configuration will work equally well for downhill skiing – it is early days yet and I haven’t worked through all the possible combinations. A friend also wants a pair for heliskiing so I intend to somehow replace the crampon with a walking plate which will not trash the helicopter. There are also plans afoot with Richard (a friend who I made my skis with) to try using the bindings for snowboarding.

The current design utilises Titanium, 7075 “aerospace” aluminium, Carbon Fibre, Innegra (Kevlar like material), acetyl and UHMPE plastics and finally a few stainless steel nuts and washers. The bindings are light – lighter than any telemark ski system on the market. For my current setup the weights are:

Item Weight (per foot)
Boot 750g
Foot piece / exoskeleton 450g
Toe latch 250g
TOTAL 1450g

So the complete system weight is lighter than most plastic telemark boots, and for this weight you get:

  • Boot that is easy to walk in
  • High performance binding
  • Integrated crampon
  • No bending, step in/out of skis

When looking at the system weights they are comparable to Dynafit ski gear. This is currently the lightest gear on the market (something that telemark skiers are a bit embarrassed about!). So in comparison to the current market leaders in light weight, high performance gear, the ExoBinding system is about equal except:

  • This ExoBinding system is a lot younger – give it a few years of refinement and things will be lighter still
  • The Dynafit system does not include the crampon
  • Include the weight of a crampon and this system is the lightest in the world

A patent application is filed for the invention and I am investigating ways to commercialise the product. I have lots of people who want a pair so my challenge is refining the design, finding people to work with, moving to a production environment and making sure I still go skiing!

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