In 2012 Lars Chickering-Ayers stepped aside from crushing the competition in the Freeskiing World Tour, and launched his prototype CAST Binding System. The Cast was one of the first of its kind, allowing the skier to swap out a tech-touring toe for the ascent with an alpine binding for the descent.
It debuted in an era that was still committed to either heavy frame style bindings or basic low-tech touring bindings. However, it was heavy and prone to icing as you interchanged parts. Despite this, many dedicated hard charging pro-skiers continued to use the Cast as the industry evolved with the launch of the Dynafit Beast in 2014 to now the Salomon Shift in 2017.
Today, Lars along side his brother Silas have updated the CAST with the Freetour from their Driggs, Idaho facility. The latest iteration weighs approximately only 100grams more than the Shift (865g).
We started developing the new system three years ago. We decided the old kit was finicky with so many parts. I started from the ground up and approached it as if I was a binding manufacturer, it's now as efficient as possible. We decided to base the new system off the Look Pivot (we had so many different alpine kits before), their engineers don't change much and it's all metal. We eliminated all the plates, so there is nowhere to ice up. I think we've down a pretty good job to make it work in snow and ice.
Last year we sold out of every little part we had. This year we're a month behind schedule, but still ahead of last year. Not many companies have as many solid skiers as we do for the team. It's cool to see support within the industry and that genre of skiers, guides, and patrollers. It seems like our core demographic is appreciated.
We've been in Driggs, ID for five years. In September I picked up a CNC mill. We're doing most of the assembly (like before), but also now machining the aluminum and cutting molds, assembly, tooling, all that stuff… We've got a bit more control over the whole process, and I designed our own tech toe with additional functionality and collaborated with Spark R+D and 22 Designs who will use our tech toe. (Note, the CAST System uses the tech toe for touring, not skiing).
I started the Cast in 2012. For a couple years we did small runs for friends and folks who needed the system. We did a Kickstarter in 2014 and we sold those from 2014-2016. I started developing this new one a few years ago.
I'm not nearly dumb enough to think getting into the ski binding game is a profitable future. At the time there just there wasn't anything out there. I knew from being in the industry it wasn't going to happen – too much risk and those companies are seeing 10-20K on products they weren't going to take it on this idea. It took a lot of money from Salomon to develop the Shift and there was no guarantee of a financial return. They were sort of keeping an eye of what we were doing.
The Salomon Shift proved how complicated this idea can be. I've been in touch with them as well. It's cool to have them define this genre that we were trying to establish. It's direct competition but it's still the only real alternative. Ours is 100 grams heavier than the Shift, but all metal.
The first system had us placing tech inserts in ski boots, and I wrote a business plan about it. We're hardly doing any of them now, since every major boot company now has a walk mode or tech insert.
I don't think the interface of the tech bindings will ever match the dampening of an alpine ski binding. But it's cool seeing those companies trying to make that platform work now.
Releasability in tech bindings is a messy subject. I've figured it out over the years. The long and short of it is alpine bindings were created because of lower leg injuries—it was hurting the sport. The alpine binding ISO Standards did a good job at fixing that, but with the original tech bindings there was no injury prevention and they weren't designed around the forces and anatomy.
There hasn't been more of an outcry because the sample numbers will never be near the numbers of alpine skiers, you need lateral release in the tech toe to prevent spiral fractures. There are a couple who are getting elastic travel and lateral release, so I think they're trying.
You don't need to be hucking cliffs and skiing fast to benefit from the system. It's about the energy transfer. Our kit works for anyone looking for a safer touring binding with a DIN 8-18, and you get fully machined metal parts that will last for years (The FreeTour is $375 and an extra kit is only $100).