15. Alpine Trekkers
Rumor has it that these widely despised alpine touring binding adaptors have proven effective for “enhanced interrogation” on suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay. Subjects are forced to attempt to skin across a steep traverse until their spirits are utterly broken. I used them for years and I can attest that they are the only piece of ski equipment that every made me weep openly. If you’re looking for a workout to really build up those hip flexors while breaking down everything else in your body, awkwardly dragging twenty pounds of crap on each foot while you teeter six inches above your skis will get the job done.
Alpine Trekkers did have one major success, and that was the Fritschi touring binding. The Fritschis, which came out around the year 2000, had their flaws—they were flexy and fragile with an awkward pivot point for skinning—but compared to the Alpine Day Wreckers they were the best things in the world because you could do amazing stuff like edge on a sidehill, change directions, or just pick your ski up off the ground to step over something. They’ve since been surpassed by Dynafit-style tech bindings, but there was a time when Fritschi could name their price and any Alpine Trekker victim would gratefully pay it.
16. Naxo touring bindings
Naxo made innovative and cool-sounding multi-pivot AT bindings in the early 2000’s that were capable of breaking without even skiing on them, such as while passively riding a chairlift. I swear to God I actually saw this happen to Powder Senior Photographer Christian Pondella. Yes, I sniggered.
Dear Head Skis: nobody wants skis made out of liquid, even liquid metal. It sounds as if they might leak, or dribble. I also recommend not using the term MoistTech, no matter how damp the skis are—you can have that for free.
18. Contemporary entry that hasn’t been abandoned yet: Elan Amphibio skis
The Slovenian company makes great skis (and makes great skis for plenty of supposedly “independent” brands too) but you can always count on Elan for really weird-ass concepts. In the late 90’s, right as fat skis became the hot new thing, they came out with an ultra-narrow (40mm underfoot!) carving ski called the Stealth. Their current line of performance carving skis, models like the Amphibio 84 XTI Fusion, have asymmetrical sidecuts and also feature Amphibio 4D Technology, which means that “the front part of the ski is designed to be convex, while the back is concave,” thus making them asymmetric left and right and fore and aft, and implies squirrelly in the tips yet hooky in the tails. They probably work fine, and Glen Plake skis on them, but somehow I don’t think the market is going to go for skis with four-dimensional amphibian technology unless someone puts LSD in the water supply.
Actually, now I kind of want a pair.
19. The Hangl Plate
This was another weird, bulky under-binding carving plate, from Salomon in this case, that sank without a ripple. Hangl Plate sounds like a medical prosthesis that has to be inserted. Would have been fun to write ad copy for it though—”What’s Hangl of your dangl?” “Let’s go Hangl now, everybody’s learning how, c’mon on a Hanglfari with me…” etc. (If anyone at a ski company is wondering, yes, I would love a job in the Tech Jargon Department. Pleasepleaseplease.)
20. The Biometric Toepiece
When they were first introduced, the Marker M48 with the all-new Biometric toepiece was the most sophisticated binding available. With a sleek design by Porsche, a unique twin-cam parallelogram linkage and multi-angle release, they seemed decades ahead of the single-pivot toe pieces that Salomon and Look had been making for years. Although they made no definitive claims, Marker also implied that they were safer for your knees. Which I think was probably true, because unless you cranked them to insane levels they would release like a Volant ski would delaminate: early and often.
The innovative upward release mode was the culprit. While no doubt beneficial in the low-speed rearward-twisting falls that can cause ACL injury, they tended to let go if you were just a little in the backseat and hit a bump, or even when the ski counterflexed as it rebounded from a rut or a landing. So jackasses like me just cranked them up, which probably had the paradoxical outcome of blowing more knees.
While Marker strenuously denied that they were what you might call a “release oriented” binding, it was hard to ignore the fact that the race stock models did not feature the retail binding’s upward release mode, had boot-grabbing teeth machined into the surfaces that contacted the toe lugs, and were available with a DIN range that topped out at an insane 30 (“Just set them on 28, that ought to do it.”) which is enough force to snap a race boot, let alone your tib-fib.
Marker’s modern performance bindings (with an all-new design) seem good (and don’t feature an upward release at the toe), but there’s no denying that the old Biometric models were the only binding to ever generate a verb. “What happened?” “I was just skiing along and I markered out.” They may have prevented thousands of injuries via that effortless release, but I for one would have liked to have been able to ski moguls, lean back a little, or hit a rut on the groomer without markering out.
Still, Biometric does sound cooler than say, Amphibio, Hangl, or Oversize Technology, so good job on that one, 1980’s Marker marketing dept.
21. Volkl SpeedWall Sidewall Wax
Yes, this is a real thing. I don’t know if they’re still trying to sell it but they did, and I know because I own a stick. Yes, a stick—it looks like a tiny deodorant dispenser. Apparently excessive sidewall drag is a problem, and the scientists and engineers at Volkl were sure that concerned consumers would be delighted to rub miniature deodorant sticks on the sides of their skis to solve it. You can just imagine some German lab coat guy rubbing Old Spice in his armpit and having the eureka moment.
And the sidewall wax is “natural”, it says so right on the label. Maybe this winter Volkl will go next-level and release an all-organic natural sidewall wax. Or a gluten-free vegan all-organic natural sidewall wax for high-speed carving fanatics with a conscience. Hell, why not wax the topsheets, bindings, and boots too? The ceiling is pretty much unlimited.