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CAST Pivot Freetour System

Cy Whitling reviews the CAST pivot Freetour system for Blister Gear Review.

CAST Pivot Freetour System

CAST Pivot Freetour System

Stated Weight: 1000 grams per binding with the tech / touring toe

Stand Height: 20 mm

Climbing Bails: 8°, 12.5°

Boot Sole Compatibility: WTR, ISO 5355

DIN Range: 4-14 or 8-18

Stated Features:

  • Auto-locking brake retainer
  • Ski crampon clip
  • Quick swap AFD

MSRP: $650 (10% off for pre-orders)

Intro

Lars and Silas Chickering-Ayers, the mad scientists at CAST, have been combining LOOK Pivot alpine bindings and Dynafit touring bindings for a while now, and we first covered their SI&I system back in 2013.

Today, they are announcing a totally new system, the “Pivot Freetour.” The Pivot Freetour looks to build on the success of the SI&I system, while making it more user-friendly and efficient.

The original CAST “SI&I System”

For those not familiar with the SI&I system, check out our review here. Basically, the system allows you to swap between a LOOK Pivot and Dynafit toe, enabling you to tour up with a tech toe, then at the top, swap that tech toe out for a LOOK Pivot toe, and ski back down with a full alpine Pivot setup.

Cy Whitling reviews the CAST pivot Freetour system for Blister Gear Review.

CAST SI&I System

When transitioning, the SI&I system is more of a hassle than most tech bindings, but it’s an attractive system for skiers who don’t trust tech bindings on bigger lines, or who simply want the security and consistent release values of Pivots.

But the SI&I system was not perfect. The toe-swapping mechanism would occasionally ice up, making for slow transitions (I’ve actually toured with people who carried a special brush for their CAST system), and having to hold your brakes up with a rubber band was inelegant and could be frustrating.

The new Pivot Freetour System addresses these issues and simplifies the system.

The new CAST Pivot Freetour System

Now, instead of using the entire Pivot toe and a Dynafit toe, Cast has taken the Pivot toe off its standard mounting plate and machined their own plate. The new system uses Pivot 14 (DIN range 4-14) or Pivot 18 (DIN Range 8-18) bindings that are modified with CAST manufactured parts and either an alpine or WTR AFD.

CAST is also now using their own tech toe, instead of the Dynafit Radical toe they were using for the SI&I system. This allows the swapping mechanism to be much simpler; instead of the plate; there are now just four pegs.

Check out how the swapping mechanism works in this video:


CAST has also redesigned the heel. Instead of rubberbanding your brakes while touring, the new heel model auto locks the brakes into touring mode. I’m personally excited about this because having to rubber band the heels was another tedious step in an already long transitioning process. Between the new toes and heels, transitions should be much smoother.

But … Is There Really a Need For This?

That’s the big question. When CAST first released their SI&I system, the Marker Kingpin wasn’t on the market, and tech bindings were a lot less reliable than they are now. So do we really need an updated CAST system when modern AT bindings are so much
Better? For some skiers, the answer is: Absolutely.

While the Kingpin does ski well, it is not an alpine binding, and it doesn’t have the same power transmission, elasticity, or release mechanism of an alpine binding. A lot of backcountry skiers accept all of that, and many skiers are willing to forego the performance and safety of a dedicated alpine binding. But some skiers are not willing to forego that … and the more you stop and think about why not … the more rational their position becomes.

With the Pivot Freetour system, you purportedly get the power transmission, suspension, and consistent release that should allow you to rally mediocre-to-awful conditions inbounds, where bindings like the Kingpin fall short.

In theory, with the CAST Pivot Freetour system you get a binding that actually performs just as well inbounds as out of bounds, with a bit of a weight penalty — 230 g per binding in touring mode over the Marker Kingpin 13. Check out our recent Alpine Binding Guide for our full take on the Pivot bindings CAST uses, but suffice it to say, it’s one of the most trusted and respected alpine bindings around, and for good reason.

Having said that, it’s important to note that CAST does modify the Pivots they use pretty significantly, so keep an eye out for our review of the Pivot Freetour where we’ll address these changes and comment on their real-world, on-snow performance.

Cast Pivot Freetour vs. Frame-Style AT Bindings

The Pivot Freetour system should also have a leg up over frame bindings as well, both on the way up, and on the way down. The Pivot Freetour’s 20 mm stack height is lower than frame-style AT bindings, and the converted Pivot bindings should ski better. I recently was reminded of the shortfalls of using frame bindings inbounds when one of my Guardians went into surprise tele mode, leading to a not-so-fun high-speed crash. That’s just an inherent risk with frame bindings, it’s easy to fail to lock the heel fully, and theory this shouldn’t be able happen with the CAST system.

The Pivot Freetour system should also go uphill better than frame bindings, since instead of having to lift the weight of the entire frame binding with each step you take, you’re just lifting your boot in the tech toe, and you also get the more efficient pivot point of a tech toe.
Furthermore, given the recent increase in very capable tech-compatible alpine boots (both the K2 Pinnacle 130 and Nordica Strider I’ve been using as my inbounds boots this year have built-in tech fittings), there are a lot more compelling boot options on the market than when the original SI&I system was released.

Bottom Line

A lot of this sounds very good on paper, so we’re excited to see how the new CAST Pivot Freetour system actually performs in the mountains. It looks like a clear improvement on the original SI&I system that’s proven to be popular among skiers looking for a burly touring option, and it has the potential to be a true, no-compromise 50/50 binding, something that works as well inbounds as it does out of bounds. Stay tuned for our full review.

9 Comments

  1. Blister Member
    stevenmulcahy123 April 13, 2017 Reply

    Are you going to get on these down in the southern hemisphere over our summer?

    • Cy Whitling April 14, 2017 Reply

      We hope to!

  2. Blister Member
    Daniel April 14, 2017 Reply

    Hey Cy, quick question to clarify something: you can ski on these with the dynafit (or dynafit-style) toepiece, right? I can imagine, if you’ve got a ski that you’re using for 50/50 resort/backcountry, doing that when touring (in less committing terrain) and only putting on the alpine toepiece when you’re skiing the resort, to save you the trouble of fiddling with the bindings on each run. Do you know anyone who does that? I’m thinking of a setup like that for, say, the Bibby Tour, which I’d also asked you about :)

    • Cy Whitling April 14, 2017 Reply

      Hey Daniel,

      I’m pretty sure you can’t. When you’re in the tour toe the whole boot is moved forward a little so that it’s not whacking the heelpiece, otherwise it would be trying to click in every step.

      And even if you could, that sounds like just about the sketchiest idea I’ve ever heard! The new CAST tour toe isn’t just a Dynafit toe like the old one, and it’s made for uphill use, not downhill security and safety. I’d guess that this new system isn’t as fiddly as the old one, and I think this system would be one of my top binding choices for the Bibby Tour, but I sure wouldn’t gamble with mixing the toe.

      Think of it this way: CAST is already modifying bindings to work in a way that they weren’t necessarily designed to, you’re taking some sort of risk there already (not a huge one in my opinion, but we’ll have to see how bench tests come out). By taking it one step further and trying to use that system outside of even what CAST recommends is just too much of a risk for whatever small time savings you’d get.

      Hope that helps!

      • Blister Member
        Daniel April 18, 2017 Reply

        Cool, that all makes good sense. Guess I’ll just put together a little de-icing kit. Thanks, looking forward to the full review!

  3. Blister Member
    sam foster April 15, 2017 Reply

    Love to see the chickering ayers brothers returning to the FWT tour. Amazing skiers!!

  4. Blister Member
    Geoff May 2, 2017 Reply

    Hi Cy,
    I bet there are quite a few of us that want the security of an alpine boot/binding combo for the down, but are trying to figure out the best way to get up the hill. With some of the new boots coming out with tech toes this is starting to get interesting. Would be super cool if you guys could compare and review the pros and cons of things like frame bindings, adapters (old day wreckers or new day makers) and interchangeable systems like CAST or Switchskis. It’s really difficult to know what actually works well in the real world.

  5. loofy May 4, 2017 Reply

    Hey Cy!

    For the SI&I system I have already been thinking about using inserts in different skis for metric screws.
    This way I could use the system for more than one ski.

    Do you know, how the new toe- piece is fixed on the skis? is it a special screw with these pegs on the top?

  6. Michael Perez October 10, 2017 Reply

    Hey Cy!
    Thanks for the review I’ve been hoping to find more info on the new system. One question though, the CAST website states that you can only use the Pivot 18 Toe and not the 12 or 14. I’d love to know the answer so I can get my new setup started for the season!
    Thanks
    Michael

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