Binding: 2012-2013 Salomon Guardian 16 & Atomic Tracker 16
Weight – one binding, with all screws, size small: 1482 grams
We’ve been getting inundated with requests for what we found out about the Guardian / Tracker bindings down in Las Leñas, so we have decided to go ahead and offer some of our preliminary findings.
To be clear, this isn’t our typical or preferred way of doing things: we definitely need more time on these in order to write a more comprehensive review.
But given that many people are trying to decide right now whether to pull the trigger on these bindings, we believe that some amount of honest, albeit limited, information is better than no information.
And if you haven’t yet read our preview of the Guardian / Tracker 16, please do that now.
Three of us skied these bindings in Las Leñas:
Jonathan Ellsworth: 5 days on the Atomic Tracker 16 / 186cm Atomic Automatic
Will Brown: 3 days on the Salomon Guardian 16 / 188cm Salomon Rocker 2, 115
Ryan Caspar: 2 days on the Salomon Guardian 16 / 188cm Salomon Rocker 2, 115
Obviously, with any AT binding, there are two big questions: downhill performance and uphill performance.
Given the nature of this review trip (we knew that we weren’t going to be skinning much) and given the nature of this binding (it is supposed to be a no-compromise alpine binding that also climbs), we brought the Guardian and Tracker down with us primarily to focus on their downhill performance.
After ten total days skiing everything from smooth groomers; bumped-up groomers; off-piste hardpack; on-and-off-piste variable; dense, grabby mank; refrozen death cookies; steep, techy entrances; and no-fall zones, Will, Ryan, and I are all in agreement: this is a very confidence-inspiring alpine binding.
None of us experienced any slop or play in these bindings, and the torsional rigidity was excellent. Of course, I can’t say how different the Atomic Automatic would have skied with a dedicated alpine binding, but I can say that I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything.
Over the course of the trip, each of us was switching out skis and going from the Guardian or Tracker to Rossignol Axial 120s, Marker Jesters, or Salomon Z14 Speeds—all dedicated alpine bindings—and, personally, I was equally happy skiing the Jesters or the Trackers (though I’d definitely rather boot pack with Jesters—the additional weight of the Guardian / Tracker is noticeable if you have to shoulder them up the mountain), and all of us agreed that we would rather ski the Guardian or the Tracker than the Salomon Z14 Speed.
At various moments on the trip, all three of us were clicked into the Guardian or Tracker when standing on top of consequential lines, and none of us were worried about our bindings. (For what it’s worth, these same lines are ones that I would have skied my Dynafit Vertical FT 12 tech bindings with the toes locked, and I still wouldn’t have felt wholly confident. Clearly, that only says something about me, so again, FWIW.)
* Caveat: Conditions were such that we weren’t jumping off much of anything, just skiing hard and very fast in a lot of very variable conditions. And so, as Will Brown put it, “Basically, I still need to go throw myself around and see if anything scary happens.”
So we can’t yet weigh in on cliff drops and landings, but we can all say that any of the usual stuff we’d otherwise jump off, we’d hit in these. (Will Brown skis the Salomon STH 14 Driver binding on a daily basis, and I’m pretty much always on Marker Jesters.)
Downhill peformance: Long and short
So far, the Guardian and Tracker feel like a fully legit downhill binding. We don’t know how much the footprint of these bindings affects the flex of the ski, but nothing felt “off,” and the consensus so far is that, while skiing, we’d simply forget that we were on an AT binding at all. Nice.
Where to Buy:
Over the past three years, Salomon and Atomic have collaborated with their athletes to develop a new 16 DIN AT freeride binding that looks to set a new standard for uphill functionality and downhill performance.
The 2012 Burton Cartel Re:Flex is packed with new technology, but it's not the same stiff, responsive binding that has been the choice of pros and advanced riders for years.
The new Salomon Rocker2 115 is a big-mountain gun that shows some range—surprisingly easy and fun on groomers, yet still likely to satisfy the hard-charging crowd on any pow day.