Gear Review: CAST & the Freetour Revolution

Paulie | | Gear ReviewGear Review
The Tetons; not a bad place to work and play. Photo: P.M. Fadden

Brought to you by CAST Touring

Tucked within Teton Valley, in the small mountain town of Driggs is a ski binding company with big designs when it comes to touring. Via its ‘Freetour’ interchangeable binding system, the team at CAST Touring has engineered tech. that allows the skier to tour to the summit but alpine ski to the base. And it might just change the industry.

A fine setting for Quality Control. Photo: courtesy of CAST media

In the interest of surety, we’ll begin with the obvious: how we stand (literally and figuratively). An alpine binding configuration, prolific at most any ski resort, fixes boot-to-ski thanks to a pedestal’d toe piece and heel lock mechanism; strong, stable, classic. A touring binding, on the other hand, replaces the alpine toe piece with a two-pin lock, adds climbing bails and a brake retainer to the mix, while leaving the heel free for climbing; versatile, liberating, and increasingly popular. They’re binding brothers from the same ski Mother but still two very different sets of gear.

The Freetour Upgrade Kit brought to by CAST Touring. Photo: P.M. Fadden

CAST’s design unifies the two mutual exclusive binding forms into a single dynamic model. Hailed as a world-first, the Freetour Upgrade Kit is a fully integrated, fast-converting pin-tech touring system with the full reliability and safety of an alpine binding. The basics behind what CAST calls “the enlightenment” is a quick-release mechanism allowing lightning speed swap-out of an alpine toe for a set of super-light pin-tech tour toes. The Freetour Kit promises complete alpine-to-tour functionality without compromise, and performance backs-up the claim.

Modified alpine toe caps. Photo: P.M. Fadden

Getting started means an aftermarket addition of touring capabilities to an alpine binding of the style commonly employed by LOOK Binding Co. CAST machines a unique plate featuring four anchor points, and that is fixed to the ski itself. The lower portion of the alpine toe piece is then replaced with an alternate base that matches the anchors. The two-pin toe (feather-light at 1000grms) also matches these anchors, so both modes slide into place with the same quick motion. And the boot itself prohibits any unintended movement. As a finishing touch, each pin toe piece also equips a mount that supports crampon use.

CAST provides a series of tutorial videos enabling customers to tackle the tech conversion, or the company offers the service themselves. And, as part of the upgrade, the Freetour Kit can be made to accommodate either Alpine, WTR, or GripWalk AFD options. Next step: the heel.

Brake retainer, bails, and a pivot heel; everything CAST requires to get the upgrade done. Photo: P.M. Fadden

Key in the conversion process is a heel piece that pivots and provides an 8 to 18 release range. Dual mount holes, positioned before the heel piece itself, secures a compact, tri-arm unit that controls two bails and a brake retainer. Engaging the retainer is as simple as flipping it to the rear and applying heel pressure. The bails are manipulate-able by ski pole, provided the baskets are the wide disk variety. And the walk modes, aside from flat, are 8 or 12.5 degrees.

On tour with the Upgrade Kit from CAST. Photo: P.M. Fadden

In-field, the gear handled like a dream. The two-pin system tested smoothly with a Scarpa model boot, hinging to make walking as well as climbing easy and energy-efficient while the brake retainer performed so well that, at times, it required negotiation to be convinced to release. The Freetour niche is that of a single binding which features two inter-changeable modes so naturally, the skier is obliged to carry the alternate alpine toe pieces as well as encounter/create a workable location to inter-change them safely while in the field.

CAST gear is compact, durable, and astonishing weightless. Photo: P.M. Fadden

Of course, some form of performance feedback should result from a field test. With that in mind, two notes: extra finesse was required to make certain of a secure hold between binding heel lock and boot heel lug. (This was a minor point which is likely attributed more to an irregularity in the dimensions of the boot’s heel lug rather than the actual performance of the heel lock mechanism, but there it was nonetheless) And the second note is more an assurance regarding the lightweight nature of the pin-tech units themselves; they feel light as bird’s eggs yet hold up well while in use which sparks the curious wonder of how CAST pulled it off.

CAST Touring is on the rise. Photo: P.M. Fadden

Begun in 2012, CAST is a family-owned and operated company with a driving passion to engage mountainous wilds by safe, innovative means. This fact has not gone unnoticed by the skiing public who have snatched up every last Freetour Upgrade Kit that CAST had in stock! CAST says product will be available again by summer and, in the meantime, the company’s humble roots and constant attention to improving has led CAST also to engineer a Freetour Second Ski Kit, a platform allows quick adaptation of the Freetour Upgrade Kit to a second pair of planks and negating the need for an additional hardware purchase. Also in the CAST arsenal is a boot conversion program that permits continued use of the alpine boots thanks to a tech-compatible rework of the toe lub and boot base. CAST even tosses in custom rubber tread lifters that blend seamlessly into alpine as well as touring functionality.

CAST has skiers jumping for joy (sorry, we couldn’t resist that caption) Photo: CAST media

A company by skiers for skiers, the basic blueprint at CAST is better access and enjoyment of the activities and environments which make skiing great. Beyond that, the grand design is simply to share that thrill with a skiing public via the groundbreaking Freetour Upgrade Kit. Let “the enlightenment” spread.

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