G3 has stepped into the future of backcountry ski gear with their Synapse Ski and Ion Binding. I used the Synapse and Ion over four months last spring in Alaska. It's the setup I've been looking for: light for the uphill and excels in all-mountain snow on the downhill.
2015 Update: Synapse 109 and Ion LT12
My new setup of the best ski gear in the world. Ready to slay pow at Hatcher Pass in the Talkeetna Mountains.
The Ion LT12 binding are the Ion minus the breaks. Exactly what I'm after: lighter and won't disappear down the icy face.
Below is my post from September 2014
The Carbon Synapse has three underfoot widths: 109, 101 and 92. The Synapse 109 has the ideal backcountry dimensions. It is almost flat underfoot with rockered tip and early rise tail. The only problem with these dimensions is on iced skin tracks where the rocker provides less skin contact than non-rockered skis.
Joe test-driving the Synapse at Summit Lake, Kenai Mountains, Alaska. Photo by Dustin Leclerc.
The Synapse is the all-mountain ski I've been searching for. It is fun and playful, whether moving fast in powder or scratching down icy sastrugi. While the Alaska backcountry is famous for steep powder, I opt for skis that can handle the non-powder conditions: breakable crust, windslab, mashed potatoes, avalanche chunder, ice, sastrugi and everything in between. It is these marginal conditions where I need a reliable ski I can trust. G3 nailed it with the Synapse.
Joe enjoying the feather-weight of the Synapse/Ion/Alpinist Skins at Turnagain Pass in the Kenai Mountains. Photo by Dustin LeCcerc.
Lighter gear means more skiing. The Synapse are light at 3 lb 4 oz per ski. The Ion bindings are also light, weighing 1 lb 4.6 oz per binding before I removed the brakes. Soon G3 will release their Ion LT, a brakeless and lighter version of their Ion.
The dream setup in the Kenai Mountains. Like most mountain professionals, I make small gear modifications for personal preference. I removed the brakes to reduce weight and drilled holes in the ski tips. The ski tip holes accept a biner to drag the skis on steep booters or for an improvised sled.
The Ion toe piece never iced up on me. If snow did build up, the snow-clearing channel under the hinge is wide enough to accept a ski pole tip.
The heel pieces are spring-loaded and provide forward pressure against the boot heel. Forward pressure ensures consistent release when the ski is flexed. The heel rotates in either direction into ski or touring mode. With the flick of a ski pole, the heel lifters flip down and stack.
The Ion Ski Crampon is easy to take on and off without removing your skis or practicing yoga. No sketchy transitions as with Dynafit ski crampons.
To remove the Ion Crampon, simply pull the red cable. To clip the crampons to my harness, and make them accessible on the ascent, I drilled a small hole in the crampon to tie clip-in loops (the visible blue string).
For transport, the Ion Binding pins snap around the ski poles. You don't need a ski strap for short hauls.
Brakes, leashes, toes locked, toes unlocked...it's all personal preference. My mindset is: I'm concerned about low weight, so I don't use brakes. I'm paranoid about tweaking a knee, so I keep my toes unlocked on the descent, unless it's steep. And in an avalanche, I hope that some part of the leash system will brake so the ski doesn't become a sea anchor. So, I removed the Ion brake and opted for leashes.
Joe testing the Synapse and Ion in the Talkeetna Mountains. Photo by Dustin Leclerc. Thanks for making great products G3!