Randonnée redux rabbit hole

I thought I’d taken a pretty nerdy trip with last year’s post “Pins to pivots and the nightmare of the 90s“, but I gladly yield to the world of AT/Randonnée, which assigns a different meaning to the term ‘ski touring’ than I’m accustomed to.

At the site Wildsnow they dedicate a page to retelling the saga of different paths toward backcountry (US) and Alpine Touring (Europe), and what happened when purpose and intent began intersected somewhat in the last couple of decades.

Wildsnow’s account surfaced and clarified some of the terms of art for what I will continue to refer to as ‘Randonée’ or ‘Alpine Touring’ (AT for short). The site also has a museum of old-style AT bindings, and a slightly snarky page of newbie mistakes. The latter is a ripost to recent articles in the MSM (Mainstream Media) portraying backcountry skiing as a relief from pandemic lockdown.

Surely there are safer ways to get out of the house than to take up backcountry skiing without ancillary survival and safety training. I continue to harbor a suspicion that there’s a PR- and marketing-driven campaign to get off-piste and uphill skiing talked about.

Meanwhile, from the company that stoked the cross-country ski binding wars in the early 80s, Salomon has a video featuring this year’s take on what they call ‘ski touring’ bindings. It introduced me to the term ‘pin binding’ which I had to look up on Wildsnow to figure out was NOT anything like the 3-pin binding of yore:

Salomon video on AT/Randonnée bindings

If I were a cranky person or had a suspicious turn of mind, I might think inciting a spiral of optimization-seeking consumerism was the true objective for the design of ski equipment.

The video did have one interesting tidbit: the presenter states that studies found the introduction of modern ski bindings reduced the frequency of leg injuries. Would love to know if the severity of injuries was likewise reduced.

I am not the least bit interested in doing Alpine Touring, but this little side trip was revealing of the intersection of engineering and skiing ‘culture’ as it played out in Europe compared to the U.S. I sometimes muse about an approach to snow sports that is unrelated to either resort-style consumerism on the one hand or dirtbag-adventurism on the other. But that would be another post entirely.