“those things look like surgical instruments!”
A quote one would expect to hear from a skier staring at a wall of thousand-dollar custom skis; but what the above quote was referring to was my fresh pair of PLUM Guide bindings peeking out from behind the impressive fleet.
PLUM (pronounced “plume”- /ˈpluːm/) FELISAZ SAS is a family-run company established since 1968 and specializes in manufacturing mechanical parts (precision machining, bar turning) for automatic machines. Albert and Jean-Michel (sons of the founder) took over from their father in 1994 and started to expand the activity range to motorcycle components, swiss watches and ski bindings. Upon request of a local Alpine Club (Les Vorosses in Le Chablais) in 2001, Marc Meunier has designed our first low-tech ski binding followed by a full binding entirely made in France in 2007. And so PLUM was born!
In the interest of full disclosure, I thought it appropriate to mention that PLUM provided me bindings to test and help provide feedback from the North American market.
Having spend plenty of time playing in the mountains close to where these bindings are manufacutred, and their reputation for ultra-lightweight and strong ski mountaineering race bindings, I was immediately interested in the new Guide models.
I mounted the Guide’s on a pair of DPS wailer 112rp’s to use as a freeride touring and work ski. I found the mount to be straightforward using a standard Dynafit jig (ignoring the 5th toe piece hole of course), but the fore/aft heel adjustment to be slightly “different”. Not any better or worse necessarily than the standard spindle style as used on Dynafit bindings. I found the symmetry to be the crux of the adjustment, and was happy to have the appropriately size torx wrench included.
Using the Guide at work involves stepping in and out of the binding 20+ times per day. With multiple changes in boot/snow/ice temperature from being in and out of the snowcat has really been the ultimate test. So far, I’m finding that the binding toe as well as the tech fittings have to be nearly snow free to engage the tour mode (locked mode) automatically. Most of the time I will either give the lever a little bit of help by either using my ski pole, or hand before pushing the lever back down for ski mode (I don’t send with any tech binding locked, unless the consequences of a lost ski would be deadly). The absence of ‘clicks’ in the toe lever is different, but offers a much smoother and easier lock than with Dynafit levers.the PLUM Guide toepiece in SKI Mode (note the lack of contact of the front lever)
I regularly will lock my toe pieces a few clicks to insure that the pins are properly seated in the tech fittings. Once I’m confident that they are properly engaged/ice free, I push the lever back down to ski mode. I’m confident that nearly 100% of pre-release issues involving tech bindings are related to inattention during this step, and this is a simple way to verify proper attachment. This process has been much easier with the PLUM guide’s and I’m finding that I rarely have to bend down to help facilitate this process.
When touring, the multiple access points in the heel volcano really make it easier to rotate heel unit. Out of habit, I went directly for the top hole, but found some of the other access points much more efficient (something I wouldn’t dare experiment with on a plastic Dynafit heel unit).
Overall, I’m finding that the benefits of the PLUM Guide are numerous: lighter than any DIM12 tech binding on the market at 670 grams, beautiful machining and with complete absence of plastic parts that have been shown to regularly break.
How do they ski? Well, for those of you unfamiliar with the responsive, on-the-ski-feel of other tech bindings, you will find that they ski as good as any alpine binding and miles better than any traditional style touring binding. Having skied almost exclusively on Dynafit tech binding, I find that the PLUM offers very little difference in terms of actual ski performance. Some subtle improvements include the auto-locking tour mechanism as well as the distinct weight and apparent upgrade in material quality (lack of plastic).
So far, the PLUM bindings have my full recommendation as the lightest weight DIN12 tech binding for backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering and I’m extremely proud to have PLUM as a sponsor of my guided adventures with Mountain Pro.
I recently had the good fortune of having a tour of the PLUM/Felisaz factory in Thyez, France. Alexis certainly answered any and all of my questions, many of which have been represented in this thread, so I’m hoping that I can help to spread some of the good word.
A little background: I’ve been skiing the PLUM Guide and Guide S (same binding, minus the volcano) exclusively since early February on the the DPS 112RP as well as the Dynafit Stoke for both cat skiing (averaging 12k per day) for 4 days/week as well as general touring and guiding in every snow condition from bare glacier (yes completely bare) on the mere de glace to Irwin cold smoke. During my visit to the factory, Alexis had not seen any issues with the binding whatsoever, so I will assume that the TC event happened afterwords?
Anyhow, Prior to my arrival at the factory and meeting with Alexis, I thought I had a good handle on the binding, but learned a ton!
Click a boot into the plum, you will know what I mean by positive and engaged. it is far more so.
The long toe lever on the Plums, combined with no click stops, leaves the toe susceptible to knee fall ejections or at least partial unlocks – the auto-lock feature of the Plums, as others have mentioned, almost never works, or at least doesn’t completely lock on its own, so you have to pull back on the lever just as with Dynafit. No clicks, just a squeaky metallic sound. Long heel pins combined with a 4mm gap between heel and binding mean significantly more pin insertion depth (I think that’s good), but you may have to trim/grind a bit of material out of your heel sockets to get them to fit.
I have found that I can usually get the lock mode to engage automatically when stepping in smoothly and having boots with quick-step inserts helps. If not, it is soo easy to just give a quick tap with the handle end of my pole to engage the tour mode. Alexis mentioned a few incidents with skiers having badly damaged heel ‘sockets’ and this was contributing to a more than desirable amount of play in the heel unit. So check your fittings if you have any play at all. The toe lever does have click stops, they are just much smoother and smaller than that of the dynafit lever. Give the underside of the lever a close examination.
The long toe lever was one of my biggest gripes about the Guide. I found that when skiing in super variable snow, thick powder, or horrendously firm chattery stuff , the levers would find their way into locked/tour mode. I know that many of you will see this as an advantage, I certainly do not condone skiing in locked mode unless it’s truly essential.
PLUM is working hard on a new, shorter lever, and if you find yourself in the Mont Blanc Range often, you may have seen a mohawked American ambassador skiing with a shorter levered version.
The brakes are in development and a prototype was on the way when I visited. I didn’t get to see the design, but learned a few things about what it may entail. It will work in tour mode as well as ski mode. It should not effect the release in the same way the dynafit brakes do. They emphasized how challenging a PLUM worthy ski-stop is to engineer, but were confident in the recent creation.
Other interesting facts:
- As was mentioned above they have addressed the crampon slot, specifically the thickness of the tab in the center (the one that is plastic and breaks occasionally on dynafits) as per sinecure’s problem. I’ve experienced that this gets easier with use.
- They will have lighter (lighter than anything on the market) ski leashes out soon, if you are into that kindof thing.
- Everything metal is manufactured in house, except for the screws and springs.
- They are hard at work at some more freeride oriented adaptations for coming versions. As well as add-on’s and changes to the current model within the same vein.
- Next season’s Guide will have the same hole pattern, but look for the Guide to explode with some strategic relationships and pairings.
- Newer versions have some very minor differences in the heel body that are said to make it even more bombproof.
- Current versions allude to some future cosmetic options that may coordinate well with your Norrona one-piece. The treatment can be in photos on this post.