TESTED BY ROB BENTON
Grizzly are a newish company specialising in super lightweight race-oriented ski touring bindings.
I was keen to try their ISPO Gold award-winning GR Olympic binding – an ultra lightweight ski mountaineering binding. I was keen to see if this race-inspired binding would be still usable for an everyday skier and ski mountaineer.
The main headline for this binding is that it weighs in at just 120 grams. Now that’s light! Just over 2 mars bars in fact, which means it’s totally appropriate to carry more actual mars bars with you on the hiill!
Having light kit for ski touring is essential and these would make a super light set up on any ski touring ski.
The price is €599 for the binding, €89 for the the speed adjustment plate and €39 for the crampon adapter.
Before I get on to my review I need to describe how they work because although they are a pin binding, they work completely differently to most. The majority of pin bindings have two pins at the front and a spring in-between. Step on the spring and the pins clamp on to the boot, with a lever at the front to release or lock the pins in place for uphill.
The GR Olympics are different at the front they have one fixed arm with a pin on it and then a flexible arm with another pin. You line up the pin on the fixed arm with your boot and then the flexible arm folds up and locks in to place with a lever on the side (see photos).
The heel piece is super light and fixed – ie it doesn’t rotate (apart from to release) and comes with a flap that covers the small bars for uphill mode.
The heel piece comes with a choice of fixed Din settings – 6, 8 or 10. The small groves on the back of the heel allow you to set as desired 3 =10, 2 = 8 and 1 = 6.
The toe piece is a little different. The lever locks both the pins and the brake in place for the ascent and vice versa when you’re in ski mode.
You have a few options here – you can choose different colour options for those that like everything to be matching, you can opt to add a speed plate (28 grams) (a plate that goes under the heel piece which then make the binding adjustable by 28mm to allow for different boots sole lengths), and a crampon adaptor can also be added (6 grams) which allows you to attach a Dynafit style ski crampon.
ON THE MOUNTAIN
I mounted the GR Olympics on a pair pf OGSO Spearhead skis – a super light 85mm underfoot ski – and a set of OGSO Bonattis – a 75mm underfoot race ski.
First off stepping into the toe piece takes a bit of getting used to. Because of the design, you can’t step in to them while stood upright so you have to bend down to clamp them in.
If you’re using them in a race or for speed/training this is unlikely to be too much of a problem as you may just be doing one long ascent, followed by one descent but for if you’re taking them on and off frequently on a tour it can feel like a bit of a faff.
As a result, I have honed my skimo game and quite often just take my skins off while staying clipped in to the binding. This requires a bit of practice but I am 6’2 so bending down every time I need to transition makes it worth it!
For the uphill there is a flap that covers the bars on the heel piece. This is the only available skinning mode, with no flat or risers available when things get steep.
I didn’t really find this a problem as I don’t tend to use a high riser on any of my other set ups. I tend to find that if it’s really steep and I don’t have the room to put a lower angle track in, then I am probably best taking my skis off and booting up. For the lack of a ‘flat’ option – again I haven’t found this an issue for my stye of touring. If you are somewhere with lots of flat ground on the way in, it could be a bit annoying I guess.
The Grizzly GR Olympics are obviously a specialised binding and aimed at a certain style of ski tourer – aka fast and light – rather than hard chargin cliff huckers.
That said some hard lines do get skied on this kind of binding.
Are they as nice to ski as a heavier more freeride-oriented binding? No, but they weigh a lot, lot less, and they do ski well in most situations. So it’s going to depend on whether that compromise works for you.
Like all super light bindings, the GR Olympics position you very low on the ski and with little change in angle between the toe and heal, they offer a flatter footed feel.
This took a few turns to get used to but I quickly got used to it and just skied as normal.
During the test I skied a steep 40-45 degree couloir that was very hard and icy for the first 60 meters and definitely a no fall zone.
I felt totally secure in the binding – to be honest I didn’t even notice I was in a different binding to my normal more robust set up.
Once the aspect/angle changed and the snow became perfect spring, I had great fun ripping it up on them.
The Grizzly GR Olympics are great for most situations and any downside will probably be more to do with your overall set up – ie getting used to a more skittish, lighter and skinnier combo if you’ve been used to rocking a more dependable, heavier and fatter rig.
The Grizzly GR Olympic bindings are a specialised bit of kit and are not going to suitable for everyone.
I don’t think they are appropriate for a beginner, as you need to know what you want from your binding – the pros and cons – and this demands experience.
They are marketed as a ski mountaineering binding and I would 100% agree with that. If your goal is accessing big lines in the big mountains, you’ll need to be carrying lots of kit such as ropes/hardware/overnight gear etc and in this situation every gram counts.
They’ll also work well for training days when you’re maybe aiming for speedy ascents and skinning up the piste.
But what about the everyday ski tourer? Well you could put them on a 95mm underfoot ski like the Zag Ubac 95 or OGSO Thor and you would have a very light yet stable set up – a good all-round package.
Personally though, I am very happy to have them on a narrower, lighter ski for the days when I need something rapid and nimble.
With a very specialised and niche product like this, you really need to consider whether the pros (aka the featheriness!) outweigh the potential cons (aka lack of features/comfort of other more robust bindings).