After our circumnavigation of Mt Hood recently, I’ll be damned if I was going to have to circumnavigate another volcano or ski amazing PNW corn snow without ski crampons. To reiterate what I’ve said before, you don’t always want ski crampons, but when you do, nothing else will suffice. Specifically, if there’s a very slick but breakable snow surface booting will be hateful but skinning can be on a spectrum from near-impossible to extremely energy intensive. Ski crampons fix this problem.
In this post, I go over the small nuances of installing B&D ski crampons. Dynafit makes a comparable ski crampon, but theirs is known for being lee-than-durable. B&D is a small company that makes aftermarket parts for Dynafit bindings, as well as other ski crampons and ski-touring odds-and-ends. They’re known to be durable and well manufactured, and personally I always like to support small US-based manufacturers who make quality gear. I’ll be going over the installation of crampons for Dynafit bindings, but if you have Fritschi bindings, they have crampons for those as well.
Out of the box, the crampons come unassembled. To assemble, you’ll need a small flathead screwdriver, possibly a file, a beer, and 10 minutes. The crampons come with two different weights of black shims, the taller of which is intended to be used by those with flexible boot bellows, like the Scarpa F1. The shorter shim is preferred for most boots.
To use the crampon, alight the bar on the crampon with the crampon slot on your bindings, and turn the crampon up so that it is essentially perpendicular to the surface of the ski. Not aligning it so can cause damage to the holder when you try to slide in the crampon. The crampons come with a small nubbin on one side of the crampon bar which on some binding models allows the user to more easily center the crampon when they slide it in. In some cases, as with my TLT Speeds, this nubbin interferes with the binding base and it must be filed off. This is a manufacturer endorsed modification.
Removing the nubbin, even very carefully and obsessive-compulsively, takes just a few minutes each. Just be careful not to gouge into the bar, which is doubtless one of the crampon’s weak points.
With the nubbins removed, the crampon will slide into the binding and lay flat to the ski surface. The first few times that I slid the crampons into the holder, it took a little bit more force than I was comfortable using, but the holders become more accommodating with use. Once so-installed, it’s time to install the black plastic shims.
Each ski crampon has 5 holes to accomodate three screws, allowing for a forward, middle, and aft installation position. The holes are countersunk into the crampons so that the screws lie beautifully flat. Do yourself a favor before screwing the black plastic shim onto the crampon and pre-thread a screw halfway into the shim, as I did below. While the rest of the crampon is well-machined, the holes in the plastic have some funk in them from drilling and aren’t quite the right size. Reaming them out slightly makes the installation much easier.
Which position you choose to use doubtless depends on which boot you have and how worn your sole is. I opted to use the middle position because this seemed like the best balance between allowing my boot to come down close to the ski suface in the riser-less position while still engaging the crampon in high-riser. The rockered shape of the TLT5 sole meant that there was a significant difference in the angle of my boot when it would engage the shim in each position. You should hold the shim in a few different positions to find what works for your boot sole. Consider that you’ll most likely be using the crampons in at least the middle riser position.
The shim is shown in these two photos in the middle position. While the high-riser position clearly doesn’t drive as much crampon past the ski surface, it seemed the best compromise, and I expect that it will be best option. Should you need to change the shim position, it wouldn’t be too much trouble. The plastic is soft enough that the screws can be driven in by hand, so if you do this several times, it may be wise to use a little bit of epoxy on your 3rd or 4th installation to keep the screws from stripping.
These ski crampons, as with all ski crampons, are meant to be used in addition to skins, not as a replacement for skins. B&D makes a pivoting model that moves out of the way as you stride, which is what I’ve opted to use, and which is the most common option. However, they also make a version which bolts to the surface of the skis. This is likely somewhat more stable, but the crampon will need to be lifted from the snow or driven through the snow surface as you skin.
Other manufacturers have similar styles of ski crampons. Voile sells the bolt-down kind, and Black Diamond, Marker, La Sportiva, MFD, and G3 all make their own iterations. The Dynafit versions are known to break, but I can’t speak to the others. At 261g, the B&D version is light, clearly durable, proven, and only about $60 depending on the width. They also make crampons for super-wide skis, split boards, and telemark skis. Just be sure that the ski crampons that you buy are compatible with your ski bindings. And to be clear, I have no interest in endorsing B&D. They’re just the proven winner for durable and functional dynafit ski crampons.
Now get out there and go skiing!
Support Mountain Lessons and improve your security on steep lines and heinous bushwhacks with a Black Diamond Whippet Self-Arrest Ski Pole.