Tracking innovations in the ski industry one trusted gear review at a time. From skis to underwear, if it makes your skiing better or worse, we want to know. Exposing the over-hyped gear and directing the love to where it belongs is the intention of these real people gear reviews. This go, we’re looking into the Cast Freetour Upgrade Kit + Look Pivot 18 combo.
THE GEAR REVIEWER
Jaret Bull is a quiet 26-year-old that’s a dirt nerd (Geotech) based in Squamish BC. Every weekend and weekdays with bragable snow, you can find him making quick work of Whistler Blackcomb. Despite growing up skiing a hill with a vertical gain equivalent to the Magic Chair, his annual family trips have Jaret acquainted with Blackcomb better than most long time locals. His focus is primarily on skiing technical freeride lines with speed, fluidity, and style. The guy you saw pole out of Spanky’s, with remnants of a face shot on his upper lip and a shit-eating grin on his face, at 2 pm on a Saturday, four days after the last storm? That was probably Jaret.
GEAR REVIEW CAST FREETOUR UPGRADE KIT (in conjunction with the Look Pivot 18 binding)
NAME: Jaret Bull
YEARS SKIING: 25
BINDING MODEL: Freetour Upgrade Kit with Look Pivot 18.
CONDITIONS TESTED IN: All of them
NUMBER OF DAYS TESTED: 60+
Cast’s Freetour setup is an awesome option if downhill performance is your priority. Skinning with a tech toe and descending with Pivots, I’m not sure you can beat that. A well designed system and a company that stands behind the quality of their product.
The best thing about the Cast system?
Being able to descend with the best alpine bindings and ascend with a tech binding. This system really allows you to have the best of both worlds.
The best thing about the Look Pivots on their own?
Look Pivots are just such a trusted design. These bindings have not changed in a very long time. The saying “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is really something Look has done with the Pivot 18, and now the Pivot 15. Bindings are tricky, you want them to release when you have an awkward crash, but don’t want them to pre-release when you’re making a critical turn. My experience with the Pivots is that they do both of these things well if set-up and maintained correctly.
This duo is best used for?
Skiing big backcountry lines where you want to have confidence in your binding setup. This system really encompasses the best technology from the alpine and the touring worlds. This is a set-up that you can use every day of the year unless you’re into skimo or some ultra-endurance sufferfesting – then it’s going to be on the heavy side. Resort skiing with a reliable binding, touring off the resort, sled skiing, even valley to peak pushes, are all things that this set-up is excellent for. This is a system that is really great for people who want one binding/ski set-up to do it all, or for the hard-charging folks out there who are touring to lines that you wouldn’t really feel great about looking into with locked tech toes.
Weight – Pivots are not light. The heel piece definitely adds weight to your ski for the climb and you do have to carry the Pivot toe in your pack or pocket.
Changing the toe pieces can be tedious at first. Once you develop a system it becomes pretty quick. But you do have a small mechanical system which must be clear of snow to function properly. Because of this, transitions can be a little longer. Prepare for some heckling from your buddies at first – but once you have it figured out the transitions become seamless.
Don’t use in these circumstances:
If you count grams.
Well, this binding has made me like to tour. I could never find a binding that I felt good descending with but also was reasonable for the climb. If you haven’t toured with a tech binding, they make all the difference in the world while skinning compared to a frame binding. This isn’t really a feature, but the ability to descend with no compromise and ascend with very little compromise makes this system. If versatility is a feature then that is it, because the Freetour upgrade kit is super versatile in what it is suitable for.
There is this recessed section on the tech toe that works really well for clearing snow from the posts. I don’t know why it is there (maybe I should), but it is a great feature for clearing your posts when you are switching toe pieces.
Would you recommend the Cast + Look combo?
Absolutely, 10 times outta 10.
FULL GEAR GURU THOUGHTS
I was told by a friend that this system was so good that it changed his views on touring. I purchased the system and immediately felt the same way – it took away the things I didn’t like about touring. Over a year later I was asked to complete this review and still, my thoughts haven’t changed. If anything, Cast has improved their tech toe – the new gold toe is much smoother to step into than the purple toe, although the differences are subtle. I actually broke part of my purple toe recently, and Cast (not knowing that I was the person completing this review) was quick to respond to my email and immediately sent me a warranty form and got a new toe on its way for me. A+ for customer service. There is a reason a lot of hard-charging athletes are using the Freetour. I probably sound like a broken record by now, but you just can’t beat a system that works this well for climbing and descending – if downhill performance is your priority. If you are someone who is always trying to cut weight then this might not be the binding system for you. This system is well suited for hard charges and just people looking to descend with a binding that has a proven track record for functionality. This system was well thought out by the team at Cast and really allows for a lot of people to have a one ski quiver that is comfortable from the worst of resort crud to the deepest backcountry powder, to steep exposed lines, and everything in between.