Phantom Splitboard Bindings
I was first introduced to the Phantom Splitboard Bindings early in 2013 by snowboard mountaineer Rick Gaukel. I had the opportunity to demo the 2013/14 [2nd generation] Phantom Splitboard Bindings made by John Keffler, owner / proprietor of Phantom Splitboard Bindings. John has been hard at work during the summer season fine tuning the engineering details of the new Phantom Alpha binding release. The flakes will be flying soon!
Phantom bindings are made specifically for a hardshell boot such as a Dynafit TLT5 or different variations of Scarpa AT boots with a Dynafit toe-piece. The Phantom Bindings, when married to a modified AT boot are designed to flex like a soft boot, but have all the advantages of a tech AT boot in the backcountry. You will use a Dynafit toe-piece for touring. The Phantom binding stows in your pack during touring. Phantom Binding parts are made from aerospace grade aluminum alloys, heat treated steel bails, and stainless steel hardware.
2013/14 Phantom Alpha Bindings
The new Phantom ALPHA will include an optional the Dynafit Speed Superlite and heal risers which come it at almost half the weight of the Dynafit Speed Radical, which is what I currently use with the Sparks R&D Dynafit adapter plates.
Essentially what you need is a board, skins, and AT boots – the Phantom Splitboard Binding setup takes care of the rest.
- The binding plate comes in just under 440 grams
- The two plate mounts (which mount to the board) less than 150 grams for each set
- The superlite Dynafit & heal riser come in at 200 grams each set
I had the opportunity to demo the 2013/14 Phantom Splitboard Bindings for two full days during the annual Splitfest in Silverton, CO. In a nut shell here is what I have to say; I almost cried when I unmounted them and remounted my old hardware. In my opinion, Phantom Binding will bring to the Splitboard / Snowboard world what tech bindings brought to the the AT ski world several years ago. Yes, Phantoms are the tech binding of spliboarding. These binding are not a mere upgrade to other setups – they are lightyears beyond the technology. For this reason I am not going to compare or contrast this to other setups out there.
For the record, I own a modified set of Trench Digger II bindings by Bomber Industries, the Voile Mountain Plate setup, a modified pair of TD’s first generation, and I have had demo time on Catek bindings. I have also had demo time on Karakorum SL, Sparks R&D, Voile Light Rail, and various race plates, to include the step-in bindings. I have tested virtually everything that is out there, so I feel I am a moderate judge of something that is completely new.
In order to really appreciate the Phantom bindings, one has to understand some of the physics behind the design. Phantoms put your boot sole closer to the deck of the board. Not to be confused with step-in bindings which oppose lateral force in soft boot, this is an entirely new concept. Phantoms put you closer to the deck than you can get in a soft boot setup. This transfers the energy deflection to the board more efficiently, especially with the deflection of a hardboot. The height of the bale that transfer to the binding also plays a part; the closer proximity to the foot/board, the more energy transfer that exists.
I feel a bit lucky, because not only did I get to test these out, but also had two other riding partners that rocked an AT boot setup that would demo them for the first time too. We didn’t test these on benign terrain either, rather, we decided to summit Grand Turk, elevation 13,180′ & Sultan Mountain 13,087′ respectively, just outside Silverton, CO. This would give us an idea with variable snow conditions and how the bindings really handled. During the month of April snow was beginning to consolidate at mid-elevation below 11,000′ but was not quite isothermic at the higher elevations.
On the snow we had three different setups with three different riders trying out the Phantoms;
- Phantoms on a K2 Panoramic 159 with unmodified Scarpa Martix AT boots.
- Phantoms on a Voile Mojo 176 with unmodified Scarpa Maestrale AT boots.
- Phantoms on an Icelantic 161 with unmodified Scarpa Rush AT boots.
Touring up, the bindings went in to the pack. I was amazed at just how light the bindings were. When we reached about 11,700 feet at the apron of the Wishbone Couloir, we decided to bootpack and cane up with ice axes. The weight is always noticeable when everything is packed for kicking steps up a couloir. It is times like these when you will love the Phantom binding system, the total pack weight of these bindings is less that 900 grams!
When on the summit we transitioned to ride mode. Ice on the deck has to be scraped. This is a pretty normal habit even with a Voile or similar mountaineering system, but a little more effort has to be placed in to it with Phantoms since the tolerance to the deck is precision. Even doing this, the transition time was cut in half. Just like any system that is new on a demo – you want to check yourself to make sure you are not forgetting anything. I remember in particular being surprised how easy the transition was and double checking I hadn’t forgotten a step. It was just too easy.
The moment of truth was at hand. The first rider [Shane on a Voile Mojo 176] dropped in, and is not only an aggressive rider, but he has a large frame, and rides a 176 Voile Mojo. I watched his response on his turns as he rode from the ridge to the couloir edge. I figured if anyone noticed a weakness in the bindings it would be Shane. Next, Matt dropped. The “woot” I heard with nice tight turns made me anxious to drop next. My turn; wow! It was like having a response that was even superior to a soft boot. Toe-side initiation in to turns was just magic! Next we dropped in to the couloir, the continuous “woot!” as we rode out was reinforced with the big smiles.
By far the best binding any of us have ever had the opportunity to ride. Hands down better response that any binding system I have ever owned, and that includes soft boot binding systems.
The next day we decided on a summit of Red Mountain #3 (12,887′) and a long descent on the northern aspect. I would be the only one in our group on the Phantoms as others were doing a demo in other areas. Again, this binding proved to be just amazing. These were tested in variable snow conditions from top to bottom, the snow was isothermic after about 11,700′. Due to the terrain, we had to transition back to tour mode at the end of a long run. I was impressed just how fast the transition was.
Another item that must be mentioned here is binding cant. The Phantoms I took out for a demo had a three degree binding cant – which was perfect. Different sized cants can be added, up to six degrees. These do make a huge difference in AT boots.
I did not demo the heel risers, rather used my existing Voile dual heel risers. Matt did demo the heel risers and thought they were the bomb! The heel riser has a small tab for a soft heel lock down. For those of us that travel in varying terrain during high avalanche danger you will realize the value of this little implementation. Essentially you can do a soft heel lock down in ski mode [these are currently still a prototype and are not yet available]. I had thought about adding rear Dynafit lock downs, but I do not need something that stout and I am not willing to add the weight. This is an overall well thought out addition to the heel risers. Again, the Phantom heel risers are still in prototype design. Included in the touring package from Phantom is the Voile heal riser which also works smooth.
Again, I think Phantoms are a mover and shaker in splitboard binding technology. The workmanship is incredible with lasercut, hard anodized aerospace aluminum parts. The design of the Phantoms puts your boot sole closer to the deck. Closer than any other splitboard binding on the market. The Phantoms remove the Voile system and the limitations of that design out of the equation instead of building on it. This enables foot-to-board energy distribution that is uncompromised by any binding that I know of. The adjustments of the Phantoms enable a no-compromise system, essentially being able to dial in exactly your stance instead of incremental adjustments.
More photos from Phantom Splitboard Bindings Demo
More photos from Phantom Splitboard Bindings Demo