Skiing uphill isn’t new, but has been increasing in popularity over the last few decades, becoming a favorite discipline for many skiers. Ski-mountaineering, which refers to the sport of skinning (skiing uphill with adhesive backed fabric on skis) and climbing uphill only to descend on skis, has sub-categories—alpine touring, backcountry skiing, Randonee and SkiMo racing. (The latter has been added to the 2018 Olympics.) All these styles use bindings that allow the skier’s heel to be free on the ascent and fixed on the descent. Some of the most revolutionary bindings have been those made by Dynafit, the most prolific brand in the in the world of ski-mountaineering. Dynafit was born out of the Austrian shoe brand Humanic, who made downhill boots worn by Olympic medalists in the '70s and '80s (earning the brand the Austrian coat of arms).
Then along came Fritz Barthel, a skier, climber and designer who invented the “low-tech” binding out of laziness over 30 years ago. As the story goes, the artful Barthel almost failed to reach the summit of Mont Blanc due to his heavy skis, bindings and boots. Exhausted and annoyed he went back home and rather than train harder, he invented the low-tech. “More training! Not so appealing," Barthel tells us. "Better make the gear lighter. Laziness, not among the most praised virtues, I know, probably the least appreciated and most denounced male virtue. On the other hand, one should not underestimate its power. It drives innovation to make life easier, for the better or the worse.