Questions and answers about G3 Onyx bindings with Melanie Bernier

Melanie Bernier is a G3 sponsored athlete for past couple of years and tests their equipment any time she is playing in the snow. She lives in Revelstoke, skis almost every day and is a member of the Canadian Ski Mountaineering National Team.

Melanie will be representing Canada at the 2010 Ski Mountaineering World Championships as well as at the famous Pierra Menta – a four day skimo stage race.

onyx-main-photo

I saw Melanie using the new G3 Onyx bindings at our Canada Team ski mountaineering training camp I asked her to answer a couple of questions for you regarding the product.

Obviously, this is not a review of the G3 Onyx bindings since Melanie is sponsored by the manufacturer, however, I don’t have any real use experience with the bindings myself, therefore I thought why not ask a friend couple of questions.

I am sharing my view of the product (even though it’s limited due to no real experience with it) below the questions/answers section.

Product intro

G3 Onyx bindings use the Tech technology that was developed by Dynafit about 15 years ago. Since the Dynafit’s patent expired few years ago some companies took on the challenge improving a system that revolutionized alpine touring bindings market. Here is how G3 made their mark.

» Click the following link to see a bigger photo of the G3 Onyx bindings.

» Click this link to see a PDF version of the operating manual for Onyx bindings.

G3 Onyx features as highlighted by the manufacturer:

  • Easy to switch between tour and ski mode on-the-fly
  • Easy step-in toe utilizing the Tech system
  • Dependable and intuitive pole-actuated heel lifts
  • Increased overall rigidity creating increased overall skiing performance
  • Adjustable base plate mounting system applied to the toe and heel for quick adjustments, maintenance of boot center mounting and 33mm of adjustment to fit a wide range of boot sizes
  • Ski brake and crampon compatible
  • Complete disassembly and re-assembly possible
  • Lightweight

Materials

  • Forged aerospace aluminum toe-jaws, chassis and heel-post
  • Fibre reinforced binding mounting base plates

DIN Settings

  • 5 – 10 (My)/12(Mz)

Weight

  • 1430g / 50oz with screws

What does Melanie have to say about the G3 Onyx?

Q: For how long have you been using the Onyx bindings? How many days have you toured or skied on them, backcountry and ski resort?

g3-onyx-walk-mode

Tour mode lever (1) is in the locked position and the heel mode lever (7) is in the down position. In tour mode, the RED tour mode indicator (10) is visible.

I received the bindings in April 2009. They were part of the “Beta Program” which consisted on giving the opportunity to G3 gear users to test the binding and give feedback after each day of skiing on them.

So the bindings version that I have been skiing on is slightly different than what is on the market right now. What you can buy at your favorite gear store is an enhanced version of the Beta Onyx bindings based on testers’ feedback.

I skied the Onyx bindings about 10 times in the backcountry exclusively last season, and I have skied them about 22 times already this season, which 7 of those days were on a ski hill.

Q: Did you have any problem with the binding during that time?

I did not have any problem per say. They are still in great working shape. No brake and no need to replace any parts.

I only had one emergency release while skiing with them and it was well needed and actually comforting to know that it works. I also only had one accidental switch from skiing to touring mode but it could have happened with any other binding in that situation.

Q: What features do you like the most about the G3 Onyx bindings?

g3-onyx-ski-mode

Tour mode lever (1) is in the unlocked position and the heel mode lever (7) is in the up position. Low (8) and high (9) heel lifts must be in the stowed position.

How quick and easy they are to switch from walk mode to ski mode and vice versa. And activation of the heel-lifters is very fast too.

Then I like the fact that the bindings are so easy to adjust for different boot sizes. If you have different touring boots that have different sole lengths or if you want to let your friends use your skis, it’s a feature you will appreciate!

Also, the fact that you can adjust the positioning of the toe and the heel pieces of the binding on the skis is great. Therefore, whoever is using your skis can be positioned at the right place on them.

Another really nice feature of the Onyx bindings is that they are really easy to clip-in since the toe piece is designed to place the tip of your boot exactly where it should be in order to clamp onto the toe piece.

Q: What would you like to see improved in the future?

The toe piece activation mode since you have to push on it quite hard in order to get the boot in or out. It’s easy enough to get clipped-in properly as mentioned but sometimes when you are in knee-deep snow or if you are trying to put your skis on a steep icy ridge the current mechanism may cause some difficulties. I know G3 has been working on this.

Also, there are a lot of movable pieces with this binding but so far everything is pretty solid for me.

Q: What Skis are you using with the Onyx binding?

The new 2009/10 G3 ZenOxide. They are 105cm under foot – big boards. They have exactly the same side-cut as the G3 El Hombre but with a lighter core!

Q: You are a Dynafit binding user too. Pick one (feature or specification) to which the Onyx is better in your opinion and pick one thing that Dynafit has and Onyx not.

Onyx – Really quick and easy to switch from walk to tour mode.

Dynafit – Really light bindings, especially the Dynafit Low Tech model.

Q: What do you think is the best use for the Onyx bindings – backcountry skiing, slack country, extreme skiing, big vertical days? In other words, what type of user would mostly benefit from this product – regular backcountry skiers, occasional tourers…?

I think the Onyx would answer the needs of someone looking for a binding that does it all. It’s a great option for people getting more and more into backcountry skiing, people that do not want to carry the weight of heavy bindings like Fritschi or Naxos, and who want to have a closer contact with their skis.

The Onyx would be also for those who want a reliable setup which works on the hill, in the slack country and on day touring trips.

It will also meet the needs of people who are not wiling to spend a large amount of money for bindings since the Onyx are sold at a competitive price.

I think even the Dynafit die-hards should consider this binding since it is a great option. If you are all about the overall weight of your touring setup then it may not be your preferred choice but for a good days out in the backcountry it’s been proven to be a great choice!

Q: What is your overall impression?

I am so glad to see that there are companies, like G3, out there looking for alternative to touring bindings. It’s like the touring boots a few years back. Before Scarpa, Garmont and Dynafit were dominating the market, then others started to come out with alternatives which forced the previous mentioned companies to have a closer look at their products and improve them.

I think the same phenomenon will happen with the bindings. Since the Dynafit patent ran out, I am glad to see that more options are offered to backcountry skiers. I think the Onyx is a great alternative since it’s a competitive and reliable product.

And like any piece of equipment, the Onyx bindings have great pros to them and some room for improvement. But I still think that people have to try them in order to see what they have to offer.

My take on the Onyx bindings

As a loyal Dynafit bindings user since about 1998 it is tough to look at any other bindings without high expectations. But I fully credit G3 for sticking their head out and trying something new.

Whom the Onyx will benefit – in my opinion

I can clearly see that there are people that would desire the Onyx bindings and that they would really benefit from them as opposed to buying Dynafits or Fritschi or other models.

In my view, those people that would benefit from the new features that Onyx introduced (easier stepping in or more convenient ski-to-tour switch mode) are more of a leisure tourers or slack country skiers because all this comes at a weight cost compare to Dynafit bindings. In my opinion it would benefit more those that don’t log too many big days in the backcountry during a season or are likely to backcountry ski only seldom.

Whom the Onyx won’t make a difference for – in my opinion

In my view, the Onyx won’t make a difference over other existing bindings (meaning Dynafit bindings here) for people that are heavy backcountry users or performance oriented people. Because these groups use their equipment in such ways that they can live with small “inconveniences” if that means having a lighter and simpler product. Personally, I belong to that group.

My overall impression

My overall impression is that the Onyx appear very solid, therefore should be quite durable. The new features seem like a good improvement towards user friendliness, however, that caused an addition of many more parts over the very simplistic design of the Dynafits. With all those extra parts the Onyx design seems quite “exaggerated” to me, kind of overdone or unnecessary.

The price point (about $400) is very similar to Dynafits and other bindings, it only depends what models you are comparing it to. So there is no advantage or disadvantage when it comes to your wallet.

As you can see I am a Dynafit fan and that’s why I wanted someone else to make a case for the G3 Onyx. With that I hope to give you a more honest picture of a new product.

I believe, that in the next couple of years G3 will improve the Onyx more to my liking as well, thus I would finally have more choices on the alpine touring bindings market.

More about G3 Onyx bindings

There is a website dedicated by G3 to their new product with videos and all the specs – visit Onyx bindings at http://www.g3onyx.com.

Also, you can read more answers and reviews at  Backcountry.com.

Any questions? Share your experience

If you are thinking about buying the Onyx bindings or just simply have more questions you can ask in the comments below and Melanie, I or other people will try to answer them.

It would be valuable to hear from people that are using or have tested the Onyx bindings. You are welcome to share your experience in the comments below.

12-Week Training Plan for Skimo Racing

Skimo Racing Manual

Comments

  1. Kolby, just throw away those Onyx bindings already ;)

  2. I need base plates! It’s dumping here around Seattle and I’m just base plates away from riding my fatties! Help!

  3. Hi Rod,

    You described a specific situation into which I get myself from time to time as well. I use Dynafit and ATK bindings, so I can’t accurately comment on the Onyx and your issues. However, I believe that on a steep, hard or icy slope it does not matter what binding you use. In such a situation you simply need to bend down and hold the ski with your hand to make sure it does not run away when you step into the binding (whatever binding and whether with breaks or not).
    I mean this as an advice not a criticism. Anyone having different technique is welcome to share as I would be keen to learn how to save my back too :)

  4. Mel,
    Thanks for your comments on the improvement to the binding toe piece. On steep, hard slopes I really struggle to compress the toe piece whilst putting my foot into the bindings. I am not flexible enough to reach down and do it all by hand. If there has been a change of design I would be pleased to hear more about it as currrently I consider that the binding does not work well enough to tour on – I could get stuck on an icy slope with no way of getting the ski back on.
    Any info or suggestions?
    Rod

  5. Hi Tim,
    I know only few people using Onyx but from those that do I haven’t heard this happened to them.
    Regarding Dynafit or other even lighter (race) bindings – yes, I have seen it broken about twice. In both cases skiers in high speed hit a mogul or just took a huge fall and the pins broke as a consequence of that, not the other way around. In both case the skiers are fairly heavy (about 80-90kg) and aggressive. And in one case the binding was also “beyond its expected life” as I would describe it :) heavy use for 6-7 seasons.
    So based on my and your observations I would say your Onyx pin was a “lemon” case.

  6. I have recently had an issue with one of the toe pins snapping off my Onyx bindings! Does anyone know of this happening with Onyx bindings (or even Dynafit bindings)? On examination of the failiure point there appeared to be a defect in the metal and it failed under fatigue (I’m 65kg and I’ve had them for three seasons of moderate use). Luckily this happend whilst getting into them on a ski field. Had it snapped whilst skiing or away on a multiday tour it would have been catastrophic!

  7. Looking for a reputable ski shop in the North East (CT, NY, NJ, VT, NH, MA, ME) with G3 Onyx binding knowledge to mount them properly on my skis. I went to G3s website and found a list. The first two places I’ve been to, one had never touched nor been trained on mounting the Onyx; the other had never heard of G3!! If you can recommend someone, I would be grateful.

  8. Thanks for the update Mel. I am waiting for G3 to let me test the Onyx in the next two weeks, so I will report after that.

  9. I just skied today on the new version of the Onyx and I have to say there is a great improvement on the toe piece. It is now really easy to step into the binding!
    I just wanted to through that out there!
    M

  10. Hi all,
    great comments! I have yet to try the binding with brakes but I am really excited to see how they work!
    To answer your question James (sorry for delay), the bindings ski really well. I personally feel a difference between my setup with dynafit comfort/ dynafit low tech race and the onyx. You could probably argue that the bindings are mounted on completely different pairs of skis but since the onyx is a bit heavier and has longer plates connecting you to the skis, I feel a better control and a better overall level of energy passed on from the boots to the skis. This is why I would like to stress the fact that the bindings are not ” dynafit on steroids…” like someone told me the other day…. but they allow you to have a better control/better performance out of your skis. If you don’t mind the extra weight, these are competitive in term of performance. I have not skied with dynafit vertical which has a similar long plate. Maybe someone who has can comment on my previous statement.
    I can’t wait to see what you think about the bindings Stano. I know you have a good objective opinion so I am looking forward to sharing more information with you!
    James let me know if you have other questions… again sorry for delay, christmas and skiing got in the way!
    Best Wishes!
    M

  11. Ziff, thanks for comparing the Onyx to a great detail with the Dynafit bindings. I called up G3 and I am arranging a “test drive” for the Onyx, hopefully some time in early January.

    And the sidestepping of a steep slope with locked heels is a good point. It should be easier with the Onyx than with Dynafits, even though it may have a seldom use, however, it would be useful.

  12. Hi again,

    Stano, I have yet to find a way to pull the lever on the dynafit toe piece up with anything but my hand. maybe time I switched ski poles? but yes, the heel piece is easy to rotate even with my brakes, although, as I said, I have found the onyx is easier in this regard and there is no twisting motion and one is not aiming for a hole in the heel piece, which can plug up with snow.

    I skied the new onyx this morning with brakes and have to say that the changes to the toe piece are a big improvement. it feels much easier to open than before. I would equate it to the amount of pressure needed (if not even less) to open the dynafit toe piece in order to get your boot out.

    for those who like brakes, the onyx brakes are great. they never get in the way and function as if they have a brain.

    I agree, long traverses are where the ski to tour mode help a lot. I also found a new application this morning. it was very icy on seymour this morning and instead of taking my skis off to bootpack up a short non-skinable section, I just locked in my heels, sidestepped up the 20 feet, then went back into tour mode.

  13. Ziff, thanks a lot for sharing your experience with the Onyx as it helps to paint a more objective picture once more people chime in.

    You have a good point that when you carry a big pack then doing everything “from a standing position” is a huge help. But don’t forget that Dynafits can be operated with a ski pole too. I don’t use breaks though, which would obscure this I think, but so far no one is reporting on using Onyx with breaks either, so tough to compare.

    Now that I think when are the times I switch from ski to tour mode without putting skins on is on multi-day traverses with a big pack, so I have to give credit to Onyx for not making me bend…if I owned a pair.

  14. As a beta tester for the onyx binding I thought I would chime in. Over the years the last 20 years, I have used Ramer Universals, Silvretta 404s, Diamirs, Dynafits, both comforts and classic. I still use the classic binding for races and long traverses where weight is critical – although close, no competition there from G3 (and I don’t even have the super light race bindings!). I also have my comforts on another pair of old skis. However, since march 2009 I have skied the Onyx about 30 days (some days I just did intervals on Seymour and did dozens of transitions). I just mounted the current model with brakes, which I will ski tomorrow. anyway…

    when I first started using the Onyx, I immediately loved the heel piece but disliked the toe piece due to the need to “open” the toe piece. Although I still love the heel piece, I am also growing fond of the toe piece.

    why do I like the heel piece? The main reason is the ease of use and I don’t necessarily mean the fact that you can go from tour to ski mode without stepping out of the binding (this is also possible in dynafits as well, but not so easily with brakes). As mentioned above, not all that big a deal, but nice to have it. What I really like about it is how easy it is to engage and disengage the lifts, all without even stopping – just a flick of my pole in either direction and no twisting/turning. When I use my dynafits, this difference really stands out for me. Another point rarely mentioned is the snow build up that often occurs on my dynafit comforts when in the lowest heel lift mode (this does not happen on my classics, however). The small cup shape and ledge that allows your boot to go flat for touring also traps snow in the right conditions and balls up there. This has yet to happen to me with the onyx.

    Why did I not like the toe piece at first? Like most people, I was annoyed at having to “open” the binding. However, with time, I adapted and now find little difference between the dynafits and onyx. sure, you have to get into the binding in a totally different way (from the back as opposed to from above), but it takes the same amount of time for me. I have done this in deep powder, wet cement and steep icy slopes. If worried about using my pole to open the binding, I simply bend down, and open the toe piece with my hand (squeeze the ski with fingers around ski and palm on the toe lever). Once open, it requires very little pressure to keep it open – it only requires pressure to get it open. If getting into dynafits on steep icy slopes, I would also hold the ski in my hand, get in it, and then pull the lever up. I think getting into a binding on a steep icy slope is tricky business and requires careful planning and good technique no matter what binding one is using. Lastly, there are some benefits to having the toe piece engaged as its default setting – mainly, less chance of pre-releasing, especially if things are icy and bumpy.

    As melanie said, another nice thing about the binding are the plates and the ease of adjustability. for somebody who likes to ski a quiver of skis, but can’t afford many bindings, the plates make it possible. It only takes me about 10 minutes to switch bindings to a different ski.

    another thing I noticed on a short overnight tour last year with the onyx is that if traveling with a big pack, one would never need to bend down to fiddle with any part of the binding as everything can be done from a standing position

    James, as for how they ski – I don’t notice any major differences there, except that unlike the dynafit comfort, your boot will be truly level. Some like this and others don’t.

    Stano, thanks for the great web site.

  15. The features highlighted on G3′s website (as published here at the top) claim DIN 5-10…hmmm, so this is interesting. I didn’t study the manuals much. Good catch Jonathan if it’s true indeed.

    I will try to arrange, with G3, to test a pair of Onyx within next 2-3 weeks or so, and once in contact with them I could ask some more questions, also regarding the DIN settings.

  16. Whoops, typo: meant to write, “the lateral release setting does indeed go up to 12, but it goes down to only 6.”

  17. According to the tech manual:
    http://www.g3onyx.com/_pdf/Mounting-and-Installation-Instructions.pdf
    … and also from what I could tell by inspecting a pair, the lateral release setting does indeed go up to 12, but it goes down to only 5. Given the forward release range is 5-10, the effective range of the binding is only 6-10 (except for a skier who wants a higher lateral setting than forward).
    This would rule out the Onyx for my wife (who has a 5 setting on her Dynafits), as well as rule out any skier who really needs the higher release setting of the Dynafit FT12.

  18. James, I agree that the switching from ski-to-tour mode is a bit overplayed as a feature because there are not many times you need to do it anyways. However, I can see why people might like it even if they use it once a season, because that’s the type of users the Onyx is for, I believe. But the feature is there and it is easier to do it with Onyx than Dynafits.

    In regards to marketing via over-hyped features this is going on a lot in our society. For example the other day I heard on a radio “this is a snow proof camera” :)

  19. Interesting angle on the Onyx. Whenever I pick this binding up in the local ski shop here in Whitehorse, I have serious flashbacks to my childhood days and playing with Transformers!
    I’m sure once you use them for a bit all the click, clacks, and shifts become habit and easy. One thing I haven’t read anywhere is how they SKI (!!!) in comparison to the various Dynafit models (Vert ST, FT, and Tour Lite in particular). I assume they have a very similar feel and that is why no one has commented on this in reviews and such. Acutaully, its more likely not enough Dynafit users have crossed the floor and therefore there is not a wealth of people out there that have actually tried both bindings. Any comment on this Mel? Also, such a big deal is being made of the easy ski-tour switch on this binding. I backcountry ski a lot and I find that the majority of time when you are switching from ski-tour you are talking about taking the ski off anyway to put on your skins or some hard wax, therefore, big deal if you can change this on the fly. That said, good on G3 for stepping up and getting an alternative on the market.

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