Go Play Gear: Colorado-based Bishop Bindings gaining a following
Special to the Free Press
VAIL — What’s the next step after you graduate from Cornell with a mechanical engineering degree and then go to MIT for a master’s in engineering and product design? Move to Colorado to be a ski bum, of course.
Dave Bombard did just that when he moved to Breckenridge to be a ski instructor in the ’90s. This is where he was first introduced to the telemark turn, and the “cute ski instructor that eventually became (his) wife.”
The couple moved to San Francisco, where Bombard worked in the medical device industry designing minimally invasive surgical instruments. They moved back to Colorado in 2008 for Bombard to work with a medical device start-up based in Vail, but he said he and his wife always stayed close to the slopes.
Based in Edwards, Bombard began collaborating with Fin Doyle, a mechanical engineer himself, the founder of Bomber Industries and the inventor of the original Bishop tele binding. In 2012, Bombard decided to combine his passion for product design and innovation with his love of telemark skiing. He started with the re-introduction of the Bishop design and developed the Bishop 2.0.
“The Bishop is an all-metal, really durable, high-performance plate system, so it has a sliding plate, which is really unique for telemark bindings — most have cables,” Bombard said. “So instead of a cable which can flex, this is a sliding plate system that gives you really good control and performance in terms of edge-to-edge control, and it improves the response from your foot to the ski.”
Bombard’s product development has included testing and feedback sessions with a group of free heelers known as The Vail Players Club, who he said have supplied both technical input and enormous encouragement to Bishop Bindings.
“The design is beautiful,” he said. “It’s like an industrial art that’s high performance, too.”
Bombard explained that how hard it is to flex your foot in a telemark binding (lift your heel), is described as how “active” the binding is. Skiers have personal preferences on whether they want it to be really easy to flex their back foot, or if they want to take more force.
He said the Bishop features that adjustability. By adjusting the position of the solid main pivot, you change the timing and amount of force you apply to the front of your skis with your rear foot.
The sliding tube design is more rigid than the cable-style systems most commonly found on telemark bindings, giving the skier a lot of control with every turn. The toe bail system on the bindings connects the front of a 75-millimeter “duckbill” telemark boot to the binding, and it keeps skis firmly rooted against the heel of a skier’s boot so skis don’t dangle on jumps.
The bindings also have a plate system which makes it easy to use the same bindings on multiple pairs of skis.
“It makes it really nice because you can buy one pair of Bishops and switch them from ski to ski easily with our second ski kits, so you don’t have to buy a second binding for very ski,” he said. “If you have one set of bindings with these plates, you can switch them over in five minutes, with only like four screws.”
The base plates also allow for multiple mounting positions. For backcountry skiers, the climbing bails allow for a lifted heel of 15 degrees, which is helpful while skinning steep hills.
“I love living up here, and for this business it’s great, because I’m in a place where I can get out and go ski and meet people who might like the Bishop bindings,” he said. “Then there’s the design side — with Arrowhead five minutes away, we can go try the bindings and develop new technology all the time.”
Learn more about Bishop Bindings at http://www.bishopbindings.com.
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In a fraction of a second I went from a full sprint to skidding across the ground — pea-sized gravel gashing my knees and elbows, turning them into strawberry crisp.