Proof of touring. The upper image was taken at the summit of Mt. Brooks. The lower is of my friend Tree skiing the "not-too-bad snow for the end of April". These two pictures I took myself.At the end of the day, the Ion is simpler, lighter, sexier and feels just as secure when you ski it as the Onyx. The only really noticeable difference is the toe piece actuation. On the Onyx, you have to push down to open it and let it close on your boot. On the Ion you step in. I found getting the hang of the Ion to be a much shorter process than the Onyx. Otherwise, they feel secure, you only lift your boot when you climb, and the heal lifts are the same height. Will I be ditching my Onyx bindings? Not anytime soon. But, if I was buying new, I would definitely opt for the Ion.
Through a happy coincidence, I managed to get my grubby paws on a set of G3 Synapse Carbon 109 skis mounted with the G3 Ion binding. There are already a few reviews around the net, and lots of technical information, so I decided to do a bit of a photo essay and compare them to the Onyx. For some background on the Onyx, I have written a review, shot a quick video of tips and tricks, and covered transferring the binding between two sets of skis with base plates mounted. All photos in this post were taken by Dave Prothero - and I think he did a great job! Here they are - the Synapse Carbon 109 with the Ion binding. Sexy - lightweight - full rocker. The Synapses next to my venerable Rapid Transits. The difference in shape is very noticeable. Here they are - side by side - the Synapse on the left, the Rapid Transit on the right. The traditional cambered shape of the Rapid Transit almost seems to hug the rockered Synapse. Here's a good look at the Ion from the back. The right side is in tour mode. Here's a close-up of the Ion heal pieces. Again, the one on the right is in tour mode. You can actually turn it either way to get it into tour mode. Here's the toe pieces up close. Dead sexy. The upper image is ski mode, the lower image is tour mode, with both heal lifts up. You get pretty well the same lift as the Onyx. Let's do some more comparison shopping. On the left is the Synapse / Ion. In the middle is the Rapid Transit / Onyx Mk I binding / Mk II ski brake. On the right is a Volkl Gotama with an Onyx Mk II binding / Mk I ski brake. The top photo has all three in ski mode, the bottom all three are in tour mode. What I wanted to highlight was the different amount that the ski brakes retract. The Ion ski brake retracts right onto the ski. This is noticeable while touring. The Mk II Onyx ski brake in the center almost gets out of the way, and the Mk I Onyx ski brake on the right is always in the way. Here's another good two shot sequence. The upper photo is looking at the Ion heal piece from the back in ski mode. The lower is the same in tour mode. The ski brake is very neatly retracted out of the way. Here's a heal lift comparison. Foreground is the Ion with both lifts engaged. Background is the Onyx with both lifts engaged. Despite the small platform on the Ion lifters, you never feel like you are unsupported. Here's another look at both the Onyx (left) and the Ion (right) in tour mode with both heal lifts up. I was lucky enough to get a full day of spring skiing at Mount Washington, and a tour up Mt. Brooks in Strathcona Park on my birthday all on the Synapse/Ion combo. While I marveled at the light weight (the pair of Synapses weigh the same as one of my Gotamas), I didn't feel like I was giving up any performance for that light weight. i.e. the Synapses are stiff as hell. Touring performance was exceptional considering the combination of the lightweight ski, tech binding, the functionality of the Ion and the cutting edge rockered shape of the ski. These skis made me happy.