Gear Review: The Hammerhead |

Gear Review: The Hammerhead

Steve Benson

There’s no feeling like it in the world: You’re cruising at high speed with a big smile, loving your turns, when all of a sudden something goes terribly wrong. In the split second before your head slams into the snow, you curse your bindings.

If you telemark ski, this has probably happened to you at some point. Your cable snaps, your shim shatters, or you rip your binding out of your ski entirely – it’s like someone suddenly chopped off one of your legs. I’ve struggled with tele bindings for years, and several otherwise perfect days have been permanently scarred as a result.But since getting my hands on a pair of Hammerhead bindings last season, I’ve been problem-free. These bomber bindings, produced by Chris Valiante and Collins Pringle of 22 Designs in Jackson, Wyo., have received Couloir magazine’s editors choice award for power and versatility three years running. Quite simply, there is not a tele binding out there that even comes close to the Hammerhead in terms of strength and durability, control and performance, and versatility.

While the binding is a virtual monster for downhill performance, it’s also a touring dream. The binding has five different flex settings, or pivot points, which means it can be cranked down for optimal downhill strength and power, or set free like an old classic tele binding for skinning. The settings can be adjusted easily in a minute or two.What blows me away the most about these bindings is that I hardly ever see them on the hill, but that should change next year. The boys at 22 Designs took over production of the Hammerhead from its creator, Russell Rainey, in February 2004. At that point, the binding had limited distribution, despite the fact it had somewhat of a cult following among die-hard telemarkers.Pringle and Valiante are in the midst of correcting that problem. The Hammerhead saw its largest distribution this season, and next year it will grow even more. For the first time ever, the Hammerhead will be sold in the Aspen area next season (Pringle and Valiante have their sites set on the Ute Mountaineer).

They have also made a few changes to the binding, including a new heel throw that fits snug to all tele boots on the market. For next season, they plan to further improve the binding’s durability, and increase the ease of adjusting the flex, or pivot points (neither of which has really been an issue).If you’re a telemarker who likes to push the envelope, keep your eyes out for the Hammerhead – it’ll rock your free-heelin’ world.Steve Benson’s e-mail address is

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