By Phil Brown
The Whiteface toll road is usually a mellow ski tour, but you still should be prepared for harsh winds, bitter cold, and the unexpected calamity—such as a broken binding.
I skied up Whiteface last month with my sweetheart Carol and two of our friends, Philip and Emily Brittan. About a half-mile from the Lake Placid turn, the cable on Philip’s binding broke.
“My day’s over,” he declared. He figured he’d have to walk back to the car or, at best, try to gingerly schuss down the road with a broken binding. All that uphill climbing for naught.
Fortunately, Philip and I had the same bindings—G3 Targas, designed for telemark boots—and I had a repair kit in my pack. I gave him my spare cable, and he used his Leatherman tool to install it. Problem solved, we continued on our journey.
I was a little puzzled, though. Philip had owned this pair of skis for only a few years. In contrast, I have skied on Targa bindings for years and never had a problem.
Two days later, I headed to Lake Placid to buy a new repair kit. On the way, I stopped for a short ski trip. About a half-mile from the road, guess what—my cable snapped. Since I lacked a spare, I shuffled out with my broken binding.
I then drove to High Peaks Cyclery in Placid. They didn’t have any Targa repair kits in stock, but I found a set of Targas in their consignment shop and bought them. I went on to Cascade Cross-Country-Ski Center, where I picked up the last two repair kits.
The sales agent at Cascade told me that G3 has stopped making Targas, so spare parts are getting hard to find. It seems G3 and some other companies have discontinued their cable bindings in favor of alpine-touring (AT) or new-telemark-norm (NTN) bindings. These are high-tech (and pricey) bindings that lock when you step into them. They’re great for steep terrain, but for most of the touring I do in the Adirondacks, I prefer the humble cable binding.
Consider the trip to Avalanche Lake, perhaps the classic ski tour in the Adirondacks. Yes, there is a somewhat lengthy downhill run from Avalanche Pass, but it’s fairly easy. AT or NTN bindings would be overkill.
Carol and I skied to Avalanche Pass last weekend on skis outfitted with Targa bindings. At the top of the pass, we stopped to adjust our bindings for the descent to the lake. This is done by throwing up a heel lever to tighten the cable. Guess what? One of my heel levers broke. Without it, the cable was useless.
This was a slightly more serious situation. We were 4 1/2 miles from our car at Adirondak Loj, and it was quite cold. Fortunately, I had spare parts, though the repair proved difficult. I won’t go into details, but it took about 30 minutes, working with bare hands. At the end, we were so cold we headed straight back to the Loj.
There are two lessons here. First, be prepared for a binding breakdown, especially if you’re skiing in the backcountry. Second, if you use Targa bindings, be on the lookout for spare parts. The same applies if you use other cable bindings that have been discontinued.
Good reminder, Phil!
Question: Your comment, “At the top of the pass, we stopped to adjust our bindings for the descent to the lake. This is done by throwing up a heel lever to tighten the cable.” makes it seem that you can ski with Targas without using the cable. But Targas are not 3-pins, are require the cable, and heel lever, at all times, no?
Phil Brown says
Chris, the cable is needed to ski safely with the Targa bindings. But there are two positions for the heel lever. In the down position, the cable is looser. This is for flats and uphill. Flipping the heel lever up tightens the cable for the downhill.
Thanks! I wish I knew that in December 😉
(the other “Chris” is not me)
FYI – I do have the Voile 3-pin w/wires on another pair of skis, but they give the same range of motion with plastic boots.
Phil Brown says
I was wondering why Chris had a photo and the other didn’t.
Maybe lesson #1 should be get a different binding. Voile makes some solid 75mm options with both 3 pin clamp and cable. You get redundency and less resistance on the up because you can disengage the cable.
Phil Brown says
Yeah, I realize this is not great publicity for Targa bindings. However, they are popular and in my experience had been reliable until my recent mishaps. I have Targas on three pairs of skis and have used them on hundreds of outings. Since they don’t make them anymore, I will check out other cable bindings when the time comes. Thanks for the suggestion.
Jim Amell says
Hi Phil, what a coincidence! I had a similar “broken cable” problem several weeks ago ~ 1 mi from the car at Santanoni Preserve, intending on skiing to Moose Pond. My Riva binding cable broke right at the pivot point (to be fair, they are nearly 30 yrs old). Not 3 pin, but I could keep my foot in the toe piece and kick/double pole back to the car. I head a 2nd pair of skis in the car, so it didn’t ruin my day….
But now I can’t seem to find a Riva replacement cable and/or binding. May just go with sturdy 75mm 3 pin binding – hope they still make those as I don’t want to convert all of my 20+ yr old skis to BC NNN…..
Phil Brown says
Jim, you can still buy three-pins, and some companies still make cable bindings for tele. It’s just that options are more limited than in the past. Targas were very popular, from what I’ve read.
Barry D Jewett says
Build your own cables. It can be done with a bit of ingenuity. I have been building cables for my Riva bindings for years and I keep a spare set and the simple tools to do a backcountry replacement with me at all times.
Mark in Michigan says
I just bought a pair of Rottefella Super Telemark bindings with hardwired for $125 from Akers. I read somewhere that this is a fairly recent new offering from Rottefella.