The Orb Freebird has been in the line up at Black Crows since the conception of the Freebird touring range and is instantly recognisable by its iconic fluro yellow topsheet and matching sidewalls.
My initial ski test of the Orb Freebird back in spring 2014 was on a loaned pair. Back then the ski was traditional camber construction which provided plenty of pop and power but wasn’t the easiest thing to pilot on soft snow. I used them to ski Whymper Couloir during a traverse of La Verte from Couturier Couloir. That day a cruel southerly wind stopped things softening but the Orb’s edge grip did the necessary.
This year the ski has undergone some changes and it’s designer Julien Regnier added a front rocker to the ski to bring it in line with the now well established Navis and Corvus Freebird skis. The Orb FB 178 has put 1 mm on its waist line bringing it to 91 mm and the pair weigh in at 2.99kg. I mounted mine with the 2017 PLUM race 170 bindings with the additional bolt on ski crampon mounts to give me a light but very strong ski for steep skiing above 4000 m, long days and expedition skiing. The addition of the rocker has been a necessary revolutionary work over for the Orb and made it easy to ski while maintaining its founding characteristics.
Photo courtesy of Cedric Bernardini.Test Riding Plum Yaks in a Sluff Fest on Col d’Entreves
My dilemma was that I wanted a super phat touring set up for short tours with under 800 m vertical gain but was wary of placing a low tech on a ski that measured 125 mm under foot. The wide ski places a lot of force on the binding reducing its fatigue life and increases the chance of the binding ripping out of the ski. Enter the Plum Yak which has a base plate 50 mm wider than the traditional Plum guide and a 75 mm drill spacing. Plum recommend this for all skis wider than 105 mm.
Haven’t heard of Plum? (pronouced PLUME). Plum are the Felisaz familly owned French brand located down the Arve valley from Chamonix. The 45 year old company has its traditions in CNC machining high tolerance components for the automotive industry and even Rolex. In the factory one see’s a quality controlled process that transforms aircraft grade aluminium from stock bar to the individual components.
The Plum Yak resembles the Guide in all other aspects except for the mounting plates which include a heal support so that load transfer to the ski is not restricted to the just the pins. The binding’s tough blue anodised finish draws the eye to the beautiful metal work that has gone into producing this binding. All the strength bearing components are machined from high quality aircraft grade aluminium which provide a stiff frame for power transfer from the boot to the ski. Indeed the toe pieces are crafted from a single billet of aluminium providing a noticeable increase in responsiveness and power transfer from edge to edge. Do remember this is a low tech binding and does not have the dynamic retention of an alpine binding, and I am not comparing it to them. That said I often ski good snow with these unlocked and have not experienced the pre-release problems that mean I have to ski Dynafit fully locked all the time. In any high consequence terrain I lock them out just the same. Remember to lube the lever every so often so it doesn’t get sticky. If you are out skiing and find you can’t lock the lever and don’t have any grease (why would you?), just apply a tiny spot of sun cream to the area where the pin is. Also remember to check and/or loctite the base plate screws so they don’t work loose.
The Plum Yak resembles the Guide in all other aspects except for the mounting plates which include a heal support so that load transfer to the ski is not restricted to the just the pins. Especially nice if you jump. The heal post is rotated with a ski pole in the same way as a Dynafit Vertical ST but is bi- directional making it more ergonomic. A brake is also available if you need it.
All in all a strong and well made binding whose beauty lies in its simplicity. I skied it through 2014 season with no issues and am looking forward to getting back on them.
Forward and lateral release value 5.5 -12. 900 g pair (no brake)
Raised tow-piece to reduce ramp angle.
Built in crampon slot.
30mm heal adjustment rail.
For skis wider than 95mm waist.
CNC machined accuracy for a rigid frame.
Heel pad stiffens boot connection.