(19)
(11)EP 3 300 778 B1

(12)EUROPEAN PATENT SPECIFICATION

(45)Mention of the grant of the patent:
06.05.2020 Bulletin 2020/19

(21)Application number: 17001720.6

(22)Date of filing:  03.04.2009
(51)Int. Cl.: 
A63C 9/00  (2012.01)
A63C 9/085  (2012.01)
A63C 9/08  (2012.01)

(54)

TOE UNIT FOR ALPINE TOURING BINDING

ZEHENEINHEIT FÜR EINE ALPINE TOURENBINDUNG

UNITÉ D'ORTEIL POUR FIXATION DE RANDONNÉE EN MONTAGNE


(84)Designated Contracting States:
AT BE BG CH CY CZ DE DK EE ES FI FR GB GR HR HU IE IS IT LI LT LU LV MC MK MT NL NO PL PT RO SE SI SK TR

(30)Priority: 03.04.2008 US 64925 P
20.11.2008 US 193360 P
05.01.2009 US 193893 P

(43)Date of publication of application:
04.04.2018 Bulletin 2018/14

(62)Application number of the earlier application in accordance with Art. 76 EPC:
09728828.6 / 2300111

(73)Proprietor: G3 Genuine Guide Gear Inc.
Burnaby V5J 5A7 (CA)

(72)Inventors:
  • Shute, Cameron
    British Columbia, V1L 2XA (CA)
  • McCrank, Ernest
    British Columbia, V7M 1N7 (CA)
  • Moore, Robert
    British Columbia, V7G 2T9 (CA)

(74)Representative: Bosch Jehle Patentanwaltsgesellschaft mbH 
Flüggenstraße 13
80639 München
80639 München (DE)


(56)References cited: : 
EP-A2- 0 199 098
US-A- 4 348 036
WO-A2-2007/010392
  
      
    Note: Within nine months from the publication of the mention of the grant of the European patent, any person may give notice to the European Patent Office of opposition to the European patent granted. Notice of opposition shall be filed in a written reasoned statement. It shall not be deemed to have been filed until the opposition fee has been paid. (Art. 99(1) European Patent Convention).


    Description

    FIELD OF THE INVENTION



    [0001] This invention relates to an apparatus for an alpine touring binding for holding a footwear toe to a snow travel aid.

    BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION



    [0002] Alpine touring bindings allow the heel of the user's footwear (such as a ski boot) to be latched to a snow travel aid (such as a ski), for sliding downhill (the "downhill mode") and allow the heel to be released for walking and climbing (the "touring mode"). Release bindings allow the footwear to release from the snow travel aid when in the downhill mode, in case of a fall. When in the touring mode, the user may climb or walk with a great degree of freedom since the footwear is pivotally engaged with the aid near the toe of the footwear while the heel of the footwear is free to move upward and downward relative to the aid. A historical collection of such bindings can be viewed in the "Virtual Museum of Backcountry Skiing Bindings" at www.wildsnow.com, authored by Louis Dawson.

    [0003] Alpine touring bindings sold under the brand DYNAFIT are release bindings that take advantage of the fact that modern alpine touring boots have a rigid sole. Thus, it is unnecessary to provide a bar, plate or other arrangement connecting the toe and heel units, as is the case with many other alpine touring bindings (see patent publications EP0199098, EP0519243, EP1559457, and AT402020). Unlike other release bindings, lateral release of the DYNAFIT™ system is provided at the heel, not the toe.

    [0004] The DYNAFIT™ binding system comprises a toe unit which has a set of laterally oriented jaws. Such jaws open and close in a direction generally perpendicular to the longitudinal axis of a ski or other snow travel aid so as to grasp opposite sides of the toe region of the user's footwear. The axes of rotation of each jaw in the DYNAFIT™ system is oriented generally parallel to the longitudinal axes of the snow travel aid. The toe unit is mounted at an appropriate location on the upper surface of the snow travel aid. A separate heel unit is mounted at a particular region on the upper surface of the snow travel aid rearward of the toe unit, the location of which is dictated by the length of the footwear sole. The heel unit typically comprises two pins which extend forward to engage opposite sides of a fitting placed over a cavity in the rear of the footwear heel. Under forward release conditions, the pins are forced apart against spring pressure to disengage from the fitting.

    [0005] Lateral release in the DYNAFIT™ system is provided by the heel unit being rotatable on a generally vertical post. Adjustment of the lateral release is done by altering resistance to rotation of the heel unit. While the jaws of the toe unit open, they do so with a relatively high resistance to force in order to provide a constrained fulcrum that acts as the pivot point for the lateral release feature of the binding system. Thus, the toe unit of a DYNAFIT™ system is not considered a lateral release toe unit such as is employed in other binding systems. An example of a binding system in which the toe unit is a lateral release toe unit containing jaws for grasping the toe is described in WO2007/010392. The latter binding system operates differently from the DYNAFIT™ system because the toe unit rather than the heel unit provides lateral release.

    [0006] To switch between touring and downhill modes with the DYNAFIT™ system, it is necessary to rotate the heel unit so that the pins either engage the footwear heel (downhill mode) or face away from the heel (touring mode). When the pins are facing away, the heel is free to move upward and downward with the toe of the footwear being pivotally engaged to the toe unit. In order to switch from downhill mode to touring mode it is necessary to either forcibly release the pins from the fitting on the heel (not recommended) or disengage the jaws of the toe unit from the footwear toe, so that the footwear completely exits from the binding system whereupon the heel unit may be rotated to a position in the touring mode. Subsequent re-entry of the toe into the toe unit is then required. This process is time consuming and can be difficult to do in deep snow or on a steep slope, for the reasons discussed below.

    [0007] The jaws of a DYNAFIT™ binding system toe unit open by spreading outwards away from the longitudinal midline of a snow travel aid. Each jaw has an arm that extends towards the midline. Each arm has an end that abuts the other in an end-to-end manner. In the commercial embodiment, one such end engages a recess in the other end. In each of the open and closed positions, the jaw arms ends are in an over-centre position and springs bias the jaws towards either the fully opened or the fully closed positions. Each jaw has a generally conical "tooth" which laterally engages a corresponding fitting embedded on the side of the toe region of the footwear sole. When the jaws are closed and engage these fittings, the toe is retained adjacent the upper surface of the snow travel aid but the footwear is able to pivot in a forward or backward direction to facilitate walking and climbing. A catch is provided to prevent the jaws from inadvertently opening as a result of application of force sufficient to overcome the spring pressure, and is used when the toe unit is in the touring mode. The catch is usually disengaged in the downhill mode so as to not prevent release of the footwear during a fall. The user enters the toe unit by carefully positioning the footwear toe between the jaws so that the teeth will engage the toe fittings when the toe is depressed, causing the jaws to close. This manoeuvre requires patience and practice.

    [0008] Since the jaws in the DYNAFIT™ system toe unit make use of an "over-centre" arrangement to retain the jaws in either the open or closed position, the distance between the tooth of each jaw and the footwear toe is substantial when the jaws are in the fully opened position. This makes it difficult for the user to confidently align the toe between the jaws, particularly if the toe and/or binding is visually obscured by snow or the snow travel aid is resting on an inclined snow surface.

    [0009] EP1559457 discloses an improvement in the DYNAFIT™ system boot toe fitting which is intended to assist the user in entering the toe unit. This improvement involves the presence of flanges on the toe fittings, which define a vertical groove in the fitting. The flanges come closer to the teeth of the binding jaws when the binding is in the open position than is the case with previous fittings and help guide the user to place the toe in the most appropriate position (see Figure 6 of EP1559457). Nevertheless, practise is still required for the efficient use of the binding and it is not practical to retrofit the improved fittings into footwear containing the previous fittings. EP 0 199 098 A2 discloses an apparatus for holding a footwear toe, comprising tensioning means that are held on a respective arm of angular levers. The angular levers are in active connection by springs and rods, projecting from arms of the angular levers, at a common joint. In closed position the joint is below the plane of the dead center position. As in the open position the joint is above the plane of the dead center position. More specifically, the holding apparatus can be snapped from open position to closed position (and vice versa) by moving the joint downwards (upwards) across the dead center position. Accordingly, in open position, the springs bias the tension means to the open position, and, in closed position, the springs bias the tension means to the closed position.

    [0010] WO 2007/010392 A2 discloses a toe-piece for ski binding comprising a fixed support base having two jaws with respective end pins able to rotate about an axis so as to pass from an open to a closed position, said jaws having a resistance arm co-operating with actuating means able to rotate about an axis perpendicular to the support base against the opposing action of resilient means integral with the said toe-piece, said actuating means being constrained to a sliding piece able to be displaced in both senses in the longitudinal direction upon actuation of associated operating means, so as to cause closing/opening of the two jaws.

    [0011] US 4348036 A discloses an apparatus for holding a footwear toe, comprising two scissor arms having teeth for engaging with the receiving socket on the ski boot, wherein the scissor arms are joined together at their proximal end and pivoted. A tension spring is connected with one end to the proximal end of both arms and with the other end to frame. Therefore, the holding apparatus can be varied from open position to closed position (and vice versa) by rotating the frame which causes the spring to exert tension on the scissor arms and provides an over-centered frame mechanism. In open position, the tension exerted by the spring on the scissor arms is relieved permitting the arms to move freely, i.e., the teeth are not biased by the spring.

    SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION



    [0012] The scope of the present invention is defined by the appended claims.

    BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS



    [0013] 

    Figures 1A and 1B are side and plan views, respectively of a ski, ski boot and a prior art binding system.

    Figures 2A and 2B are side and plan views, respectively showing the combination illustrated in Figures 1A and 1B in a touring mode.

    Figure 3 is a partial end view of a boot toe containing a prior art fitting for a jaw "tooth" of a prior art heel unit.

    Figure 4 is an exploded view of a toe unit of this invention.

    Figures 5A and 5B are top and side views of the toe unit shown in Figure 4.

    Figures 6A and 6B are perspective views of the toe unit shown in Figures 5A and 5B.

    Figures 7-9 are cross-section views of the toe unit along a line from points A-A shown in Figure 5A.

    Figure 10 is a side view of the toe unit shown in Figure 9.

    Figure 11 is a perspective view of a toe unit not covered by the invention.

    Figure 12A is a plan view of the toe unit shown in Figure 11.

    Figures 12B-12D are cross-section views taken along line A-A as referenced in Figure 12A.

    Figures 13A and 13B are perspective and exploded views, respectively, of a single jaw for use in a toe unit not covered by the invention.

    Figure 14 is a perspective view of a part containing a portion of a generally spherical bearing for use in articulating jaws not covered by the invention.

    Figure 15 is a perspective view of a crampon for use with a toe unit not covered by the invention.

    Figure 16 is a side view of a toe unit of this invention with crampon and a portion of an associated ski.


    DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF PARTICULAR


    EMBODIMENTS OF THE INVENTION



    [0014] Snow travel aids as contemplated herein are devices that support a user and are adapted to slide on a snow surface. Examples include skis, other snow sliding devices shaped like a ski and snowboards. This includes devices known as "split-boards" (which are snowboards that can be separated longitudinally into at least two portions, the two portions then functioning in a manner similar to a pair of skis). Examples of such other devices include "ski blades", "snow blades", "ski boards", and "sliding" or "gliding snow shoes". An example of the latter device is the configurable snow shoe/ski device described in WO 2000/044846.

    [0015] In this specification, "lateral release" involves torque applied about an axis that is generally perpendicular to the upper surface of a snow travel aid. In the DYNAFIT™ system and in a binding of this invention, the axis is situated at the toe rather than the heel.

    [0016] In this specification, reference to "generally vertical" is intended to indicate a general direction upwards or downwards from a reference but does not require perpendicularity to such reference. Conversely, the term "generally horizontal" would include directions that are perpendicular to those which are "generally vertical" but are not limited to situations involving a line or a plane parallel to the reference. The latter two terms also include lines or planes that are curved relative to the reference and extend in generally vertical or horizontal directions from the reference. In addition, the terms "generally horizontal" and "generally parallel" include lines or planes that are parallel to a reference as well as those which form an angle of less than 45 degrees with the reference or which are curved and follow a direction that is generally parallel to the reference. The term "generally perpendicular" is not limited to a 90 degree orientation but includes orientations that form an angle to a reference of greater than 45 degrees and less than 135 degrees. The term "generally spherical" includes any shape comprising one or more portions of a surface of a sphere.

    [0017] Figures 1A and 1B show the prior art DYNAFIT™ binding system, including toe unit 4 and heel unit 10 mounted on the upper surface of ski 1. The toe unit comprises jaws 5 that pivotally engage with special fittings (not shown) embedded in the toe of ski boot 2. Dual pins 8 on heel unit 10 engage the rear portion of the boot heel 3. The heel unit comprises a base plate 7 fixed to the ski surface by multiple fasteners 9. Upper portion 6 of the heel unit contains forward directed projections, which are illustrated as a pair of pins 8. The arrangement shown in Figures 1A and 1B is the downhill mode with both the toe and heel of the boot engaged by the binding system.

    [0018] Figures 2A and 2B show the prior art DYNAFIT™ system positioned in the touring mode. The toe of the boot remains pivotally engaged to toe unit 4. The heel is free to move up and down relative to the ski because upper portion 6 of the heel unit has been rotated so that pins 8 face away from boot heel 3. In some DYNAFIT™ models, upper portion 6 may be further rotated (not shown) such that pins 8 face rearward of the ski thereby allowing the boot heel 3 to come to rest on an upper surface of upper portion 6. This reduces stress on the user's muscles and tendons while climbing steep hills.

    [0019] In order to switch from the downhill mode shown in Figures 1A and 1B to the touring mode shown in Figures 2A and 2B, one must free the pins 8 from the boot heel. The usual method for doing so is to disengage the boot toe from jaws 5, thereby completing exiting the binding system at which point the user is no longer engaged with the snow travel aid. This is a disadvantage in deep snow. Furthermore, the snow travel aid must be prevented from sliding away without the user attached.

    [0020] Figure 3 is a part-circular side view of a cut-away portion of the toe of an alpine touring boot containing a standard fitting for engaging a tooth on the jaw of a DYNAFIT™ toe unit. Shown is the front side portion of the boot sole 15 in the region of the toe of boot 2. Embedded therein is a metallic insert 17 which presents a concavity negatively corresponding in shape to a tooth on the jaw of a DYNAFIT™ toe unit. A similar concavity is presented on the other side of the boot toe for receiving the other tooth present on the other jaw of the toe unit.

    [0021] Figure 4 is an exploded view of a particular embodiment of a toe unit of this invention which combines the various features described above in a single apparatus. The dotted lines illustrate location and direction of engagement of various pins which act as pivots for articulation of the various components.

    [0022] Base plate 101 contains a series of holes for receiving fasteners intended to attach the base plate to the upper surface of a snow travel aid. In this embodiment, the base plate also contains elements for receiving threaded fasteners 111 for attaching a chassis 102 to a desired location on the base plate. In this embodiment, base plate 101 has on opposite sides flanges 135 which cooperate with opposing flanges on the under surface of chassis 102 to provide for sliding engagement of the chassis on the base plate. Chassis 102 has, on its upper surface, pairs of pillars on opposite sides thereof for receiving pins 126, each of which articulates a jaw 103 so that each jaw can move between open and closed positions. Each jaw contains tooth 107, which in this embodiment is a separate fitting that is threaded into a corresponding opening in the jaw and has a generally conical end for engagement with a boot fitting such as that shown in Figure 3. Two pins 119 engage coil springs 105 which in turn engage female plunger 106. The latter elements form an arm of the jaw and corresponding elements are present on the opposite jaw. Retained between each of the female plungers 106 when assembled, is pivot ball 112 which provides a spherical bearing surface that engages both female plungers. The jaw components do not pass through the centre-point of an arrangement when moving to the open position from the closed position. Thus, at all times, springs 105 bias the jaws towards the closed position.

    [0023] The lower surface of a free end of control arm 116 rests against an upper surface of pivot ball 112 and is used to restrain the jaws in the closed position. When so restrained the jaws are "locked" in the touring mode position. Control arm 116 is a lever having its fulcrum at pivot pin 125. Pin 125 articulates the control arm to step-in lever 114 and a pair of pillars at the front end of chassis 102. At the opposite end of control arm 116 from the free end is a yoke. Extending from opposite sides of the yoke are posts 124 which engage in a hook on tour mode lever 113 when in the locked position. Tour mode lever 113 itself is pivotally engaged via pin 120 to step-in lever 114. Tour mode lever 113 has a free end that acts as a handle which permits the user when pulling the handle upward to engage posts 124 on control arm 116 thereby placing the binding in the locked position.

    [0024] A rear portion of step-in lever 114 engages boot-stop 115. When the forward end of lever 114 translates upward as in the downhill mode position (when the jaws are closed but not locked), boot-stop 115 is translated downward so that it does not interfere with pivoting of the footwear toe. When the front end of lever 114 is depressed to cause the jaws to open, boot-stop 115 becomes angled upward so as to provide a stop surface just in front of the footwear toe when the footwear is in the proper location for entry into the binding. In the illustrated embodiment, a pair of threaded fasteners 123 engage in openings in the sides of boot-stop 115 and fasten to the rear portion of step-in lever 114. By loosening fasteners 123, the position of boot-stop 115 relative to step-in lever 114 can be adjusted to provide an appropriate clearance between the rearward edge of boot-stop 115 and the toe of a particular article of footwear. The presence of a boot-stop can assist the user in correctly placing the footwear when entering the binding.

    [0025] At the front of step-in lever 114 opposite boot-stop 115, is pivot pin 121 that pivotally engages the upper part of actuator link 109, the lower portion of which is pivotally engaged by pin 122 in the front end of sliding plate 108. This arrangement allows for plate 108 to move forward or rearward relative to chassis 102 by moving step-in lever 114 upward or downward. Plate 108 slides along in slot 136 in the upper surface of base plate 101. At an intermediate point on the upper surface of plate 108 is wedge 131 which engages the lower surface of pivot ball 112. When the binding is not in the locked position and plate 108 is caused to move rearward, wedge 131 forces pivot ball 112 upward against the force of springs 105, thereby causing jaws 103 to move to the open position. On a rearward portion of plate 108 is a shaped passage 130 containing a recess. Pivot pin 118 extends through passage 130 and is pivotally engaged on the under surface of trigger plate 110. When plate 108 is in the rearward position and the jaws are in the open position, pin 118 becomes engaged in the recess portion of passage 130 thereby retaining plate 108 at that position and preventing spring 105 from causing the jaws to close. When the user steps on trigger plate 110, pin 118 is forced out of the recess in passage 130, and plate 108 is able to move forward. As the wedge 131 moves forward it allows pivot ball 112 to descend. This causes the jaws, which are biased by spring 105 to close. Pin 140 articulates the front portion of trigger plate 110 to chassis 102.

    [0026] When entering and closing the illustrated binding, the user does not have to cause the binding components to travel through an "over-centre" range of motion while attempting to maintain a correct position for engagement of the jaws with the boot. Also, because this binding does not use an "over-centre" mechanism, the teeth of the jaws can be configured to be positioned very close to the fitting on the sides of a footwear toe when in the open position. For example, the distance between tips of the jaw teeth when the jaws are fully open may be in the range of about 63.0 mm to about 69.0 or 70.0 mm, which would provide for such close positioning of the teeth to typical boot fittings currently employed in the industry. This allows for accurate alignment by the user without using special fittings. Furthermore, since this device does not use an "over-centre" arrangement, only a slight downwards motion on trigger plate 110 is required to cause the jaws to close, thus reducing difficulty in closing the binding while maintaining a correct position of the footwear.

    [0027] Figures 5A and 5B are top and side views, respectively, of an assembled toe unit as shown in Figure 4. In these drawings, the toe unit is in the downhill mode position, that is, the jaws are closed but the binding is not locked. The components are identified by the same reference numerals as in Figure 4.

    [0028] Figures 6A and 6B are separate perspective views of the toe unit shown in Figures 5A and 5B. Equivalent reference numerals are employed.

    [0029] Figures 7-9 are cross-section views of the toe unit taken along a line from points A-A as shown in Figure 5A. Figure 7 shows the toe unit with the jaws open ready for the user to "step-in" by placing the boot toe between the jaws and by slightly depressing trigger plate 110. Boot-stop 115 is in an upwards position ready to prevent forward translation of the boot toe. The remaining reference numerals are as in preceding drawings. Pin 118 is engaged in the recess at the top of passage 130. Wedge 131 restrains ball 112 in an upward position and consequently retains the jaws in an open position.

    [0030] Figure 8 shows the toe unit in the downhill mode, that is, with the jaws closed and trigger plate 110 translated downwards beyond the point where the closing mechanism was actuated. Boot-stop 115 has also translated downwards to prevent interference with the boot toe and the binding is not in the locked position. Pin 118 has moved out of the recess in passage 130 and wedge 131 has moved forwards permitting ball 112 to descent and the jaws to close.

    [0031] Figure 9 shows the toe unit in the touring mode, that is, with the jaws closed and the toe unit locked. This has been accomplished by translating tour mode lever 113 upwards thereby engaging hook region 113A of the tour mode lever beneath posts 124 thereby preventing that end of control arm 116 from translating downwards and consequently, restraining ball 112 in a downward position with the jaws closed.

    [0032] Figure 10 is a side view of the toe unit illustrated in Figure 9, locked in the touring mode position with hook region 113A of tour mode lever 113 engaged beneath post 124. Serrations 113B engage an upper surface of chassis 102, tending to prevent lever 113 from returning to the unlocked position.

    [0033] Figure 11 is a perspective view of an example not covered by the invention of a toe unit shown in downhill mode position with the tip of a user's pole 600 poised to cause the toe unit to move to a "step-in" position whereby the user may engage the toe unit with the ski boot. This example not covered by the invention does not employ the trigger plate and accompanying mechanism described above for the preceding embodiment. Instead, the user presses down on lever 310 by using a ski pole or other implement or directly by hand to cause jaws 203 to open to permit entry of the boot toe. The jaws are retained in an open position by continued pressure on lever 310. Release of lever 310 allows the jaws to return to the closed position as a result of the constant bias to the closed position by springs 205 in the manner described in the embodiment above. This example not covered by the invention is less complex yet still facilitates boot entry into the toe unit by the positioning of pins 207 close to the sides of the boot toe, which is made possible by the jaws 203 not being arranged in an "over-centre" manner and being constantly biased to the closed position. In this example not covered by the invention constant pressure downwards on lever 310 helps hold the ski and binding in position while the user places the boot toe between the jaws. Again, maximum opening of the jaws may be in the range of about 63.0 mm to about 69.0 or 70.0 mm. However, instead of stepping down on a trigger (as in the previous embodiment) the user simply releases pressure from lever 310 causing the jaws to close. Also illustrated in this drawing is base plate 201 and chassis 202. Rather than a trigger plate at the rear of the toe unit in this embodiment, the rear portion of chassis 202 comprises raised support region 200 for contacting the footwear sole behind/adjacent the footwear toe while the user steps into the toe unit. This helps to locate the footwear during step in. Preferably, the latter support does not contact the sole once the jaws are closed and engaged with the footwear. This example not covered by the invention employs control arm 216 for the same purposes as in the preceding embodiment. This example not covered by the invention employs pivoting cowling 300. Also illustrated are engagement posts 400 for attaching a ski crampon and loop 500 for attaching a "runaway" strap (if desired).

    [0034] Figure 12A is a plan view of the example not covered by the invention shown in Figure 11. Figure 12B is a cross-section along line A-A shown in Figure 12A. As in the preceding embodiment, the toe unit contains a sliding plate 208 having ledge 231 which engages bearing 212 to open jaws 203. Absent are the rearwardly situated components of sliding plate 208 shown in the previous embodiment which were used to retain the previous embodiment toe unit in an open position. The toe unit shown in Figure 12B is in the position that it would be in when lever 310 is being depressed by the user. Lever 310 is attached to cowling 300 at pivot joint 220 which permits lever 310 to move upwards relative to cowling 300 but the arrangement is such that downward pressure on lever 310 causes cowling 300 to itself pivot relative to its support on pivot 305. Downward pressure exerted by lever 310 causes sliding plate 208 to move rearwards to the position shown in Figure 12B via link 209 which is pivotally connected at 221 and 222 to cowling 300 and sliding plate 208, respectively. As shown in Figure 12B, wedge 231 forces bearing 212 upwards.

    [0035] Figure 12C is a further cross-section along line A-A of Figure 12A. In this instance, the toe unit is in the downhill mode position whereby pressure is no longer applied to lever 310. In this position, springs 205 which bias jaws 203 to the closed position cause bearing 212 to force wedge 231 rearward, thereby ultimately causing toe cowling 300 and lever 310 to remain in an upward position. In this position, the jaws are closed but can open by biasing springs 205, to provide release during a fall.

    [0036] Figure 12D is a further cross-section along line A-A of Figure 12A. In this instance, the toe unit is shown locked in the touring mode position. Jaws 203 are retained in a closed position by the free end of control arm 216 pressing downwards on bearing 212. In this example not covered by the invention control arm 216 is pivotally engaged to the chassis separate from toe cowling 300 at pivot 225. The forward end of control arm 216 is restrained in a manner similar to that shown in the previous embodiment when lever 310 is translated upwards and locked by means of a serrated surface on engaging hook region 213a cooperating with a wedge shape portion 213b on the binding chassis. In this example not covered by the invention additional serrated surfaces are provided for retaining lever 310 in an upwards position at an interface between lever 310 and cowling 300.

    [0037] Figures 13A and 13B show an alternate jaw arrangement for an example not covered by the invention. The left jaw 203 is shown with its components assembled and the right jaw 203 is shown with its components in exploded view. In this embodiment, the left and right jaws terminate in mirror-image plunger parts 206a and 206b, each of which combine functions of plunger 106 and pivot ball 112 described above. In this embodiment, when both arms are installed, plunger parts 206a and 206b face one another and are joined by means of a pin inserted into a central opening 510 as shown in Figure 14. Each of plunger part 206a and 206b contain a partial spherical member shown as 212a in Figure 14. When joined, these two members form a generally spherical bearing.

    [0038] A toe unit may include elastic/resilient components additional to the components described above (such as springs 105 and 205) that are used to bias the jaws to a closed position. Such additional components may include an anti-rattle device such as one biased against the control arm 116 or 216 to keep the control arm resting against pivot ball 112 or bearing 212. Such a device may be a torsion spring mounted on a common pivot axis with the control arm (such as pivot or pin 125/225 described above). The use of additional elastic/resilient components in a toe unit can also provide further advantages by allowing for release binding characteristics to exist when the binding is in the touring mode and/or to modulate lateral release characteristics when the binding is in the downhill mode.

    [0039] When the jaws of a DYNAFIT™ toe unit are locked, it is possible to release the footwear toe from the toe unit by forcible deformation of binding components and/or the toe fittings. However, the amount of force required to release the toe from the DYNAFIT™ system when locked is quite high and beyond the range considered normal for release bindings. After repeated releases while locked, the amount of force required to release from the DYNAFIT™ may decrease but this can be due to excessive wear or deformation of the system components. However, by incorporating an elastic/resilient element in the present invention, one may provide for acceptable release characteristics when the binding is in the touring mode, so that the footwear will remain attached to the toe unit when subjected to forces normally experienced during touring manoeuvres but can be dislodged by more severe forces to reduce risk of injury to the user. Such a feature can also be selectively employed by the user to increase lateral release values of the binding system during downhill mode, while remaining within normally acceptable release values.

    [0040] Incorporation of additional elastic/resilient aspects in a toe unit may be accomplished in a variety of ways. One way is to select or design the control arm to be an elastic/resilient component. For example, the control arm 116/216 described above may be constructed from an appropriate material such as steel (including stainless steel) so that the control arm will act as a leaf-spring, biased against the jaw components. Sizing and shaping of the control arm allows one to moderate the amount of release characteristics provided by the control arm when the arm is employed to retain the jaws in a closed position. Variations in the position of a fulcrum (such as pivot/pin 125 or 225) relative to the jaws can also be used to adjust the release feature. Alternatively (or in addition to the foregoing) additional elastic/resilient elements such as torsion or coil springs, elastomeric elements, etc. may be used. These may include (but are not limited to) a torsion spring (similar to the anti-rattle device described above) or springs, elastomeric elements, etc. which operate against the opposite end of the control arm relative to the jaws. One may also replace a touring mode locking mechanism such as those described above with elastic/resilient elements or one may provide such element(s) in combination with a locking mechanism.

    [0041] Elastic/resilient components in a toe unit may operate in parallel or in series with themselves and/or in series or in parallel with a switching device. Such components may be provided to function only when a locking mechanism is not engaged or in combination with a locking mechanism. Provision of one or more additional elastic/resilient components to function in series with a locking mechanism in a toe unit of this invention, allows the user to increase the lateral release resistance of the binding in the downhill mode while remaining within normally acceptable lateral release levels. This could be done by locking the binding in to what would otherwise be the touring mode position and using the binding in this position for downhill manoeuvres. In this mode, and with reference to the foregoing examples, the control arm (116 or 216) acting as a leaf-spring is locked by tour mode lever 113/310. The leaf-spring provides higher resistance to opening of the jaws as compared to the resistance provided by coil springs (105, 205) alone.

    [0042] In examples not covered by the invention, the resilient elements which operate when the unit is locked will increase the amount of torque required to open the jaws by about 4 to about 6 DIN units.

    [0043] Provision of multiple elastic/resilient release components in combination with a switching mechanism can be adapted to allow the user to modulate binding release values between several predetermined values that are each acceptable for binding release. By providing a switch mechanism for engaging or "locking-out" such multiple elements, the user may conveniently change from (for example) the operation of a different or multiple elastic/resilient element(s) (which provides higher release values) to an operation of a different or fewer elastic/resilient element(s) (which provides a lower release value). Such an arrangement may allow the user to change binding release values from one predetermined amount (or range of amounts) to another predetermined amount (or range of amounts). An example of this arrangement as applied to the exemplified example not covered by the invention is the use of the tour-lock mechanism in series with an elastic/resilient control arm, in parallel with a set of springs which always bias the jaws to a closed position. The tour-lock mechanism acts as a switching mechanism which engages the control arm so that the control arm biased acting against the binding jaws becomes a release component operating in parallel with the springs which normally bias the binding to the closed position.

    [0044] As is indicated above, the DYNAFIT™ system suffers from a disadvantage in that in order to change from the downhill mode to the touring mode, one should disengage the boot entirely from the binding so that the heel unit may be rotated and the pins in the heel unit will no longer engage with the boot heel. At that point, the toe is re-engaged with the toe unit. The toe unit embodiments described above can facilitate entry into the toe unit. Further advantage can be obtained from having the toe unit be capable of translation forward and rearward relative to the snow travel aid by the user. This can provide a system whereby the user does not have to disengage the footwear from the toe unit in order to disengage from the heel unit. Such a system may be provided for by allowing the toe unit to be translated forward along the longitudinal axis of the snow travel aid when it is intended to disengage the boot from the heel unit such as when switching to the touring mode. This can be provided by allowing for the toe unit to slide forward relative to the upper surface of the snow travel aid. A catch or some other mechanism for restraining the toe unit may be provided to hold the toe unit in a rearward position so that the footwear heel will remain engaged with the heel unit. A catch or restraint that restrains the toe unit in a forward translated position so the footwear may remain there during walking and climbing may also be provided. Having the footwear move forward for the touring position can be advantageous because shifting the toe unit forward shifts the touring pivot forward from the balance point of the snow travel aid, allowing the rear end of the snow travel aid to drop more easily. This can facilitate manoeuvres such as kick turns that are done with the heel free from the snow travel aid.

    [0045] In some drawings described above, chassis 102 is shown fixed to base plate 101 by means of fasteners 111. Typically, the chassis will be located on the base plate at an appropriate location for positioning the footwear toe relative to the balance point for downhill sliding. However, one may readily appreciate that a chassis of a toe unit of this invention need not be permanently fixed but may be permitted to slidably engage a base plate with at least one catch provided to restrain the chassis relative to the base plate in a rearward position which would allow the footwear heel to engage the heel unit. A further catch or some other restraint may also be provided for retaining the chassis in a forward position for touring where the heel will be translated forward of the heel unit and no longer engaged with the pins of the heel unit. One may also appreciate that movement of the chassis relative to the base plate may be facilitated by mechanical means such as a lever. Also, solid or flexible links, including cable and pulley arrangements, etc. may be employed for connecting such a lever or other actuating mechanism to the chassis to provide for movement of the chassis relative to the base plate. A variety of mechanisms are known in the art both for translating a ski binding component relative to a snow travel aid surface and for restraining a binding unit at a desired position.

    [0046] Figure 15 shows a crampon for use with the toe unit shown in Figure 11. Crampon 410 comprises typical teeth 405 on each side of the crampon. The crampon may also comprise raised area 406 which is intended to support a boot sole when in use. Spring clips 415 are attached to front portions of the crampon by means of rivets 420 or other fasteners. The spring clips have resilient capabilities and contain a throughhole which covers an arcuate cut-out on a front portion of the crampon. The springs clips cooperate with posts 400 as shown in Figure 11 to facilitate rapid attachment of the crampon to the toe unit and easy removal by biasing the spring clips outwards. Figure 16 is a side view of a toe unit with attached crampon 410 shown relative to a partial portion of ski 1. Crampon 410 is illustrated in a slightly raised position which would be typical of what happens when the boot is raised and the ski is pushed forward along the snow surface. Lowering the boot will cause crampon 410 to pivot downwards biting into the snow surface beneath the ski.

    [0047] Although the foregoing invention has been described in some detail by way of illustration and example for purposes of clarity of understanding, it will be readily apparent to those of skill in the art in light of the teachings of this invention that changes and modification may be made thereto without departing from the scope of the invention.


    Claims

    1. An apparatus for an alpine touring binding for holding a footwear toe to a snow travel aid when the heel of the footwear is detached from the snow travel aid, the apparatus comprising a pair of teeth (107) with conical ends moveable between open and closed positions, wherein:

    (i) in the closed position the conical ends engage concavities in opposite side portions of the footwear toe to grasp the toe while permitting pivotal movement of the footwear about the toe in forward and rearward directions, and

    (ii) in the open position the teeth are positioned so that the conical ends do not grasp the toe; and wherein the apparatus further comprises one or more resilient elements (105) that constantly bias the teeth to the closed position throughout the range of motion of the teeth between the open and closed positions, a catch (118) for restraining the teeth at the open position against said constant bias and a trigger for releasing the catch to permit the teeth to move to the closed position, wherein the trigger (110) is actuated by contact with the footwear.


     
    2. The apparatus of claim 1, further comprising a toe stop (115) configured to be in front of the footwear toe and which moves into a position for contacting the footwear toe as the teeth are moved to the open position.
     
    3. The apparatus of claim 2, wherein said movement of the toe stop and of the teeth to the open position is actuated by a single step-in lever (114).
     
    4. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the each tooth is on one of a pair of arms that move in directions generally perpendicular to the longitudinal axis of the snow travel aid and said arms articulate with each other beneath the footwear toe.
     
    5. The apparatus of claim 4, further comprising a lock engageable in the closed position for inhibiting movement of the teeth to the open position, wherein the lock comprises a lever that contacts said arms or a bearing through which said arms articulate.
     
    6. The apparatus of claim 5, wherein the lock is actuated by an additional tour mode lever (113).
     
    7. The apparatus of claim 5, wherein the lever that contacts the arms or bearing is a leaf-spring which provides resilience while inhibiting movement of the teeth to the open position.
     
    8. The apparatus of claim 7, wherein the resilience allows for an increase of resistance to opening of the jaws when the lock is engaged by a DIN value of about 4 to about 6.
     
    9. The apparatus of claim 1, further comprising a lock engageable in the closed position for inhibiting movement of the teeth to the open position.
     
    10. The apparatus of claim 9, wherein the lock further comprises one or more elements for providing resilience while inhibiting movement of the teeth to the open position.
     
    11. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the snow travel aid is a ski and the footwear is a ski boot.
     
    12. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the apparatus is adapted for generally horizontal, forward and rearward translation relative to a longitudinal axis of the snow travel aid, selectively by a user, wherein a mechanism is provided for causing the apparatus to move forward and rearward and a mechanism is provided for restraining the apparatus in a forward or rearward position or both.
     
    13. Combination of the apparatus of claim 12, with a heel holder, the combination being mountable on the snow travel aid, the apparatus for holding the toe being translatable by the user in said generally horizontal, rearward and forward directions to provide for engagement and disengagement of the heel of the footwear with the heel holder.
     
    14. A kit comprising the apparatus of claim 1, and a heel holder that provides for lateral release.
     
    15. A combination comprising the apparatus of claim 1, with a heel holder that provides for lateral release, said combination being mountable on the snow travel aid.
     


    Ansprüche

    1. Vorrichtung für eine Tourenskibindung zum Halten einer Schuhwerkspitze an einer Schneewanderhilfe, wenn die Ferse des Schuhwerks von der Schneewanderhilfe gelöst ist, wobei die Vorrichtung ein Paar von Zähnen (107) mit konischen Enden aufweist, die zwischen einer offenen und einer geschlossenen Position bewegbar sind, wobei:

    (i) in der geschlossenen Position die konischen Enden in Wölbungen in gegenüberliegenden Seitenabschnitten der Schuhwerkspitze eingreifen, um die Spitze zu greifen, während sie eine Schwenkbewegung des Schuhwerks um die Spitze in Vorwärts- und Rückwärtsrichtung zulassen, und

    (ii) in der offenen Position die Zähne derart positioniert sind, dass die konischen Enden die Spitze nicht ergreifen;
    und wobei die Vorrichtung des Weiteren ein oder mehrere nachgiebige Elemente (105) aufweist, die die Zähne über den gesamten Bewegungsarbeitsbereich der Zähne zwischen der offenen und der geschlossenen Position konstant in die geschlossene Position vorspannen, eine Arretierung (118) zum Halten der Zähne in der offenen Position gegen die konstante Vorspannung und einen Drücker zum Lösen der Arretierung, um es den Zähnen zu erlauben, sich in die geschlossene Position zu bewegen, wobei der Drücker (110) durch Kontakt mit dem Schuhwerk betätigt wird.


     
    2. Vorrichtung nach Anspruch 1, die des Weiteren einen Zehenanschlag (115) aufweist, der dazu konfiguriert ist, sich vor der Schuhwerkspitze zu befinden, und der sich in eine Position zum Kontaktieren der Schuhwerkspitze bewegt, wenn die Zähne in die offene Position bewegt werden.
     
    3. Vorrichtung nach Anspruch 2, wobei die Bewegung des Zehenanschlags und der Zähne in die offene Position durch einen einzigen Eingriffshebel (114) getätigt wird.
     
    4. Vorrichtung nach Anspruch 1, wobei sich der jeweilige Zahn auf einem eines Paars von Armen befindet, die sich in im Allgemeinen senkrechter Richtung zur Längsachse der Schneewanderhilfe bewegen, und die Arme unter der Schuhwerkspitze gelenkig verbunden sind.
     
    5. Vorrichtung nach Anspruch 4, die des Weiteren einen Riegel aufweist, der in die geschlossene Position in Eingriff bringbar ist, um die Bewegung der Zähne in die offene Position zu verhindern, wobei der Riegel einen Hebel aufweist, der die Arme kontaktiert oder ein Lager, durch welches die Arme gelenkig gelagert sind.
     
    6. Vorrichtung nach Anspruch 5, wobei der Riegel durch einen zusätzlichen Tourenmodushebel (113) betätigt wird.
     
    7. Vorrichtung nach Anspruch 5, wobei der Hebel, der die Arme kontaktiert oder das Lager eine Blattfeder ist, die Nachgiebigkeit bereitstellt, während sie die Bewegung der Zähne in die offene Position verhindert.
     
    8. Vorrichtung nach Anspruch 7, wobei die Nachgiebigkeit eine Erhöhung des Widerstands zum Öffnen der Backen mit einem DIN Wert von ca. 4 bis ca. 6 ermöglicht, wenn der Riegel in Eingriff ist.
     
    9. Vorrichtung nach Anspruch 1, die des Weiteren einen Riegel aufweist, der in die geschlossene Position in Eingriff bringbar ist, um die Bewegung der Zähne in die offene Position zu verhindern.
     
    10. Vorrichtung nach Anspruch 9, wobei der Riegel des Weiteren ein oder mehrere Elemente zum Bereitstellen von Nachgiebigkeit aufweist, während die Bewegung der Zähne in die offene Position verhindert wird.
     
    11. Vorrichtung nach Anspruch 1, wobei die Schneewanderhilfe ein Ski ist und das Schuhwerk ein Skischuh ist.
     
    12. Vorrichtung nach Anspruch 1, wobei die Vorrichtung für im Allgemeinen horizontale Vorwärts- und Rückwärtsverschiebung in Bezug auf eine Längsachse der Schneewanderhilfe selektiv durch einen Benutzer ausgelegt ist, wobei ein Mechanismus bereitgestellt wird um zu veranlassen, dass sich die Vorrichtung nach vorne und zurück bewegt, und ein Mechanismus bereitgestellt wird, um die Vorrichtung in einer vorderen oder hinteren Position oder beidem zu halten.
     
    13. Kombination der Vorrichtung nach Anspruch 12 mit einem Fersenhalter, wobei die Kombination an der Schneewanderhilfe anbringbar ist, wobei die Vorrichtung zum Halten der Spitze vom Benutzer in der im Allgemeinen horizontalen Vorwärts- und Rückwärtsrichtung verschoben werden kann, um einen Eingriff und ein Lösen der Ferse des Schuhwerks mit/von dem Fersenhalter bereitzustellen.
     
    14. Kit, das die Vorrichtung nach Anspruch 1 und einen Fersenhalter aufweist, der seitliches Auslösen bereitstellt.
     
    15. Kombination, die die Vorrichtung nach Anspruch 1 aufweist, mit einem Fersenhalter, der seitliches Auslösen bereitstellt, wobei die Kombination an der Schneewanderhilfe anbringbar ist.
     


    Revendications

    1. Appareil de fixation de randonnée de ski alpin pour maintenir une pointe de chaussure sur un dispositif de randoneige lorsque le talon de la chaussure se détache du dispositif de randoneige, l'appareil comprenant une paire dé dents (107) ayant des extrémités coniques mobiles entre des positions ouverte et fermée, dans lequel :

    (i) dans la position fermée, les extrémités coniques entrent en prise avec des concavités dans des parties latérales opposées de la pointe de la chaussure pour saisir la pointe tout en permettant un mouvement de pivotement de la chaussure autour de la pointe vers l'avant et vers l'arrière ; et

    (ii) dans la position ouverte, les dents sont positionnées de sorte que les extrémités coniques ne saisissent pas la pointe ; et dans lequel l'appareil comprend en outre un ou plusieurs éléments élastiques (105) de rappel des dents constamment à la position fermée pour l'ensemble des mouvements des dents entre les positions ouverte et fermée, un verrou (118) pour retenir les dents à la position ouverte contre ledit rappel constant et un déclencheur pour libérer le verrou afin de permettre aux dents de se déplacer à la position fermée, dans lequel le déclencheur (110) est actionné au contact de la chaussure.


     
    2. Appareil selon la revendication 1, comprenant en outre une butée de pointe (115) conçue pour être à l'avant de la pointe de la chaussure et qui se déplace dans une position permettant d'entrer en contact avec la pointe de la chaussure lorsque les dents se déplacent à la position ouverte.
     
    3. Appareil selon la revendication 2, dans lequel ledit mouvement de la butée de pointe et des dents à la position ouverte est actionné par un levier à pas unique (114).
     
    4. Appareil selon la revendication 1, dans lequel chaque dent est sur l'une d'une paire de bras qui se déplacent dans des directions généralement perpendiculaires à l'axe longitudinal du dispositif de randoneige et lesdits bras s'articulent les uns avec les autres sous la pointe de la chaussure.
     
    5. Appareil selon la revendication 4, comprenant en outre un verrou pouvant entrer en prise dans la position fermée pour empêcher le mouvement des dents à la position ouverte, dans lequel le verrou comprend un levier qui entre en contact avec lesdits bras ou un palier à travers lequel lesdits bras s'articulent.
     
    6. Appareil selon la revendication 5, dans lequel le verrou est actionné par un levier supplémentaire de mode de tour (113).
     
    7. Appareil selon la revendication 5, dans lequel le levier qui entre en contact avec les bras ou le palier est un ressort à lame qui assure l'élasticité tout en empêchant le mouvement des dents à la position ouverte.
     
    8. Appareil selon la revendication 7, dans lequel l'élasticité entraîne une augmentation de résistance à l'ouverture des mâchoires lorsque le verrou entre en prise par une valeur DIN d'environ 4 à environ 6.
     
    9. Appareil selon la revendication 1, comprenant en outre un verrou pouvant entrer en prise dans la position fermée pour empêcher le mouvement des dents à la position ouverte.
     
    10. Appareil selon la revendication 9, dans lequel le verrou comprend en outre un ou plusieurs éléments pour assurer l'élasticité tout en empêchant un mouvement des dents à la position ouverte.
     
    11. Appareil selon la revendication 1, dans lequel le dispositif de randoneige est un ski et la chaussure est une botte de ski.
     
    12. Appareil selon la revendication 1, dans lequel l'appareil permet d'une manière générale des mouvements sensiblement horizontaux de translation vers l'avant et vers l'arrière au gré de l'utilisateur par rapport à l'axe longitudinal du dispositif de randoneige, dans lequel un mécanisme est prévu pour amener l'appareil à se déplacer vers l'avant et vers l'arrière et un mécanisme est prévu pour retenir l'appareil dans une position allant vers l'avant ou vers l'arrière, ou les deux.
     
    13. Combinaison de l'appareil selon la revendication 12, avec une fixation du talon, la combinaisop pouvant être montée sur le dispositif de randoneige, l'appareil de fixation de la pointe pouvant être translaté par l'utilisateur dans lesdits mouvements sensiblement horizontaux vers l'avant et vers l'arrière pour assurer l'engagement et le désengagement de la pointe de la chaussure avec la fixation du talon.
     
    14. Kit comprenant l'appareil selon la revendication 1, et une fixation du talon qui assure une libération latérale.
     
    15. Combinaison comprenant l'appareil selon la revendication 1, avec une fixation du talon qui assure une libération latérale, ladite combinaison pouvant être montée sur le dispositif de randoneige.
     




    Drawing







































    REFERENCES CITED IN THE DESCRIPTION



    This list of references cited by the applicant is for the reader's convenience only. It does not form part of the European patent document. Even though great care has been taken in compiling the references, errors or omissions cannot be excluded and the EPO disclaims all liability in this regard.

    Patent documents cited in the description