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Author Topic: Flashback: Chuck Loughney's Snowstar Binding  (Read 2614 times)

Posts: 2088

Flashback: Chuck Loughney's Snowstar Binding
« on: 11/28/08, 02:50 PM »

While moving a few years ago, Brent Hostetler offered up a pair of Kastle skis with Snowstar bindings on them.  In a moment of weakness, I took them and stashed them in my garage.

Recently, I've been messing around with old skis, after moving the Mountaineer Archives from Lower Queen Anne to Magnuson Park in Seattle.  I decided to pull the Snowstars out of my garage and clean them up.  I thought you might enjoy this glimpse of the not-so-distant past of Northwest backcountry skiing.

In "The Indefatigable Fireys" (NWMJ 2008), I wrote about the Snowstar binding:


In the 1980s, [Joe Firey]’s friend Chuck Loughney developed the “Snow Star” binding, which consisted of a Besser downhill binding modified by the addition of a hinged touring plate and piston-mounted return spring.  With a seven-inch piston and spring assembly sticking out in front, the Snow Star looked like a battleship cannon, making it easy to identify the Firey crew when they were out on a tour. 

Chuck Loughney obtained a patent (U.S. Patent 4322090) on the Snowstar binding.  I looked up the patent claim and learned a lot more about the design.  The Snowstar was built on top of a Besser (plate) alpine binding, which offered full release function.  Loughney added a hinged, flexible plate, much like the Iser binding of the day.  The thing that distinguished the Snowstar, both functionally and visually, was its return spring.

The figure above shows the Snowstar in touring mode, when the boot has pivoted fully during a long stride.  The purpose of the return spring is to keep the ski tail from dropping when the skier side steps, kick turns, or walks backwards.  Loughney found that relatively little spring force was needed to accomplish this.

Other bindings have incorporated return springs, but the problem with all of them is that the spring force increases continuously as you pivot the boot, reaching its peak at the full extent of the skier's stride.  This causes extra fatigue.  Loughney designed a spring assembly which provided maximum resistance when the boot sole is close to the ski (for control during side stepping) and less resistance as you pivot the boot further (while striding).  In fact, at full rotation the touring plate is actually held open by the spring.

Loughney's patent was filed in February 1980 and issued in March 1982.  At that time, I think the most popular alpine touring bindings in the Northwest were the Silvretta, Iser, and Ramer.  (See the REI catalogs from the 1970s.) Alpine touring gear of any kind was less available than Nordic gear, because telemark skiing dominated the backcountry in those days.  It's a sign of how different from today the 1970s ski scene was that skiers such as Paul Ramer and Chuck Loughney would design their own alpine touring bindings.

I don't know where Brent Hostetler got these bindings and skis.  (Brent, if you're reading this, drop me a line.) I believe several of the old Firey crew read TAY.  Maybe some of you would be willing to post memories of Chuck Loughney and his invention.  Enjoy!

« Last Edit: 11/28/08, 10:07 PM by Lowell_Skoog » Logged

Posts: 231

Re: Flashback: Chuck Loughney's Snowstar Binding
« Reply #1 on: 11/29/08, 12:12 AM »

Thanks for the cool history, Lowell.  I still use my Ramer Classics occasionally!

Posts: 926

Re: Flashback: Chuck Loughney's Snowstar Binding
« Reply #2 on: 11/29/08, 10:53 AM »

Wow, those are awesome!  Not that I'd trade (unless I was still on Alpine Wreckers), but what a concept.  I was intrigued by the thought put into the springs.  Thanks for sharing.

"The mountains are not stadiums where I satisfy my ambition to achieve, they are the cathedrals; the houses where I practice my religion." - Anatoli Boukreev
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