Spark’s Tesla T1 puck-and-channel system has been dialed for a few years now. The simple design—in which the bindings slide along grooves in the pucks and snap into ride mode, rather than using pins—eliminates ice obstructions and finicky transitions. Spark still found room for improvement on the original Surge, though: “It rides just as well as previous versions, but now it’s much lighter and more durable,” says our Alaska tester. The reason? New one-piece plastic straps don’t absorb moisture or wear down like traditional fabric straps. Although flexible, they locked our feet securely into place and provided quick response on committing lines in the Chugach Range.
The Burton-made buckles don’t slip when you’re cranking them down tight, and Spark’s Tesla-compatible Ibex splitboard crampons ($100) are easy to slip on.
“I’m glad the ‘whammy bar’ extended side tabs are now standard on the heel-riser system,” says one tester who guided in the Surge on Mt. Rainier in late spring. “They’re a snap to deploy with your poles on steep, awkward slopes.”