10thm11[1]While bindings aren’t nearly as sexy to talk about as skis or boots, they are your direct connection to the ski and the only piece of gear, besides a helmet, that is engineered with your safety as the foremost concern. Like everything else these days, they have become ever more complicated with a confusing array of applications, styles, and choices. Modern binding designs now accommodate a variety of different on-hill applications. These designs offer a range of boot movement from none on alpine bindings, to always on telemark bindings, and everything in between. So to help sort it all out, consult Binding Tech 101 and become the expert!

Alpine Din Binding

Alpine Din Binding

You are likely most familiar with standard alpine “Din” style bindings. These bindings are designed to offer zero boot mobility and have independent heel and toe pieces which are either mounted flat  or integrated. This means they are screwed directly onto the ski or mounted on a sliding platform or track integrated into the ski and sold as a package by the manufacturer. There are pros and cons for each. Flat mount can be lighter, tighter, closer to the ski, and you can use the binding of your choice. Integrated bindings can usually offer a bit of fore/aft mounting flexibility and no drilling means easy set-up, easy to move, and easy to sell with no holes. As far as height off the ski goes, height is considered good and riser plates are sometimes added on narrow carving skis for added leverage and to avoid “boot out” where the edge of the boot can actually come in contact with the snow at high edge angles. Lower is usually considered better on wider skis.

All these bindings have lateral toe release and upward heel release capability. Some have extra lateral or diagonal heel release functions. All have some form of anti-friction device or AFD under the toe to aid in easy release under any torque or pressure. To release properly, the distance or forward pressure between the toe and heel pieces must be set properly. Every boot has a specific boot sole length, or BSL, in millimeters usually imprinted next to the center mark. On integrated bindings setting the proper distance may be as simple as matching the BSL to numbers on the toe and heel rails, but like flat mounts, the final determination is always based on a specific visual indicator on the heel piece.

Toe height is very simply the height of the gap on the toe piece where the front of the boot fits. The toe height on the majority of modern bindings adjusts itself automatically. On some bindings the toe height is adjustable and must be set properly to fit the boot by a certified technician.

binding dinDin settings are industry standard spring pressures set for each individual skier according to their weight, ability, and age. These generally range from 2-16 or even higher on some race ski applications. These numbers correspond to the internal spring pressure and an indicator arrow can be seen in a small window on both the toe and heel pieces. Most folks probably fall between the 4 and 8 marks, and while you’re free to change them yourself, we wouldn’t recommend it without solid experience. An occasional pre-release is preferable to a blown knee. Your local shop is required by liability laws to set them according industry specs and won’t likely vary.  In all cases it is highly recommended that any changes or adjustments to your bindings be made by a certified technician.

Mounting position is relevant to how your skis perform on different snow conditions and terrain. On most skis the manufacturers have identified the recommended or default mounting position. However, that position does not always suit the needs of the skier. Mounting the bindings farther back generally gives a more stable feeling ski with more float in the powder. When the ski bindings are mounted farther forward the skis will initiate turns more readily and will ride switch (backwards) better. There are a couple of options for skiers seeking a variable mounting system. The Marker Schizo system allows bindings to be adjusted +/- up to 3cm’s from the mounting point for a total 6cm of adjustability.  A screw on the front of the toe piece allows skiers to make on-hill adjustments.

ski brakeWith the huge range of ski widths on the market, it is now also imperative that you get the right size brakes for your bindings. Although they may be labeled “XL or XXL” for instance, you can easily find out what that equates to in millimeters which will be the minimum ski width they would accommodate. Too small and the plastic legs will not clear the edges of your ski, too large and they will stick out and drag on the snow when the ski is on edge. Preferably get the smallest size brake that still accommodates the width of your ski.

AT Plate Binding

Our next category is A/T bindings.  A/T does not stand for all-terrain, but kinda close. It stands for  Alpine Touring (aka “Rondonee”), and in regard to bindings means the ability to hinge at the toe or lock the heel down to the ski. This allows the skier to walk or climb on the skis, then lock the bindings down for an alpine style descent. A/T or back-country skiing has become very popular and bindings within this category have now evolved toward specializing in effectiveness for either the climb or the descent.

For those skiers wanting maximum downhill performance there are plate style A/T bindings where standard Din style alpine toe and heel pieces are integrated on a rigid platform which can hinge freely or be locked down. These are normally paired with “side-country” style boot which is a standard alpine boot with a “ski/hike hinge”, which just like the bindings, allows the boot cuff to hinge or lock. Since every step requires lifting the plate and heel piece, this set up tends be a bit heavy, but provides all the horsepower needed for a burly descent.

For those really looking to rack up the touring vertical, it’s all about weight, and they would go with a fully integrated boot-binding A/T system known as “Tech”. Also known as the Dynafit style, since they pioneered it, this system is extremely lightweight since the toe is attached by two pins to the boot, eliminating the need for a whole plate binding to lift up with the boot during ascent. The skier must use Tech compatible ski boots with touring soles that do not fit alpine “Din” style bindings, but instead use toe pins. Very light weight, but not as powerful for cranking hard turns on the descent.

Tele Binding

At the end of the spectrum, we have Telemark bindings. These bindings are the lightest yet, always hinge freely, and therefore necessitate a different style of skiing known as “Teley skiing” where the inside knee is dropped nearly to the snow allowing control of the skis.  They can only be used with telemark boots, some of which aren’t much sturdier than a hiking boot and are designed to bend at the toe to allow the heel to rise. This set-up is for those most hard core touring types or those that just enjoy this athletic style of skiing.

Finally, ski bindings are designed to be relatively maintenance free. Keep them free of dirt, rust, salt or other contaminants, but don’t attempt to clean them with soap or solvents as you may remove factory lubricants which are vital to proper function. We strongly recommend that before the start of each season you have your bindings inspected by a certified technician.

Binding designs, especially in the A/T category are evolving so fast that by the time you read this there is probably already some new hybrid design hitting the market.  So there you have it. Go forth, purchase with knowledge, and ski with confidence!

In the Phoenix area, to see these cutting edge products or get more expert info, visit any one of our fine ride shops at Ski Pro, Action Ride Shop, or Alpine Board Sports.

Fritzski  out