Ski Bindings

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Overview

The bits of machinery that connect your boots to your skis. Bindings perform two important and mutually exclusive functions. The first is to keep you connected to your skis for as long as possible. The second is to disconnect you from the skis when the forces developed in a fall are likely to hurt you. The basic way they achieve this is spring loading, so that they release when the force of a fall exceeds the force of the spring.

One tip is that, if you eject from your bindings in deep snow so that the ski is under the surface and not immediately visible, your ski will almost certainly be just above or near the top of the impact crater. Use a pole or ski to chop downwards into the snow. Eventually you will hit the missing ski, which can then be dug out.

Links to Binding Manufacturers' Web Sites Although there are many brands there are only a small number of manufacturers as there has been significant consolidation in the industry over the last couple of decades. This is true for most of the ski industry.


Downhill Bindings

Ski binding.jpg

Different skiers have different heights, weights and abilities. The force of the spring is adjusted to compensate for this. The likely forces are calculated and set out in a table, and the bindings set accordingly. Unless you are reasonably knowledgeable this should be done by a trained technician.

DIN Setting

There is a standard called the DIN setting which relates to the forces needed to make bindings release. Bindings can be adjusted across a range of DIN settings for each individual. They are numbered from 1 to 20, and beyond. The higher the number the greater force is needed to make the binding release. No binding covers the full range, so manufacturers make different models with different ranges of release forces, or DIN numbers. A binding designed for an adult expert may have a range from 8 to 20+, whereas a binding for a child beginner may have a range from 1 to 8. While it may be tempting to set the bindings on a low DIN setting to protect your ligaments a binding set too low will release at inconvenient times and will be a real pain in the bum at the least and may be dangerous at worst. Setting the bindings too high will stop them coming off, but the release mechanism created by your bones and knee ligaments may release early to protect the binding.

Brakes

Ski bindings also incorporate brakes. These are retractable arms that tuck away under the boot when the boot is in the binding. If there is not a boot in the binding the arms project below the running surface of the ski and (generally) prevent sliding. Brakes are not 100% effective, and skis should still be placed across the fall line when not on your feet.

Compatibility

If you are concerned about whether a particular brand of alpine boot is compatible with a particular binding, relax. The boot/binding interface is stanndardised and all boots will be compatible with all bindings.

Cross Country Bindings

Track Bindings

NN is Nordic Norm, NNN is New Nordic Norm. SNS is Salomon Nordic System

For most track skis there are four binding models that are typically used and are ideal for gliding in groomed tracks because they're narrow and lightweight. These are: NNN1, NNN2, SNS-Profil and SNS-Pilot. The older SNS system which uses a metal bar protruding forward of the boot does not give as much control as SNS-Profil/Pilot.

NNN1 (the older model) and NNN2 bindings feature 2 thin raised ridges which fit into matching grooves in the soles of compatible ski boots. The boot has a short metal rod at the toe, which clips into the front of the binding and acts a bit like a door hinge. A rubber bumper on the binding provides a soft interface between boot and binding. This allows forward flex and helps to lift the tail of the ski during the kick-and-glide motion. Some skis offer the Nordic Integrated System (NIS) which is simply a different way of attaching the NNN2 binding to a ski.

SNS-Profil and SNS-Pilot bindings use a boot/binding connection similar to the NNN but with a single, wide binding ridge and a single matching sole groove. SNS-Profil boots use a single metal rod at the toe to fit the binding. SNS-Pilot boots use 2 metal rods to click into 2 different slots in the binding. This results in superior flex and kick motion.

Auto versions of the NNN and SNS bindings are ideal for skiing in the groomed tracks of a ski resort or on fairly flat out-of-track skiing. They are lightweight so you don't waste energy and they provide a comfortable connection point between your boots and skis. These bindings are “step-in” style; you simply need to place the toe of your boot in the correct position then press downward. To release, push down on the correct spot on top of the binding and lift your foot off.

Backcountry Touring Bindings

Because backcountry skiing is inherently risky, you should invest in bindings that are reliable, durable, secure, and easy to repair in the field.

Most backcountry bindings are heavier versions of traditional three-pin, 75mm wide bindings, often referred to as rat trap (Rottefella in Norwegian) bindings. Three holes on the front of the ski boot sole match a set of corresponding metal pins in the binding. The sole extension fits over the pins and a bale is shut down over the extension to hold it in place. Heel plates sometimes have heel elevators that help relieve the strain on your calves when climbing. Some backcountry bindings add light cables to the NN75mm three-pin bindings, or replace the rat trap bale with a fixed bar for toe-in entry and do away with the 3 pins.

Both NNN and SNS bindings come in beefier versions for the backcountry referred to as NNN-BC and SNS-BC, respectively. These bindings, with a thicker toe bar, are meant to provide a stronger attachment point and transfer more power for backcountry applications. NNN BC and SNS BC bindings are available in either manual or auto models. Manual models require you to bend over to lock your boots to the bindings or to release them. Auto models are "step-in". However, NNN-BC and SNS-BC boots and bindings often pick up snow in the boot toes and binding bar slot, Check and tap or clean the snow out before stepping into the binding.

Compatibility

Beware, there are many incompatible boot/binding systems. Buy/hire your boots first. Then buy/ hire skis with compatible bindings, or fit compatible bindings to match your boots.

Cross Country boots can vary in toe width, thickness and number of holes, or toe bar width and bar guage, or number and shape of grooves in their soles. .

However it is fairly easy to fit compatible bindings to skis to replace incompatible bindings. Your local ski shop will fit bindings for about $40 or less if they sell the bindings to you. Or most home handymen can replace most bindings with a posidrive screwdriver, a drill and a tube of glue. Some tips:

  • NN50mm, NN75mm, NNN, NNN-BC, SNS, SNS-Profil/Pilot and SNS-BC boots/bindings are not compatible with each other.
  • NNN2 boots will fit NNN1 bindings (the earlier model) with a modified rubber toe piece. There is no modified rubber toe piece to fit NNN1 boots to NNN2 bindings.
  • SNS-Profil boots only have 1 rod and therefore cannot benefit from SNS-Pilot bindings; SNS-Pilot boots, however, can fit into most SNS-Profil bindings.
  • NN75mm , NNN1, NNN2, NNN BC, SNS-Profil and SNS-Pilot (and many older models such as NN50mm and SNS) bindings can all be fitted using the same front triangle of 3 mounting holes. Balance points vary by up to 30mm but a small imbalance may be preferable to drilling new holes and plugging old holes.
  • SNS-BC bindings and rugged NN75mm and cable bindings generally have the rear pair of mounting holes further back from the front hole for stability.

SPECIFIC BINDING INFO SHOULD BE IN A TABLE

Telemark Bindings

Telemark bindings are sturdier and heavier than backcountry ski bindings to keep the boots and skis securely connected while withstanding the stress of continuous carving. Cable and plate bindings popular for Telemark skiing feature toe-in entry, quick-clip heel cables and may have releases that reduce the risk of injuries. The springs/hydraulic rams on some cables are reputed to be so strong that they must be used with robust plastic Telemark boots - they can crush leather and composite boots. Heel plates sometimes have heel elevators that help relieve the strain on your calves when climbing.

A New Telemark Norm (NTN) system is being offered, details unknown

Tele binding have only lateral stability, they have no longitudinal resistance to movement. They retain the boots by forward pressure imposed by cables or rods running under or around the boots and pushing the heels forward. This is derived from the cross-country 3 pin rat trap binding. In fact modern boots still have the holes to attach to a rat trap binding. Most telebindings have no release mechanism

SPECIFIC BINDING INFO SHOULD BE IN A TABLE

Bomber Bishop

[1] A very solid binding made from large chunks of aluminium, or sometimes titanium.

Linken

A fairly solid binding made from pressed steel. it has a flat plate going under the foot and is hinged at the front. The hinge is possible too far forward, and I managed to twist one of these 30 degrees in a crash.

Cable

cables go around the boots and have a clip at the heel to hold them in place, there are spring cartridges to hold them in place.

Alpine Touring (AT) Bindings

have a plate that attaches to the entire sole of the boot, locks and unlocks at the heel, and pivots about a hinge at the toe. Most AT bindings have a "DIN setting" which lets you adjust the force required to release at the toe and heel when you fall. Alpine Trekkers provide AT bindings on adaptors which can be clipped into or removed from standard downhill bindings. Dynafit AT bindings leverage the rigid soles of Dynafit compatible boots instead of a plate making them the lightest AT bindings. Heel plates have heel elevators that help relieve the strain on your calves when climbing.

These notes are a summary of opinions expressed in the ski.com.au forums.

MUST BE REFORMATTED AS A TABLE

Trekkers

Recommended use

First steps away from the lifted slopes, with lower capital outlay

Pros

Works as an adaptor on your normal downhill bindings and boots

Can hire

Cheaper than dedicated set-up

Cons

Heavy, awkward, discouraging to use

Still expensive enough to not be good value to buy your own

Marker Dukes

Recommended use

Use in bounds with some front country excursions

Jumps and aggressive skiing

Pros

Good downhill performance

Good (best?) release and retention

Robust

Cons

Heavy

It’s a nuisance changing to walk-mode: you have to remove skis, and probably gloves

Marker Barons

(not yet available at time of writing)

Recommended use

As for Marker Dukes

These are a variation on the Dukes, new for 2009. The DIN will be 4-12 so they are more suitable for mere mortals. They are also expected to be lighter and cheaper.

Pros

Expected to be the same as Dukes.

Hopefully lighter and cheaper than Dukes.

More moderate DIN range for non-experts.

Cons

Expected to be the same as Dukes, but not so heavy.

Fritschi/Diamir Freeride Plus

Recommended use

Heavy touring

Jumps and aggressive skiing

Inbounds and out of bounds skiing

Pros

Generally regarded as the benchmark for all-round performance

Light, while still taking standard downhill boots

Higher DIN setting than Fritschi Explorer = better retention

More robust than standard Explorer

Can be used with mountaineering boots

Cons

Some contributors believe release/retention not as safe as other options. Others believe later models have addressed this issue.

Off-the-shelf brakes do not fit wider waisted skis - adjustment is necessary - can lead to weakness/ overstressing of base plates.

Fritschi/Diamir Explorer

Recommended use

Touring

Pros

Lighter than the Freeride Plus

Easier to use than Dynafit, and take standard boots

Cons

Not as robust as Freeride Plus

Some contributors believe release/retention not as safe as other options, even more than other Fritschis. Others believe later models have addressed this issue.

Naxo NX21

Recommended use

Heavy touring

Inbounds and out of bounds skiing

Pros

Nice walking action because or a double-pivot system

Cons

Not as robust as Freerides

Heavier than Freerides

Dynafit

Recommended use

Alpine Touring and Ski Mountaineering where speed and lightness matter more.

Older TLT model now known as Speed is lightest of all and still a valid option, but cant change modes easily using ski pole, and minimal adjustment for different boots

Not for aggressive extreme skiing with big jumps, but have the scores on the board for technical extreme descents

Pros

Very light, but durable

The benchmark for light AT gear

Tight connection to the ski, more so than other lightweight options

Cons

Need special compatible AT boots, not downhill boots. Limited range of such boots available in Australia.

Awkward to get into

Awkward change from fixed heel to touring, but not the reverse.

Silvretta

Recommended use

Light Alpine Touring where speed and lightness matter more

Pros

Very light; only Dynafits are lighter

Relatively less expensive

Some models can be skied in climbing boots

Cons

Only rudimentary release mechanism. Pure models do at least have some toe release. Older models with a fixed toe bale release at the heel only, with highly questionable safety.

Not as durable as other options