What You Need to Know About Bindings
You may think bindings are the least sexy piece of your gear. But considering that they’re responsible for keeping your sexy legs attached to your sexy hips by releasing when you need them to and staying attached when you don’t, you may want to reconsider that notion.
But when it comes to figuring out what bindings are right for you, it’s not the most intuitive process. Even if you know a lot about gear, it can be a quagmire of confusion that makes you want to stick your head in a snowbank and pick up snowshoeing. (Ok, maybe it’s not that bad….)
First, you need to decide if you want your bindings to ski only on the resort, only in the backcountry, or a hybrid of both.
* Note: It’s fairly typical for front-side or entry-level skis to come with system bindings, which are integrated into the ski and are not swappable. In this article, we’ll focus on the bindings that go on skis sold flat, or without system bindings.
These are bindings made to only go downhill. They do not have a walk mode, and the weight of the binding is not that important because you won’t be hauling them uphill.
You’ll want to start by figuring out what DIN you set your bindings at, which is the release value on the toe and heel. This number is higher for heavier people and experts, and bindings are priced based on how high the DIN goes. (Usually only people who weigh 250 pounds or more or are high-level racers need a binding with a DIN higher than 14.) If you’re still on the learning curve, opt for a binding that has two to three more numbers above your current DIN to give you room to grow.
Next, you need to choose your brake width. To do this, you need to know the waist-width of the skis you’re mounting. This is the middle number in the ski’s listed dimensions, i.e., if the ski’s dimensions are 126-88-108, that means its waist-width is 88 mm. You need a brake that is 88 mm or wider, but be careful not to go too wide (no more than 12 mm), or else your brakes will get caught up in your ski pants.
A quick note about compatibility with your boots: If you have relatively new alpine boots, chances are they have GripWalk soles, which are a rockered rubber sole that makes it way easier to walk through a slippery parking lot. If so, you just need to make sure your bindings are compatible. Look for the little GripWalk icon on the binding toe or if it has adjustable anti-friction device (AFD). GripWalk bindings can be used for most non GripWalk alpine boots as well, but if you’re not sure, it’s best to ask your local shop.
To get the most flexibility with your choice of boots, opt for a binding that is labeled MNC (multi-norm compatible). MNC bindings are designed to work with GripWalk boots, the now discontinued Walk-to-Ride boots, traditional alpine boots, and alpine touring/hybrid boots. (Mounted Wagners come with the Atomic Warden MNC.)
Check out Wagner's offerings for resort bindings here.
Photo: Rob Grew and fall-line.co.uk
These are bindings that are designed to go uphill and downhill, with a locked-heel ski mode free-heel walk mode. There’s too much technology to go into detail on each kind in this article, but generally speaking there are pin bindings, which have two pins that secure the toe of your AT boot (you need specific boots with tech toes); frame bindings, which work with any kind of boot; and hybrid bindings, which can swap between pin and alpine toes. Pin bindings are probably the most common, as frame bindings are slowly being phased out by evolving lighter weight pin technology.
When you’re choosing these bindings, the first thing you need to think about is weight. The lighter weight the binding is, the easier it is to haul up hills—but the less solid it will feel on the descents. So if your missions are relatively short, you prize the downhill above all else, or if you’re a beast on the skin track, you can probably afford to go a little heavier for skiability’s sake. If you’re headed out for long summit missions where time is of the essence, go lighter.
We strongly recommend having a dedicated AT and resort setup, but we get it that your bank account (or garage space) is finite. If you must use one for both, there are bindings—like the Salomon/Atomic/Armada Shift (all companies owned by Suunto make them)—that are specifically designed to do that. The beauty of the Shift is that you can use it with both your alpine and touring boots, thanks to an ingenious mechanism on the toe that switches into pin mode.
Wagner offers four touring or touring/resort bindings here.
The Salomon Shift binding can be skied both on the resort and in the backcountry. Photo: Salomon
One of the most important things that skiers don’t pay enough attention to is the mounting point. Chances are, you bring your skis to the shop and they probably don’t even ask you anything about your skiing before they mount your skis. That’s why we at Wagner always prefer to mount the skis we build for you according to your style and preferences.
A traditional mount is farther back from center on the ski. This is best for skiers who spend most of their time with their skis on the ground, rather than spinning in the air. A longer tip gives the ski more float in powder and a shorter tail gives it a quicker release.
Herb Manning, Wagner's binding expert, hard at work both here and in the title image.
Park skiers should opt for a center mount—which, technically speaking, is a little rearward of the actual center of the ski—or a mount even farther forward than that. This gives the ski a balanced feel when spinning in the air and skiing switch.
The category of skier who needs the most help with their mounting point is telemarkers (yes, they do still exist). A tele ski should be mounted farther back than an alpine ski because it’s pressured by the forefoot when the skier is in a lunge.
There’s a lot more to bindings than meets the eye, so you’ll want to do more research before you purchase your next pair, but at least now you have a general idea of what to look for. If you’d prefer Wagner to take the guess work out of the equation for you on your next pair of custom skis, make an appointment with a ski designer today.
Article by Kimberly Beekman
Kimberly Beekman is the former editor-in-chief of the late, great Skiing Magazine (RIP), and a longtime editor of SKI Magazine before that. She currently uses the title of “freelancer” as a beard to ski powder all over the world. She lives in Steamboat, Colorado, with her wonderful daughter and terrible cat.