Backcountry Bindings: Where to Begin?
With all of the different backcountry bindings and new technology on the market, it can be difficult to know what to buy when you are building a backcountry setup. That’s where we come in.
There are a couple of important questions to begin with. This helps us pin down what type of binding best suits your needs.
How will you use this setup?
This is the first question we like to ask everyone who walks in looking for new backcountry gear. Is this going to be a dedicated backcountry setup or a one ski quiver for in bounds and out of bounds skiing? If it’s a dedicated backcountry setup, we recommend focusing on tech bindings. For a one ski quiver, you should consider a hybrid or frame binding.
What kind of skiing do you do?
If you are hucking cliffs, spending time in no fall zones, and skiing fast and aggressive lines, you’re going to want a different binding than someone heading out for relatively mellow tours. The majority of skiers we see are just fine in a tech binding such as the G3 Ion or Dynafit Rotation, but a handful need a more powerful binding like the Salomon/Atomic Shift or Fritschi Tecton to drive a bigger ski and accommodate more aggressive skiing.
What are tech bindings and who are they for?
Tech bindings have two pins in the toe and heel pieces that attach to fittings in your boot. They are the lightest category of backcountry bindings and the weight savings from these over say a frame binding is huge. These bindings are ideal for skiers who plan to use this setup 80-100% of the time in the backcountry.
Weight savings is the main advantage of choosing a tech binding. If you are counting grams and want to go as light as possible, choose a brakeless binding like the Dynafit Speed Radical (680 g / pair) or the brake optional G3 Zed (690 g / pair). Both of these bindings come with leashes so you won’t have to worry about losing your skis when you step out.
If you want a binding that has a brake, the G3 Ion or Dynafit Rotation (both available in a 10 or 12 DIN) are great choices for most backcountry skiers. They are lightweight at 1170 g / pair and 1198 g / pair respectively and easy to use.
If you’ve had a previous injury or if binding release is your priority, you’ll want to stick with a binding that is DIN/ISO/TUV certified. These bindings have the highest level of safety certification the industry has to offer. Our favorite tech binding in this category would be the Black Diamond Fritcshi Vipec Evo which is unique in that it has a DIN adjustment in the toe AND heel. This adds a margin of safety and provides a more reliable release.
In the past few years, we have seen the rise of hybrid tech/alpine bindings. These bindings offer more power and performance than traditional tech bindings and are a great choice for skiers who will be spending part of their time in the backcountry and part at a resort. If you are looking for a one ski quiver, consider the Marker Kingpin, Fritschi Tecton, or Salomon Shift.
The Marker Kingpin and Fritschi Tecton have a tech toe and alpine style heel. The advantage to this binding is power transfer. Instead of being connected to your binding via two small pins, an alpine style heel gives you full contact with your ski boot and maximizes energy transfer from your boot, through your binding, to your ski. So if you want to drive a bigger ski in the backcountry, or want the confidence of a backcountry binding that skis similar to your alpine bindings, the Marker Kingpin or Fritschi Tecton might be the binding for you.
The Salomon S/LAB Shift is in a league of it’s own. This hybrid binding makes no sacrifices when it comes to downhill performance. It’s essentially an alpine binding that can transform into a tech toe for the uphill. While this binding is revolutionary new technology, there are a few disadvantages that you should be aware of. At 1700 g / pair, it’s heavy compared to tech bindings and it’s not compatible with some backcountry boots. So, who is the Shift for? It’s for skiers who don’t want to sacrifice any downhill performance, who want to ski fast and aggressively in the backcountry and are okay with sacrificing some weight savings along the way.
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