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More Bindings facts

Having found the perfect touring ski, you still need a fitting binding. As with skis, there are lots of differences. Whether you are a uphill oriented mountaineer, downhill oriented freerider or ski touring racer. What is important, is that the binding suits your needs as well as fits the tours you have planned. 


As of this, there are different systems: Frame and tec bindings, as well as varying weights, release values, widths and release mechanisms by the different manufacturers such as ATK, Marker, Dynafit, Fritschi or G3. 

 

The binding must fit the touring ski

The decision on what binding you should take is based on what kind of tour you are planning to do and what ski you are using. Obviously, a uphill oriented touring ski will ask for a uphill oriented binding with low weight, while when using freeride touring skis, you will rather pick a binding that is a bit more stable but also heavier with a higher degree of power transfer. And when using a racing touring ski, you are best equipped with a racing touring binding. 


So most important factors are whether you are more the uphill or downhill tourer, in what kind of terrain you are going and of course your style of skiing.

The different binding systems

Generally, there are two different types of bindings: The frame bindings and the pin- or so-called tec bindings. The difference between these two is in how the boot is secured in the binding and due to this, how they function, how they release and how they are handled. 



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Both systems have their pros and cons. Originally, one would have said that pin bindings were mostly for the uphill oriented mountaineer, while freeriders would only use frame bindings. But this has long changed since pin bindings are constantly being developed further. 


The frame bindings, its pros and cons

The frame binding secures the boot the same way a regular alpine binding does, using toe and heel pieces. In the ascent, the entire frame moves with each step. For the descent, the heel piece is fixed on the ski. Entering the binding works the exact same as with alpine bindings, simply by stepping in. This ease of entry is one large advantage of the frame binding. It is also compatible with all ski boots, be it regular alpine ski boots or touring ones (all light boots will not work with this system). 


As of this, when mounted correctly, the binding fulfills DIN-/ISO-Norms. The frame binding is easy to handle also in rougher conditions, meaning entering and exiting the binding is rather easy also in deep snow or steep terrain. Due to this, the binding offers a high degree of safety. The wider plate on the ski ensures a stable connection between ski and boot, giving control and performance. 


Also, the binding offers high release values. This is especially relevant to those, who love going crazy in the deep powder, jumping cliffs and doing great drops. A disadvantage to this binding is its higher weight. The binding does not only weigh more itself, it also has to be lifted with each step. Especially on longer tours, this can lead to a high energy consumption.

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The tec binding, its pros and cons

Pin bindings are entirely different to frame binding in how they function. There is no frame, instead, the boot is secured in the binding in the toe piece via two metal pieces. These so-called pins lock the boots on the sides. Due to this mechanism, the binding is not compatible with alpine ski boots. Instead, it is necessary to use specific touring boots. There are also some alpine boots with pin inserts available. Generally however, this is advisable anyhow since the alpine ski boots are not only much heavier, they are also not as flexible as one would oftentimes want their touring boots to be. In the descent, the boots are then locked to the binding in the back. 


A great advantage with the pin binding is its light weight. It is generally lighter than the frame binding, plus when going uphill, you do not lift the binding with each step. Since there is no frame between the boot and the ski, the boot is closer to the ski itself. This makes the turning in deep snow easier and, due to a lower centre of gravity and change in leverage effect, ensuring a more direct transfer of power. For beginners, the pin binding might take a while to get used to at first, since handling the binding is a bit trickier than with frame bindings. Especially in deep snow or steep terrain, getting into the bindings can become difficult. But some manufacturers such as Marker or Dynafit have developed their own entry aids which are part of the toe piece. Thanks to its low weight, the binding is especially interesting to those, who put much emphasis on the ascent. 


Also, those doing race touring will use pin bindings. Special race touring bindings are not equipped with adjustable release values, ski stoppers or climbing aids to make them even lighter. Over the past years, pin bindings have developed a lot, having become popular also in the area of freeriding. Downhill oriented bindings such as the Marker Kingpin or Dynafit Beast bindings have higher release values and great stability in difficult terrain.

Which binding suits who

Frame bindings: Due to its easy handling, these bindings are very much suited for beginners. Also, for those only doing short ascents, the frame binding is a good pick. In the area of freeriding, frame bindings are very popular with skiers who ski very aggressively, jumping cliffs and doing drops.

Pin bindings: Whoever puts emphasis on lightest weight possible, should go for a tec binding. As for example the race touring binding ATK SLR Release Touring bindings, weighing only 132g. Any other ascent oriented tourer will also prefer a tec binding such as the Dynafit TLT Radical 2 ST with its 559g. Descent oriented pin bindings with higher release values such as the Marker Kingpin 13 weighing 730g are perfect for freeriders.

Other important factors when purchasing touring bindings

What is very important when purchasing touring bindings is the right release, or z-value. It assures release in case of a crash or hits. For lightweight, careful skiers, the needed release value will be lower than for a very aggressive, heavier skier. Also, the bindings release differently. The various manufacturers’ technologies are oftentimes patented or certified. Next to finding the right system, there are also a couple of other points to pay attention to. As for example the ease of usability of the climbing aids, the easier the better. Generally, touring bindings come with a flat mode and two climbing modes. Race bindings however will only have the modes walk and ski. Also, the compatibility with crampons might be important to some. These give additional support when the slope is very icy or harsh. For most bindings, these can be bought separately and mounted accordingly. Also, ski breaks are relevant. These ensure that the ski will not slide down the entire slope in case of a release. Frame bindings are generally always equipped with ski breaks. Tec bindings sometimes also have them integrated, sometimes these can be purchased separately.

Read more regarding touring bindings

- Ski touring Guide: Find the best equipment for your next ski tour

- The new Dynafit Beast 16 Light: Product Test

- Fritischi – the Swiss way touring bindings are built