Binding Arbitration 1999

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You may have noticed: The array of binding options is overwhelming.

To help you sort through the confusion, SKI invited each binding manufacturer to spend a day at Stowe, Vt., last winter to present its new products for review. Each was urged to select five or six bindings (or binding-lifter combinations) that highlight its line for 1998-99.

Though companies presented differently, each demonstrated its ability to solve various complex problems, including: (a) keeping the skier attached to the ski, (b) releasing the skier when endangered, (c) enhancing the skier's performance, (d) allowing the ski to bend naturally with little or no interference from the binding itself, and (e) providing all of the above in a lightweight package at a reasonable cost.

Believe it or not, differences in feel between one binding and the next are profound. This year's products lift you, tilt you, lighten you, provide amplified feedback in some cases, filter out negative vibrations in others, suggest where you should stand and protect you from "boot-out" (where your boot or binding bumps the snow causing the binding to release prematurely). They can even provide an energy boost should you want it.

For 1998-99 the primary question is: Do I want a softer, more forgiving ride like a luxury car, or do I want a sports-car feel, one that tells me more about what the ski is doing?

Other options to consider are: Do I want "ramp angle" (where the heel is higher than the toe)? How much? Do I want lift? How much? (See "Extra Lift".) Which binding best suits the skis I select? Is it best to buy a binding made by the same company that builds the ski? Or should I mix and match? What if my ski company doesn't make a binding?

Only you can decide. But the more you know, the more appropriate your buying decisions will be. Read on.