Bindings 2000: Atomic

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Since it's introduction (when it was called Ess), Atomic has been the only manufacturer to allow the skier to move the binding forward or backward on the ski. That's still the case, and in some ways it makes selecting a binding from the Atomic line simpler than choosing a model from one of the other brands. Shopping the other manufacturers' lines can be more complicated: Improved release technology, for instance, may make you wonder about upgrading. When you go with Atomic, you are (with the exception of the value-priced Centro models) buying into the boot-positioning technology (called Variozone), and that's that.

Release Features: All Atomic bindings use a step-in, upward-releasing heelpiece. The Race and All-Mountain (Xentrix) series have upward-releasing toepieces, a feature that can be blocked on Race series models.

Passive Enhancers: Atomic's Fullflex System connects toepiece and heelpiece with a flexible steel band and is said to enhance ski flex. Race series bindings all come standard with Racecharger lifters, in 16.5- or 24-mm configurations. A 9-mm Variocharger ($159) and CarveX Charger Plates (12 mm, $179; and 17 mm, $189) are available for Xentrix models.

Active Enhancers: The Variozone boot-positioning is the only active enhancer in Atomic's line.

WE LIKE:
Race 310
Adjustment Range 3-10
Yes, you too can ski on a setting of 10 or less. Which makes this a no-brainer especially since the Race 1018¿with an Adjustment Range of 10-18¿is $105 more. With the 310, we're getting the same 16.5 mm of lift and the same release features. What would we rather have, the 310 and dinner for two, or the 1018 with an Adjustment Range we'll never use? Done deal. $355

Xentrix 310
Adjustment Range 3-10
Sticking with the theory that we don't need a setting higher than 10, the Xentrix 310 is the obvious pick in the All Mountain Series, as opposed to the higher-end Xentrix 412 Titanium at $329. We'll take the money we save and put it toward a 12-mm CXC Plate ($179), and we've got a better package underfoot. $250