Bindings 2000: Salomon

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Salomon's binding line has some significant-sounding innovations for this season. The biggest news is an attempt to improve on last year's Spheric release-enhancement system. Now it's Spheric Oversize. Salomon says the new system offers increased protection in forward-rolling falls. All told, the company has 14 new bindings for this year.

Release Features: On Salomon's highest-performance bindings, the S900 and S850 toes have manual wing and toe-height adjustments for optimal boot-binding interface and consistent release. Other toes in the line have upward release and automatic boot-fitting adjustments. Spheric Oversize is the company's big hammer for release enhancement. Salomon claims that the system actually recognizes a forward-rolling fall and automatically reduces the toepiece's DIN setting when such a fall occurs. A binding that discriminates. Damn.

Passive Enhancers: Salomon has a wider array of underfoot performance-enhancers than any other company. The Deflex and Hangl plates, for racing and high-speed carving, respectively, are sold as aftermarket add-ons. And every model but one (the entry-level Q500) comes standard with a passive enhancer of some sort. Most impressive is the full-length Poweraxe lifter, an interface that attaches to the ski at a single point under the heel of the boot. The binding then attaches to the plate¿not to the ski¿which allows the ski to flex entirely uninhibited. Heights and ramp angles of the numerous other lifters vary according to product performance level.

Active Enhancers: None in the line.

S850 Poweraxe
Adjustment Range 3.5-10
This one has all the whistles. We get the Poweraxe interface and the Spheric Oversize toe. Oh, yeah, and a usable Adjustment Range. Moving up to the S900 Carbon Poweraxe not only adds 20 bucks, it also bumps the Adjustment Range to 4-12, which we don't need. And the other Poweraxe variations with Salomon's highest-performance toepiece are priced at $345. $265

S700 Axe Plus
Adjustment Range 3.5-10
The S700 has Salomon's Spheric (not Oversize) system at the toe and upward release, which we think is a nice combination. Underfoot there's a two-piece 12.5-mm Axe Plus dampening lifter. And we like the Adjustment Range. $210

Quadrax 600
Adjustment Range 3.5-10
Here we're talking plain vanilla but a real decent value. There's a thin lifter and no Spheric toe. Just the Quadrax toe with upward release and a Teflon pad. At full suggested retail the 600 looks good, but this one is priced to retailers so it can be discounted deeply. Expect to pay a lot less. $155