Bindings - New Brands, New Technologies

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After 20 years of consolidation, the bindings business appears to be growing again. With the recent entries of Nordica, Fischer, and now Line, the market boasts nine brands, up from a core group of six just two years ago.

Line's new Pivogy twin-pivot technology, unabashedly designed to help protect the knee, may be the biggest advance in release efficiency since rollout protection became standard 20 years ago. The other significant release development this year is Nordica's "dynamic intelligent release," an antifriction device (AFD) designed to move in two axes to further reduce boot-sole friction.Dedicated, or "closed," ski-and-binding systems continue to make progress, though such systems are controversial. Some retailers like them for their ease of selling and mounting, but many shop managers dislike the fact that systems can't be mixed and matched and therefore pose an inventory risk. New twists on the systems approach are Tyrolia's RailFlex, designed to put a system on plain-vanilla skis, and Line's four-hole center mounting pattern, dedicated to Line skis with factory-installed inserts.

Atomic
800-258-5020
www.atomicsnow.com
Atomic's market share in bindings has risen from 3 percent to a projected 7.5 percent in just four years. According to marketing director Matt Miller, the success is largely due to the brand's system approach. "Roughly 70 to 75 percent of the skis we sell in the U.S. are mated to (our) bindings," he says. The addition of the Device quick-mount technology last year helped, as did World Cup publicity-roughly 70 percent of all men's World Cup races were won on Atomic bindings last season, according to the company. For 2002-03 Atomic introduces dedicated bindings with extra-wide brakes to fit the Big Daddy and Sugar Daddy skis. The debut of the E-Zone skis-semi-twintips aimed at aggressive younger skiers-means five more models equipped for the Device system.
Basic technology is unchanged. Atomic builds its performance story around the Full Flex system, with a floating heel to permit uninhibited ski flex, and the Variozone adjustment system, which allows the skier to relocate the binding forward or aft, depending on snow conditions or desired ski stability.
The line has been reorganized into three retail groups and a rental series. As usual, the model name indicates the DIN range-thus the Race 6.14 covers a DIN range from 6-14.
Race System: Race bindings, designed to fit on either accessory or built-in riser plates, feature a minimalist 16.5mm of stack height. The 6.14 and 4.12 have a seven-position Variozone mount, while the 3.10 and 2.59 use a five-position track.
Ride/Carv System: Ride and Carv bindings feature 24mm of stack height. The 6.14 has a five-position Variozone track, the 4.12 features a four-position track, and the 3.10 a three-position track.
Device System: Device-equipped skis are offered with 4.12, 3.11, and 3.10 bindings.
Centro System: The rental/demo group provides 27mm of stack height and comes in 4.12 and 3.10 versions.

Fischer
603-224-2800
www.fischerskis.com
Fischer's binding line is simple enough to understand. "We have a close partnership with Salomon," notes product manager Chris Clapp, referring to the thousands of Salomon skis built each year by Fischer. Fischer sold around 10,000 pairs of bindings during the past year with its package skis. About 2,000 of them were Salomon race bindings. The rest carried the Fischer logo, though they are in fact produced in the Salomon factory.
Fischer bindings are based on Salomon's Quadrax design. The F11 Power Concept (DIN 3.5-11, $225 MSRP) and the F10 Carve Concept S (3-10, $185) use Spheric technology. The F10 Carve Concept (3-10, $175), F10 (3-10, $160), and F9 (2.5-9, $145) use non-Spheric toes.
New for next year are junior and rental units. For kids, look for the F7 (2-7, $130) and F4.75-4.5, $110). There are three Synchro Center models (F11, F9 and F7), and two Synchro Rentals (F9 and F4).

Line
888-546-3754
www.lineski.com
Line introduces the first all-new binding release technology in decades. Dubbed the Pivogy system, the "twin pivot" design can automatically move the release pivot axis anywhere between the tibia and the metatarsal in order to reduce torque on the knee. The mechanism permits low-friction lateral release at the heel as well as at the toe, using a slick cam system to regulate the lateral heel release.
According to Line president Jason Levinthal, the binding will serve as a platform to launch Line as a full Alpine company, selling all hardgoods categories. (Line is also introducing a boot.)The system was designed over the past 20 months by engineering consultant David Dodge, a former NCAA ski champ who has previously worked as a design engineer for Rossignol, Lange, and Burton. A prolific inventor, Dodge has been responsible for over 200 snowsports patents. According to Dodge, traditional Alpine bindings have a single pivot point near the heel of the boot, which makes them insensitive to loads that come into the ski just behind the boot. Loads like this are created when beginners lose control and try to sit down, or when more experienced skiers try to recover from a backward-twisting fall-the scenario in which ACL injuries often occur. "During this type of fall, Pivogy enables the pivot point of the boot to move towards the toe," Dodge says. "This increases the binding's sensitivity to injury-producing loads that enter the ski just behind the boot. Under these conditions, Pivogy can reduce stress on the knee by a factor of three relative to traditional bindings."
The binding will be manufactured in Montreal. Line's binding product manager is Rick Howell, a veteran of Geze, Cycle Binding, and Tubbs. By starting with a clean sheet of paper, Howell says, the company was able to introduce a number of design innovations. For instance, putting antifriction mechanisms under both heel and toe means the binding is usable with a wide variety of boot-sole surfaces. And the binding uses a center-mount system with a supershort, 43mm mounting base for unrestricted ski flex and direct pressure application to the center of the ski. Line skis will be built with a dedicated system of snowboard-style threaded inserts, so skiers can swap the binding easily on and off the ski. An adapter plate is available to permit center mounting on skis without screw inserts.Line will introduce four versions of the binding for delivery next fall. Model names hadn't been established at press time, but the DIN ranges with tentative street pricing are: DIN 3-10, street price $170; DIN 4-12, $220; DIN 5-14, $270; DIN 5-16, $320. All four bindings use the same release technology, but weight decreases with the use of more exotic materials as price point rises.

Look
800-992-3962
www.dynastar.com
Look is one of only two brands (the other is Tyrolia) to maintain a brand identity separate from that of its sibling ski and boot, in this case Dynastar and Lange. This puts the company in a unique position regarding systems. Marketing Vice President Charlie Adams estimates that about 10 percent of all bindings are now sold in a "closed" system in which the ski and binding must be mated. About 20 percent are sold in cosmetic packages. That leaves 70 percent of bindings still sold a la carte. "Look can be successfully merchandised with skis like K2 that don't have a dedicated binding," Adams says. "We do give the dealer an incentive to buy a binding with a ski, but the shop is still flexible on how to sell each-together or separately." Look's major move last year was to introduce the value-oriented Nova system, using the high-performance Full Drive toe with a new heel unit. For 2002-03, the Nova series expands upward to the DIN 11 range, with the introduction of the Nova 11 Air Plus (DIN 3.5-11). The high-performance Pivot series also moves up, as Look offers its full-race, all-aluminum Pivot 18 (DIN 5-18).
Every binding in the line now uses the Full Drive toe, with its mechanical control of upward release. The AFC (Look's antifriction device) has been widened for use on wider lifter plates.
Pivot Series: Based on the classic step-in turntable heel, with its short mounting base, the high-performance Pivot series now includes the P18 (price not available), P14 ($350), P12 ($260), and P10 ($240). The P14, P12, and P10 are available in a new Autodrive version ($400, $350, $240, respectively), which brings the new FIS-standard 55mm stand height to Dynastar's Autodrive skis. The 14mm Maxplate lifter, with its viscoelastic damper insert, is available with the P10; the 10mm lifter is available with the P12 and P10. The P14 and P12 are also available as a "vanilla" binding with a 4mm stack height for use on aftermarket lifters.
Nova Series: In addition to the new Nova 11 Air Plus ($175), Look brings back the Nova 10 ($165), with the 14mm Maxplate, and the Nova 9 ($150 w/lifter), available with or without the 10mm Lifter.
Junior Series: The junior group consists of the P10 Team ($200, with 4mm of lift), the Nova 7 Team ($165 w/Maxplate) with or without the 14mm Maxplate, and the Team 4 ($120).
Demo and Rental Series: Look for new demo versions of the P12, Nova 11, Nova 9, and Nova 7, plus rental versions of the Nova 9, Nova 7, and Team 4.

Marker
800-453-3862
www.markeri.com
Marker has taken the new technology it introduced last year at the top of the line and trickled it down through the midrange and low-end bindings. Everything below the Titanium 1200 series is new and is based on the Biotech toe-a simplified version of the Biometric toe. Where the Biometric toe automatically proportions upward release to DIN setting, the Biotech toe offers three upward release ranges, selected by the technician. The Biometric toe, used in the 1200, 1300, and 1400 series, has been recontoured and is now a bit lighter. Each Marker binding sits on a performance-enhancing interface: The Piston Control system uses a floating toe to allow deeper ski flex, with a hydraulic piston between the toe and heel to damp the ski's rebound. The Glide Control is the same system, without the piston. The Free interface uses "Big Air" rubber pads to cushion landings. The new xi system features a 12mm aluminum plate with a Kevlar insert, and the Compact Control (CC) interface is a simple 12mm plastic plate. The EPS (edge pressure system) is a simple 5mm lifter.
Biometric Series: The Comp 1400 Piston Control (DIN 5-14, $395 MSRP) is unchanged except for a recontoured toe unit. The binding is also available in Glide Control ($350), Free ($330), and EPS ($330) versions. The Titanium 1300 comes in Piston Control ($395) and Glide Control ($350) models. The Titanium 1200 is offered in Piston Control ($330), Glide Control ($300), and Free/EPS options ($280).
Biotech Series: The top model is the Titanium 1100 CC xi (DIN 3-11, $250), followed by the M1100 CC xi ($230), the M1000 CC ($210), the M1000 EPS ($190), and the M900 EPS ($190).
Junior Series: The race system is the M1000 Jr. Comp CC xi (DIN 3-10, $250). An EPS version ($225) is offered for use on other stack systems. The recreational systems are the M700 EC 10, with an extra 10mm stand height ($210), and the M700 EPS ($190). For smaller kids, the M450 EPS ($170) suits best.
Rental and Demo Series: Marker's SpeedPoint system returns, attached to the Comp 1400 SP, the Titanium 1100 SP, and the M1000 SP. Straight rental tracks come with the M1000 Spacer RTL, the M1000 RTL, the M700 RTL , and the M450 RTL.
World Cup Plate: For Masters and serious junior racing, Marker finally offers the World Cup Piston Control inteth the introduction of the Nova 11 Air Plus (DIN 3.5-11). The high-performance Pivot series also moves up, as Look offers its full-race, all-aluminum Pivot 18 (DIN 5-18).
Every binding in the line now uses the Full Drive toe, with its mechanical control of upward release. The AFC (Look's antifriction device) has been widened for use on wider lifter plates.
Pivot Series: Based on the classic step-in turntable heel, with its short mounting base, the high-performance Pivot series now includes the P18 (price not available), P14 ($350), P12 ($260), and P10 ($240). The P14, P12, and P10 are available in a new Autodrive version ($400, $350, $240, respectively), which brings the new FIS-standard 55mm stand height to Dynastar's Autodrive skis. The 14mm Maxplate lifter, with its viscoelastic damper insert, is available with the P10; the 10mm lifter is available with the P12 and P10. The P14 and P12 are also available as a "vanilla" binding with a 4mm stack height for use on aftermarket lifters.
Nova Series: In addition to the new Nova 11 Air Plus ($175), Look brings back the Nova 10 ($165), with the 14mm Maxplate, and the Nova 9 ($150 w/lifter), available with or without the 10mm Lifter.
Junior Series: The junior group consists of the P10 Team ($200, with 4mm of lift), the Nova 7 Team ($165 w/Maxplate) with or without the 14mm Maxplate, and the Team 4 ($120).
Demo and Rental Series: Look for new demo versions of the P12, Nova 11, Nova 9, and Nova 7, plus rental versions of the Nova 9, Nova 7, and Team 4.

Marker
800-453-3862
www.markeri.com
Marker has taken the new technology it introduced last year at the top of the line and trickled it down through the midrange and low-end bindings. Everything below the Titanium 1200 series is new and is based on the Biotech toe-a simplified version of the Biometric toe. Where the Biometric toe automatically proportions upward release to DIN setting, the Biotech toe offers three upward release ranges, selected by the technician. The Biometric toe, used in the 1200, 1300, and 1400 series, has been recontoured and is now a bit lighter. Each Marker binding sits on a performance-enhancing interface: The Piston Control system uses a floating toe to allow deeper ski flex, with a hydraulic piston between the toe and heel to damp the ski's rebound. The Glide Control is the same system, without the piston. The Free interface uses "Big Air" rubber pads to cushion landings. The new xi system features a 12mm aluminum plate with a Kevlar insert, and the Compact Control (CC) interface is a simple 12mm plastic plate. The EPS (edge pressure system) is a simple 5mm lifter.
Biometric Series: The Comp 1400 Piston Control (DIN 5-14, $395 MSRP) is unchanged except for a recontoured toe unit. The binding is also available in Glide Control ($350), Free ($330), and EPS ($330) versions. The Titanium 1300 comes in Piston Control ($395) and Glide Control ($350) models. The Titanium 1200 is offered in Piston Control ($330), Glide Control ($300), and Free/EPS options ($280).
Biotech Series: The top model is the Titanium 1100 CC xi (DIN 3-11, $250), followed by the M1100 CC xi ($230), the M1000 CC ($210), the M1000 EPS ($190), and the M900 EPS ($190).
Junior Series: The race system is the M1000 Jr. Comp CC xi (DIN 3-10, $250). An EPS version ($225) is offered for use on other stack systems. The recreational systems are the M700 EC 10, with an extra 10mm stand height ($210), and the M700 EPS ($190). For smaller kids, the M450 EPS ($170) suits best.
Rental and Demo Series: Marker's SpeedPoint system returns, attached to the Comp 1400 SP, the Titanium 1100 SP, and the M1000 SP. Straight rental tracks come with the M1000 Spacer RTL, the M1000 RTL, the M700 RTL , and the M450 RTL.
World Cup Plate: For Masters and serious junior racing, Marker finally offers the World Cup Piston Control interface plate ($295 MSRP). Containing an extra set of hydraulic pistons, this is the stack that Marker's World Cup skiers have been using for five years. It's packaged with a set of shims so that stack height can be adjusted exactly to the new FIS 55mm standard. The plate can also be adjusted shorter or longer to suit technical and speed events.
Völkl Series: Marker builds three versions of the Motion binding, sold only with Völkl's Motion skis, which incorporate the requisite mounting rails. The top model is the Piston Control Motion, with the Comp 1400 toe and heel. Nonpiston Motion systems are also available with the 1400 and 1200 toe and heel.

Nordica 800-892-2668
www.nordica.com
Nordica launched its homegrown binding line two years ago, and volume is still small. Product manager Andy Hare notes that almost all Nordica bindings are still sold in packages with Nordica skis. With the original N2 and N2S bindings as a platform, the company is ready to ignite its second stage: three models in the Syn-X series. Where the N2 series was based on public-domain patents, the Syn-X incorporates all-new technology developed by the engineering team in Treviso, Italy, a few miles from Nordica's boot factory in Montebelluna.
According to Hare, the Syn-X toe incorporates a twin-spring control system (TSC), with separate springs controlling lateral release and upward release. Another innovation is "dynamic intelligent release" (DIR), an AFD mechanism that's free to move fore and aft as well as laterally, thus helping the boot toe move through the toe's release arc. The heel is built of lightweight, glass-reinforced plastic, with an extra long operating lever of light alloy.
Syn-X Series: The high-performance group will be offered in three DIN ranges: 6-14, 4-12 and 3.5-11.
N2 Series: The N2S (DIN 4-12, $249 MSRP) returns, as does the N2 (DIN 3-10, $199). Both get a mild cosmetic facelift. The QS model offers a quickset rental track.

Rossignol 802-863-2511
www.rossignolskico.com
After six years in the binding business, Rossignol has achieved roughly a 12 percent market share, reports product manager Jason Newell -without a true "dedicated" binding to benefit from ski-binding system sales. Nonetheless, he says, the future belongs to more closed (i.e., fully integrated) systems. "It simply saves time and error in the shop when the holes are predrilled and tapped," he says.
All toe units have been recontoured, producing a lighter housing with automatic toe-height and wing-width adjustment. This new Dual Action 2 toe is mated with a revised Axial turntable heel: The screws have been moved forward to reduce the mounting base (the distance between the foremost screw in the toe unit and the aftmost screw in the heel) by 11mm. The goal: a more flexible ski. "With 45mm of elasticity in the toe and 25mm in the heel, we have more shock travel than anyone," Newell says. "And vertical release in the toe is proportional to DIN setting."
Rossi introduced its low-end Axium line last year, and for 2002-03 extends that technology upward to close the midrange gap. The new product is the Axium 110, featuring a wider Axitec II AFD to match boot sole width. "Our philosophy with the low end is to provide the lightest product available, with easy entry and exit," says Newell.
Axial Series: All bindings in this group are available with or without the 14mm T-Plate, with its viscoelastic damper. The top binding is the Power 140 (DIN 5-14), followed by the Power 120 (4-12) and Power 100 (3-10).
Axium Series: Axium bindings are sold with or without the suspension-equipped X-Plate. The new model is the Axium 110 (DIN 3.5-11), and returning to the line are the Axium 100 (3-10) and Axium 90 (2.5-9).

Salomon800-225-6850
www.salomonsports.com
Salomon's Pilot system now accounts for 10