Rossignol Bindings 2001

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Like other companies with complete systems, Rossignol develops its bindings in tandem with its boots and skis. "Our bindings retain the utmost respect for the preprogrammed characteristics of the ski," says Product Manager Jason Newell. "We try to preserve the ski's natural flex at all costs."

Rossi touts the advantages of its Axial series, which is all about turntable heels. The company says turntables give a skier better leverage on the ski, grip the boot better, offer more elastic travel and shorten the mounting zone, which lets the ski bend more readily. In the past, turntables have been awkward to step into, especially on steep slopes or in deep snow. Now, with a heel that re-centers automatically, skiers can have their cake and eat it too: turntable performance with the convenience of a conventional step-in.

More important, Rossignol bindings have evolved along with changes in skiing technique. Bindings, the company stresses, add to or take away from a skier's natural athleticism. Mediocre performance is often less about poor technique and more about being out of balance.

By reconsidering "ramp angle" (how toe height relates to heel height), Rossignol engineers place you in a more leveled stance. "This allows the skier to feel the sidecut of the ski from a more upright, balanced position," Newell says.

Axial 140 T-Plate
$350 AMC, AME, RACER
The T-Plate, which accepts only Rossi's top-of-the-line Axial bindings, is designed to focus the skier's power on the edge. Rossignol designers don't believe excessive ramp angle improves the way shaped skis perform, so they build in just 1.25 to 1.5 degrees, depending on boot size.

Rossi's claim that the Axial toe is the stiffest on the market in terms of torsion might be true. It feels super-responsive on snow, and the low ramp puts you in a strong position to work the ski. This confidence-building plate dampens vibration in addition to settling you into a balanced stance.

Axial 110 Carve
$320 PLAYER, FREERIDER, AMC
Here's a Rossi turntable at an affordable price, in this case atop a full-length 15-mm plate. The Carve plate is fixed at the toe (the screw that fastens it there extends through the plate into the ski), and float-mounted at the heel (with bushings that slide on fixed screw heads). The binding-plate combination lends power and accuracy at turn initiation, and lets the ski flex naturally.The Axial heel grips higher and closer to the boot but still allows maximum elastic travel. The arms are lighter yet more rigid than older turntable rod arms. The elastomer layer beneath the plate affords a cushy ride, and the fixed toe makes starting turns effortless. Anyone who loves a turntable heel will enjoy stepping into this binding.

FTX 120 X-Plate
$285 AC, PLAYER, FREERIDER
For those who prefer a step-in, the FTX 120 has a three-piece heel with a heel cup 20 percent larger than the FDX models below it. It's easier to get in and out of and feels more substantial and secure.The heel's "torsion-lock" feature amounts to a reinforced track for greater structural integrity. Its removable brake accepts wider or longer brake arms (for fat skis or high lifters). And while the DIN range on the less-expensive FDX 100 is 4-10, the FTX 120 can be cranked down to 12, making it plenty sturdy for heavy or aggressive skiers.

FDX 100 X-Plate
$185 AC, PLAYER
Here is a value binding with a sexy 10-mm lifter that looks like a performance-enhancing plate but does not make the mid-portion of the ski more rigid. The FDX is very light. It has a toe that contacts the boot at four points, a mechanical AFD and a two-piece heel. The brakes fit together nicely, making skis easy to carry and store. There's a clean visual connection between the toepiece and the lifter, and this extremely lightweight binding has an equally clean feel on the snow.

Axial GS Race Plate
$160 (plate only) AME, RACER
Like the T-Plate, the GS Plate has 4 mm of extra lift under the toe. The most obvious feature of this setup is the "Power Bridge" between toe and heel, meant to preserve energy through turn transitions and give the ski more life. Mounting screws near the center of the plate are fixed, while the ends of the plate float, for maximum ski-flex.

On snow, the leveling in the binding invites you to stand tall and feel the entire edge. The combination of mounting screws and the Power Bridge demand speed and some strength to be fully appreciated. Yet there is no question the ski tracks more accurately through arcs.