Skis and bindings are increasingly less distinct components, but their connection to the skier is more crucial than ever. As performance-enhancing systems proliferate, so do your choices.
Bindings, as we've known them, are things of the past. The line defining where a ski ends and the device that holds (and releases) the boot begins is blurred. These hazy borders—what we once simply referred to as plates or lifters—are now mostly called "interfaces. "It's all about interfaces, says Marker's Kirk Langford. "You can have factory interfaces (installed during manufacturing), or you can have customized interfaces (added after the fact).
Fewer and fewer skis are offered "flat, with no binding or plate at all. Meanwhile, the choices among ski/binding systems are increasingly diverse, as are opportunities to select components to suit your skiing needs: in other words, to customize. We tested every model described here on snow at Stowe, Vt., and the differences were readily apparent. Some interfaces filter vibrations and smooth the ride; others invite rounder arcs, boost a ski's energy and enhance edge-grip.
Throughout the trials, one truth emerged: The ski-to-boot connection is more important than ever. A great interface can improve a ski; a weak one can emasculate it. So consider binding and interface options carefully: Good choices make a difference.