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Are Bindings Going Through an Identity Crisis?

With increased compatibility, next year's ski bindings are blurring the lines between alpine and backcountry.

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In the ski binding category new innovative designs are fine-tuning the art of attaching skier to ski. This year’s focus is on weight savings, power transmission for controlling wider skis, safer release, and enhanced touring modes and sole compatibility. “Lighter bindings seem to be the way of the future, especially for ladies’ models,” says Joe Rauscher of Joe’s Ski Shop in Minnesota.

Driving these innovations is a sales season that, if not crushing records like Ted Ligety, at least recorded growth. According to SIA’s 2013 Market Intelligence Report, last year’s binding sales of $47 million represented a 7 percent increase in dollar volume over the year before. DIN 12+ bindings, which account for more than half of all sales of alpine bindings, increased 10 percent.

Alpine Bindings

“The use of lighter weight materials, combined with continued refinements in design, is making bindings lighter than ever,” says Look’s communications and PR manager, Nick Castagnoli. With reduced weight and ramp angles for a more neutral stance, as well as improved step-in/step-out functionality, Look’s new SPX is designed to reduce fatigue. A new heelpiece with oversized heel pivot linkage increases coupling strength.

At the Show, you’ll find more bindings that accommodate multiple platforms. Atomic and Salomon’s new Warden, is TUV- and WTR (Walk to Ride)-certified and adaptable to all sole types (DIN, WTR, Touring) through its Multi Norm Certification technology. It also features a low-profile chassis, steel housing, and a sliding anti-friction device (AFD) for switching boots. “We’re seeing a big trend in binding platforms that have the capability to accommodate both DIN and Touring norm boot soles,” says Salomon’s sales director, Erik Anderson. “Consumers are looking for products with crossover appeal.”

Marker weighs in on weight with its new 11.0 TC EPS, a lightweight binding with easy step-in capability. “As the flat ski market grows, this will be an emerging category of bindings,” says Marker’s VP of marketing, Geoff Cur- tis. Tyrolia launches a rental version of its popular Attack 13 binding, with tool-free movable toe and heel, 22-mm stand height, and metal heel and toe tracks. On the systems side, Tyrolia uses two new plates for its Triflex Plate and Super Lite Rail Base.

Safety continues to be a top priority in bindings. “The total financial outlay for an ACL injury today tops $100,000,” explains KneeBinding’s company chairman John Springer-Miller. “Resorts are now using KneeBindings for their on-snow staff to try to combat the costs of on-the-job knee injuries.” The company is currently working on a new higher DIN Pro model as well as a model to accommodate AT boots.

AT Bindings

Bindings with touring modes are also driving sales. G3 Genuine Guide Gear showcases its new ION AT binding, focusing on weight reduction (585g per binding, with brakes). It features snow-clearing channels to reduce toe-piece clogging, a new step-in system, built-in spring-loaded brakes, and a bi-directional heelpiece. “Everyone’s chasing the holy grail of touring bindings—something light enough for climbing and built to handle aggressive descents,” says G3’s VP of sales and marketing Gord Bailey. “Frame bindings aren’t cutting it and there’s no benefit to bulking up a tech binding, which makes it heavier or compromises reliability.”

Marker has made cosmetic changes to its Duke, Baron, and Tour F12 and F10 touring bindings, with Atomic and Salomon making similar upgrades to their Guardian 13 and 16. “Boot compatibility is on the rise,” adds Marker’s Cur- tis. “Our climbing-enabled bindings, as well as the Lord, are compatible with both the Alpine ISO and AT ISO Norms.” Tyrolia unveils a lower-DIN, lower price-point, TUV-certified version of its Ambition touring binding, the Ambition 10. “The last two years have been the mother lode for Tyrolia as far as the AT market,” says marketing director Andrew Couperthwait.

(From the SIA Snow Show Preview)