Among the first to develop a performance plate binding for racers, ESS focuses on lift, vibration-absorption, variable binding position and a free-floating heel. The heel mechanism, attached to the toe by a steel band, is not fixed to the ski, but moves freely in a track. The results: little disruption of the ski's natural flex pattern as the ski bends. These positive features work especially well on shaped skis.
Centro 412 $259 and Centro 29 $239
The Centro mechanism, built on a 10-mm lifter, automatically places the midpoint of the boot sole on the midpoint of the ski¿regardless of boot size. A simple lever allows both the toe and heel to move fore and aft in 5-mm increments; a green light indicates when the Centro is properly adjusted and locked.
(Note that some ski companies, including Kästle, K2, Olin and Völkl, insist on a "fixed toe point." The Centro may not locate the boot toe where these ski manufacturers recommend.)
The Centro 412 accommodates DIN settings (release-tension calibrations) from 4 to 12. The Centro 29 allows DIN settings from 2.5 to 9. Changing the DIN on these streamlined bindings is a piece of cake. The 29 is ideal for Newcomers and Aspiring Carvers, while the 412 is suited for the latter and above.
ESSmatic 614 $299
Lightweight and easy to carry, the ESSmatic 614 may be the easiest binding to get in and out of. With lifters, brake arms on many bindings are too short, preventing the skis from locking together when placed base to base. Most brands have redesigned brakes, offering more than one length, but with ESS, one length fits all of its bindings, including those with lifters. Good for Players and up.
Powerflex 10 $129
The Powerflex 10 offers a conservative 10-mm lift and a ramp angle (heel elevation) of between one-half and one degree. (The shorter your boot, the less ramp angle you get.) It adds leverage, dampens vibration and lowers the risk of boot-out. It's a nice performance enhancer for Players and Executives.
CarvX Charger 17 $199
A heftier version of the Powerflex 10, with more lift (17 mm), more dampening and more edge control. The Charger 17 is ideal for skiers on shaped skis with high performance expectations.
Super Powerflex 20 $349
A favorite among elite racers, the Powerflex 20 has three separate plate sections, 20 mm of lift, and a rubbery silicon layer next to the ski to provide a cushy ride with minimum vibration and enormous edging power. Even subtle, lazy lateral movements are communicated to the ski in a big way. The Super Powerflex 20 begs you to pick up speed, blasts through clumps of soft snow and grips the ice. This sophisticated plate turns the ski's tail into a rocket, ideal for GS and super-G turns. High-speed cruisers will worship the Powerflex 20. But those who like making short, quick turns will not want this much height. Only Racers and All-Mountain speed freaks need consider this somewhat weighty and pricey luxury plate.