Rossi's basic objective is to build "bindings that influence the ski as little as possible." At the same time, they strive to provide full release in every direction. Their new, narrow-profile toe is like a universal joint, releasing diagonally and directly upward¿over a full 180-degree range. The heel operates independently, with no influence from the toe. No components, Rossignol claims, will loosen over the life of the binding.
On the performance side, in addition to natural ski flex, Rossi features lightness, improved brakes, elasticity (to take pressure off the knee) and a "tight coupling." In its upper-end bindings at least, Rossi is at the opposite pole from Marker, with its cushy, tolerant ride. Rossignol believes the coupling between boot and binding should transmit energy directly to the ski¿without slop. This precise link, they insist, means no wobble and a cleaner turning arc.
FKX Pro Lifter $335
Ten percent lighter and with 38 percent more elasticity than last year, this top-end connector is for Racers, All-Mountain Experts and Freeriders. It's also 11 percent narrower (Rossi calls it a "shaped binding"), so there's no way it can hit the snow, even when the ski is on the highest edge. The FKX Pro Lifter offers 10 mm of lift and, like the rest of the FKX series, features the time-honored "pivot" heel that resembles a mortar launcher. Mounted with this binding, skis are easy to carry, as well as to step in and out of.
The tight coupling is achieved by binding the toe at four points: There are rollers against the boot sole, as well as wings above it. The immediate sense on snow is one of ultra-responsive control that feels harsh at first. This goes away after just a few turns once you realize how light and nimble the ski feels. The FKX does not detract from the ski's flex. In minutes the binding becomes a non-distraction¿perhaps the ultimate compliment.
FKX Pro R-Flex $380
All-Mountain Experts and discriminating All-Mountain Cruisers will want to check out Rossignol's most expensive binding, with a 14 mm lift. The plate beneath the binding has two fixed screw points with oval "cavaliers" (cradles) for the screw heads that allow them to float. The plate, which fits all boot sizes, has a vibration-absorbing material beneath its entire length. This plate reduces some of the rigidity felt in the close coupling and smooths the ride in choppy snow. Non-racers may be inspired to ski a more direct, attacking line and stay on a higher edge longer. In this case, increased comfort can breed confidence, making this binding feel more powerful. Racers might feel otherwise, especially on a slalom course.
FTX 120 R-Flex $320
Here is ramp angle: The step-in heel raises you 15 mm, while the toe lifts only 10 mm. The plate, with four screw locations, is made of a softer material and has dampening only under the heel. The two-piece step-in heel does not secure the boot the same way as the pivot heel, but it does have two torsion clamps to prevent wobble. The total effect is less precision, more comfort.
All models in the FT line feature heels with a tacky-soft plastic protector on the heel lever. This lets you step on the heel with the edge of your other ski as you step out. Neat. The ramp angle feels like an aid, letting you stand up straighter and apply more pressure to the ski through the arch and heel. Aspiring Carvers, Players and All-Mountain Cruisers, especially women, will debate whether this heel lift helps or tilts them too far forward. Detractors, we think, will constitute a solid minority.