Most of the recent “hot” ski technology has been in the backcountry crossover realm: lightweight skis that perform as well off the chairlift as they do on the skin track, and stiff boots with rubber soles and walk modes that weigh half as much as their alpine relatives but match (and even exceed) general downhill performance.
The main obstacle for many in search of a one-ski, one-boot quiver for in-bounds and out has been the binding. The two primary backcountry binding options have been step-in “frame” bindings, such as the Marker Duke and Salomon Guardian, or low-tech pin bindings, such as the Dynafit TLT Speedfit or G3 Ion. Frame bindings are heavy and inefficient on the skin track, and tech bindings are ill-suited for the descent anytime the snow is harder than powder. It has been a matter of sacrificing performance on the up or the down for a number of years, but Salomon hopes to change that next season.
If the company succeeds, it will be thanks to the most extensive research and design Salomon has ever put into a project, including testing over 1,000 individual prototypes over a seven-year period. This binding is more of a traditional alpine step-in binding compared to any binding that exclusively uses toe pins. The toe’s elasticity rating is comparable to any alpine binding on the market, a mark of safety and performance not found in pin bindings, including the Marker Kingpin.
In alpine mode, the toe is a standard step-in model, compatible with alpine DIN, GripWalk, Walk-To-Ride, and alpine touring boot soles. Flip a switch on the toe for the tech wings to pop out, exposing the touring pins so you can slap on skins, lock the brake, click in your toe, and start skiing uphill. As long as your boot has tech inserts, you can go uphill as efficiently as any low-tech binding on the market.
This new binding is potentially a game changer for anyone who wants a binding they can ski anywhere in-bounds, but can also go ski touring in as often as they want. SKI Magazine has had the opportunity to ski the SHIFT several times, including at SKI Magazine’s 2019 Product Intro Week in Vail, Colorado, and a few days on snow at Alta, Utah.
In a test that involved the same model of ski (the Salomon QST 106), the same boot, and skiing the same run but using different bindings each time, we found the SHIFT performed as equally as the Salomon Warden MNC on corduroy, hardpack, chunder, and just a touch of soft snow on ice at both low and high speeds. When taken on a tour in Little Cottonwood Canyon, the uphill capabilities were flawless, and the binding transitions much more smoothly into downhill mode than a Guardian or Duke.
The Technology of the Salomon S/LAB SHIFT MNC Binding
SKI will continue to test the Salomon S/LAB SHIFT MNC binding in bounds and out, though it's still months away from public release. We will publish the final review in the 2019 Gear Guide, due on newsstands at about the same time the SHIFT will be available to consumers.
Until then, well, patience is a virtue after all.