How to buy new ski bindings

This story originally appeared in POWDER. Words by Jack Foersterling.

The final, integral part of a new ski is one that is often overlooked: bindings.

“Our guests normally don’t know much about bindings,” says Larry Hartenstein, general manager of Jackson Hole Sports, the largest retail shop in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. “Bindings are just something that hold them on their skis.”

While Hartenstein does admit that buying new skis or boots can involve far more technical questions, finding the best binding for your intended use is still an important part of getting your new setup dialed.

“A lot of it for us is figuring out what the skier is trying to accomplish out there," he says. "Whether it be resort skiing, side- or backcountry, or full-on touring.”

Bindings are often overlooked when it comes to dialing in your ski setup. Photo: Asoggetti/Unsplash

When looking at standard alpine bindings, Hartenstein says that most of the time his shop looks at matching the binding brand to the ski brand. “Ninety-five percent of the time, if a guest is buying Atomic skis, I’m recommending Atomic bindings," says Hartenstein. "If they’re looking at a pair of Rossis or Dynas, I’m recommending Looks.”

Most ski brands manufacture their skis intending them to be best used with their corresponding bindings, and many also offer an extended warranty on skis that are purchased with said bindings, making pairing your ski/binding a win-win for most skiers.

If you’ve put a lot of hours on a pair of bindings that you’ve really liked in the past, Hartenstein says to go with your history. He says that they get a lot of customers who only ski Marker or only ski Tyrolia, and that’s fine. Talk with your local shop tech about any changes your go-to binding has gone through, and if there’s a new one in their lineup that may be an even better fit.

Hartenstein says that the most important part of matching a skier with a new pair of bindings is making sure their DIN is set correctly. DIN, which stands for Deutsches Institut für Normung, is the release setting on your binding. The stronger the DIN, the more force required to release the boot.

Finding the correct DIN is a ratio of the skier’s height, weight, age and ability (on a scale of 1, beginner, to 3, advanced), which Hartenstein admits has led to some funny situations. "We don’t care how old you are or how much you weigh," he says. "We just want you to be safe.”

When looking at backcountry bindings, Hartenstein says that if you have the money, having separate alpine and touring setups is best. “The in-between AT [alpine touring] is never going to be as good as a solid alpine binding, and never going to be as good as a solid tech binding," he says. "We see far more warranties on those than any other binding.”

A good set of bindings can make all the difference in the world when it matters most. Photo: Riciardus/Unsplash

When matching someone to a touring binding, he says the decision normally boils down to how hard you are on your stuff. If you’re going to be doing alpine-level, hard-charging skiing on a touring binding, opt for a burlier (often heavier) setup. If not, save some weight and utilize one of the lighter bindings on the market.

When shopping for new bindings, you'll often encounter standards and norms in addition to DIN, such as ISO and TUV. It can get very confusing to determine the difference, but TUV (which stands for Technischer Überwachungsverein, or, in English, Technical Inspection Association) is a third-party organization that puts tech bindings through various tests to ensure that release values are normalized.

DIN and ISO are measurements and levels used to make sure that a DIN of 10 has the same retention and release-ability across the industry. In that way, consumers should regard the DIN standard as the norm. TUV then certifies that certain values meet the norm. As of this writing, the only tech bindings that have TUV certification are: Dynafit bindings Beast 14, Beast 16, Radical ST, Radical FT and Rotation 10; the Marker Kingpin; and Fritschi's Vipec 12 and Vipec EVO 12. Shop guys and gals weird out on this stuff, so it's best to visit your local retailer to get the down and dirty on all this technical info.

Finally, when it comes to one of the most contested parts of bindings — where to mount them — Hartenstein says the recommended line is always tried and true. “In general, 99 percent are traditional mounts," he says. "We trust the company’s recommended line. They weighted, balanced and developed the skis to ride best mounted at that line.”

There are so many different types of binding out there. Photo: Brent Olson/Unsplash

Additional ski binding terms

Anti Friction Device (AFD): The AFD is either a sliding or low-friction device in a binding's toe piece that sits underneath the sole of your boot. Its purpose is to allow the boot to easily slide sideways out of the binding when ejecting from your skis.

Elasticity: Many bindings have a certain amount of elasticity built in to prevent releasing during heavy shock absorption from landing drops or in the bumps. Some bindings will highlight a greater range of elasticity than others.

Stack (or stand) height: A binding's stack height correlates to how close your boot is to the topsheet of your ski. Many skiers prefer a lower stack height to give them better control of their skis. A common complaint about some frame AT bindings is their higher stack height due to the amount of material needed to construct the frame underneath the boot.

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