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Buyer's guide for ski bindings for touring and freeskiing

Ski bindings: the vital connection between your boots and skis

Ski bindings are the all-important interface between you and your skis and yet they rarely receive the attention they deserve. Your ski bindings are what transfer all the energy from your boots to your skis, forcing them to react how you want them to. What’s more, some ski bindings make it possible for you to hike up to previously unreachable spots and drop into untracked powder. Put that way, we think it’s time we took a closer look at our bindings.

  1. Ski bindings: park, pipe and powder powerhouses
  2. Stoppers: your ski’s emergency brakes
  3. DIN values: personal trigger values according to ISO Norm 11088
  4. Materials and parts: toe and heel pieces
  5. Riding style: freeride and touring or park and powder?
  6. Setup: mounting up safely

1. Ski bindings: park, pipe and powder powerhouses

Freeski bindings are the little powerhouses that keep your skis attached to your feet through even the most challenging terrain. They also act as a kind of safety blanket by releasing your skis in situations of extreme stress, thereby reducing your risk of injury so you can get straight back on the horse and keep on shredding.

They also make sure your much loved equipment doesn’t slide off down the hill without you thanks to the magic of brakes, which get their own special mention here in this guide.

In the rest of the guide we’ll also take a look at binding mounting, riding styles and your binding settings as well as a handful of other important factors to take into account when buying your new ski bindings.

The right ski binding for whatever you want to do on the mountain
The right ski binding for whatever you want to do on the mountain

2. Stoppers: your ski’s emergency brakes

In the event of a fall it’s your brakes which keep your skis from running down the hill. If the binding ejects for safety the brakes immediately spring down, keeping your skis in one place.
These brakes prevent two possible unfortunate outcomes:

  • Your ski ends up a long way away:
    • Heading down into the valley by themselves.
    • Just getting lost.

  • Your skis put you or someone else in danger:
    • The stoppers bring your ski to a standstill rather than letting them shoot off down the hill into the path of a ski school
Brakes also keep your ski in place when you take them off for a quick lunch on the hill or a break in the backcountry. Thanks to brakes you don’t have to worry about your skis going walkabout without you.

Stopper width

In general, the closer your brakes are to your ski the better. This way they won’t catch on each other if you ride with your skis close together. It also means you’ll be less prone to hang-ups when landing switch and you won’t accumulate too much snow in powder.

The brake width depends on the width of your skis, not vice versa.

Tip: stopper width

"To be safe choose stoppers that are around 5 to 10 mm wider than your ski waist width. For example: if your skis are 95 mm at the waist you will want the next biggest stoppers, which would be 100 mm in this case."

3. DIN values: personal trigger values according to ISO Norm 11088

The DIN value is a binding trigger value calibrated specifically to you. As soon as a certain torsional limit is reached – which can lead to leg or ACL injuries – the binding will disengage, releasing your boot in the event of a crash and minimising the risk of injury. When buying bindings it’s important to make sure that the binding can be adjusted to accommodate your specific DIN value.

Retailers must conform to ISO Norm 11088 when mounting, installing and testing ski bindings. They precisely set the DIN value and contact pressure of your heel mount so you can be sure that your ski boot – which you absolutely need to have to hand when mounting your bindings – is held securely by your bindings. They might also issue you a certificate or an agreement that can be used to clarify issues of liability and serve as the basis for insurance claims. Getting your ski bindings mounted by a retailer is far more precise than doing it yourself as they can work with electronic testing equipment to precisely measure torsional forces. Making adjustments yourself will void a certificate and should really be done by a trained mechanic or engineer. Experienced freeriders and freestyle riders sometimes adjust their ski bindings themselves, however this is at their own liability.

The way to work out your DIN setting is the tabular weight method based on statistical data. This method uses your

  • Body weight,
  • Height,
  • Age,
  • Boot sole length and
  • Riding ability.

DIN value display in the front of a Salomon XT12 binding
You can read the DIN value of the Salomon XT12 binding in the front with the help of a little scale

Rider stats Length of ski boot in mm
Weight in kg Size in cm < 250 251-270 271-290 291-310 311-330 >331
Pre-correction DIN value
10-13 0,75 0,75 0,75
14-17 1,00 1,00 0,75
18-21 1,50 1,25 1,00
22-25 1,75 1,55 1,50 1,25
26-30 2,25 2,00 1,75 1,50 1,50
31-35 2,75 2,50 2,25 2,00 1,75 1,75
36-41 3,5 3,00 2,75 2,50 2,25 2,00
42-48 <148 3,50 3,00 3,00 2,75 2,50
49-57 149-157 4,50 4,00 3,50 3,50 3,00
58-66 158-166 5,50 5,00 4,50 4,00 3,50
67-78 167-178 6,50 6,00 5,50 5,00 4,50
79-94 179-194 7,50 7,00 6,50 6,00 5,50
>95 >195 8,50 8,00 7,00 6,50
10,00 9,50 8,50 8,00
11,50 11,00 10,00 9,50

DIN value correction

There are generally three types of skiers:

  • Type 1 – beginner: gentle skiing/learning technique. Gentle slopes and low speeds.
The DIN value in the table is fine. This lower value means that your binding will release easily. This does, however, mean that it can release incorrectly if put under stress, even if you don’t fall.

  • Type 2 – intermediates: riders who have mastered the basics and like to ride more challenging terrain at higher speeds.
Use the DIN Value from one row beneath in the table.

  • Type 3 – advanced: you ride steep slopes quickly and confidently. Naturally, your riding style is more aggressive. Correct your DIN value by using the value from two rows beneath in the table. This above average value will reduce pre-releases when riding aggressively. It does, however, also lead to delayed releases, which can increase the risk of injury.

If your weight and size are in different rows, take the lower DIN value to be safe.

For children under 10 years old and adults aged over 50 use the DIN value from the row above.

Display of the DIN value with a Look Pivot 18 binding
Front and back piece of a Look Pivot 18 binding displaying the DIN value

Tip: your DIN value

"Weight 80 kg, height 185 cm, ski boot length 320 mm, age 22, experienced skier (type 3). From the table we get a DIN value of 6 and, adjusting for type 3 taking the value from two cells below, the right DIN number is 8.50."

Only experienced riders should ever try to set up their own bindings. We strongly recommend that everyone has their bindings set up by a certified retailer.

Over the past few years, some riders have started cranking their DIN value up to the highest it will go. We strongly recommend you do not do this as the binding will no longer reliably release, thereby massively increasing the risk of injury.

4. Materials and parts: toe and heel pieces

Manufacturers like Atomic, Marker and Look only use the newest, most robust materials to make their high quality ski bindings. These days we’re about as far from wood and leather as Otzi the ice man is from getting back on his skis.

It’s now all about the lightest weight materials like titanium, carbon and magnesium; stainless steel for stability and durability; adjustable toe heights and hike modes for comfort; modern, simple clip-in systems; and user friendly DIN and contact pressure adjustment systems.

Toe and heel pieces ensure your boot stays tightly connected to your bindings, transferring all that power from your legs to the edges. Springs keep your boot fixed tightly to your binding so they give you maximum power transmission.

In the end, it comes down to how deep you want to delve into your pockets. Countless manufacturers offer everything from reasonably priced beginner to high-end pro bindings. Depending on how often and how hard you ski, certain bindings will be better suited to you. Our shop staff will be happy to advise you personally either in store or over the phone.

5. Riding style: freeride and touring or park and powder?

Atomic bindings are separated into two categories: freeride & touring and park & powder. The two categories are built differently to guarantee you the perfect product for your riding style.

Touring & freeride bindings have a particularly low standing height to make hiking easier and to increase your stability when riding. Once again oversized platforms guarantee precise turns by improving power transmission and reactivity. Each binding is compatible with a variety of DIN values, touring and Walk To Ride (WTR) standards. The Tracker 16 MNC for example is compatible with all current models on the market and can be switched from hike to ride mode with the click of a pole.

Park & powder bindings are generally lower profile, lighter and have higher trigger values. These bindings should still be nice and stable and be able to withstand even the hardest landings. An oversized platform (boot/binding contact surface) aids power transmission to the ski to give you a lively, powerful ride.

Atomic Tracker 16 MNC
Example for a Touring&Freeride binding from Atomic: Tracker 16 MNC
Atomic Warden 11
Example for a Park&Powder binding from Atomic: Warden 11

Look (Rossignol) also offer a variety of different constructions to complement different riding disciplines. The NX series is a light, high performance ski binding designed for all-mountain riders. These bindings are light and user friendly and offer fantastic power transfer, shock absorption and entry systems.

The Pivot binding is a freeride/freestyle specific binding. It features reinforced metal elements, maximum power transmission, shock absorption and reliable release – everything an all-mountain rider, freerider or freestyle lover could ever want.

Look Pivot 14 Dual WTR ski binding
The high performance binding from Look: Pivot 14 Dual WTR

Like the other excellent manufacturers already mentioned Marker also make bindings specifically for the different styles of freeskiing. Markerbindings are famed for their use of all the newest technology and the sturdiest materials as well as for making wider bindings to suit the wider skis of today. Marker have also been setting the standard in touring bindings, bringing a hike comfort to a whole new level.

Marker Jester 16 ID ski binding
The perfect companion manufactured by Marker: the Jester 16 ID ski binding

Binding Tip:

"Manufacturers often state the ideal ski width for their binding to provide optimal power transmission."

6. Setup: mounting up safely

Now that you’ve bought your new skis, boots and bindings, all that’s left to do is mount them. Manufacturers recommend different mount points for their different models. Usually these are marked on the top sheet and are optimised to help you get the best performance out of your ski. The reference point on the ski is in the centre of its radius. You can, however, mount them whichever way you want.
Different freeski disciplines generally have different mount points, the details of which are as follows:

  • Freeride
A setback binding mount (usually -2 to -5 cm, 6 cm at most) gives you more float in powder and more stability at higher speeds.

  • Freestyle and Jib
Mounting your bindings centrally, in the middle of your ski, makes them easier to spin and easier to ride switch as well as making it easier to throw down gnarly tricks.

  • All-mountain
As the name suggests these skis are designed to be used across the whole mountain so the bindings should be mounted somewhere between the central freestyle position and the setback freeride position. This will give you a ski that you can shred all over the mountain without much adjustment, whether in the park, on the pistes or in powder

The trend at the moment is tending towards wider skis – to the point where 95 mm park skis are no longer such a rarity – so, naturally, ski bindings have followed suit to guarantee you still get the most efficient power transmission and leverage out of your equipment. Of course, that means binding mounts are changing slightly too.

Unlike with snowboarding, ski bindings are permanently integrated into your ski so you should avoid re-mounting your bindings wherever possible as it will make your skis more prone to breaking and pulling out. What’s more, specialist tools and mounting plates are required to properly mount your bindings.

If you still need a bit of help or don’t really have a preference feel free to come into one of our stores and chat to our shop staff who will gladly point you in the right direction and explain all the pros and cons of various different bindings, which they can even professionally mount for you.