Tag Archives: ski bindings

Ski Touring – What Gear is Best For You?

Ski touring can mean different things to different people – depending on the desires of those participating. According to Google dictionary, the defining features include ‘skiing across open country, walking uphill on skis as well as skiing downhill’. With this in mind; there are multiple options of how you can spend your day ski touring – depending on your own priorities. Many people use ski touring as a means of fitness. Some are captivated by the ability ski touring gives you to escape the crowded slopes and travel into the wilderness. Meanwhile, others use ski touring as an effective method of transport on the snow, ultimately to get to a destination. This destination could be anything from a mountain hut, to a line you have been dreaming about skiing for years, or even the finish line of a race. Therefore, to answer your questions of what gear is best; first you will need to prioritise your own ski touring desires.

There are two extremes within the ski touring world. At one end of the spectrum you have the lightest skis and minimal pin bindings, combined with extremely lightweight, soft boots. And at the other end there is the freeride setup, which uses heavier and fatter powder skis, with a more performance binding and stiffer boots. The lightweight setup is perfect for those hungry to push their limits on the ascent; by beating time records, increasing their distances, or simply for anyone wanting to make walking uphill on snow as effortless as possible. This is a good option for endurance ski tours, such as multi-day or hut-to-hut trips where you need to save your energy. Plus, for ski tour racing the lighter the gear the better. On the contrary, the heavier setup is designed for those really prioritising the decent and wanting to charge down a line with the best equipment for exactly that. This freeride setup tends to be used for shorter ski tours due to its weight, but what it does best is allow you to ‘earn your turns’ in most snow conditions, especially fresh powder. Also this setup is perfect for side country access skiing, where you may need a short walk to get to a line or even just to skin out from the bottom.

When choosing what gear to buy, there will always be compromises to make, but with technology constantly improving, those compromises seem to keep getting smaller and smaller.

However great each of these setups are for their purpose, choosing between them will subsequently mean compromising the ascent or decent. For example, super lightweight skis with pin bindings are not going to give you as much control or float in powder as a fatter, stiffer setup. On the other hand, climbing up with heavy gear will naturally slow you down and use up more energy. This limits the distance you can travel in a certain amount of time, and time is a critical factor when travelling in the mountains. Therefore, if you are looking to enjoy all aspects of ski touring, you may want something a bit more ‘middle ground’.

When choosing what gear to buy, there will always be compromises to make, but with technology constantly improving, those compromises seem to keep getting smaller and smaller. In fact Atomic (and Salomon) have released a brand-new binding, which is the ‘first compromise-free binding’. Whereas before you had to make a big decision of pin or freeride touring bindings, now the Atomic Shift binding perfectly combines the two systems. The many benefits include being lighter under foot for each step you climb, being securely locked in for charging the decent and importantly being able to release if you crash. Plus having brakes make transitions slightly less worrying when taking your skis off; unlike many pin setups which do not have such luxuries. These bindings are compatible with all Multi Norm Certified soles on the market today: Gripwalk ISO 9523, WTR ISO 9523 and Touring Norm ISO 9523 ski boots when in ski mode, as well as most ‘pin binding’ touring boots. The only sole not compatible with the Shift binding is the Non Touring Norm sole. Fundamentally, this makes tehn the ultimate all-round ski touring binding currently on the market.

The Atomic Backland skis are a great example of a versatile, lightweight ski, which can handle a range of conditions and terrain.

Touring skis are also closing the gap between what’s good going up and what’s good skiing down. The Atomic Backland skis are a great example of a versatile, lightweight ski, which can handle a range of conditions and terrain. Their ultra-light wood core and carbon backbone make climbing a doddle, while their HRZN tech tips, cap sidewall and all-mountain rocker increase float and give great edge control for ripping through the powder, crud or on piste. Furthermore, Atomic have an extensive range of their Backland skis, which include women specific models, and range from 65 to 107 under foot to cater for everyone’s needs. For the ultimate balance of up-and-down the women’s Backland 85 and the men’s Backland 95 are perfect. Combine these skis with the Atomic Shift binding and you will be well on your way to the perfect all-mountain touring setup.

To top it off, ski touring boots keep getting lighter, stronger and stiffer for you to really make the most of your time on the snow. If you are looking for a boot that can really do it all, look no further than the trusty Atomics, to complete your own ultimate touring setup. For both men and women the Atomic Hawx Ultra XTD is the perfect balance between a freeride boot and a touring boot. With the pin system and lightweight shell ready for cruisey ascents, and a stiff flex for shredding at speed, you can enjoy one pair of boots for all your mountain adventures.

To top it off, ski touring boots keep getting lighter, stronger and stiffer for you to really make the most of your time on the snow.

And its not just me that thinks that; here’s what On The Snow have to say about the Atomic Hawx Ultra XTD ski boots!

So, hopefully you will have a broader understanding of the different meanings of ski touring, and have a better idea of what will ‘tickle-your-fancy’ in the mountains. If you are at each end of the spectrum and want to push yourself in either the ascent or the decent, then size and weight are both critical factors when buying gear. If you see yourself as an all-mountain ski tourer, you will seek the perfect balance with the least compromises. The aforementioned Atomic setup (Backland skis, Shift bindings and Hawx Ultra XTD boots) will provide you with comfort, control and enjoyment in all aspects of ski touring.

Also this set-up is perfect for those new to ski touring, because it’s very user friendly and great value for money. So, if you are looking for one pair of boots and one pair of skis with bindings that you can truly take anywhere and have a good time, this is for you!

Finally, when ski touring in the backcountry, choosing your gear is only the beginning of all the important decisions to be made. Take no unnecessary risks and be snow avalanche aware; but most importantly have fun and enjoy the freedom!

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Salomon S/Lab Shift Ski Binding Review

There has been a lot of press about the new S/Lab Shift ski binding from Salomon. After nearly a decade of R&D Salomon has produced a ski binding that can deliver downhill performance with touring capability. A ski binding that gives today’s freeride skiers a chance to “earn their turns” by touring uphill and then charging ‘big lines’ on the descent!

Salomon can tell you all about the ski bindings here; and, as previously mentioned, the freeride peak hunting athletes’ are screaming “Holy Shift”. But what does a novice, rookie, greenhorn, virgin ski tourer think of the Shift ski bindings? Well read on.

Having never ski toured before I was both excited and apprehensive when Shep, Salomon’s friendly ski tour guide, introduced me to ski touring. First the safety kit, including a transceiver which was very reassuring. And then the 99mm underfoot QST skis with S/Lab Shift bindings, and skins. All I will say is; “if you are into Transformers you’ll love these bindings”. A ‘click here’ and a ‘click there’; and you transform a touring binding into an alpine binding, and visa versa – “simples”.

snow covered trees
 It was cold, windy, and in cloud; which gave my first experience of Sweden a rather ‘monochromatic’ outlook.

So with the skins attached and the bindings in touring mode, I managed to locate my boots securely. It takes a bit of practice, but I would have experienced that with any ‘pin binding’ – and you soon get the ‘knack’! We set off, nothing too adventurous  at the side of the piste, but enough to understand the technique of going uphill with skis – without the aid of a button or chair lift. Needless to say it was more tiring, but it was also more rewarding – I now understand the term “earn your turns”.

It was now time to, ‘click here’ and ‘click there’, and transform the bindings into alpine mode. This I am familiar with, and they felt as good as the bindings I have had on any of my piste/all-mountain skis!

The whole experience was great, and I managed to impress Shep enough to allow me to join a more adventurous trip the following day.

 Again it was cold, windy, and in cloud; which gave my first experience of Sweden a rather ‘monochromatic’ outlook. We skinned up much steeper terrain, with a customary ‘zig-zag’, and once again the bindings performed brilliantly in touring mode. Once again the pleasure of being away-from-the-crowds, that ski touring gives you, was delightful. But as Sir Isaac Newton eloquently said; “what goes up must come down”!

tree line skiing
I felt sorry for the trees, as we descended the powder fresh tree line. A twig here, a branch there; we became close friends.

If you have read my review of the Salomon XDR skis, you will know I’m not the most proficient off-piste skier; so with a ‘click here’ and a ‘click there’ I was ready to venture “outside my comfort zone”!

I felt sorry for the trees, as we descended the powder fresh tree line. A twig here, a branch there; we became close friends. Too close sometimes; but the bindings, in alpine mode, released with great aplomb! At the bottom it occurred to me, that while my colleagues made light-work of the tree line, it was I that was fully testing the bindings – as I ‘crashed’ my way down!

So what does a virgin ski tourer think of the Salomon S/Lab Shift ski bindings? Rather amazing actually! Here’s a binding that will perform in both alpine and touring mode; and will enable you to ‘earn your turns’ however extreme they may be!

Chad Blanc

Photographs Nigel ShepherdFacebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Mounting Alpine Ski Bindings

In a nutshell alpine ski bindings are a vital piece of equipment; not only securing your ski boots to your skis but also giving you additional safety features to prevent dreaded injuries. Getting the correct bindings is important and is specific to your skill level as heavier more aggressive skiers require bindings with a higher DIN whereas lighter beginners would require a lower rating.

Various binding manufactures have different safety features that help release your boot in the event of that embarrassing crash that you hoped nobody saw; from vertical toe release and sliding anti friction pads. On top of the safety aspect bindings form the bridge between you and your skis transferring every little movement directly to the skis. There are two way to mount your bindings:

Track (Rail) Mounted Ski Bindings

The most common way of mounting bindings is either on a track or rail where the heel and toe piece simply slide on, generally found on Piste orientated skis. These bindings are mounted onto the skis at the factory meaning they are ready to be used straight away.

Mounted and adjusted numerous times
Generally allows the ski to flex more naturally
Cheaper than buying drilled bindings

Makes your set up heavier
Less choice with bindings
Generic binding position

Drill Mounted Ski Bindings

The drill mounted method although less popular is becoming the way to go with many people turning towards all mountain skis as riders start to venture off Piste into the powder fields. A qualified technician would then fit these bindings to the ski with a few additional pieces of information which this guide will cover later.

Wider choice of bindings
Can be tailored to your ability and ski
Lighter and sometimes stronger
Choose where the bindings are mounted
Can be customised with ramp angles

Have limited amount of times it can be repositioned
Tends to work out more expensive over track mounted bindings
Less adjustment for varying boot sizes

Process of Drilling Skis

The process behind drilling skis is relatively straight forward for a trained technician; and before you ask “no we don’t drill freehand”. We use special jigs and drill bits that come directly from the binding manufacture to ensure the correct drilling, every time! The technician will use your ski boot to adjust the jig length and then that crucial decision of where to have your binding mounted ski centre, ski forward or ski back. We know this can be a hard decision to make so below we go into detail on the different positions.

Choosing The Binding Placement

So you have chosen the ski and bindings now it’s time to make another decision where to mount your bindings! There are lots of different factors that need to be taken into consideration and questions to be answered. The first question to ask yourself and one that requires an honest answer is ‘what terrain am I going to be skiing on?’ Generally the answer will be all mountain, in this case its best to follow the ski manufactures recommended position.

This recommended position will have been determined by many extensive tests and gets the best all round performance out of the ski. Although this is the ‘recommended position’ you don’t have to follow this; for example the Line Afterbang can be mounted further back if you will be riding all mountain.

Park and powder skiing are two extremes where the correct mounting position is vital. Park skiing generally requires the bindings to be mounted ski centre due to completing aerial tricks where equal balance is important to performing the trick successfully and safely. Whereas powder skiing requires the bindings to be mounted back from the centre allowing the front of the skis to remain elevated naturally floating on top rather than under the snow.

line skis with binding mountain markings
Eric Pollard (left) prefers his mounting line to be slightly forward due to his unique skiing style. He likes to use this ski in the freestyle category, back country and for touring.

Using Line Skis as an example it’s easy to see how they believe there skis should be mounted. Above on the left we have the Mr Pollards which is a powder ski and on the right we have the Afterbangs ideal for park rats. You can see on the Mr Pollard that there are three mounting lines: at the front ski centre, in the middle Eric Pollards preferred line*, and at the back we have Line recommended. However on the Afterbang there is only one line, the centre line.

*Eric Pollard prefers his mounting line to be slightly forward due to his unique skiing style. He likes to use this ski in the freestyle category, back country and for touring.

The brands, in their own way, will mark on the ski where the centre of the ski is and also the recommendation for drilling. Where it gets interesting is when the question is asked “I want to buy this big ski but want to ski it all over the mountain including the powder, piste and possibly use it in the park” The short answer is that it is possible but you won’t get the full benefit. In an ideal world, you would have a powder, piste and park set of skis but in reality this is not the case.

At Tallington Lakes Pro Shop we have highly knowledgeable staff that are passionate about snow sports. They are always on hand to assist and advise, so why not pop along and have a chat with us? We also boast an extensive workshop with highly trained technicians that can get those skis and bindings mounted to get you on the slopes ready for this season!Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

What skiing ability am I?

Sometimes it’s hard to know what skiing ability range you fit into. We’ve all been there: you’ve walked into a store or rental shop to get some kit, and the first thing they ask you is “what’s your skiing ability”?

Wouldn’t it be nice to know! Rather than standing there stuttering because you’re unsure. This guide will help you understand it all a bit better and give you more of a clear-cut response; which is important especially when having your ski bindings set.

Just remember choose based on what ability you are now not what you want to be, as incorrect categorisation could cause injuries to yourself and others around.

Beginner (Type 1)

Beginner skier still performing snow plough turns
Cautious skier on green and blue runs
Low boot release setting

Intermediate (Type 2)

Skis parallel on blue and red runs
Prefers a variety of speeds
Does not class themselves as a type 1 or 3 skier
Medium boot release setting

Advanced (Type 3)

Skis parallel on red and some black runs
Aggressive skiing
Fast skiing on steep mixed terrain
High boot release setting

Expert (Type 3+)

Parallel skiing on any slope
Skis at extremely high speeds i.e. racing/off piste powder shredding
Very high boot release settingFacebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather