The sometimes underestimated middle child of ski set-ups, the binding is the link between ski and boot, both to keep the skier attached to their skis and to transfer pressure and direction from the body to the ski. The binding also has an important safety feature: when pressures on the binding exceed the DIN setting, the binding opens, releasing the boot. In other words, the binding does not hold a boot rigidly in place. It allows a few millimeters of side-to-side and upward movement. When these forces exceed the clearance, it releases the shoe, which helps prevent injury. Due to its essential role in downhill and carving turns, choosing the right binding requires consideration and care, as well as an assessment of your personal riding style.
How to buy bindings
Buying bindings involves balancing several factors, including the skis you will be mounting them on, where and how you will be skiing, the type of boots you will be using, and most importantly your height and weight. And sometimes the decision is made for you. Here are the main factors to consider when choosing the perfect binding for you.
Flat skis versus System skis
Of all the variety of skis, when it comes to buying bindings, they fall into two main categories. System skis (sometimes called integrated) come with a pre-mounted binding, usually on an easy-to-adjust rail system. The manufacturer has already decided which binding to match the ski. The other category is “Flat Skis”. They come unbound. This is when you will need to consider your binding options.
All ski bindings share a basic anatomy. The toe secures the front of the boot and a heel piece locks in the back. Typically this involves a bump in the front and back of the boot that creates a lip that the binding can “grip” on. Downhill bindings share a similar look and function. For off-piste skiing, many lighter bindings “hold” the boot with pins that slide into recessed grooves in the boots.
Either way, the toe and heel include a set screw that adjusts the DIN setting, a standardized way of measuring the force needed to open the binding.
DIN stands for Deutsches Institut für Normung, or German Institute for Standardization. It was the first organization to measure and standardize binding release force, which ranges from zero to 18 or more. The lower the number, the easier it is to open the binding. This is important because choosing a DIN for a binding is a balance between injury prevention and the binding loosening unnecessarily.
The person who mounts your bindings will help you determine the correct DIN using a chart that compares size, weight and ski ability. But it is important to know this number when shopping in order to buy a binding with the correct DIN range. Here is a chart to find your prescribed DIN.
Each binding will list its available DIN range. The higher the maximum number, the more durable and higher quality the fastener will be – it will have more metal and less plastic – and the cost will increase. Choose a binding where the desired DIN number is roughly in the middle of the range.
This only applies to the purchase of a second-hand ski already equipped with a binding and concerns the distance between the toe piece and the heel piece. Since even ski boots of the same size often have different actual sole lengths, the chances that the bindings used will be set perfectly for you are slim. Most bindings will adjust about half an inch, but not much more. Before buying, make sure your boots will fit the binding.
Again, this is more of a used ski issue, but it’s also worth considering when buying new bindings. Because boots come with different style outsoles, which vary in height at the toe and heel, they don’t always fit all bindings. Bindings that include MN, ID, or GW in the name should work with most boot soles, but it’s always a good idea to check.
These are the clips that dig into the snow when the heel of the binding opens to prevent the skis from slipping when not attached to your feet. They are included with most bindings. But since the individual brakes are attached to the ski, they are available in different widths. Choose one that is close to but taller than the waist width of the ski you will be mounting them on. For example, for a 96 millimeter wide ski, buy a binding with a 100 mm wide brake.
Most skis have a recommended mounting point marked on the ski. Typically, this is a few inches closer to the tail than the tip. Park and pipe and freestyle skis tend to have a more “mid-mounted” design to make back-skiing and turning easier. You will probably be asked to choose your mount point. Most people should pick the recommended spot, but playing around with the mount point is a fun way to learn to ski and play with the snow.
The 7 best ski bindings of 2022/2023
Salomon Guardian 13 MN
- DIN range: 4-13
- Lester: 1130 grams (per binding)
Any boot will work with this popular Salomon binding. The MN means that it is compatible with several standards. A few turns with a screwdriver adjust the toe to fit the soles of alpine, hiking and GripWalk boots. Its oversized shape provides plenty of boot-to-binding contact for smooth power transition and there are pads under the toe and heel that absorb shock and vibration for a smoother ride.
Squire 11 TCX Marker
- DIN range: 4-12
- lester: 1.075 grams (per binding)
The most affordable of Marker’s freeride-focused “royal family” bindings, this year’s Squire has been ennobled with run-off characteristics from its beefier backyard mates. The toe releases in three directions and they have lightened the heel piece. On top of the toe is a rail designed to evacuate snow and ice from the bottom of the boot. It also has Sole.ID, which automatically adjusts the toe to the sole of the boot, so most boots are now compatible with the Squire.
Watch Pivot 12 GW
- DIN range: 4-12
- lester: 1.105 grams (per binding)
The heel piece gives its name to the Pivot bindings. It is tall and long and rotates 180 degrees. This range allows plenty of slack to prevent unwanted clearances, while it pivots directly under the shin to help prevent leg and knee injuries. The other benefit of the heel design is that it keeps the shoe in a more upright position, which shortens the distance between the toe and the heel, reducing swing weight. It is compatible with GripWalk soles and alpine standards.
Duke PT Marker
- DIN range: 6-16
- Lester: 1,150 grams
The Duke PT is a good option for skiers interested in a single setup for resort and backcountry skiing. For the resort, it looks and skis like a Marker binding, with an easy tail and a wide toe for power transmission. To ascend, the stopper removes the binding, which lightens the weight of the swing with each uphill stride. A pin-shaped tip hides underneath for a friction-free stride. With Marker’s Sole.ID, the Duke PT is compatible with alpine, hiking and GripWalk boots.
Tyrolia Protector Attack 13 MN
- DIN range: 4-13
- Lester: 1430 grams (per binding)
The backward twisting drop is a knee breaker. The heel of most bindings does not release during a horizontal movement, which puts a lot of pressure on the knees and causes many ACL injuries. Tyrolia found a way around this blind spot by adding an extra DIN adjustment in the heel of the Protector binding, increasing the typical heel clearance range from 150 degrees to 180 degrees. In a lateral version, it reduces the strain on the ACL by 50%, according to independent tests. It comes in three models including the MN which is compatible with all types of shoes.
Tyrolia AM 12 GW
DIN range: 3.5-12
Lester: 990 grams (per binding)
This is a good option for most skiers. It doesn’t have a lot of flashy tech or marketing buzzwords. It does just what it’s supposed to do at a reasonable price. Rollers in the toe piece and an anti-friction plate under the toe of the boot ensure smooth re-centering when skiing, which helps prevent unwanted releases. The heel has 150 degree clearance and easy entry. It is compatible with alpine ski boots and GripWalk boots.
Salomon Strive 14 GripWalk
- DIN range: 5-14
- Lester: 980 grams (per binding)
Salomon’s new binding, the Strive, is closer to the ski than most bindings. This lowers the skier’s center of gravity and reduces the weight of the binding. The Strive is also wide which increases the amount of contact between boot and binding. Together, Salomon claims they improve snow feel, balance and control, and power transfer. It works best with GripWalk boots.