Photo: Ortovox, Stubai, Hansi Heckmair
Frame, pin or maybe something else? Backcountry skiing means decisions on the system in the chase for lightness, ease of use and power. There’ll always be compromises but the latest equipment minimises these.
Frame systems use a bar or rails to join the toe to the heel. The skier remains clipped into the heel and toe of the binding in a similar way to an alpine model when skiing or ascending. Choose frame bindings for ease of use and because they’ll suit the majority of boots. Lighter models are available for skiers more focused on the ascent, stronger models will weigh more and are geared towards the descent. Release functions work like alpine bindings. Compatible boots need to comply with tour or alpine norms.
Pin or tech systems use two pins at the toe of the binding, which are inserted in to two compatible holes at the front of the boot. These secure the boot when skiing with the heel locked in too. When the heel is released during ascents, the pins act as pivots. Pin bindings are lighter though may seem unfamiliar if a skier is used to alpine models. The weight saving can be considerable and the stride action will feel more natural and fluid. Unlike frame bindings release force settings will generally not conform to strict DIN ISO standards, and methods of release vary depending on models. Compatible boots need to have inserts built in to accept the pin system, they can be alpine or tour norm. Occasionally the very lightest boots might fall out of both boot norms, these models will only work with pin bindings.
Hybrid or Pin Cert bindings have recently captured a lot of interest. These are models using pin inserts at the toe component of the binding, but with heel pieces that are much more like an alpine model. The design fuses lightweight with more control and a natural stride, the best of both worlds from pin and frame bindings. Compatible boots need pin inserts and to also meet alpine or tour norms.
Taking this further is the brand-new Shift from Salomon and Atomic. This binding acts exactly like an alpine model on the descent with the full release and retention of a performance model, and marries it to a pin system for ascending. Downhill power and uphill freedom. Compatible boots need pin inserts and to also meet alpine or tour norms.
For more in-depth information speak to one of the EB team about the various options and compatibility.
Scarpa Gea RS2 £530
The Gea RS2 has achieved legendary status among tourers thanks to its lightness and uphill comfort along with firmness and control for the downhill. Packed with clever features it’s a robust and proven performer (men’s version is Maestrale RS2).
Marker Tour F12 EPF £300
This easy-to-use frame binding perfectly mixes touring ability with proven robustness and excellent downhill control. The hollow axle heel focuses energy directly to the rear of the boot for optimum skiing performance; the wide EPF platform drives power to the edges.
Dynafit Hoji Pro Tour £585
The power and rigidity of a pure-bred alpine boot, blended with maximum freedom of movement, flexibility and comfort on the climb. The dilemma of whether a boot is geared for the uphill or descent is gone, the Hoji handles both with aplomb.
Dynafit ST Rotation 12 £450/460
The hours spent touring uphill to enjoy the runs back down will be made easier thanks to this tech binding. Hub Centring makes stepping-in simple, helping to line up and direct the boot into position. A rotational toe piece increases safety, meeting TÜV certification.
HYBRID/PIN CERT SYSTEM
Atomic Hawx Ultra XTD 130 £570
The Hawx Ultra XTD 130 brings together the feel and control of the Hawx Ultra and the natural movement of the Backland to harmonise freeride ability with comfortable all-day touring. The Memory Fit shell can be heat moulded and the liner is customisable too.
Atomic Shift MNC 13 £400
Using pins for the ascent the Shift blends the efficiency of the best uphill bindings with the power and precision of the leading alpine models on the descent. A next generation freeride binding that moves between the alpine and tour categories like nothing else.
*stated weights are for half pairs