The 2 rules of ski bindings:
Bindings consist of a toe and heel piece. In a fall, the toe piece releases sideways and sometimes upwards, while the heel piece releases upward or multi-directionally.
Other binding components:
These are designed for a specific pair of skis and are packaged as a system. Integrated bindings are primarily available on all-mountain and all-mountain wide skis. These bindings are often desirable because they tend to flex more naturally, facilitate better edge-hold and allow easy turning.
The bindings you buy should match your Skier Profile (described in our Downhill Skis article). Here's how this translates to bindings:
Intermediate: For value-minded skiers who put a priority on ease of entry.
Advanced: Usually higher in price, with added features typically important only to sophisticated skiers, such as longer retention and travel before release. Wider bindings usually fall into this category. Often with higher DIN (release settings; see below) and beefier construction due to the higher forces exerted on them.
A binding's ability to release at the right moment is as important as its ability to hold you the rest of the time. Release settings are often referred to as DIN (short for Deutsche Industrie Norm), a set of German standards that has long been used by the ski industry. Note: A few manufacturers use the ASTM (American Society for Testing and Standards) equivalents.
Release settings (whether DIN or ASTM) are based on your height, weight, age, skier type and boot sole length. The lower the number, the less force a binding needs to release. All bindings offer a range of release settings (usually 3 to 10 for intermediate models and up to 14 or 16 for advanced models).
Many words could be used to explain the rationale and complexities of DIN settings. The smartest, briefest guidance we can offer on the topic is this: Never attempt to adjust your bindings or your DIN on your own. Leave the task to a professional, preferably an REI ski specialist.
This spec gives an indication of what size boots will fit into the bindings. Bindings with a large adjustment range will fit a wide range of boot sizes. This is most often a factor on kids' bindings.
Some bindings come with lifters that stiffen the ski under the boot and add leverage for better edge angle and response. Lifter materials may also help dampen ski vibration on the snow, absorb shock on landings and boost the energy transfer from the foot to the ski's edge. The Marker brand says their research shows that a lift of 11 to 12mm is optimal for 95% of the skiing population. Too much lift, however, makes skis heavier and less versatile.
Not everyone wants or needs lifters. Some powder skiers prefer little or no lift, so their skis are more stable when going straight at speed. Similarly, terrain park skiers require little or no lift for jumping, landing or skiing backwards.
Where exactly the binding is mounted on the ski affects performance. Most ski manufacturers recommend a mounting position, and a qualified ski shop such as REI will mount them as suggested. The farther back the binding is mounted, the stiffer and less "turny" the ski feels. Because women's center of gravity is farther back than men's, their bindings are often mounted slightly forward of center. Park and pipers also tend to prefer a forward mount.
After purchase, your bindings should have their release settings (DIN or ASTM) set and tested by a certified technician. As noted earlier, this setting is based on your height, weight, age, skier type and ski-boot-sole length. The technician will have you fill out a form to answer these questions. Have this done at the beginning of each season or every 20 days of skiing.
Important: We cannot guarantee release in all conditions and circumstances.
By T.D. Wood
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Last updated: 02/18/2014
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