The future of alpine touring bindings has arrived.
It used to be that as a skier who enjoyed both backcountry touring and inbounds skiing, you had to own two entirely different sets of equipment: a touring setup with lightweight alpine touring boots and an uphill-oriented tech binding, and another with stiffer, heavier alpine boots and a DIN-compatible alpine binding for resort skiing. But in recent years, these two worlds are starting to blend.
The latest example of that: a new touring binding from Salomon, called the S/Lab Shift MNC 13, due out in the fall of 2018. The company recently offered a preview of the binding at on-snow demos this December for key industry insiders, including REI’s own.
“It has the feel and safety of an alpine binding, with easy conversion to a pin binding for the uphill,” said Nathan Grothe, REI Co-Op’s category merchandise manager for skis, boots and bindings, after a day of testing the binding on the hill. “It truly is a one-quiver binding.”
The binding combines the lightweight construction and 90-degree range of motion of a free-heel pin binding with the stability and power transfer of an alpine binding. Flicking a lever in the toe piece lets users easily switch from touring to downhill mode.
The idea for the Shift binding came out of meetings in 2012 with Salomon’s freeride athletes, including Cody Townsend, Greg Hill and Chris Rubens. “When we first started discussing the concepts and ideas years ago, I honestly thought it was not even possible to build,” Townsend said. “It was a moonshot idea.”
But Salomon engineers attempted to create the athletes’ vision. Since then, the binding has gone through five new shapes and 20 different prototypes. They’ve spent the last three years testing and refining the binding to its current form.
“There were times when prototypes were on a level of ingenious,” Townsend said. “Then there were times when it felt like nothing was going to work. About three years ago, I almost started to give up and think our pipe dream was an impossible achievement. In the end though, now that we have the binding we wanted, it’s an incredibly proud feeling.”
This binding is part of a new revolution in lightweight, high-performance alpine touring bindings. The Marker Kingpin, which came out in 2014, set the stage, proving it was possible to make a binding that skis downhill as well as it ascends. Prior to that, heavier frame bindings like the Marker Duke and the Salomon Guardian made it possible to tour in resort-friendly bindings. The main difference in the Shift binding, is that, unlike the Kingpin, the binding is compatible with nearly all types of ski boots due to an adjustable toe piece.
At a weight of 1,730 grams per pair, the Salomon Shift isn’t quite as light as a Dynafit tech binding or the Marker Kingpin, but it comes with an unrivaled 13 DIN setting for solid skiability on the way downhill.
“With the S/Lab Shift MNC binding, we have all of the elasticity of Salomon’s famed alpine bindings, combined with the power transmission to drive a big a ski and a lightweight, touring-capable package,” said Chris McKearin, Salomon’s U.S. alpine commercial manger. “With in-depth involvement by athletes including Cody Townsend, Salomon’s binding team has finally solved the puzzle of combining efficient uphill capability with true alpine performance.”
The Salomon Shift binding ($549.95) is set to launch in September 2018 and will be available at REI.
Correction: An earlier version of this article listed the price of the Salomon Shift binding at $650. The article has been updated to reflect the correct price: $549.95.