In the world of bindings in 2018, the focus remains on providing a boost to skiers seeking more accessibility in the mountains. While many traditional alpine DIN clamps remain unchanged, there is a host of new touring bindings, as well as improved multi-norm compatibility for those who wish to match a rugged boot sole (for hiking) with a tough resort binding.
The bindings listed here are those most deserving of recognition for the best bindings of 2018.
Fritschi Tecton 12
Weight: 560 grams/binding (without brakes)
Pin bindings have evolved over the years from being solely focused on weight to increasing downhill performance for skiers sending cliffs. Swiss-based Fritschi has evolved as well and in recent years came out with the Vipec, which went through a number of updates to try and improve its ease of step in, which was sorely lacking in early versions.
What was unique about the Vipec's toe piece was that it had elastic travel and a DIN range that could be set like a traditional downhill binding. This increased safety feature got people listening and it helped spawn the new Tecton 12. This binding is a bit of a hybrid, with a tech toe and a locking heel, a concept made popular by the Marker Kingpin. But there are several characteristics that set the Tecton apart.
Like the Vipec, the Tecton uses an elastic travel toe piece but is incredibly easier to step into. A unique feature is that when the desired DIN is set, the toe piece can release in ski mode and in walk mode (in case of avalanche). This make it safer on the ups and the downs. The wings of the toe piece are also micro adjustable to make sure any boot fits perfectly. The heelpiece is also new and uses a cup design like a traditional downhill binding. The 'cup' is accompanied by two vertical bars that fill in the space of your heel tech insert. This idea of filling in all the nooks and crannies creates great purchase on the boot, and when you step in you get that confidence-inspiring sound of a downhill binding. The heelpiece has nine millimeters of elasticity built in, an excellent range for hard-charging skiers.
For the uphill, the Tecton has three heel risers and weighs just 560 grams. Although it is possible for the lanky and limber to switch this binding from climb to descent and back again, it is not at all a pole operation like you may be familiar with on the Vipec.
Perhaps the most notable take-away after skiing the Tecton was comfort. After stepping in and doing some resort riding, I felt confident in the product. At the end of the day, I noticed that my legs, and more importantly my knees, didn't hurt as badly as when I ride Kingpins or Dynafit Rad 2.0s. That is because of the elastic travel built into the toe piece. I would compare it to mountain biking on an old steel rigid bike vs. a full suspension bike. You can do it either way but the suspension (elasticity) takes care of the small bumps so your body feels better at the end of the day. —Ryan Rubino
Dynafit ST Rotation 10
Weight: 599 grams/binding
Let's make something clear right off the bat: Dynafit's new ST Rotation 10 is an excellent upgrade to the tech-binding world, but it is not an all-purpose clamp for the backcountry and resort. Yes, you can ski it at the resort: The pivoting toepiece is TUV certified, meaning it absorbs lateral impacts to provide elasticity similar to that of a standard alpine binding. Dynafit leads the market in this technology, and will likely become commonplace as other scramble to keep up.
But on a day of banging out laps on variable snow, you'd be better off on your heavier alpine setup. I skied the Rotation 10 inbounds with the toepiece unlocked (as recommended) on refrozen coral reef, and I have to admit I was never as comfortable as I wanted to be. But I've never felt that way skiing inbounds laps on any tech binding: from the Dynafit Radical FT to the Marker Kingpin to the G3 ION. Tech bindings simply lack the power and energy transfer of your standard 16 DIN alpine binding. That said, I never had any pre-releases or other mishaps on the Rotation 10.
I was much happier on the binding while earning my turns, where the Rotation 10 is right at home. Weighing just 599 grams each, the binding equates to a can of beans, something that all ski bums can relate to. Once you get the toepiece engaged to your boot, which takes some practice, you're settled in for a carefree descent due to its 6-10 DIN setting. The heelpiece mercifully lacks the requirement to rotate between ski and tour mode, so you don't have to remove your skis between laps. The heel also includes flip-lock climbing levels that are easily engaged with a ski pole. And the all black forged aluminum is pretty cool, too. —Matt Hansen
Salomon MTN Tech
Weight: 320 grams/binding
Jumping into the U.S. tech binding game, Annecy, France-based Salomon combined tried-and-true old school binding technology with modern advancements for their new MTN tech. Extremely lightweight, the MTN is a no frills, pure touring binding. Featuring a minimalist "U" spring design, with three interchangeable release options, "Expert," Men," and "Women," which is adjusted via a swap of the spring in the heel.
Notable highlights include a heel body pivot, allowing the climbing lifters to always remain facing forward. The lifters provide the skier with three climbing levels: 2 degrees, 7 degrees, and 13 degrees, and are pole-adjustable.
Another noteworthy feature of the MTN is its substantial 30 millimeters fore/aft heel adjustment, accommodating a wide range of boot sole lengths, perfect for skiers with more than one pair of touring boots in their repertoire.
An excellent option for backcountry skiers interested in doing just as much climbing as they do descending, Salomon's MTN Tech binding offers a great platform to really earn your turns. —Jack Foersterling
Release Value: 5-12
Weight: 579 grams/binding
One of the best attributes of the G3 ION is how easy it is to operate and how secure it feels. An updated BootStop design on the toe makes stepping in a non-issue, an important consideration when you're trying to put your skis on while perched on exposure. In backcountry skiing, the less you can think about your gear, the better. Weight is comparable, if not superior, to others in its class, tipping the scales at just 579 grams a piece. Though it lacks a DIN certification, the release value of 5-12, along with an adequate forward pressure and toe elasticity, prevent pre-releases when skiing with the toe unlocked.
In multiple tours across the West, skiing everything from mank to powder to spring corn, I've never had any pre-releases. The binding also inspires confidence for skiing aggressively, which can’t be said about all tech camps.
To operate in tour mode, rotate the heel piece clockwise. It's a stiff operation, and can be a little annoying if you have cold, wet hands. The heel lifts are easy to flick up or down with a ski pole. Rotate the heel piece forward for ski mode, a function that requires you to take the ski off.
At this point in the tech-binding world, the ION is not revolutionary. But it's a solid companion that will treat you well no matter your backcountry playground. —Matt Hansen
Look Pivot 14
Weight: 1145 grams/binding
Bindings may be the smallest part of your ski setup, but they are the piece of gear you need to trust the most. Which is why I use the Look Pivot 14s. (The Pivot also comes in an 18 DIN, a much heavier clamp for the most aggressive skiers, though it shares many of the same attributes of the 14.) Their low profile keeps me close to the ski with one of the industry's most reliable clamps (the heel piece has seven points of contact with a ski boot), and because I have more contact with my skis, I have better intuition on the mountain. But more so, I trust the Pivot because I know that when I need to release, the bindings let me go in the best way possible.
Rather than keep my foot forward while the rest of my leg is turning laterally, the binding does what its name says and "pivots" on the release. Coming off of two ACL surgeries, I have peace of mind just writing those words down. The toe piece has 45 millimeters of lateral elasticity and 180-degree multi-directional release. The turntable heal adds shock absorption, another 28 millimeters of vertical elasticity, and more consistency for lateral release.
The Pivot has been a tried-and-true, consistent product for years, but recently Look updated the Pivot with a dual standard in the toe piece, so it works with both ISO 5355 Alpine soles and Walk-to-Ride soles in ski boots. Just make sure the toe piece is adjusted to whichever ski boot you have. —Julie Brown
Marker Jester 16 ID
Weight: 1054 grams/binding
The Jester ID is one of the more recent incarnates that provides binding compatibility with variously shaped boot soles. Whether you use a race-style boot with a slick traditional boot sole or a modern hybrid model with Vibram soles, this binding easily adjusts on the fly. Using a Pozidriv on a screw below the toepiece, just raise or lower the height of the stainless steel AFD (Anti Friction Device) based on the contour of your boot sole. This does take some knowledge of exactly how much pressure should be placed between the AFD and the boot sole, so best to have a shop do it. But it essentially means that you are free to use the boot of your choice within the ISO 5355 (alpine) and ISO 9523 (AT) range.
With a DIN of 6-16, the Jester ID handles girth from just about every skier under the sun. For such a stout binding with excellent retention and elasticity, it has a very manageable weight, at just 1054 grams per binding.
It took boots and bindings a long way to get here, so rejoice with the freedom offered by the Jester ID. —Matt Hansen
Tyrolia AAAttack2 14 AT
Weight: 1040 grams/binding
A new toe construction extends the possibilities of all-mountain skiing on this lightweight, affordable binding. Featuring a three-piece heel that uses metal to attach skier to ski, the sophomore installation of the AAAttack 14 is a user-friendly binding compatible with most alpine and touring boots, including those with a GripWalk soles. By raising or lower the AFD plate on the toe, the binding may be adjusted to accommodate different boots, which makes it a versatile choice for skiers who need options without wanting to change their setup entirely. However, Tyrolia officially recommends only a certified tech make these conversions. –Sierra Davis
Salomon STH2 WTR 16
Weight: 1220 grams/binding
One of the industry's most popular bindings for years, Salmon's STH2 WTR 16 yet again sets the standard for a bombproof alpine binding. With its impressive DIN range (7-16) you can wave goodbye to any pre-releases or accidental ejections when the going gets big.
Salomon's 3D driver toe piece enables multi-directional release options, while elastic travel keeps your boot firmly in the binding during bigger hits and bumps. Combined with a low profile chassis and progressive transfer pads, these bindings provide amazing power transfer and ski maneuverability for even the hardest charging skier. The STH2 WTR 16 also incorporates WTR Technology that accommodates all WTR and standard ISO 5355 alpine boots, so no matter what boot you're wearing, Salomon has you covered.
Perfect for skiers dropping big cliffs in the sidecountry, stomping huge airs in the park, or crushing hot laps around the resort, Salomon's STH2 WTR 16 will keep you firmly planted on your skis no matter where they take you. —Jack Foersterling
Salomon Warden MNC 13
Weight: 1132 grams/binding
MNC stands for Multi Norm Certification, which essentially means the Warden can accommodate a wide variety of touring and alpine boots, including those with ISO 9462, 5355, 9523, or boots designated MNC and WTR. In a practical sense, it means that you don't have to buy new boots just because you want to ride the backcountry and the resort. At a time when many of us are hiking for our turns, either inbounds or out, having such binding-boot compatibility is key—as it allows a skier to walk securely on grippy-soled boots with the safety and security of stepping into a bomber binding.
The MNC differentiates the Warden from the popular STH2 by providing more compatibility, as the STH2 applies only to WTR.
The wings on the Warden's large toe piece automatically adjust to differently shaped boots, while the height of the AFD (Anti Friction Device) can be easily adjusted with a Pozidriv. The binding has a wide platform to help drive big skis, as well as exellent elasticity to ski aggressively through less than optimal snow.
In today's world where we all want the freedom to find new stashes, the Warden is an optimal choice. —Matt Hansen