Ski Binding Buying Guide

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Ski Bindings are often the last piece of ski equipment someone thinks about when buying gear. But, since it’s the link between your boots and skis, it is a vital part of your equipment. Having the correct type of bindings for your skill level and terrain type along with proper tension settings can mean the difference between a safe day out on the slopes and an injury due to a fall. Therefore, it’s important to know what a proper binding is for you.

In this article, I will review some of the terminology used with ski bindings and then review what you need to know in selecting a proper set of ski bindings. Note that since bindings need to be properly screwed on your skis and the binding’s tension needs to be properly set for the skier, we only recommend installing the bindings if you are comfortable with doing the work and understand the importance of proper installation and adjustment. Otherwise, it is highly recommended that you bring your bindings and skis to a local ski shop. For a small amount of money, you’ll be able to make sure that bindings are installed properly.

Definitions

The purpose of the ski binding is to hold the boot and release the boot during a fall in order to reduce injury. Also, they transfer your movements into the skis for control. Many factors go into the binding to make these things possible. Let’s start by going through the terminology used with ski bindings.

DIN (Deutsche Industrie Norm)

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Ski bindings will have a setting to adjust how easily the binding will release. This is called the DIN setting and it is the industry standard scale for ski bindings. The setting ranges from .75 up to 18 and it is set on both the toe and heel pieces. The higher the DIN setting is set, the harder it will be for the binding to release. The appropriate setting recommended is based on charts produced by manufactures that will give a DIN range that is primarily be based on skill level and weight. Some charts will also include age, height, and boot size. Personal preference is also a factor.

The DIN setting is very important since having a DIN set too high will make it more difficult to release the boot, potentially causing the skier to injure themselves. Having it too low can also cause injury by releasing the boot too quickly. For the majority of skiers, the DIN setting should be near the middle range for your recommended setting. Note: unless you understand what your rating should be and are comfortable with adjusting the DIN, have a local certified ski technician do it for you.

Binding Construction

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Toe and Heel Housing

The toe and heel housings are simply the pieces into which the toe and heel of the boot fit. Various housings will feature wide-angle, multi-directional, and pivoting release to allow the boots to release and prevent injury from a fall. They will have varying profiles and platform widths to accommodate different types of skis.

Anti-friction device (AFD)

The anti-friction device is the mechanism that sits under the front of the ski boot toe. Its purpose is to allow the boot to easily and properly slide out of the binding when the toe piece releases.

Ski Brake

The brakes are the two arms toward the back of the binding that stick into the snow when there is no boot in the binding and stop the skis from sliding away. The only thing to worry about here is that the brakes are wide enough for the ski width to properly go down on your ski with no obstructions.

Riser Plates (Lifter)

The riser plate is a plate that the bottom of the binding sits on, attached to the ski, and raises the binding above the ski. Riser plates are not common anymore. The purpose of the riser plate is to allow the skier to put more pressure to be put on the edges for a better edge angle and response. It also raises the ski boots up so that they don’t drag in the snow on sharp turns. Some lifters may also help dampen ski vibration on the snow and absorb shock on landings.

Integrated Bindings

Skis with a flat topsheet can typically use most any kind of binding as long as the brake width is wide enough for the ski’s waist width. Integrated bindings are bindings specifically designed for a particular pair of skis and are usually sold as a package. Integrated bindings are primarily found on all-mountain and all-mountain skis. The idea with these type of bindings is to design the binding to work with the design of the ski and produce a more natural flex for better edge-hold and easy turning. Some skis may not come with the actual binding but will have special plates and detailed mounting requirements. Therefore, make sure you know if there are any specific binding requirements on your skis. The downside to integrated bindings is that they will be more expensive. Also, if you ever want to change your bindings in the future, you will be restricted to one specific binding.

Buying Process

Integrated or Not

The first and simplest question for buying bindings is what can you put on your skis? Are you required to put on an integrated binding? Basically, this is based on whether the top sheet of the ski is flat. If it is, you don’t need a special binding. If it is shaped with grooves, you likely need a special binding and need to check with the manufacturer to see what your options are.

Brake Width

The next step is to determine how wide your brakes need to be. Different bindings will have different brake widths. Your skis’ waist width (width at the center of the ski) will determine the ski brake width (the distance between the two brake arms). The brake should be at least the width of your waist width, but preferably not more than 15mm wider. For example, if your skis are 80mm wide at the waist, you will need bindings with a brake width of at least 80 mm and preferably no wider than 95 mm. If the brakes are too narrow they will not clear the edges of your skis and will not deploy properly when your ski comes off. If the brakes are too wide they may drag when you put your skis on edge, especially on steeper terrain.

Terrain Type

Maybe it seems a little obvious, but the next thing you need to be sure of is to select bindings that fit your boots and skis. The main differences are if the skis and boots are for alpine downhill, alpine touring, or telemark.

  • Alpine Downhill – These are the most common types of skis and bindings. The bindings have a fixed toe and heel.
  • Alpine Touring - Alpine Touring bindings are designed to allow the skier to lift their heel to travel uphill with climbing skins and to lock it down for descending downhill.
  • Telemark - Telemark bindings are designed to be used with telemark boots, which bend under the ball of the foot. The heel of the boot is free to travel up and down permanently in order to facilitate turns.

Skiing Ability

Skiing ability impacts the DIN range the binding will have and its construction. Beginner bindings will have lower DIN ranges on the binding and the range will increase as you go to an intermediate binding and to an advanced binding. In order to accommodate the higher tension, the bindings will be more solid and have higher quality materials. Therefore, the higher the skiing level the binding is built for, the higher amount you are likely to pay.

DIN Range

As mentioned previously, the DIN rating is based on your skiing ability, weight, height, and boot sole length. It’s a very critical setting for your safety. Therefore, it’s important to make sure that the binding you buy can achieve the DIN rating you need. Bindings do offer a wide range for the DIN on a binding and simply selecting a binding appropriate for your ski level, you should be ok. But, it is always good to double check.

Here is a basic guidelines on what DIN range you should get:

MinMaxFor Who
.75 2.5 Youth skiers only that are under 65lbs.
.75 4.5 Youth skiers only that are under 90lbs.
2 9 Teen and intermediate skiers under 150lbs.
4 12 Intermediate to Advanced Adults less than 200lbs.
6 14 Racers or Advanced/Expert Skiers 150-210lbs.
9 18 Advanced to Expert Skiers over 190lbs.

As noted in the chart, your skiing ability affects your recommended DIN rating. Beginners and intermediates need a lower DIN for easier release. Experts who can ski out of trouble, will not want the ski to come off too easily and will want a higher DIN. Since body weight has an effect on the tension, lighter skiers will want to have a lower DIN and heavier skiers will want a higher DIN.

Conclusion

There are a number of factors that go into selecting the right ski bindings. Hopefully, this article describes many of the different features you will find on bindings and which ones might be good for you. By selecting the correct binding you’ll improve your skiing and have a better day on the mountain. Also, take a look at ZepicDealFinder where we give you the power to easily scan many of the largest ski equipment and snowboard retailers to find the best deal on the ski or snowboard equipment you are looking for.


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