How to choose ski bindings and set them up
It's important to choose the right type of ski binding to suit your ski, boot and riding style. Once you've chosen the right binding, you'll need to set it up according to your physical size, weight and ability. It can seem like a lot to think about, but don't worry, we've got you covered with this ski binding buyer's guide.
Here's what we'll look at...
- Back to basics – what does the ski binding do?
- Choosing the right type of binding for your style
- What kind of skiing will I be doing?
- What brake width do I need?
- What ski boots do I have?
- Getting set up correctly
- Mounting the binding in the correct position
- Din setting and forward pressure
- Adjustable toe height
Back to basics - what does the ski binding do?
In simple terms, they keep you safe. They'll keep your boot in place and attached to the ski for maximum control when you need it, and they'll release you when they need to during a fall or crash.
Each binding will generally feature a toe piece, heel piece and brakes. They'll also contain springs and AFD (Anti Friction Device) plates that combine to allow your boot to be released from the binding when the time is right.
Choosing the right type of binding for to suit your riding style
When choosing a new set of ski bindings there are 3 things to consider...
- What kind of skiing will I be doing? Alpine or touring?
- What brake width do I need? What width are my skis underneath the binding?
- What ski boots do I have? Alpine boots or touring ski boots with mountain grip rubber soles?
We'll look at each of these three questions in detail to help you decide...
1. What kind of skiing will I be doing?
Ski Bindings work in different ways, so to explain their features and functions, they are broken down into two clear types:
- Alpine ski bindings
- Ski touring bindings
Alpine ski bindings are intended to work with alpine ski boots and are focused on transmitting the energy from your body, through the ski boot to the binding and onto the ski to maximise steering and edge grip regardless of the snow or terrain.
In alpine skiing, you're transported to the top of the ski area by cable car, chairlift or drag lift, then you ski down in a gravity descent – having to do minimal cross country or uphill skiing.
Alpine bindings generally consist of separate toe and heel pieces, but they can be linked for aesthetic or performance reasons. They're all designed to work to the same industry standards though, often referred to as Din Norms, so that they hold the boot when skiing and release the ski boot during a fall or crash.
Ski touring bindings on the other hand, are generally designed to allow the skier to ski long distances across country and uphill, with the use of climbing skins. This gives the rider the freedom to explore, finding new terrain and fresh untouched powder snow to ski down.
This key difference with a touring binding is the ability to release the heel of the boot, allowing the skier to adopt the long striding motion required for efficient cross country movement and mountain ascents.
An important factor to consider when choosing ski touring bindings is that some are designed only to be used with Pin Tech or 3 Pin ski boots, which connect the boot to the ski binding differently to the Alpine Din Norm classic design.
Depending on the brand and model, touring bindings can either be designed with a separate heel and toe piece or a linked heel and toe piece system.
We also stock a couple of hybrid Alpine/Touring ski binding models, which offer Alpine and Ski Touring compatibility no matter the type of ski boots you use. The Marker F10, F12 and Salomon Guardian all offer this flexibility.
2. What brake width do I need?
Most bindings feature brakes that are there to stop the skis from sliding away when you're trying to step into your skis or if you take a tumble. The brakes are activated when there is not boot locked into the bindings. They come as part of the binding, but you can replace them if you need to.
Brakes generally come in 10mm increments such as 90, 100, 110mm. This size relates to the width of the ski underfoot so it's important to choose the correct brake width to match the ski you'll be fitting them to.
3. What ski boots do I have?
In recent years, the design of the toe piece of many ski bindings has changed, to allow them to accommodate traditional Alpine boots as well as Touring boots. Touring boots may have a thicker rubber soles to make them more grippy and comfortable to walk in when not wearing skis.
The thicker rubber sole design of touring boots can mean that the toe piece is thicker, therefore the toe piece of the binding needs to be able to raise up and accommodate this extra height.
Make sure you choose a binding that is compatible with your boots and always ask a qualified technician to set the height of your binding's toe piece if it needs it.
Getting set up correctly
Now that you've chosen the right combination of ski, boot and binding, to match your riding style, all that's let to do is set it all up correctly. It's a really important step, not just so your comfortable and your kit works as it should, but for your safety too.
1. Mounting the binding in the correct position
The mounting position of the binding is relative to the ski's design and the ski boots size. When manufacturers develop the skis, they mark a recommended position on the ski, which is the ski's 'sweet spot' for performance relative to the type of terrain and snow that the ski is aimed at.
On the bottom of every ski boot there is a boot centre mark, which is moulded into the plastic shell. This is the mark that a ski technician will correlate against the ski bindings mounting jig or template when he or she mounts the bindings onto the ski.
In recent years, the mounting position has become more commonly customised. Freestyle skiers might choose to mount the binding further forward and more centrally, allowing the ski to spin easier in the air, or for initiating the turn quicker. Big mountain skiers might mount the binding further back for increased float when skiing in powder.
Whilst this is the case, we would always suggest mounting your skis to the recommended mounting position marked on the ski.
2. Din Setting and Forward Pressure
Ski bindings work by using springs in the toe and heel pieces to keep the boot in place. As the rider moves, the boot is put under pressure and tries to move around too. The springs in the binding will then either return the boot to a central position or release it, depending on the severity of the movement.
Whether the binding holds onto or releases the boot depends on how it has been set up, and the release system is managed by a combination of two systems...
- DIN Setting – This controls the sideways and vertical, twisting movements of the boot. The Din Setting is a 'tightness' value that a ski technician will adjust to effect how much force it takes for the binding to eject the boot.
- Forward Pressure System – This controls the pressure with which the sole of the boot is forced forward from the heel piece into the toe piece. This is also adjusted by a ski technician depending on the size of the skier's boot to ensure a snug fit.
Whilst they work independently, the binding won't work properly without both systems being set up correctly. If the binding is not set up specifically for the exact boot the skier, then the bindings will either release very easily, or not at all.
The DIN Setting is calculated using the skiers weight, boot sole length, ability and age. It's an industry standard setting that was developed by the Deutsche Insitut Fur Normung. Hence the acronym DIN. If you’d like to check your DIN value you can calculate it here: www.dinsetting.com
3. Adjustable toe height
The toe piece of the ski binding has been developed in recent years to accommodate different boot designs, while still conforming to the DIN Norm size and facilitating efficient release. Toe height adjustment can be easily done to increase or decrease the height of the toe piece allowing it to accept ski touring boots and hybrid ski boots. It's important to get the right level of pressure between the the sole of the boot and AFD plate, so we'd always advise you to have toe height adjustment carried out by a trained ski technician.
That's a bit of an introduction to choosing the right binding and getting it set up properly – head on over to take a look at our ski binding section and find the model that's right for you. If you have any questions or there's anything you don't understand, please feel free to get in contact and we'll be happy to help.