How to Choose Ski Bindings

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Ski bindings may not be the most noticeable part of your ski setup, but they are essential to your ability to ski properly and safely. When looking at how to choose ski bindings, the first thing you want to check is that the bindings are compatible with your ski boots. There are different kinds of bindings for different purposes. Read on and we’ll walk you through everything you need to know to choose your ski bindings.

In This Post

Types of Ski Bindings

Ski bindings attach your boots to your skis and help transfer the energy from your legs as you ride. Also, ski bindings release your boots from your skis when pressure exerted on them exceeds their release settings. In other words, your ski bindings ensure your skis pop off in the right moments, like when you take a nasty fall.

In determining how to choose ski bindings, you need to match them with the type of skiing you do so that they are compatible. Below are the different types of ski bindings.

Downhill (Alpine) Bindings

Downhill ski bindings are the most common binding that the majority of skiers use. Both the toe and heel piece are fixed. The fixed construction places an emphasis on safety and reliability but makes it difficult to walk uphill in your skis since your heel is not free. Downhill ski bindings are the normal type for resort skiers.

Backcountry (Alpine Touring) Bindings

Backcountry ski bindings, otherwise known as alpine touring (AT) or just “touring” bindings, are differentiated by the ability to have a free heel. A free heel allows easier movement and therefore the ability to walk uphill in your skis. This feature allows skiers to more easily hike up a mountain in order to ski down. While these bindings are designed for backcountry use, they can also be used at the resort just like any other binding. Randoneé bindings have a classic backcountry design that allows the heel to be free for ascents and fully locked for descents. There are two types of randonné touring bindings:
  • Frame: These fit both normal downhill ski boots and touring specific ski boots. The toe and heel piece closely resemble typical downhill resort bindings, however, frame AT bindings have a walk option that releases your heel. These bindings utilize the DIN release settings.
  • Tech (Pin): Identifiable by their pin style toe piece, AT tech bindings are for more intense backcountry skiers. Tech bindings can usually only be used with AT specific ski boots and typically do NOT utilize the DIN release settings. Additionally, many exclude brakes in order to save on weight.

Telemark Bindings

Unlike alpine and backcountry bindings, your heels are always free in telemark bindings. Telemark skiers are noticeable on the mountain because it looks like they are doing lunges every time they turn. Telemark bindings only work with telemark boots, and they do not release, or utilize DIN release settings.

Ski Binding Components

Knowing what the different parts are will help you in figuring how to choose ski bindings that are right for you. Let’s break down the main components to help you understand how they work.

Ski Binding Model

Brakes

1 of 2

Anti-Friction Device (AFD)

2 of 2

Ski Brake Width

The waist width of your skis will determine the sizing of your ski brakes. Since the brakes need to be on the outside of the skis, the ski brake will need to be wider than the waist width of your skis to deploy properly. It’s best to shoot for brakes just barely wider than your ski’s waist. Brakes that are 15mm+ wider than your ski width are probably too big. Avoid making the brakes too wide because then they may scrape against the hill if you are on edge or steep terrain.

DIN Settings

DIN is a standard for what level of pressure your boot should or should not release from your ski. Your DIN settings are an important safety feature. During a serious crash, you want to detach from your skis to avoid twisting your knees or hurting your legs. Conversely, you don’t want your skis to come off for no reason or only under light pressure. So, having the proper DIN setting set is essential. 

Each binding has a range of possible DIN settings with values somewhere between 0 to 18. Most common recreational bindings have maximum DIN settings from 11 to 14. DIN settings are found on regular downhill bindings and framed touring bindings but not tech or telemark bindings. Your DIN settings will be determined by a shop technician and are based on your skier level, height, weight, age, and boot size. Check out this DIN chart by Powder7 for more information.

What is My Skier Level?

While most of the criteria to set your DIN settings are matter of fact, the technician will rely on you to provide your skier level, or profile. Simply put, your bindings should match your skill level. Here are the three types of profiles that translate to bindings:
  • Type 1: Cautious and beginner to lower intermediate skiers.
  • Type 2: Average skiers that balance speed and aggression with caution. May ski in a variety of terrains, steepness, and speeds.
  • Type 3: Very aggressive skiers who ski confidently at high speeds in steep or demanding terrain.
  • Junior: Kids’ ski bindings have lower release settings than adults’. However, some bindings are designed to work for both kid and adult sizes.
Skier locking into ski binding

Mounting Your Ski Bindings

Mounting your ski bindings requires drilling into your skis and therefore is best done by a ski shop technician. The exact position of the binding on the ski affects how your skis feel and perform in different conditions. Most skis come with a recommended mounting position to remove the need for any guesswork. 

Some skiers may want to specify how their bindings are mounted. Mounting your ski bindings farther back provides more stability and more float in powder, but reduces maneuverability. Mounting them further forward makes the ski more responsive and more evenly weighted if you like to ski backwards or do spins. For this reason, park skiers tend to prefer a more forward mount than the traditional placement.

Tip for Maintaining Your Ski Bindings

Final Thoughts

Keep yourself safe, secure, and stable on your skis with ski bindings that fit your skiing level and size. Most skiers require a normal downhill binding, but if you do some backcountry skiing, then an AT binding may be worth looking into. Frame AT bindings function most similar to traditional downhill bindings. Therefore, they are best for skiers just starting out in the backcountry or for those who still spend a lot of days at the resort.

Be honest in your ski profile assessment so the ski technician can make the best determination of your proper DIN settings when first setting the binding. Ultimately, most skiers should be fine with any of the popular ski binding models as long as they work with a shop technician to mount and set them appropriately. We hope this post helps you figure out how to choose ski bindings that will work for you. Best of luck and see you on the slopes!

Ready to complete your ski setup with some bindings? Do you still have questions on how to choose them? Let us know in the comments below!

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