Touring Bindings in an Avalanche, Deadly? And Support Your Avy Center

Post by blogger | November 8, 2016      

Avalanche information centers in the U.S. provide a huge service to backcountry skiers. They operate on a shoestring budget and deliver way more than they take from our wallets.

If you need convincing, watch the following video. Northwest Avalanche Center (NWAC) filmed the speakers at their recent snow avalanche workshop (NSAW). The presentation by Jeff Campbell, about binding retention/release in regards to ski touring and avalanche safety, is a perfect example of the thought provoking talks at these seminars.

Jeff’s studies indicate several main points I can expound on. My thoughts, inspired by Jeff:

– The main and most important function of a ski binding is retention. It is a good idea to use the term “retention values” for the numbers on the binding, rather than “release values, or settings.” But that’s a quibble on my part, and we do tend to use terms such as “release settings” throughout the 4,000+ blog posts on More importantly, we shy away from the terms “DIN settings” or “DIN numbers” because the term “DIN” only really applies to certified bindings, while only a subset of touring bindings are certified. Notice how Jeff doesn’t use the term “DIN.”

– If you ski downhill with your tech binding toes locked, you could be in for a world of hurt.

– If your locked bindings do release laterally, your boots will probably be damaged, resulting in significantly reduced binding retention-release “settings.”

– Know that being caught in a moderate to large sized avalanche is equivalent to taking dozens if not hundreds of ski falls. If your binding safety performance is such that your chance of breaking a leg or blowing a knee in a fall is one in ten, it’s possible you are 100% likely to incur a severe leg injury in an avalanche.

– If you ski downhill without locking your toes and desire to use “normal” binding release settings, pick a binding with the best energy absorption and damping. This is a challenge. To date, there is in our opinion no tech binding (defined as a binding that works with Dynafit certified boot fittings) that has enhanced elasticity in both upward-vertical and side-lateral release. Examples, Marker Kingpin clearly has excellent vertical elasticity, but we’re not convinced it has any significant enhancement of lateral elasticity. Conversely, Fritschi Vipec has wonderful lateral toe travel and elasticity, while having no more vertical elasticity at the heel than any other classic tech binding. G3 ION in real-world testing has some of the best ability to clamp your toe during touring, without locking. But in my view it has no more vertical or lateral travel than any other classic tech binding.

– Jeff only alludes to this, but I want to state strongly that any ski binding, but especially tech bindings, needs to be bench tested for release function. You can do part of this process at home on a workbench, as well as getting a pretty good read by also doing a “carpet” test involving standing in the binding and forcing a release. Jeff also talks about how the ski shop release setting machines don’t catch everything. My belief is that combining bench testing with carpet testing can actually result in bindings settings as good as you’d get with a testing machine. But you need a modicum of experience to achieve this result.

– Above all, DO NOT assume that the “retention setting” numbers printed on a ski touring binding are anything more than a rough guide. Setting your bindings on 7, for example, could mean you actually have a setting of 6, or 8, or even farther out of range. Adding to the confusion, from what I’ve observed this can be the case for either vertical or lateral (they’re adjusted independently), but sometimes not both!

– Gorilla in the room: classic tech bindings depend on the clamping force of the toe jaws to defend against an unusual and subtle form of pre-release. There is no industry standard that evaluates this. We try to point it out, and we feel some bindings defend against this better than others. Industry folks with different companies have different takes. For example, G3 says their toe has better geometry and stronger springs. Dynafit, on the other hand, provides a rotating toe with ostensibly stronger springs that’s intended to prevent accidental opening of the toe wings.

– If you choose to use rubber soled ski touring boots in an alpine binding, assume you have no safety release. Likewise, your release in a frame style tech binding might be less functional than you assume.

– Jeff speaks at least once about the lack of standards for tech bindings, as well as “political” issues resulting in what in my opinion might be standards that are simply archaic and non applicable to modern skiing. There is currently no DIN/ISO standard for tech binding boot fittings, while there is indeed the existing but aged DIN/ISO 13992 standard for touring bindings. See our explanation of these standards.

Also see:
Ripping ligaments and snapping bones — ski touring binding release.
Tech Bindings — 10 Things to Know
Ski Touring Core Glossary

Fall is a time of fundraising, especially for avi centers that are ramping up for the season. On November 17th, we’ll be partying at the CAIC benefit in Carbondale, CO, always a fun gathering of our backcountry community, and hosted by Lisa’s favorite Thai restaurant to boot. If that’s sold out when you read this, there’s another bash December 3rd in Breckenridge.

Check (or send check to) your local AIC. And, if you know about events in your area, spread the word here. Comments on! Thanks for supporting these worthy non profits.


Please Enjoy A Few Suggested WildSnow Posts


109 Responses to “Touring Bindings in an Avalanche, Deadly? And Support Your Avy Center”

  1. Sam November 8th, 2016 8:48 am

    Thanks for continuing to hammer these points home Lou. I frequently notice very competent and experienced skiers habitually locking out their tech binding toes for downhill skiing. They generally don’t realize the impact of this action. Many seem to think it just offers more retention.

  2. Charlie Hagedorn November 8th, 2016 8:57 am

    The most-surprising part of Jeff’s talk was that tech-binding equipped boots seemed to hang up even in frame bindings with a mobile AFD.

    If that result is reproducible, it has important impact for both boot and binding.

  3. Duncan November 8th, 2016 9:12 am

    Any insight into how TUV approval fits into this picture? Specifically, Salomon/Atomic offer MNC alpine style bindings that are approved for rubber soled ISO 9523 boots. Is TUV missing the boat? Or should we trust TUV approval?

    From Atomic:
    Thanks to an adjustable toe height and sliding AFD toe piece, Multi Norm certified bindings are TÜV approved for all three types of soles: DIN (ISO 5355), Touring (ISO 9523) and Walk To Ride (WTR). That means they fit every normed boot in the market.

  4. Lou Dawson 2 November 8th, 2016 9:40 am

    Duncan, it is a lot of smoke and mirrors. I’m not sure what “TUV approved” means. You can pay TUV to “approve” or “certify” to your own standards. For example, WTR is not a DIN-ISO standard, but you can provide TUV with the WTR specifications and pay them to independently test product to go with the WTR.

    I could make a set of “WildSnow” standards for the shape of a hat, then pay TUV to test hats to be sure the hats conformed to that standard.

    What is more, DIN 5335 and DIN 9523 are simply boot standards, they are not binding standards.

    Further, just because TUV does test and certify something to a standard, doing so only indicates it worked up to that standard, with sometimes fairly minimal testing.

    All that said, if you use a WTR type boot with a solid AFD under toe and heel, in an alpine binding with adjustable toe height, with a boot without tech fittings, sure, you might get performance similar to alpine gear. Actually pretty easy to test in the ski shop or at home.

    Happy to be wrong about this, but I don’t think “TUV approval” in this case means much. Bench testing and real-world use mean more.


  5. Lou Dawson 2 November 8th, 2016 9:45 am

    Charlie, his test results probably indicate the limits of TUV testing, which in my opinion does not go far enough nor have enough real-world simulation. For example, loading the boot with high body weight pressing down on the ball of the foot can change the performance of those sliding AFDs.

    I know from talking to insiders that TUV loves the sliding AFDs when testing touring bindings to standard 13994. That’s why you see so many. And they do appear to work during bench testing. But Jeff appears to be a good, dedicated engineer with excellent test equipment, if he’s getting the kind of results he does, then yes, James, we have a problem with the dilithium crystals.

  6. XXX_er November 8th, 2016 10:22 am

    just cuz one can step into a Tech binding does not mean one should without doing the clearing ritual of picking the ski up to cycle the toe by hand to clear under the springs & moving the boot back & forth while clipped in at the toe to clear the pins, if these steps gets missed even once the ski will fall off which is why I think people will then claim tech binding pre-release

    I used AT boots/techs for walking & mobility to help set up a DH race so I was stepping in while carrying gear without doing the clearing ritual and my skis fell off constantly

  7. Duncan November 8th, 2016 10:28 am

    Lou–thanks for the quick reply. I did a little more digging and it appears that Salomon/Atomic’s MNC system is TUV approved for DIN/ISO 9462 & 13992. That clarifies what the marketing means, but Jeff’s concerns certainly stand.

    Source: p. 17,

  8. Sedgesprite November 8th, 2016 12:39 pm

    I can imagine the extension to tele bindings, any chance Jeff will test them to provide real data?

  9. Charlie Hagedorn November 8th, 2016 2:36 pm

    It was my impression that day (haven’t rewatched it) from his measurements that the tech-toe inserts were hanging up on the binding toe wings in lateral release.

  10. Lou Dawson 2 November 8th, 2016 3:25 pm

    Yeah, I think he called them “speed bumps” and he’s clearly talking about the “Quick Step In” Dynafits. I’ve done 20 years of testing “regular” tech fittings in boot toes, in frame bindings, and never saw anything funky going on. Lou

  11. Jeff Campbell November 8th, 2016 6:05 pm

    Hey Lou,

    Thanks for sharing! I’ve lurked for a long time, and I’m flattered you felt like sharing my talk.

    In regards to our data and the TUV; there are two standardized test methods, ASTM F504 (American) and ISO 9462 (European) for bindings or ISO 13992 for AT bindings. The TUV uses the European (ISO 9462) method. The ASTM F504 (American) method is more representative of the performance requirements necessary for bindings (in my opinion). So I used ASTM F504 to produce the data in my talk.

    The differences between the two methods aren’t significant when testing bindings with alpine (ISO 5355) boots. But those differences can be important when testing bindings with AT (ISO 9523) boots. Results can differ between the TUV and our lab, where we can do both methods. According to our data, fit doesn’t equal function, and function can depend on the test method used.

    I’ll also mention we have 3 peer reviewed papers in-press in open access journals on the subjects covered in my talk. Once they’re published I’d be happy to send them over so anyone interested can geek out.

    Thanks for running such a great site Lou. Cheers!

  12. Lou Dawson 2 November 8th, 2016 6:31 pm

    Thanks Jeff! We badly need you around here, I’m trying to wear too many hats!

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but all the hype about TUV binding certification for touring bindings is regarding TUV certifying to DIN 13992, correct? And the ASTM. while existing, is not tested at this time by UL or other labs on this side of the pond? Thanks, Lou

  13. Jeff Campbell November 8th, 2016 8:40 pm

    Lou you do a great job and wear many….many hats!

    In ISO 13992, the alpine binding standard (ISO 9462) was grandfathered in along with performance requirements specific to touring bindings. AT frame bindings are simply alpine bindings mounted on a frame/chassis; in fact, Sections 5,6, and 7 of both ISO 13992 and ISO 9462 are exact copies.

    I suspect the hype when the TUV certifies a touring binding to ISO 13992, is some want to see it as an indicator that the newly certified binding is equally as safe as any other certified binding. But you can’t claim “Binding A (Tech Binding) and Binding B (AT Frame binding) are both TUV certified, and therefore offer an equal amount of protection against injury”. All certification means is that they meet a set of minimum requirements.

    One issue with certification, is the lack of a standardized boot test sole. If you’re going to certify a tech binding, what inserts do you use? Alpine bindings and AT frame bindings are tested using a standardized test sole (ISO 9838). No such test sole currently exists to evaluate Tech/Pin bindings. So when a tech binding is certified to ISO 13992, I ask myself, “certified with what boot?” See the slide at 15:40 and you’ll see what I mean.

    You’re correct, currently no labs to my knowledge test to the ASTM method. Most manufacturers focus on passing the ISO 9462/13992 methods, and aren’t focused on ASTM F504, because that’s what they are tested on at the TUV.

  14. Rick Howell November 10th, 2016 8:57 am

    Good dialog, but pls remember several clear facts:

    1— Release does not equal retention. Nearly comprehensive release testing is correctly shown in Jeff’s videos; but the ‘retention-function’ is governed by the design-parameters of the binding — independently of release. All pin bindings are nearly void of the key design-parameters that provide good retention-function. When this happens, it’s human nature to crank the release settings to serve as a crude band-aid to attempt to improve retention …. but elevated release settings then mitigate proper release function. The solution: functionally-decouple the design-parameters that control the release-function from the design-parameters that control the retention-function. In this way, the release settings (the ‘spring’) controls the release-function; while several different retention-design-parameters (including BUT NOT LIMITED TO ‘elasticity’) control the retention-function. This ‘independence’ axiom allow us to have it both ways: proper-release and powerful retention at the same time. The myriad of engineers who have designed pin-bindings are experts at manufacturing (that’s why pin-bindings look so nice) have almost no training in biomechanics … and have little understanding of the new engineering science of Axiomatic Design that focuses on functional-decoupling as I have described above. There is no hope to have it both ways — both proper-release AND powerful retention’ simultaneously with pin bindings … even though, as Jeff correctly says in his video presentation, that some of the new pin bindings provide slightly improved ‘elasticity’. Elasticity is no panacea when functional-decoupling is not present.

    2— Self-release testing is great as long as the binding is already functionally-correct for comprehensive release-function and for retention-function. With pin-bindings, the retention function is so poor that when one backs-down the release setting to provide self-release — the horrible cross-linked functions for release and retention that are inherent in pin bindings clearly cause pre-release. Retention IS DEFINITELY MORE IMPORTANT THAN RELEASE but only if the release function is properly functioning …. AND there is NO NEED for a trade-off between release and retention in a binding that’s properly decoupled to perform both functions independently (see above).

    3— Release loads on the leg (as are correctly shown in Jeff’s video) are very different from the so-called ‘release loads’ found within pin bindings. Jeff and I are the only ones other than Carl Ettlinger who utilize the ASTM-F-504 method to measure the comprehensive loads on the leg — the loads that pass through the leg, not just only the binding. When a ski shop utilizes a torque measuring device while a ski is clamped to a bench to test a pin binding, a false positive is being generated because that test-method cannot produce loads that are experienced by the leg (when involving a pin binding — see the link to Jason Borro’s article here on WildSnow). Even worse are ski-shop tests that are conducted with force measuring devices while the ski is clamped to a bench: imparting a force at the heel of the boot to cause a pin binding to release HAS NOTHING TO DO with the loads that pass through the leg (with a pin binding) ((again, pls see Jason Borro’s article)). This 3rd point is super important. All pin bindings except Diamir Vipec and Trab TR2 rotate about the toe, not at the heel — thus there is a huge blind-spot that produces a large load on the leg that is largely undetected by pin-bindings (again, except Diamir Vipec). (( I’m not paid by Diamir to say that. ))

    4— Jeff’s data on the variation of the load that passes through the leg that’s a consequence of the variation in the geometry of the metal dimples in AT boots is Very Real and Very Serious. Further, Jeff’s data on what happens when an AT boot is ‘forced’ to release during the lock-out mode is absolutely correct and Very Serious, too.

    5— Stop beating on TÜV, Lou. TÜV is the same as UL. TÜV does not write standards: TÜV simply performs tests according to the standards that are provide to TÜV for any given situation, whether it’s ISO (international) standards, DIN (German) standards, ASTM (American) standards, or a given binding company’s in-house standards. The source of this testing-mess is the ‘political engineering’ that Jeff also correctly identifies that goes-on behind the scenes at the voting-level at ISO. Much of the voting is based on a given manufacturer’s patent portfolio (noting that this is a ‘game’ because the process of progulmating standards in view of patents hits the intersection of anti-trust and restraint of free trade laws … which no one wants to violate … but at the same time, each binding and/or boot company wants to maximize their patent portfolio to gain a legal patent-monopoly in order to leverage investment capital; legally exclude others from making, using, selling, and/or inducing others to sell; and to maximize financial exit metrics). The intersection of progulmating standards and maximizing patents is messy. This is why the standards are not so transparent on the surface in view of the ownership of various patent-portfolios by the same manufacturers who have voting-power within the various standards’ organizations. Further to make this messy, many of the so-called academic researchers take funding form the manufacturers … and — please, let’s be serious — do you think an academic researcher who is funded by a given manufacturer will vote for specific elements of a standard that are in opposition to the manufacturer. Huge voting blocks of academic researchers that are funded by various manufacturers sway the final outcome of a given standard. To see how this plays, learn which binding and/or boot companies funds which academic researchers. Hint-hint.

    6— Full disclosure: I’m a life-long skier turned binding manufacturer (Howell SkiBindings). I agree with Jeff on almost every point he has made. I expressly agree with the adverse effects of mechanical (moveable) AFD’s and the overall role of AFD’s. Fixed (Teflon) AFD’s generate excellent comprehensive test results for both ‘release’ and independently for ‘retention’. My test-data (utilizing ISO 9462, ASTM F-504 and my own in-house methods) produce this fact every time I conduct tests.

    7— Please remember that we CAN have it both ways — both proper ‘release’ and powerful ‘retention’ via the DESIGN of the binding and its associated FUNCTION …. NOT via settings alone. When the settings involve designs where the pivot-points between the boot and the ski are not aligned with the loads that pass through the leg the ‘release’ settings are meaningless.

    Release does not equal retention.


    Rick Howell
    Howell SkiBindings
    Stowe, Vermont USA


  15. Rick Howell November 10th, 2016 9:01 am

    Typo correction: Point #2 should read: ‘Retention IS DEFINITELY MORE IMPORTANT THAN RELEASE but only if the release function is properly functioning.’

  16. Lou Dawson 2 November 10th, 2016 9:28 am

    Rick, looks like Lisa already made the correction?

    While I know for a fact that TUV can be difficult and expensive, and am not a huge fan of their role in ski binding testing due to some insider knowledge I have, I do 100% totally and completely understand that they are a TESTING company, and they do not create, manage, archive, edit or otherwise have anything to do with DIN/ISO ski binding standards.

    That said, as in any area of life, there are grey areas and confusion. For example, TUV makes it very clear on their certification document that when they “certify” a tech binding to DIN 13992 it is only with genuine Dynafit fittings, and clearly, one has to wonder if they use a new set of boots and fittings for each test, or if they somehow compensate for wear on the fittings. Further, from what I observe in the workshop and in research such as that by Skialper, I’m astonished that the TUV certified tech bindings passed the TUV testing in regards to deviation of actual release torque from that stated on the binding setting indicator. One has to wonder, how many different boot forms did they use for the testing, what length boot, how worn were the boot fittings, and so on?

    Rick, I think if you read my writing more carefully you’ll see that I do understand what TUV does (after all, I’ve been writing about them for over a decade), and with most writing am trying to help readers who do NOT understand. If I did a poor job, apologies. If you’d like to point out any clarity edits I can do, I’ll try to act on them in a timely fashion.

    Again, if I wanted to, I could pay TUV to test hats if I gave them a set of parameters to to test to. Or, if I wanted to sell a toaster I could pay them to test to DIN/ISO standards for toasters, or as an engineer friend of me pointed out, you could pay them to test a nose drilling device if you wanted to. Stating that is simply to clarify their role in the testing process, not to diss them.

    Nose drilling device:


  17. Greg Louie November 10th, 2016 9:51 am

    If I interpret Jeff’s comments correctly (sorry, had to work during NSAW), he is saying “no go” categorically to all ISO 9523/alpine binding combinations, as well as ISO 9523/frame AT combinations? Did he test the Marker Sole.ID Griffon and Jester, Atomic/Salomon Warden 13 MNC, Marker Lord SP, or Tyrolia AAAttack 14 AT? At the time of the lecture, all were officially indemnified for use with ISO 9523 soles.

    As for “full” ISO 9523 (not WTR or GripWalk) sole compatibility with ISO 13992 frame bindings, I am aware of an issue with the first generation Guardian/Tracker (no moving AFD) but haven’t heard of issues with later versions or any of the Marker, Tyrolia or Fritschi frame models. I assume this recommendation is based on testing later versions?

    Jeff mentions tech toe inserts functioning as “speed bumps” during lateral release. Did he find this with all insert/alpine toe combinations? As of fall 2016, even the most conservative of the alpine binding manufacturers (Look) is giving the OK to ISO 5355 boots with tech inserts (K2 Pinnacle, Dalbello Lupo or Tecnica Cochise/Zero G with ISO 5355 rubber installed) with their ISO 9462 alpine bindings. Perhaps this conflict is dependent on the actual model of insert (Dynafit Quick Step and MasterStep with the ridges, for instance)?

  18. Lou Dawson 2 November 10th, 2016 10:11 am

    Greg, what do you mean by “officially indemnified?”

    I’m pretty sure the “speed bump” effect Jeff observed would have been the Quick Step and MasterStep.

    Overall, I think what we’re seeing with tech bindings, Rick alludes to, is that attempting to couple the touring mechanism with the release-retention mechanism might be resulting in an impasse in terms of improving retention vs release vs tourability.

    Bindings such as Trab decouple the touring mechanics from downhill retention and release. That’s probably the future, though as I constantly speak of, for many of us it’s more about weight and touring convenience than anything else.

    Along those lines, another gorilla in the room is heel lifter height and binding ramp angle in downhill mode. Skialper makes a mess of translating their thoughts on this, but the deal is the shorter your foot the more lift angle you get while touring, and just as important (or more) you can end up with clearly unacceptable binding ramp angles in downhill mode if you have short feet. Aftermarket shimming fixes this, but one wonders if the binding makers will ever address the problem. Enclosing a set of shims in the retail box is one solution, or building bindings with zero ramp so that boot length has no effect…


  19. Rick Howell November 10th, 2016 10:22 am

    Lou: Many bindings do not pass ISO 9462 and/or ISO 13992 at TÜV — but only the bindings that pass are published as ‘Certified’. Bindings that fail are never disclosed. Bindings that do not pass ISO 9462 and/or ISO 13992 are revamped by the manufacturer then returned to TÜV for re-testing — or they are abandoned / discontinued by the manufacturer. Bindings that meet the above standards (as tested by TÜV) — especially bindings that produce wide variation in the release tests … can pass because the standard is bogus. ISO 13992 was progulmated almost entirely by the manufacturers who produce bindings and/or boots involving pin-bindings … and this standard is different from ISO 9462 in that it allows significant variation (way too much variation in my opinion). Again, it’s not TÜV that’s allowing wide variation in order to issue ‘certification’ — it’s the standard that (wrongly) allows the variation.


    Rick Howell
    Howell SkiBindings
    Stowe, Vermont USA


  20. Lou Dawson 2 November 10th, 2016 10:26 am

    Agree, I was alarmed when I saw how much variation 13992 allowed. Kinda ridiculous. Lou

  21. Rick Howell November 10th, 2016 10:57 am

    Lou: 🙂

    My reference to ‘functional decoupling’ is purely aimed at decoupling the release-function from the retention-function. The spring / cam / lever-arms / pivot-point mechanisms / kinematics of a given binding (a given set of ‘design-parameters) governs the strictly standardized release-function of each binding design. Many other design-parameters (including but not limited to ‘elasticity’) govern the retention-function. Retention is loosely defined in the standards — and it is not (yet) standardized at all in the forward-mode. When the design-parameters that control the release-function are cross-linked (‘not functionally decoupled’) to the design-parameters that control the retention-function, both the net release-function and the net retention-function are compromised.

    In my posts here, I’m not traversing the issue of functional-decoupling of the touring-mode relative to the release-function and/or the retention-function. ((BTW, there is no such thing as ‘release/retention-function’ — and those who proffer this myth are associated with binding function that provides their, and only their, version of the efficacy of their own binding-designs’ retention-function: any given binding-design has a unique retention-signature that supplies a different amount of retention-function from other designs … thus, when a given binding-design is set at a certain release-function … it provides a different level of retention from other binding designs.))

    In the same light, release tests that fall outside of the tolerance range that Jeff correctly depicts in his presentation video (that range is strictly defined by ISO 9462) — this is not an expression of a binding that offers a different level of retention: it is a binding that fails ISO 9462. Release tests that fall outside of the release-tolerance zone are release failures. Jeff is not and does not intend to depict ‘retention’ variation. Retention testing and retention test results are another set of tests / another function. Please understand that the testing-skew Jeff is showing in his video is release-failure, not retention-variation.


    Rick Howell
    Howell SkiBindings
    Stowe, Vermont USA


  22. Rick Howell November 10th, 2016 11:08 am

    @ Greg: There are bindings that are ‘indemnified’ by the binding manufacturer even though it fails ISO-standards, DIN-standards and/or ASTM-standards (as tested by TÜV) because the manufacturer is betting on the probability that if an injury occurs the skier will not sue and/or if the skier does sue, the manufacturer’s lawyers can play judicial games that result — in the long run — in their ‘win’ in court. Said another way — in the event of a binding-design that fails the standards, ‘indemnification’ of that binding by the binding manufacturer does not necessarily mean that the binding is functioning properly.

  23. Rick Howell November 10th, 2016 11:22 am

    Last point today — from an engineering perspective — ‘release’ is measured in units of force (pounds, kilograms, Newtons); torque (daNm, Nm, killogram-meters, pound-feet), or as a bending-moment (daNm, Nm, killogram-meters, pound-feet); whereas, ‘retention’ is measured in units of work or energy (Jules). None of the above test methods or test data reflect ‘work’ or ‘energy’ (Jules): none of the above test methods or test data reflect ‘retention’.


    Rick Howell
    Howell SkiBindings
    Stowe, Vermont USA


  24. Greg Louie November 10th, 2016 11:37 am

    “Officially indemnified” meaning the product managers or national sales reps for those brands have told me they will back up a retail shop that is sued if the combination is involved in an injury accident . . .

  25. Rick Howell November 10th, 2016 11:57 am

    @ Greg: Correct, sort-of — “Officially Indemnified” means what the indemnification agreement says on its plane-face … and ONLY IF the ski shop has followed all of the rules set-forth by the binding manufacturer as provided in the agreement. But, never-the-less, a given binding may not have passed the standards ((international (ISO) or national (DIN and/or ASTM)) and yet the binding manufacturer provides “Official Indemnification” to the ski shop in the event of a lawsuit. I know this because I administered this for a major German binding company for 8-years. In other words, a given binding might be associated with a given ‘indemnification-agreement’ (indemnification for the ski shop) — but that does not necessarily mean the given binding-design’s function passed the standards — and most significantly, ‘indemnification’ (for the ski shop) by a binding manufacturer does not necessarily mean the binding is functioning properly: in this wrongful-example it means the arrogant binding manufacturer believes it knows more than the standards.

  26. Rick Howell November 10th, 2016 12:07 pm

    @ Greg: … “proper binding function” means meeting all international (ISO) standards and all relevant national standards (DIN, ASTM, AfNOR) plus meeting ‘standard industry practice’ for retention and durability.

  27. Lou Dawson 2 November 10th, 2016 12:13 pm

    Rick and Greg, indeed, my understanding (perhaps wrong) is that “officially indemnified” means nothing to the consumer and has nothing to do with verifying the binding has any sort of performance characteristics. It’s a misleading thing to communicate to a consumer, though it’s interesting in a broader sense. What is more, it makes me curious how this contractual obligation on the part of the manufacturer is communicated, do they actually supply the retailer with a written contract as to how this legal defense partnership actually works? One also wonders if the word “officially” has an legal import, or if it’s just added to make the phrase sound better than “indemnified.” Lou

  28. Rick Howell November 10th, 2016 12:42 pm

    @Lou: Oh, yes — certain binding manufacturers have utilized the concept of indemnification to attempt to imply to retailers AND to consumers that their binding is functioning properly even though it has failed the standards.

    Additionally, yes, ‘indemnification’ is a contract between a given binding manufacturer and a given ski shop.

    (( The term, ‘official’ (or the absence of the term) is ‘bla-bla-bla’ (ask your lawyer).))

    The point is that ‘proper binding function’ is achieved when a binding meets the above standards PLUS ‘standard industry practice’ for retention and durability.

  29. Rick Howell November 10th, 2016 12:59 pm

    Jeff’s research, my research, and the research of others who are conducting proper and plausible biomechanical engineering science and/or proper prospective intervention studies — especially when presented at bona fide sceintific forums, then peer-reviews — point to ‘established facts’ that can be utilized to try to improve the standards. The voting process is where law, business and science intersect. Clearly, I’m biased (everyone has a bias); I’m only an engineering-technician (with over 40-years of ski binding product management and biomechanical-technician experience) and not a PhD … but this is how the process is supposed to work … to deliver ‘properly-functioning’ bindings.

    The example that Jeff describes regarding the complications involving non-standardized boot soles clearly points to the need for boot standards.

    My research (though again, carrying an obvious bias) points to the questionable function of all pin bindings, irrespectively of the issues surrounding pin-boot standards. The pin-interface is fundamentally flawed. This is something that I dealt with when developing the first hands-off clipless bicycle pedal / shoe system — CycleBinding.

    Hopefully, Jeff’s excellent research will shape future functional definitions in the standards for AT bindings / boots.

  30. Rick Howell November 10th, 2016 1:04 pm

    (( BTW — TÜV does have one vote at ISO (international) and one vote at DIN (Germany) — but a single vote at each standard organization does not ‘write standards’.))

  31. VT skier November 10th, 2016 1:22 pm

    “Officially indemnified” seems to mean to me that when I have a US shop mount a binding, I enter my weight, age and ski ability level.
    The shop tech enters this data onto a paper chart then set the release value on the binding that matches my age/weight.
    My binding hasn’t been tested to release by any type of equipment, like the Wintersteiger Drivetronic as part of this mount. Whereas it appears, in Europe for the shop to be indemnified, they MUST test the boot/binding combo.

    Back to the US, I have to sign this form after my binding mount to get my skis back, then the shop will be indemnified by Rottefella if I am injured or sue later.
    And this is for a telemark binding!

  32. Rick Howell November 10th, 2016 1:55 pm

    @ VT skier: Those and other details are part of various ‘indemnification’ agreements. Again, ‘indemnification’ is a contract between a ski shop and a binding manufacturer. The contract varies by manufacturer and by country — depending on the law of the land and the specific binding manufacturer. Therefore, differences exist. However, my point relative to this thread (and Greg’s good post) is not to confuse ‘indemnification’ with ‘proper binding function’. The key to a consumer is — ‘has the given binding passed the minimum international (ISO) standards and ‘standard industry practice for retention and durability’? That, not indemnification, is the key question for each of you to ask. TÜV (that tests according to the relevant standards) publishes list of bindings that have passed the international (ISO and/or DIN) standards (DIN, because TÜV is located in Münich). Bindings that are not found on TÜV’s list of certified bindings either (a) failed, or (b) was not tested. Then, it’s the Wild West in terms of believing whether the given binding has or has not met ‘standard industry practice’ for retention and durability (performed by each binding company). Your exploration of these questions will help guide you in your selection process for bindings … but as Jeff correctly points-out, the current ISO standards presently have a few important open issues regarding functional specifications … so you still need to ‘beware’. To be best-informed beyond the scope of the open-issues in the ISO standards, watch Jeff’s video and read Jason Borro’s article here in WildSnow.

  33. VT skier November 10th, 2016 2:09 pm

    Thank you, Rick
    So if I see a pin-tech binding marketed as meeting “DIN ISO 13992 standards” does this really mean anything to me as a consumer? Am I buying a binding more likely to release in a fall, yet retain me in the course of regular, icy skiing ?

    I mention this as I have skied Dynafit Verticals for years, but occasionally, say at a resort taking a run before meeting friends for a tour, I will suddenly get ejected, pre-release usually while skiing at higher speed on hard snow. And I have done the Dynafit “dance” to remove ice from the cups..
    Will a DIN ISO 13992 binding (and you know which one I mean 😉 ) reduce my chances of this pre-release?

  34. Greg Louie November 10th, 2016 3:31 pm

    Thanks for the clarification, Rick. Certainly there are numerous cases of a boot (say, a Pinnacle 130) not meeting ISO 5355 spec and a binding manufacturer either tacitly or specifically saying they will indemnifiy it in their ISO 9462 binding regardless. Stories of tech bindings trying repeatedly to pass ISO 13992 and failing are also common.

    Thanks also for setting the record straight regarding T?V being simply a testing agency that checks for compliance to a certain standard!

  35. Greg Louie November 10th, 2016 3:34 pm

    Rick, how did you get capital “U” with unlaut to render properly? I copied and pasted out of Word to no avail . . .

  36. Rick Howell November 10th, 2016 6:03 pm

    @VT skier 🙂 You are absolutely right: Pls remember, my suggestion is to seek the TÜV listing PLUS ask the manufacturer about the nature of their self-policed ‘standard industry practice’ for retention (anti-pre-release) AND durability testing protocol and results. That combination of facts should provide clear guidance for your selection.

    @ Greg ;). Pls try holding-down the ‘u’ on an iPhone, then select the option that’s presented. 🙂

  37. Lou Dawson 2 November 11th, 2016 6:23 am

    Hi Jeff, I was told by insider that when TUV first began testing tech bindings, they had a standardized boot sole that they basically created. Presently, I don’t know how they standardize the boot sole with the fittings. Firstly, it can be guessed based on what the certification certificate text says, they do test only with Dynafit brand fittings. But how those fittings are mounted and aged is unknown, and worrisome, since as we all know, fitting wear from multiple test releases changes release values.

    I was also told last winter that a boot “shape” standard and measuring device was in the process of being created by Dynafit, reason being that even if a touring boot shape conforms to DIN/ISO standard it can still not work in some tech bindings. Yet another source of confusion.

    The situation is a mess, but it’s not impossible to sort out. In my opinion a good ski shop with experienced and well trained employees can meet consumer needs with existing tech binding solutions. Where the system breaks down is when do-it-yourself binding mounts and adjustments are done without care for details, and when ski shop employees are ignorant or simply don’t give a rip.

    All that said, the takaway is what I’ve been shouting about for years: in my opinion no tech binding can equal a properly configured good quality alpine binding in terms of downhill skiing performance. For this to be implied by a “certification” misleads consumers.

    Not to be alarmest, I’ve also said for years that plenty of the world’s best skiers get good results from tech bindings. On the other hand, I’ll say that within 5 years the overall picture might radically change. Watch Fritschi, or Trab, and perhaps someone will take the risk on doing tech 2.0 with entirely re-engineered boot fittings. Perhaps that’ll be you (smile)?


  38. Jeff Campbell November 11th, 2016 2:54 pm

    Wow, comments pile up quick here…sorry I don’t quite have the time to keep up.

    Lou, all really good points. Indeed there are some amazing skiers doing well on tech bindings, but it’s concerning that sometimes the pros show themselves locking their toes out (see Hoji’s athlete edit this year). I’m glad you’re advocating for skiers to visit their shop, but it’s equally important for shop employees to be well educated. And yes, ‘certification’ can have a misleading connotation to it.

    We also have a paper in press talking about the difficulties that would be entailed in optimizing current boot inserts for standardization, I’ll be sure to forward that along once it’s printed. But you’re barking up the right tree in thinking that inserts might need to be redesigned to improve boot-binding function.

  39. Jeff Campbell November 11th, 2016 2:55 pm

    Just to quickly address Greg’s question: The selection of bindings we tested, including some multi-norm bindings, was comprehensive enough to confidently recommend against using ISO 9523 boots with alpine/multi-norm bindings. We aren’t disclosing the specific boots/bindings we tested. If you need a table of what boots/bindings are and aren’t compatible, that nullifies the point of a standard, and it’s impossible to maintain. We will publish blinded results about what features (AFD, Toe Height, inserts, boot sole hardness, etc) worked in boots and bindings, and what didn’t.

  40. Jeff Campbell November 11th, 2016 2:56 pm

    In a post buried somewhere up top, I mentioned that our tests (ASTM F504) differ slightly from the TUV (ISO 9462). At the 10:20 mark in the video above (and the very end), you can see how mechanical AFD’s actually hang on to the boots 3x longer than bindings with Static AFDs. This leads to the binding settings not being able to control the release torque, and often will break the AFD.

    This can easily be replicated in ASTM F504 tests simulating forward twisting falls that put a lot of load on the AFD. You can’t replicate this behavior using the ISO 9462 method, so I doubt the TUV has seen this.

    (sorry for multi comments, was having issues posting all at once).

  41. Greg Louie November 11th, 2016 4:13 pm

    The absence or inadequacy of safety standards regarding ski bindings is, unfortunately, a separate issue from my desire to use any of several ISO 9523-soled ski boots with my non-touring skis.

    I’ve got my own opinions regarding which “alpine” bindings give me the best chance of enjoying an injury-free winter, but it would be great to be able to base the decision on hard data.

    The matter of tech toe inserts hanging up during lateral release in ISO 9462 / frame AT bindings also deserves a more detailed explanation – were they Dynafit-branded QuickStep or MasterStep inserts, or OG Dynafit, or perhaps another brand?

  42. Lou Dawson 2 November 11th, 2016 4:29 pm

    Frame bindings? What are those?

  43. Jeff Campbell November 11th, 2016 4:32 pm

    Hey Greg, I’m sure a little more clarification would help.

    In the case of inserts, we tested boots with 5 different brands of inserts, Dynafit Quick-Step and others. We actually had boots from 2 different manufacturers, that were exact copies of each other with/without inserts which served as a great control for evaluating their effect.

    When used in a binding with a toe-piece that doesn’t have an upwards release and has rollers, inserts of all brands make a big difference (more than 20% in some cases), not just the Quickstep.

    If you’re using inserts in a binding that has an upwards release at the toe, doesn’t have rollers, and/or doesn’t contact the lower portion of the boot, then the inserts don’t have an effect.

    We have also found that the heel inserts can sometimes cause the forward lean release to be slightly lower, not out of range, and only in a select few binding models.

    Honestly I think the best solution for those on a budget is to use a boot with swappable soles rather than rolling the dice.

  44. Lou Dawson 2 November 11th, 2016 5:48 pm

    Jeff, so apparently the rollers “catch” even with basic tech fittings that are flush with the sole toe surface area? Lou

  45. See November 11th, 2016 6:00 pm

    I think I finally get the point of WTR ski boots and bindings…

  46. Jeff Campbell November 11th, 2016 6:06 pm

    Lou, if they are flush then bindings with rollers in the toe piece can still get hung up on them, think of them like a pot hole the rollers have to go over.

  47. Greg Louie November 11th, 2016 8:06 pm

    Then I would have to assume placement of the rollers is also critical. Rollers above the plane of the sole (STH2, for instance) should have no effect, while rollers around the perimeter of the sole proper (Warden 13, Griffon, Pivot, etc.) will cause release values to rise?

  48. See November 11th, 2016 8:58 pm

    I just checked some of my boots and the Quick step in fittings have an obvious ridge that is clearly problematic. But the socket is 6mm diameter. How big are the rollers?

  49. Rick Howell November 12th, 2016 5:36 am

    The solution to all of this is to gather physical release measurements — in the way that Jeff & I gather these release measurements. Simply observing (or even measuring) endless geometries arising from a myriad of combinations of boot shapes and binding shapes — all of which shapes change all the time by the various manufacturers — will not produce a result that’s good enough to assess the interaction between our equipment and the biomechanics of our bodies. Great skiers who never fall do not provide us with information about the interaction between our equipment and the biomechanical limits of our bodies. (Great skiers who never fall do provide us with other types of valuable information about our bindings.) Release measurements that are overlaid onto the established biomechanical tolerances are the solution to analyzing this biomechanical problem that we are discussing. Those of you who are really serious about this should invest in the measuring instruments that will provide the answers that we are seeking (about a $20,000 investment for the ASTM F-504 device; about $600,000 for the ISO 9462 device … and, yes, Jeff’s & my F-504 devices provide much more information than the ISO 9462 device relative to the problems that we are discussing, here on WildSnow. Further, over the past 16-years, I have developed the only devices that measure the key loads that flow through ski equipment that uniquely address ACL & MCL strain — valgus-loads). The alternative to making those investments is to commission Jeff or myself (as has been done by Jason Borro in commissioning me) to conduct the specific release tests that provide the type of release measurements that we are questioning.

    Lou: the sole that you are referencing at TÜV was provided to TÜV by the chairman of the ISO skiing standards committee. That sole originates from that member of ISO, not from TÜV (that member is the Dir of R&D of a company that manufactures AT pin-boots — and BTW, the company he works for is not Dynafit).

    Rick Howell
    Stowe, Vermont USA


  50. Bruno Schull November 12th, 2016 5:40 am

    Talking about disruptive technology…Has anybody seen these combination pin/alpine bindings?


  51. Rick Howell November 12th, 2016 7:03 am

    ‘Pindung’ still has a few lingering / carry-over pin issues …

    The alpine binding that intentionally has the lowest stand-height; 0-degree ramp angle; & toe height adjustment (there’s a covering cap over the height adj bolt) is my new [ ] (1st available October 2018). The low 17mm stand-height makes it the most compatible alpine binding for AT frames. The best AT frames have the touring-pivot located as close to the ball-of-the foot as possible. Then, when climbing lift towers, bare ground, or firm snow — hiking-sole rubbers can be attached to the alpine soles. This is less than optimal — but the good alpine function mitigates entrapment in the event of an avalanche. Further, alpine bindings provide a far better downhill experience than any pin binding, including all of the newest pin bindings.

  52. Lou Dawson 2 November 12th, 2016 7:37 am

    Bruno, I’d seen progress on the BAM by those guys, I’ve tested and observed other such systems but they did not have an alpine heel or toe the slid out of the way, so they resulted in the boot being way high above the ski (boot toe attached above the alpine toe) or resulted in way too much heel lift. I always felt the solution for such as system was to have the alpine heel or toe slide out of the way. Problem is that designing and manufacturing such systems is very expensive and fraught with the problem of weight vs performance. In my view, using the pin system to hold the boot while having toe wings that open in release is a more viable solution, re Vipec and TR2.

    More, not only does BAM require the use of a boot with tech fittings that quite possibly compromise binding release (as Jeff observed), but chances are people are going to use rubber soled boots and that introduces a huge variable in real world performance.

  53. Rick Howell November 12th, 2016 7:54 am

    @Lou — Exactly. This is also why I utilize super-strong / super-lite materials in my new bindings that, when combined w frames, remain somewhat lite. The low, 17mm stand-height, mixed w a frame, and an alpine boot sole is intended to minimize net stand-height, too.

  54. Jeff Campbell November 12th, 2016 10:38 am

    Greg, I’d say you’re barking up the right tree now.

    But Rick also highlights the reason we aren’t publishing the specific models of boots/bindings we tested. These were 180 combinations that represented every type of boot-binding feature, of which only 9% worked properly. In reality, thousands exist and the feasibility of maintaining some sort of compatibility table is impossible, and nullifies the point of standards. In the ’70s (I wasn’t born yet) I’m told such tables existed to allow for shop techs to know what boots/bindings were compatible. We are headed down that road with tech boots/bindings, and in my opinion, it’s a 40 year step backward.

  55. Rick Howell November 12th, 2016 5:05 pm

    @Jeff: Exactly! Let’s keep moving forward with functional testing.

  56. Hans D. February 22nd, 2017 11:53 pm

    Regarding touring boots with swappable soles for alpine use: I have Lupo TI and ordered a pair of Dalbello’s accessory alpine soles. The tech inserts are not in the swappable part, so the inserts are always present with either the stock 9523 soles or the accessory 5355-ish soles. Presumably the “speed bump/pothole” issue remains a problem with 9462 toe bindings that have rollers, even with the swap.

    Ideally there would be an alpine binding that can straight up work with 9523 soles. These Lupos are all the boot I need, touring skis one day, downhill the next, and back again. It would be nice not to swap soles all the time and still have a reasonable expectation of standardized performance. Do MNC bindings meet this goal?

  57. Lou Dawson 2 February 23rd, 2017 5:37 am

    Hans, the best thing to do is put your boot-binding combo on a release testing machine and see how it performs. Otherwise it’s all theory. I can say that if the binding is said to work with DIN 9523 boots that’s your first step, but you’d probably at least want the type of sole that has solid inserts to rest on the binding AFD points, “Walk to Ride,” as well as the type of tech inserts used by Dalbello, that do NOT have the lead-in notch like the Dynafit Quick-Step. Lou

  58. Hans D. February 23rd, 2017 4:20 pm

    Great advice. I hadn’t thought about the “quickstep” notch, but now that you point it out, and looking at some pictures, that really could make a difference. Thx, H.

  59. Hans D. March 1st, 2017 11:16 am

    Followup question for Lupo TI with swapped alpine sole: Apart from how the sole performs when walking, is there any issue with how the toe performs in the tech binding? Specifically, with the decreased thickness of the alpine tread, the bottom of the sole is suspended higher above the binding plate. Crampons might have less bite. Any other performance issue? My touring setup has Kingpins. The reason for the question: I want to use the Lupo TI also in my regular downhill setup, and would rather not be swapping soles back and forth.

  60. See December 9th, 2017 9:43 am

    The new Salomon Shift binding raises the issue of the release performance of boots with tech toe sockets and alpine/frame toe pieces. I’m still not sure I believe that this combination is problematic as stated in the video. And if there is a problem because some tech fittings aren’t totally flush with the boot toe, would 5 minutes work with a file fix the problem?

  61. Slim December 10th, 2017 9:35 am
  62. Slim December 10th, 2017 9:37 am

    See, Jeff mentions it’s not just fittings protruding from the sole, but also the hole of the fitting itself. The roller “falls” into the hole, similar to the way a wheel drops into a pothole.

  63. See December 10th, 2017 8:07 pm

    On one hand, I really appreciate it when anyone does a rigorous study of binding performance. But I’m a bit skeptical about Campbell’s finding that boots with tech fittings perform poorly with alpine type binding toes. If the tire is wider than the pothole (as I believe is the case with binding rollers and tech sockets) then it probably will ride over it. And this seems like such an obvious problem that I can’t believe that big binding companies like Salomon haven’t addressed it. I haven’t read the paper yet, but I intend to.

  64. See December 10th, 2017 8:32 pm

    But toe fittings with giant channels that claim to make getting into the binding easier (not really a problem, imo), don’t seem like a good idea.

  65. Jeff December 10th, 2017 9:12 pm

    See, your point about the tire/pot hole analogy assumes they are perfectly aligned. In my study we had two models of boots with and without tech fittings
    (not the quick-step with the bump). This was a great control for the effect of the tech fittings. In certain bindings and test conditions, boots with tech fittings released at 20% higher torque than their non-tech fitting counter parts. Additionally we could see dents/scratches in rollers from interacting with the tech fittings. When you add rubber soles and sliding AFDs to the mix, the problem is exacerbated more.

    The answer to your question of why most manufacturers haven’t addressed this, lies in which test is used to evaluate the boot-binding combination. At the TUV, all boots-bindings are tested to ISO 9462. This study found significant differences between the ISO (European) method and the American ASTM F504 test method as well as the fact that the ISO method cannot detect the issues the ASTM method does. Not all boot-bindings that ‘pass’ the ISO/TUV tests do not pass the ASTM F504 tests. Since the manufacturers only have to pass the ISO 9462 test at the TUV, they don’t worry about the ASTM F504 test. The two test methods differ in how preloads are applied to the ski during a test.

    Thanks Slim for linking my thesis. Part of this was also published in the J of Applied Biomechanics this year, you can read it here:

    Ultimately I’m not trying to make anyone ‘believe’ anything, that’s for religion. The results are what they are. I don’t have a dog in the race. How they influence your decision making is up to you. It’s your leg and your safety. Read up, and make a decision that works best for you.

  66. See December 10th, 2017 9:24 pm

    I don’t have a dog in this race either, but it seems like a very easy problem to solve (if it isn’t already). Minimize the size of the socket, make it flush with the boot toe and design the binding to work with it, and you’re good to go.

  67. See December 11th, 2017 8:46 am

    Thanks, Jeff, for your response and your work. I really appreciate both. Aside from industry issues like standards and testing methods, reliability and consistency of release are probably what matter to most users. When I get new bindings, the release values are usually on the low side and I ski carefully and adjust the settings (if needed) until I’m satisfied that they’re about right. So my question is, can touring boots with tech fittings provide reliable and consistent release in alpine/frame type binding toes? I’m not as concerned about whether the numbers match for alpine and touring boots, as this can be compensated for. If this new binding from Salomon proves popular (as I suspect it will), many more people will probably be skiing this type of setup, and big manufacturers (like Salomon) will design their freeride boots to work with it. If tech toe fittings and lugged/rockered soles just can’t be made to provide alpine quality release/retention in these bindings, a lot of skiers will want to know that. This makes your research especially timely, in my opinion, but also raises some questions (at least for me). Thanks again.

  68. See December 11th, 2017 9:03 am

    I just read the abstract for the article in the above link. It states “ We tested the effect on the retention-release characteristics of AT boots used in alpine bindings.” I had the impression from the video in this post that your results applied to tech bindings in frame type touring bindings (which have different afd and toe adjustment capabilities from alpine bindings). So I’m not clear about whether your research applies directly to touring boots with tech fittings and frame type touring bindings or to boots with tech fittings and full-on alpine bindings (which always seemed like a dodgy proposition to me). Furthermore, you state, “One alpine binding released appropriately for all alpine and AT boots tested,” which suggest that alpine style bindings can be made to work with tech equipped touring boots. But you go on to say that “ Altering the visual indicator settings on the bindings (that control the release torque of an alpine system) had little or no effect on the release torque when using AT boots in alpine ski bindings,” which suggests the opposite. Sorry if I sound critical, but I am very interested in these issues and in your work.

  69. See December 11th, 2017 8:05 pm

    Typo in above: “results applied to tech bindings in frame type touring bindings” should be “results applied to tech binding equipped boots in frame type touring bindings.”

  70. Jeff December 11th, 2017 10:05 pm

    We compared AT boots tech compatible toes with alpine bindings. Not reported in the paper are the 4 AT frame bindings we also tested, with the same results. Given word limits, we couldn’t include those results.

    In my thesis ( Chapters 2- 3, you can find a more detailed discussion from the paper cited above.

    In the video above, I show a graph @ 10:22 from an AT Frame Binding + AT boot w/ tech fittings. For all intents and purposes, AT frame bindings and Alpine bindings are the same save the hinged chassis connecting the toe/heel pieces in AT Frame bindings. There is nothing special about any other features in AT Frame bindings. Many alpine bindings share the same features as AT Frame bindings (rollers, gliding AFDs, adjustable toe height, etc). The reason the ‘big’ companies have incorporated these features and passed the TUV is the fact that the ISO test (used by all binding manufacturers) cannot detect the issues the ASTM test can. The ASTM test is a more conservative test and harder to pass. The take home message of the study is that FIT does not equal FUNCTION.

    For information on why FIT doesn’t equal Function, I’d recommend reading Ch3 of my thesis, particularly the information describing Figure 3.7 and Table 3.7.

    From our results, the fact that 1 alpine binding released appropriately means that one binding out of 14 (10 alpine, 4 AT frame) worked correctly. So 7% of the bindings we sampled worked with AT boots. That doesn’t mean that ALL bindings can be made to work. The whole point of the graph @ 10:22 is that under certain loads, the binding settings have no effect. The binding that worked in our study actually isn’t marketed as compatible with AT boots, and yes we included other bindings that are marketed as compatible (apart from the AT Frame bindings tested).

    The SHIFT binding certainly is unique and has some very exciting design qualities. There are some features (gliding AFD) that I don’t believe will help it do well with AT boots. I’m sure WTR and Alpine soles would be fine. Either way I applaud their efforts in pushing designs forward.

    Hope that helps you make the decision best for you. Happy turns!

  71. See December 12th, 2017 7:03 am

    Thanks a lot, Jeff. Food for thought for sure, not to mention 300 pages of homework. By the time I get through it, maybe someone will have perfected the tech boot/alpine binding interface.

  72. XXX_er December 12th, 2017 1:32 pm

    ” There is nothing special about any other features in AT Frame bindings. Many alpine bindings share the same features as AT Frame bindings (rollers, gliding AFDs, adjustable toe height, etc). ”

    IME a Vibram soled AT boot is more likely to pre-release in an AT frame binding than a plastic DIN sole in the very same binding

    My theory is that bumps/G-outs cause the rubber AT sole to absorb and release energy at the wrong times… which causes the pre-release

    So IME AT boots become the weak link and so I turn the heels up 1 extra DIN setting to deal with the pre-release

  73. Slim December 12th, 2017 6:42 pm


    When you call a boot a AT boot in your paper, you are talking about true AT boots, with rockered, full rubber soles right?
    I assume you did not test any boots with Gripwalk or WTR soles right?
    Since you note sole hardness as a significant factor in proper release and they have the hard part under the ball of the foot. But especially in front loaded twist, I could see the rubber lugs on the edge still grabbing onto something. And again, this wouldn’t show in a shop test (plain twist)

  74. Slim December 12th, 2017 6:50 pm

    @ See wrote: I’m not as concerned about whether the numbers match for alpine and touring boots, as this can be compensated for.”

    One of Jeff’s (scary)conclusions was that you can NOT compensate for the difference, adjusting binding settings did NOT change the release torque.
    Discussed on Page 61/62, illustrated in figure 2.6

  75. Slim December 12th, 2017 7:00 pm

    Jeff, it would be very interesting to see similar tests with the Tecton and Vipec bindings, altought the issues with dimension variations would remain.

  76. See December 12th, 2017 7:24 pm

    Slim, the finding that changing the release settings didn’t change the release torque is pretty interesting, but it leads me to suspect that there must have been some gross incompatibility like a sole lug hanging up on something. Making lugged rubber soles with rocker work with an alpine type binding seems like the biggest problem to me (based on my very limited experience), but I don’t understand why sliding afd’s aren’t a good solution. Jeff has done the tests, so I can’t argue that there is a problem, but (like I said before) it seems to me that making a tech boot with walkable soles work with an alpine style binding is not rocket science. If design and testing standards are inhibiting getting this done, that’s a problem.

  77. trollanski December 12th, 2017 7:40 pm

    The other variable that is very hard/impossible to quantitate will be skiing in pow versus hardpack. A release setting that I may use for 99% of my backcountry skiing on pow may not be adequate for hard pack loads. Think abt. it…in pow the pressure is under the ski, not at the edges. I need the release to happen in slow twisting falls late in the day in the funky stuff on a run out to save me from the scalpel…By the way, my vipec TOE RELEASE just saved my right knee yesterday in super low tide cond’s when I hit a rock. Hit/pressure was just forward of the toe, a classic example of needing to release from the toe….
    So yeah, I See the need for the designs Fritschi and Salomon are going with.

  78. Jeff December 12th, 2017 10:26 pm

    Slim, we undertook this study right before the WTR system came out, so the WTR and Gripwalk systems were not included in this study. I would suspect that WTR boots/bindings together, and Gripwalk boots/bindings together will certainly work better. There most certainly be compatibility issues with people mixing Gripwalk/WTR/AT/Alpine systems…

    As far as the tecton/vipec, those are a different animal. In Ch. 4-5 of my thesis, we looked at the differences in tech inserts on how traditional tech bindings release. Since the Vipec/Tecton operate via a different mechanism, they weren’t included in this study.

    I did recently present some data on how the Vipec and other certified tech bindings release in Walk Mode, and what the implications are for Avi safety (which is discussed eluded to in the video above). (page 110)

  79. Rols December 13th, 2017 1:33 am

    Great conversation. One of the good things about the design of the Vipec toe is the mechanism that allows the lateral movement of the front of the boot is provided by sliding surfaces contained within the design of the binding. This means the unavoidable friction that comes from the lateral movement, is between 2 surfaces or known geometry and frictional characteristics, making it possible to account for at the design stage.
    Its not really suprising that trying to get a quantifyable and repeatable release force that relies on widely variable geometry and material characteristics from different manufacturers (one being boot and one binding) is close to impossible.

  80. Rols December 13th, 2017 2:01 am

    Jeff, a question on the results on pg 110 (if you are willing to answer?). Which release value is the Vipec? I did a carpet test of the toe release in walk mode and it seemed pretty high, the pins scored the inserts quite a bit during release,which seems to be your observation also?.

  81. Slim December 14th, 2017 5:49 am

    Jeff, if I understand correctly, all tech bindings you tested, in.cuding the Vipec with toe release, had significant changes (due to socket or pin wear) in consecutive releases right?

    If the changes seem to stabilize after 6 release, it seems like it might be good practice to ‘bed in’ new boot/binding combos with at least six releases on the bench, before testing and setting for real use?

  82. Lou Dawson 2 December 14th, 2017 8:42 am

    It is indeed good practice to do multiple bench releases of any ski binding, doing so should be mandatory. Lou

  83. Jeff December 14th, 2017 9:59 am

    Slim, these 6 releases were performed with the bindings in walk mode (toe locked, heel disengaged). These produced significant changes to the toe insert that stabilized after 6 releases. This was done to illustrate the amount of torque applied to the leg during a release with the binding in walk mode (and the relative risk of breaking your leg if caught in a slide while in walk mode). In contrast, AT frame bindings till release appropriately in walk mode.

    I wouldn’t recommend bedding in your toes like this for 2 reasons:
    1. It will permanently deform your boot which will cause #2.
    2. This permanent deformation will significantly increase the risk of a pre-release of your tech binding (Vipec or any other) in ski mode. Now the binding pins don’t have to travel as far to release. Tech binding toes have a very limited ability to absorb energy, and this will only limit their ability further (you’re giving the binding less material to hold on to). The only way to counter inevitable the pre-release is to ski with your toe-locked out (which I don’t recommend). This will increase the risk of breaking your lower leg and has fatal implications if you’re caught in a slide with the toe locked out.

    In contrast, I believe Lou is recommending doing bench release tests in ski mode (toe unlocked, heel engaged). While your hand isn’t calibrated, it can certainly be a good sanity check.

  84. Jeff December 14th, 2017 10:18 am

    Rols, I need to dig back into that data to see which specifically was the Vipec. The take-home message is that all three tech bindings tested (are certified by the TUV) release at loads that have a 50% likelihood of breaking someone’s leg (i.e. grabbing a random person off the street).

    The Vipec and two other tech bindings all scored the boots as you’ve observed. The AT Frame bindings, released appropriately in walk mode.

    As that abstract mentions, the current AT binding standard (ISO 13992) states that release in walk mode is optional. This is a change we’ve been pushing for in the standard.

  85. Slim December 14th, 2017 10:41 am

    Ah, Yes, I forgot, this was in Walk Mode, which for most tech bindings means locked toes.

    It says all 3 tech released at ~200-300% of the frame bindings. That includes the Vipec right? So the even the Vipecs release in tour mode is still way higher than the desired release settings.

    Is that conclusion corrrect?

  86. Slim December 14th, 2017 10:42 am

    Sorry, I see you already answered above.

  87. Lou Dawson 2 December 14th, 2017 11:56 am

    Yes, the test releases I recommend be performed on bench are done in downhill mode without the toe being locked. Never intentionally release boot while toe is locked, you’re almost certain to damage something, as Jeff says. Lou

  88. Rols December 14th, 2017 10:38 pm

    Just been doing some crude testing of a boot only connected to the Vipec toe piece. If just torque is applied at the pin line ( no lateral force component at the toe piece) the release happens at the same (high) torque if the toe piece is set to walk or ski. The pin arms are blocked from opening unless there is lateral force at the toe to shift the carriage ( or if the boot hits the release bumper in ski mode) .
    This is counter to the normal behaviour of a classic dynafit style toe that (according to Lou’s inventive measurements, ) will realease in the 13-29N.m range for an unlocked toe and >90N.m when locked.
    This raises questions (that may be beyond the scope of this discussion but I’ll ask anyway) Jeff may be able confirm about ASTM F504. I assume the torque measurements from your testing for the tech binding toe in walk mode are the Mz values(around tibia axis) correct? Also the question of how/where lateral force is applied to the ski in an ASTM F504 test fixture.

    It seems that for the Vipec, that like in ski mode, the release in walk mode will be dependent on where along the ski the collective lateral force is applied.

    Not entirely sure of the implications of this for the Vipec but it does seem like a limitation of the design for “toe only” safety.

  89. Jeff December 15th, 2017 9:26 am


    Yes the torque values I report for the walk-mode release values are Mz (twisting torque about the long axis of the tibia). In walk mode, My (forward lean torque), doesn’t have much relevance.

    In the ASTM F504 standard, there are points defined where several combinations of loads can be applied. I won’t go into all of them but I’ll specify two that are relevant to the overall discussion here.
    First, the Mz torque your tibia will ‘feel’ is defined by this equation:

    Mz = F_front*L_front + F_rear*L_rear.


    F_front = the lateral load applied to the front of your ski

    F_rear = the lateral load applied to the rear of your ski

    L_front = the distance from the tibia axis at which lateral load is applied to the front of your ski

    L_rear = the distance from the tibia axis at which lateral load is applied to the front of your ski

    L_front and L_rear are measured from the point where the long axis of your tibia would intersect the ski.

    Now, relating these to the ASTM F504 test. Depending on the test, F_front and/or F_rear are applied until the binding releases.The metric used to evaluate the performance of the boot/binding system is the torque measured at the tibia.

    ASTM F504 Test 1.1: Pure Mz

    This is similar to the twist release test done in a shop and what was used to compare releast torque of bindings in walk mode in my study.

    F_front & F_rear are applied in equal and opposite in direction.
    L_front = +45cm
    L_rear = -45 cm.

    so the twisting torque the tibia feels is:

    Mz = F_front*L_front + F_rear*L_rear

    ASTM F504 Test 1.6: Twist with front preload

    This test is the one that AT boots in Alpine bindings have the hardest time with and which will brake most sliding AFDs. Many of the results in the video above reflect values from this test.

    The front of the ski is preloaded with a vertical load/rearward static load. This simulates a skier falling forward while twisting with all their weight down on the front of the toe piece (and loads up the AFD). Shop tests cannot replicate this preload.

    Then the following loads are applied:

    F_front @ L_front = +45cm.

    Since F_rear and L_rear = 0, the torque the tibia sees is:

    Mz = F_front*L_front

    In the case of AT boots + alpine bindings, F_front will be higher because of the higher friction between the AFD and rubber boot sole (higher preload).

    In contrast, ISO 9462/ISO 13992 apply:
    – A vertical preload only
    – Mz = F_front*L_front + F_rear*L_rear

    This may seem trivial but has significant implications for how the forward pressure plays into the release and can make a big difference.

    This is the load case where binding release settings have no influence on release torque (when you have AT boots + sliding AFD) and also why you can’t see this behavior in shop tests or bench tests at home.

    ASTM F504 Test 1.10: Twist with rear preload

    AT boots in Alpine bindings have a hard time with this as well.

    The tail of the ski ski is preloaded with a vertical load/forward static load. This is intended to simulate a skier falling backward while twisting with all their weight on the of the toe piece. Shop tests cannot replicate this preload either.

    Then the following loads are applied:

    F_rear @ L_rear = +45cm.

    Since F_front and L_front = 0, the torque the tibia sees is:
    Mz = F_rear*L_rear

    This test tends to show the largest ‘speed bump’ effect of tech inserts and the rollers in alpine AT/Frame bindings which will increase F_rear.

    Hope that adds some clarity.

  90. Rols December 16th, 2017 3:51 am

    Thanks for the detail Jeff, appreciated. You mention in ASTM F504 test 1.6 that AFDs often break. Do you think the axial and vertical preloads required in these ASTM tests are realistic in magnitude? I don’t know of excess AFD breakages in the field. Is ASTM F504 overly conservative?
    And a more general question.
    Is ASTM F504 relevant to the consumer, can I buy a binding with ASTM F504 certification or is it an aspirational standard that manufacturers don’t/can’t currently satisfy?

  91. Jeff December 16th, 2017 7:07 pm

    Rols, very astute questions.

    1. Are ASTM F504 preloads realistic?

    Yes. They are applied to produce 50-75% of the My (forward lean) release torque that the heel is set to. As part of my thesis, I actually measured the loads applied to the toe and heel pieces of bindings for skiers skiing on-off piste in AT and alpine bindings. My results (Ch 9-11) show that these preloads are well within the range of what is seen while skiing. The load components I measured during falls are more representative of Tests 1.6 and 1.10 in the ASTM F504 method than the ISO 9462 method.

    2. AFD breakages in the field.

    I have seen a few but not as many as we see in the lab, which is a good thing. To brake an AFD, the preload and twisting load have to be applied throughout the entirety of the fall. I’ll concede that most skiing falls are chaotic and dynamic enough that the likelihood of breaking an AFD in the field is low. I would also add that if a non-destructive standardized test method is able to brake the equipment under test, the equipment design is not sufficiently robust.

    3. Is ASTM F504 overly conservative?

    It’s more conservative, but not overly so. I believe it’s more fidelic and representative of skiing loads. There are certain load cases in the ISO 9462 method that are so optimized/sanitized, that they don’t represent loads that are possible to generate during skiing.

    4. Can you buy a binding certified to ASTM F504?

    No, Currently only the TUV certifies bindings, and they only certify to ISO 9462/13992.

    5. Is ASTM F504 an aspirational standard that manufacturers can’t currently satisfy?

    No. If you test an Alpine boot + Alpine binding using both ASTM F504 & ISO 9462, you will get identical results. Alpine systems can pass both ASTM F504 & ISO 9462.

    You will get different results if you test an AT system using ASTM F504 vs. ISO 9462. In our study we found one alpine binding did pass ASTM F504 with AT boots all AT boots we sampled; so it’s currently possible to achieve. Currently alpine systems can pass both ASTM/ISO tests but AT systems cannot. If one is to argue that the ASTM F504 method is overly conservative, you’re lowering the performance bar for AT systems.

    Certification implies the same level of risk to the consumer (Alpine or AT). If AT systems cannot pass the same series of tests that an Alpine system can, should they carry the same ‘certified’ mark?

    This should put the burden on the standards organizations to ensure that the test method represents accurately the conditions under which the equipment is to be used. Manufacturers should not be faulted for designing equipment to meet the relevant standards.

  92. See December 16th, 2017 7:56 pm
  93. Slim December 17th, 2017 10:56 am

    Tyrolia still has a version of that roller band in their modern alpine bindings. I had thought of that too.

  94. Jeff December 17th, 2017 12:59 pm

    See & Slim, yes that roller band/belt by Tyrolia AFD would certainly have more potential over traditional gilding AFDs that have a limited range of travel.

    The single binding in our study that performed well with AT boots had a static teflon AFD. Given the proper combination of other binding features a static AFD is also feasible.

  95. auvgeek December 17th, 2017 1:20 pm

    Interesting stuff, Jeff! Just read Ch3 of your thesis. Really too bad you weren’t able to send a few pairs of alpine boots to CAST Touring to get tech inserts installed. That would have allowed you to isolate the release inconsistencies from sole hardness vs tech inserts a bit better.

    It’s also too bad you weren’t able to test WTR boots in WTR bindings.

  96. zjh December 17th, 2017 1:24 pm

    Jeff, I just read your comment on the SHIFT:

    “The SHIFT binding certainly is unique and has some very exciting design qualities. There are some features (gliding AFD) that I don’t believe will help it do well with AT boots. I’m sure WTR and Alpine soles would be fine. Either way I applaud their efforts in pushing designs forward.”

    What makes you convinced a WTR sole will release as well as an alpine sole?

    (Sorry for the double comment)

  97. Rols December 17th, 2017 2:36 pm

    So if ISO 13992 is recognised by the industry as carrying the “regulatory burden” for ensuring adequate function of ski touring bindings, why is it falling short of providing testing parameters that realistically represent load scenarios and magnitudes generated during skiing? It seems like there is enough evidence from enough sources to update the required testing loads and release modes (I’m thinking about the ability of a binding to reduce ACL injury rates, not just lower leg injury as seems to be the focus of the current standards).
    Is it just the slow pace of bureaucracy or that the technical committee developing the standard is effected by historical, technical or commercial bias? I can easily imagine that companies who are currently manufacturing touring bindings (that satisfy the current ISO13992 standard) as a commercially profitable product may be reluctant to adopt a more complex testing regime. It would a significant R&D investment form a company to develop what would likely need to be a completely new binding architecture.
    I’m guessing that there would need to be a “sunset clause” in say 3? years time, after which all bindings would need to comply with the new standard. As with anything like this, it would be a bold and likely controversial move by ISO.
    Or is it a classic chicken and egg scenario, where the standard won’t change until product technology changes and the manufacturers won’t improve designs until the standards change? Someone needs to make a move 😉

  98. zjh December 17th, 2017 2:40 pm

    How does the new MNC designation come into play? Were some of the bindings that failed your test MNC?

  99. Lou Dawson 2 December 17th, 2017 4:02 pm

    My understanding is that revising standards such as 13992 is like successfully achieving an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. 13992 been quite lame for a long time, but improvements will be slow, and some improvements may not be improvements. Bear in mind one thing: Engineers have told me numerous times that it’s impossible to create a test that exactly matches something complex in real-life, such as an injurious fall while skiing. I caution everyone to be careful of these numbers, designations and certifications. They’re fun to play around with but are not the end-all. The main things with ski bindings is that they don’t break and have near zero chance of accidental release when used as designed. Those two things can be easily ascertained from anecdotal use in the “consumer testing” venue we all are victims of. As for preventing bone and soft tissue injuries, much more difficult to figure how much better one thing is than the other, and certification to 13992 doesn’t help much, nor will any other standard going forward. Lou

  100. Lou Dawson 2 December 17th, 2017 4:04 pm

    For those of you wondering what the heck we’re talking about:

  101. Rols December 17th, 2017 4:40 pm

    Lou, I think your view might be jaded 😉 . Given that many consumers are likely have low literacy in applied physics and no access to testing facilities surely it is not unreasonable consumers to expect that experts in the field are able to contribute such that the relevent standard represents current “best practice” knowledge. It seems dissapointing from a consumer perspective that organisational politics (if indeed that is the problem) gets in the way of this.

  102. Lou Dawson 2 December 17th, 2017 5:14 pm

    Sadly, the relevant standard does not represent “best practice” it’s actually the minimum… I’d imagine it’s that way with a lot of standards. Ski helmets come to mind.

  103. Rols December 17th, 2017 6:06 pm


  104. See December 17th, 2017 7:13 pm

    “(Durability and reliable retention) can be easily ascertained from anecdotal use in the “consumer testing” venue.” Maybe for someone as connected as yourself, Lou (although frankly I doubt it), but I suspect that most regular consumers are way less likely to learn about problems with new model bindings unless/until their bindings or one of their friend’s malfunctions. I fear that most shop personnel (and even some “journalists” and bloggers) might be reluctant to perpetuate rumors— anecdotal evidence— about bindings breaking or prereleasing. Furthermore, I think “safety” release is also important, especially for the vast majority of skiers who lack your skill and experience because they fall a lot more. In my opinion, research (epidemiological, mechanical, etc.), testing and standards are very important to the health of skiers and ultimately of the ski business. My toque is off to Jeff and others engaged in this important work.

  105. Slim December 18th, 2017 6:48 am

    Auvgeek, he did test for tech inserts isolated, they had two boots in a version both with and without inserts, it’s in his comments somewhere above.

  106. Slim December 18th, 2017 7:03 am

    Re. MNC bindings:
    See the comments above and read the paper. From that you will see learn that the test were done before MNC came out, however it doesn’t matter.

    All that MNC (or similar types from other brands) do is have a feature to adjust toe height, and usually a sliding AFD. AT frame bindings have that as well, and several of those were tested.

    More importantly, one of the important conclusions from the paper was that proper fit(ie proper downward pressure in the AFD) does not correlate to proper function.
    Adjustable fit is the only way MNC Style bindings differ from standard alpine bindings.

  107. Rols December 20th, 2017 11:30 pm

    Jeff, I just spent some time reading your paper, great stuff. Your discussion on the absence of correlation of lateral force at the binding heel to ACL injury ( section 11.4 ) raised a question for me about the role of tech binding heels in reducing knee injury. There are somtimes anecdotal claims of laterally releasing tech heels being better at reducing knee ligament injury than a lateral toe release, what are your thoughts on this?

  108. Pablo January 4th, 2018 10:12 am

    Jeff, thanks for all that explanations above, very interesting.

    I have a question, How do snow/water presence influence in all that?

    As a present lubricant during skiing, does all that testing recreate it presence?

    As everybody know, grip it’s not the same when water/snow/ice is present.

    Can water/snow presence make the difference between test AFD breakages Vs real field AFD breakage??

    Pablo, from Spain
    (apologies for my bad english)

  109. AAG January 10th, 2018 10:41 am

    Wow, another treasure of a comment thread discovered. I have to admit that I got a bit lost 2/3’s of the way through, and was hoping to dumb the discussion down a little bit for purposes of practical application.

    What is the solution for a skier that would like to have the convenience of one set of ski boots for all sorts of reasons (cost, break-in, familiarity, travel)? Until reading this post and thread I had hoped that mounting a pair of MNC or SoleID bindings to the carving skis would effectively all me to safely use a pair ‘crossover touring’ boots (ISO 9523). However reading this makes me question this.

    I guess what I am wondering, is it safe to assume that one can use an ISO 9523 boot with an alpine style binding that is advertised as being compatible with this norm: MNC or SoleID. I accept that WRT, and Dual WTR are not advertised as being 9523 compliant but rather ISO 5355.

    Real world application, I currently have Tecnica Zero G boots, which are (ISO 9523) which according to their website are not WTR compliant. They, do offer a DIN sole kit, which may make sense to invest in, although they advertise it as being ISO 9642 compliant which just adds to my frustration.

    Well, sorry for the obtuse question, but thought I would ask the experts.

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