Salomon 2017-2018 Touring Skis and Binding Review


Post by WildSnow.com blogger | June 7, 2017      
Salomon (Atomic) Mountain Brake, new this year, is the best we've seen. We have little appreciation of brakes that require rotating the heel unit and playing around with systems of catches that often function with mixed success, why not simply divorce the brake from the binding?

Salomon (Atomic) Mountain Brake, new this year, is one of the best we’ve seen. We have little appreciation of brakes that require rotating the heel unit and playing around with systems of catches that often function with mixed success, why not simply divorce the brake from the binding and be done with it?

Salomon, the venerable French outdoor sports conglomerate, began in 1947 as a small family run manufacturer. Long since, they’ve expanded into all aspects of skiing as well as a multitude of outdoor and mountain sports. It should come as no surprise that their early forays into AT continue to accelerate. I have had the good fortune to try some current and future products

Lou has already expounded on some of these offerings such as the Salomon Mountain (Atomic Backland) tech binding. I can only reiterate all of the accolades he bestowed. The phrase “elegantly simple” keeps popping into my head. Nothing left out and nothing extraneous. Clean, basic, solid and highly functional all rolled into a 295 gram package (without brakes, 390 grams with brakes).

His Blogness is so excited about the Salomon (Atomic) ski brakes I am beginning to worry about him. I can see why that is, as the brake’s independent function from the rest of the binding is as easy as flipping a simple lever.

Back to binding functions, equally easy is turning the heel housing in either direction to go from ski to walk mode as well as flipping the climbing aids (heel lifters) with your pole.

Another nice feature is the 30mm range of adjustment available on the binding heel track. Own more than one pair of boots, as many of us do for different applications? No problem. Buying new boots next year but dread the thought of a remount on those new skis from last year? Don’t worry, you have options.

Also welcome is the binding’s wide screw pattern which I believe lends itself to driving bigger skis. I found the Salomon tech toe to be as solid and easy to get into as anything currently on the market. Just slide your boot up against the front bumper and step in. (Boot locator bumpers on tech binding toes can be an acquired taste. They do often help with entry, especially for novices. But if your boot toe is icy or muddy they can make clicking in more difficult. This binding is no exception.) To check out the screw pattern up close and personal, template here.

Where do I place the Salomon Mountain ski touring binding on the spectrum? It is not a bare bones, stripped down to the minimum skimo race binding. Nor is it an over burdened, over engineered model with unnecessary features attempting to solve problems that don’t exist. It is everything you need in a high performance touring binding and nothing more.

X-Alp ski.

X-Alp ski.

Another noteworthy addition to the Salomon line up for next season is the S Lab X-Alp ski. Lou also reviewed this plank after his Salomon press junket last winter. Many people are referring to this as the “Kilian Jornet model” as apparently his input was integral to its design. Put simply, this is a niche ski that fills many niches. (See end of post for information about Salomon’s “S Lab.”

The X-Alp ski utilizes Salomon’s now familiar carbon/flax core pared down to 980 gram in a 164cm length. With its 79mm waist, rockered tip and 17mm turn radius, it offers a versatile alternative to the full blown ski mountaineering race ski you may be tempted to press into service as a touring ski. Nonetheless, this is totally appropriate as a citizen’s skimo race ski — or the tool for those hut trips when socializing in higher on the agenda than the skiing. (Promise, I’ve never ever done a hut trip like that, but I’ve heard they exist.)

“Lightweight” types of use aside, X-Alp skis surprisingly well for such a light and narrow plank. Thus, the aspiring Kilian who is looking to go fast and light need look no farther for a ski that can handle most anything they may encounter along the way.

I skied the X-Alp for uphill fitness and backcountry corn runs. It likes to be tipped up on edge and performs best that way. On edge they carve well and carry more speed than their length would predict. They are fun, easy to ski and highly responsive to modern technique. That said, at 164cm I encountered a decided speed limit as well as a tendency to chatter on boilerplate snow. A longer length wouldn’t be much heavier and probably would have skied better for me.

In summary, X-Alp is not a one ski quiver but it is a nice tool to have in the tool chest. Give it a ride, feel like you are flying through the mountains.

Update: I recently took the X-Alp out on a full blown tour. As expected they were stunning on the up and in particular the slightly shorter length of my testers made uphill kick turns seem like ballroom dancing. Conditions were variable but the X-Alp proved highly forgiving despite their relatively narrow footprint. As previously mentioned, they do have a speed limit — they are not a freeride oriented ski by any stretch of the imagination. They do chatter on hard snow and I would not want to rely on them in a steep, narrow, icy couloir. Mainly, I verified that the X-Alp is more fun and higher performance than one would expect of something this skinny.

Salomon QST is the real deal.

Salomon QST is the real deal.

On the opposite end of the Salomon ski spectrum is the QST 106. The new QST series (92,99,106,118) has proven quite popular for Salomon as a mainstream alpine ski as well as a freeride oriented AT ski. The QST utilizes a carbon/flax laminate, full wood core,a titanium plate underfoot for increased torsion and a koroyd core tip and tail for lighter swing weight and dampening. At approx. 3700 grams a pair these are not for the faint of thighs, though pairing them with lighter weight tech bindings does make the weight reasonable for what you get on the down.

I found the QST 106 to be one of the smoothest and most damps skis I have been on in recent memory. This also translated into a very predictable experience. Some might say this sounds like a preamble to dull and boring — that is not the case. In fact, it is these characteristics that allow one to push the QST and have confidence knowing it will be right there along for the ride. The geometry and soft flex allowed for very easy entry into the turn, regardless of speed or turn shape.

My very first turns on the 106 were slow and round as I dropped off a ridge, not sure if the snow was wind affected or how the skis would react. Realizing it was all pow and the skis were doing exactly what I wanted, it was time to increase the speed and turn radius. Three thousand vertical feet lower down, on the apron, I was able to go silly fast sweeping long arcs or playing slalom racer with the sparse, little trees that were the only survivors of repeated avalanches. The runout in this area is a series of ramps and gullies that require tight, shorter turns. Considering the wide open ride I’d just experienced, I was surprised at how agile the QST was in this tighter situation.

Interestingly, at the resort I did find the ultra damp feel of the QST to be a little sluggish when trying to drive the ski as hard as possible or on firmer snow. As is mentioned often here on WildSnow, sometimes resort skiing simply is not ski touring, and a ski that’s excellent in the backcountry may not be ideal for lift-served piste. I found that to be the case, though if required you could indeed travel the world with this plank as a quiver of one.

The ultimate statement about the QST comes from one of my close friends and frequent skiing partners at home and in travels around the globe. One of the best skiers I have ever known or witnessed, for decades he has been in search of AT touring gear that will stand up to his demands. Ski after ski, boot after boot and binding after binding has come back bent, broken or defeated resulting in another deflating experience… Finally, with the QST (99 in his case), he has found a ski that stands up to his performance demands and durability requirements. As he put it recently, “I don’t mind carrying a little extra weight knowing that I have a ski that does what I am looking for.”

Nuff said! All in all, I look forward to the continuing involvement and evolution of Salomon in the world of AT.

Skis such as X-Alp are designed in Annecy, France at the Salomon S-Lab design center. Below, check out Salomon’s “official” explanation of the S-Lab philosophy.



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Comments

24 Responses to “Salomon 2017-2018 Touring Skis and Binding Review”

  1. See June 7th, 2017 10:16 am

    “It is not … an over burdened, over engineered model with unnecessary features attempting to solve problems that don’t exist.” So there’s no problem skiing firm, steep conditions with the toes in ski mode?

  2. DJ June 7th, 2017 12:00 pm

    How is the heel release tension adjusted, assuming it can be? Swap U-shaped spring? If so, how many spring options and what are approx. DINs?

  3. Lou Dawson 2 June 7th, 2017 12:41 pm

    DJ, you swap the springs, the binding comes with 3 pair of springs (I recall):

    This from the previous review linked above:

    “Our group of North American gear testers found it quite funny that Salomon is calling their choices in brake spring tension options as “Man, Woman, Expert.” We’ll leave the 57 different gender (see #58 below) riffs you can do on that verbiage up to your imagination. It had to be mentioned or I’m not a blogger.”

    As with all classic tech bindings, the release value varies depending on the heel gap which in turn changes as the ski is flexed. That, as well as Salomon-Atomic not wanting to put numbers on a non DIN certified binding, means asking for approximate DIN values is difficult to answer. Here is my take, compared to release values commonly called “DIN”:

    Expert, around 13
    Man, around 8
    Woman, around 6

    #58: I’m not a man, or a woman, I’m an expert!

    We do have a FAQ for the Mountain-Backland binding, I’ll flesh that out with some ideas about release values. That’s here:
    https://www.wildsnow.com/bindings/atomic-salomon-backland-mtn-binding/

    Lou

  4. Lou Dawson 2 June 7th, 2017 12:52 pm

    See, if the problem doesn’t exist, for a given skier, then a binding that attempts to solve the problem is not necessary. If the problem exists, and the binding solves the problem, then great. There are many many skiers who nearly always, or always, use classic tech bindings without locking the toes in downhill mode, this especially true of later bindings with stronger toe wing springs. For them, a problem pretty much does not exist. This Mountain-Backland binding has strong springs and I’d guess most skiers can use it without locking. On steep hard snow where falling is not an option, if any binding can be locked it probably should be locked, or if it’s an alpine like binding, DIN should be dialed way up.

    There is an element of humor to this. I’ve had numerous freeride skiers, usually sponsored, rave to me about how their bindings have such good retention, they say “I never come out!” I then ask them what release value they’re skiing with. The answer is usually “I bury the adjustment screw.” Most skiers, with any binding set to around 12 or above, are not going to have a problem with accidental release — though they may be doing sheet time when their knees get ripped up…

    Lou

  5. Rudi June 7th, 2017 12:56 pm

    I really like the swap spring idea. It cuts complexity down by orders of magnitude while retaining the ability for the binding to work with different weights and skier types. I would think finer resolution on DIN than 6,8,13 is probably somewhat dubious as well. I could see myself skiing the “Man” spring for mid winter pow and then swapping over to expert for more serious terrain in the spring. Great work Salomon/Atomic look forward to mounting these next year.

  6. Lou Dawson 2 June 7th, 2017 3:08 pm

    Rudi, I like the swap springs as well, when they simplify to the extent that these do, by the spring controlling both horizontal and vertical release. That said, it’s nice to be able to adjust horizontal and vertical independent, as with Barthe’s original binding, which had a U spring for upward but another spring for horizontal, similar to most of today’s tech bindings.

    I’d like to see one more spring in the mix.

    Lou

  7. See June 7th, 2017 5:44 pm

    Understood, Lou. I guess the reason I’m so obsessed with this question is that my first pair of tech bindings seemed to work great until you happened to take them on the right combination snow texture and pitch, and then they pretty consistently prereleased. Now that I’m getting on in years, I don’t feel like locking the toes on anything but the most serious lines, but I also don’t want to find out about the retention characteristics of my bindings by trial and error. If freeride bindings don’t work any better than light touring bindings, then fine— I don’t want to haul around any more weight than I have to. But if freeride bindings really do perform as well as the marketing hype claims compared to more minimal touring bindings, then I’m happy to deal with extra weight for superior performance and peace of mind.

  8. XXX_er June 7th, 2017 9:42 pm

    regarding the fixed spring thing I supose I should be happy they sell the binding with extra springs for people to lose but I need to be able to dial in one DIN like setting more verticaly than laterally, which this binding doesn’t support

    Salomon wants alot of money for a binding that really does less than a speed turn that Dynafit is selling for hundreds less

    SO I don’t get it and I wouldn’t buying it

  9. Lou Dawson 2 June 8th, 2017 6:04 am

    See, as you probably noticed there is a lack of meaningful standardized testing of many if not all touring bindings, including those marketed as “freeride.” I think most bindings are pretty good, but it’s very very difficult to ascertain which, if any, of the bindings actually provide significant improvement in retention. Again, I talk to guys all the time about this, they’ll rave about how they “never come out” of their “xxxxx freeride binding.” I then ask if they ski it at chart settings or just bury the adjustment screws. I’ve not had one of those guys tell me they ski the binding at chart settings and never lock it. Thus, all the anecdotal “evidence” is meaningless. On the other hand, due to my own testing and experience I can infer a few things. Main one is that virtually any tech binding that has stronger toe wing springs is better (most if not all current bindings have stronger springs). Second to that, it’s abundantly clear that any binding that releases to the side at the heel is making a perhaps somewhat compromised effort to provide release and retention that battles with normal skiing forces, in that case the side pressure at the heel.

    That’s not saying that folks shouldn’t use bindings that release to the side at the heel (let’s call these “classic tech bindings”), just that one needs to be aware of this. Literally millions of skiers are entirely successful with the classic bindings, with many if not most skiing _without_ locking the toe on the downhill, using reasonable settings based on DIN chart.

    But in the end, as happened with alpine bindings, the touring binding that is solid at the heel is probably going to be the one with the best balance between release and retention, which means bindings such as Vipec and Trab TR.

    Beyond stronger toe springs and beyond Fritschi and Trab, some of the solutions out there make a certain amount of sense, but for many skiers who are already successful with classic tech bindings, they end up being solutions without a problem.

    In your specific case, if you find a binding that works for you, by all means that’s the right one! Indeed, a few extra grams for that binding is a non issue. Unfortunately, circling back to my other points, even the DIN standards for touring bindings are so meager and misguided (in my opinion) as to be nearly meaningless to real life binding use, leaving us with trial and error — as well as the need to be aware that perhaps you’re not on a binding as forgiving as the best alpine bindings, and thus the need to adjust your style and technique accordingly.

  10. Lou Dawson 2 June 8th, 2017 6:15 am

    Xer, I also usually dial up my vertical release about 1 number above my lateral, with classic tech bindings, and thus totally understand your point. But, I’ve found I have less need for this since the heel pins became longer (starting many years ago). I also believe this type of tweaking of release values becomes more necessary with bigger stiffer boots, and I usually don’t ski those types of boots. So I’ve had success using these “U spring” bindings.

    But, I most certainly still like bindings that I can fully adjust!

    If you forced me to only use one tech binding, I’m not sure what I’d pick… first consideration would be I’d want something without history of breakage or malfunction, then I’d probably go with lighter weight. I don’t ski aggressively enough to need “freeride” type options. If it was a U-spring binding, I’d want the release value to be close to what I’m comfortable with, around 7 or 8, no higher.

    Lou

  11. See June 8th, 2017 7:34 am

    The thing about burying the adjustment screws (and correct me if I’m wrong, please) is that doing so doesn’t drastically change retention at the toe piece itself. So, while anecdotal evidence has to be taken with at least a few grains of salt (like, did the guys raving about their freeride bindings get them for free from one of their sponsors?), if hard core skiers aren’t prereleasing with toes unlocked, that is good news.

    I get how stronger toe springs should improve retention at the toe piece (which was where my early tech binding prereleases occurred, I’m pretty sure), but I suspect that the geometry (deeper “V”) of the Ion toes also helps. I have a bit less confidence in the 6 pack and the turntable. And I’ve got some black Vipec’s sitting on a shelf for next season.

    Thanks, as always, for the excellent information and interesting perspectives.

  12. XXX_er June 8th, 2017 8:04 am

    I will some times ski vert st’s at the hill depending on the ski I wana use, I only dial up a DIN (like) 7 or 8 which is hardly freeride and I have never found a need to lock the toes as long as I clear the pin holes EVERY time I get in the binding

    But the ability to adjust the binding is just not negotiable cuz I need one more vertical than lateral on ANY binding i use with a vibram sole AT boot

  13. Bob Perlmutter June 8th, 2017 9:57 am

    Hi All, thanks for your comments. For what it’s worth, in my almost 40yrs of AT skiing, I can’t recall a single pre release regardless of type of tech binding. I never locked the toe of the Salomon binding but never skied anything where I felt the need. Certainly, in extreme terrain, I would lock the toe of the Salomon just as I have with many bindings in the past. Call it habit or self preservation but not a reflection on the binding itself. On one tour with the Salomon bindings, my partner was a big guy and former Europa Cup racer. He didn’t lock his toes either. Like I said, the Salomon is simple and solid, just the way I like it.

  14. Dan June 8th, 2017 11:01 am

    It sounds like the 106 would make a good one ski quiver.

    How do you think it would handle the heavier snow in the PNW?

  15. Bob Perlmutter June 8th, 2017 5:21 pm

    Hi Dan, I think either the QST 99 or 106 would make a great one ski quiver. Given rumors of the abundance and density of PNW snow(I’ve never skked there), the 106 could be just the call.

  16. See June 8th, 2017 8:01 pm

    I’ve skied Verticals/Comforts for about 15 years with very few problems. My prerelease issues could have been due to operator error but I think, as the song says, “I could be wrong, but I’m not.” It’s my belief that the tech toe can let go when skied on certain, very particular, firm snow conditions. But I still use my Verticals, and those MTN/Backlands look excellent. I’d just lock the toes once in a blue moon.

  17. atfred June 9th, 2017 8:21 am

    +1 on vertical/comforts – great bindings, solid, never a problem; wish they still made them.

  18. swissiphic June 9th, 2017 5:51 pm

    +3 for vertical/comforts. ski ’em inbounds, ski ’em hard, ski ’em with toes unlocked. Careful with ensuring toe pin holes are meticulously clean and only had a few pre releases bombing down hard chattery ice over the dozen or so years i’ve owned them.

  19. See June 9th, 2017 7:39 pm

    The main point I’m trying to make is that most bindings probably work ok if people know what to expect and how to use them. The ideal would be a light bindings that one could dial in the rv and ski without worrying about locking the toes, prerelease, failure to release, durability, brake function, etc.. The reality, as I see it, is every binding has its quirks. People really need to know how their particular equipment works so they can get the most out of it and minimize unpleasantness. When there were only a few AT bindings on the market, this was less complicated than it is today.

  20. Lou Dawson 2 June 10th, 2017 7:05 am

    The same could be said for alpine bindings. They’re far from perfect. People still get hurt (a friend of ours recently experienced that) or perhaps even killed due to accidental release. If alpine bindings had a release lockout, you can bet there are skiers who would use it. Lou

  21. See June 10th, 2017 7:51 am

    I agree alpine bindings aren’t perfect (and I’ve got the MRI’s to prove it), but I think they’re better than AT bindings. It’s easier to make an effective binding if you aren’t so constrained by weight considerations and the need for climbing mode.

  22. Lou Dawson 2 June 10th, 2017 8:34 am

    Agree… but, it’s my understanding that a classic tech binding set at chart settings actually might protect better against certain types of knee injuries. So the case isn’t clear cut… Lou

  23. See June 10th, 2017 8:44 am

    Yup, I sprained acl/mcl when my top of the line alpine bindings failed to release (but I was not skiing particularly well at the time). Also agree about lockout being a useful feature for certain situations.

  24. Ted D September 18th, 2017 5:02 pm

    If you use the model with brakes, can they be easily removed if one wants to go lighter. Say for a big day, then put back on for smaller days.





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  • Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information & opinion website. Lou's passion for the past 50 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about ski touring and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free ski touring news and information here.

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