Your First Ski Touring Bindings — 10 (extended) Tips

Post by blogger | August 14, 2017      

(This post sponsored by our publishing partner Cripple Creek Backcountry.)

Check out Part 2 of this series, where we focus on the “hybrid” ski touring bindings with alpine-like heels. Also see an earlier 10 hints and tips.

(We list a variety of bindings here, by intention we limited our selection to what we feel is best considered by newcomers to the sport; considering factors such as availability, standardization, not a first year product, and more. Suggestions welcome. This is a sponsored post with affiliate links, please see bottom of post for details.)

I was over at Cripple Creek Backcountry the other day (our local shop and publishing partner who this post was sponsored by), got into a conversation about the huge number of never-ever ski tourers taking up the sport. Seems a lack of basic knowledge plagues the newcomers — despite Google.

My theory: Ski touring is simply too complicated, with too many opinions, to be cut and dried. (Perhaps that’s why we blog?) No different from a lot of other things. Bicycle shopping? Figuring out your daily supplements and vitamins? Take your pick. We have quite a bit of “foundation” content here, but considering how rapidly we see the gear changing, getting a new basic how-to up every season or so seems worthwhile.

Salomon Guardian frame binding latched down for skiing downhill.

Salomon Guardian frame binding latched down for skiing downhill. Note how the toe and heel units are mounted on a “frame” or “plate.” Click to enlarge.

1. Know the difference between a “frame” binding and “tech” binding. The frame binding carries the binding’s toe and heel units on a frame (a.k.a., plate), the frame in turn has a front pivot that provides walking action. You unlatch the frame for walking, latch it down for making ski turns.

Tech bindings, often called “Dynafit” or “Low Tech” (after foundational brands of the industry,) substitute the boot for the binding frame. This little engineering tweak (eliminating binding frame) revolutionized ski touring by not only making bindings significantly lighter in weight, but by making it unnecessary to lift the weight of the binding heel unit during each stride.

Further, tech bindings generally have a toe pivot point closer to your foot than that of frame bindings, this helps with walking stride ergonomics. While frame bindings may appear “safer” or “stronger” than tech bindings, in my view there is no functional difference in safety or durability in either overall category. (Assuming all bindings are properly adjusted and used.)

Complete 1993 Dynafit Tourlite Tech backcountry skiing binding shown above. The pink and purple color scheme is typical of late 1980s and early 1990s style.

Complete 1993 Dynafit Tourlite Tech backcountry skiing binding shown above. The pink and purple color scheme is typical of late 1980s and early 1990s style. Note how the boot is suspended between the toe and heel units. This design philosophy is the foundation of all modern tech bindings.

See our ski touring glossary for lots of terminology — might as well start developing your ski touring language skills.

Current model Dynafit Radical 2.0 is a good example of a 'free touring' class 'tech' touring binding.

Current model Dynafit Radical 2.0 is a good example of a ‘free touring’ class ‘tech’ touring binding. “Gold” version shown here, most are black on black.

2. If you’re looking for a tech binding rig you can ski both on the resort, and backcountry, best stick with the “free touring” (our preferred term) or “freeride” class of bindings. Or perhaps a “frame” binding (see # 1 above).

Free-touring bindings are cleverly designed with cosmetics or additional parts that may appear more substantial than lighter weight binding versions, but in reality their two main distinguishing features are a:) they always boast ski brakes, and b:) some means whereby the binding absorbs ski flex with a spring loaded mechanism that allows the heel unit to move forward and back on a track.

A few free-touring tech bindings also offer additional upward heel elasticity (part of the release-retention system), valid if you ski aggressively but not a deal maker or breaker for most of us. We’ve done quite a bit of writing about these issues, for edification see How Elastic is the Plastic? and this post with a good video showing how the binding and ski flex interract.

Examples of free-touring bindings:

G3 ION 10 & 12
Dynafit Radical 2.0
Marker Kingpin
Fritschi Vipec Black

Marker Kingpin boasts more heel upward travel, toe unit is virtually the same as most other tech bindings.

Marker Kingpin boasts more heel upward travel in the release-retention mechanism you depend on while downhill skiing, toe unit is virtually the same as most other tech bindings. We call this a “hybrid tech binding” as it uses the tech type toe but an alpine-like heel. New this season Fritschi Tecton is also a hybrid.

(Scolding prevention: Yes Virginia, some free touring bindings (notably Marker Kingpin) allow for significantly more vertical heel travel in the retention-release mechanism than most tech bindings. This only affects binding performance in downhill mode. Depending on your style of downhill skiing, this can be quite beneficial (for the hard charger) — or a non issue. My view is nobody, no one, not anybody, should ski a tech bindings as aggressively and carefree as they would an alpine binding. Learn to dial it back a little bit, minimize falling, and be aware of the consequences of an accidental release, i.e., getting pitched into trees at high speed, or getting launched down steep terrain. This dire take is changing with the rapid pace of binding innovation — but I’m telling it like it is, not living in the future.)

MTN binding is quite similar to Atomic Backland we covered last year.

Salomon MTN binding (also Atomic Backland) exemplifies a modern ski touring binding. Brake is optional and works well if you prefer.

3. Know that any free-touring binding can tour, but touring bindings without brakes and built to be lighter are not free-touring bindings.

If you expect all, or nearly all your use will be for muscle powered ski touring, trend to the “true” touring bindings. Some of these have optional brakes, many have no available brake. Some touring bindings do have mechanical ski curve compensation, while others depend on the rear “pins” sliding in and out of your boot heel fitting. In our experience, most users find that a properly adjusted binding of either type works fine for human powered touring, albeit with the free-touring oriented bindings often being noticeably heavier.

Caveat: If you fall and trigger a binding release more than a few times a year, or are simply more comfortable with ski brakes, by all means purchase bindings with brakes. Going “brakeless” isn’t for everyone — on or off the resort slopes.

    Examples of “true” touring bindings we recommend:

    Atomic/Salomon Backland/MTN (Has what in our opinion is the most well designed ski brake on a tech binding, brake is optional).

    G3 ION LT (A solid North American product we have on a lot of our test skis, though it has indeed had a warranty issue.)

    Dynafit TLT Speed Radical (It’s been through some trials, be sure to buy lastest version as detailed here. Note, while we feel Radical 2.0 model is appropriate for experienced free-touring skiers, it has a rotating toe that’s problematic for inexperienced users. Latest model of this series, Rotation 10, is easier to use but new this season.)

    Hagan Core (This rebadged ATK Raider 12 2.0 is clearly an expensive but very nice touring binding that’s also said to double for free-touring. Available brake is minimally effective though cleverly designed.)

4. Enjoy your baseball stats, but don’t get caught in the ski binding numbers hype. In almost every case, the “12” or “13” versions of bindings are virtually the same thing as the “10” versions. They’re often no beefier. Any mechanical differences are trivial. They won’t make you ski better. Only difference being that larger or more aggressive skiers can indeed dial up more release-retention force with the higher numbered version.

You’re immediately thinking: “That’s me!, I’m aggressive, see that number on my bindings?”

Avoid mental shenanigans. Nearly every ski tourer out there will be fine at settings based on standard “DIN” charts, meaning even if you need a few “notches” over chart settings a “10” binding will do you fine. If you’re the exception, you know who you are and you probably don’t need these shopping tips.

To avoid accusations of bias, this is our standard photo of a broken tech binding.

To avoid accusations of bias, this is our standard photo of a broken tech binding.

5. Avoid first-year tech bindings. It pains me to write this. I like new gadgetry as much as the next guy. But the history of tech bindings shows what I feel is an inordinate number of defective products that don’t become known until they’ve been in “consumer” testing for a season (or more). So buy what’s been around for a season or two. The prices might be better anyway. (Now you know why I use a 3-year-old smartphone — and you might even find me on 25-year-old bindings.)

6. Buy your bindings from a reputable retailer who obviously services the ski touring market. If possible, get your bindings mounted there as well. But trust no one. Upon first receiving your mounted bindings, immediately snap your boots into the toes and make sure the boot heel fitting falls centered on the heel pins. Also inspect the binding base plates — they should be snug to the ski. An on-the-bench function test should be performed as well, with your boots, and after that do a “carpet test” involving you in your boots, entering and exiting the bindings on the floor.

Backcountry travelers gather at Cripple Creek Backcountry to discuss the psychologies of avalanche awareness.

Backcountry travelers gather at Cripple Creek Backcountry to discuss the psychologies of avalanche awareness. Good brick-and-mortar retailers often do community outreach.

Retailing these days is constantly morphing. On the one side, you have your “online, straight to checkout” model, Amazon being somewhat the epitome. In between, has online chat help and reasonable product information. Either can work when you’re certain of your shopping goals. However, your service oriented retailer — with brick-and-mortar as well as an online presence can often be your best bet if, as the blog title says, this is your first. Truthfully, there are not a lot of great great ski shops that carry touring gear. This blog post has an ongoing list of such, and our partner as well as sponsor of this blog post, Cripple Creek Backcountry, is doing a fine job of one-on-one sales style that’s particularly suited to the newcomer.

7. Following along #6, it’s mandatory you learn how to check and if necessary adjust your binding “heel tech gap” and your release-retention settings. Tech gap requires various methods and settings by brand and model, we have lots of how-to posts here at WildSnow, and most bindings have some sort of manual that describes the procedure. As for retention settings, most users begin with whatever they’ve used in the past. That’s fine, but there is no guarantee, including certifications that the numbers printed on a given binding actually match the numbers printed on your other bindings (in terms of actual spring tension). Scary, eh? Solution is to proceed with caution (do your first skiing in forgiving terrain), and dial you settings up a bit if you do tend to ski out of the binding. While not common, if your ski shop actually has a binding tension testing machine it doesn’t hurt to work with real-life numbers.

See our 10 tips to prevent tech binding accidental release.

8. But, and it’s a big BUT, if you do ski out of a binding, before fooling around with your release settings be sure you have a good guess as to why you took your (hopefully) brief flight. Many accidental tech binding releases are caused by icy or dirty boot toe sockets, or ice under the toe wings that doesn’t allow them to close completely on your boot. Mis-adjusted heel gap can cause “pre release” as well. Worth scolding that if you’re just cranking up your release value setting without knowing truly “why” you could just be setting yourself up for a broken leg or destroyed knee.

9. Don’t assume your bindings are ready to go every time you extract your skis from your rooftop box. Referencing what I wrote above, inspect your bindings often for impending breakage or missing parts. Past lessons: Brake “pedal” plates that go AWOL, screws in the heel unit that begin to back out, cracks in toe unit frame (super dangerous), broken heel lifters, and more possible nightmares too numerous to list.

Boot in Beast 14 heel, testing for vertical elasticity and release. Smooth and nice.

Testing a tech binding for proper operation.

10. In the tech binding world, sometimes a boot-binding-user combination simply does not function. Most commonly, sometimes a boot-binding combination doesn’t exhibit smooth release on the bench, or conversely, deliver reliable downhill skiing performance without accidental release. Less common, tech bindings are not for everyone. This especially true if you’re attempting to push your bindings to perform on-resort as alpine bindings. At the least, Check bindings with basic bench top moves you can do at home.

Important: I’ve encountered individuals who were simply not willing to make the commitment to tech binding idiosyncrasies such as ice cleaning, greater possibilities of breakage, finicky adjustments such as heel gap, sensitive release settings and so forth. If your use is mostly in-resort sans muscle power, consider a frame binding that mimics an alpine binding (Marker Duke), or just do what we recommend if you’re not doing a lot of crossover “sidecountry”: Ski alpine gear when you’re lift served, ski touring gear when you’re muscle powered.

Shopping Links (in no particular order, bear in mind we only do shopping links to bindings that are well distributed in North America):

Our top pick for the newbie needing extended advice and service is
Cripple Creek Backcountry.

Links to bindings on (Straight to checkout mail-order not recommended for sport newcomers.)

Dynafit series bindings

G3 ION(tech binding)

Marker Kingpin

Salomon Guardian (frame binding)

If you want to ski uphill with a tech binding type system, but ski down on a full-on alpine system, I’d recommend exploring the CAST binding options. Heavy and fiddly, but the only system that is actually an alpine binding when configured for the downhill.

There you go, happy shopping! Please feel free to ask questions or help me improve the article, comments are open.

Your first ski touring bindings could be a Salomon, or Dynafit, or....?

Your first ski touring bindings could be a Salomon, or Dynafit, or….?



25 Responses to “Your First Ski Touring Bindings — 10 (extended) Tips”

  1. Justin August 15th, 2017 4:08 pm

    You mentioned the Marker Kingpin a lot for recommendations. It’s been pulled from the market for patent violations with G3. Any idea if/when it’s coming back for sale?

  2. Lou Dawson 2 August 15th, 2017 6:43 pm

    Thanks Justin, I blogged quite a bit about the Kingpin issues a while back. Best information I could get is 1.)There are still bindings in North American retail. 2.)Any limited distribution in North America is temporary. 3.)Still for sale in Europe.

    Also, bear in mind that this blog post is more about recommending touring bindings, I used Kiingpin as an example more than anything.

    Please see

  3. Crusty Oldman August 15th, 2017 8:45 pm

    It’s both hilarious and sad that your into or “foundational” content is so overly techincal and caveated that it literally compounds the confusion and misunderstanding you supposedly intend to clarify.

    Wildsnow, you are the problem not the solution.

  4. dva August 16th, 2017 1:45 am

    @Crusty Oldman
    I strongly disagree. I have worked as a tech, have a little bit of experience and consider myself a little bit of a gear geek.
    I have often dealt with first-timers and other outsiders who were looking into getting into A.T./skinning. Not an easy task.

    You can try to dumb it down and/or candy-coat it as an “easy” thing since everyone in this shipwreck of an industry is grabbing to it hysterically, but if you want to get into Touring you do need to know a few technical things which will be beneficial to you and to your safety when you’re in the backcountry.

    Lou has stuck to the basics and outlined all the useful stuff.

    If people want “easy” stuff then they can just rent out run-of-the-mill all mountain skis with DINs and BSL set up by the shop, buy a pass and just stomp into good ol’ trusty alpine bindings. Nothing wrong with that, but this is something else.

  5. Ziggy August 16th, 2017 5:40 am

    Maybe edit the heading to read First AT Ski Touring….

    Wouldn’t want to mislead the newbies would we.

  6. Aaron Mattix August 16th, 2017 6:51 am

    I’m down with dva – Lou has done an excellent job of illuminating the basics. As someone who came into the sport later in life, with no background in skiing at all, Wild Snow has been by far the most valuable resource in de-mystifying the technical aspects of ski touring. Regardless of the means utilized to propel yourself into the backcountry, there is always a modicum of technical knowledge necessary for safety & enjoyment. Thanks again, Lou, for providing the most comprehensive source of information on ski touring!

  7. Aaron Mattix August 16th, 2017 6:51 am

    I’m down with dva – Lou has done an excellent job of illuminating the basics. As someone who came into the sport later in life, with no background in skiing at all, Wild Snow has been by far the most valuable resource in de-mystifying the technical aspects of ski touring. Regardless of the means utilized to propel yourself into the backcountry, there is always a modicum of technical knowledge necessary for safety & enjoyment. Thanks again, Lou, for providing the most comprehensive source of information on ski touring!

  8. Lou Dawson 2 August 16th, 2017 7:27 am

    Ha, if I’m the problem, perhaps that means I’m allowed to work on a solution for myself (smile)? Thanks for the support Dva, and I’d agree it quickly gets complicated.

    I’ve been re-reading and doing a few ghost edits on this article, especially in trying to clarify a few key confusion points such as “vertical heel travel.” Overall, however, the article in my opinion sticks with some obviously foundational concepts that really are not all that complex. (Though as any honest writer would admit, I’m sure I could tighten the writing.)

    For example, a person who starts with zero knowledge needs to know what a tech binding is as opposed to a frame-plate binding. Further, I feel strongly that what a skier needs for mostly human powered touring, done in a moderate style, can be markedly different from what they need if they’re on the resort quite a bit. Idea with that being for us to help newbies avoid buying massive overkill setups if they’re just headed out for some basic ski touring days.

    All feedback appreciated — thanks guys!


  9. Lou Dawson 2 August 16th, 2017 7:38 am

    Ziggy, I thought quite a bit about the article title. Thing is, in Europe the term “ski touring” has pretty much come to mean the use of AT gear, and here in North America I’ve noticed nearly everyone I deal with is calling the sport “ski touring” and hardly ever using the term “AT.”

    For newbies reading this, “AT” is short for “alpine touring” and implies the use of tech or frame bindings, as opposed to free-heel telemark bindings. The term was promulgated in the 1980s by myself, binding inventor Paul Ramer, and publisher Craig Dostie. At the time we were looking for terminology that could describe mountaineering oriented backcountry skiing using plate bindings, “AT” was the term we used. Dang term haunts us now (smile).

  10. dva August 16th, 2017 7:56 am

    I’m italian so i totally get the whole issue related to names… if you just look at the Alps you find a ton of different names used to describe Touring, it goes from our “ski-alp” (shortened form of “ski-alpinism”) to the french “randonnee” etc.

    That however cannot serve as an excuse for people to be even lazier…times have changed, people have changed, the way people approach the mountains has changed altogether: less human contact, less direct mentorship, you name it.

    This has obviously impacted the way people buy and evaluate their gear: I’m all for hunting deals on the web, but the majority of times you better know what you’re buying cause with the Whole plethora of names/TMs/multinorms it’s easy for an experienced user to make a mistake, let alone a beginner.

    Lou is human and I don’t agree with him on everything he might post but in this case he is single-handedly cleaning up the horrid mess created by producers by trying to build a decently structured guide so that everyone buys what they need and what they can actually use. I am no big-shot marketing expert but i think that if people don’t make the wrong purchase they might actually enjoy their skiing more, consolidate the (decently good) health of the BC segment and maybe foster and encourage technical progression in the overall conception and design of gear.

  11. Lou Dawson 2 August 16th, 2017 8:16 am

    Good point about languages dva. I was indeed being anglo-centric about the term “ski touring.” But, in my now fairly extensive travels, the English “ski touring” has tended to be the terminology I’ve heard from Greece to Chile. Along with language specific words of course. “AT” not so much.

    The real laugh is when we went Frankophile here in the U. S, wore Vaurnet sunglasses indoors, sold our furniture for tickets to Chamonix, and tried to call it randonnee, which actually just means something like traveling-wandering.


  12. dva August 16th, 2017 8:27 am

    it’s gonna get even worse now, not really because of languages but because of the Whole “20 DIN”/”free”/”shred”/”gnar”- Touring cluster, which sometimes stirs up even more confusion and marketing smoke; too many times there aren’t real actual benefits rather than than cool catchphrase being implemented.

    I am fairly Young and spend most of my season on beast 14s and 16s so i am definitely sucked into this trend, however it would be foolish not to spot and recognise this change.

    bottom line is the more diverse (and confusing) the market gets the better it is for everyone (companies, customers, shop workers) to know precisely what they want/need and what they are getting each time they buy.

    so keep doing what you’re doing Lou, because even though i ski differently and choose other types of equipment compared to yours you do know your sh-t and you’ve been in this for way too long.

  13. dva August 16th, 2017 8:29 am

    loads of typos, hope my point still comes across clear. thanks

  14. XXX_er August 16th, 2017 9:27 am

    Sez right in the piece that some people lack the commitment needed to use a tech binding, I might add i have met people who owned Tech bindings that simply lacked the ability to under standing how stuff works

  15. Kevin Woolley August 16th, 2017 9:34 am

    Ski touring is by nature technical and does not lend itself to simple guidelines. This is partly because there are so many different objectives people are looking for in their gear.

    For instance, I’m a relatively recent “convert” from cross country and alpine skiing. I was looking for a way to travel in the wild and ski slopes that my cross country gear could not handle, and I didn’t want to learn the telemark turn. But I was also leary of making a 1,500$ purchase only to find out that it didn’t work for me, so I wanted gear that could also serve in the resort. I got heavier gear (“free touring” as Lou outlines above) that is made for backcountry but also is sufficient for resort skiing (I’m 50 years old and not jumping cornices or straightlining moguls).

    After a couple of years, I could see that most of my trips were a couple of miles in length, and more oriented to the spring snowpack, so I got some lighter gear which I now tour on almost exclusively, and save my heavy stuff for resort duty or deep days.

    I’ve been having so much fun I’ve also convinced my wife and 3 friends to join in. My wife wants bomber gear that’s easy to ski and releases safely. One friend is an ultra-runner, he wants race gear, and will deal with the limited downhill ability for routine touring. The other friend put quiver killers on his alpine skis and swaps out his bindings to tour or visit the resort. The other has purchased a set of “free touring” stuff like I did, that can serve both backcountry and resort. As you can see, a wide variety of ideas and a wide variety of solutions in just 5 people.

    Another factor is the very complicated nature of the different bindings, especially as it relates to release. That is not a one paragraph discussion. You have weight (binding and skier), brakes, vertical and horizontal release, skiing style, and durability to factor in. There are people for whom race bindings are ideal for touring, and people for whom frame bindings are ideal. There are recalls and problems that crop up only when bindings are being used by the general consumer. There are different styles and some manufacturers that sell only in Europe. That is not a simple discussion and requires expertise and experience to sort out. A retailer with experience is the best way, but even then, the salesperson will often have bias based on their style that will lead you astray from your objective. I still have not found the perfect binding for my needs, but the manufacturers get a little closer to it every year.

    One very big category is people who are starting out by looking for a way to use their gear both in the resort and in the backcountry, as I originally was, and as a couple of my friends are also. This is because most people don’t want to put 1,500$ into a new sport sight unseen, and most people come to touring with an alpine skiing background and (in my group of friends anyway) some endurance sports background. The gear is expensive to rent, and is oriented toward “free touring”, I can’t find anywhere that rents really light touring gear, and I’m in Colorado. So it’s almost a given that someone starts with the freetouring gear. It’s also easier to sell to a skeptical spouse on one set of gear that can do backcountry and resort duty (unless they also are participating). Once you are hooked, like I am, a person will gladly spend more to get a quiver of gear to support different needs (ha ha, wants, sorry about that).

  16. David Dodge August 16th, 2017 3:16 pm


    Re your statement: “in my view there is no functional difference in safety or durability in either overall category”

    Tech bindings that release at the heel and pivot about the pins at the toe during twist release (all pin type tech bindings except the Vipec 12) are not as safe as alpine bindings or frame type AT bindings.

    (following paragraph edited by Lou, responding to concerns of author)
    For example: A pin type tech binding set to release by a shop calibration device can transmit a torque to the tibia beyond that value depending on where the load is applied to the ski during a fall! This is due to the tech binding toe not allowing the boot toe to release directly perpendicular to the ski, as an alpine binding does.

    This has not been a big issue for serious backcountry skiers. They have educated themselves and are typically comfortable with and willing to take the risks. However, I’m seeing more and more people skiing lift service with pin type tech bindings. It is very likely they are being told that they can use AT equipment for both lift service and backcountry and are completely unaware of the risks they are taking.

    I commend you for saying “we recommend if you’re not doing a lot of crossover “sidecountry”: Ski alpine gear when you’re lift served, ski touring gear when you’re muscle powered.”

    However, IMO you should be even more explicit on this issue. Some have already noticed an increased prevalence of spiral fractures on AT equipment. If it gets any more obvious lawyers will be lurking around our industry for an opportunity.

  17. Lou Dawson 2 August 16th, 2017 3:44 pm

    Hi David, we’ve had a ton of discussion on how classic tech binding toes “block” lateral release at certain positions, and actually go to nearly infinite torque at one point (if you try to move the boot toe laterally with force applied near the binding toe pins).

    Didn’t you see this?

    I agree there may be a few more tibia fractures happening, but it’s most definitely not the epidemic some folks expected — especially considering the literally millions of user days on classic tech bindings. I’ll look at my wording. Thing is, this might be a case of focusing on the negative instead of the whole picture. Bindings that release to the side at the heel might actually do a better job of protecting knees. Perhaps it’s a wash, and it’s well known that if one had a choice, a broken bone is better than a torn up knee.

    There are also a couple of tech bindings that release to the side at the toe. Vipec versions, and Trab.

    I’ll see if I can tighten up your post.


  18. David Dodge August 17th, 2017 7:45 am

    Hi Lou,

    I’m aware of the Vipec. I think it solves the fundamental problem. I’m not aware of the Trab. I’ll look into it.

    It is true that most pin binding offer more sensitivity to loads that can injure the knee but this “feature” also creates an inadvertent release problem. A pin binding adjusted to “DIN6” or adjusted to release at 60N-m with a shop calibrator can transmit torques to the tibia that are greater than 100% and less than 50% of the setting depending on where the load is applied to the ski during a fall.

    This means that a binding adjusted to release at 60N-m (DIN6) will release when the leg feels a torque of 30N-m (DIN3) when the load is applied to the ski near the heel of the boot and release at 120N-m (DIN12) when the load is applied near the toe of the boot. This protects your knee but puts your tibia at risk and will cause inadvertent releases unless you up your release setting by at least 50% to 90N-m (DIN9). If you do this, and most skier will find it necessary, the torque transmitted to your leg when the loads are 1 foot or less in front of the boot toe will be greater than 180N-n (DIN18) making your bindings for all practical purposes non-releasable under common loading conditions.

    Dangerous loads that close to the toe of the boot are not uncommon but the lateral forces are so high that rotation of the femur, hip and/or whole body will often clear the load safely. Particularly if you are going slow. This might explain the low prevalence of spiral fractures in the backcountry.

    However, as more and more people use AT equipment for lift service skiing, on groomed slopes, going fast, and skiing way more hours and vertical feet the spiral fracture rates will go up. It is inevitable.

    In the 70’s the Americana and Alsop binding were withdrawn from the market due to very high leg fracture rates. They are the only alpine binding that I am aware of that had pivot points near the toe of the boot. So science, theory, and empirical evidence are all in agreement.

    If you need personal confirmation get into your pin type AT setup and have someone plant and hold a ski pole between your skis 1 foot in front of your boot toe and try to twist out by pressing against the pole. You probably won’t be able to self-release. If so reset the release value so you can just barely self-release. Then have your trusty assistant hold the pole 1 foot behind your boot heel and again try to twist out. I think you’ll find it surprisingly easy.

  19. Lou Dawson 2 August 17th, 2017 8:29 am

    It’s so attractive, the goal of having a quiver of one that’ll work on or off the resort. Thankfully this new generation of bindings from Fritschi and Trab may actually be something that works 100% for such use. If so, it was a long wait and delightful to see. And yes indeed, the combination of accidental release concerns and compromised lateral release make using classic tech bindings as resort bindings seem unwise. Lou

  20. Lee Lau August 24th, 2017 9:03 am


    Nice balance of fundamental concepts vs necessary detail. Skitouring is a bit complicated. There’s simply no way around it. Bookmarked this to share

    At the risk of deviating from Lou’s list of retailers; in Whistler you have

    – Escape Route
    – Excess Backcountry

  21. AAG August 24th, 2017 7:50 pm


    Thank you for the article. It is helpful, but what I wish it addressed in a little greater depth was how to weigh the pros and cons of what I see as two types of free-touring bindings: those with a tech heel and those with an alpine heel. How much does one give up in touring ease with the alpine heel, vs. what strikes me as what would be a marked improvement for someone accustomed to alpine bindings on the downhill and when skiing in the resort.

    Also, I take it from your post, that there are very few reasons why someone would consider a frame binding today.

  22. Lou Dawson 2 August 25th, 2017 6:40 am

    AAG, thanks for your thoughts. I’ll work on that. Main thing to remember is that by this season there will still only be a few “hybrid” tech bindings, i.e., those with a heel that doesn’t use pins but rather clamps down on the boot heel “shelf.” The main difference is the hybrid bindings can be significantly heavier than the more minimalist “classic” offerings. Though some of the free-touring classics are virtually the same weight as some of the hybrids. As always, I’d suggest looking at your end use and working backward to what you would purchase. If you’re primarily human powered and a reasonably good skier though not particularly aggressive, the classics are the way to go IMHO. If you’re a large, aggressive skier, perhaps seeking a binding for use with lift served, a heel with more vertical elastic travel might help. I see a blog post coming on. Lou

  23. Bill McKinzie August 29th, 2017 9:18 pm

    Lou, I wished I’d discovered you before starting AT’ing last year. I bought new Salomon Guardian bindings which make me feel safe, but I paired them with some older K2 hadsides I picked up used and the combination weighs a ton. I skin up about 1800 vertical with a group on Saturday’s, many of whom use pin bindings, and I cannot keep up. I want to keep my bindings, but my question is can they be paired with a light ski like a Dynafit Denali? Or is the beefy binding too much for a light ski? Thanks!

  24. Lou Dawson 2 August 30th, 2017 8:29 am

    Hi Bill, well, we’re glad you finally found us in the vast reaches of the internet wilderness (smile)… you can put those bindings on just about anything, just be sure the tech watches the screw length and is aware of any screw pull-out issues. As for them being “safe” they perhaps are in some ways, not so much in others. The word “safe” is pretty loaded and ambiguous. If you like uphilling, provided you hardly ever fall and are a reasonably competent skier, I’d recommend a dedicated setup (not used for lift skiing) that indeed uses a full classic pin “tech” binding like your friends. Might as well get them to stop smirking. Lou

  25. Henrik September 23rd, 2017 4:50 am

    Thanks for writing endless awesome advice to all us novices!

    I’m extremely torn in my binding choice and was hoping you’d be willing to share your thoughts.

    I’m looking for a good all round backcountry setup, and I’ve chosen Black Crows Camox Freebird skis and Scarpa F1 boots, but I just can’t decide between Fritschi Vipec 12 and ATK Raider 12 2.0 bindings. I know the latter is more expensive but let’s leave that out for now.

    – Do you think Vipec offers significantly better downhill performance (i.e. power transmission, feel) than the Raider?
    – Would it help to include the freeride Spacer on the Raider?
    – Do you think Vipec is safer in terms of release precision?

    I know they’re difficult and subjective questions, but I’d really appreciate your gutfeel take on it.

    Best regards,

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