Marker Alpinist — Another “U-Pin” U-Spring Binding

Post by blogger | January 15, 2018      

(Post sponsored by our publishing partner Cripple Creek Backcountry.)

With their new Alpinist binding (available fall of 2018), Marker returns to the roots of our sport and introduces its lightest-ever ski touring clamp (other Marker offerings for example Kingpin and Duke). These are a fairly traditional tech design using the “U-pin” type heel pins (see our exposition below). The heel provides three climbing lifts which are average in height compared to other bindings. The U-pin heel yields a fixed upward release value with adjustable lateral release. Boot length adjustment is 15 mm (longer demo version available).

Marker Alpinist is another clone of the original Barthel tech binding design. No problem there.

Marker Alpinist is another clone of the original Barthel tech binding design, including fixed vertical release adjusted by swapping heel springs.

Alpinist comes stock with the heel spring said to yield “high setting” vertical release, for example the Alpinist 12 will presumably have something like a 12 DIN vertical heel release, with Alpinist 9 providing its eponymous setting as well. That of course could be problematic if you’re needing lower settings — remedy is similar to other brands, in that Marker will sell optional release value springs: two others in addition to what the binding comes with. The springs made for both bindings are used for both the 9 and 12 versions of the binding, meaning the “medium” spring is used as the stock spring for the 9, and the “high” spring is used for the stock spring for the 12. One could presumably install the “high” spring in the model 9 and end up with a model 12, or the reverse. That’ll all be researched over coming months.

(Please note that the acronym “DIN” is used here with the qualifier “something like” since as far as we know these bindings are not certified by TUV to the DIN ski touring binding standard 13992, thus, the term “DIN” should instead be “RV” for release value.)

We’d prefer see four spring options available for fine tuning all brands of “rear U-pin” bindings (see below for explanation of “U-pin”). Mainly, be careful with these pre-set bindings; lighter weight skiers can end up with a rig they can’t step into, let alone release out of.

For the official take, see Marker’s mini-site. Marker also recently hosted a press event in Europe, as a result just google it up and you’ll find plenty of information. Our data block as at bottom of this post.

While we wait for our own sample of the Alpinist, as a service I should get into more detail about the differences between rear U-pin bindings and those with separate heel pins we’ll call “rear free-pins” for want of a better term. Aside from the rear U-pin springs not being adjustable in vertical release tension, they don’t rotate as separate rear free-pins do. I’ve spoken with several binding makers who’s research and testing has shown that uneven and accelerated wear on non-rotating binding heel U-pins and associated boot fittings causes a fairly rapid change in release-retention characteristics as well as how the binding behaves during step-in (for skiers who do plenty of downhill mode use of such bindings). I’ve seen this on our own bench, though I’ve not done any formal measurements.

What’s the advantage of rear U-pins as used by Marker? Simple, they’re lightweight and in a word, simple. The concept is not going away (we’re fine with Marker’s take), but makers of such bindings need to be doing three things:

  • 1.) excellent metallurgy
  • 2.) providing a variety of rear U-pin options
  • 3.) educating dealers on how to look for accelerated wear

    While consumers need to be aware of the compromises, not to mention what exactly is a free-pin binding heel as opposed to U-pin? Well, here you go:

    Typical tech binding heel pins.

    Typical tech binding heel pins, separated ‘free-pins’ (top) are free to rotate, U-pin (bottom) is a more archaic technology that may wear faster and not offer easy tension adjustment, but has advantages of simplicity. Heel pins are part of the heel unit assembly, and insert into the boot heel fitting. The use of heel U-pins is what we feel defines a “classic” tech binding, as opposed to “hybrid” tech bindings that boast alpine-like heels, best example being Fritschi Tecton.

    'Free' pins as they would appear in a typical binding cutaway.

    Free-pins as they would appear in a typical binding cutaway. U-pin shown below.

    Just to be clear, free-pins isolated for your viewing pleasure.

    Just to be clear, free-pins isolated for your viewing pleasure.

    Cutaway of how a U-pin binding holds the spring to the boot, free-pins below.

    Cutaway of how a U-pin binding holds the U-pin to the boot heel, free-pins below.

    U-pin, isolated for clarity.

    rear U-pin, isolated for clarity.

    Marker Alpinist Data
    Weight per binding, no brake: 245 grams
    Weight, typical brake: 90 grams
    Tech gap at heel: zero
    Wide screw hole pattern: 38 mm
    Ski flex compensation: 4 mm
    Brake widths: 90/105/115 mm
    Crampon widths: 80/90/105/120 mm
    Regular version boot length adjustment 15 mm, longer demo version as well


    Please Enjoy A Few Suggested WildSnow Posts


    38 Responses to “Marker Alpinist — Another “U-Pin” U-Spring Binding”

    1. VT skier January 15th, 2018 10:19 am

      Great presentation of difference between U-spring and free-pins.
      While I have some versions of each, with Verts, Rad2, Ions, and original Speed Turns, I also picked up a set of Salomon MTN last year in France
      I knew the Salomon MTN had a fixed forward and lateral release depending on U-spring, but I didn’t realize the ability of pins in TLT type heels to” rotate” is important to reduce wear on heel pins,
      U-springs are at a disadvantage there..

    2. Lou Dawson 2 January 15th, 2018 10:29 am

      If you click into your binding heels quite often, and ski much vert, you might be surprised how much wear, keep your eyes on it. Thing is, with a pin that’s only 5 mm in diameter, barely visible wear is a significant percentage of the whole.

      In more details, one thing that happens with the rotating pins is they rotate as you step down and click in, while the U-spring pins do not. But also while riding, your boot fitting is sitting on the exact same area of the pin, with no evening out off the wear pattern.

      I should add that this wear idea is a non-issue with lightly used bindings. And let’s remember the simplicity of the U-spring idea is as beautiful today as it was thirty years ago.


    3. Lou Dawson 2 January 15th, 2018 10:32 am

      Should we call it a “free-pin” or “free-spring” ?? Need feedback on that. Thanks, Lou

    4. Eric Steig January 15th, 2018 11:41 am

      I like “free-pin”.

      One thing about those Marker toe pieces.

      It looks like they’ll accept traditional slide-in crampons. That’s fine. But state of the art (other than G3) would seem to me to be the Plum crampons. I was delighted to discover my Salomon MTN bindings accept those. Much better because they drop in from the top, rather than sliding from the side, and they stay centered.

    5. Andy Carey January 15th, 2018 12:13 pm

      Very interesting, Lou. I have noticeable wear on my Superlite 2.0 White heel pins. I wasn’t concerned about it because I thought it was cosmetic, but given your comments I’ll take a closer look. Any caliper measurement you can suggest? I presume, but do not presume too much, that the most important wear would be on the side of the pins vs the top & slope to the side.

    6. Mike Henrick January 15th, 2018 1:00 pm

      TBH using the term pins for both the bit on the back of the binding and the toe piece pins seems confusing…

    7. Swiss Hoser January 15th, 2018 1:39 pm

      Mike, I’m with you on this. Needs clear nomenclature:
      “Front pins, rear pegs.”
      Then there are straight pegs and u-pegs if you need to clarify further.
      Eventually, we can go with just pins & pegs as this will become understood.

    8. etto January 15th, 2018 2:06 pm

      Nice tak on U-springs vs free pins! The binding itself seems like a big yawn, they don’t offer anything new or improved, or am I missing something?

    9. Kevin Woolley January 15th, 2018 2:25 pm

      I feel like I’ve just attended touring bindings 101 for heel pieces, this ought to be required reading for someone new to touring, I wish I had understood this better starting out.

      I’ve also got probably 1/10th of the mm of wear on my Superlight 2.0 heel springs/pins/pegs, after a couple of years of usage. And it may be psychological, but the “step in” feels just a little easier to me than it did to start, perhaps the wear is the reason why? If so I’m happy, the RV was a little too high to start with for me.

      I’ve seen much more wear on titanium U-springs on my race binding, but haven’t noticed them feeling any easier step in there. Guess it’s because titanium is stronger? I will be replacing that U-spring soon.

      Like many other readers, I wonder why Dynafit doesn’t sell separate U-springs for the superlight 2.0, I would definitely buy the “white” U-spring if I could. I would hope they would hear this feedback and correct course, as the other brands are doing this now (sell one binding with a couple of springs). Hello Dynafit? Are you listening?

    10. Lou Dawson 2 January 15th, 2018 3:31 pm

      Good points all, appreciate it. I changed the terminology to “rear U-pin” and “rear free-pin.” Can’t use the word spring for the “free” type as they are not springs, so to make it clear we’re speaking of two variants for the same binding part, I stuck with the word “pin” for both. Let’s see how it goes. Lou

    11. etto January 15th, 2018 3:37 pm

      Kevin, titanium is not stronger than steel (lots of definitions of stronger, and lots of types of steel but bear with me), it’s primarily lighter while still being significantly stronger than aluminum. That’s why it’s used in your _race_ bindings 🙂

    12. Allan January 15th, 2018 3:43 pm

      Hi Lou, Kreuzspitze deals with the U Spring RV’s on their GT binding by adjusting the projection of the U Spring pegs out from the heel into the boot hardware. They use the same spring and vary it’s projected length. Have you ever reviewed or treated the Kreuzspitze GT? If not we should ask Bruno to send you some for evaluation. The Skialper group likes this binding. I liked and am pretty impressed with there products. Thanks!

    13. Allan January 15th, 2018 3:45 pm

      Sorry I did not proof my post before sending. I meant tested not treated. Darn auto spell! 😉

    14. Chris January 15th, 2018 7:20 pm

      Rear bi-pin? Too much “free” stuff out there already…freeride, free touring. Free pin sounds like marketing speak 🙂

    15. See January 15th, 2018 7:42 pm

      Hi Lou. Did you mean to write “The use of heel pins (as opposed to “heel U-pins”)… defines a “classic” tech binding?”

    16. TMS HAWAII January 15th, 2018 11:19 pm

      I’m not entirely clear on how the #3 climbing position (steepest) works. Is the max angle position use the red flange sticking straight up? If so, hopefully it locks into position very firmly so that it can’t collapse? And if so, is there some sort of release to allow it to collapse down to the #2 position?

      If that’s the design, then I’m not so sure I’m in on this bindungen.

    17. Wookie1974 January 16th, 2018 1:48 am

      Nothing new – but if its a good, reliable binding, then fair enough. Often you’ll have special offers from shops selling you skis and bindings in a package. Having a lightweight, trad binding from Marker could make a new set a lot less expensive.

      Wear on U-Spring bindings! Who knew? Seeing as how every second pair of Dynafits I see is nearing 15 years old or more, this may save Dynafit’s tushy! 🙂

    18. Jernej January 16th, 2018 3:32 am

      My vote for pins in front. Pegs at rear.

    19. Pablo January 16th, 2018 5:56 am

      speaking about rotation of rear free-pins, there is a binding that uses U-pins and they rotate: ATK Revolution

      As they say on their site:
      “The heel part is equipped with the innovative ROLLING-IN SYSTEM®, which thanks to the “U” spring with rotating bushes, makes the step-in up to 3 times softer than the classic race bindings, making the step-in easy even in fresh snow conditions and greatly reducing the wear and tear of the titanium spring”

      So maybem in a future we see lots of bindings with Rear-U-Rotating-Pins…
      Or maybe aftermarket options (hello B&D!)

    20. Lou 2 January 16th, 2018 7:38 am

      Hi Pablo, the ATK Revolution still has a “U-pin” though yes apparently it is free to move a bit when stepping in, very clever. As always, I get myself into trouble trying to put vocabulary on a moving target (smile), but I’ll keep trying. WE need words to communicate about what’s becoming a complex ecosystem. I’ll keep calling them “U-pins” for now, but make an occasional allusion to the fact that some or configured such that they’re easier to step into and perhaps experience less wear. In any case, as mentioned in post, anyone who puts much use on their bindings should know that U-springs can have issues — though most take 5 minutes to swap out for a new set. Lou

    21. Lou 2 January 16th, 2018 7:41 am

      Wookie, most folks with worn U-pins probably don’t notice due to tendency to ski with high release value settings. But it’s an important thing to know as the industry goes back to 30-year-old technology (nothing wrong with that, but it should be noted). Lou

    22. Jim Milstein January 16th, 2018 8:23 am

      Pegs sounds good to me. Otherwise, you could say conical pins & cylindrical pins, but that’s too clumsy.

    23. Eric steig January 16th, 2018 8:44 am

      Lou, I wonder if you can convince B&D to make replacement U-pins for the Superlite 2.0?

    24. Pablo January 16th, 2018 9:01 am

      I love U, takes anoher meaning for us uphill skiers… XDDD

    25. Kristian January 16th, 2018 9:09 am

      In this Colorado lean snow year, I bought Lou’s uphill book, Sportiva Syborg boots + skis, and the ATK Revolutions. Expected to use this setup as a novelty, but have used most weekends in the backcountry and is ridiculously fun! Bindings are very easy to get in and out of. Used a 3.5 x 7.5mm drill bit for mounting.

    26. See January 16th, 2018 9:24 am

      OK. So if heel U-pins define a classic tech binding, then what category does the Vertical fit in? Not classic, apparently, but not hybrid either, imo.

    27. Dave Field January 16th, 2018 1:36 pm

      Is this binding injection molded plastic or aluminum? I didn’t see a mention of that in the overview.

    28. Lou Dawson 2 January 16th, 2018 2:31 pm

      Good to hear Kristian, flying around on light gear is indeed pretty amazing, people do get addicted, watch out! Thanks for the support on the book, I think we’re selling enough to keep it going, adding routes and such. Lou

    29. XXX_er January 16th, 2018 8:18 pm

      ” Should we call it a “free-pin” or “free-spring” ?? Need feedback on that. Thanks, Lou ”

      I think we should call a spade a fxxxing avalanche shovel

      just call them U pins non adjustable

      remind me again what was wrong with the straight pins?

      Thanks, XXX-er

    30. Konsta January 17th, 2018 12:53 am

      Wonder how the drill pattern of Alpinist relates to Kingpin… hopefully they weren’t too intent on selling more skis.

    31. Lou Dawson 2 January 17th, 2018 9:04 am

      Hmmm Xer, good point. I’ll keep working on it. Purpose of my fooling around with the terminology is due to using it in the written word. Goal being brevity and clarity. Lou

    32. Jürgen January 17th, 2018 10:03 am

      Very much looking forward to Lou´s opinion on the brake fixing mechanism !
      I still like my heel Lifting modes on Dynafit Vertical. Necessity to stoop for achieving different heel lift angles through rotation is not to my liking.

    33. XXX_er January 17th, 2018 10:36 am

      how about “adjustable pin binding ” or ” fixed pin binding “

    34. Jonny January 18th, 2018 12:59 am

      I wonder what the toe jaw opening force is with only one set of springs???

    35. Lou Dawson 2 January 18th, 2018 6:20 am

      It appears to be a beefy spring, but we’ll measure. Appearance can certainly be deceiving, for example Kingpin springs when measured by our methods belied their appearance. Lou

    36. Jarrod June 8th, 2018 3:24 pm

      Hey Lou,

      Thanks for the great info usual. I suppose it’s a little early to say anything about the hole pattern? (Aside from width) I’ve got a little collection of skis with quiver killers drilled for kingpins, I wonder if the toe pattern will be the same. I’d like to have a lightweight binding option without having to shift boot center. It would be cool if all I had to do was drill a few new holes for heals. Any idea when you will get your hands on a demo set, I’d love to see a mounting template. Let me know if you know anything on this.


    37. Lou Dawson 2 June 8th, 2018 4:43 pm

      Jerrod, you need to read more often! Type the following into our search box: “marker alpinist” and you’ll find another more recent post. Has hole pattern infos. Enjoy. Lou

    38. Steve November 27th, 2018 9:47 pm

      This toe peice is lighter than the kingpin; Lou do you have weights for both toe peices? (I can’t find them listed anywhere.)

      You have the heights of each to peice listed in your ramp angle chart and they are close (this being slightly higher); I’ve heard the mounting pattern is the same for both… you see any major issues with replacing kingpins toes with these (understanding that they weren’t designed together) Given your wisdom, what are your thoughts on this? Good candidate for a bench test?

    Anti-Spam Quiz:

    While you can subscribe to comment notification by checking the box above, you must leave a brief comment to do so, which records your email and requires you to use our anti-spam challange. If you don't like leaving substantive comments that's fine, just leave a simple comment that says something like "thanks, subscribed" with a made-up name. Check the comment subscription checkbox BEFORE you submit. NOTE: BY SUBSCRIBING TO COMMENTS YOU GIVE US PERMISSION TO STORE YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS INDEFINITLY. YOU MAY REQUEST REMOVAL AND WE WILL REMOVE YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS WITHIN 72 HOURS. To request removal of personal information, please contact us using the comment link in our site menu.
    If you need an emoticon for a comment just copy/paste off the following list, or use text code you might be familiar with.

    :D    :-)    :(    :lol:    :x    :P    :oops:    :cry:    :evil:    :twisted:    :roll:    :wink:    :!:    :?:    :idea:    :arrow:   
    Due to comment spam we moderate most comments. Please do not submit your comment twice -- it will appear shortly after approval. Comments with one or more links in the text may be held in moderation, for spam prevention. If you'd like to publish a photo in a comment, contact us. Guidelines: Be civil, no personal attacks, avoid vulgarity and profanity.

      Your Comments

      Recent Posts

    Facebook Twitter Email Instagram Youtube


  • Blogroll & Links

  • 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.

    All material on this website is copyrighted, the name WildSnow is trademarked, permission required for reproduction (electronic or otherwise) and display on other websites. PLEASE SEE OUR COPYRIGHT and TRADEMARK INFORMATION.

    We include "affiliate sales" links with most of our blog posts. This means we receive a percentage of a sale if you click over from our site (at no cost to you). None of our affiliate commission links are direct relationships with specific gear companies or shopping carts, instead we remain removed by using a third party who manages all our affiliate sales and relationships. We also sell display "banner" advertising, in this case our relationships are closer to the companies who advertise, but our display advertising income is carefully separated financially and editorially from our blog content, over which we always maintain 100% editorial control -- we make this clear during every advertising deal we work out. Please also notice we do the occasional "sponsored" post, these are under similar financial arrangements as our banner advertising, only the banner or other type of reference to a company are included in the blog post, simply to show they provided financial support to and provide them with advertising in return. Unlike most other "sponsored content" you find on the internet, our sponsored posts are entirely under our editorial control and created by WildSnow specific writers.See our full disclosures here.

    Backcountry skiing is dangerous. You may be killed or severely injured if you do any form of ski mountaineering, skimo randonnee and randonnée skiing. The information and news on this website is intended only as general information. Due to human error and passing time, the information, text and images contained within this website may be inaccurate, false, or out-of-date. By using, reading or viewing the information provided on this website, you agree to absolve the owners of Wild Snow as well as content contributors of any liability for injuries or losses incurred while using such information. Furthermore, you agree to use any of this website's information, maps, photos, or binding mounting instructions templates at your own risk, and waive Wild Snow owners and contributors of liability for use of said items for ski touring or any other use.

    Switch To Mobile Version