Zero Boot Ramp and Feather Weight — Marker Alpinist First Look


Post by WildSnow.com blogger | May 21, 2018      

Update: I did get out and ski the Alpinist. Nothing unusual. Noticed the minimal ramp while skiing, as well as the lower than normal heel climbing lift height. No particular problems, but this was not extensive use. Just a few months of summer and we’ll have them on snow again for extensive testing. Lou

Marker Alpinist on a shiny new pair of Volkl VTA 98.

Marker Alpinist 12 (regular, not Long Travel) on a shiny new pair of Volkl VTA 98. Click images for clarity.

In a previous post, I alluded to the new Marker Alpinist ski touring binding being somewhat of a yawner. I might have been wrong, though we’ll need a season of testing to be certain. Sure, this is the “usual” U-spring binding, and I’d have preferred to see something more innovative from the big guys, but Marker’s weight is competitive (284 grams with screws for our “regular” version), and features such as above average toe jaw spring power and zero ramp could be highly attractive. My favorite checkmark so far? Other than the reasonable weight, I like the single damage-resistant T20 screw that adjusts lateral retention-release, though this might mean you’ll be carrying yet another bit in your repair kit. Least faves? Not much heel lifter height, and changing vertical tension does require a spring swap. Overall, very clean with state-of-art materials engineering. I’m also liking colors that don’t match those of an arcade merchandiser game.

Note, both flavors of Alpinist (12 and 9, alluding to max retention setting), will be available as “Long Travel” with 30 mm boot length adjustment and regular with 15 mm boot length adjustment. The binding we examine here is a 12 regular.

Toe unit is interesting in that the base chassis is carbon plastic, bold move.

Toe unit is interesting in that the base chassis is carbon reinforced plastic, bold move. But let us meditate for the toe pins receiving the same attention, as Marker has indeed had problems in the past with weak pins.

Heel is clean and simple, you can see the retention settings scale.

Heel is clean and simple, you can see the lateral retention settings scale, again note you swap springs to adjust vertical tension.

I was surprised when my Vermont binding checker showed me the EXACT number I dialed on the binding scale.

I was pleasantly surprised when my Vermont binding checker showed me the EXACT number I dialed on the printed binding scale (DIN standard allows significant variation). Other companies actually add the settings scale late in the manufacturing process, so it can be positioned for accurate calibration, perhaps that’s what Marker does. Incidentally, the spring they shipped pegged my checker scale in vertical mode, way too high for me. Two other springs are available, “Medium” and “Low.” Our test binding is a model “12” so it understandably defaults to the strongest spring. Lateral release scale ranges from 6 to 12.

U-spring swapping requires removing a tiny set screw and prying out the spring.

U-spring swapping requires removing a tiny set screw and prying out the spring.

Adjusting retention with T20 driver, the boot length adjustment  is pozi. Boot length range appears to be 15 mm.

Adjusting retention with T20 driver, the boot length adjustment screw is pozi. Boot length range appears to be 15 mm.

Underside of heel unit, ski flex compensation spring. The binding is set for boot length with a 'kiss' gap between boot heel and binding.

Underside of heel unit, ski flex compensation spring said to have 4 mm range. The binding is set for boot length with a ‘kiss’ gap (zero clearance but no pressure) between boot heel and binding.

Regarding bindings that require “kiss gap” between boot heel and rear binding housing: Know that when you step into the binding, if the ski is even slightly flexed (such as while standing in soft snow) your boot heel will encounter and possibly be blocked by the top of the binding housing before pressing down on the binding pins. Some binding brands with kiss gap have a “ramp” on the housing to help your boot slip down past the heel housing, down to the pins. The Alpinist appears to have an abrupt transition in this area, rather than a ramp. Jury is out on this until extensive real-world testing, but last winter a helpful reader pointed out this important design concept, so it’s on my informal list of “things to cover” when a new tech binding comes out. This factor can be significant with larger skiers in soft snow, as while they’re standing on their skis after entering binding toe, the heavily flexed ski places the top of the binding heel unit under their boot heel, and the boot will hit the top of the heel unit, sometimes by quite some distance. Note that most boots have various configurations of “lead in” ramps below the rear tech fitting to help with this, enhancing those with some judicious grinding can help.

Medium lift is ok.

Medium lift is ok. Note that changing between medium and high lift requires rotating the binding heel

High lift could be better.

High lift could be better.

Heel flat on ski mode is about as low angle as anyone would want.

Heel flat on ski mode is about as low angle as anyone would want.

This is the "Medium" spring, with reduced stiffness due to flats on either side for a thinner profile, as indicated by arrows.

This is the “Medium” spring, with reduced stiffness due to flats on either side for a thinner profile, as indicated by arrows. Marker will spec this out being release value 9, mine measure as a 10 but bear in mind they’re pre-retail. In my experience, binding release check machines such as the Vermont Calibrator do well in measuring tech binding vertical release force (especially for comparisons between bindings and springs). Moreover an experienced binding user can guess at the number simply by how hard or easy the step in process occurs at the heel. Point being, no excuse to use potentially dangerous springs with excessively high release-retention settings. (Though on the other hand, it’s worth repeating that classic tech bindings have limited vertical elastic travel at the heel, so many skiers set tension at 1 or 2 steps above what works for them with rigs such as alpine bindings.

The numbers (know this is the “regular” version, with more boot length range at 15 mm, “Long Travel version has boot length range of 30mm and weighs slightly more):

– Toe weight with screws, 130 gr.

– Heel weight with screws, 154 gr.

– Total 284 gr.

– 0 ramp, negative 16 mm compared to classic Dynafit TLT, see our ramp-delta chart.

– Medium climbing lift is 11.7 mm above toe pins, high is 22 mm, we don’t mind the medium, but would prefer the high to be about twice as tall. Personally, I’d prefer more delta-ramp so I’ll probably shim up my heel units, that’ll give me a bit more climbing lift.

– Lateral release without heel is about RV 4 according to our Vermont calibrator and informal feel (this checks for possible minimum setting as well as toe spring “squeeze” force).

– Ski brakes: Long Travel will come with brakes at width of either 90, 105. Regular version will not come with brakes, but 90, 105 and 115 will be available under separate SKUs. In other words, if you wanted the Long Travel with 115 brake you’d have to buy the wider brake separate, while you’d also end up with the 90 or 105 brake the Long Travel came with. I know, I know… Marker has their reasons.

– Mounting screw patterns: Alpinist toe has same hole pattern as Marker Kingpin toe, 38 mm wide x 47 mm (pin line same, so direct swap is doable). Heel unit of Alpinist has same screw hole width as Kingpin, at 36 mm, but of course the pattern isn’t as long, Alpinist regular is 40 mm while Kingpin is 77 mm. The toe is direct swap for Kingpin, but heel will require at least another pair of holes, perhaps all four in some cases.

– Retail this fall.



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Comments

43 Responses to “Zero Boot Ramp and Feather Weight — Marker Alpinist First Look”

  1. Pablo May 21st, 2018 9:00 am

    I tested Alpinists last week.
    I foud it a very serviceable binder and I think it’s, maybe, the best Performance/Price binding on sale next seasson.

    Nothing revolutionary it’s true. But it can become a very popular binding.

    One thing I liked on toe unit was the rubber parts that acts as “boot stoppers” to better align and cilp-in function and the rubber down the mechanism that prevents icing.

    The unit I tested was a brake versión and I found the brakes not so easy to lock-unlock.

    Yes I like Alpinist binding

  2. Lou Dawson 2 May 21st, 2018 9:22 am

    Thanks Pablo, good point about the rubber under the binding toe wings. To be specific, there is a “rubber” filler under the toe wing trigger area that probably helps with the common problem of ice filling that area and compromising binding operation. Lou

  3. See May 21st, 2018 10:06 am

    How does the adjustale lateral release work? Some kind of adjustable internal cam for the U spring or a seperate spring or…?

  4. Lou Dawson 2 May 21st, 2018 10:14 am

    Separate spring, I’ll eventually do a teardown, but need to ski them more first in case the teardown isn’t reversible. Lou

  5. Michael May 21st, 2018 1:49 pm

    Maybe I missed it but any idea of the approximate vertical RV/DIN on the “medium” U spring?

  6. Cody May 21st, 2018 5:46 pm

    Hopefully between these and the Shift more skintracks will be established at a less STFU angle.

    Also wonder why they put the only T20 on the binding for retention. Why not just leave it as a pozi, phillips, or even flathead?

  7. Christian May 21st, 2018 8:38 pm

    Saw on a dealer workbook I found online that there will be “long travel” versions as well… not sure if this refers to spring travel while skiing or length of boot adjustment. Any ideas? https://issuu.com/kmsport_pl/docs/katalog_narty_volkl_marker_dalbello

  8. Pablo May 22nd, 2018 2:48 am

    Chistian,
    The long travel versions refers to lengh adjustment and brakes.

    You can also purchase separate brakes for the “short travel” brakeless versions

  9. Konsta May 22nd, 2018 3:20 am

    How is the hole pattern compared to the Kingpin? I’d expect the toe to use the same pattern(???), but is the heel pattern in any way compatible with the Kingpin heel pattern? (I.e., no tricky overlap…)

  10. Dabe May 22nd, 2018 3:43 am

    Does this binding have a tech gap or does it have some semblance of fwd pressure ala ion?

  11. Lou Dawson 2 May 22nd, 2018 8:09 am

    Dabe, kiss gap and ski flex compensation via a spring in the heel unit, I had a photo of the flex compensation spring, looks like I forgot to upload it! I’ll add right now. Thanks for asking.

  12. Lou Dawson 2 May 22nd, 2018 8:34 am

    Konsta, that’s a good question, Alpinist toe indeed has same hole pattern and Kingpin toe, 38 mm wide x 47 mm, heel of Alpinist is same width holes at 36 mm, but of course the pattern isn’t as long, it is 39 mm. The toe is probably a direct swap for Kingpin, but heel will require at least another pair of holes, perhaps all 4 in some cases.

    All that said, I really doubt very many people will be swapping Kingpins for Alpinist, they are two entirely different classes of bindings.

    Lou

  13. Lou Dawson 2 May 22nd, 2018 9:34 am

    Dabe, we don’t use the term “forward pressure” with classic style tech bindings, it is very misleading as it implies some kind of preload, and when setting a classic tech binding heel gap the last thing you want is preload. ION is also set with kiss gap, no “forward pressure.” We advocate leaving a gap about the width of printer paper when “zero” “kiss” gap is specified, to eliminate guesswork and defend against making that extra tempting twist of the screw driver. Lou

  14. wtofd May 22nd, 2018 11:59 am

    I don’t have a dog in this fight, but just curious: how is this better than the ATK Raider? It doesn’t seem lighter, and looks like the climbing heights aren’t an improvement.

  15. XXX_er May 22nd, 2018 1:01 pm

    “Toe unit is interesting in that the base chassis is carbon plastic, bold move.”

    ^^ sets off my alarm bells

  16. Lou Dawson 2 May 22nd, 2018 3:40 pm

    Wtofd, I think it’s more about Marker completing a vertical ski touring product line than about breaking new ground. Important, as touring bindings are now a highly desired accessory if not millions of skier’s primary boot holder. They now have their own touring bindings all the way from the plate versions, to Kingpin, and now a classic tech, all that’s missing is the skimo race binding. Alpinist appears to be a reasonable offering, main point of lengthy first look is full documentation, not to imply that it’s superior or inferior to anything else. Extensive field testing will determine those things, insomuch as is possible, anyway. Lou

  17. Lou Dawson 2 May 22nd, 2018 3:40 pm

    XXXer, likewise, don’t drive cars or fly airplanes, way too much plastic!

  18. XXX_er May 22nd, 2018 5:07 pm

    I wonder how much weight was saved by making the base chassis out of plastic, I ‘m not against the use of plastic in applications where it makes sense to do so but I question if this is one of them ??

    time will tell

  19. Cody May 22nd, 2018 6:02 pm

    Well have you seen any base units of Vipec’s fail (other than the brake issue)? Cause I have yet to hear about or see any and everyone was up in arms about the plastic on that. And those are still lighter and ski better than an Ion or a Dynafit binding…

    I’m sure since F1, Lambo, Aerospace, and Salomon are embracing cf reinforced polymers it that it’s a pretty viable and strong tech. Now 30 years down the road they won’t both be as strong. But I’d hope in 30 years there is something that blows these out of the water.

  20. See May 22nd, 2018 6:57 pm

    I suspect the 22 mm “high” lifter is a compromise because it will be the default configuration for climbing anything with a significant pitch. Basically, it looks to me like a two position system— flat and high. Having to twist the heel to use the “medium” lifter will probably be more trouble than it’s worth in most situations.

  21. See May 22nd, 2018 7:11 pm

    Or maybe it’s a one position skimo race binding designed for fast transitions at the top of climbs— just rip your skins, flip the lifter back and you’re ready for the descent, toes locked (or maybe springs are strong enough to climb with toes unlocked).

  22. XXX_er May 22nd, 2018 8:07 pm

    “Well have you seen any base units of Vipec’s fail (other than the brake issue)? Cause I have yet to hear about or see any and everyone was up in arms about the plastic on that.”

    actualy besides pins falling out of the kingpin arms at the beginning, the pins are now breaking and so are the heel pieces if you search for it so its general knowledge marker has a problem with the Kingpin

    I know local bro’s who are breaking kingpins, sometimes multiple failures for the same user, a ski hill local has had 5 failures this year

    but the kingpin situation aside I am asking if a tech binding toe plate is the place to try plastic ?

  23. Lou Dawson 2 May 23rd, 2018 6:22 am

    I’ve said it over and over but it’s worth repeating, materials for ski bindings is a matter of good engineering and materials science, not heuristics based on “metal or plastic?” Most tech binding breakage over the years has been the metal parts, including base chassis. Some of those could probably have been made from laminated paper (or plastic) and lasted better — provided an engineer did his job, and the company listened to them and implemented the engineer’s specifications.

  24. wtofd May 23rd, 2018 7:38 am

    Lou, very helpful reply. Thank you.

  25. Lou Dawson 2 May 23rd, 2018 3:17 pm

    I got the medium strength U-springs, now I can ski these things, I’ll update with some spring testing and more info tomorrow, will ski them Friday or Saturday, then pass on to someone more agro than I. Lou

  26. Thom Mackris May 23rd, 2018 6:29 pm

    I’ve said it over and over but it’s worth repeating, materials for ski bindings is a matter of good engineering and materials science, not heuristics based on ‘metal or plastic?’ ”
    Absolutely! It seems as if Marker’s track record with the Kingpins has been agnostic however, with respect to plastic vs. metal, with multiple reports of broken heel track failures (plastic) and pins (metal).

    It’s difficult to tell how much this has to do with the IAE (internet amplification effect), but Kingpins seem to have garnered more than their share of attention this year on the airwaves.

    … Thom

  27. Lou Dawson 2 May 24th, 2018 7:20 am

    Indeed, most binding breakage over the years has been metal parts, but then, most parts are metal… Again, in my view the nut concept is “irregardless of metal or plastic, does the binding break, or does it not?” It’s 2018, we have ski touring bindings now that are a refined 30 year old design, engineers have had 30 years to figure it out. If such bindings break in normal consumer use that is egregious and I’d suggest all you guys vote with your wallets. Lou

  28. Frame May 24th, 2018 10:37 am

    But the first thing we ever talk about is weight of the binding

  29. Lou Dawson 2 May 29th, 2018 1:50 pm

    Hey all, I got the “Medium” strength heel U-spring for the Alpinist. Skied them a few days ago and also put them under the Vermont tester. They’re stiff, measure at 10 instead of the specified 9, but they’re pre-retail so I’d give them the benefit of the doubt. As an experiment, I ground some metal off mine and got them down to RV 9, not recommended but definitly interesting.

    See blog post for a new photo, I placed it at the end.

    Lou

  30. jbo May 31st, 2018 3:08 pm

    Hi Lou,

    Vertical release tests end up higher for tech bindings using the Vermont calibrator if the bindings were set based on spring force alone. This is due to the different position of the vertical axis of rotation versus alpine bindings. When calibrated on a machine that Marker is likely using, they might test at the listed value. You can see in our binding testing article that the vertical release was consistently higher throughout the scale (that test was using a Vermont).

    https://www.wildsnow.com/15123/tech-binding-release-testing-acl-broken-leg/

  31. Lou Dawson 2 May 31st, 2018 5:18 pm

    Thanks Jbo, I’ll keep that in mind. Main point here is the “9” spring is quite stiff, and too stiff for a lot of people, including myself. Lou

  32. See June 1st, 2018 8:37 am

    I think it would be useful to get VT tester measurements from a few of the more popular bindings in the Wildsnow fleet to provide some context. For example, Ion #1 set at 8 measured x, Ion #2 set at 8 measured x’, Radical #1 set at 7 measured y, etc.. The numbers aren’t that meaningful in an absolute sense, but could be very helpful as a means of comparing one binding to another. For example, “these medium U springs measured 10 and my Ion’s set at 8 measured 8.”

  33. Frame June 1st, 2018 8:56 am

    Wouldn’t you all so need to record how much use those bindings have (however you would do that?), as any wear on the pins is going to change (bring down) the release value.

  34. Lou Dawson 2 June 1st, 2018 9:19 am

    See and Frame, indeed the type of measurements you suggest can be a rat hole. For starters, to do it right we’d need to measure three or more different bindings, and as you suggest their age and wear would be a factor as well. Lots of variables. I do agree that such would be useful if presented with plenty of caveats, but it’s a matter of time vs benefit. Oh, and one would need to have a lot of bindings on hand, mounted on skis… perhaps Jbo? Oh, one other thing, for accuracy all the bindings have to be mounted on the same substrate.

    So, Skialper? They already do something similar to what you suggest, perhaps they could do so more extensively.

    I think my approach to this will be to continue doing occasional measurements, more in terms of comparison between bindings, but do give a general yet more accurate sense of what a binding provides.

    For example, if I have time today I’m going to again throw a few skis on the bench and see how a Vermont measurement compares to retention scale printed on the binding.

  35. XXX_er June 1st, 2018 9:35 am

    Unless you are prepared to go grinding the binding parts of a non-adjustable tech binding such as Lou has done to deal with the obvious shortcoming of the design which is that it does not adjust

    whatever the release value is … is what it is

    really light tho eh?

  36. Lou Dawson 2 June 1st, 2018 9:55 am

    I just measured vertical release of a Dynafit Radical set at ~7 on binding scale, Vermont showed 7.

    Then I slapped a G3 ION to the workbench, set at 7 on binding scale, measured slightly over 7 on the Vermont, easily within DIN/ISO allowance for variation.

    I then set G3 ION to 9, Vermont measured vertical release at 10.

    I then grabbed another ION, set it to 9, and got vertical release measurement of just over 9.

    I’m satisfied, and perhaps in the case of the 9 vs 10 perhaps that’s the effect Jbo alludes to. But the fact that my RV 7 measurements were quite close, as well as some of the RV 9, makes me wonder.

    The Vermont is a crude tool in my opinion — especially for measuring tech binding vertical release, as it takes a lot of force and releases violently. Adequate for what I’m doing with it, but I wouldn’t want to use it for engineering/scientific types of projects. As what I recall is in the DIN/ISO standard, actually release/retention tension can vary quite a bit from what’s printed on the binding, which is why measurement is essential for skiers wanting the best mix of retention and release. For example, I do fine with my bindings set to 7 vertical, verified with the Vermont. If want to be careful, I’ll just measure with the Vermont every time I set up a ski/binding rig for myself.

    Note to Jbo and others who use the Vermont, I’m using the “Twist” Nm scale on the torque wrench to measure vertical-upwards release, as it correlates fine with printed scale on numerous bindings that I’ve tested for verification.

    Lou

  37. See June 1st, 2018 6:53 pm

    Cool, Lou. There are definitely a lot of variables and caveats, but that’s still some interesting and useful data. Thanks.

  38. Lou Dawson 2 June 2nd, 2018 7:44 am

    See, indeed. After a lot of experience with this I feel that even the substrate the binding is mounted to is a big issue, and needs to be eliminated as a variable in any extensive testing. Again, the only thing that really works for real life use is to test every binding _after_ purchase and mounting, with the customer’s chosen boots, and use the test for setting the bindings to the customer’s requested release-retention value. That’s exactly what the ISO/DIN standard implies. Even then, depending on elastic travel of binding and other factors, final best setting could vary between binding models, or even between left and right binding! Tricky tricky… Lou

  39. See June 2nd, 2018 8:30 am

    The caveats are useful too. I plan to test my next pair of bindings thoroughly before I ski them, thanks in large part to your repeated advice to do so. In my opinion, if one has a way to perform consistent vertical and lateral release tests and a “known good” set of skis/bindings/boots, one is well on the way to being able to do a good diy mount. The tricky part is coming up with an adequate test rig. I would feel a bit sheepish about taking the gear I bought from some other seller and mounted myself to a shop for testing.

  40. Lou Dawson 2 June 3rd, 2018 10:55 am

    See, with some experience, which you have, you can just twist the binding heel with your hand, on the workbench with the boot in it, and get a pretty good idea of how the lateral release compares with another rig. Vertical (upward) is much more difficult to evaluate. When stepping in at the heel it’s easy to feel an increase of 3 numbers or so, but not when the difference gets down to 1 or so. Bear in mind that all tests have to be done with a specific pair of boots, the boot should be considered as part of the binding. Lou

  41. atfred June 3rd, 2018 1:44 pm

    That being said, Lou, it makes me wonder whether a difference of +/- 1 would make that much difference in the real world. I’m thinking here of the dynafit tlt speedfit, with a (nominal) vertical release of 8. If a skier is usually at 7 or 9, would that be a big concern?

    Thanks,

    Fred

  42. Lou Dawson 2 June 3rd, 2018 2:18 pm

    Hi Atfred, good point. In my opinion a difference of about half a number is consequential, anything less than that, no. Remember that the original determination of the DIN numbers were based on actual cadaver tests, and the creators of the standard felt that their division of the numbers was valid. My recollection is that DIN 5, for example, is 50 newton meters of torque, or about 37 foot pounds. Jump up a number to 6, that’s 60 Nm or about 44 foot pounds, so there is indeed a marked difference… (I might be wrong about the Nm, as I’ve not worked with the DIN numbers for a while, but you get the drift.)

    The point of all this is that there can be a very fine balance between the retention tension setting of a binding that’ll not accidentally release, with tension that allows the binding to release and protect leg from injury. I’d guess not a lot of skiers these days seek that fine balance, but it’s there to be had if one wants to work it. And yeah, doing so would require an accurate binding check device.

    (The Newton meters unit number 1.36 N-m converts to 1 ft lbf, one foot pound force).

  43. atfred June 3rd, 2018 6:22 pm

    Interesting. Thanks for explaining, Lou.





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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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