One thing to remember about the Marker Duke/Baron/Tour series of bindings: While they are super stiff in alpine mode, they’re a bit twisty and sloppy when you’ve got your heel unlatched in tour mode. Why? Simply because these bindings eliminate weight by using a minimalist frame connecting toe and heel, but in alpine mode the twisting of said frame is eliminated by a beefy attachment plate located on the ski under the binding heel. We don’t fault the bindings for this, as it’s impossible to keep the weight of a ski binding down and have it do everything perfectly. But it is important to get clear on what’s going on with Markers so vague internet rumors of “heel slop in touring mode” don’t cause undue concern.
Marker attempts to mitigate binding slop in touring mode by building various “catch” systems into the heel lifter. Our 2009 tester Duke is fairly basic, with a bent wire lifter that falls between bumps on the attachment plate. This works to a degree, but once you have ice build up on the plate the lifter foot slips to the side, and you end up with quite a bit of movement. Likewise, with enough force and torque, say on a sidehill, you can end up with the lifter foot falling off the edge of the plate when you set your heel down after a stride, thus allowing disconcerting slop.
Marker’s Tour F12/10 tend to flex sideways just as the Duke/Baron does, but it has a more sophisticated heel lifter that may do a better job of mitigating this. The way it works is the lifter has teeth on its foot, which mate with a series of notches on the plate that’s attached to the ski.
Thing to realize with this is if you’re doing something like a sidehill or kickturn with any of the Marker touring capable bindings, you can easily flex your boot heel to the side BEFORE the heel lifter foot engages the plate on the ski. Then, as you bring your heel down, the lifter foot will sit down to the side of where it’s supposed to be, and you notice a lot of binding torque. Key is to use good technique and pay attention to this issue. More, while Marker does provide what is probably the most “alpine” like of all touring bindings, behavior of the binding’s heel lift is definitely a compromise to be aware of.
That said, you can flex a Fritschi to the side fairly easily, and the Silvretta Pure models are quite sloppy as well. The most solid in touring mode are the tech bindings, since they use the rigid boot sole as the binding heel/to connector frame.
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.
A bit off topic, does a Duke ski crampon fit on the Tour or are they different?
Richard, I’m pretty sure they are the same, but not 100% sure.
God bless Dynafit for being such a simple and functional binding! And god bless me for not jumping off the cliffs and skiing ultrahard in the resort 🙂
I have Tours and Barons, and my 113mm crampons are interchangeable, so no problem there.
I am aware of the flex issues with these bindings, but so far it hasn’t been a problem. I’ve used the Barons in spring/summer conditions, mostly on soft corn, but also during icy early morning conditions on steep side-hills with crampons attached – never had my heel lift slip off the plate (yet…).
For me the bigger hassle is changing the heel lift position on the Barons. I’m looking forward to the new Tour heel lift since – with a little practice you can actually switch positions with your ski pole – not so easily done with the Duke/Baron bindings.
Since you have the Tour in-hand, can you tell if the drill holes for the Tour are the same as the Duke/Baron? 🙂
Yes, yes yes and yes… 😀
Nice topic Lou. I feel this is a huge drawback of the Fritschi/Marker bindings. I had one season on Freerides when I broke the connecting steel in the toe piece from this issue. Twice.
I was also forced to tour for ~10 days on Dukes on a ski trip. Just putting a ton of miles in tour mode softened the binding considerably while touring. I feel the slop ‘accumulates’ over time on the Marker series. This hasn’t affected any downhill performace that I can tell, but still find it alarming.
I have to say that flipping the heel lifts on dukes/barons can be done pretty easily with a ski pole. Just don’t use the mostly worthless “low” setting. Pretend your duke only has a zero and high setting and ski poles work great.
Do you think it’s possible to switch the climbing lift from a pair of Tours to a pair of Dukes? I have a pair of Dukes on one of my touring setups, and one of my complaints has always been that the heel lift is a little low and doesn’t give quite enough leverage on the steeper slopes. Thanks
Probably not, but only the bold modder will know for sure. Question is, where are you getting the parts for this mod? Off some guy in the terrain park who has Markers but never tours on them?
You’re aware that Marker offers a higher lift for the Duke/Baron that you can swap out, right?
Good point, Lou. I was thinking that maybe it would be a replacement part from Marker.
I had no idea there was a longer lift available. Thanks for the tip, Colin.
Good knowledge base here, thanks Colin! My bad for not mentioning that in this post.
Thanks for another great review. I put a pair of Barons on my Coombas late last season to use with both my alpine and AT boots, but have yet to tour on them (kept using my dedicated AT setup), but they certainly ski well inbounds. I have been toying with the idea of putting the Tours on instead (a pound saved!) if I can sell the Barons. It seems to me that the concept behind both lifter designs are faulty. Wouldn’t it make more sense to have the lifter fit in a deep groove in the plate on the ski rather than be limited by those little bumps? Then if the slop in the plate torqued the assembly to the side, the rounded edges of the lifter would direct it back into the groove, in effect self centering it.
Can the tour F10 or 12 be used as a mostly ski resort binding?
How would the Marker barrons work on the Fischer Watea 98’s for a touring combo?
Tom, I’d think they’d work fine, but if you’re doing much human-powered you might want to consider a Fritschi Freeride, as the heel lifter works much better on those.
Does anyone know if there are any functional differences between the Baron model year 09-10 and model year 11-12? I ordered what I thought was the 11-12 model but was shipped the 09-10 model.
Knowing how these things go, I’d tend to want the latest year/model unless you’re getting a significant price reduction.
Did anybody experience the Duke binding squeaking? One of mine does both in the tour and downhill mode. Just wondering whether I should be worried. Could lubing it up help somehow?
Hey Lou or others – anybody have experience with the current (OK, last year’s model) of the Marker F10 heel lifter getting bent out of shape? Mine keep popping out on steep stuff, or just slamming back to ‘flat’ position. Can I order just the heel lifter from Marker?
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