You have to hand it to Marker. Ever since they shook our world with their Duke combo tour/alpine binding in 2007, the boys in Penzberg have been tweaking their basic design. Better durability. Better function. Multiple models with the same form factor, such as the F 12 we look at here, as well as the F 10 and Baron. Marker is listening to feedback and leaving no plastic unmolded nor screw unturned. Quite impressive for only four seasons or so of consumer use. We recently received our test pair of production Marker Tour F 12 updated 2011/2012. Take a “first” look.
A few quick points: Toe height adjustment has increased range to fit more AT boots. Rollers in toe wings are now plastic blocks that are said to incur less wear from tech fitting equipped boots. Mode change lever is easier to grab with gloved finger. Numerous changes mitigate icing problems. Evolved more wear resistant touring pivot is stronger. Shape of base plate and binding frame changed so binding sits flatter with less stress, as well as providing improved mating of frame and plate. Heel unit is improved for reliable step-in with various boot heel shapes. At some point over the last 12 months or so, the heel lifter configuration on the Marker Tour series was slightly improved as well (probably what they call an “in-line” change), though we didn’t see any change to the lifter specific to this 2011/12 model. Check it all out in pictures.
A word of advice about using any Marker touring type binding (Duke, Tour F, etc.): Due to the nature of any frame binding, while sidehilling in tour mode you’ll experience quite a bit more flex and deflection of your boot heel and climbing lift than you do with a tech binding. Previous incarnations of the Markers have quite a bit of this type of flex, and some ski alpinists have found it to be too much. This new version appears to be stiffer, but my bench testing shows it’ll still flex quite a bit. Key with this is getting accustomed to this type of flex, as well as accepting it as a tradeoff for having the solid alpine-binding performance these grabbers give you when you lock your heel down — especially in terms of vertical elasticity in the heel as compared to a tech binding.
Weights: Previous version F 12 for 2010/11 weighs 1040 grams, 36.7 ounces (with brakes and screws), new version is 4/10 of an ounce (11.3 grams) heavier. In other words, 2011/2012 Marker F 12 weighs 37.1 ounces, 1051 grams (the F 10 version of this binding may be slightly lighter, but not impressively so from what we saw last season. We’ll be checking.)
Shop for ’em. Note: Tough to know which version of these an online store is selling. The link I give here is for the 2010/2011 version (I asked), official word is that new version will start shipping mid October. ID new version by the dark plastic inserts in the toe wings where the shiny rollers used to be, otherwise the two versions of the binding are hard to tell apart. Original version works fine if you’re mostly keeping your heels locked down. If you plan on much touring, we only (tentatively) recommend the new version and hope it tests out well enough for a full review just as soon as we get it on snow.