Backcountry Ski Bindings
Photo credit: REI

The Best Backcountry Ski Bindings of 2021

We found the best alpine touring and backcountry ski bindings for 2021. Skip the lines and gear up for an out-of-bounds adventure.

Sure, you might still be able to hike out of bounds at your local ski area, but you can’t actually skin uphill without a binding that releases at the heel and pivots at the toe. And with the investment in backcountry ski bindings comes the ultimate freedom and efficiency for lift-free travel, whether in the backcountry or at your local resort.

While the category may seem a bit new and mysterious to many shoppers here in the U.S., the development and evolution of these products have been going on rigorously in Europe for decades. Ski touring bindings mark an integral part of any backcountry setup, so don’t overlook the crucial technology that connects your boots to your skis.

First things first: You will need to educate yourself on how to shop for backcountry ski bindings, commonly called AT (alpine touring) bindings or uphill touring bindings. Then, with a little knowledge, you can evaluate our picks for the best backcountry ski bindings to find which is best for you.

For help choosing, check out our buyer’s guide and FAQ sections at the end of this article.

Best Backcountry Ski Bindings of 2021

Best Overall: Atomic/Salomon S/LAB SHIFT MNC10 & 13

Atomic/Salomon S/LAB SHIFT MNC

For years, the best skiers in the world were looking for a way to completely lock in the toe of the boot without having to rely on the pins, for both performance and safety, in a single-piece design. The new SHIFT 10 and the higher DIN model SHIFT 13 (available in multiple colors this year) make a great option if you only want one pair of skis in your garage.

Specifically, the SHIFT 10 shoots for lighter-weight and younger skiers who set their DIN between 4 and 10. This is the third fall/winter that the SHIFT has been available. It works great for alpine skiers investing in their first pair of touring bindings.

Even though it’s not the lightest alpine touring binding on the market, the SHIFT 13 is one of the more sturdy touring bindings available. Aggressive skiers who want a reliable and powerful binding for the resort and the backcountry will love it.

The difference between the SHIFT 10 ($550) and SHIFT 13 ($600) is DIN settings. The SHIFT 13 is for skiers who set their DIN between 6 and 13 and is not the choice for lightweight or less experienced skiers.

Note, figuring out the way the toe fits into the SHIFT binding for touring can take a little bit of practice, so play with it on dry land first.

While the SHIFT looks a lot like a Freeride binding, with an alpine-style heel and toepiece, and Multi Norm Certified (MNC) boot compatibility, the SHIFT is a true touring binding. So, you will need tech pin inserts in the toes of your boots to tour uphill — not to mention skins.

The binding’s toe height adjusts to accommodate standard alpine, WTR, tech, AT, and GripWalk soles. So, if you tour regularly but prefer the performance of a true alpine binding, this binding works very well. It also makes a great option for resort skiers who may want to venture out of bounds.

Salomon makes this unique binding from carbon-infused polyamide to keep weight down, while still offering a strong, responsive binding. The idea is to combine the best of a tech binding and an alpine binding in a single package.

The SHIFT allows you to tour in a tech binding while skiing in a full 13 DIN, MNC alpine binding with 35 mm of elastic travel (same as Salomon Warden alpine binding). It features 30 mm of adjustability and 47 mm of elastic travel, one of the aspects that makes this such a great downhill binding.

Of note, Salomon and Atomic are separate brands that are both owned by Amer Sports. So, the brands work collaboratively as part of the Amer binding group. For 2021, the SHIFT 13 and SHIFT 10 will be available from all three sister brands: Atomic, Armada, and Salomon.

For more info, read our in-depth review of the SHIFT Binding.

  • Weight: 875 g (single) / 885 g (single)
  • Pros: Versatility and downhill performance
  • Cons: Heavier than a traditional tech pin binding

Check Price at REICheck Price at Backcountry

Best Budget: Fritschi Xenic 10

Fritschi Xenic 10

Fritschi’s newest binding, the Xenic 10 ($430), is more like other tech pin bindings you’ll see in its class than previous models from the brand. It features some innovative design features paired with high-quality materials to make a lightweight, easy-to-use backcountry binding, with a DIN setting from 4 to 10, at a great price.

A Swiss brand that many Americans may not have come across yet, Fritschi tries to differentiate itself by incorporating safety into each of its modern bindings. Many skiers use Fritschi bindings for their safe release, which includes lateral release in front, frontal release in the back, and active length compensation.

The Xenic 10 has a bombproof toepiece with a unique fixed-stop and step-in pedal. This, combined with broad heel support, creates unquestionable control on any descent and on any type of terrain. For uphill objectives, the Xenic is lightweight and has a heel riser climbing aid that flips down into an 11-degree position.

When skiing in downhill mode, this AT binding has a 10mm length compensation, which the brand says creates a more “reliable and quantifiable release.” This helps eliminate some of the prerelease and popout problems occasionally encountered by people using tech pin bindings in-bounds.

The Xenic 10 also has a unique “lock” position when in “ski” mode, so there is no need to “block” the binding into tour mode to prevent pre-release. This binding could easily become your new go-to for just about any terrain, as most skiers don’t employ more than a 10 DIN anyway in the backcountry.

Unlike the Vipec binding that slides back in tour mode and forward in ski mode, transition is achieved in the Xenic by a simple 180-degree rotation of the heel, much like its competitors. Additionally, and this won’t matter to anyone but serious tech pin geeks, the toe pin wings or jaws on the Xenic snap out completely horizontally, not out and down as the others in the class. Again, the brand says this design is to help prevent accidental prereleases.

Plus, Fritschi toepieces have an actual lever that stops the boot in the right position and engages the toe jaws. When you’ve practiced it and it’s working properly, this can prove very helpful in deep snow and dicey situations when you are trying to get your ski back on.

  • Weight: 560 g per pair (or 280 g per binding)
  • Pros: Affordable, cost-effective
  • Cons: Some people find the toe insertion takes a little practice

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Best for Downhill: Marker Baron

Marker Baron

For those coming over from the alpine side, the new Marker Baron ($380) is a frame-style freeride binding that features a walk option and is compatible with alpine and touring boots. Similar to the original Duke design that came out in 2007, these crossover freeride/freestyle/touring bindings are ideal for more aggressive skiers less concerned with weight and more concerned with DIN/release and power transfer — or those who may not yet want to invest in touring boots.

If you are going for shorter skins to huck side-country or backcountry cliffs, and then shred bumps for the rest of the day, this is your binding. Built on Maker’s Extended Power Frame, the brand says this binding combines the power of a 13 DIN alpine binding and the walk option of an alpine touring binding.

The new Baron sits on a wide chassis, allowing you to drive big mountain skis without worry, as freestyle skiers and heavy huckers are accustomed to. While they aren’t the lightest bindings, Marker aims to make up for the extra grams with power and control on the downhill.

Again, these are a great option for a resort skier who wants to explore the side country without simply hiking in your boots — as you’ll see happening at most resorts through backcountry gates. All you have to do is invest in skins and you’re ready to go. When you’re ready to climb, convert the binding from ski to walk mode by flicking a switch.

Like most alpine touring bindings, the Baron lets you adjust the heel riser to the slope angle, with two climbing modes at 7 and 13 degrees. And importantly, the newly designed toepiece is constructed with a unique anti-ice rail on top. DIN goes from 4 to 13.

  • Weight: 1,390 g
  • Pros: Downhill performance
  • Cons: Heavy

Check Price at REICheck Price at Backcountry

Best With a Touring Focus: Dynafit ST Rotation 12

Dynafit ST Rotation 12

Dynafit developed the ST Rotation 12 bindings ($650) for purist alpine ski touring enthusiasts who are both loyal to the brand and need aggressive downhill performance. The allure here is not only the 40-year-old Dynafit name (also the originator of the tech binding) but also the highly reliable, certified release up to a 12 DIN — more than enough for most skiers. These TÜV-certified touring bindings are safe, extremely durable, and functionally reliable. Overall, they’re as simple and easy to use as bindings come.

A pillar of ingenuity, Dynafit designed (and patented) its pivoting toepiece to even out impacts while not affecting performance on descents. In other words, this is Dynafit’s way to prevent unwanted prerelease on mixed or sketchy terrain.

Recent upgrades to this system include a bayonet lock on the heel system, giving more surface area for transfer of power and edge hold; and hub centering on the rotating toe, so it doesn’t move while trying to click in. And while it can be easy to get frustrated stepping into some tech pin bindings, the Rotation 12 step-in side towers make entry into the toepiece easier.

The brand also claims the step-in side towers increase the skier’s lateral stability during descent as well. The heel unit features 10 mm of forward pressure for high power transfer to increase ski responsiveness and therefore improve downhill performance. Flipover heel risers feature two heights, low and high.

  • Weight: 605 g per pair
  • Pros: Highly efficient for touring
  • Cons: Expensive

Check Price at REICheck Price at Backcountry

Best for Beginners: G3 ZED 12

G3 Zed 12

If you’re just getting into backcountry touring, the G3 ZED 12 ($499) is a lightweight, high-performance binding loaded with features that you can count on as you learn more about traveling uphill. And, it costs less than your boots, which is always nice.

G3 stands for Genuine Guide Gear, and the brand’s reputation for authentic alpine touring expertise across its entire backcountry product line precedes it. In 2009, the company produced its first AT bindings. Since then, G3 has become one of the leading players in the game, focusing on engineering products that perform on the downhill and the uphill.

One of the great things about G3 bindings, especially for beginners, is their ease of entry and dedicated Boot Stop. And you won’t worry about snow buildup when you have to re-engage in deep snow, thanks to the binding’s anti-snowpacking features in both the toe and heel.

Born in Canada and designed with touring in mind, it’s easy to move the QuickFlick heel lifts with your ski pole, as they offer two riser settings for any slope angle. You can also adjust the heel turret in either direction to support your position when moving uphill.

The 30 mm of length adjustment on the heel lets you fine-tune for any sole length. Everything on the binding can be adjusted with just one Pozidriv tool. When it’s time for the descent, the ZED 12’s wide center of support of the turret and metal wraparound base transfer power and precision to your skis.

I’ve skied these bindings many days in-bounds and have never pre-released, something I credit either in part or in full to G3’s toe elasticity. That is, when the binding approaches the release point under pressure or flex, G3 toe jaws actually clamp the boot tighter until the specified release point is reached. Meanwhile, you can adjust vertical and lateral release with the turn of a screw.

If you’d like to add ski brakes, which function just as smoothly and in the same way as alpine ski brakes (and I highly recommend), you can purchase these as an add-on in several ski widths. Plus, they’re easy to install and uninstall. You can also simply use the included coiled cable leashes, which are lighter and quite nice.

The ZED manages to pack the power of an alpine binding into the anatomy of a tech body. Weighing in at less than 13 ounces, the binding uses 7000 hot-forged aluminum to maximize the strength-to-weight ratio. With a freeride mount width, wide center support of the heel turret, and high release values (5-12), I was pleasantly surprised by the binding’s power transfer and precision to the ski.

I also appreciated performance details like its optimal toe elasticity that helps eliminate prerelease, especially in no-fall zones. G3 nailed all the details with this newest version of the ZEDs.

  • Weight: 358 g (single)
  • Pros: Strong and reliable, great value
  • Cons: This binding has no cons

Check Price at Evo

Best for Beginners Runner Up: G3 ZED 9

 G3 Zed 9

The little brother in the new and improved ZED family, the ZED 9 ($449) uses the same design as the ZED 12, inspired by the G3 Ion binding. But the Vancouver brand designed these bindings specifically for lighter or younger skiers. Despite its lightweight build and lower DIN values (3-9), the ZED 9 boasts the same downhill performance and safety as the ZED 12.

Constructed with carbon fiber reinforced by nylon in the toe chassis, the ZED 9 finds a unique balance between weight, strength, and price. G3 specifically calibrated the toe level mechanism for the ZED 9, making it as easy as possible for younger, smaller skiers to open and close the toepiece. Just like the 12, the ZED 9’s anti-snowpacking features and a strong jaw reduce or eliminate snow buildup.

  • Weight: 345 g (single)
  • Pros: Perfect for lighter skiers
  • Cons: Not ideal for aggressive skiers

Check Price at Genuine Guide Gear

Best Lightweight: Dynafit Superlite 150

Dynafit Superlite 150

The newest binding from Dynafit, the Superlite 150 ($549), weighs just 150 g per binding and comprises 100% aluminum construction. The Superlite is designed for eager ski tourers and the race crowd.

With an adjustable DIN from 4 to 13, this binding is appropriate for skiers of all ability levels. However, it does have a fixed toe release, which can be perceived as less safe during a crash. The binding also has four innovative walk modes for increased uphill efficiency. Skiers can employ the Race setup (no stoppers), or the Touring setup (with stoppers).

As it’s designed for Randonnée racing, Dynafit made it easy to attach optional crampons to the Superlite 150. And while the binding’s vertical release is fixed, users can swap out springs to adjust between a 6 and 9 DIN.

Plus, an optional adjustment plate can be employed to accommodate differing sole lengths.

  • Weight: 150 g
  • Pros: Ultralight
  • Cons: Adding the optional break eliminates flat and race touring positions

Check Price at Backcountry

Best of the Rest

Marker Alpinist 12 & 9

 Marker Alpinist 12

The Alpinist is a new touring binding for alpine climbs and descents, made to be the ultimate ultralight option for serious backcountry tourers. It sports pin technology with a lateral (and fixed vertical) release.

On the skintrack and while stopping for snacks, innovative anti-ice pads prevent snow and ice from building up in the toe and heel. So, you don’t have to worry about clearing out the binding with your ski pole when it’s time to step in. Gray elastomers serve as a visual aid to enhance boot placement for step-in.

Touring uphill in walk mode, switch easily between 0, 5, and 9 degrees, depending on slope angle, without having to rotate the heel with two risers. Once mounted, 15 mm of fore and aft adjustment allows you to use boots with different sole lengths.

Carbon-reinforced toe jaws are engineered to remain stiff, which aids in responsive power transmission to the ski. The Alpinist 12 ($449) lateral release adjusts from 6 to 12 DIN, while the Alpinist 9 ($399) adjusts from 4 to 9 DIN setting for smaller skiers.

Marker also added “active length compensation” to the heel piece, which moves slightly as the ski flexes to improve the release consistency and avoid prerelease while skiing aggressively on-piste.

  • Weight: 245 g
  • Pros: Lightweight
  • Cons: Less proven technology

Check Alpinist 12 Price at EvoCheck Alpinist 9 Price at Marker

Black Diamond Helio 350 Bindings by ATK

Black Diamond Helio 350 Bindings by ATK

These Italian-made bindings are now being OEM’d to several global ski brands so they can offer a high-quality backcountry touring binding specced with their skis. ATK is famous for its use of premium aluminum alloy and stainless steel bindings, and people like the brand because of its use of metal throughout. ATK is also famous for making automobile parts for Ferrari cars.

The new Helio 350 ($700) is a technical binding for climbs that is also robust enough to let you drive hard on the descent. Part of Black Diamond’s new lightweight, high-performance binding (under its own name), the Helio’s design improves response while decreasing variability. It’s a burly binding that performs on challenging lines and deep powder, and on any type of skin track.

Weighing only 12 ounces, the Helio 350 features a unique magnetic, five-position heel riser system, although it requires rotating the heel piece to achieve all five. The heel’s base plate provides 25 mm of adjustability fore and aft, and an elasticity response system with 12 mm of elasticity for absorption without unwanted prerelease. The heel is constructed with a proprietary “cam release system” to give both downhill performance and a precise release in the event of a fall.

The binding comes with brakes included in one of four widths, from 86 mm to 120 mm. You can also independently adjust the vertical and horizontal release values between 5 to 12 DIN.

The Helio toe features “monolink” technology for improved stiffness and reduced variability, and the design allows for easy and consistent step-in without worrying about boot placement and downward pressure in deep snow.

  • Weight: 350 g each
  • Pros: Great uphill and downhill performance, five heel riser positions
  • Cons: On the expensive side

Check Price at BackcountryCheck Price at Amazon

Marker Duke PT 6-16 & 4-12

 Marker Duke PT 6-16

The new Marker Duke PT ($700 in 6-16) is one of the hotter items this year, designed to deliver downhill performance with the freedom of uphill travel for aggressive big mountain skiers.

Like the SHIFT, the Duke is designed for those looking for a more alpine-oriented downhill experience. Marker went one better and made the step-in toe lock mechanism removable for climbing, so you save about 300 g off your feet on the uphill.

Instead of having to carry this weight on your skis, where every gram counts and you also deal with additional snow weight, you can store what Marker is calling the “convertible toe” in your jacket pocket or backpack.

Again, aimed more at downhill chargers than free-touring, this newest Duke features the latest Marker Interpivot 3 heel with lightweight magnesium housing to give full stiffness and power transfer to the skis. The bindings are further enhanced with just 24 mm of height off the base, making for quicker turning. The binding also uses a multifunctional “Lock & Walk” unit that locks up the brakes and gives a 10-degree climbing aid (but no other adjustable heel risers).

When preparing to descend, users will click the front toepiece back into place to activate the Auto Quad-Lock technology (quadruple secured), and then step in just like a normal downhill Alpine binding. DIN may be set between 6 and 16 for one of the highest values in the category. It’s also available as a 4-12 DIN ($600). The Duke PT is compatible with all alpine, touring, and GripWalk boots as long as you’ve got tech pin inserts for the way up.

  • Weight: 1,350 g (1,050 g with the toepiece removed)
  • Pros: Great uphill and downhill performance
  • Cons: Heavy, expensive compared true tech pin bindings

Check Duke PT 6-16 Price at REICheck Duke PT 4-12 Price at Backcountry

How to Choose Backcountry Ski Bindings

The freedom of skiing without lifts — and hopefully without crowds — has been luring more and more people into the backcountry (uphill touring or alpine touring among Europeans) for years now. However, the mass growth in the U.S. and the use of these skis, bindings, boots, and skins for uphill travel and fitness at the ski resorts are a relatively new phenomenon.

Now, it is practically commonplace, and almost every ski area in North America has instituted some sort of uphill policy. These uphill policies are designed to allow uphill access for those wishing to earn their turns and also to keep everyone safe from snow machines and downhill ski traffic.

Purchasing backcountry bindings online lets you research bindings so you can find a touring binding that best fits your needs, goals, and budget. Backcountry bindings fall on a continuum, from light and efficient for skinning uphill, all the way to heavy and powerful for your downhill descents. And that’s basically how you can approach making your buying decision.

Ask yourself: What distance will I be skinning? How aggressive will I be skiing? Are the climbs steep? How long will I be climbing, and for how many days each season?

If I’m doing long tours way out of bounds at least once a week (or more), then it’s worthwhile to invest in the lightest weight bindings possible. If my focus is on skiing the most difficult lines and I’m strong as an ox, then my decision will be different than if I’m going for short, speedy skins up the front of my local ski hill.

When selecting a backcountry binding for your touring setup, consider these factors — uphill and downhill performance, ease of use, weight, and durability.

Backcountry-Ski-Bindings
Photo credit: Genuine Guide Gear

Uphill & Downhill Performance

Start by determining what kind of skiing you do, as well as how you like to ski, before you choose an alpine touring binding. How heavy and aggressive of a skier you are makes all the difference. That said, most of the bindings you will encounter are overbuilt for the mission.

You won’t be dropping cliffs and stomping big air landings in an ultralight 10 DIN touring binding. Nor will you be doing multiday rolling tours in a heavy frame-style binding with a 16 DIN.

But with the breadth and depth of choices now available to American consumers, you’ll certainly find something in between that matches the majority of your skiing. If you’re planning on getting a lot of days in over the next couple of seasons and have extra cash lying around, then you might consider investing in multiple sets of bindings mounted to skis that match the terrain, conditions, and end use you are shooting for.

Now, if you plan to use your setup primarily for backcountry skiing, you’ll want to look at any of the several tech-pin bindings we’ve featured here. Backcountry tech bindings are lighter and allow for efficient uphill travel by using a pin to connect to the toe of your boot.

If you plan to use your setup at the resort and for an occasional backcountry trip, choose a binding like the Atomic/Salomon SHIFT 13 that is designed similar to an alpine binding. These bindings will perform better on the downhill, but they come with extra weight.

Ease of Use

Tech bindings may look confusing at first, but they’re actually very straightforward to use. For beginners, they simply take some getting used to. Especially in deep snow, where you can’t see what you’re doing, they can get a little tricky. Some bindings feature indicators to help you line up your toepiece to the binding.

When you get your new binding mounted, practice using them repeatedly at home or at a resort before you head to the backcountry. Start by aligning the pin of your binding to your boot, and then step down with the front of your foot.

Practice clicking in and out of the binding, locking the toe lever (in climbing/walking mode) so your boot can’t pivot. Test the different climbing levels and know how these risers under your heel work. You’ll want to know if and when you can effectively manage the binding’s features with your ski pole, or if you will need more power and leverage to make changes, as well as get in and out while skiing.

Weight

Don’t get too caught up on the weight of your alpine touring bindings when looking at similar models side by side. Yes, lighter bindings make uphill travel easier, and you do want less weight on your feet. But you can also cut weight in other areas.

If you are doing ski mountaineering races or uphill/downhill races at your local ski area, then you will want to look at a Dynafit or other backcountry ski binding with a focus on lightweight or racing. However, if you are an aggressive skier who stomps big jumps and skis long, dynamic runs inbounds to get back to the car, then a heavier binding will be more appropriate.

Best Backcountry Binding
Photo credit: Dynafit

Durability

Honestly, it’s safe to say that any backcountry touring binding is going to be durable. Really, its one job is to hold up to extreme conditions. So, if you have any issue with a binding’s durability, the manufacturer will almost certainly warranty it.

Consider how much you’ll be traveling and what type of conditions you’ll encounter to get to the backcountry. Tech bindings are a great choice if you’re looking to quickly move uphill and have tools for repairs.

If you’re a weekend warrior and don’t want to be bothered with trips to the gear shop, consider a more durable binding. If you toss your skis in a bag and then head out on an airplane, be sure to protect your bindings so they don’t get knocked around in travel.

Boots

The big point on boots is that you’ll want to make sure that your boots are compatible with backcountry skiing bindings. That is, do they have tech pin inserts on the toes and tech heel inserts in the back?

Tech bindings require boots with a molded-in toe fitting and a slotted plate at the heel. Most alpine touring boots will work with most alpine touring bindings on the market, but some brands aren’t always compatible with others. To be safe, you should triple-check to make sure that your boots and bindings are compatible.

When deciding on boots, consider the type of skiing you plan to do in your boots, and be honest with yourself. Fast and light alpine touring boots cut weight to help you travel uphill fast, but they often lack the power and stiffness of other crossover boots.

Crossover boots are a great option if you plan to ski at the resort and take some backcountry trips with your setup. They’ll be heavier on the uphill, but they’ll let you dominate the downhill, letting you ski as aggressively as you like.

FAQ

How Do Alpine Touring Ski Bindings Work?

Backcountry ski bindings are, in many ways, completely unlike your traditional downhill bindings. It’s good to consider them in a different light, although the goal of affixing your boots to your skis remains the same.

Backcountry bindings are different from resort or downhill bindings in that they employ a releasable heel but, in most cases, not a releasable toe. At least, that’s how they started out, and many of the more touring-focused bindings are still this way. When clicking out of most backcountry ski bindings, you will release from the toe instead of the heel, but that’s not universally true.

Alpine touring (AT) bindings allow you to change your settings so you can stomp down and lock into the heel and ski down. The bindings work by holding the boot in two distinct ways: from the toe only, with the heel piece out of the way for uphill touring, or locked in, with both the toe and the heel secure for downhill skiing.

The simple answer is that bindings work by holding your boot to your skis. They are the critical connection between your two most important assets: your boots and your skis. It’s crucial that your bindings are mounted by a professional to your specific boots.

So, we do recommend starting with your boots. You will have your boots for several seasons at least, whereas you could end up getting new skis every year. The bindings are an expensive and important investment in this system. They can easily be pulled off and remounted onto other skis at any shop.

With that, AT or backcountry ski bindings have essentially evolved into two modern camps. Camp one is born from the traditional Dynafit system, where the bindings release from the toe and are held to the boots with two contracting, nonadjustable pins. These snap together into holes on both sides of the toe, or welt, that sticks out about a half-inch from the toe of the ski boot.

The rear features another female insert that two pins fit into to hold the heel down during ski mode (downhill). The rear pins rotate out of the way when touring uphill, and this is also where you adjust for sole length and DIN.

Meanwhile, the second camp uses the rear heel welt like a traditional alpine binding to lock the heel down in ski mode. This newer type of backcountry touring binding also employs a way to use the front welt to lock the toe down in addition to the pins.

Backcountry Ski Binding
Photo credit: REI

Are Ski Bindings Universal?

Yes and no. As long as your ski boot has tech inserts, the boots are essentially universal, but you can’t put a traditional alpine boot in backcountry ski bindings. Nearly 50% of all ski boots sold today have tech inserts. Alpine touring bindings typically fall into two categories: tech bindings and frame bindings.

Tech bindings use pins to attach to the front of your boot at the toe, and the heel piece is separate. In contrast, frame bindings look more like a traditional downhill binding.

The name refers to the frame that runs from the toe to the heel underneath the sole of your boot. This is the part of the binding that will raise and lower with your feet while you are touring uphill.

Can Ski Bindings Be Adjusted for Larger Boots?

Every binding is designed to adjust to fit the sole length of your boot. While some bindings let you make small length adjustments, say 6-10 mm, others only allow for more minor adjustments to accommodate boot fit to the original mount.

If you do alternate boot sizes, consider a binding like the Marker Alpinist that gives you 15 mm of adjustability, so you can use boots with different sole lengths. That said, this should truly be done at a shop to ensure that the bindings are adjusted exactly to your sole length and that DIN has not been compromised.

Your binding DIN settings take several factors into account, including your boot size, the terrain you ski, your height and weight, and your level of experience. While you can make small adjustments on your own, you should go to a certified ski technician to mount your bindings and make major adjustments.

Bindings have a range of about 25-30 mm of adjustability to allow you to change boot size a little bit up or down. Brands in the same shoe size can vary 3-5 mm in length difference, so your binding will accommodate that.

Which Ski Bindings Should I Buy?

People often worry too much about whether or not they are getting the exact right product, instead of just focusing on getting outside more. To an expert, many of the subtle differences in materials, design, and functionality do add up to large differentiators. But for the beginner, you really just need something safe that you can afford to get you started.

Some people start with a more alpine-centric binding, such as a Salomon, their first year, and then a Dynafit or a more touring-focused binding the next year, because they want to go farther, longer, and stay more out of bounds.

Look for a backcountry ski binding that is TÜV certified if you want the safest and most consistent releasing binding (like a SHIFT or Dynafit Rotation 10/12). That said, most people don’t need to worry about this for general touring. Your ski shop will set your DIN based on the chart at the ski shop when mounting your bindings.

In a perfect world, you should buy your bindings based on your objective. If you are planning for mostly uphill skinning at your local ski resort with groomers on the way down, you should consider something lighter, with a lower DIN, maybe simpler, and possibly less expensive.

The farther and more extreme your terrain, the more important other factors — including weight and features — come into play. Look for multiple levels of heel risers (simpler race-style bindings may only have one level of heel riser while more full-featured bindings might have three levels).

Consider whether or not you really need brakes (for resort skiing, you do need brakes to legally board a lift). A multiday high alpine tour would call for a lighter, simpler binding than hike-to or short side-country runs.

Less aggressive skiers need to worry less about ejecting from their bindings in an untimely manner. Hopefully, you can extrapolate this into what you want to do, what you can afford, and what’s actually available. Then, pair that with the right skis and make sure you’ve got compatible boots — and go skiing!

Backcountry Skiing
Photo credit: Atomic

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