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Alpine Touring Bindings

Alpine Touring Bindings

Choosing the best alpine touring bindings for your needs can be daunting, there are so many models available! Here we'll explain how these bindings work, and the criteria to consider when deciding what's best for you. Alpine touring bindings are designed to let you travel efficiently on skis in mountainous terrain. To do so all alpine touring bindings have a walk mode, in which the boot articulates at the toe to enable the skier to climb uphill on skis using skins, and a downhill mode where the boot is locked down at the heel. As the name suggests, alpine touring bindings are for skiing downhill in alpine mode with the heel locked, unlike telemark bindings where the heel is always free.

Binding Technologies
All alpine touring bindings use one of two basic designs, called plate bindings or insert bindings.
Plate Bindings
Plate bindings were the first to be developed and basically added a metal plate (or bars) under an alpine style binding. These attach to the skis under the toepiece by a hinge, so that the boot and binding can articulate in uphill mode. Once at the top, the back of the plate can be locked down on the ski. The best known example of these bindings are the Fritchi Diamir range, which for many years were the world's best selling bindings. The Marker "Royal" family composed of the Duke, Baron, Tour EPF 12 and Tour 10 bindings are now the most popular plate bindings available.
Plate bindings are easy to use and can offer alpine-style control and reliable release. They are however heavy, with most models weighing between 1.5-2.0 kg per pair, and because of this have been eclipsed by insert bindings.
Insert Bindings
Every gram costs when skinning uphill and for many years skiers dreamt of a lightweight touring that would make backcountry travel easier. In 1984 Fritz Barthel developed the first version of the Low Tech "insert" bindings". These used a sprung jaw with two pins that locked into a small metal hollow on either side of the boot toe, and a heel unit with two forward facing pins that slotted into recesses cut into the back of the ski boot heel. In climb mode the heel unit rotated 90° to the right so that the boot was only attached by the toe piece "inserts" giving frictionless movement and greatly reduced weight.
In downhill mode the "pins" of the heel unit engage the boot slots. The heel unit could be adjusted for lateral and vertical release.  It took several more years to develop the binding into the Dynafit "Tour Lite Tech"  TLT Turn, the first commercially available insert binding and which is still available as the Dynafit TLT Speed 2.0 binding. 
Insert bindings are a little more fiddly to enter and exit than plate bindings, and also require greater care when adjusting for boot size and release settings, but they are so much lighter that the vast majority of tourers now use insert bindings and every year there are more and more models available. 
Insert "Plus" Bindings
Offpiste skiers and tourers using wide skis and powerful rigid boots found that the narrow spacing of the rear pins limited ski performance compared with the greater force applied to the ski boot using an alpine style heel unit. Several manufactuers now supply bindings that combine an insert type toepiece with an alpine style heel unit, which moves backwards in climb mode with heel lifts, while clamping the ski boot firmly in ski mode. The Marker Kingpin 10 and Kingpin 13 bindings, and the Fritschi Tecton bindings are the latest and most sucessful Insert "Plus" bindings currently available.

Touring Categories
"Alpine Touring" covers a variety of skiing styles, from skimo (ski mountaineering) race competitors counting every gram, skiers looking for the most efficient combination of both uphill and downhill performance to skiers who want the highest level of downhill control skiing wide skis, often on steep slopes.
To help to select the best gear for your needs we've divided our alpine touring bindings into three categories: Race, Efficient and Free-Tour. 
"Race" Bindings
These are minimalist insert bindings designed to be as light as possible. Designed for ski mountaineering competitions and for touring wanting the lowest possible weight. Designed to be used with ski leashes, some race bindings have slots for use with ski crampons, others do not. Most race bindings have stripped down release mechanisms and many are not adjustable, or involve swapping the heel "U" springs.
"Efficient" Bindings
Most ski tourers want a binding that will let them climb easily, gives good downhill control and will release reliably in the event of a fall. The best of all possible worlds. These bindings may offer a choice of using a leash or ski brakes and generally have slots for ski crampons. These bindings are best choice for most ski tourers and for use with skis with a waist of 80-105 mm. They weigh a little more than the "Race" category binding but are considerably lighter than the "Free-Tour" bindings, and all have reliable release mechansims.
"Free-Tour" Bindings
These are designed for skiers using wider waisted skis (90 mm +), for particularly strong skiers and for skiers using lifts to access the "sidecountry". These bindings have a heavier construction to cope with higher forces and to transfer more power to ski - skiers are often using stiffer more downhill orientated boots with these bindings. The toepiece and heel units have a wider footprint with wider spacing for the binding screws, again to provide higher levels of downhill control. Free-Tour bindings usually come with ski brakes and have higher DIN ranges, or are available with a choice of DIN ranges (eg the Marker Kingpin 10 & Kingpin 13, Dynafit Rotation 10 & 12, ATK Raider 12 & Raider 14).

Ski Brakes / Leashes
It's essential to use either a ski leash or bindings with ski brakes in the backcountry. Ski leashes are elasticated cables with a small carabiner that attach to the binding toepiece and to a clip on the ski boot. They are lighter than ski brakes but you need to be careful when stepping into the bindings that the ski does not shoot off by itself! Best to attach the leash beforehand. Ski brakes let you step in to the bindings. They are also a better choice when skiing in avalanche prone terrain, since some skiers using leashes have died since the skis have dragged them down into the avalanche. Some leashes have been designed to snap above a certain load, eg 70 kg, to avoid this potential problem, but these can also break during a normal fall since it's quite easy to generate forces of this magnitude.

Ski Crampons
When conditions get too steep or icy for skins to work effectively you'll either need to put the skis on your back and use regular crampons, or attach ski crampons to the skis. While booting uphill can sometimes be quicker, in glaciated terrain it's often better to keep the skis on your feet due to the risk of crevasses. Each brand has their own attachment system but if there is an industry standard it is the Dynafit system. Most models of ski crampons attach to the binding toepiece and can articulate, moving up as you slide the ski forward then gripping the snow as you put the foot down. Most manufacturers make ski crampons in several widths, and you should select the narrowest width that will fit your skis. 

Heel Lifts
Heel lifts reduce stress on your calves when climbing by raising the height of the base for the boot heel. All alpine touring bindings apart from some race models have heel lifts, often with a choice of two heights.
The simpler bindings activate the heel lifts by rotating the heel units, while the majority now use metal flaps that can easily be flipped into position using the ski pole.

We stock a large range of Alpine Touring Bindings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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