Expert Review: Marker Alpinist 12 Ski Bindings
This review is my honest opinion of the bindings, which I purchased with my own money in October of 2018.
About this Review: This review is my honest opinion of the bindings, which I purchased with my own money in October of 2018.
The Marker Alpinist 12 is a unique low-tech binding with U-spring heel pins. At 270g per binding without brakes, it is a lightweight binding, but it features dynamic length compensation in the heel piece, which is unique for its weight class. In addition, the fixed forward release makes the Alpinist 12 a more advanced binding for skiers who understand and are comfortable with the risk of having a fixed forward release.
About the gear
- Model: 2020 Marker Alpinist 12
- Height: 5’10”
- Weight: 175 lbs
- Preferred DIN range: 11
- Experience: 18 years of skiing
- When I bought these: October 2018
- Days tested: 10
- Boots: Tecnica Zero G Tour Pro
- Boot Size: 28.5
- Skis: Blizzard Rustler 10
- Where I’ve used it: Backcountry around the Colorado Front Range and resort skiing at Arapahoe Basin and Keystone
- Terrain: Powder, Trees, Pillows, Groomers, Bumps
How they perform
What I was looking for
My ski quiver had gotten excessively light, and I was only skiing the Dynafit Superlite or Atomic Backland binding. I really like the feel and weight of a low-tech binding, but I wanted to have a little more of a freeride setup that would hold up better to skiing drops and pillows.
Why I chose this gear
I chose the Marker Alpinist because I like that it uses a U-spring as the heel pins with a fixed forward release and adds dynamic length compensation. Letting the heel of the binding travel as the boot flexes assists in preventing pre-releases and makes landings feel smoother. In addition, there is no feeling of the binding bumping up against the back of the boot.
They are radically different bindings, but I also considered the Salomon Shift MNC 13 and the Dynafit Superlite. I ruled out the Shift because I had used them before and knew I would never actually tour on them. I love the Dynafit Superlite, but for the type of skiing I wanted to do with the Rustler 10 that I was mounting, I decided to try the Marker Alpinist 12 for the dynamic length compensation or “forward pressure” in the heel.
What I love about it
- Elastic Travel: A spring in the heel lets the binding slide backward as the ski flexes to compensate for the heel and toe getting closer together. It prevents the binding from pushing the boot forward and out of the toe pins, a unique feature of this binding style. Heavier bindings like the Dynafit Rotation and G3 Ion use a similar system, but it’s not available in a comparable weight to the Alpinist.
- Downhill Performance: I have been impressed with how well the Marker Alpinist skis. It has more plastic than a lot of other comparable bindings, which helps dampen some of the vibrations that tech bindings tend to transmit from the ski. Adding the length compensation in the heel gives it a little more of a squishy feeling than a binding like the Atomic Backland, but it isn’t nearly as much as I expected.
- Uphill Performance: The Marker Alpinist tours well. I was worried about the heel risers feeling squishy, like on the Marker Kingpin with more moving parts in the heel, but it feels solid and efficient. I like being able to flip the heel riser over the pins to transition, similar to a skimo race binding, without having to twist the heel piece to go between ski and walk modes.
- Durability: I have asked a lot from the Alpinist 12, which has held up well. It stood up to hard landings and skiing bumps pretty aggressively, and I have not had any issues.
- Weight: Without brakes, the Marker Alpinist 12 weighs 270g per binding, which is very lightweight for a touring binding. It is unique for its weight because it provides dynamic length compensation as the ski flexes.
- Power Transfer: I mounted the Alpinist on 188cm Rustler 10s, which aren’t huge, but it’s a lot of ski to move around quickly, and the Marker Alpinist handles it well. The binding doesn’t feel quite as rigid as the Atomic Backland, but I didn’t feel like the extra spring in the heel was absorbing any power.
Issues I’ve encountered
- Ease of Use: I don’t like that while touring, there is no way to switch from flat to the middle riser or from the middle to high riser without reaching down and twisting the binding 180°. It’s not a huge deal, but someone constantly adjusting heel risers might struggle with the Alpinist until it forces them out of their bad habits.
- Any workarounds?: I always tour on the middle riser and transition by flipping the riser down over the pins. I also have friends who prefer to rotate the heel piece when they put their skins on and switch between flat and the high riser while touring.
- Leash Attachment: I use the brakeless version of the binding and have to use a leash at the resort. Marker did not provide an easy way to attach a leash to the toe piece, so I had to tie a small cord loop through slots in the toe pieces.
- Release Reliability: I haven’t personally had any issues with the Alpinist pre-releasing or holding on too long, but safety is always a sacrifice as bindings get lighter. The forward release is fixed at 12, so if that is a concern, it might be best to look at a binding like the Dynafit ST Rotation 12 that has an adjustable forward release. A spring-loaded ball controls the lateral release, and the tower of the heel piece is driven down into a divet in the base plate. From working on and using the binding, it feels like it can’t travel very far from the center and still return without pre-releasing, but it seems to work well.
Favorite moment with this gear
One of my favorite quick tours on the Marker Alpinist 12 was skiing J Chute above Frisco, CO, one morning. I had family in town to ski at Arapahoe Basin, and I stayed in Summit County with them. A storm came in overnight, and I got to put the first set of tracks down a popular light right above town. Normally, I would have packed a resort ski, a touring ski, a powder touring ski, and a skimo race ski to spend three days in the mountains. However, the Alpinist 12 is robust enough that I can ski it at the resort and light enough for a quick dawn patrol, so I only brought one setup and had a great time getting some quick dawn patrols in and then riding lifts with family.
Value for the money vs. other options
The Marker Alpinist 12 is priced at $549.99, which is the same as the Atomic Backland Tour, and $50 less than the Dynafit Superlite 150. All three bindings are comparable weights, so the Alpinist is priced appropriately and competitively. There might be a little more value in the Alpinist between those three bindings. It would be my first choice to use for occasional resort skiing. Someone on a tight budget who doesn’t mind giving up some features could save some money by looking at the Dynafit Speed Turn 2.0.
The Marker Alpinist 12 is a good binding for dedicated backcountry skiers who want to get some freeride performance out of lightweight gear. The elastic travel in the heel provides extra security on landings and when the ski is flexing a lot. I love skiing the Alpinist because I have an efficient setup on the uphill but can still charge on the way back down.