How to Choose Ski Bindings: Finding Your Best Ski Bindings

Published on 05/12/2023 · 16 min readThe right ski bindings are an essential part of staying safe on the ski hill! Skiing Expert Kat Smith dives into everything you need to know when choosing a binding!
Kat Smith, Ski Expert
By Ski Expert Kat Smith

Photo by Maarten Duinevel

tl;dr For many people shopping for a new ski set-up, bindings are just an afterthought—their focus is on the skis and boots. But your ski bindings play a major role in your safety while on the slopes, and they also contribute to your performance. Just like with all ski gear, there are tons of options out on the market, so how do you know which bindings are right for you? Your skiing discipline and style, skiing ability level, weight, and budget all play a role in what makes a set of bindings right, or wrong, for you.

My name is Kat Smith, and I have been skiing for 32 years—long enough to know the importance of having the right pair of bindings! Ever been skiing along just doing your thing and all of a sudden you just ski out of your bindings? Or on the other hand, ever taken a bad fall and not come out of your bindings? Both of these scenarios have happened to me, and luckily I came out unscathed. But being put in these dangerous positions is a good reminder of the importance of having the right bindings from a safety standpoint. I always recommend bindings to friends, family, and customers that not only literally fit their skis, but will also keep them safe out there and allow them to perform at their best, whether they are just starting out or are sending big lines down steep and deep terrain.

What Are Ski Bindings?

A touring binding. Photo by Simon

Ski bindings connect the ski boots to the skis. They play a crucial role in safety by releasing the boot (and therefore the skier) during falls, which helps to prevent injuries. Bindings consist of a toe piece and a heel piece that keeps the ski boot secured to the ski. There are various types of bindings designed for different ski disciplines, such as alpine, touring, and telemark skiing. Proper selection, adjustment, and maintenance of ski bindings are essential for optimal performance and safety on the slopes.

What to Consider When Buying Ski Bindings

1. What Type of Skiing Will You Be Doing?

Knowing the type of skiing you'll be participating in, such as alpine skiing, backcountry touring, freestyle skiing, telemark skiing, etc., is the first step in selecting the appropriate bindings. The different disciplines require specific features, which may make it impossible or unsafe to use the wrong binding type. Choose bindings designed for your preferred skiing type to ensure optimal performance and safety.

2. What Is Your Skiing Ability Level?

Your ability level (beginner, intermediate, or advanced) plays a significant role in choosing the correct DIN range (the binding release setting), and is essential for minimizing the risk of injury. An accurate DIN setting will ensure that the bindings release at the appropriate time during a fall. Beginners require a lower DIN setting, while advanced skiers need a higher DIN for better retention.

3. How Much Do You Weigh?

A lighter skier requires a lower DIN setting, while a heavier skier will need a higher DIN. So, an advanced, petite, female skier may need a similar DIN setting to an intermediate, larger male skier.

4. Are the Bindings Compatible With Your Ski Boots and Skis?

When selecting ski bindings, make sure they are compatible with both your skis and your ski boots. The bindings’ brake width needs to fit with the ski’s waist width, their adjustment range needs to correspond to the ski boot’s sole length, and they need to work with the boot’s sole types and technologies (more on all this later).

Bindings that are not compatible with your skis and boots can compromise safety and performance on the slopes. Consult a professional or manufacturer's guidelines to verify compatibility before purchasing.

5. How Much Should Ski Bindings Cost?

Ski bindings vary in price based on features, technologies, materials, and brand. Their price point typically correlates directly with the product’s quality. Common price points include:

  • Entry-level ($100–200): Suitable for beginners and intermediate skiers, these bindings typically have a lower DIN range and basic safety features. Though they may lack advanced technology and specializations found in higher-priced options.
  • Mid-range ($200–400): Ideal for intermediate and advanced skiers, these bindings offer a wider DIN range and standard safety features. Different brands and models may offer features such as lightweight or more durable materials and better shock absorption for enhanced performance.
  • High-end and/or specialized ($400+): Designed for advanced and expert skiers, these bindings provide the highest level of safety, performance, and adjustability. They often incorporate cutting-edge technology, such as improved release mechanisms and enhanced durability. Specialized bindings designed for certain ski disciplines, such as alpine touring bindings, will fall into this category as well.

What Are the Different Types of Ski Bindings?

Photo by Henrik Morkel

While some binding types are more versatile and can be used for multiple ski disciplines and styles, others are specific to a certain style.

1. Alpine Bindings

Also known as downhill bindings, these are the most common binding type used for resort skiing. They provide a fixed connection between the ski boot and ski, allowing for efficient power transfer and control. Alpine bindings typically have adjustable DIN settings to accommodate various skier abilities, weights, and ski styles.

  • Benefits
    • Wide range of release settings (DIN) to accommodate different skier abilities
    • Offer the most versatility
    • Different brands and models offer different features (i.e. safety technologies, higher/lower elastic travel, etc.)
    • Many brands, models, styles, and colors to choose from
    • Wide price range
  • Keep in Mind
    • Not designed for uphill travel or backcountry skiing
    • May lack the elastic travel and shock absorption needed for freestyle/park skiing
    • Not compatible with telemark ski boots

2. Alpine Touring (AT) Bindings

Designed for backcountry skiing and uphill travel, AT bindings allow the heel to be released for climbing to allow for a more natural walking motion when on the skin track, but the heel can then be re-secured for the descent. There are two main subcategories:

Frame Bindings

These resemble alpine bindings but feature a frame that, when unlocked, releases the heel and hinges at the toe.

  • Benefits
    • Easy transitions between climbing and skiing
    • Compatible with both alpine and hybrid boots
    • Typically more affordable than tech bindings
  • Keep in Mind
    • Heavier and bulkier than tech bindings, which can reduce efficiency during uphill travel

Tech (Pin) Bindings

These bindings use metal pins to secure the boot toe while allowing the heel to remain free for efficient uphill movement. The heel can then be locked in for the ski descent. Pin bindings are typically very lightweight, but they require compatible ski boots with tech inserts.

  • Benefits
    • Designed specifically for backcountry touring
    • Lightweight design for efficient uphill movement and reduced fatigue
  • Keep in Mind
    • Require ski boots with compatible tech inserts
    • Expensive
    • Less power transmission and shock absorption compared to alpine or frame bindings

3. Hybrid Bindings

Combining the characteristics of alpine and AT bindings, these offer the ability to ski at both the resort and in the backcountry. There are differences between the various brands and models, but oftentimes these bindings can shift between a “walk mode” for skinning in the backcountry, and a “ski mode” for both backcountry and resort descents.

  • Benefits
    • Allow the skier the opportunity to use the same ski, binding, and boot for both resort and backcountry skiing
  • Keep in mind
    • Heavier and bulkier than AT bindings
    • May sacrifice durability for the ability to transition between walk and ski modes
    • More expensive

4. Freestyle Bindings

Aimed at park skiers, these bindings are made of durable materials that can take a beating on metal rails and other park features. They also have a higher elastic travel, allowing for greater shock absorption during landings without a premature release. While you can ski in the park with alpine bindings, using freestyle bindings for freestyle skiing is safer and will maximize park performance.

  • Benefits
    • Designed specifically for landing jumps and performing tricks
    • Reinforced components for increased durability
    • Offer a good balance of retention and release ideal for more advanced skiers
  • Keep in Mind
    • May sacrifice some stability and safety if used for other ski disciplines
    • Durable materials add weight and bulk
    • Not ideal for beginners

5. Telemark Bindings

Specifically designed for telemark skiing, these bindings allow the heel to remain free while ascending and descending. Telemark skiing is a unique skiing style and requires a specific technique and compatible telemark boots.

  • Benefits
    • Required for telemark skiing
  • Keep in Mind
    • Limited to telemark skiing, not suitable for other skiing styles

6. System Bindings

These bindings are pre-mounted on certain ski models and are designed specifically for compatibility with those skis. This integrated ski and binding package not only makes it easy to shop for and purchase skis, but system bindings can enhance performance.

  • Benefits
    • Pre-mounted
    • Can enhance performance since the binding and ski act as one system
  • Keep in mind
    • Limited to use with the specific ski model they come mounted on, are not interchangeable.
    • Less customizable than other binding options

Features to Look for When Buying Ski Bindings

Me on the skin track using Salomon S/Lab MNC 13 Ski Bindings, which allow me to transition between walk mode and ski mode while backcountry touring. Photo by Elena Wright

In order to maximize your performance and safety on the slopes, it’s important to not only have the right type of bindings for your specific ski discipline, but also have the bindings with the features that best suit you. How do you know which features are best for you? The list below describes features and technologies to consider.

This is a DIN chart used by many ski retailers and mounting shops. Using a chart like this is helpful when making a purchase, but when you are mounting your bindings and setting your DIN it’s important to consult a ski technician.

  1. DIN Range: A binding’s DIN range indicates how easily the ski boot will be released from the binding in the event of a crash. The higher the DIN number, the more force is needed to initiate the release. Having the correct DIN setting ensures safety while also allowing optimal performance. When calculating your appropriate DIN setting, factor in your ability level, weight, and ski style. To do so, you can consult a Curated Skiing Expert, or you can use an online DIN Calculator or DIN Chart, included above.
  2. Ski Brake Width: Ski bindings come in a few different size options, which corresponds to their brake width. It’s important that you select the brake width that is compatible with the waist width of the skis that you plan to mount them on. Your binding brake width should be within 10mm of the ski waist width. Brakes that are too narrow or too wide can compromise safety and performance.
  3. Boot Compatibility: Not all bindings work with all ski boots, and wouldn’t it be a bummer if you bought new bindings only to find out that they don’t work with your boots? It’s important to always make sure that your bindings and boots are compatible, and there are a few reasons why they may not be.
    1. First and foremost, the binding adjustment range and boot sole length need to match up. This typically is not an issue, but you could run into problems if you’re trying to use a regular, adult-sized binding for a kids' boot—or vice versa.
    2. The primary reason boots and bindings don’t work together is due to differing ski types/disciplines. For example, telemark boots are not compatible with alpine bindings and alpine boots are not compatible with AT bindings.
    3. Other features to watch out for include newer boot sole types, such as GripWalk soles, which may make a pair of alpine boots incompatible with an older model of alpine bindings.
  4. Product Weight: For most people skiing at the resort and enjoying the luxury of chairlifts, the weight of their bindings won’t be a priority feature. But for those who love to explore the backcountry, weight matters! Lightweight bindings made from materials such as carbon fiber or aluminum will reduce fatigue during uphill travel but won’t compromise durability and quality.
  5. Elastic Travel: The elastic travel, or elastic movement of a binding, refers to the amount that the binding allows the toe and heel of the boot to move within them before releasing. Bindings with greater elastic travel, commonly seen in freestyle bindings, allow the boot to move more within the bindings—providing better shock absorption and reducing the likelihood of pre-release during aggressive skiing or landings.
  6. Climbing Aids: This feature is specific to AT and hybrid bindings. Climbing aids, also called “risers”, lift the boot heel—which makes it easier to skin up steep pitches. Look for binding models with climbing aids that can be easily adjusted and have multiple heel lift angles for maximum efficiency on the skin track.
  7. Release Mechanisms: Ski bindings are designed to release the ski boot with the right amount of force, but advanced technology has led to different types of release mechanisms. Advanced release mechanisms such as lateral toe release and multi-directional heel release can improve safety by ensuring consistent and reliable release during falls.
  8. Anti-Friction Devices: Some bindings feature anti-friction devices, which reduce friction between the boot sole and binding. This ensures a smooth and consistent release during falls.
  9. Adjustable Heel Piece: Many bindings on the market offer an adjustable heel piece, which helps accommodate different boot sole lengths. This allows for easier adjustments when switching between different boots or when replacing worn-out ski boots.

Keep in mind that not all bindings will have every feature! It’s important to prioritize the features that are most relevant to your skiing style, ability, and personal preferences to find the best ski bindings for you.

Features to Avoid in Ski Bindings

While most ski binding features are designed to enhance performance and safety, there are a few things to be cautious of when selecting bindings:

  1. Incompatibility: Avoid bindings that are not compatible with your ski boots, skis, or skiing style, as they can compromise safety and performance. Always verify compatibility with a Curated Ski Expert or professional before purchasing.
  2. Overly Complex Mechanisms: Some bindings may have overly complicated mechanisms or adjustments, making them difficult to use or maintain. Choose bindings with a balance of functionality and user-friendliness to avoid unnecessary hassle.
  3. Low-Quality Construction: Avoid bindings made from low-quality materials or with poor construction, as they may not provide adequate durability, safety, or performance. Stick to reputable brands and read reviews (and consult a Curated Ski Expert) to ensure you're investing in a reliable product.
  4. Incorrect DIN Range: Don't choose bindings with a DIN range that doesn't match your skiing ability, weight, and style. Bindings with inappropriate DIN settings can increase the risk of injury due to premature release or difficulty releasing during a fall. Consult a Curated Ski Expert or a DIN Setting Chart to determine the appropriate DIN range for you, and then have a professional adjust the DIN setting for you. To reduce risk of injury, never attempt to adjust the DIN on your own.
  5. Outdated Models: Be cautious when purchasing older or discontinued binding models. While they may be available at a lower cost, they often lack updated safety features or improvements in materials and technology. It's essential to prioritize safety and performance over saving a few dollars.

How to Choose the Right Ski Bindings for You

Salomon bindings for alpine skiing. Back: 447, late 1980s Front: Z10 rental, 2011. Photo by Chianti

Now that you know how to sift through the many ski binding options out there, it’s time to determine which bindings are right for you. Let’s break it down with a few scenarios.

Lindsay: The Ski-Obsessed Newbie

Lindsay just moved to upstate New York and decided she would give skiing a try, since she lives so close to Holiday Valley Resort. She’s already gone a few times and loved it, so she wants to get her own ski set up so that she doesn’t have to waste time at the rental shop every time she skis. Lindsay would prefer to purchase new gear versus used, and she is hoping to purchase gear that can grow with her as she progresses in her skills. She has her eye on a pair of skis that are 80mm underfoot and a pair of standard adult alpine boots with GripWalk soles. Lindsay weighs 130lbs.

Features Lindsay should look for:

  • Alpine ski bindings for resort skiing
  • DIN range of 3–11
  • Brake width of 80–90mm
  • Compatible with GripWalk soles

Binding examples: Tyrolia Attack 11 GW Ski Bindings, Marker Squire 11 Ski Bindings

Ben: The Older Gentleman

Ben is a 64-year-old advanced skier based in the Northeast. In his hay-day, Ben would ski big lines and no speed was too fast. But after a knee surgery 10 years ago, he mostly likes to cruise down blue squares now. Ben is upgrading his skis, but is keeping his boots, since he just got them last year. Rather than transferring his current bindings to his new skis, he wants to keep his old setup in-tact for early and late season skiing. The skis he is interested in purchasing are 88mm underfoot. His boots are standard alpine boots with GripWalk soles. Ben weighs 185lbs.

Features Ben should look for:

  • Alpine ski bindings
  • DIN range of 6–13 or 6–14
  • 78–98mm brake width
  • Compatible with GripWalk soles
  • Advanced safety features, such as multi-directional heel release and anti-friction devices

Binding Examples: Look Pivot 14 GW Ski Bindings, Tyrolia Attack GW 14 Ski Bindings

Tom: The No-Limits Ripper

Tom is a 190lb advanced skier based in Salt Lake City, Utah. Tom splits his time between the resort and the backcountry, and will ski any type of terrain out there. Tom is currently using a pair of skis with hybrid bindings that he can use at both the resort and the backcountry, but he wants to sell his hybrid set-up and get a dedicated touring set-up. The skis he is looking at are 102mm underfoot, and his current boots are hybrids that feature pin technology.

Features Tom should look for:

  • Alpine touring ski bindings
  • DIN range of 6–16
  • Brake width of 92–112mm
  • Compatible with pin technology
  • Advanced safety features such as multi-directional heel release and anti-friction devices

Binding Examples: Moment Voyager XVI Ski Bindings, Atomic Backland Tour Ski Bindings

Connect With a Real Expert

Photo by Jos Smith

The next time you need a new ski set-up, remember, don’t overlook the importance of the bindings! The right pair of ski bindings will keep you safe and perform at your best out on the slopes. Consider the ski discipline, your skier ability level and style, and your weight to help you determine which bindings are right for you.

Though if you’d like some professional help narrowing down your options, reach out to a Curated Ski Expert for assistance in finding the best pair of bindings for you. We offer free, customized advice to get you properly outfitted and out on the slopes sooner.

Curated experts can help

Have a question about the article you just read or want personal recommendations? Connect with a Curated expert and get free recommendations for whatever you’re looking for!

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