Update: Beyond-Basic Bindings

Outside magazine, November 1995

Update: Beyond-Basic Bindings
By Glenn Randall

Every major brand of bindings performs just fine these days--and has for years. So, having mastered the basics, the manufacturers have been busy tweaking their latest bindings to improve edge grip, help carve a perfect round turn, and absorb shock and vibration. In some cases, these beefed-up bindings actually do make a difference--albeit a subtle one.

The simplest binding enhancement is a platform between binding and ski. Also called booster pads, lifters, or spacers, these platforms, roughly a centimeter thick, elevate your foot for more leverage when you set your edges. Most, such as the one on Salomon's Driver 997 Carbon ($265), incorporate a forgiving plastic-rubber composite that helps damp vibration when your skis are chattering on ice. Salomon's Driver Suspension 997 Carbon ($345) goes one step further, with a pistonlike structure designed to act somewhat like a shock-absorbing mountain bike fork. From Salomon, 800-342-7669.

Three years ago, Marker introduced the first binding that gave you some control over a ski's flex pattern. The latest rendition, Marker's M51 Turbo SC ($380), features a three-position switch so that you can alter the flex pattern underfoot: from firm, for a good edge grip at high speeds on hard snow, to soft, for easier turning in powder and bumps. From Marker, 800-453-3862.

ESS has taken a different approach to control with its Essmatic V,A,R,512 ($249). The binding is mounted on a track; by pushing a button, the skier can scoot the entire binding a half-inch forward from center, for quicker turn initiation, or a half-inch back, for greater stability at speed and better flotation in powder. From ESS, 603-880-6143.

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