There are two main types of touring binding, Frame and AT/Tech/Pin. The latter has been around for over 30 years but seen had a huge amount of technological development in the last five. Most of this centre around improved safety and control. Frame bindings are like standard alpine ski bindings with the addition of a frame underneath that allows the heel to detach so you can skin uphill. If you are skiing on piste most resorts require you to use either a binding that has a brake, or leashes to keep the ski attached you in case of a fall. Which system you choose depends on a few factors –
AT/Tech/Pin bindings – the norm when it comes to touring bindings, there are now a huge variety of pin bindings available, from extremely minimalist to those offering near alpine binding levels of release safety. The lightest race bindings weigh just 75g (and are ISMF approved) and have no DIN release setting, but the majority are around the 200g mark and have either single release points or fully DIN approved protection. With big brands like Atomic, Marker and Salomon entering the touring market in the last few years the options on offer mean there is something for every type of skier.
It’s worth considering if the bindings you are looking at allow crampon attachment (for approaches on icy terrain) and have heel lifters for climbing steeper slopes. If you are going to be skiing aggressively off or on piste we recommend getting a binding which has DIN release settings rather than going lightweight.
The main manufacturers of these bindings are G3, Marker, Dynafit, Salomon, Diamir and Atomic.
Frame bindings - If you are going to spend most of your time skiing in resort and on piste but want to be able to skin up to nearby off piste without changing your kit over, a frame binding is a good solution. With full DIN safety certification, these bindings act the same as standard alpine bindings in the event of a fall or crash, releasing your boot so you don’t cause more serious injuries.
When it comes to touring they allow the heel piece to move freely off the ski, pivoting from the front of the boot & binding so you can skin uphill. These bindings should work with all alpine ski boots using ISO/DIN 5355 and in most cases work with AT boots that have ISO/DIN 9523, however, there are exceptions to this so it’s always worth checking before you buy.
While they ski very similar to normal alpine bindings, the stiff frame part can affect the flex of the ski, particularly if you have larger feet. They also add a bit of ‘stack height’ to the binding which is good if you want to get over on an edge but can put pressure on your knees and reduce the underfoot sensation of what the ski is doing.
Frame bindings are available from Salomon, Atomic, Marker and Diamir.