"The Shift provides as near as I’ve yet seen to the ideal mix of a lightweight, efficient touring binding with a secure and confidence-building downhill binding."

Alf Alderson gives us an in-depth look at Salomon’s trailblazing Shift binding. Does the hybrid binding live up to the hype?

The Salomon S/Lab Shift binding was greeted as a game changer when it was introduced last year, providing the convenience of a pin binding system for ski touring with the security and release of a regular alpine binding for downhill skiing. The innovative binding also has multi-norm compatibility so will fit most ski boots and has a DIN certification of 6-13 so will suit most skiers.

But just how effective is it in use?

I bought my new Shift bindings at the start of this ski season, mainly because last season I suffered bad tears to both ACLs after a fall on a pin binding system that didn’t release; my confidence in the system had been seriously dented, and I thought Salomon’s new offering may rebuild that confidence.

Now, after six weeks of using the Shift, I can say that I feel absolutely fine when hooning downhill after a spot of skinning up and my confidence level is pretty much back where it was before the injury, something which I credit entirely to my rock-solid new bindings.

In downhill mode, the Shift's long ‘toe-wings’ absorb shock without any sign of releasing, even on the kind of hard, crusty snow we have been ‘enjoying’ (read: enduring) in the French Alps this winter. The binding provides the kind of energy transfer and efficiency I’d associate with regular downhill bindings, but at the same time, they do pop off efficiently in a fall when you want them to.

I’ve found I can ski just as hard on piste or off as I would with ‘normal’ downhill bindings and get just the same performance and security as those ‘normal’ bindings would give.

Moving between touring and downhill modes with the Shift is a cinch and involves nothing more than flipping the front and rear between marked positions (‘Walk’ and ‘Ski’) which can be done with gloved hands and doesn’t require the grip of a gorilla, unlike some bindings I’ve used in the past.

When in touring mode the pins are easier to engage than any system I’ve previously used. To clip in to the pins, you simply press down on the lever protruding from the front of the binding with your ski pole and this opens the pins wide enough that you can easily slide the toe of your boot between them, as you release the pressure from the pole the pins snap straight into place on most occasions.

When the heel lever is in the ‘walk’ position and your toe is clamped by the pins, all you need to do is stamp down on the heel for the brakes to pop up and stay out of the way. This feature is particularly useful when changing to walk mode in scenarios where gravity taking your ski would be disastrous.

There have been tales of some skiers clipping the brakes whilst skinning with the Shift and causing them to engage, but this hasn’t happened to me yet, and apparently, Salomon are looking into this issue for future editions of the Shift.

In ‘walk’ mode the Shift’s pin toe design also enables full heel rotation for efficient touring and kick turning, and there’s a riser at the back of the binding for steeper inclines; note that this only has one setting of 10-degrees, unlike most touring bindings which have two settings, and some users might see that as an oversight in the design, but personally I’m yet to find I need any more than the one setting available with the Shift.

Another great advantage of the Shift’s combination of pin and downhill front bindings is found after wiping out in deep snow.

If you’ve ever tried to clip in to pin bindings after a fall while skiing in deep powder, you’ll appreciate the versatility of the Shift straight away. Because you’re skiing with what is effectively a regular front binding there’s no irritating fiddling about trying to get your boot to align with pins whilst the whole shebang is half hidden under a heap of snow. You simply push the toe of your boots into the front binding, push down on the rear binding until it snaps into place, and away you go, just as you would with a regular alpine binding.

Nigel Shepherd

As for construction and weight, the Shift has been made with a new material called ‘carbon-infused PA’, combined with aluminium and steel, and it weighs in at 1.7kg; this, of course, is a little heavier than full-on touring set ups, but then the Shift hasn’t been designed as a full-on touring binding, and the added weight is only likely to be an issue if you’re hiking uphill for several hours or doing multi-day backcountry trips.

The Shift provides as near as I’ve yet seen to the ideal mix of a lightweight, efficient touring binding with a secure and confidence-building downhill binding.

About the only downside I can find with the Shift is the price; this certainly isn’t a cheap binding at well over £400. On the other hand, you’re effectively getting two bindings in one, with the Shift being the first system that realistically combines essential touring and downhill features in one binding.

This makes it particularly useful when travelling, because you need take only one pair of skis, yet you’ll still be able to have a blast whether you’re hammering down the pistes or skinning up in the backcountry.

Add to that ease of use – it literally takes one or two sessions on the mountain to get the hang of transferring between the different modes – and you’re actually getting quite a lot for your money. And hey, the Shift even looks good too…

For

  • Works brilliantly for both downhill skiing and touring.

Against

  • Expensive.
Members can save on the Shift binding by capitalising on the Ski Club's range of exclusive discounts for online and bricks and mortar stores. Find out more here.

The Shift binding on Salomon TV

Find out more about how Salomon developed and tested the Shift in their short video about the binding.

What Salomon say:

"The new S/LAB SHIFT binding ushers in the next generation of freeride capability, blending the touring efficiency of a pin (low-tech) binding, with the performance of an alpine freeride binding. For skiers who like to push the boundaries of the mountain and their skiing, SHIFT to the first ever truly compromise-free binding."

Find out more about the Shift on Salomon's micro-site here.