Can you imagine the old days of skiing when all you had to do to get ready was to tie your feet to your skis with leather straps or basic buckles? Just strap your boots to your skis and hope for the best. That’s what it was like before ski bindings. Thankfully, we’ve come a long way since that point.
Many people overlook ski bindings when first getting their gear together. However, that doesn’t mean ski bindings are not an important aspect of your overall setup. Good models keep your skis attached to your boots in challenging conditions, and they also allow you to release when you take a hard fall.
Not every skier knows what to look for when purchasing ski bindings. To help with that, the following sections will outline some of the best ski bindings on today’s market. Bindings might seem simple, and it may be hard to see variation, but there is a large gap between the best models and the rest of the competition.
- If you’re strictly an alpine skier looking for great downhill bindings, Marker is a brand to check out. Check out the Marker Griffon 13 ID and Marker Jester 16 ID models to meet your alpine needs.
- The Look Pivot 18 GW bindings are a great option for free riders who like to tackle all areas of the mountain and terrain park. Another great option that meets the demands of freeride style skiers is the Atomic Warden MNC 13.
- If you want a durable option that works for almost any skier, pick the Solomon STH2 WTR 16 bindings.
- The Tyrolia Attack2 11 GW bindings are perfect for beginners to intermediate skiers who want a budget-conscious binding.
- Backcountry skiers will want to check out both the G3 Ion 10 and the Dynafit ST Rotation 12. Both are great for ski touring.
- If you want a ski binding that can perform well in both alpine and touring conditions, check out either the Solomon S/Lab Shift MNC or the Atomic Shift MNC 13. Both are fantastic hybrid models.
Who Should Get This
If you have skis, you need to get ski bindings. That may seem obvious to experienced skiers, but I’ve seen plenty of new skiers stare at an unmounted pair of skis wondering what’s wrong. Without bindings, you have two skiing sleds. I’ve seen old unmounted skis turn into a variety of different projects such as chairs or fences, but if you want to ski on reliable skis, you need to get bindings to go along with them.
As you may have already noticed, there are plenty of different ski bindings to choose from. The options listed here are some of the best on the market, but don’t forget that each binding has a different purpose. Alpine skiers will want to get a downhill style binding, while backcountry skiers will want a more touring or tech style binding. A lot of skiers like to get a hybrid option that can handle both conditions.
If you’re just learning how to ski, it would be a good idea to talk to the technicians at your local ski shop before purchasing bindings. There are plenty of factors to consider when purchasing ski bindings. We will take a look at many of those below, but beginners need to focus on ones with an easy release. That will prevent you from getting injured.
Best Ski Bindings in 2020: What to Consider
Ski bindings are available in several different styles. Always match yours to the way you ski. While this comes down to personal choice, the three most common ski binding styles are Alpine/Downhill, Tech, and Alpine Touring.
Alpine/Downhill bindings have a classic style that most people have seen before if they’ve spent any time at a ski resort. You use these bindings by inserting the toe of your ski boot in the front binding and then stepping down with your heel to lock your boot into place. Alpine bindings are usually heavier, which allows them to be both durable and strong.
Tech style bindings are intended more for backcountry and touring skiing styles where you want to limit weight because you’re going to spend a lot of time trekking uphill. These bindings have a front toe piece that uses two pins to lock your boot in place. The heel piece can be unlocked for uphill ascents as well.
Alpine Touring or AT bindings are a hybrid binding that uses design features that cater to both downhill and touring skiing styles. These bindings are great for people who like to ski in resorts and the backcountry without changing their setup. They have a framed design that provides power transfer when headed downhill, but the heels can be unlocked for touring or climbing.
Experienced skiers will be familiar with the DIN setting of their bindings. This is the setting that dictates how much force you need to release your skis when pressure is put on the bindings through a fall or other accident. DIN settings change for each skier, depending on weight, height, and general experience.
Beginner skiers will have a smaller DIN setting while advanced and expert skiers will want higher settings. It’s important to know what your potential DIN setting is because all ski bindings come with a different range. Some bindings will only go as high as 11 DIN, which wouldn’t be enough for an aggressive, experienced skier. Other bindings have DIN settings that start at 8, which would be too high for your average beginner.
DIN setting is a very important safety consideration, so you need to know it when going into a purchase. Ski techs can help you figure the number out. Never be too shy to ask. It can lead to big problems if you don’t.
Ski binding weight is another factor to consider when purchasing the instruments. If you’re strictly a downhill skier, you can get a heavy, durable binding. Alpine bindings with a higher DIN setting that would be common for experienced skiers can expect a weight of around 5 pounds.
If you’re a backcountry or touring skier, lighter is always better. Superlight bindings will compromise downhill performance. Even so, lightweight models are much easier to ski, hike, and tour in. Some such models can weigh under a pound, but it’s more often to see them in the two to three pound range.
The size of your bindings needs to work with the size of your skis. Most of the bindings listed here are available in a variety of different brake sizes to accommodate different ski styles. The binding size is typically referred to as brake width and is measured in millimeters. You want binding brakes that are wider than your skis in the location where the bindings are mounted. That will enable the brakes to stop your ski from sliding when it’s not attached.
Your ski brakes should be anywhere from four to fifteen millimeters wider than the width of your ski. If you have a 91mm underfoot ski, you want a 93-105 size binding. You don’t want to go too small because that can cause your brakes to stick to your skis. Going too wide can also make your brakes catch snow when you turn.
Boots and Bindings
Another thing to keep in mind is that you want your bindings to match your boots. If you have alpine-style bindings, you want alpine-style boots. Each ski binding style is compatible with the related ski boot style. You don’t want to buy a binding that won’t be compatible with the boots you already have.
Just as hybrid bindings work for both alpine and backcountry skiing, there are now ski hybrid boots made for different disciplines. Many boots have a walk or touring mode that can be turned or clipped on and off to match your style. These hybrid boot options make pairing your boot with the right binding less of a worry. Even so, you want to ensure your bindings and boots are compatible with one another.
Best Ski Bindings in 2020: Our Picks
1. Best Alpine Ski Bindings: Marker Griffon 13 ID
Marker makes some of the best alpine ski bindings out there, and it has done so for decades. Their Griffon 13 ID model has all of the qualities you want out of a downhill binding, and they are reliable, effective, and versatile. These bindings have a fairly wide footprint, which is a nice modern design element that matches the wider trend in skis.
The Griffon 13 has a DIN range from 4-13, and the brand’s SOLE.ID footplate is fully compatible with any alpine ski boot. The bindings come in several brake ranges to fit any type of ski you might use. They also feature a no-pull-out screw design to keep the bindings safe and secure on your skis and a cross-axis toe spring that makes for a compact mounting profile.
- Great alpine binding
- Reliable and tested brand
- Multiple brake sizes available
- Compatible with most alpine/AT boots
- Decent DIN range for various abilities
- Excellent power transfer
- Not much downside to these. Just note they are intended for skies of with a 76mm or higher width
Another great Marker ski binding is the Marker Jester 16 ID. These bindings are built for experienced skiers who like to rip and push their gear to the limits. This model is basically an improved and burlier version of the Griffon model. However, the extra strength and built-in durability can really pay off for serious skiers who demand a lot out of their bindings. There is extra metal built into these bindings to increase their strength.
The Jester 16 has a DIN setting range of 6-16 and a weight of 4 lbs, 10 oz. They are not a lightweight option, but it’s hard to find downhill bindings with better durability. They are also great options for advanced skiers who go out many times a year.
- Rugged option for serious skiers
- Excellent power transfer
- Extra metal built-in for durability purposes
- Great brand
- High DIN settings
- Not for beginner skiers
- Overkill for most levels other than advanced
3. Best Freeride Bindings: Look Pivot 14 GW
Freeriders need ski equipment that can handle just about anything a mountain can throw at them. If you like to ski this style, the Look Pivot 14 GW bindings are a great choice. These bindings feature a pivoting heel that has become both common and desirable among many high-level skiers. This design gives a natural flex and twist to the binding to keep knees safe and prevent early ejections.
The Pivot 14 goes up to a 14 DIN setting, but it is also available in 12 and 18 models for different ability levels. They are also available in four different brake sizes and feature GripWalk soles to be compatible with nearly all alpine boots. They don’t have much room for adjustment and once mounted to your skis, you might be stuck with one boot size. These bindings are also some of the coolest looking options out there.
- Great for freeriding styles
- Excellent pivot heel
- Wide DIN ranges
- Excellent power transfer
- Built with skier safety in mind
- GripWalk soles
- Small range for adjustment once mounted
- On the heavier side
Another great ski binding for freeriding and all-mountain skiing styles is the Atomic Warden MNC 13. These bindings incorporate design elements such as a low profile chassis and progressive transfer pads that directly benefit the needs of all-mountain skiers. These are solid, reliable, and durable bindings that offer excellent power transfer from boot to ski without being too bulky or heavy.
The Waren MNC has DIN settings from 4-13. That’s a broad range for a variety of abilities. The bindings have an oversized platform that lends to extra power transfer, which means these bindings can help aggressive skiers tackle anything and those with basic skills progress. They also have an AFD screw that allows for easy adjustment and is designed to not fill up with snow as easily as other bindings.
- Excellent all-mountain binding
- Progressive transfer pads
- Decent DIN range
- AFD screw adjustment
- Oversized platform not preferred by all skiers
5. Most Versatile Ski Bindings: Solomon STH2 WTR 16
If you are on the search for a versatile ski binding that can handle varying conditions and styles with ease, look no further than the Solomon STH2 WTR 16. These bindings are very popular with advanced skiers because they come from a trusted brand that delivers reliable and long-lasting performance. They are durable and offer great power transfer from boot to ski.
These bindings have a DIN range of 7-16, making them a great option for experienced skiers who want a higher setting. However, they also come in a 13 version that caters to intermediate abilities. Solomon set out to limit the use of plastic with these bindings, which means they are more durable and stronger than previous models. The toe height and wings are also adjustable.
- Good for experienced skiers
- Adjustable toe height and wings
- Low profile
- More expensive than similar models
- Not suited for beginner skiers
6. Best Budget and Beginner Ski Bindings: Tyrolia Attack2 11 GW
The Tyrolia Attack2 11 GW is a great budget option for any skier, but they are especially great for beginners looking to get their own gear for the first time. The main appeal of these bindings is that they are affordable but still hold their own on the mountain. You won’t get the same performance out of this option as you would with others on the list, but for beginner and intermediate skiers, that isn’t much of a concern.
The Attack2 has a DIN setting range of 3-11 and comes in at a weight of 3 lbs. The toe piece has a nice fit that provides a playful and flexible feel. The bindings also have a low profile, both in width and height, so you feel more connected to your skis. These are an affordable, solid binding option for many skiers.
- Great for beginners
- Low Profile
- Not for high-performance skiers
- Cheaper build sacrifices some durability
7. Best Backcountry Ski Bindings: G3 Ion 10
If you want a ski binding specific to the backcountry, the GS Ion 10 is one of the best options you can find. These tech bindings have an innovative design that allows for easy entry and connectivity to the toe of your boot. They also have a built-in bumper on the toe piece that allows you to easily step into them no matter how rough the weather gets.
These bindings have a backcountry friendly weight of 2 lbs., 9 oz. alongside a DIN setting range from 4-10. This lightweight design makes these bindings ideal for long tours and backcountry excursions. but they also stand out due to their easy-to-use transition capabilities that work for touring and downhill. All you have to do is rotate the heel in either direction, raise the toe piece, and flip over the lifter bars/
- Great backcountry binding
- Solid design
- Easy to use transition mode
- Great toe hold design
- Not exceptionally responsive on the downhill
- Better in powder than in hardpack
Another solid option for backcountry ski bindings is the Dynafit ST Rotation 12. These are another tech binding option with a sturdy forged aluminum build. They also use Chromoly steel with carbon reinforcements, two materials that make them very strong for a lightweight touring bindings.
The bindings weigh in at 2 lbs., 12 oz. and have DIN settings that range from 5-12. These bindings are designed for the backcountry but can also be used for downhill applications when needed and hold up to be responsive under these situations. They also feature an intuitive transition mode and perform well both on long uphills and full-force descents. A great option for those in need of a versatile and reliable backcountry binding.
- Great for backcountry skiing styles
- Trusted brand
- Sturdy build
- Perform well uphill and down
- Not as high-performance on the downhill
9. Best Hybrid Ski Bindings: Solomon S/Lab Shift MNC
If you want ski bindings that will stand out both on the resort and out in the backcountry, you’ll want to take a look at the Solomon S/Lab Shift MNC. These bindings are extremely versatile and hold their own at a high level in basically any condition you might encounter. This is probably the most capable ski binding out there at both uphill climbs and downhill performance.
These bindings are best suited for advanced and expert skiers. They have a DIN range of 5-13, a weight of 3 lbs., 13 oz. and are available in several different brake sizes to accommodate different ski widths. They have an innovative toe piece that creates the ability to both excel in the uphill climbs, but will keep your boots stiff and responsive when skiing downhill.
- Excels both uphill and down
- Innovative design
- Unique toe piece
- Heavier for a backcountry binding
Another awesome all-around hybrid binding is the Atomic Shift MNC 13. Though the company is new, they make great, versatile bindings for many different situations. This model follows that trend by providing you with an innovative design.
These bindings have a toe piece that features 47mm of elastic movement with 9mm in the heel for excellent control and power transfer. You can also transition to touring mode with just the flip of a lever. An easy step-in system and low profile chassis make these bindings easy to pop in and out no matter where you find yourself skiing. High-performance downhill and a full range of motion for touring make these bindings very effective.
- Great hybrid binding
- Easy transition from downhill to touring
- Innovative design
- Can feel a little loose in the toe
Useful Tips and Resources
While ski bindings might not seem that important to a beginner skier, those with experience know they will aid your abilities and work to prevent injuries. The innovations and technology put into modern ski binding design is a key aspect of the sport, and it’s enabled skiers to both ski at higher levels and avoid injury.
If you want to learn the basics of ski binding mechanics and how they work to keep you safe, check this out.
Mounting your bindings on your skis isn’t that difficult. However, if you’ve never done it before, you should have a professional mount them for you. You need to know the proper placement for your skiing style and you want the right tools to get the job done. Once you know the process, you can do it on your own, as shown in this video.
Another tip is to always buy new bindings. You may be able to find a good deal on some used skis that are still in good condition, but they will often still have bindings from the previous owner mounted on them. I always recommend putting new bindings on used skis as you don’t know the condition or reliability of used bindings. Bindings are critical when it comes to skier safety and injury protection. It’s important to know what you are using.
On a final note, always be sure to check your bindings for damage before you go skiing. If your bindings aren’t functioning properly, you risk serious injury and can experience runaway skis. Either of those issues can quickly end a ski day, which is why it pays to give your bindings a quick examination to make sure nothing is amiss. Also, be sure to double-check your DIN settings if you haven’t in a while to make sure they’re still set to your individual preference.
Ski bindings are important. Do your research and get ones that match your individual needs. Remember that you should choose a binding based on both your skiing style and your ability. If you’re unsure, or if you want to try out some particular bindings before purchasing, you always have the option to rent.
Do you have a favorite ski binding? Have you ever used a hybrid style binding before? Let us know in the comments below!