Keep reading to learn more about the pros and cons of this ski binding, who it is best for, and other similar alternatives to consider.
- Where to buy: Amazon
- Best for: Downhill and aggressive skiers. Does a great job out in the backcountry or rough conditions.
- Pros: Some of the best downhill performance money can buy. They are also incredibly durable. Will last for years of heavy use. They are easy to clean and rarely ever have any snow build up.
- Cons: Heavier than most other tech bindings. They don’t have great compatibility. Also a bit niche, which means most people will not be able to take full advantage of the features.
- Alternatives: Atomic Blackhand Tour, G3 Zed 12, Look Pivot 15 GW
Why Trust Me
I’ve been hitting the slopes since I was a kid. I enjoy getting out in the snow and have hands-on experience with a wide range of different skiing items. I spent ample time researching these bindings, breaking down their traits, and testing how they performed in different conditions.
The Kingpin 13 is a binding that combines both tech and traditional elements. As such, it’s a specialized model that will do an excellent job for backcountry riders who need incredibly high performance out of bounds. The pair is a great hard-charging option for larger skiers and does an excellent job when you’re really pushing. Only truly dedicated downhill skiers will appreciate the bindings, but for them it’s worth the purchase.
Excellent Overall Performance
The Kingpin 13 excels when it comes to performance, and I would say that’s the biggest reason to purchase the binding. It gives you incredibly touring efficiency. You can easily tour flat-footed, there are two heel rise levels, and the toe piece range of motion does everything you need it to do. As an added bonus, there’s almost no snow or ice build-up with these bindings. That’s particularly nice for people who push through heavy conditions.
The Kingpin 13’s downhill performance is also exceptional. It was the first tech binding to get the AT ISO/DIN certification, something I found to be particularly impressive, and it offers excellent power transfer from boot to ski. That means all downhill skiers will be able to use these to great effect. The heel piece is especially nice. The release generates elasticity in a way that gives excellent pressure to your ski boot. That’s then backed up by a wide 38 mm mounting pattern for even better leverage and energy transmission.
Ease of Use
Another bonus of the Kingpin 13 is how easy it is to use. There are some great bindings on the market that, while effective, are a pain to operate correctly. You never want to spend your precious skiing time trying to figure out your gear. This model gets around that through two reliable toe guides that perfectly line up your boot and make it simple to step into the toe piece. A streamlined design is something I always appreciate.
If there’s one downside to the usability is that it’s extremely difficult to transition if your boot is in the binding. That isn’t an issue if you’re going from ski to tour, but when going from tour to ski it can be quite annoying. Other models can be reconfigured without taking your skis off. That won’t be a drawback that affects those who remove their skis to remove skins, but it’s worth mentioning because those who keep their skis on during transitions will be disappointed.
That said, the Kingpins definitely require a lot less work to use than similar models. Not only can you quickly get into them, but if snow and ice do get in, you can easily get rid of it with your pole. The larger gaps help any built-up ice fall out on its own as well.
Added Weight, Exceptional Durability
If I have one complaint about these bindings, it’s their weight. The Kingpin 13’s come in at a hefty 3 pounds, 3 ounces. That gives them a lot of strength other models lack, but it’s also quite a bit to carry around through the backcountry. You’re going to notice the extra weight as you ride, especially on longer or more strenuous days.
However, the extra weight also comes with a bonus in added durability. These bindings are made for aggressive backcountry skiing, and their construction more than lives up to the task. They can be used day after day without any long term issues or any general wear and tear. If you want an investment that will be able to handle seasons of hard use, these are definitely worth checking out.
Price and Value
The Kingpin’s performance is a bit of a mixed bag. Though it has incredible downhill performance and a tough, long-lasting constructing, not everyone is going to be able to make use or need those features. The high price tag is worth the extra money for skiers who absolutely need high-end performance. For everyone else, even backcountry skiers who aren’t as aggressive, there are other solid options on the market.
What I Like
There’s a lot going for the Kingpin 13, but my favorite aspect is the performance. It’s a niche item but perfect for larger skiers who need to get aggressive. It does an excellent job when it comes to going downhill, especially when you’re pushing extremely hard. That alone is going to make the price worth it for some skiers. The heel piece is especially nice in that regard, and what I think sets it apart from similar models.
I also love the durability. Anytime I’m dealing with a heavier binding, I expect some sort of trade-off. The Kingpin 13 gives you that through the exceptional construction and metal design. The model is made to stand up to both you and the elements. It does that remarkably well. I’m always a fan of good investments, and it’s hard to call this model anything else. How easy it is to get snow out of the bindings is worth mentioning as well.
What I Dislike
Perhaps the biggest drawback of this binding is that you cannot transition while your boot is in the binding. As mentioned, that’s not something that’s going to affect or bother some skiers, but it will annoy others in a big way. Having to make your transition more of a production than needed just takes time and bogs you down.
I am also not a big fan of the Kingpin’s weight. While you do get the extra durability for that price, it’s still something that I’m not into. I look to cut weight whenever I can, regardless of my setup or skiing style. Adding something that can weigh up to a pound more than the competition is never ideal, especially if you’re heading on a longer trip.
The Kingpin 13 is a reliable binding. However, there are similar options that give you a bit more versatility at a different price. If you want a downhill option that diverges from the mold, check these out:
- Atomic Blackhand Tour – The Blackhand Tour is a lightweight binding that comes with numerous features packed into the design. While, unlike the Kingpin 13, it’s not a great choice for hard-charging downhill skiers, it’s a great option for skiers who want more metered performance in the backcountry and less weight.
- G3 Zed 12 – Another solid lightweight option, the Zed 12 is a simple-to-use binding with many excellent traits. This model gives you an ample amount of functionality inside the slick-looking design. There are no brakes included, but everything else works well. It’s also well-built and will be able to handle the many trials of the mountain.
- Look Pivot 15 GW – While pricey and much more than most skiers will need, the Pivot 15 GW is a great all-around downhill binding with a strong full metal construction. The durability is nearly unmatched, the design is comfortable, and it offers a lot of versatility. A great choice for designers who want longevity and performance.
Are these bindings adjustable?
The Kingpin 13 Bindings give you roughly 20mm worth of play, which means you can get a tech to adjust them without a remount if your sole falls into that range.
Do these work with traditional Alpine Boots?
The Kingpin 13 only works with alpine touring boots that have tech inserts. They won’t work with traditional models that have a ISO 5355 sole.
How much do these bindings weigh?
The pair of Kingpin 13’s come in at three pounds, three ounces.
When it’s all said and done, the Kingpin is an easy-to-use binding with exceptional downhill performance. Even if it’s not for everyone, those that need the best possible binding for their setup will absolutely love what these have to offer.
A few issues stop it from being a pure-touring option, such as the weight and ease of transition, but there’s still a lot to like. The fact that it will last for years is something to appreciate as well.