3 Different Types of Cross Country Ski Bindings

The different types of cross country ski bindings include SNS, NNN, and three-pin. SNS and NNN are far more common these days, but you’ll still see old three-pin styles if you are out on the trails often. 

I’m an avid skier with a strong passion for the sport. I’ve tried nearly every skiing style, and I like to cross country ski as often as I can during the winter months. I’ve used all of the different styles of cross country bindings. 

This post will show you the different types of cross country ski bindings that are out there. I’ll explain the differences between these binding styles and tell you when and why you might want to use one over the other. 

Let’s get on the trail and get started.

Different Types of Cross Country Ski Bindings

UseCommonCommon Old-school
Best forAll ability levels All ability levelsToo old for common use

Of the three different types of cross country ski bindings, only two are commonly used these days. While you might see three-pin bindings hanging on the lodge at the ski resort or hidden in your basement, you really don’t want to use them. 

I’ll still explain the difference between all three styles, but it’s important to realize that you don’t want to use anything but NNN and SNS bindings for nearly every modern cross country skiing situation. 


SNS stands for Salomon Nordic System. This is a standard cross country ski binding and boot style developed by Salomon that has been widely used over the last several decades. It’s a common style to see at the trail complex or rental shop. 

SNS bindings are the step-in style of binding you have probably noticed if you have cross country skied before. A toe bar built into SNS ski boots allows you to step into the bindings and have it clip in place. 

There are both SNS Pilot and SNS Profil styles within the SNS binding category. These are designed to be compatible with corresponding boots, so you need to know which option you have mounted on your skis. 

SNS bindings can be used by just about any type of skier based on ability level. They can work on groomed and ungroomed trails and are a standard type of binding. 


NNN stands for New Nordic Norm, and these are the most modern cross country ski binding option. If you want the best technology and innovation in Nordic ski boot and binding design, you will to want to go with a NNN option. 

NNN bindings are also a step-in-style design that features a toe-bar on compatible ski boots to allow you to quickly and easily step into your skis. The difference is that the NNN toe bar is wider and thicker than the SNS binding. 

Within the NNN binding style, you’ll find backcountry and non-backcountry style boots. If you want to venture into the wilderness on ungroomed trails, you’ll want a NNN backcountry style. If you just want to stick to groomed trails, a non-backcountry style will work fine. 

NNN bindings can work for all ability levels of cross country skiers. They are a bit more expensive than SNS bindings, but both are still very affordable compared to alpine ski bindings. You have more options to choose from in the NNN category than in SNS. 


Three-pin style cross country ski bindings are old-school and classic. These bindings have three pins in the toe piece that you step into with a compatible boot. The boot then gets clamped down, and you are ready to start skiing. 

This is a traditional style of Nordic ski binding that isn’t commonly used anymore. You might see some old-timers on the trail with these types of bindings, but I don’t recommend that you use them unless you want to be frustrated and challenged. 

Three-pin bindings don’t really have any advantages over modern styles. They are heavier, less reliable, and not as durable. They might look kind of cool if you are into classic ski design, but there is no benefit from a performance perspective. 

It can be cool to check out a set of old three-pin bindings to see how far ski binding technology has progressed over the years, but there’s no reason to put them on your skis. 

How to Pick What Bindings to Use

You can’t go wrong with SNS or NNN style bindings. I like NNN bindings a bit better because you get more options for what specific bindings you want to use, and the technology is more modern than SNS. 

SNS can be a little lighter and have a simple design that some skiers prefer. They are also cheaper than NNN, but not by a lot. If cost is the main concern, you’ll probably be better off with SNS options. 

If you already have cross country ski boots, you need to match them to the proper bindings. Cross country ski boots are pretty specific, and the ones you have are not compatible with every style of binding. 


SNS, NNN, and three-pin are the three different styles of cross country ski bindings. Of those, SNS and NNN are the only types you’ll actually see on the mountain because three-pin styles are old-school and outdated. 

Both SNS and NNN bindings can work for all ability levels and function in various terrains and conditions. If you get a ski boot you like, make sure to match it with a compatible set of bindings.

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  • Loren

    I think 3-pin bindings are easier to get into and out of than Auto NNN bindings, but that’s my take. I have skis with both NNN bindings and 3-pin, so it’s not that I haven’t used NNN bindings. In reading your blog, you fail to mention that there is a difference between NNN and NNN-BC (backcountry) bindings. They are not interchangeable. The boots have to match the bindings. NNN bindings are not really appropriate for backcountry terrain, as your table implies. As far as I know, there is no backcountry version of SNS. 3-pin bindings are still used pretty extensively (along with NNN-BC bindings) in backcountry situations. Getting into NNN or NNN-BC auto bindings in deep snow is a challenge. The skis just keep going deeper into the snow. Getting out of the skis if you fall in deep snow can be quit challenging too. There are manual NNN-BC bindings which would make it easier to get into or out of your bindings in deeper snow, and they are easier to de-ice. Your snide caption in the table, i.e., “Decorations” for 3-pin bindings, in the Terrain category, shows a real lack of knowledge about this topic.

    • Christine

      Hi Loren,

      Thanks for your response, and I appreciate you informing me of the difference between NNN and NNN-BC. I have not done much backcountry cross-country skiing, and I kept this post more focused on the standard frontside-focused area of the sport. I’ll look into the 3-pin style you mentioned and the other styles and update the table when I do. I hope you had a solid winter and had some fun in the snow!

  • Michael C Mielnik

    I’m so old I use my phone for phone calls. I’ve backcountry tele ski’d, snow camped and done lots of trail skiing. I’ve tried each new “innovation” as they come back, and always gone back to the three pin bindings. Being a cross country ski evangelist I collect used ski’s and boots in summer and am always ready to take friends and even groups for their first ski. I’d say for people beginning, two to one they prefer the three pin bindings for the non-groomed forest service roads and trails in Western WA snow. I still ride the lifts on my 30 year old Karhu with similarly aged leather boots and it’s not uncommon for younger lift attendants to make me have them call the manager because they think I’m on “cross country skis” even though I explain and I always have my safety cables. The managers always, in mild awe, let me ski on em.

    • Christine

      Hi Michael,

      That sure sounds like a throwback setup you have rolling! And that’s awesome it still works out great for you despite confusing the lifties. I guess if it’s broken, don’t fix it. Whatever works for you best on the snow is great.

  • Scott

    I agree with Stephen.
    I’ve used both. I got rid of my BCNNN boots and got a BC three pin boot. i’m removing the BCNN bindings and replacing with a three pin set from Amazon for $20.00

    1. The pivot point of a three pin is the ball of the foot, a natural flex point versus the toe.
    2. Telemark bindings are all three pin.
    3. Three pin bindings give better control of the ski

    • Christine

      Hey Scott,

      Good to know there is another 3-pin enthusiast out there, and I hope you’re having a solid season!

  • Stephen Marcotte

    Three pin bindings are used by a great many people still. Stop on your groomed trails sometime and peek out thru the woods. It’s quite possible that there is where you will see three pin in use. They are by no means “old school” in the sense that you are implying. They’ve been tried and true forever and the ski shops sell tons of them every day.
    They are in fact typically more durable, fool proof and provide lots and lots more stability on downhills and in soft or deep snow. If educating newbies about equipment, it might pay to look around the ski world a bit more and clarify your description of three pin. Who knows, someone entirely new to skiing might find them quite useful.
    I started skiing in 1974 on a pair of Fischer Europas, fiberglass, with three pin bindings. Learned from scratch how to ski on them, used them on groomed trails, back country, snowmobile trails. I eventually moved on to racing which required equipment to be lighter weight, narrower and more flexible at the toe. Over the years I have used Addidas, Geze and a few others that have gone away and yes, SNS NNN in different brands more recently. These new types of bindings depend on a more precise fit between boot and binding which creates new opportunities for more frequent failures than I’ve personally had with three pins. Frozen bindings that prevent clipping in or releasing are funsuckers at the top of the list especially with the “Automatic” types.
    These days I’m skiing mostly off of groomed trails and occasionally get back in the track on skinny skis. My nice new Voile three pins work great and I have lots of fun.

    • Christine

      Hey Stephen,

      I didn’t mean any disrespect by calling three-pin bindings old school – that’s just my experience with them, but I haven’t been on trails as much as you. Good to know that they are still an option for anyone who wants to explore them. Hope you have a great winter season!