What's New in the Alpine Touring World of Bindings?
There is a lot to be excited about this year in the world of alpine touring bindings. Big innovations can be found everywhere from Freetouring to Race bindings. So all types of backcountry skiers can drool over a slew of new binding options to slap on a fresh pair of skis.
A general theme shared amongst the new binding development for this season is versatility. We are seeing ultralight bindings with RV adjustability. Then there are fully DIN-certified, alpine on-piste performance bindings that can transform into uphill tech touring setups. Read on to find out all the dirty details about the new alpine touring bindings of 2021.
2021 Touring Binding Preview
Innovation & Redesign
A Speed Touring Binding Reinvented from Dynafit
Dynafit Superlite 150
The Dynafit Superlite 150 is an upgrade from what was an already popular lightweight binding. Check out our in-depth review here. Some changes that came with the new iteration of the Superlite are:
- A lighter weight of 150 grams (compared to the former weight of 175 grams)
- An all-metal construction for improved durability (the only plastic part being the non-weight bearing toe lever)
- A wider mounting pattern for the toe to better transfer energy to the ski and prevent binding tear-out
- A higher release value range of 4-13 (!) in the vertical direction and a fixed RV of 8 in the horizontal direction
Maybe the most exciting addition is the inclusion of a 'Lifetime Warranty' for the Superlite 150 [and all other bindings] from Dynafit. Cheers to Dynafit for sticking behind the design and manufacturing of your bindings.
We're really excited about the new Superlite that falls into our self-titled Race Plus category. It's a Race binding weight with a Plus-level of downhill performance. This is an appropriate binding for Fitness touring skis, but also could be considered for an ultralight All Mountain setups. Its wide mounting pattern in the toe and large RV value options in the heel make it a robust backcountry option. Put this new Dynafit binding to the test this season: open up big turns and still have enough energy for another lap.
A Revamped Skimo Classic from Dynafit
Dynafit Low Tech Race 105
Another redesign of an industry-leading binding from Dynafit, but this one is for the skimo Race world. The new Dynafit Low Tech Race 105 replaces the tried-and-true Low Tech Race 2.0. It's 5 grams lighter, has a more stable, wider mounted toe unit, and an aluminum reinforced heel piece. The aluminum heel reinforcement will give the binding more torsional rigidity to better handle high speeds and higher impact forces. The binding will come in both a manual and auto-locking toe option. Best yet, these 105 gram beasts come with Dynafit's guaranteed 'Lifetime Warranty.' That is a proud claim for such a lightweight binding. We're sure to see plenty of randonee skis lined up at race starts with this binding adorned. Thanks Dynafit for improving upon an already quality race binding.
A New Top Contender for Freetouring Reliability from Black Diamond
Black Diamond Helio 350
Black Diamond is coming in hot this season with a new addition to the Helio binding family. The Helio 350 will be the heaviest of the series [at 350 grams]. It includes an integrated brake, elastic travel in the heel unit for better impact absorption, a wider mounted toe unit for better power transmission, 30mm of heel adjustability to accommodate different boot sizes, and five (YES FIVE) unique riser heights for a crazy level of uphill touring accommodation. Like the rest of the Helio family of bindings, this bad boy is constructed entirely of aluminum and steel to ensure ultimate durability/reliability. The RV in the heel can be adjusted in both the vertical and horizontal directions between 5-12. This is a featured-packed binding for its scant weight. The ideal user for this binding is someone who wants a Freetouring/All Mountain binding that's lightweight and reliable, but doesn't skimp with downhill performance.
A Lightweight Heavyweight from Black Diamond
Black Diamond Helio 200 LT
We're excited about the expansion of the Black Diamond Helio binding series. BD has quickly built itself a reputation making durable, reliable bindings that come in a svelte package. The BD Helio 200 LT aptly follows suit. The Helio 200 LT (Lightweight) is the slimmer cousin to the Helio 200. It dropped the adjustment plate, redesigned the toe unit [for improved ease of use], and switched the heel spring from steel to titanium. What BD kept is the all-metal construction, the adjustable vertical and horizontal RV, and overall simplistic design. Weighing in at 167 grams, this humble binding overstates its weight to stay under the radar as a lightweight Race Plus binding. This binding is similar in application to the Dynafit Superlite 150: for those interested in featherweight functionality. This is a great binding to put on just about any ski: it's a feature-packed Fitness touring option, or a lightweight binding to save grams on a wider Freetouring/Powder setup. What it lacks is binding adjustability, so choose wisely with how you decide to mount this binding.
The New Ceiling for Freetouring Performance from Marker
Marker Duke PT 16 & 12
This is a binding that will push the ceiling higher for downhill skiing performance. The Marker Duke PT (Pin Tech) looks to fit every last bit of on-piste performance (elasticity in both the heel and toe, high DIN-rated release value, integrated ski brake) into a touring binding package. The binding has a removable downhill toe unit that can be stowed away to save 300 grams for uphill travel. Underneath is a traditional tech style toe for efficient touring capabilities. The heel unit is similar to the rest of the Marker Royal family - an elastic, DIN-rated heel. But the Duke PT heel also includes multiple risers built into the brake for uphill touring. All of these features are packed into the binding's 1350 gram weight. That's not light by backcountry standards, but no backcountry binding is as capable of mach speeds, huge cliff jumps, and full seasons of on-resort use. It's everything that one would look for in a downhill ski binding, but still capable of transforming into an uphill ski mode for backcountry travel. This is a great binding for someone who skis predominantly on the resort, but wants the hybrid option of touring every-so-often. The Duke PT defines a new place on the far Freeride end of the alpine touring binding spectrum.
A Hybrid Binding with a Shiny New RV from Atomic
Atomic Shift MNC 10
The Shift is a great hybrid (on & off piste) binding that is new this season with a lower adjustable release value configuration perfect for lighter riders (with a RV range from 4-10). The Shift is a true hybrid binding that can handle a full season of spinning lifts on the resort. But with a few flips and flicks, the binding can transform into an uphill touring mode with the use of an efficient tech-style toe. This binding is in the same category of use as the Market Duke PT: uncompromised downhill skiing performance in a beefy touring package. If you're looking to build a quiver-of-one set up for both on and off the resort, I would point you in the direction of the Shift MNC.
So Many Options, So little Time!
Winter is Just Around the Corner
All of this binding talk has me sweaty with anticipation for the snow to start falling. Where do you lay on the spectrum? Are you a diehard Freetouring Sender, looking for a tank of a binding capable of handling GS-style turns down a 50° slope? Then it sounds like you need the Shift or Duke PT. Or maybe you a gram counting weight-weenie wanting to squeak every last drop of performance out of your backcountry touring kit, so you can travel into the mountains farther and faster. If so, the Low Tech Race 105 or BD Helio 200 LT would suit you best. Or you could be new to this whole game, just interested in dipping your toes into the world of alpine ski touring. Anyways, there are plenty of new binding options out there, all ready to put a smile on your face while you effortlessly slide through the snow, all human-powered of course.