Ski bindings are one of the most important components of downhill skiing. They provide the vital connection between a skier’s ski boots and his or her skis. While some skis come with integrated bindings, most modern skis do not. Instead, bindings are sold separately, and are therefore one of the most crucial purchasing decisions that skiers are faced with.
The importance of good bindings cannot be overstated. Bindings are meant to grip the ski boots tightly, but not too tightly. They also need to release from the boots when the torque exceeds a certain amount. If the bindings are not of good quality, they may release the skis too early, causing a wipeout, or too late, causing injury if the skier were to fall.
Ski bindings are not merely vital for safety. They are also designed to absorb shock, minimize fatigue, and limit vibration. Because of all of these factors, it’s important for skiers to carefully consider which ski bindings that are right for them.
History of Ski Bindings
Ski bindings were first used by Sondre Norheim, known as the father of skiing, although they are far from what modern-day ski bindings offer. Norheim’s bindings involved a leather toe strap that was secured with a buckle, and a heel strap that was made from twisting birch roots together. The contraption kept the user’s boots affixed to the skis, but also allowed them to lift their heels up without their skis falling off while they were skiing forward.
Since then, ski bindings have undergone many technological shifts in order to finally arrive at the sophisticated designs that skiers enjoy today.
The Basics of Ski Bindings
For protection of the joints, it is crucial to buy proper ski bindings that not only fit, but also suit the individual skiing style of the skier. If a skier is buying skis that already have bindings affixed to them, then he or she won’t have to worry about about buying ski bindings. However, if, like many people, a skier is looking for a non-integrated system, there are a few factors to consider.
The vast majority of ski bindings are step - in models. They are a good choice, especially for beginners, as they are easy to get in and out of. Almost all ski bindings work by affixing the skier's boot to the ski at both the toe and the heel. The toe piece allows the boots to rotate to either side, and the heel piece allows the boots to rotate up. This allows for a wide range of motion without the boots detaching from the skis.
Ski release settings can save a skier from a wipeout or an injury. Because of this, the proper release settings are crucial. The release settings of a skier’s ski bindings should be determined by the following factors:
- Boot Length and Type
- Skiing Style
In order to account for these four factors, a skier must consult the DIN scale. DIN, an abbreviation of Deutsche Industrie Norm, is a set of German standards that has achieved international recognition. A "DIN score" is a number that a skier will need to know before purchasing bindings. The only way for a skier to find his or her DIN score is to consult a professional or use an online calculator. Ski bindings are always given a range of DIN scores, as they always have adjustable release settings. It is therefore common to see skis with DIN scores like "5-9," which means that the lowest available setting is 5, and the highest setting is 9. The lower the number, the quicker the skis will release under pressure; conversely, higher numbers mean that more torque will be required in order to release the skis from the ski boots. Because of this, amateur skiers generally have low numbers, while professionals have higher numbers. Generally, younger or beginner skiers need scores between 1 and 3, intermediate skiers usually require a DIN score between 3 and 10, and advanced skiers can need scores up to 16.
Ski Bindings Components
Over the years, ski bindings have become more and more complex. While their primary purpose it to act as an intermediate between a skier’s boots and skis, ski bindings also have other components that help a skier ski safely and efficiently.
The anti-friction device (AFD) is a helpful component that minimizes the friction caused by the toe-side piece moving sideways. It’s quite easy to identify, being a smooth pad located right behind the toe. There should always be at least 1 mm of wiggle room between the sole of a skier’s boot and the AFD.
Without ski brakes, skiers would be constantly chasing their skis downhill. When the bindings release a ski because of torque, the ski will inevitably start to slide down the hill. It is not only annoying to chase after, but it can also be dangerous to other people on the hill. Because of this, ski brakes have been added to the bindings. Ski brakes are deployed automatically when the ski is detached to dig into the snow in order to slow the ski down substantially.
Most bindings are lifted from the skis that they are affixed to. They make use of thin plates that give the skier a little bit of elevation from their skis. This allows for easier carving, as the lifted bindings make it less likely that the skis will slide on the snow.
This feature doesn’t come with all ski bindings, and is generally only needed for more advanced skiers. Vibrations aren’t normally a problem at slower speeds, but can be disastrous at high speeds. If a skier is going to be performing fast turns or attaining high speeds, it’s helpful to choose a set of bindings that have vibration dampening.
Cross-Country Ski Bindings
While bindings are predominantly important in downhill skiing, they are also crucial to cross country skiing because they serve as a basic intermediate between ski boots and skis. In general, there are two types of bindings: cross-country touring bindings and metal-edge touring bindings.
Cross-Country Touring Bindings
These bindings are very simple and easy to use. A skier can simply step into them by placing his or her toe into a specific spot and pressing down. These bindings are best suited for well-maintained ski trails, and aren’t recommended for unchartered territory. The three main types of cross-country touring bindings are NNN, NIS, and SNS, with SNS being the more recent technology. It’s important to note that many binding types are not compatible with other types, and it is therefore essential for a skier’s boots to match his or her bindings.
Metal-Edge Touring Bindings
Metal - edge touring bindings are much more durable than their cross-country touring counterparts. They are wider and more rugged, which makes them better suited for new exploration, but ill-suited for ski paths. They excel in deep snow, and many have the option of having either automatic or manual binding.
Ski Bindings Sizes
When shopping for ski bindings, sizing is incredibly important. Luckily, ski bindings are quite adjustable and are good for a range of sizes. The bindings will provide the boot size range that they are compatible with, and it’s important for a skier to ensure that his or her ski boot size falls into this range.
Ski Bindings Maintenance
Ski bindings don’t require a great deal of maintenance, but they do need to be briefly checked for cracks and other signs of wear. Also, before each season, it’s helpful to have a professional or ski technician inspect the bindings to ensure that they are still in working order.
The only item that does need regular maintenance is the AFD. It’s important to keep it clean, and to replace it immediately if it gets damaged at all. Apart from that, the only thing to watch for is the climate in which the bindings are stored. Try to keep them in a warm, dry location in order to keep them free from rust or weather damage.
Purchasing Ski Bindings
When shopping for ski bindings, it’s possible to shop both online and offline. If a skier is shopping offline, it’s best to go to an actual ski shop and speak to a technician who knows a lot about sizing and which type of bindings are right for a particular skier. If a skier is shopping online, it’s important to consult a DIN calculator to ensure that he or she knows which type of bindings to search for.
Buying Ski Bindings on eBay
If you’re ready to purchase ski bindings, head to eBay’s Sporting Goods section and start browsing through the Winter Sports subcategory. To narrow your search down further, be sure to check out the Downhill Skiing section, and more specifically, the Bindings section.
When searching for ski bindings, make sure to check the size, DIN range, and any components that are particularly important to you. It also doesn’t hurt to search for some reviews of particular brands and bindings online to make sure that the bindings you’re looking at are high quality.
Because bindings serve as a direct intermediate between a skier’s ski boots and his or her skis, they are a vital component and should be treated as such. When making a purchasing decision, it’s important to not simply consider budget as the only criterion; sometimes, cheaply-priced bindings may also be cheaply-made bindings. It’s therefore important for a skier to take his or her time when choosing the right bindings, as they can make the difference between success and injury on the slopes.