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Save your Knees. How to choose the right Ski Binding

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A lot of skiers (not you and me of course!) invest a lot of time on choosing the fanciest ski jacket, the coolest looking goggles, the best boots, and the most awesome skis.

Not many invest time in choosing the right ski bindings, even though this is one of the most important pieces of ski equipment.

Properly adjusted ski bindings of good quality are what can make the difference between a minor crash, where you just pick-up yourself up and keep going, and the end of your ski holiday due to the tearing of your medial collateral ligament or a broken shinbone.

But how do you choose the right ski binding? And why do ski bindings matter in the first place? Let’s find out.

This article is about alpine ski bindings only.

What is an alpine ski binding?

Ski bindings are the critical link between your boots and skis, which transfer your energy and moves into the skis. Alpine ski bindings are designed so, that they’ll keep your boot in place, when you ski, and release your feet if you have a fall or collision. For a ski binding to release at the right time it needs to be adjusted according to your height, weight, ski boot sole length, age, and ability level as a skier (skier type 1-3). Based on these parameters your shop technician will dial in the correct DIN (or ISO) number on the bindings so that it will fit your type of skiing.

Alpine ski bindings differ from Alpine Touring bindings, Telemark Ski Bindings, and Cross-Country ski bindings in several ways. The most prominent difference is, that the latter three detach at the heel to facilitate movement of the foot.

You should never attempt to mount your ski bindings yourself. A ski binding shop will have precise measuring tools, to do this for you. 

You should never attempt to dial in the DIN-setting yourself. Let a certified ski technician do it instead.

How to find the right ski binding to suit your skiing style

Alpine ski bindings come in four different classes: race, regular, integrated/system, and freestyle/fat ski bindings with wide brakes.

Race bindings usually are lightweight and sturdy and come with narrow brake width to accommodate for the narrow waist width of the skis. They’ll also have a higher DIN-range, so they won’t accidentally release at high speeds.

Regular bindings are the standard bindings, which can be mounted on top of most recreational skis. They can be used in most terrain types.

Integrated or system ski bindings are designed for a specific ski and is intended to increase the flex under the boot. They are usually a bit heavier than regular bindings, though, and they limit the choices you have. Furthermore, today’s regular bindings have changed so the flex under the boot is still good. It is my impression, that skis with integrated system bindings are on a decline. 

Freestyle/fat ski bindings come with wide brakes to accommodate for the wide waistline of freestyle and powder skis. They also usually have a lower profile and are built to withstand hard landings.

What are ski bindings made from?

Ski bindings are made from a combination of materials, and usually, hard plastic and metal parts are some of them.

The materials have a great effect on how strong and elastic the bindings are. The materials also have an influence on the dampening effect of the binding.

An aggressive skier, who skis steep slopes will need a binding, that can take a beating.

Today you can get bindings which are made from materials including carbon, titanium, and stainless steel, which will guarantee bindings that are both lightweight and very sturdy.

What is the anti-friction device on a ski binding?

The anti-friction device (AFD) is a small pad, which is mounted at the toe part of the ski boot binding, and which allows for your boot to easily slide out of the bindings when they release.

AFDs are often made from metal (sometimes with Teflon), and can also feature a small spring to allow for a quick release when you fall.

Make sure to always keep your AFD clean and free of rust, and replace it if it gets damaged.

What is a riser plate on a ski binding?

The riser plate (or lifter) on a ski binding raises the binding from the ski.

Some racing skiers prefer a higher binding, so they can put more pressure on the edges of the skis in strong turns at high speeds. That way the boot also won’t touch the snow, when they lean strongly to either side.

For that reason, riser plates are usually found on racing skis.

Why are ski bindings important?

Ski bindings are important for two major reasons, the first being skiing, and the second being safety.

Ski bindings need to be able to transfer your energy and moves from your boots to your skis in the most effective way.

Ski bindings are designed, so they should release from your feet if you crash (and only when you crash!).

You’d want your ski to stay on your feet when you ski, and to release when you fall or collide with someone. It is important that the skis release when you crash, or else you might end up with a strained knee, a fractured tibia bone or much worse.

Ski bindings are flexible and shock absorbent and will allow for a certain amount of vertical and lateral movements before release. This is important, or else they would release everytime you’d hit a small bump on the slopes.

How do ski bindings release?

snow explosion at the binding

Ski bindings consist of a toe piece and a heel piece.

If a force is applied to your binding which exceeds the threshold release/rentention point (the DIN setting), the bindings will release your boot from the skis.

If an excessive twisting force is applied to the binding, the toe piece will release your boots sideways in either direction (and sometimes upwards).

If an excessive forward force is applied to the binding, the back piece of the binding will release your boots upwards (and sometimes sideways), and the brake arms will dig into the snow.

What is the ski binding brake width?

Ski bindings come with brakes – two small “arms” on each side of the skis. When you push your boot into the bindings, the arms will move into a lateral position following the line of the skis. On release, the brakes will release from the lateral position and dig into the snow, and keep your ski from sliding down the ski run or over a cliff.

Brakes are critical when you crash and one or both of your skis release in two ways: 1) they’ll keep you from losing your skis or having to walk several hundred meters down the mountain to retrieve it again, and 2) it will prevent the skis from sliding down the slopes and hurting someone else.

How do I choose the ski binding brake width?

The brakes need to fit the width of your ski underneath the boot. This is also called the waist of the ski.

As a general rule of thumb, the ski brake width (the distance between the two arms) should be 5-10 mm wider than the waist width of your skis.

If the width of the brake is too big for your skis, the brake arms will edge into the snow, when you edge your skis in turns. If the brake width is too small, either the arms simply won’t be able to release into the snow, or they might scrape against the edge of your skis, and not function correctly. So get binding, which matches the waist of your ski size.

Most recreational carving skis have a waist width of around 70-85 mm. So if your skis have a waist width of 80 mm, the brake width should be between 85-90 mm. Racing skis are usually a bit slimmer.

If you’re aiming for a lot of powder, you properly want skis with a “fat” waist. Fat skis for powder usually has a waist width between 100-120 mm, but they might be even fatter.

Twin-Tip freestyle skis usually also have a wider waist than downhill skis. I often see twin-tip skis with a waist width between 90-100 mm.

The brakes on a recreational carving ski simply aren’t wide enough for a powder ski. In that case, you’d want a wide brake binding.

In order for the alpine ski binding to release at the right moment, it has to be adjusted to the correct DIN-setting.

What does ski binding DIN mean?

DIN is a standard, for when your binding should and shouldn’t release when you ski.

Your ski binding will have a range of DIN numbers, which needs to be adjusted by a trained ski technician. Don’t do this yourself, unless you’ve received the proper training!

Each binding will have a DIN-range. Average ski bindings usually have DIN-range between 3 and 10. The higher the number, the more force is needed before the binding will release the boot. Advanced skis designed for higher speeds will have a DIN-range which goes even higher (16 or more).

The technician in the ski or rental shop will decide, which ski binding DIN setting is the right one for you, based on your height, weight, age, ski boot sole length, and the type of skier, you are.

Type 1 skiers are cautious skiers. This is often beginners but not exclusively. The bindings should be set to accommodate for a wider margin of release.

Type 2 skiers are average skiers, who maintain an equilibrium between speed and being cautious and aggressive. Type 2 skiers ski on varied terrain including steep slopes and also skis at a variety of speeds. The bindings should be set to a balanced compromise between release and retention.

Type 3 skiers are aggressive skiers, who ski at high speeds. The bindings should be set, so they don’t release even in aggressive turns, on steep slopes with roughed up snow. They should still release in a crash though, but they’ll have a much narrower margin for release, than type 1 and 2.

Elite skiers are sometimes referred to as Type 3+ skiers and can have bindings, which accept DIN-settings, which allow for an even narrower margin for release and more retention. 

Be honest when you answer the questions, so the ski shop technician can adjust the DIN-setting to fit your body size and ability. Your knees will thank you later when you fall, and the skis release as they should.

Any good ski shop technician will also check your bindings for errors and do a ski binding release test, to see if the boots will release, as they should.

Ski binding DIN chart

Here you can see the DIN-setting adjustment chart.

Note this chart is only here to information purposes and to provide insight into the data certified ski technicians use to decide the correct DIN-setting.

An experienced ski technician will have you fill out a form to answer the questions about your height, weight, etc. and use the numbers as a reference guide.

Chart 1

Chart 2

 

Skier measurements

Skier (release)

Code

Indicator Value

Torque Range

Skier

Weight

Skier

Height

Boot sole length (mm)

Kg

LBS

Cm

Ft/In

≤ 230

231-250

251-270

271-290

291-310

311-330

331-350

≥ 351

Twist (Nm)

Forward Lean (Nm)

10-13

22-29

 

 

A

0,75

0,75

0,75

 

 

 

 

 

5

18

8

29

14-17

30-38

 

 

B

1

0,75

0,75

0,75

 

 

 

 

11

40

18-21

39-47

 

 

C

1,50

1,25

1,25

1

 

 

 

 

14

52

22-25

48-56

 

 

D

2

1,75

1,50

1,50

1,25

 

 

 

17

64

26-30

57-66

 

 

E

2,50

2,25

2

1,75

1,50

1,50

 

 

20

75

31-35

67-78

 

 

F

3

2,75

2,50

2,25

2

1,75

1,75

 

23

87

36-41

79-91

 

 

G

 

3,50

3

2,75

2,50

2,25

2

 

27

102

42-48

92-107

≤ 148

≤ 4’10”

H

 

 

3,50

3

3

2,75

2,50

 

31

120

49-57

108-125

149-157

4’11”-5’1”

I

 

 

4,50

4

3,50

3,50

3

 

37

141

58-66

126-147

158-166

5’2”-5’5”

J

 

 

5,50

5

4,50

4

3,50

3

43

165

67-78

148-174

167-178

5’6”-5’10”

K

 

 

6,50

6

5,50

5

4,50

4

50

194

79-94

175-209

179-194

5’11”-6’4”

L

 

 

7,50

7

6,50

6

5,50

5

58

229

≥ 95

≥ 210

≥ 195

≥ 6’5”

M

 

 

 

8,50

8

7

6,50

6

67

271

 

 

 

 

N

 

 

 

10

9,50

8,50

8

7,50

78

320

 

 

 

 

O

 

 

 

11,50

11

10

9,50

9

91

380

 

 

 

 

P

 

 

 

 

 

12

11

10,50

105

452

 

 

 

 

Q

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

121

520

 

 

 

 

R

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

137

588

 

The skier code in this chart is for type 1 skiers. You should increase the skier code by one (one row down) for type 2 skiers, by two for type 3 skiers.

An experienced ski technician will make further adjustments, if you’re younger than 9 or older than 50.

A short story about standards:

DIN is an acronym for Deutsches Institut für Normung, which is the German organization for Standardization, who’ve developed the schematics for when ski bindings should and shouldn’t release when you ski. 

In later years, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), has released a similar standard, but most still refer to ski binding release settings as DIN. Alpine ski bindings fit ski boots with a sole shape defined by the ISO standard 5355.

Most manufacturers of ski bindings follow these standards, even though they often publish their own version of it. A few manufacturers follow the American Society for Testing and Standards (ASTM) equivalent. 

How often should you have your ski bindings adjusted?

Ski bindings should be adjusted and checked for errors before each ski trip.

If you’re going on a longer ski trip, you should have your bindings checked every 20 days.

Because the correct DIN-setting is dependent on parameters, that are subject to change (like your age, weight, ability level, and boot sole length), you need to be updated and honest about these.

Keep in mind, that if you’re skiing in a full body armor with a helmet, spine protector, and a heavy backpack filled with camera gear, water, a thermos bottle, energy bars, and a big sandwich, you’re going to be heavier as well. Not that I’d ever do that, of course, *cough cough*.

The point is, that even small things might make a big difference, when it comes to adjusting your bindings.

Here’s what skimag.com writes about it:

[…]it’s not just a set-it-and-forget-it scenario.

“If anything about the parameters of height, weight, or boot length change, you will want to have [your bindings] re-evaluated,” Curtis says.

There is not much wiggle room—only 10 percent of the setting—which is equivalent to the average man twisting out of his binding .134 mph faster or slower.

“It’s very specific,” says Anderson. “Within a setting, we expect the boot sole to release within a certain torque range.”

The average beginner male will release from his bindings at a DIN setting of 6 or between 194 to 271 Nm of torque, while the average advanced male will release from his bindings at a setting of 8.5 between 271 and 380 Nm.

Source: https://www.skimag.com/gear/all-about-din

In other words, there’s not much room for error. So let the professionals handle it.

Are ski bindings designed to be maintenance-free?

Most ski bindings are designed to be maintenance-free. That doesn’t mean they can’t break or wear down though.

Neither salt or dirt is good for ski bindings. You can wipe down the bindings with a cloth or a soft brush and leave them to dry in a warm, dry space so they won’t rust.

Don’t ever use any soap or detergents, as these will remove important lubricants in the moving parts of the bindings.

You should always get your bindings checked by a certified ski technician before each ski trip.

Are ski bindings universal?

Yes, alpine (downhill) ski bindings and ski boots are universal.

That means, that your alpine ski boots will fit all alpine ski bindings, no matter the manufacturer because all downhill ski boots share the same sole shape defined by ISO standard ISO 5355.

If you are an adult with small feet and use a junior size boot (up to mondopoint 22.5), make sure you get a junior binding as well. You can’t fit a junior ski boot into an adult-sized binding. You can, however, fit an adult-sized boot into a junior binding.

You can read more about mondopoints and ski boot sizes in this article: How to find the right ski boots when you have weird feet

Also notice, that only alpine downhill ski boots and ski bindings are compatible with eachother. That means, that you can’t use alpine ski boots in an alpine touring ski binding, a telemark ski binding or a cross-country ski binding and vice versa.


Here you can see and download a printable DIN-chart: 

I hope this can help you when you have to choose your next ski bindings. Which ski bindings do you prefer and why? Please let me know in the comment section below.

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