by Frank V. Persall
Choosing the right ski bindings is not only a matter of simply selecting equipment; a good ski binding can make the sport a lot safer. Without these, there is a risk of a pre-release which could result in an accident that could see you with your feet up and not spending time on the slopes.
There are several factors that you must consider when choosing ski bindings size such as the brake width, waist width, and DIN range, among other things.
These essential pieces of equipment can be the difference between an enjoyable time on the mountain and an injury. In this guide, we will be looking at what ski bindings are for and everything you need to choose the right ones for you.
A ski binding is a piece of equipment that connects you to your skis. They transfer energy created by your body into the snow, therefore aiding your movement. If you’re new to skiing, it is important to keep in mind that without ski bindings, you won’t be able to ski at all, so they’re considered to be just as essential as the skis themselves.
There are skis that come with a ski binding already mounted. Typically, the manufacturer will choose these because of their superior performance in relation to the ski. That said, some skis are known as ‘ski only’ and these come without an attached ski binding. In this case, you would need to purchase your ski binding separately and have this fitted by a professional.
The ski bindings come with a toe and heel piece, these two pieces can be released independently. During a fall, the toe piece would release either to the side or upwards whereas the heel piece releases in a multi-directional manner.
When selecting your bindings, one of the first things you will need to consider is the brake width. The brakes are located at the rear of the ski binding on the heel piece and appear as two arms. You will choose their size in line with the waist width of your skis and most experts would agree that your brake width should not exceed 15mm wider than your waist width.
In line with this, if your waist width is 85mm then your brake width would need to be equal to this but no more than 100mm. It is vital that you don’t use brakes that are too narrow for your skis as this will result in them not being able to correctly deploy. On the flip side, if the brake width is too wide, you risk them dragging, particularly when skiing on steeper slopes.
The only time that you would need especially wide brakes is if you are using big powder skis. In this case, you would need to have the narrow brake replaced but it is essential to check whether this is possible as some ski bindings are not compatible with replaceable brakes
On the toe piece of your ski binding, there may be a mechanism that slides and is designed to lower any friction caused between your ski boots and the binding. During the release, the anti-friction device will allow your ski boot to slide much more smoothly.
Not all ski bindings feature a lifter plate and there is a lot of discussion between skiers as to whether they need this particular element. The lifter, which is sometimes called a binding shim, is a piece that is inserted under the binding on top of a race plate. Their purpose is to increase the height of the skier which allows them to create more significant angles during a turn.
As a general rule, you would only need to insert a lifter plate if you are an advanced skier. Most of the bindings that are made for junior skiers, do not come with the right compatibility for a lifter. However, if you notice that you are booting out more often than normal, this might be a sign that you need to install a lifter.
If you tend to ski more on terrain parks and perform jumps and other tricks, then a lifter won’t be necessary at all.
For people who are still very cautious on the slopes or just beginning to find their feet a little more, you may not need very high-release settings. Moreover, skiers at this level won’t benefit much from a very lightweight or durable material and so can opt for a slightly more affordable ski binding.
However, if you are slightly heavier, then you may need to go for that higher release regardless of your level and opt for more advanced ski bindings.
For younger skiers, there are skin bindings that are designed specifically for children and will fit on their skis much more readily. However, there are some children's’ bindings that are also designed to fit on an adult. If you’re slightly smaller or are buying for a larger child, this may be a consideration. That said, it is important to keep in mind that the children’s ski bindings generally come with much lower release settings.
If you are considered to be a type 3 skier who tackles the slopes with much more vigor and aggression then you will need to find ski bindings with higher release settings.
For people at this advanced level of experience, lightweight bindings that are made from high-performance materials like titanium are going to provide you with everything you need. These will provide you with skiing enhancements particularly when you are tackling steeper slopes and traveling at greater speeds.
You will also find that when you are buying advanced ski bindings, the price goes up. However, what you get with this are more expert features such as travel before release and longer retention. You will also find that the build quality is much stronger and resistant owing to the level of stress that the bindings will be put under.
If you are a more advanced skier and regularly take part in Alpine touring then you will need to make sure that your bindings are suitable for an Alpine ski. These Alpine touring ski bindings come in two different forms; tech bindings and frame bindings.
When you are looking to purchase ski bindings, one of the things you will come across time and time again is the DIN standard. If you’re new to the sport, this can feel a little confusing but once you wrap your mind around the concept, it isn’t as scary as you might think. Let’s explain.
DIN is an acronym for Deutsches Institut Fur Normung which in English, means the German Institute for Standardization. Even once you understand the DIN setting, it is vital that you never attempt to adjust this yourself as this is something that should only ever be attempted by a trained professional.
The DIN standard is widely accepted to be the ski industry standard where ski bindings are concerned. However, some manufacturers use the American standard, known as the ASTM or the American Society for Testing and Standards. In any case, both standards are sufficient.
This DIN setting shows the amount of force that is needed in order for the binding to release your ski boots from the skis. In particular, this force is in relation to torque and forward pressure.
The DIN number for your bindings is located on the toe and heel pieces and the higher this number is, the more force is required before the binding will release. If your ski bindings feature a lower DIN setting, this means that not as much force will be needed to get them to release. These numbers are a way that ski technicians can successfully set the DIN on each ski they work on.
If you were to set the DIN too low, there is a risk of the ski boots coming out of the binding. Conversely, if the DIN is too high, the binding will not release when required. In any case, this causes a risk of injury. Most commonly, skiers who are using an incorrect DIN setting may roll their ankle or twist their knees which could see you off the slopes for some time.
When fine-tuning your release settings, there are various things that the expert will take into consideration. Much like the things you have to think about when purchasing the ski bindings, these are equally important as how to adjust ski bindings.
Primarily, your DIN number will be determined by your level of ability, as we have discussed, and you will fall into one of three categories; Type 1, Type 2, or Type 3. Type 1 skiers are beginners and Type 3 are advanced, with those at an intermediate level falling under Type 2.
However, things like your height and body weight may also be used, depending on the standard the technician is working to. When using the traditional German standard for DIN, the length of your tibia, from the knee, will be inputted into a system that will then calculate the correct DIN number for you. Alternatively, using the American standard, a similar system is used to calculate the DIN only this time, your body weight will be entered.
But it doesn’t stop there. Since this is such a precise calculation, there are other factors that need to be considered. For example, the boot sole length and the age of the skier are also used. Once your personal DIN number has been determined, the technician may also make their own minor adjustments according to your unique needs. They will talk to you about how and where you ski and this will give them a good idea of what they need to do.
When you go to your ski shop, you will notice that most of these have a DIN chart that gives a very generalized rundown of the appropriate DIN number according to your age, weight, height, and ability. However, the variations in these charts mean that they will never be as accurate as using the system your technician will provide for you so it is always best to allow them to figure out the DIN number for you. On a chart, the numbers given are generally a DIN range for that specific group of people but you may fall outside this DIN range for any one of the mitigating factors.
Ski bindings can range in price from incredibly affordable up to very high-end. But regardless of the cost, if you’ve made an investment, you will want to ensure that you are going to get the maximum use out of your new equipment.
The good news is that, as long as they are properly maintained, your ski bindings should last you a considerable amount of time. According to experts, a decent set of bindings, when used for more than 50 days each season, should last between five and seven years. Of course, if you don’t hit the slopes that often, then you can expect them to last much longer.
If you want to make your bindings last as long as possible, you need to keep them tuned. At the beginning of every season, you should take them to a ski technician who will readjust the release settings if necessary and will check the bindings to ensure they are in full working order.
When you aren’t using the bindings for a long period of time, when the season is over, you should store them in a warm, dry environment. Moreover, it is essential not to try and wash out your bindings as this may remove the lubrication applied in the factory and decrease their effectiveness.
There are many things to think about when choosing a set of ski bindings and while you may worry that you don’t know where to start, it isn’t as tricky as you might think. One of the greatest benefits of shopping for bindings is that you can work with a ski technician who will be able to provide you with the most accurate settings for your needs.
Bindings should fit correctly to your skis with the brake width being no wider than the waist width unless you are using chunky powder skis. But the most important thing is the DIN setting which will allow the bindings to release at just the right moment, ensuring your safety during a fall.
Whether you are a total newbie or have been skiing for years, bindings are just one of the many pieces of equipment you will need. To find out what else you’ll need to pack for your skiing vacation, take a look at our detailed skiing pages.
About Frank V. Persall
Frank is originally from the UK, but he has a passion for skiing that knows no bounds. He has made it his life's mission to visit the best ski resorts across the USA and the World. Frank loves spending time with his wife and three children on ski slopes, as they all share his love for the activity.