Bindings are often the last piece of ski gear you choose, but remain a very important one. As the connection between boot and ski, they play a fundamental role in power transfer, responsiveness, and safety. We’ve separated the best bindings of 2016-2017 into three categories: traditional alpine bindings, tech bindings, and alpine touring frame bindings. All the models come in different DIN ranges. A heavier, expert skier will tend to go with a high DIN binding, while a less advanced or lighter weight skier can save money and go with a lower DIN option. For more background, see our ski binding comparison table and buying advice below the picks. To complete your setup, check out our articles on the best all-mountain skis and downhill boots.
These are traditional downhill bindings and all that most skiers need. They provide the most security for skiing in a resort and are the least expensive. The heel is fixed, so you cannot tour with these, however, plenty of people hit resort’s sidecountry zones (like Jackson Hole) on alpine bindings that only require a short traverse or bootpack to access.
Weight per pair: 5 lbs. 1 oz.
Brake sizes: 95, 115, 130mm
What we like: Great pop between turns and top-of-the-line safety.
What we don’t: Limited adjustment range: if you get new boots you may need to remount.
The Look Pivot series bindings are classics in the world of alpine skiing. Look nailed the mechanics on the Pivot heel when they designed it over a quarter-century ago: it gives the binding a short footprint on the ski, which allows for natural flex, and it has industry-leading elastic travel to help prevent knee injuries. This binding has served some of the world’s best skiers for decades, and continues to be a solid choice for intermediate to advanced level skiers. The brakes are not swappable on the Pivot’s heel, so make sure you purchase the correct width for the ski it will be paired with. On the plus side, the binding is now compatible with Walk to Ride (WTR) boots, although the price has gone up $30 to $330. The Pivot comes in a hardcore 18-DIN version as well and is the same as all Rossignol FKS bindings. For lighter weight and women skiers, try the 12-DIN version.
See the Look Pivot 14 Dual WTR
Weight per pair: 4 lbs. 3 oz.
Brake sizes: 90, 110, 120mm
What we like: Solid reputation and performance.
What we don’t: Not much, for the right skier they are perfect.
Quality bindings are safe, reliable, and transfer energy supremely well. The Marker Griffon does all of that with aplomb and remains the top choice for lighter weight skiers of nearly all ability levels. With a respectable DIN range from 4-13, this binding is a great option for aggressive expert female skiers as well. With a wide footprint, the Griffon has built a solid reputation for excellent power transfer even on today’s wider skis. The brakes are easily swappable for varying ski widths and available in sizes that should accommodate the vast majority of all-mountain skis, and now the bindings can safely accomodate AT boots. They have a confidence inspiring “ka-chunk” when stepping in and are an easy, no-nonsense option for resort rippers. Larger, more aggressive skiers should take a look at the Marker Jester and Jester Pro below, which is essentially the same binding in a 16-DIN version.
See the Marker Griffon
Weight per pair: 5 lbs. 1 oz.
Brake sizes: 90, 100, 115, 130mm
What we like: Low profile, solid feel, and good release.
What we don’t: As with the Griffon’s, not a whole lot for an advanced downhill skier.
The Salomon STH2 and Marker Griffon above are two of the most popular binding options for aggressive downhill skiers, and for good reason. They both offer a sturdy feel, good power transmission on a wide ski, and proven durability. And they’re essentially the same price. You can’t go wrong with either, and for some the decision is so close that it comes down to which color option matches your skis best.
If you’re using an AT boot, one consideration is compatibility. Both bindings work fine for alpine (downhill) boots, but the Salomon STH2 only works with Walk to Ride (WTR) models, while the Marker Griffon ID have a wider compatibility with traditional AT boots with the ISO 9523 standard. If you have an AT boot with that ISO 9523 sole, get the Griffon ID. If you’ll be using a standard alpine boot, look for the best deal—we’ve had a little more luck finding the Griffon’s on sale.
See the Salomon STH2 WTR 13
Weight per pair: 4 lbs. 7 oz.
Brake sizes: 90, 110, 136mm
What we like: Bomber construction without adding too much weight.
What we don’t: Too much binding for most skiers; expensive.
Marker’s Royal Family of bindings covers a wide range, from the intermediate-friendly Squire to the burly Duke for backcountry specialists. For the hardcore alpine skier that needs a high DIN, the Jester amounts to a beefed-up version of the Griffon above. In short, you get a bump up in max DIN from 13 to 16 and the addition of magnesium in a few strategic places. The extra metal keeps weight in check while increasing rigidity. And for those that are concerned about hitting big jumps in the park, it adds a degree of security (although the plastic Griffon is very tough).
Despite its reputation and popularity among professional skiers, the Jester is bumped down on our list because it’s more binding than most skiers will ever need. Even expert-level riders will be plenty happy with the 100-gram lighter Griffon in most instances. And tacking on $130 to what is essentially the same design feels pretty steep. But for the skier that’s out every day all season and skis hard, the Jester is a proven option. And if 16-DIN is (somehow) not enough for you, there is an 18-DIN Jester Pro, which is made for those taking big mountain lines and drops.
See the Marker Jester 16 ID
Weight per pair: 4 lbs. 13 oz.
Brake sizes: 90, 100, 120mm
What we like: Great choice for intermediate to advanced resort skiers.
What we don’t: A step down in power transfer and durability.
The Rossignol Axial3 120 lands in between a true beginner/intermediate binding like the Tyrolia below and the expert-level options above. Now in its third iteration, the binding is a great fit for an all-mountain ski in the 80 to 95mm width range that’s used primarily on piste. It's close, but the Rossi doesn’t offer the same level of performance with a wide ski as the Marker Royal models, nor does it have the same durable feel for someone that pushes their limits on jumps, but it’s plenty for weekend warriors. The toe and heel offer good lateral elasticity and aren’t prone to releasing early, and the Axial3 now offers WTR boot compatibility. As with the Look Pivot, Rossignol and Look share a design with two models—Look’s version is the SPX.
See the Rossignol Axial3 Dual WTR 120
Weight per pair: 3 lbs. 0 oz.
Brake sizes: 90, 100mm
What we like: Priced right for an intermediate skier.
What we don’t: Lower performance threshold.
The Tyrolia Attack is very reasonably priced and a no-brainer for beginners to intermediates putting together a new ski package. The lightweight toe is strong enough for most and contributes to a very playful feel, and its platform is well suited for modern skis. As with the options above, the Attack has a low stand height, which increases its connectedness with the skis. Considering the lightweight plastics and lower DIN, these bindings are not for powerful skiers trying to extract every last ounce of performance from their setup, but for casual resort goers (both men and women), the Tyrolia Attack 11 is a solid pick. They also beat out the popular 11-DIN Marker Squire in price by $20 with no substantial difference in performance, which makes them our top value pick.
See the Tyrolia Attack 11
Tech bindings are much lighter and preferred nearly universally by the touring crowd these days. Even some aggressive big-mountain pros, like Eric Hjorleifson, ride them whether they are banging in-bounds laps or doing multi-day tours. Recently, tech bindings have received major upgrades to make them feel much more like an alpine binding going downhill. They were always fine in soft snow conditions, but when things got icy they had a very rigid feel. Newcomers like the Marker Kingpin and Dynafit Beast are changing the market landscape.
Weight per pair: 3 lbs. 6 oz.
Brake sizes: 75-100, 100-125mm
What we like: Unbeatable combination of power, safety, and usability.
What we don’t: Heavier than the Dynafit below.
While growing in popularity in recent years, tech bindings have always been cast aside as insufficient for the hard charging types. And while the Dynafit Beast below was a big step forward at the time of its release, the Marker Kingpin brings it all together. Fully DIN certified, the Kingpin has the paperwork to stamp its place in the market. You get the safety and secure feeling of a quality 13-DIN alpine binding that releases both vertically and laterally at the heel, but at a weight that is downright competitive in the tech binding sphere—and far lighter than the 33.5-ounce Beast below. There will inevitably be another binding that comes along to leapfrog the Kingpin as technology continues to advance, but in the meantime, it’s the best of the best.
See the Marker Kingpin 13
Weight per pair: 2 lbs. 7 oz.
Brake sizes: 90, 105, 120, 135mm
What we like: The best lightweight models keeps getting better.
What we don’t: Less stiff than the Kingpins on the downhills.
Dynafit is credited with starting the tech-binding craze—some still refer to the category simply as “Dynafit bindings”—and their core offering is the TLT Radical. Updated last season, the Radical 2.0 remains the premier lightweight option for deep backcountry tours. It’s also now more alpine-friendly with a pivoting toe piece, and like the Kingpin above, received an ISO/TUV certification for the safety of its release in a crash. The standard TLT Radical is offered in two models: 10-DIN ST and 12-DIN FT. If that’s not enough retention, you should check out the heavier but truly hardcore Beast below.
Most will be really happy with the Radical, however, and weight-conscious skiers should go for the ST, provided the 10-DIN is sufficient. What you’ll get is one of the most refined touring designs in the business, with easy transitions between ski and hike modes and smooth performance up and down hill. It may not have the solid, alpine heel piece of the Kingpin above, but the Radical easily undercuts the Marker in weight and is the best option on the market for those that exclusively ski in the backcountry.
See the Dynafit TLT Radical 2.0 ST
Weight per pair: 2 lbs. 9 oz.
Brake sizes: 85, 100, 115, 130mm
What we like: Light, great toe piece, and user-friendly.
What we don’t: Not as stiff for carving on hardpack.
G3 shook up the tech binding market with its Ion bindings, which have arguably the most user-friendly toe piece in the business. Tech bindings are known to be finicky when stepping into them, particularly in powder, but the Ion’s make it easy to clear out snow and hook up consistently with your boots. Also, switching into touring mode is best in class in terms of ease: just rotate the heel in either direction and flip over the lifter bars. What are the downsides of these bindings? In contrast to the Kingpin and Radical above, the Ion in both the 10-DIN and 12-DIN models is a little less capable on descents, although the difference will only be noticed by aggressive skiers or those spending a good amount of time carving at the resort. And with its thoughtful design and pain-free functionality, the G3 Ion has a well-deserved spot on this list.
See the G3 Ion 10
Weight per pair: 3 lbs. 8 oz.
Brake sizes: 105, 120, 135mm
What we like: Phenomenal power for a tech binding.
What we don’t: Very expensive.
Before the release of the Marker Kingpin, the Dynafit Beast was just about as good as it gets in the tech binding market, independent of its astronomical price. And it remains top dog if you need a 14 or 16-DIN touring binding. What made the Beast so exciting is its ability to emulate the feel of a strong and capable downhill binding. The Beast is just that, with the elasticity and feel in the toe and heel that had thus far been mostly absent within this category. A 16-DIN version of the Beast is also available, which is incredibly strong (and expensive at $850). For true backcountry users that are out to drop serious weight, we still lean towards the TLT Radical 2.0 above. Just steer clear of any big-mountain descents.
See the Dynafit Beast 14
Weight per pair: 2 lbs. 6 oz.
Brake sizes: 95, 108, 120mm
What we like: Lightweight and releases like an alpine binding.
What we don’t: Less user-friendly than the Ion and Radical above.
The Vipec is Fritschi’s first foray into tech bindings and has been heralded as a success. The most notable thing about the Vipec is a two-stage release in the toe unit, which gives it an alpine binding feel. This has been a major point of emphasis in the binding market of late and Fritschi nails it here. The toe will also release while in touring mode—an important safety feature in the event of an avalanche while going uphill. Step-in is less consistent than the more refined Dynafit and G3 above, but once you're in, the feeling is solid. The extra safety measures puts it on this list, and add in a surprising amount of elasticity, and you have a real winner.
See the Fritschi Diamir Vipec
Alpine Touring Frame Bindings
This is a fairly new category pioneered by the Marker Duke, and born out of the desire to have a binding with touring abilities that was as secure and responsive as an alpine binding on the way down. With all major alpine binding manufacturers now offering multiple alpine touring frame options, this is a popular category for those who want to do it all with one ski/binding combo. The downside is they are fairly heavy for touring—pure backcountry enthusiasts usually opt for a tech binding.
Weight per pair: 6 lbs. 8 oz.
Brake sizes: 100, 115, 130mm
What we like: Versatile and accepting of all types of boots.
What we don’t: Climbing bar can be difficult to operate.
With only a few of seasons on the scene, the Tracker is well liked for its low stand height that keeps the boot close to the ski for optimal downhill feel. It also is able to transition between ski and tour mode without stepping out via a switch near the back. The flat front on the toe of the Tracker makes for a 90-degree range of motion in the touring mode. The “MNC” in the name stands for “Multi-Norm Certified”—this means the Tracker will safely accept a normal alpine ski boot sole or the lugged, rockered sole of a touring boot. Of note, the Atomic Tracker 16 MNC is the same binding as the Salomon Guardian series and both are available in a cheaper 13-DIN version for smaller skiers.
See the Atomic Tracker 16
Weight per pair: 5 lbs. 12 oz.
Brake size: 110mm
What we like: Time-tested downhill performance.
What we don’t: Stand height is higher than most.
The Baron is the little brother of the legendary Marker Duke, and all but the most aggressive skiers should find that it sufficiently suits their needs. When locked into ski mode, this is a thoroughly alpine binding making a solid connection between the skier and ski going downhill. Flip a switch in the middle of the ski, throw on skins, and you are ready to tour beyond the boundaries for fresh snow. A three-position climbing bar can be flipped up to aid when terrain gets steep. The Baron is a great entry-level alpine touring binding for anyone aspiring to more backcountry adventure. The aforementioned Duke is for those a bit more accomplished and looking to get the most downhill performance out of their touring setup. The good news is you can't go wrong either way.
See the Marker Baron 13 EPF
Weight per pair: 6 lbs. 0 oz.
Brake size: 115mm
What we like: Great all-around performance for the price.
What we don’t: Snow and ice collects underfoot while touring.
A big reason to choose an alpine touring option is downhill performance, and the Tyrolia Adrenalin does a fantastic impression of a dedicated frontside binding. As with the Atomic's above, this is another alpine touring binding that will accept alpine or touring boot soles safely, adding to versatility. When going downhill the Adrenalin is responsive and solid, and going uphill a three-height climbing bar will be there no matter how steep the terrain gets. The Adrenalin 13 also has a 180-degree release toe, which could be the little feature that saves your knees in a backwards fall. The Tyrolia Adrenalin series is the same as the 4FRNT and Fischer Adrenalin series and comes in a 16-DIN version as well.
See the Tyrolia Adrenalin
Weight per pair: 4 lbs. 12 oz.
Brake size: 110mm
What we like: Much lighter than the Baron.
What we don’t: Noticeable drop in resort performance.
One of the major downsides of a frame-style touring binding is weight, but the Marker Tour F12 is a proven lightweight option. At 2,150 grams (76 ounces), it’s 450 grams (16 ounces) lighter than the Baron above while retaining a similar max DIN of 12 (the Baron is 13). The Tour F12 also shares the Extended Power Frame with the Baron and Duke for increased control on a wide ski. As a result, its weight makes it a great pairing for long backcountry tours but it remains comfortable on the descents.
In cutting weight, however, there is a noticeable drop in resort performance. While less advanced skiers may not notice, aggressive riders will be better served with the options above. And the increasing performance of tech bindings further pinches the niche that the Tour F12 fills. That being said, it remains a great option for intermediate or lightweight skiers that want the security of a frame binding without all the extra weight.
See the Marker Tour F12 EPF
|Look Pivot 14 Dual WTR||$330||Alpine||5-14||5 lbs. 1 oz.||95, 115, 130mm|
|Marker Griffon ID||$229||Alpine||4-13||4 lbs. 3 oz.||90, 110, 120mm|
|Salomon STH2 WTR 13||$230||Alpine||5-13||5 lbs. 1 oz.||90, 100, 115, 130mm|
|Marker Jester 16 ID||$359||Alpine||6-16||4 lbs. 7 oz.||90, 110, 136mm|
|Rossignol Axial3 Dual WTR 120||$230||Alpine||3.5-12||4 lbs. 13 oz.||90, 100, 120mm|
|Tyrolia Attack 11||$169||Alpine||3-11||3 lbs. 0 oz.||90, 100mm|
|Marker Kingpin 13||$649||Tech||6-13||3 lbs. 6 oz.||75-100, 100-125mm|
|Dynafit TLT Radical 2.0 ST||$550||Tech||4-10||2 lbs. 7 oz.||90, 105, 120, 135mm|
|G3 Ion 10||$500||Tech||4-10||2 lbs. 9 oz.||85, 100, 115, 130mm|
|Dynafit Beast 14||$700||Tech||5-14||3 lbs. 8 oz.||105, 120, 135mm|
|Fritschi Diamir Vipec 12||$600||Tech||5-12||2 lbs. 6 oz.||95, 108, 120mm|
|Atomic Tracker 16 MNC||$450||Frame||7-16||6 lbs. 8 oz.||100, 115, 130mm|
|Marker Baron 13 EPF||$379||Frame||4-13||5 lbs. 12 oz.||110mm|
|Tyrolia Adrenalin 13||$379||Frame||4-13||6 lbs. 0 oz.||115mm|
|Marker Tour F12 EPF||$429||Frame||4-12||4 lbs. 12 oz.||110mm|
- Ski Binding Types
- What is DIN and How Much Do I Need?
- Brake Width
- Dual Compatibility with Alpine and AT Boots
- What About Pre-Packaged Deals on Skis and Bindings?
- Matching Bindings to Skis and Boots
- Ordering Bindings Online
Alpine (Downhill) Bindings
Alpine bindings are for your classic downhill skier. They have a simple entry—slide your toe in and press down your heel to lock in—and can accommodate the soles of all traditional downhill ski boots. Exiting is just as easy, usually accomplished by pressing the binding’s heel piece downwards. A lower weight isn’t a be-all and end-all requirement in alpine bindings, so they have the benefit of substantial construction that has excellent power transmission. Additionally, their low stand height helps better connect a skier to their skis. And should you crash, the release is consistent and typically very safe. High-end bindings like the Look Pivot 14 are well known for their elasticity in the release as the heel piece actually rotates prior to letting go. This gives you a chance to push your skills without an accidental early release, but when it does go, it’s pretty smooth and the extra give reduces your risk of injury.
Best for: Anything and everything on a resort day.
While weight of the binding is at least a consideration when choosing an alpine setup, dropping ounces becomes a necessity when you’re spending hours traveling uphill. Hence the popularity of what is referred to as a tech binding. These ultralight bindings replace the traditional alpine toe piece with two pins that lock into tech-compatible ski boots. This is an important distinction as standard alpine and touring boots are not compatible with tech bindings. These bindings share a similar intent as the alpine touring category below with the option to release the heel for climbing. You’ll also see low profile climbing bars that can be deployed on steep slogs to reduce calf fatigue. The drop in weight does come at the sacrifice of power transfer, and as a result, they’re better suited for backcountry specialists that are out to cut weight, however, strong and slightly heavier newcomers like the Marker Kingpin and Dynafit Beast are blurring category lines.
Best for: Multiday or long distance ski touring and occasional in-bounds use.
Alpine Touring (AT) Frame Bindings
Alpine touring frame bindings are a crossover category that aims to take the best attributes from both alpine and backcountry offerings. Their framed design offers excellent power transmission for bombing downhill, but when switched into touring mode, the free heel and climbing bars makes them an efficient climber. Another advantage of this binding design is that it can accommodate a wide range of boots. Most alpine touring bindings are able to handle either standard downhill boots or touring boots that have rockered soles. But don’t start thinking you can take any old boot out and convert your setup from alpine to AT with a simple binding swap. You still need the added mobility and range of motion of a boot that’s been designed for backcountry use. Weight is the price you pay for this dual functionality, and as a result, we don’t recommend them for longer tours.
Best for: Powerful backcountry skiers that cover moderate distances uphill or those that split their time between touring and resort skiing.
In the binding world, DIN, which is short for Deutsches Institut für Normung, (you can see why it’s shortened), refers to a standardized test that defines the amount of force at which a binding will release a locked-in boot. The numbers range from 1 to 18, and the higher you go, the longer the binding will hold you. Understandably, this is a very important number to get right as a binding that releases either prematurely or too late can have pretty serious safety ramifications—not to mention impacting performance. While you’ll see a DIN range provided for every make and model of binding in the industry, not every binding has actually been DIN certified from the folks in Germany, including a good number of tech bindings. That’s why the Marker Kingpin and Dynafit TLT Radical 2.0 are seen as such a big sign of progress in the market.
For DIN recommendations, let us start by clarifying that even the charts put together by respected retailers like Evo, Skis.com or Backcountry are not a replacement for going into a ski shop. Our take is that if you’re not qualified and it’s a safety item, let the pros take care of it for you. Snowsports retailer Evo has put together a helpful chart that breaks down DIN settings by weight and ability, and when shopping for your right setup, it’s a great idea to use this to ballpark your necessary DIN range. And as mentioned in this article by Evo, it’s best to choose a binding that doesn’t put you at the maximum DIN setting right off the bat (e.g., don’t get a 12-DIN binding if you’re planning on setting it at 12). It’s better to have a little wiggle room to make adjustments once you spend some time on your new sticks.
Sometimes the small details can bite you in choosing ski gear, so make sure not to overlook the brake width of your bindings. There will often be a number of sizes to choose from (listed in millimeters) for a particular model, and it’s a good idea to get a width that closely matches the waist width of your skis—part of the reason it’s always a good idea to select your skis prior to picking a binding. There are not hard and fast rules about what width to choose, but we recommend choosing one that is at a minimum the exact waist width of your skis, and not any less. While ski shops may be able to bend the bars ever so slightly, it’s really not a great idea. On the flipside, you also want to avoid a brake that is too wide as it may drag if you’re carving on hardpack. The typical recommendation is to choose a binding that is no more than 10-15mm wider than your ski's waist.
Dual compatibility between standard downhill and AT boots is a growing trend within the alpine binding industry. Boots used for alpine touring—you’ll see references to an ISO 9523 standard or Walk to Ride (WTR)—have a taller, rockered sole, which in the past wasn’t designed to fit or release smoothly from a downhill binding (there were a few multi-norm exceptions like the expensive Salomon Guardian and Marker Lord). Now there are a growing number of options, including Marker’s new Sole I.D. on the Griffon ID and Jester ID, which can be easily adjusted to fit both downhill and AT standards.
The simple benefit to the skier is that you don’t have to worry about buying two very expensive boots to match a different ski setup. Or if you’re planning on switching over to backcountry gear in the future, you can still ski a downhill binding in the interim. And for those that aren’t interested in crossing over to touring, the changes to the binding design do not negatively impact performance.
If you’re new to the sport or haven’t made a purchase in a while, you’ll notice that ski listings fall into two general groups: expensive skis that do not include bindings and pre-packaged ski and binding combos. The benefit of choosing a pre-packed setup is value: you can find an 11-DIN binding and ski for $500 or less. The downside should be obvious considering the cost: they’re not as good in terms of quality, particularly as you improve your skiing abilities. If you fall into the advancing intermediate category or above, we highly recommend purchasing your bindings and skis separately. (Editor’s note: what we consider to be a pre-packaged ski and binding setup does not include a select number of high-end packages offered from retailers like Evo and Skis.com, which often include the alpine bindings we have listed above).
For beginners or those that are looking to save money, the pre-packaged models are plenty capable for having fun on a blue square run at the resort. To see our full list of recommended models, check out our article on the best beginner skis. And to complete the setup, we’ve also detailed the best ski boots for beginners.
Realistically, bindings will be towards the end of your ski gear search. The flashy and fun stuff is the skis themselves, so get that part squared away before moving to boots and bindings. Outside of basic compatibility issues between boots and bindings that we touched on above, it’s important to choose a setup with all parts complimenting one another. Don’t throw a tech binding on a heavy downhill focused ski—it’s just a waste of a lot of cool technology (and cash). And the same goes with an alpine setup. Avoid an ultralight touring ski that isn't powerful or stable enough for carving. To help in the process, see our top picks for all-mountain skis, backcountry skis, and downhill boots.
When ordering skis and bindings online, it’s important to understand that most of the time the bindings will not arrive mounted. If you have a local ski shop or order from a retailer like REI, it’s as simple as paying to get the bindings mounted on the skis. The typical cost is around $40 to $70, but REI will do the work for $25 if you purchase from them (this is the current price at the REI Flagship in Seattle and it does vary by store). If you do not have a local shop, the only online retailer that we’re aware of that does the work prior to shipping is Skis.com. This requires you to purchase the skis, boots, and bindings all at once, and choose the $50 mounting option. While it isn’t ideal to then have the setup shipped to you, it’s a nice way of avoiding the exorbitant costs of having the work done at the resort.
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