Salomon made a bold entrance into the tech binding world with the release of the minimalist and feather-light MTN. Mounted on a pair of lightweight DPS skis, the MTN + Brake was my binding of choice this winter for lightweight missions, where it was put to the test in the Coast Mountains of British Columbia and on steep slopes outside of Jackson Hole. Through it all, I came away impressed with its excellent build quality, user-friendly step-in and climb modes, and reliable power transmission. Below I break down its performance (uphill, transitioning, and downhill), construction and design, weight, build quality and durability, and more. To see how the MTN stacks up to the competition, see our article on the best ski bindings.
Given its remarkably low weight (1 pound 11.5 ounces per pair with brakes and 1 pound 5 ounces without), nimble climbing is the Salomon MTN’s specialty. The binding features a standard two-pin front piece and a heel with multi-height climbing aids. The front pins are accompanied by a helpful step-in aid to guide the boot into place and have exceptional retention–I have yet to have the binding release prematurely while sidestepping or traversing awkwardly off-camber slopes. The MTN also comes with a loop on the toe piece to attach a leash to ensure the skis don’t take a dive down a crevasse or plunge down a steep slope. A leash wasn't included with my "+ Brake" model (it comes with the brake-less version), but it's still nice to have the option to use one down the road.
The heel piece’s three climbing levels allow you to toggle between settings depending on the pitch of the terrain: “flat” at two degrees (Salomon calls this zero, but it’s a bit elevated), medium at seven degrees, and high at 13 degrees (the latter two are engaged by simply flipping the risers with your pole). I did experience a fair amount of snow and ice buildup on the heel piece, making transitioning into ski mode a bit of an effort. That said, the accumulation was easily expelled with a few whacks of the pole or kicks of the boot, and this is a rather familiar issue with most tech bindings.
In terms of transitioning from walk to ski mode and back, the MTN + Brake is one of the most user-friendly bindings on the market. In fact, the heel can actually be left in ski mode while walking. Simply exit the bindings while in ski mode by releasing the toe and sliding out of the heel pins, flip the brake plate to raise the brakes, and snap back into the front pins. Engaging the brake plate gives the heel a two-degree rise, allowing the boot to sit above the rear pins rather than clicking into them. And due to the fixed nature of the climbing aids (the heel body pivots underneath the binding’s top plate), the flippable lifters will always sit parallel to the ski, regardless of mode. To transition back to ski mode, lower the brake plate with a pole and weight the heel to snap in—all without removing the ski.
The ability to tour in ski mode is invaluable while doing short laps, eliminating the need to rotate the heel every time you transition. But the design isn’t fool-proof. The plastic soles of some of my boots stuck ever-so-slightly to the rear pins on each downstep, making every move more laborious. Sometimes, my ski boots even compressed the brake plate enough to engage ski mode, which could be prevented if it sat a few millimeters higher. While unsure of the long-term wear-and-tear potential on the pins from walking in ski mode, I recommend rotating the rear piece to walk mode if you know you’ll be touring for a while.
Thanks to its wide toe mount, proximity to the ski, and secure pins, the MTN skis very well for a lightweight binding. I have the MTN mounted to my DPS Wailer 106 Tour1 (a dedicated touring ski with a waist of 106 millimeters). This set-up has excelled in powder and mixed snow conditions—including the heavy cement-like stuff typical of the West Coast—and skis nicely on groomers, too. Overall performance is nearly on-par with my G3 Ion 12 bindings, but it can't match the power of the burly and much heavier Marker Kingpin. The MTN's wide 40-millimeter toe and direct mount on the ski also gives it a responsive ride, and I've found turning and leaning into the boot transfers energy very directly to the binding. I’d feel confident mounting these bindings on an even wider, more aggressive ski.
Trimming weight from a binding has inevitable consequences, and while the MTN balances impressive uphill and downhill performance, it sacrifices traditional DIN settings in favor of three predetermined options. Each binding comes with three removable, interchangeable U-shaped pins that can be swapped out based on weight and ability: women’s, men’s, or expert. Given that my weight is well over 200 pounds, I opted for the highest-release-value U-spring and put it (and my skiing ability) to the test in Jackson Hole, where I engaged in some harsh mixed snow/ice skiing. Even while clumsily navigating frozen moguls through trees, the binding kept me secure and had no pre-release issues. The Salomon MTN has also excelled when I’ve pushed my skis in big turns at higher speeds, even while wearing a loaded 30-pound pack. In short, it has repeatedly instilled confidence in skiing at or above my limit.
The MTN is a standard two-piece tech binding with step-in toe pins that lock into tech-compatible boots and a separate pinned heel. The toe piece has a small metal bumper that Salomon calls a step-in aid: it guides the boot into the perfect position, eliminating the hassle of stepping in and out when the toe and pins don’t line up just right. Moving to the back, the MTN’s three climbing levels (flat, medium, and high) are easily adjusted by flipping the pole-accessible lifters. The heel body rotates underneath the binding top plate when switching from ski to walk mode, allowing the lifters to stay parallel to the ski and making it easier to transition between modes without missing a beat.
The MTN binding comes with a whopping 30 millimeters of fore/aft heel adjustment—handy for those like myself with a pre-existing quiver of tech boots—and is crampon-compatible with Plum and Dynafit crampons. Releasing the brake is also a simple process, and it can be done with a ski pole or hand. And while other tech bindings’ brakes might be prone to accidentally releasing and dragging while touring (my G3 Ion comes to mind), the unique construction on the MTN bindings prevents this by utilizing the skier’s weight. When the lever is flipped back, the brakes are lifted and tucked out of the way; when pushed forward and flush with the ski, the brakes are engaged.
At 1 pound 11.5 ounces with brakes (1 pound 5 ounces without), the Salomon MTN is a minimalist binding with very few moving parts. Due in part to the lack of hardware that comes with adjustable DIN settings, the MTN’s weight puts it at the very low end of the spectrum. Other favorites like the G3 Ion 12 (2 pounds 9.3 ounces) and Marker Kingpin 13 (3 pounds 6 ounces) add considerable heft, especially when being hauled up thousands of feet. While other super-light bindings like the Dynafit TLT Superlite 2.0 (12.8 ounces), TLT Speed (1 pound 4.7 ounces), and TLT Expedition (13.7 ounces) shave ounces, they don’t come with brakes and are not adept at downhill charging. I chose the MTN for long, arduous days of uphill trudging, but trusted them fully for a stable ride on steep descents.
Despite its feathery weight, the MTN has held up really well through a full season of use. I have had no mechanical or technical issues, the brakes are intact, the pins have maintained their pressure, and the heel hasn’t slipped at all. Comparatively, I’ve already gone through two pairs of G3 Ion 12 bindings—the first time around, the plastic mold covering the brake arm broke, tearing it away from the binding; more recently, the plastic plate over one of the climbing aids cracked, allowing it to move around freely without any tension. Outside of worn paint and small scratches from ski edges, my MTN bindings remain in tip-top shape.
What We Like
- The Salomon MTN binding blends simplicity, lightweight design, and durable construction.
- The unique build permits touring in ski mode, meaning transitions can be very fast.
- The step-in aid makes snapping into the toe piece super easy.
- The wide, 40-millimeter toe mount maximizes power transfer over the entire width of the ski.
What We Don’t
- Although the binding permits walking in ski mode, this system doesn’t seem sustainable, and can result in the heel accidentally clicking into ski mode.
- There are no adjustable DIN settings, only three predetermined release values.
- The heel pins can be difficult to rotate back to ski mode with a pole.
- Snow builds up easily on the heel piece, although this is a common issue with most tech bindings.
|Salomon MTN + Brake||$500||Tech||3 settings||1 lb. 12 oz.||80, 90, 100, 110, 120mm|
|G3 Ion 12||$579||Tech||5-12||2 lbs. 10 oz.||85, 100, 115, 130mm|
|Marker Kingpin 13||$649||Tech||6-13||3 lbs. 6 oz.||75-100, 100-125mm|
|Salomon S/Lab Shift MNC||$550||Tech||6-13||3 lbs. 13 oz.||90, 100, 110, 120mm|
|Dynafit ST Rotation 12||$650||Tech||5-12||2 lbs. 13 oz.||105, 120mm|
The MTN is a true all-rounder—great on both the uphill and downhill with solid durability and ease of use. Among its closest competitors, G3’s Ion 12 has made some notable recent improvements, including an auto-rotation lock on the heel, simplified step-in, and beefed-up brake spring. At 2 pounds 9.3 ounces, it’s not as much of a feathery float up the skin track as the MTN, but is still relatively lightweight for the amount of power and stability it provides on the descent. And its adjustable DIN settings instills more confidence for aggressive riders (for more information, see our in-depth G3 Ion review). But if you value the weight savings, the MTN is the better option.
For the even harder-charging types, the Marker Kingpin 13 excels on the descent, especially when it comes to freeride performance. But all that power comes at a cost: 3 pounds 6 ounces, to be exact, which is mostly due to the spring-loaded heel versus the traditional two-pin tech heel connection in the MTN. That said, this full alpine heel helps transfer power like a burly downhill binding, making the Kingpin 13 a clear winner on any fast descent. Those that take long backcountry treks or want to trim ounces will prefer the MTN for its sub-2-pound weight, but for solid feel and proven performance, the Kingpin is hard to beat.
Fusing the ease of touring with the safety and confidence you get with an alpine binding is Salomon's innovative S/Lab Shift MNC. The new Shift’s toe piece has two modes: tech mode with pins for uphill, and ski mode which functions like a standard alpine binding. This newfound versatility is a breakthrough of sorts in the market, as the Salomon tours like a pin binding but allows you to ski as hard as you want on piste. Downsides? At 3 pounds 13 ounces, with climbing aids at only two and 10 degrees, the Shift won’t be hauled up the skin track as easily as the MTN. But the Shift's added safety, utility, and innovation makes it our favorite backcountry binding currently on the market.
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