Ski bindings are perhaps the most important part of your ski gear, keeping your boot attached to your ski across even the most aggressive of terrain. But with so many different types of skiing, many people often wonder whether all ski bindings are universal.
The vast majority of ski bindings are completely universal. As long as the break width works with your skis and you’ve chosen the right binding for your ski style, you should be fine.
Though ski bindings are mainly universal, there are a few things you can do personally to ensure your bindings are perfectly suited to your skiing style. Below, we take a look at some of those ideas in a little more detail to make sure your ski experience is as fantastic as it can be.
Different Styles Of Ski Bindings
As we’ll find out later, there are quite a few differences between ski bindings depending on what type of skiing you’re doing. However, there are three base types of binding that everyone will have to decide on before specializing any further.
The main style of ski binding you’re likely to come across during the beginning of your skiing journey is called traditional alpine. These bindings often come pre-fitted with all-mountain skis if bought as a package and are the style of bindings attached to the vast majority of skis on the mountain.
If you’ve ever rented out a pair of skis from a resort shop, the chances are high that they’ve come with traditional alpine bindings. Technically, they’re the most standard and basic bindings you can get for general skiing.
Depending on the type of skis they’re used on, traditional alpine bindings are either attached directly to the flat ski or on top of a set of rails to allow for micro-adjustments for different boots. Thanks to their generality, they allow for pretty much any ski boot to fit into them.
These bindings are most commonly found on all-mountain or piste skis. This means they’re comfortable anywhere on the mountain, but particularly on piste.
If you enjoy skiing off-piste or are perhaps looking to venture into ski touring, you’ll need to consider buying a set of alpine touring bindings. Unlike traditional alpine bindings, these are bought only by people who specifically need them.
Alpine touring bindings usually have a switch that requires the user to take their boots off the ski and toggle it. This will release the back of the binding from the ski and expose a pull-out stand that enables the skier to hike uphill while keeping their boot flat.
With the use of skins and touring bindings, you’ll be able to hike up most places off-piste and then click your bindings into the downhill mode, where they’ll function exactly like traditional alpine. Really, they just add another element to traditional bindings, but it’s extremely necessary if you’re doing that type of skiing.
The third and final type of ski binding is telemark. These bindings act in a similar way to touring bindings by releasing the heel from the skis. The only difference here is the time they release the heel at. With touring bindings, it’s going uphill, while telemark is the complete opposite.
Telemark skiers use the binding hinge to bend their uphill ski while moving across the mountain. It’s a little confusing at first if you’ve never heard of or seen it, but there are a number of people who absolutely swear by the technique.
If you’re a beginner or casual skier looking to ski with family or friends, these aren’t the bindings you’ll be using. In fact, in 2017, Powder Magazine declared telemark skiing ‘Dead”, so it’s actually quite unlikely you’ll see many of them on your holiday.
Din Numbers Explained
For those that don’t already know, the DIN in DIN number stands for Deutsches Institut für Normung. It refers to the amount of pressure that has to be applied to the bindings for the ski to snap out. This number is very different depending on a number of factors about the skier.
Those factors are normally a mix between your skiing ability and your weight. For instance, children who are only just beginning to learn skiing will have a DIN setting of around 0.5 – 2.5, and at the opposite end of the scale, you have 18, which is reserved only for expert skiers or racers. Normally, most average skiers fall somewhere in the middle.
Choosing the correct DIN number is important for two reasons. The first is so you can feel confident you get the maximum power transfer from your legs to the skis. If you have the setting too low, there’s a chance your boots will pop out of your bindings if you’re skiing too aggressively. So not only will it ruin your line, but it also has the potential to cause injury.
That leads to the second reason it’s important to pick the correct DIN number. While choosing a number too low might have you unclip when you don’t want to, choosing one that’s too high can be extremely dangerous if you fall over. If your skis stay on your boots when you wipe out, there’s a high possibility of ankle and leg injuries. Not great if you’re a beginner and constantly fall over.
Do All Bindings Fit All Skis?
Almost all bindings fit all skis. There are two exceptions in that if your brake width is too narrow and if they’re integrated, they won’t necessarily fit, but on the whole, bindings are universal. That said, if you have any doubts, go to a professional ski shop and ask someone.
So, one way your bindings may not fit your skis is if the brake width is too narrow (wide) to fit across. It might not be a part of the ski binding that you’ve noticed before, but there are two arms that stick out made of metal and plastic that are called the ski brakes.
When your ski boot goes into your binding, it pushes down on a foot pad. That food pad activates the ski brake and brings the arms away from the snow to allow you to ski unobstructed. When your boot comes off your ski, the brakes and the foot pad pivot up, and the arms dig into the snow, stopping your skis from flying down the slope.
So, if your bindings are too narrow, the brakes won’t work, and your boot won’t clip in properly. However, there is also a problem if your binding arms are too broad because they’ll stick out too far from your skis and may interfere with your turning.
The second reason some bindings may not fit onto any ski is if they’re integrated. Integrated bindings are specifically designed for a ski. They’re normally sold with the ski in a package, making them ideal for beginners or those that want all in one.
Are Most Ski Bindings Universal?
Most ski bindings are almost completely universal, with a few exceptions for integrated ski bindings and for if your brake width is narrow.
As we’ve just discovered, with a few exceptions above, modern boots and skis are all pretty much universal unless you’re using specialized equipment. That, or you’re trying to attach your boots to children’s skis. Not going to work!
At the end of the day, the best way to make sure you buy ski bindings that will fit your skis (or vice versa) is to take your gear into a ski shop and have a technician look at it. It might not be the most complicated thing in the world, but if you’re concerned about making a mistake, there’s absolutely no harm in asking.
Are Ski Bindings Unisex?
Ski bindings are unisex, with the only variations being design and coloration. The only thing that may vary would be the DIN settings.
Although most marketing you’re exposed to may have you believing otherwise, ski bindings are completely unisex. It’s a similar situation as with ski helmets, design and color might be different, but the practical function is exactly the same.
The only thing that may end up being different with your bindings and someone of the opposite gender would be the DIN settings. Men tend to be heavier and ski more aggressively, therefore, they normally have higher settings.
You should pick your bindings based on your skiing ability, the skis you’re using, and the ski discipline you’re partaking in. If they have different colors for you to choose from, then that’s great, but it should be the last deciding factor as to which ones to buy.
How To Choose The Right Ski Bindings
Once you’ve chosen one of the main three types of bindings that we’ve discussed above, you need to decide on what type of skiing it is that you’ll be doing. This will determine the specific type of binding you need to make the most out of your session.
Piste-specific ski bindings often have the ski boots sitting high (higher than other types) above the flat of the ski so that transferring weight from edge to edge is faster. This is, of course, very important in racing or carving, but not so much in powder skiing or freestyle.
Depending on your skiing ability, the materials used will be different. For those just beginning, a light, plastic binding that easily pops open when it needs to will be perfect. For more advanced skiers, most components will be metal which increases durability and improves power transfer.
Freeride / Freestyle
Very often, the bindings may be closer to the base to decrease the distance between the boot and the ski. This may help increase the feeling of floating if you ever find yourself in knee-deep powder. Not only that, but it will make skiing through deeper snow easier because of a quicker power transfer.
Freeride and freestyle bindings need to be sturdy enough to withstand tough or hard landings without rattling but flexible enough to take away some of the impact. They also need to be lightweight for three reasons. If you’re using a set of touring bindings, the less weight you have to lug uphill, the better.
The next reason is that light bindings make it easier to navigate technical or tight-off piste areas. Constant micro-adjustments and reactions from your legs mean having a heavy binding will take its toll on your stamina.
Finally, the lighter the skis and bindings are for freestyle skiing, the easier you’ll find it to rotate in the air and perform various tricks. In freestyle skiing, your skis need to be an extension of your feet, perhaps more so than any other discipline. As such, light bindings are a very important piece of equipment.
Ski Bindings Mounting Position
Though it’s not something you’ll necessarily have to worry about if you buy your skis as a package, it’s important to know why you might want to mount your bindings in different places. Different styles of skis and skiing may require a different binding position, though it’s always specific to the skier’s needs.
The vast majority of all-mountain and piste skis will have their bindings mounted slightly further towards the rear of the ski. This helps the ski fully edge on each turn and helps it float above the crud if the snow conditions aren’t great.
Freestyle skis tend to have their bindings mounted in the middle. This makes things easier to balance both in the air, on boxes, and on rails. It’s also easier to ride switch because the distance both in front and behind your foot is equal.
If you get used to riding on either of the mounting positions, you should be able to ride most places on the mountain without trouble. While they may not be designed for that specific purpose, the difference isn’t going to be catastrophic to your skiing.
Ski bindings are mostly universal, with a couple of specific exceptions for those that have a narrow brake width and those that are integrated. However, you also have to make sure that the type of ski, type of binding, and the intended skiing you’re going for all go together.