How to choose your backcountry touring binding?
So you're keen to mount a set of touring skis. Sweet! Do you need to go ultralight or bomber? Hybrid or dedicated? Brakes or brakeless? Let's cut through the uncertainty by focusing on the best deciding factor: Number of days skied in the backcountry.
Hybrid or dedicated touring bindings
If you're skiing the backcountry more than 20% of your total days, you should seriously consider a dedicated pin binding. The customers that are happiest with their hybrid bindings are folks that have one set of skis and ski the resort 15-20 days and tour 3-5 days a season. If that's not you, you'll want a quiver of skis and dedicated bindings for the resort and the backcountry.
Do you need elasticity in the toe?
Resort bindings have 25-50mm of side-to-side "float" in the toe piece that makes for a damp skiing experience inbounds. An Atomic Shift will give you similar numbers but you'll pay a weight penalty for the benefit. Shifts weigh about three times as much as your average tech binding. A nice middle ground is the Frischi Tecton and Vipec that bring 13mm of elasticity at nearly half the weight.
Most tech toes we would consider to have 0 elasticity. This difference concerns many skiers who worry about release and skiability in pin bindings. Not to sound overconfident, but the benefits of a dedicated pin binding vastly outweigh the concerns. If Josh Daiek can do what he does in pin bindings, so can you.
The binding we are most excited about
When we did our staff picks for the 23/24 winter season, the ATK Raider and Freeraider EVO bindings were the only staff pick bindings of the year. This is because the Raider 11 EVO, 13 EVO, and the Freeraider 15 EVO have adjustable release values in the toe and heel. We won't call it elasticity, but you can feel significant rebound in the toe when you drive your carves. This makes for a safer binding that skis better.
The amazing part about the EVOs is they were able to achieve this without a weight penalty. At 740 grams, the Raider 11 EVO is among the lightest bindings we carry.
How to choose the right binding
The perfect binding choice arises from time spent in the skin track, in transition, and skiing your favorite runs. The fastest way to learn how a binding performs is to talk to people who have used them. We are fortunate to have incredible access to the backcountry and we have a commitment to testing everything we carry. Visit us or call the shop at (530)583-6917 for help choosing the right binding.