The right binding can mean the difference between a serious leg injury and a harmless fall. There are three common types of bindings for adult alpine (downhill) skiers. Performance bindings are the most popular. They’re light and easy to use, and some can be adjusted to modify your skis’ response to varying snow conditions.
Recreational bindings are made to release easily and often have upward toe release, which helps protect against knee injuries. They may feel imprecise or sloppy to more advanced skiers. Race bindings are made of heavy, stiff, very durable materials for maximum edging power and precision.
Key Features To Consider
Upward toe release: While all bindings are designed to protect the leg and ankle from bending injuries by releasing upward at the heel, and from twisting injuries by releasing sideways, this feature helps guard against knee sprains by releasing upward at the toe. Some expert skiers who value retention over release don’t like these bindings, their thinking being that as long as the skis are attached there’s a chance to recover from a potential fall.
Anti-friction device (AFD): Teflon pads or mechanical sliders located under the toe of the boot that help release the boot from the binding in forward, twisting falls. Standard on all bindings.
DIN range: This measures the amount of force needed to release the bindings. Beginners should look for low DIN settings to reduce the risk of injury during repeated falls. Intermediate and advanced skiers should look for higher settings, which will prevent the bindings from releasing unnecessarily.
Ski brake: Prevents ski from running away. Also has two convenience functions: brake holds the ski steady as you step into binding, and interlocks pair of skis so they can be more easily carried.
Stack height/ramp angle: The distance between the top of the ski and the boot sole. Expert skiers often like the extra power of a tall stack, and even average recreational skiers can improve edging power with a modest stack. The heel normally stands higher than the toe, increasing ramp angle. A high ramp angle puts you in a more aggressive forward-leaning stance for speed.