How Big a Deal Is The New Salomon Shift Binding?

For backcountry skiers, it may just be the biggest deal in a long time.

In recent years, backcountry bindings have been designed in an effort to make ski touring more efficient while mainly focusing on the reason skiers tour in the first place: to ski. The issue with tech, aka pin, bindings has always been that their performance is primarily focused on the uphill, that they lack the safety and fun factor of a traditional alpine binding during the downhill. It seems Salomon may have just solved that issue.

Salomon’s new S/Lab Shift binding ($650, available fall 2018) is an impressive engineering feat. Imagine that the STH alpine binding fell in love with the MTN pin binding. This would be their child. It has an alpine heel, which delivers hold and power transfer. But the big news about the Shift is the toe piece. It transforms from a pin to an alpine binding. Yes, the Shift’s toe is both tech and alpine.

With the flick of a lever, the pins used during the uphill collapse into the interior of the toe piece and create the wings of a traditional alpine toe bail. Skiers can travel uphill with the speed and efficiency of a tech toe and ski downhill with the power, drive, and safety of a full, true alpine binding.

Salomon’s goal was to address the inherent issues of tech bindings, specifically the toe piece’s downhill safety and performance. Lightweight pin bindings are energy and muscle savers during the uphill, yes. But many backcountry skiers considered them to be sketchy at best during the downhill. Though tech-alpine hybrids are not new and other brands have created terrific amalgams—most recently and notably, Fritchi’s Tecton 12 and Marker’s Kingpin—without the safety of lateral elasticity, skiers often lock out the tech toe to avoid early release. The danger there is that the binding will not release at all, which has the potential to cause major injury. When using a tech binding, backcountry skiers cannot attack the slope with the same power, confidence, and safety that is provided by an alpine binding,

The Tecton 12 and the Kingpin both addressed the power issue with an alpine heel, and the safety issue with DIN certifications and a toe piece with some dynamic movement. But Salomon has taken it to the next level. The Shift has 47mm of elasticity in the toe (which is on par with traditional alpine bindings), is fully DIN certified and multi norm compatible, features a 90-degree range of motion while touring, and has a skeleton construction of carbon infused PA with metal components at stress points in the toe and heel pieces. Each binding tips the scales at a trim 865 grams, which includes the screws.

Recent testing from members of the media revealed that there were a few instances when the brake deployed while skinning, which was possibly due to user error and self-proclaimed sloppy technique, but it was still far and away the best hybrid touring binding they’d ever tested (I was schedule to test the binding at a December demo day, but surgery vetoed those plans). One person said, “It gets my 100 percent seal of approval. It tours like a Kingpin and descends like a Salomon alpine binding.” The consensus from the test was that the Shift can be a single quiver binding for the skier who splits time on resort and in the backcountry and is a game-changing option for backcountry skiers looking for the best marriage of tech and alpine bindings.

Atomic, who shares the same parent company as Salomon, will also release their own Shift MNC13 this fall.


Showing 13 comments
  • Donkey Kong

    Dynafit got backcountry bindings (including reliable toe releases) right about twenty years ago, and every manufacturer (including Dynafit) has been messing with them, mostly for marketing reasons, since then. This binding sounds like an over-complicated, unnecessarily heavy, focus-grouped nightmare. Get a pair of speed turns (closest thing to the old school reliable Dynafits) and be done with it. Don’t believe the hype.

    • vls

      860gr is definitely not heavy against Dynafit Beast with its 690gr , floating heel, unecpected releases and uncomfortable descending.
      If you have alpine binding’s stability, safety and joy together with comfortable ascent.

  • chris

    I’ve been looking at getting back into skiing (after leaving Vail 17 years ago), and was torn between getting a back country or alpine setup. This could be the answer. It’s expensive, but I’m sitting this season out (new born). If it’s on sale in Spring, this will likely be the top of my list

  • Joe Parks

    As a mechanic, this binding gives me headaches. Simplicity is king. In the search for simplicity, it is okay to compromise. If you want to tour, tour. Inbounds skiing? Go for it. Doing both on the same gear simply isn’t necessary. What most of us want are bindings we forget about. As this guy before me mentioned, binding companies had this figured out 20 years ago. 25, in Salomon’s case. Use whatever gas pedal you want for ramp angle under the to of an old 997 Equipe, and it is perfect. Maybe a bit heavy with all that metal, but reliable and, more importantly, forgettable. Step in, go, get home safely. All the new bindings have some flaws, whether it’s complexity or too many plastic bits. The SPX toe, the heir to the 20+ year reliability of the PX/Axial2, begs to be broken under the AFD. The STH2 heel uses a plastic rail, á la Marker, and deadens the snow feel. Tyrolia still develops toe twist under a powerful skier on a wide ski. Marker hasn’t built a retail (non-racing) binding that works, ever. All of the current shapes have way too much plastic, which either breaks or deadens the snow feel, or both.
    I beg of the ski industry this: Stop it. Stop messing with success. An S900 Equipe, used and aged as it is being skied every winter since ’97, still gives me more confidence than anything out today. This new, complicated, unnecessary binding is just another way to convince bankers they need more gear, and to push ski bums further to the margins. More gear, more expense, more rich people, fewer people who actually get skiing. No thanks.
    “Don’t believe the hype.” Seconded.

    • Zac Wasielewski

      I get where the naysayers are coming from, but I’m not convinced—these bindings seem perfect for me. I’m currently touring on the super-light Dynafit Speed Radical, but would happily sacrifice a few hundred grams of weight for a little more burliness and reliable release on the descent.

      Not everyone has a ton of money to spend on two (or more) sets of gear. Rather than complicating, these Shift bindings may give me an opportunity to simplify.

      • Joe Parks

        You have a good point. I want my gear to be simple, but since my life already pretty much is–work, ski, girlfriend, food, sleep–I don’t mind the clutter of N+1. I buy used as much as possible. I’m patient when I want something new, to the point of waiting three or four years to get it right. I have four bikes, but no full suspension even though my shop is mostly that. I have nine pairs of skis, but I don’t own alpine touring gear, even though I truly dig being out and away. My damn near decade old tele setup works just fine. (Maybe tele gear takes care of the adrenaline that would come from never quite trusting my gear.)
        This binding really is a step forward, needed by me or not. Not everything out of the Salomon factory is good, but here’s hoping this one really is. Lastly, any time there’s an option that doesn’t say Marker or Fritschi, I’ll listen even if I’m not in the market.

  • Chris

    It is probably fair to call this binding the jack of all trades and a master of none. I don’t think their target audience is someone who is happy having 3 or 4 pair of skis, but is the person who can’t decide if they want backcountry or resort gear, and this allows them to do both. Thats me:) I want a single new pair of skis for next season, and this way I can ski the resort days with the family, and go play with friends on the mountain behind my house which has great backcountry skiing. Looking forward to getting some of these.

  • Jason

    This is a perfect binding for travel skiing.

    I’ll switch to a Salomon Mtn or Explore boot, install inserts in my K2 Sideshows (Touring/Resort) and Salomon Czars and then buy these. Seems like a perfect setup that would be easy to travel and adapt to whatever we get into. “Simplicity is king”

    Gone would be the day were I fly with my resort and touring – boots, bindings, skis, and poles.

    Reasons for current setup.
    Fritshi Pros – Don’t like how lifted the binding is from the ski so I don’t use them at the resorts only touring.
    Pins – Don’t like the release mechanisms vs STHs or Pros. Want the safey of an alpine binding in a pin.

    Salomon boots
    Scarpa touring boots
    Sideway Ski – inserts for STH 14s and Fritschi Pros
    Czars – STH14s
    3 or 4 others pairs with Salomon traditional bindings.

  • huh

    I’ve seen to many tib/fib fractures to simply say Dynafit had this figured out 20 years ago…Yes, it’s the most reliable touring binding ever made. But there is also room for improvement specifically in the toepiece, as I personally know a couple people with tib/fib fractures due to skiing locked out. I also have seen serious injuries due to skiing unlocked and pre-releasing. This is a good place to focus on improvement

  • Ivan Gotta

    Everyone has a right to their opinion, but if you think that the simple-is-best-don’t-need-no-newfangled-gadgets naysayers speak for all of us, think again. I will buy these, and so will a whole lot of other people. And guess what? Some of us even know what we want. Lots of things are complicated. I applaud the engineering.

  • Randy

    Skinning off piste will be new for me next year. A true experiment, if you will and completely unknown as to whether it will be my “cup of tea”. I’m willing to spend some coin to give myself every advantage to assure success, enjoyment and safety (Not necessarily in that order). Count me in, for the best ideas in gear to get me there.

  • Tony A

    IMO, the SHIFT is innovative, no doubt. However for me , way too heavy and complicated for long technical backcountry days. I’ll stick with my Radical ST and Wayback 88 set up. For sidecountry and resort laps, my Marker Baron set up has served me well for 5 seasons now. The SHIFT doesnt really compell me on either end of the spectrum. Perhaps theres a niche in between.

  • mike

    for my purposes of 50/50 (resort/backcountry) they look sweet. My concern would be the first generations of innovation usually have their issues. I’m thinking of going with kingpins then, in a few years, take another look at these.

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