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.