Gear | Burly AT Binding Roundup

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Looking for a binding that skis like a high DIN alpine binding on the way down but still lets you tour when you need to ascend under your own power? We’ve got you covered with an early look at the three burly AT bindings set to release for 2013; the highly anticipated Salomon Guardian, a surprise Tyrolia offering and the revamped Marker Duke EPF.

Prior to the introduction of the Marker Duke nearly 6 years ago, the word “burly” and “AT binding” didn’t really belong in the same sentence. There were companies such as NAXO and Frtischi producing bindings that were supposed to ski like mid range alpine binders, compatible with a DIN sole boot and could supposedly push a “big” (at the time) ski but field testing often left much to be desired.

Marker changed everything with the introduction its Duke and Baron platform in the fall of 2007. The binding skied just as it was marketed: A high DIN alpine binding with touring capability. In fact, the Marker Duke platform drove a ski better than most of Marker’s pure alpine offerings according to Lou at WildSnow.

However, the binding wasn’t perfect. It was heavy at over 2600 grams, had a less than desirable stack height (~36mm), a difficult to actuate in the field ski/walk mechanism that often iced up and a ramp angle that some loved and others hated (flatter than Salomon/Look offerings). Still, it reigned supreme its niche of the AT world.

A half a decade later a few newcomers are coming onto the scene with similarly marketed high DIN alpine touring bindings: Tyorlia with their “Adrenaline” binding and Salomon/Atomic with their “Guardian” binding. In addition, for next season, Marker will introduce a revamped Marker Duke.  Although we have zero on snow time with any of these bindings, (Editor’s Note: We have extensively toured on the “old” Duke) we wanted to highlight their various features in one collective post to help your buying decisions in the fall. We also hope to follow this with a review of all three of these products once we get time on the binders.

Marker Duke EPF:

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Old base plate on the left, new base plate on the right

  • Weight: 2550 gr/2580 gr (unverified)
  • Stack Height: 36mm
  • DIN: 6-16
  • AFD: Sliding
  • Climbing bar: 0, 7, 13 (with rubber to aid grabbing with ski pole)
  • Product Summary: Lighter, wider and stronger. Although the binding looks unchanged at initial glance, Marker has revamped the binding stance (28% wider), slightly redesigned the toe/heel piece and swapped plastic bits for metal in high stress areas. Marker claims the binding will drive a ski more precisely than the Dukes of past while being lighter and more durable.
  • Our Take: Despite a few shortcomings, this binding, even in its initial form was very very good. This can been seen in others emulating the design in many ways. If you have Dukes, these improvements probably won’t warrant an upgrade but are nice evolutionary steps toward a lighter, more durable (hopefully) product.
  • Side Note: Only the Duke will feature these changse. The Baron, F10/12 remain unchanged for 2012/2013.

Salomon Guardian:

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  • Weight: 2960 grams (unverified)
  • DIN: 7-16
  • Stack Height: 26mm
  • AFD: Fixed
  • Climbing bar: 2 degrees (there is no “true” flat position otherwise you click back into the binding), and “climbing”. Unsure what “climbing” means as far as what degree it is. Waiting for word from Salomon (hearing 13 degrees)
  • Product Summary: When word came out mid last season Salomon was working on an AT binding skiers everywhere rejoiced. Salomon’s top end alpine bindings have graced the likes of many top big mountain skiers worldwide for good reason. They just plain work. Besides the weight and stack height, one notable feature is a self clearing ski/walk mechanism that does not require the skier to exit the binding to actuate.
  • Our Take: Two things stand out with this binding. Best in class stack height and a ski/walk mechanism that could be the answer to the pesky Duke-icing problem. Downsides to the binding is it is heavier than either the Duke or Adrenaline (although this is marginal), the AFD is not technically compatible with a large number of vibram soled AT boots (huge bumme!) and is largely untested. Yes, the Salomon team has given it a thrashing over the past few years but as we all know, first year products have a way of showing weakness from time to time once Joey-beater gets on them (us). We’re thinking they have the bugs worked out but its still more of a risk than something tried and true. In sum, could it be king of its class? Yes. Is it? Not until its a bit lighter and compatible with AT soled boots… (Side note, also known as the Atomic Tracker, exact same binding)

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Tyrolia Adrenaline AT

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  • Weight: 2620g short 2650 long (unverified)
  • Stack Height: 36mm
  • AFD: Sliding
  • DIN: 5-16
  • Climbing Bar: 0, 7, 13 degrees
  • Product Summary: Despite the shock to many of us in the Western US, Tyrolia is actually the largest binding manufacturer in the world. Still, this binding caught many of us by surprise as it was a fairly well guarded secret until trade show time 2012. Notable features include a ski/walk mechanism that does not require the skier to take the ski off to actuate and a solid looking engagement platform to the ski.

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  • Our Take: This binding is a viable competitor in the field. The key detail to the Adrenalin gaining market share will simply be price. Its weight is in between the Duke and Guardian (again, weight amongst all three is somewhat close), and stack height somewhere around the current Duke. This binding, like the Salomon, is largely untested by the public “beater” (EG: us) set so time will tell on the durability side. Also, the jury is still out as to if the binding will ice up when engaging it from walk to ski mode as the current Duke does. Time will tell. For those that aren’t looking for the lowest binding, it could be a great option depending on price.
Videos:

Salomon Guardian Live Event

Tyrolia Adrenalin

Overall: Competition is often the catalyst of progress. Adding a few new players to this fast growing niche of the freeskiing market will hopefully lead to better products at lower price points. All three of these bindings are leaps and bounds better than AT bindings of yesteryear. Although none of these will ascend as well as a Dynafit setup they all offer alpine like performance, accomidate the largest number of boots and feature reasonable weight for such high DIN bindings. Sure, they wont be our first choice for 10,000 vertical foot days but we do love the idea of throwing a pair of these bindings on a 110-115 waisted skis as a “quiver of one” out west. We can’t wait to get on them!

 

 


  • pointandshoot

    So did the original patent up on the sideways front DIN setting expire? If I’m not mistaken, Marker bought the company (can’t recall who) that initially designed the toe-piece you see on all these bindings, which is what made the Duke so revolutionary and able to have a reasonable pivot point on the front. I just find it odd that ALL the bindings have nearly identical looking toe pieces with and they’re all coming out this year…

    • JeffBrines

      Great question. We aren’t sure on that. We’ll look into the patent database and check (although that can be a bit of a junk show). In any case, we 100% agree. These bindings look to be siblings of the same parents (if you will).

  • Peleton7

    Dynafit Vertical and Radical FT 12’s ski with precision, set the benchmark for touring, and weigh half of what these boat anchors do. They’re the only bindings I use anymore, and I’m not a super weight weenie doing the backcountry wiggle (current setup: EHP’s with Dynafits and BD Factor boots).

    Sure, if you’re sending BIG airs you might want more binding retention than a Dynafit offers, but how big are you willing to go knowing that getting hurt could endanger not only yourself but your touring partners in the backcountry? While I applaud the improvements in AT bindings of the past several years, I worry that the super-burly gear coming out today encourages risk taking beyond what’s prudent for out-of-bounds skiing. Being in the backcountry should be about being safe first, skiing second.

    • JeffBrines

      Peleton7,

      Great points. I think the major selling point of all these bindings is a “quiver of one”. Well suited to the guy/gal who wants the feel/performance of a high DIN alpine binder between the ropes while still having the option to tour every now and then.

      We fully agree Dynafit is *the* touring standard but with its limited elasticity and price prohibitive nature when taking into account new boots these bindings start to make more sense for a large portion of the market.

      Appreciate the comment!
      Jeff

  • Mm

    Bummer the Salomon wasn’t designed for AT boots.

    • JeffBrines

      Mm

      Although not specifically “approved” for use with AT boots, we’ve been told by many sources it works just fine. Its one of those goofy liability things in which Solly is more apt (at this point) to be on the conservative side. Remember, Fritschi doesn’t have a sliding AFD and they work just fine with AT boots…

      To my point, at the on snow demo portion of SIA, even Solly was setting up many riders with the Guardian and AT boots. Its just not “officially okay”.

      Side note, we’re not condoning this, just mentioning what we’ve seen.

      And yeah, as much as we love the ski/walk mechanism, we would have loved this binding a lot more had they integrated a sliding AFD and dropped 400-600 grams from the bindings weight.

      Jeff

  • jlbraun

    Don’t forget the MFD Alltime.