We get a lot of questions at regarding bindings for ski blades, so I am writing this brief article to explain the pro’s and con’s of various binding options as well as dispelling some of the myths about ski blade bindings.
First, there are basically two types of bindings that come with ski blades (snowblades, skiboards, ski boards, short skis – yes there are referred to by many names).
1) Non-Release Bindings. These bindings do not release in case of a fall. The advantages of these are that they don’t release prematurely either (though release bindings adjusted properly usually don’t pre-release either). These bindings are usually less expensive than release ski bindings, with the exception of the Bomber Elite Bindings, which actually are more expensive than other release bindings (more about these later).
Non-release ski blade bindings, while all adjustable to a range of ski boot sizes, vary in terms of construction, durability, performance and how they mount to the ski blades. With the higher end, usually aluminum or steel non-release bindings, mounting is usually in a standard 40mm X 40 mm screw mounting pattern. These are mounted into stainless steel inserts that have been preinstalled in the ski blades during manufacturing. Examples of these ski blades would be the Snowjam 75, Snowjam 90, Summit Nomad 99 and the Summit Custom 110. The advantage of this 4X4 mounting pattern is greater retention of the bindings and more flex of the ski blades for carving. These would be more expensive due to the features that include metal toe levers, metal plates and parts, and rubber dampening pads.
Bomber bindings were designed to allow full flex of the ski blades with a unique round plate under the center of the bindings. In addition, these bindings have dampening pads fore and aft to help with some of the terrain jolts. Bomber Elite bindings feature an aluminum/steel construction and are definitely heavy duty construction (Made in Colorado). They retail for $209 US.
Non-release ski blade bindings also come in a composite construction. These are still adjustable, mounting with screws drilled directly into the ski blades, usually in an 8 hole configuration. They are not made to fit inserts but usually come with less expensive ski blades that don’t have inserts. These bindings are lighter, and much less expensive but won’t take the abuse that the metal bindings will. The price is significantly less however and they do allow some flex, though less than the higher performance non-release bindings. Examples of these are the Matrix 75, 90 and 99, Kemper, Airwalk and others. These do also adjust to a range of ski boots sizes.
All ski resorts require leashes to be used, one per leg, for non-release bindings. This is so, in the event they get away from you, they won’t fly down the hill.
Myth 1: Non-release bindings mounted in a 4 hole insert pattern allow for the best flex of ski blades; any other bindings, such as release bindings, do not allow full performance.
While this may be true regarding the composite non-release bindings (that inhibit flex somewhat), this is not true for the ski bindings manufactured by the major ski companies such as Elan, Head/Tyrolia, Salomon, Atomic or Rossignol, for example. These release bindings allow the flex of the ski blades (or skis) and many years of research go into the design of these bindings in order to achieve this very purpose. This is true whether the bindings are adjustable or custom fitted.
2) Release Bindings. These bindings do release in case of a fall, usually in many directions, to prevent a variety of injuries. These ski bindings mount directly into the ski blades, usually with 8 screws like ski bindings on skis. Most release bindings allow for the full flex of the ski blades. The major disadvantage is cost, as the many included safety features basically cost more. These will tend to weigh slightly more than most other bindings with the exception of the Bomber Bindings., though this isn’t noticeable when riding downhill. Leashes are not necessary with release bindings as they come with brakes that come down when the bindings come off to hold them in place so they don’t get away from you. The major advantage of these is that they make ski blades the safest snowriding tool on the mountain (as compared to skis, snowboards or tele skis). The other advantage is that you can just step in and go, whereas the non-release bindings require more time to get on and off (and bending over).
Release bindings can come in a model that adjusts to many different boot sizes such as the Tyrolia SP100 used in the Head 94 or the Summit Models. Adjustable bindings usually use a rail to slide the toe and heel piece easily to fit your ski boots. There are also release bindings that are just a toe and heel piece with brake that are fitted exactly to your boot size and don’t adjust.
Depending on the width of the ski blades, sometimes wider brakes are necessary so they can clear the ski blade and work like they are supposed to. Ski-Blades.com provides these brakes at no additional charge.
Release bindings are adjusted based on your ability level, size of boots and weight. Certified technicians need to adjust the “DIN” to make sure they release when they are supposed to. This takes about a minute at most ski shops or resorts.
Myth 2: It is necessary to use release bindings mounted on a riser plate that fits the 4 hole standard mounting pattern (fits into the 4 inserts) in order to maintain proper flex of the ski blades.
An example is the Spruce Riser plate and bindings. This is simply not true. Worse, these are definitely dangerous. None of the major ski binding manufacturers endorse modifications to how their bindings are mounted to either ski blades or skis. Their comment is that there is no way to tell if these bindings will release when they are supposed to, as the riser introduces a foreign element into the equation. In addition you lose the convenience of step in and go, as you have to still use leashes, as brakes don’t work due to the additional height. We do not sell these.
Myth 3: Risers plates upon which bindings are mounted (whether release or non-release) will improve carving ability.
No, what improves carving ability is the design of the ski blades you use, as well as their inner construction. Higher performance ski blades carve more aggressively. The deeper, parabolic sidecut allows for aggressive carving and of course the ability to lean so your edges will do the job they were designed for. This lean is natural and feels simply like “riding the edges”. A riser is not required to improve the carving ability of true high performance ski blades. In fact, riser plates can actually interfere with the “road feel”, introducing too much cushion and thus “spongyness” and thus not having a solid feel for the ground. They can actually inhibit performance.
3) Snowboard Bindings. We get asked all the time about using snowboard bindings with ski blades. The answer is usually Yes! Yes, these bindings will screw directly into any ski blades with the 4 hole mounting pattern (4 inserts). Because these bindings are often wider than the ski blades when you are leaning over on carves they could catch in the snow. This can be resolved with a simple riser kit that we we offer. It mounts underneath the snowboard bindings to get them off the ground so they don’t catch. The other disadvantage of snowboard bindings with snowboard boots is that most bindings/boots are too soft and don’t allow maximum transfer of power to the edges. They create a spongy feel. The snowboard bindings are not made for carving side-to-side so buckles will often break. However, stiffer snowboard boots like we carry can solve part of the problem. The other is to carve more off the back tails or add an additional retention strap at the top of your bindings. Minor problems to overcome considering the extra comfort. Keep in mind that snowboard bindings don’t release in case of fall.
4) AT Bindings. Ski Blades can also be mounted with AT bindings, meaning bindings that will allow for climbing uphill with a lever that allows for freeing your heels to make climbing easier. They can then be locked down when coming downhill like a normal ski binding. Most use these bindings for backcountry riding. An example of this kind of binding is the Fritschi Freeride Pro bindings which we offer. They are the most expensive, but also the most versatile of all bindings. These are adjustable to a range of ski boots sizes and the DIN can be set just like other release bindings.
Myth 4: Ski Blades are dangerous no matter what the bindings.
This is definitely untrue and usually something someone not knowledgeable about ski blades would say. We do hear this all the time. The truth is skis are way more dangerous than ski blades. Lets see – you rarely cross tips, or ever, can turn fast, stop fast, get through anything and don’t usually need lessons. This is the biggest myth of all, especially if you consider release bindings on the longer ski blades.
Shorter ski blades do not come with release bindings as they are too short to accommodate ski bindings. However, shorter means even less chance of getting into a predicament so you just get back up when you fall like on skates. With non-release bindings though there is always the chance of a fall. The shortest we offer with full ski release bindings is the 94cm to 95cm length ski blades.