There has been a seismic explosion in backcountry skiing over the last few years and we see this each week as more and more guests arrive with touring gear. We’re all for earning your turns but touring specific gear can present challenges when used for mechanized skiing. The pros and cons of both pin and Shift bindings are discussed here.
Pin bindings (like the Marker Kingpin) are characterized by a toe-piece with a lever and 2 pins which fit into holes on the toe of specific touring boots. Pin bindings are excellent for climbing because they are lightweight and fairly robust. The obvious pitfall is that they have no forward DIN setting, so they won’t release in specific types of falls, increasing the likelihood of injury. More importantly, it is extremely difficult to kick free of your skis if you’re caught in an avalanche which elevates the risk when using them in a mechanized ski environment.
The Shift binding (Solamon, Atomic and Armada) also has a lever and two pins on the toe-piece; however, the main difference here is that this binding is compatible with most touring and downhill boots with pin holes on the toe. The most notable difference is the Shift has a forward DIN and is much better suited for mechanized skiing. The downside of the Shift is that snow builds up under the ski brake plate which requires constant cleaning throughout the day. Not only does this slow the day for the whole group, more importantly, it may prevent the skier from fully locking into the heel-piece, causing premature release and subsequent injury.
Cat Skiing vs. Touring
A day of touring is predominantly spent climbing, while catskiing is 100% downhill. In addition, your skis are transported on the back of the cat between runs increasing their tendency to ice up. And without the need for climbing, we strongly recommend bindings specifically designed for downhill.
The Bottom Line
We have outright banned the use of pin bindings at Selkirk and guests will need to use our skis if they arrive with them. Many of our guides ski on the Shift because they may be required to climb as part of their job. Traditional downhill bindings are the gold standard for mechanized skiing in avalanche terrain and we have a fantastic quiver of DPS and Armada skis with touring boot compatible Warden bindings. So, do yourself a favour and leave your touring skis at home.