It´s the season for winter sports! When it comes to skiing, skis and ski bindings, the terms ¨flex ¨ or ¨floating¨ may ring a bell when talking about bindings but do we know exactly what we are talking about? It would be a safe bet to say that the majority of us have no idea. The aim of this article is to reveal the ¨floating¨ technology  of ski bindings and to describe some of the best products on the market.

The Problem with Classic Ski Bindings

When skis were designed it was just assumed that the middle of the ski restricted by the binding would not be flexible and would remain relatively rigid due to the interaction with the ski boot.

This is easy to see when one imagines the ski itself. When the ski is not being used, the distance between the toe and the heel is the length of the boot but if we arch the ski in the shape of a semi circle, the part of the ski under the binding is reduced, therefore when we are skiing, this part of the ski is occupied by the sole of the boot which means that it can´t bend freely.

With this traditional technique, a frequent problem was that tension points were appearing in the springs which prevented the bindings from opening correctly in case of emergency. With the emergence of carving, what we want is to be able to use the whole ski in the turn and for this, a flexible ski binding is required.

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¨Floating¨ Bindings

For those with technical training, you will quickly understand the difference between a normal binding (which features two fixed points) and a floating binding which has one fixed point and the other has the ability to move. This enables there to be a space where the boot is by allowing one of the parts of the binding to move, which in most bindings is normally the heel.

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This is regulated by the pressure, which when the pressure increases when the ski is flexed, the binding ¨feels it¨ and moves responding in the appropriate way and progressively returns to its original position when the excess pressure is reduced.

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It is necessary to point out that all of these systems are passive, in other words, they do not actively influence the behaviour of the ski itself.  This is an important attribute since the majority of middle and high range bindings many times are incorporate superimposed elements that do affect the ski. For example we can see the Power Select by Tyrolia, Selective Control by Marker or Propulse by Saloman.

Without a doubt, it can be said that all middle and high range bindings are mounted by a floating method. Three of the following systems have been chosen due to their historical importance and/or advanced technology.

Tyrolia Freeflex®

This system, which came out over a decade now, was one of the first in which both the heel and the toe were joined to be able to regulate this distance that we previous spoke about. Although newer models of their bindings in the last seasons have featured new add-ons (Freeflex®  Pro, Power Select), the system itself has remained the same and continues to show amazing results.

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Salomon Pilot

These bindings were a huge novelty back in the season of 2000-2001. Apart from being able to mount these bindings without tools, it is one of the systems that least interferes with the natural flex of the ski. The main reason for this is due to the number of anchors on the ski: while a conventional binding is attached with 7-8 screws, the Pilot bindings have only two dowel pins. This avoids any damages to the nucleus (which are inevitable when drilling) and any rigid areas are eliminated.

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Völkl Motion

These are some of the best bindings out there. Their newly created system iPT Wideride offers a binding with a contact area of only 30% larger than with normal bindings. Moreover, the point where the bindings are attached is closer to the ski´s edge and skier is able transmit force better and more precisely. At the same time, the impulse transmission works more directly and delivers a better edge grip.

Collaborating with Maker, Völkl Motion offers a binding that does not need screws. They are attached by guides that are already attached to the nucleus of the ski and they are screwed on by a central piece which is done by hand. The end result is a light ski-binding combination that has no interferences with the ski.

Desadvantages

As with anything, not all of these were going to be advantages. The first problem is exclusivity. Modern systems need structures that are incorporated in the skis which therefore only certain skis with can be used with certain bindings. This could be looked at though as an advantage because one does not need to puzzle over which bindings to choose.

The second disadvantage is a suggestible rise in price, as we are not being able to mount old (or not so old) bindings on our older skis, and price is usually an important factor in being able to enjoy our favourite sport.

Happy skiers



The truth is that the new tendencies of the market are and have incorporated bindings with skis which have improved the behaviour of the ski-binding combination. Moreover, almost all ski manufacturers also make bindings, which ensure better sales and make us only have to go through one painful process of choosing our gear.