Thursday, February 14, 2008

Shopping for a binding

I called Porter's Tahoe recently to ask if there'd been any movement on my warranty case. There had - K2 sent them a pair of this year's 169 Public Enemies. I'd called previously to ask if I could go to a 174, but I guess it was too late to get that request to K2. In any case, it was no big deal because Porter's stocks a ton of that ski, so they're letting me swap my 169s for a pair of their 174s. After the broken ski debacle, I had my Salomon bindings mounted on the Volkl Mantras, since I didn't really want to spend more money I didn't have on new bindings to go on them, and the S850s are a perfectly good binding. Those bindings came off a different ski, so I didn't really do any shopping when I chose them.

My other two pairs of skis are my Rossi Bandits, which have the cheapest binding that was at the store at the time, and my Atomic GS11s, which have the Atomic binding compatible with their lifter plate. So until now, I haven't really been in the position of trying to choose a binding. On a basic level all alpine ski bindings are the same. They lock your boot to the ski unless a certain amount of force is exerted on them, and then they release to prevent injury. The designs aren't foolproof, and while the risks of injury to an alpine skier are a couple of orders of magnitude lower using any contemporary alpine binding than they were on the cable bindings used by the inventors of the sport, there is still a risk of injury due to binding failure. Bindings can fail three ways - they can fail to release, leading to the kinds of injury that early skiers suffered, they can pre-release, leading to a loss of control at whatever speed the skier happens to be traveling, or they can just plain break, leading to a similar loss of control to a pre-release.

The main ground rule in my binding selection was that it has to come from Porter's. I don't think I can get a significant price advantage elsewhere in Tahoe, and while I might save some money going on the internet, after shipping and a mounting fee, it wouldn't be very much and I'd like to be able to ski these skis this weekend if the moguls are as developed as I think they will be. I love my Mantras, but bump skiing is the one thing the K2s were better at.

Porter's carries 4FRNT, Look, Rossi, Marker, Roxy and Salomon. I haven't heard anything about 4FRNT, which makes me wary. Look bindings are pretty well-regarded, although they have a lot of ramp and when I tried them on my brother's PEs, I felt like I was wearing heels. Rossi is just rebranded Look, and the ones Porter's carries are the fairly low-end ones. Marker bindings have a terrible reputation for pre-release, especially in connection with jumping off things. I've also talked to racers who disliked them, and they are the brand named in the expression "Markering out." Roxy are also rebranded Look, but while I may be secure enough in my masculinity to order an Apple Martini, I'm not quite secure enough to call it an "Appletini" or ski a Roxy. Unless it was free, in which case I probably would. I wonder if they have little hearts on top of the toepiece... As far as Salomon, I'm quite fond of the ones I have now that I've figured out that I don't put much force on the toe unless I screw up and sometimes put a lot of force on the heel even when I don't.

Anyway, Look PX bindings are supposed to be very easy to mount without their crazy ramp angle. I understand it's a matter of mounting the Lifter model with the lifter plate under the toe and the non-lifter shim under the heel. In any case, if the shop can do that for me it'll remove my objection to that binding model. In that case, a Look PX12 is a no-brainer, because they're also cheap. Salomon has a couple models available with the right DIN range for me - the Z12 and the STH12, and some lower-end stuff. In my somewhat unscientific research, I've come to some conclusions. The Z12 and STH12 are both more expensive than the Look bindings. There're a number of stories about the Z12 failing, both from toe wings breaking, shearing off, etc., and especially from the titanium rail the heel is mounted on getting bent. Lots of people complain about the latter issue, including people near my weight and not jumping off of much stuff. The STH12 is supposed to be much sturdier. It's also more expensive, but I'll spend more for safety.

All that leaves me with two front-runners - some kind of PX12, of which there are many varieties, or the STH12. The STH12 costs $80-$100 more than the PX12, so unless I can't get the PX12 mounted with a neutral ramp, I expect to put dildo bindings on the new PEs. Now to choose a color...

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