How To Choose Alpine Ski Bindings 

Don’t skimp on this important piece of safety equipment.

While Alpine skis have changed tremendously in the last decade, so too have Alpine bindings. Wider skis mean wider brakes and bindings, offering more power, control and safety features. Important features to look for when selecting a binding—which include a toe and heel piece—include its type, DIN range, brake width and more outlined below. Above all, don’t skimp; bindings are perhaps your most important piece of safety equipment, keeping your skis attached when skiing and, just as important, releasing when needed to prevent injury. Note: Make sure they’re only mounted and adjusted by certified technicians. 

Alpine vs. touring bindings

Built with security and safety at the forefront of design, downhill (aka Alpine) bindings have a fixed toe and heel, locking you in place at all times. Alpine touring (often called AT) bindings are designed to allow you to hike or skin up the mountain and then ski down. When in touring mode, your heel releases off of the ski, allowing you to ascend, while the toe remains fixed. When it comes time to descend, the heel locks down again for downhill performance. Note: Ski touring tech bindings, also called pin bindings, are not generally subjected to certification and are only compatible with touring boots with toe and heel holes to accommodate the bindings’ metal pins. If you’re only skiing at resorts and don’t plan to tour the backcountry, stick with conventional Alpine bindings. 

Race bindings

These are different from traditional recreational Alpine bindings in that they maintain a narrower platform to fit narrower racing skis. They’re also heavier and more durable, and often fitted with risers for enhanced carving ability, plus they come with higher DIN ranges for harder release settings. 

Binding types

Your ski bindings should match your skill level. Because of their light weight, kids can use bindings with lower release settings (often called Junior) than adult bindings. Beginner and intermediate skiers (Type 1 or 2) don’t require high-level release settings; unless you’re heavy, lower-end to mid-range models usually suffice. Advanced and aggressive skiers (Type 3) require bindings with higher release settings.  


All ski bindings are required to have safety brakes, which come in a variety of widths. In general, ensure the brake width is at least as wide as the waist of your ski. If in doubt, bring your skis in when buying to make sure the bindings are compatible. 

Anti-friction devices (AFDs)

These are metal and/or Teflon pads that mount on each binding under the forefoot, just before the toe piece. Matching up with the boot sole, they allow the boot to slide easily out of the bindings upon release. Note: Many touring boots designed for “tech” touring bindings do not have friction pads compatible with conventional Alpine bindings. 

Winter skis and detailed view of the ski bindings

DIN settings

Normally measured on a scale from 1 to 13 (3-10 for intermediate models, 5-13 for advanced), DIN settings are based on five criteria: your weight, age, height, skier level and boot sole length. In general, the heavier the skier and better their ability, the higher the recommended DIN setting. More aggressive all-mountain skiers, including racers, freeride skiers (heading off-piste to natural, ungroomed terrain) and freestylers, might want a beefier binding with a higher setting while more recreational-oriented skiers might want a lighter binding with a slightly lower setting (the lower the setting, the less force required for the binding to release). Note: Visit a Public Lands location for a tension test and professional setting, or make sure your bindings are otherwise set by a certified technician.

Systems and plates

Skis can be sold on their own, without bindings, or with a plate affixed to the ski where a binding from the manufacturer can easily slide on. Oftentimes, it’s easier to buy a ski package, or system, where the bindings are included. Primarily found on all-mountain skis, system packages include integrated bindings designed for specific skis, offering a more natural flex pattern due to binding “elasticity,” better edge-hold and easy turning—not to mention the cost savings of skis packaged with bindings. Generally, freeride, Alpine touring and freestyle skis are sold without bindings; if you buy bindings for them, make sure they’re compatible with your skis and boots. 


While not everyone wants or needs them (they’re used more for racing), some bindings come with lifters that stiffen the ski and add leverage for better edging. They also dampen vibration, aid shock absorption and increase energy transfer. Too much lift, however, can make skis heavier and less versatile. Powder skiers often prefer little or no lift for better stability at speed, as do terrain park skiers for jumping and skiing backward (switch).

Binding and boot standards 

New boot and binding standards increase safety by ensuring compatibility. The two main ski boot standards are Alpine (ISO 5355), for boots with flat, stiff plastic soles; and Touring (ISO 9532), which allows for easier walking via a more rounded sole. Within the latter also comes the most recent GripWalk standard (ISO 23223), a technology pioneered by Marker/Dalbello that also makes ski boots easier to walk in. Bindings with GripWalk (look for the logo) are compatible with both Alpine- and GripWalk-certified boots. 

Mounting and setting 

Only have a certified technician mount and adjust your bindings. Where your binding is mounted will affect the skis’ performance (most ski manufacturers recommend a certain position). The farther back, the stiffer the ski feels; freeriders and park skiers often prefer a more forward mount. After purchase, have a certified technician adjust your bindings’ DIN setting based on your height, weight, age, ability and boot size. 

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.