Ski binding

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Alpine touring ski boot, binding, and ski crampon

A ski binding is an attachment that anchors a ski boot to the ski. There are different types of bindings for different types of skiing.


Example of ski binding mounted on a plate
Snow brake in open position

Modern alpine skiing bindings fix the boot at the toe and heel.

In some bindings, to reduce injury the boot can release in case of a fall. The boot is released by the binding if a certain amount of torque is applied, usually created by the weight of a falling skier. The torque required is adjustable, according to the weight, foot size, and skiing style.[1] A brake snow prevents the ski from moving while it is not attached to a boot.

Also known as randonee, an alpine ski touring binding allows the heel to be clipped down to the ski when skiing downhill, but allows it to be released when climbing.[2]


  • NNN: Rottefella's New Nordic Norm has a bar in the toe of the shoe hooked into a catch in the binding. There have been several versions of NNN, and the first NNN version is not compatible with current designs. Also exists in the more rugged BC (Back Country) version.
  • NIS (Nordic Integrated System) is the latest incarnation of NNN unveiled by Rossignol, Madshus, Rottefella, and Alpina in January 2005;[3] The new system features integrated binding plate on the top of the ski to which the bindings attach, allowing easy installation of bindings and even adjusting them on-the-fly depending on weather and snow conditions. NIS bindings and boots are fully compatible with NNN boots and bindings, and NIS skis allow installation of non-NIS bindings. In 2007, Fischer abandoned SNS and entirely switched to NIS; at the same time, Atomic abandoned NNN and switched to SNS.
SNS binding. The boot is attached by sliding it forward, until a horizontal metal bar on the toe of the boot is clipped into the yellow clip on the binding.
Obsolete SNS binding on the shoe
Newer SNS binding on the shoe
  • SNS (Salomon Nordic System; marketed by Salomon) looks very similar to NNN binding, except it has one large ridge and the bar is narrower. Three variants exist: Profil, the standard model; Pilot, specific for either skate-style or classic-style cross-country skiing, and the "X-Adventure" variant for backcountry skiing. While Pilot skate boots can be used with a normal Profil binding, Profil boots cannot be used with Pilot skate setups. Because of its ease of use it is quite common, though in some places NNN equipment (broadly comparable in terms of cost and performance) is easier to come by and hence used more. Previous SNS systems exist with a loop protruding from the front of the boot rather than a bar flush with the front, and these are obsolete and no longer available. Current providers of SNS boots and bindings include Salomon, Atomic (both belonging to Amer Sports group), and Hartjes; Fischer formerly supplied SNS boots but entirely switched to NIS in 2007.
  • 75 mm (Rottefella, Nordic Norm, 3-pin) This is the original, classic system found on cross country skis, invented by Bror With. These bindings, once the standard, are no longer as popular as they were but still hold a significant share of the market for mid-weight touring setups with relatively heavy boots, as typically used for hut-to-hut touring in Norway. In this system the binding has three small pins that stick up. The toe of the boot has three holes that line up with the pins. The boot is then clamped down by a bail. Despite the decreasing use of the 3 pin "rat trap" ("rottefella" in Norwegian) binding in lighter cross country, the characteristic "duckbill" toe it uses is still assumed in the design of heavier cable bindings, and 75 mm boots are still widely available, especially for telemark technique and more rugged touring. A similar system with a 50 mm "duckbill" once existed for lighter setups, but is obsolete and no longer available. Characteristically, the 75 mm wide binding is asymmetrical, having left and right foot orientations, which the 50 mm and other bindings don't distinguish. The 50 mm was the binding of choice for racing, prior to the adoption of skate ski racing, in the early 1970s. The 50 mm was also designated according to the thickness of the "duckbill" having either 7 mm or 11–13 mm thick soles hence these bindings often had two notches in the bail to clamp boots with different sole thicknesses. Another 50 mm characteristic, distinct from the 75 mm, and still seen in present day 75 mm boots, was the absence of a cable groove in the heel.
  • Telemark bindings are more heavy-duty to withstand the increased forces encountered in high speed descents. The cable binding (aka Kandahar binding), where the toe section of the boot is anchored, and an adjustable cable around the heel (for which there is a groove in the heel of the shoe) secures the boot. While binding designs vary, before 2007 almost all dedicated Telemark models had been designed to fit boots with 75mm Nordic Norm "duckbill" toes. However, in late 2007 Rottefella introduced the New Telemark Norm (NTN) binding which uses a different boot sole, co-developed with the Crispi and Scarpa boot companies.


Old ski binding

In the early days of skiing the binding was also similar to those of a contemporary snowshoe, generally consisting of a leather strap fastened over the toe of the boot. In the 1800s, skiing evolved into a sport and great advances in technique and equipment design followed. The toe strap was replaced by a metal clip under the toe. This provided much greater grip on the boot, allowing the ski to be pushed sideways. The heel strap also changed over time; in order to allow a greater range of motion, a spring was added to allow the strap to lengthen when the boot was rotated up off the ski. This buckled strap was later replaced by a metal cable.[4]

The introduction of cable bindings allowed the development of the stem christie turn. The introduction of ski lifts in 1908 led to an evolution of skiing as a sport. In the past, skiers would have to ski or walk up the hills they intended to ski down. With the lift, the skiers could leave their skis on, and would be skiing downhill all the time. The need to unclip the heel for cross-country use was eliminated, at least at resorts with lifts. As lifts became more common, especially with the introduction of the chairlift in 1936, the ski world split into cross-country and downhill, a split that remains to this day.

In 1937 Hjalmar Hvam broke his leg skiing, and while recuperating from surgery, invented the Saf-Ski toe binding.[5] This was a metal clip with a pyramidal top that fit into a slot cut into the sole of the ski boot. When the boot was rotated forward, the slot on the toe eventually rose above the metal pyramid, allowing the toe to release from the ski. The system was considered with suspicion by professional skiers, especially when Olaf Rodegaard released during a race. However, Rodegaard credits the release with saving him from a broken leg.[6] In the post-war era, Hvam sold several thousand pairs of Saf-Ski's, in an era when downhill skiing was in its infancy. Hvam continued to sell the Saf-Ski into the 1960s, but in 1966 his insurance rates increased so dramatically that he was forced from the market.[7]

The cable binding remained in use, and even increased in popularity, throughout this period as cross-country skiing developed into a major sport of its own. Change eventually came though the evolution of the Rottefella binding, first introduced in 1927. The original Rottefella eliminated the heel strap, which held the boot forward in the binding, by drilling small holes in the sole of the boot which fit into pins in the toe piece. This was standardized as the 3-pin system, which was widespread by the 1970s.[8] It has now generally been replaced by the NNN system.


  1. ^ "DIN Setting Calculator". Retrieved 20 Dec 2013. 
  2. ^ "ki Bindings - Components and Functions". ABC of skiing. Retrieved 13 October 2014. 
  3. ^ Mike Muha, "Nordic Integrated System ", Nordic Ski Racer, 26 January 2005
  4. ^ Lert, Wolfgang (March 2002). "A Binding Revolution". Skiing Heritage Journal: 26. 
  5. ^ Masia, Seth. "RELEASE! HISTORY OF SAFETY BINDINGS". International Skiing History Association. Retrieved 13 October 2014. 
  6. ^ Masia, pg. 27
  7. ^ Masia, pg. 30
  8. ^ "About Us", Rottefella