2017 SKI TRENDS: SKI BOOT SOLES & BINDING COMPATIBILITY
You’ve seen it, and we deal with it every day at evo. Skiing is undergoing a transformation.
Today’s breed of skier is ripping terrain at the edges of the resort and beyond the backcountry gate. As a result, many of our customers are asking for touring capability, so they can access backcountry lines under their own power. That means boots need a decent walk mode and good traction for hiking and should be as light as possible, hopefully with the option to use “tech” (Dynafit type) touring bindings.
For the winter of 2016-2017, this demand has spawned a new crop of significantly lighter “crossover” boots that combine excellent precision and power for the descent but are hundreds of grams lighter than their traditional alpine boot siblings. These boots also have good rearward mobility at the cuff, so hiking or skinning are nearly as good as in a true alpine touring boot. To make hiking or booting easier and safer, most of these new boots incorporate some sort of rockered ski boot sole – curved at the toe – with a lugged tread pattern for better grip.
THIS IS WHERE IT STARTS TO GET MORE COMPLICATED. AS IT TURNS OUT, NOT ALL OF THESE SKI BOOT SOLES ARE COMPATIBLE WITH ALL BINDINGS.
Previously, there were two primary types of ski boot soles to consider (not counting telemark boots or certain ultra-light ski mountaineering boots).
- ISO 5355 alpine sole (also referred to as “DIN”) was flat in the forefoot and had a height of 19 mm plus or minus 1 mm. Tech inserts were not allowed.
- ISO 9523 touring sole had grippy rubber and an upwardly curving toe for walking, with a height of 28 mm plus or minus 5 mm.These soles can have metal tech inserts molded in.
Typically the 9523 alpine touring soles would not fit in regular alpine bindings, and if they did shops would refuse to indemnify them because friction between the sticky rubber soles and the anti-friction device of the toepiece made release inconsistent.
Still with us? As of this writing, there are now 2 more sole types to take into consideration, and one or the other is likely to be installed on that new lightweight all-mountain boot you’re thinking about. Salomon introduced the WTR (Walk-to-Ride) sole in 2012 and it is currently available on boots from Salomon, Atomic, Lange, and Rossignol. This fall, Marker is debuting the GripWalk sole, which will be available on certain models of Tecnica, K2, Dalbello and Nordica boots.
It is important to note that WTR and GripWalk can both be used with an alpine (non-touring) setup, but only when used with the correct bindings. While neither WTR or GripWalk is an actual ISO standard, both use an alpine touring shape that incorporates a smooth gliding pad where the boot contacts the toepiece. Both types of soles can include molded-in tech fittings for use with tech (pin) touring bindings, but will still be compatible with certain alpine bindings. The tricky thing is determining which alpine bindings will work.
HERE ARE OUR RECOMMENDATIONS IF YOU BUY ONE OF THESE AWESOME NEW “CROSSOVER” BOOTS OR ARE THINKING ABOUT USING ONE OF THE NEW POWERFUL ALPINE TOURING BOOTS WITH AN ALPINE SETUP.
1. Be careful when trying to pair any rockered sole with a traditional alpine binding. Many alpine toes simply won’t adjust high enough to allow a touring boot sole to fit without applying upward leverage on the mounting screws. That’s not good. Even bindings that will adjust high enough may not have a suitable AFD (Anti Friction Device) to allow consistent lateral release with a grippy touring sole.
2. If your boots are equipped with WTR or GripWalk soles, we recommend following the manufacturers’ guidelines when choosing your bindings. Currently that means a WTR sole should be paired with a binding that says “WTR” or “MNC” (Multi-Norm Certified). GripWalk equipped boots should be used in conjunction with Marker SoleID bindings. Most frame style alpine touring bindings are compatible with both WTR and GripWalk, but be sure to double check with your tech.
3. ISO 9523 full alpine touring soles should only be used with frame style touring bindings, pin-tech touring bindings if you have the appropriate fittings, or bindings that say MNC or SoleID (the Marker Lord SP, Salomon Warden 13 and Tyrolia Attack 14 AT also work).
4. At the moment, Look’s position with regard to its Dual WTR bindings is that they are compatible with ISO 5355 alpine soles and WTR-certified ISO 9523 soles only.
If this sounds confusing to you, that’s because it is. If you have a question regarding the compatibility of a specific boot and binding combination, we recommend asking a qualified binding tech at the time of purchase, especially as these guidelines are continuing to evolve as the season draws closer.
Our ski techs at evo Seattle, evo Portland and evo Denver are gearing up for the season and ready to help you navigate this complicated boot/binding landscape. Our Customer Care team is also here to help.