If you’re like us, you go uphill to go down. So, you need gear that’ll do it all but that’s really built for optimal downhill skiing performance.
Maybe you love skinning uphill. Fresh air. Movement. Good skintrack conversation. We don’t blame you. But for many backcountry skiers, the uphill portion of the journey is really just the mandatory gateway to the downhill. Because you can’t go down unless you go up first. Which means if you want fresh powder, you’ve got to put in the effort to get there, whether you like it or not.
Here at Flylow, our clothes are made with this sentiment in mind. They’re built for high-output activities, like bootpacking up a couloir or climbing a 14er. Because we know, sometimes it takes going the distance or putting in some extra sweat equity to get to the goods. So your gear should breathe and ventilate with you on the uphill, then keep you warm and dry on the way down.
The best touring bindings are much the same. You need them to climb uphill, so they should be lightweight. But you also need them to give stability and a high-performance feel on the way down. We rounded up some of our favorite touring bindings available now that go up just fine but get downhill like a champ. Check your local backcountry ski shop to purchase.
Best in Innovation
CAST Touring System
Made by Flylow athletes and hard-charging brothers Lars and Silas Chickering-Ayers, Driggs, Idaho-based CAST Touring is like the Frankenstein of touring bindings: a feverishly engineered creation that’s freaky smart. Their latest creation, the Free Tour Upgrade Kit ($675, including the cost of the Look binding), takes a Look Pivot binding and gives it a quick-release mechanism to swap in a lightweight tech toe piece for the uphill. CAST calls it the world’s first pin-tech touring system with the full reliability and safety of an alpine binding. We call it the best ski touring setup we’ve ever had. Period. It’s a touch heavier than other bindings, but if you’re a freeride skier who tours and really wants downhill performance, you’ve found it.
Best in Versatility
Salomon Shift MNC 13
When the Salomon Shift MNC 13 ($600) binding first debuted in the fall of 2018, it offered a revolutionary new design and one of the first bindings to use a free pivot mode for uphill touring, combined with the power transfer of a standard alpine binding for the downhill. Created with input from Salomon athletes Cody Townsend, Chris Rubens, Greg Hill, and others, the binding was seven years in the making. Today’s version is updated and as strong as ever: You’ll get a lightweight (it weighs in at 865 grams per pair) yet sturdy binding that’s our go-to choice for a one-ski quiver to travel with. You can tour into the backcountry and charge the resort on one setup. Only gripe: It still features just one height of climbing bar.
Best in Performance
Marker Duke PT
The Marker Duke PT ($699) is one of the coolest new touring bindings out there. You remember the original Marker Duke, right? That’s the frame binding, first introduced in 2007, that opened up a whole new market of ski touring types, but it was way heavy. The newest iteration of the Duke PT is significantly lighter than that first version (its uphill weight, without the alpine toe, is just 1,050 grams per piece) but it’s still heavier than other tech bindings. You skin uphill in a tech toe, then add an alpine toe for the way down. This binding goes to DIN 16, making it stout enough for the most hard-charging backcountry skiers.
Best in Usability
Fritschi Tecton 12
With the Swiss-made Fritschi Tecton 12 ($649), you get the performance and safety of an alpine binding but the weight and touring capability of a tech binding. If you like the way the Marker Kingpin binding skis (and who doesn’t? That binding is a stud), then the Fritschi Tecton 12 will feel like home to you. Even better than the Kingpin, it has a real alpine heel for that satisfying click and a releasable toe piece for added safety (which the Kingpin doesn’t). Add an easy step-in, three climbing heights, and a weight of just 683 grams per binding and you’ve got a pretty stellar package.
Best in Power Transmission
Moment Voyager XIV
The Moment Voyager XIV ($699) is an adaptation of the Italian-made ATK bindings, a burly touring binding made just for Reno, Nevada-based Moment Skis. It debuted in fall 2020, so this one is shiny and brand new for this winter. Moment bills it as an ultralight tech binding that was built to outperform others in its class on the way downhill. It’s designed to eliminate that heel gap you’ll find in other bindings and give you superior power transmission between ski and boot.
Best in Price
Though it’s not new, the G3 ION 12 has become a reliable favorite for backcountry skiers looking for a lightweight (at just 636 grams per piece) but high-performance option. It now comes in lighter and lower-DIN versions, too. This binding feels and looks like a traditional tech binding but its heel piece actually rests on the boot for better energy transfer, so the downhill performance feels superior to those ultra-lightweight tech bindings. At $579, you can’t beat the price for quality.
Best in Weight
Dynafit ST Rotation 14
Dynafit has made the popular ST Rotation binding in a 10 and 12 DIN version before, but the 14 DIN ($650) is new. This is a stalwart binding for the company and a favorite for many backcountry skiers. It has the same supremely lightweight build as its counterparts—around 605 grams per piece—but comes with a burlier toe piece and more solid forward pressure for more aggressive downhill riding. With a 14 DIN setting, you can rip a steep line with confidence.