The line between resort skier and backcountry skier has never been so thin.
When a product comes along that truly solves a problem and creates a new market segment, it’s often met with equal parts enthusiasm and skepticism. Such is the case with the Salomon Shift binding (also branded as the Armada Shift and Atomic Shift).
Over the last two years, the Shift binding has taken the ski world by storm, and it’s not just because of good marketing and a catchy hashtag; #HOLYSHIFT. Salomon is really the first to successfully create a binding that is fully capable of charging hard at the ski hill but also provides an uphill touring mode that has a natural movement and doesn’t weigh a ton.
Fresh team member Chris Rubens describes the Shift binding.
In other words, on the Shift a skier can ski the resort happily and without compromise, but still have the ability to go ski touring when they choose. Before the Shift, some plate bindings tried to staddle the backcountry touring and resort skiing gap, like the Marker Tour or Salomon Guardian. While they perform very well skiing downhill (as long as you don’t mind the extra height they have underfoot), they were really only reasonable for touring a short distance unless you were both very tough and a masochist. Their weight and clunky walking motion take their toll on skiers who want to do more than just a short backcountry lap off the ski hill.
The next attempt to straddle that gap was the Marker Kingpin binding which took a simple and proven backcountry touring style tow and added an alpine binding heel for more retention when skiing down. The Duke works well for backcountry skiers looking to ski hard and wanting a more reliable release than tech bindings offer. Their compromise comes at the ski hill. The pin-style toe does not offer the kind of elasticity of alpine bindings and as such, it feels harsh skiing hardpack and does not have the same reliable retention and release of a genuine alpine binding.
Plate bindings and Kingpins are just some of the more recent attempts to create “do-it-all” binding for both in and out of bounds skiing (remember the Dynafit Beast?). All have been significant compromises in one way or another. That’s why Salomon’s Shift is such a big win, but even it can’t be perfect for everyone, right?
Gotta get up to get down. pic: Chris Rubens
Where does the Shift not work well?
The Shift does a great job of bridging the middle ground where most freeskiers stand, but on either end, it might not be the right tool. For example, if you are planning to spend your season hammering your meniscus in the terrain park, you’ll want a simpler binding that can take that sort of beating. Likewise, if you hope to ski tour every weekend, you’ll probably want a lighter binding so you can save energy and explore further. Or if you plan on doing a week of hut-based ski touring, you might want a binding with fewer moving parts and, therefore, fewer icing issues.
But if you are a skier who loves skiing the resorts and wants the freedom to go touring as well, the Shift is a clear winner. Likewise, if you are planning on just skiing the lifts but want to future proof your setup in case you change your mind later or the ski hills shut down for a time, these binding offer that kind of flexibility.
It's still all about the down. pic: Chris Rubens
What are the Cons for backcountry skiing?
- At 865 grams, 1.7kg/pair, they are heavier than pure backcountry touring bindings. The very basic and fairly light Dynafit Speed Turn 2.0, for example, is 684 gram FOR A PAIR.
-With more moving parts, the Shift does ice up more, and you need to take care to clean the snow out of them at every changeover from uphill to down.
What are the Cons for resort skiing?
-With more moving parts, there is more that could go wrong with them. While we haven’t seen any durability issues per se, common sense would dictate that a simpler binding will usually last longer.
What makes them better than true touring bindings?
-47mm of elasticity helps prevent pre-releases and makes for a more comfortable skiing experience on hard snow than the rigidity of tech bindings.
-For downhill skiing, you simply step in and click out the same way you do on alpine bindings.
-The Shift is certified for all boot types meaning you can use a non-touring, normal alpine boot in them if you choose. It also means they should release safely and predictably no matter what boot you have.
What makes Shifts better than plate-style touring bindings?
-The weight savings and, even more so, the more natural stride you get in the Shift mean that you’ll get to the top with more energy to ski and be able to explore further for fresh lines. No one tours for very long on plate bindings.
Do we finally have the elusive “Quiver of One” set up?
Maybe for most skiers. There are a few ski boots on the market now that allow expert skiers to ski hard on the resort and also ski tour. Check out the Dynafit Hoji or Salomon Shift for examples. Combine them with a versatile ski and you might have the flexibility you want for this unpredictable winter.
You can take that further by planning your clothing as well.
Next time you buy outerwear, look for layers that can be added and removed depending on your physical output and the temperature. Clothing that works well for backcountry skiing can work well at the resorts if you add warmer layers. Not all resort outerwear is a good idea in the backcountry. Bulky insulated jackets that can’t be stuffed in your backpack or worn when you are exerting yourself are one-dimensional ski hill attire.
Banner pic: Chris Rubens