The quietest news in bindings is the non-veiling of Salomon’s MTN-Pin binding. It is Salomon’s long rumored tech binding. All that was visible at the Salomon booth was a picture in a catalog of the binding that is being introduced at ISPO 2015 (5-8Feb15). For the North American market it remains essentially vaporware as Salomon plans to distribute it in Europe only next season. Contrary to my expectations that it would be Salomon’s version of the Kingpin, it looks like it is aimed at the ultra light ski mountaineer or skimo racer crowd. Considering the latest news on the Kingpin loosing its pins, perhaps it is okay that Salomon plans on using European customers as their beta test team. Nor should we expect this first tech binding from Salomon will be the last; it’s more likely to be the first of many options to come.
Like many other versions of the 2-pin toe, the MTN Pin has an alignment bumper in front of the pins to line up the toe of your boot on. Dimensionally it looks very similar to the classic Dynafit design, with four springs and a low fulcrum position on the pin arms. The toe is equally minimalist, with a U-shaped spring bar for latching your heels to. To free the heel it spins 90° for flat touring, or 180° for a medium or high climbing post. Weight is a mere 21 ounces (595 g) per pair, or 10.5 ounces per foot.
Taken by itself Salomon’s tech binding seems out of place compared to the sort of BC products the Amer Group has built to date; boots and bindings built for novices who are unwilling to sacrifice downhill performance for uphill versatility, but willing to pay for it with extra weight.
BootsNext season that changes, not only with the lightweight MTN Pin binding, but also with lighter, more touring friendly boots. Next year, Atomic takes up the lightweight torch with their Backland series of boots. These boots have a lot of appealing features like a cuff ROM of 74°, rockered, lugged soles, tech fittings, buckles made for touring, and weighing less than 2½ pounds per boot. The feature you’ll probably appreciate the most, especially if you think you need some custom fitting to make these work, is something Atomic calls Memory Fit. It sounds like a fancy marketing term to describe a heat moldable liner. To some extent, that is true. However the term fails to explain that the Grilamid lower shell is heat moldable too. I’m not talking about punching it, which any skilled bootfitter can do to a Grilamid shell. What Atomic means when they say it has Memory Fit is the shell and the liner can be heat molded, simultaneously, to the shape of your foot. Salomon’s MTN Lab and MTN Explore maintain a similar weight offering as the Quest series, but with an easier to engage mode switch at the back of the boot that flips horizontally so you can unlock the cuff and open the buckles in a single sweep. Being in the mid-weight category allows Salomon to create a shell that delivers a more progressive forward flex. Tech fittings are standard as is a heat moldable liner. Although the shell isn’t fully heat moldable like Atomic’s Backland boots, the lower shell features zones that are more easily molded with spot heating thanks to Sensifit technology.
Where the Amer Groups commitment to the backcountry is most obvious to this writer is the climbing skins being offered. Skins with the Atomic brand will come from Pomoca with a mohair plush and a no-grip glide zone at the tip for superior glide and a silicon based adhesive that is super easy to manage. Salomon brand climbing skins will feature a traditional glue, again, from Colltex.
If you thought Salomon and Atomic were merely alpine brands with a wannabe outlook on the backcountry, next year’s products are threatening to make them legit.