Jan 18 2012

Preview: Marker Duke upgrade for 12/13

New colors on the The Duke signify a wider, stronger frame for more power.

It’s no secret that Marker’s Duke has dominated binding sales for young and aggressive backcountry skiers since it was first introduced in 2007. It now has three siblings, the equally capable Baron with a DIN rating of only 12, plus the more tour friendly F12 and F10.

Not content to sit on their laurels, especially now that Salomon has woken to the potential in the backcountry with their own version of a huck-worthy backcountry binder the Duke gets a face lift for next year, and a wider foundation for transferring even more power to the edges of today’s super fat skis.

To be more specific, the Duke’s new Extended Power Frame Chassis will be 88mm wide, a stunning 28% wider. Refinements to the heel and toe dimensions not only make the binding sleeker, but lighter too, although it still tips the scales at just over six pounds per pair.

What made the Duke the binding of choice for the sidecountry jaunts remains. With a super beefy set of springs you can, if you dare, set the release tension to 16. They call it DIN 16 but remember, the DIN scale is about measuring release for safety and tension above level 12 is not considered “safe.” Nonetheless, for those who consider 12 inadequate, and they want the ability to skin back up with a free heel, the Duke is the solution to that condition.

Although the Duke is a tad lighter for this season, it still requires you to step out of the binding to switch from ski to skin mode. This is not a deal killer since everyone I know steps out of their skis to put their skins on. What remains an issue is the weight of the binding, and the fact that, like all plate bindings, when you’re climbing you’re lifting the whole binding every step of the way. That and the propensity for snow to pack on the underside of the plate so that when it’s time to latch ‘er down for turns you may have to fiddle a bit to clear the ice out from the tracks that hold the plate down. Not an insurmountable problem, but one you should be aware of.

The Baron and the rest of the touring family from Marker remain essentially unchanged for next year with many of the same features and consequences as the Duke, but with less weight overall for those who can admit they aren’t going to huck 50 footers and don’t need “DIN 16.”

© 2012