Demo bindings are not new to the ski industry; they have been around in one form or another since starting as rental bindings in the mid-1970s. In the ski rental world, performance meant that a technician might save 30 sec adjusting the binding; on-snow performance was not really a priority.

Through the years, ease of adjustment remained paramount over performance. Weight, height, and other inefficiencies of the binding often created a disconnect between the boot and the ski. In most applications on a traditional straight ski, that really didn’t matter, and ease of adjustment was still the most important aspect. But as skis started getting wider, these bindings were masking the skis' performance, and we began to see a change.

Just as “mid-entry” boots of the 90s had a bad reputation while today's walk mode boots are accepted, now it is demo=good, rental=bad. The Marker Griffon demo was the first demo binding for me that took its purpose seriously, and that purpose was to demonstrate the attributes of the ski. The Marker Griffon demo set the bar because it skied almost identically to its regular retail counterpart and really became the first demo binding accepted by better skiers.

Other brands followed suit and started producing higher-performing adjustable or track bindings,which were then marked as system bindings on many popular skis. For all but the Nth-degree skiers, they skied very well. Such bindings became the choice for many of our readers, even on $1,000+ skis.

But the pendulum is swinging again, because of the advent of GripWalk and tech soles. These new designs are different than traditional DIN soles and require more than just fore-and-aft adjustment; they also need different height adjustments to accommodate the taller soles. More adjustment means more separation of the boot from the ski. No better example of this is the current Tyrolia Attack2 13 demo. Once Tyrolia added GW/AT sole compatibility, it completely changed the characteristics of the binding. It became 32 mm tall, about a full centimeter taller than its retail counterpart, the consumer Attack2 13. While the current Attack2 demo can be commended for its ease of adjustment and ability to accept every sole on the market, that versatility comes at the cost of its ability to show the best attributes of a ski.

The Rossignol Group’s Look SPX Konect was doing double duty as a system binding for its narrow retail skis and a demo binding for trade shows. Rossignol began to realize that while the 30mm+ stack height worked well on narrow skis, it neutered the performance of wider ones. So, it gave the SPX 12 a longer heel track, and now wider skis ski more like they do with a regular binding attached. Again, this is why Dynastar and Rossignol started going with a long-track (50mm) heel piece on the Look SPX 12 Konect for media to use on their wider demo skis. They felt that the lower, lighter, and more connected coupling would show their skis in a better light.

When I was putting my most recent demo binding order in with Salomon -- [partner plug] the official demo binding of SkiTalk’s test fleet [/partner plug] -- it was suggested that I take some long-track heel bindings in my mix. I was hesitant at first, but I agreed with the logic. I still feel the Warden 13 Demo is fine on narrower skis, but once skis get wider, the new design better showcases the ski.

I started writing this before receiving my order, and my bindings began to arrive while I was typing the article. The first ski I mounted up was the 2021 DPS Pagoda Piste 94 C2; I couldn't wait to see whether I would notice a difference. Holy hell yes. The difference hit me like those "Aha!" flashback moments in the movies. I had the same feeling on these new skis as I had on my K2 Mindbender 99Ti and Rossignol Black Ops Sender Ti: the feeling of being connected to the snow. The common denominator is that all three have flat-on-the-deck bindings (Look Pivots and Salomon STH2).

So, to sum it all up … many readers swear that a minimal difference fore or aft on a ski makes a world of difference in performance. Well, I disagree. The reason is that the ski designers also disagree and are willing to give up that fore-and-aft movement in their own demonstration binding in favor of lower height, less weight, and a tighter coupling. Yes, the person who designed your ski feels that being 1 or even 2 cm up or back of its center point isn’t the end-all in performance. Sorry to burst any bubbles.