When it comes to discussing bindings, there are few sites that go down the rabbit hole or into the weeds like SkiTalk, and here is another binding piece that dives into the details. We’ve discussed before what you gain when you purchase pricier bindings: You are not so much buying a bigger spring, but a better housing, meaning that you are getting the framework and quality which creates a solid coupling between boot and ski for more energy transmission. But let's face it, not everyone can afford a flagship binding north of $300. We can name those flagship bindings from every major manufacturer, but let's talk value, or what I will refer to as the sleeper bindings.
Everyone likes a deal. For ski bindings, it is an even better feeling when savings don’t come at the cost of performance or safety. After all, a binding is designed to perform by holding you in when you need to be held in, and be safe by releasing you when you need to be released. We compiled the best sleepers from each manufacturer. These bindings are capable of instilling confidence with minimal cost, while oozing value.
Note: Most of these bindings are shown at “Street Price” or Minimum Advertised Price (MAP); what you will tend to find at most stores and online.
Warden 11 MN
While $200 might not seem an exceptionally low price for a binding that “just” goes to 11, the Warden 11 separates itself from other 11 DIN bindings by being the least expensive offering that is Multi Norm (MN). This means it not only accepts Gripwalk (ISO 23223), but also AT (ISO 9523) boots and and also has a two-stage heel for easy step-in. The Warden 11’s beefy lateral spring toe is the same as its bigger brother, the Warden 13, so it’s designed to perform well for a bigger, stronger skier.
- Pluses: Enough color options to match any ski.
- Minuses: Contrary to what Nigel Tufnel says, “Goes to 11” isn’t enough for some.
- Honorable Mention: S/A/A Stage 11 ($160). One of the lightest adult bindings on the market at 1720 g/pr.
SPX Rockerace 12
Do you want a Look Pivot 12, but you can’t afford it? We understand; $299 for a 12 DIN binding is not inexpensive. Now hear us out: We need to address why the Pivot has the following it does. The performance characteristics of the Pivot consist of a short mount distance, allowing the ski to flex naturally under the boot, and a low rotational weight, making the ski more reactive. So, if you are considering buying the binding based on performance, the Rockerace 12 (and 15 at $325) will do what its Pivot counterparts will do, but without the quirkiness of getting in and out of the heel. Yes, you lose that turntable heel, but the heel on the Rockerace 12 is the very one that Look uses on their race skis.
- Pluses: 20+ mm adjustment travel, something that the Pivot cannot match.
- Minuses: Tough to find a wider brake. Good luck finding the Rockerace outside of a ski shop that specializes in race gear.
- Honorable Mention: SPX 10 ($179). While this is marketed by Look as a junior binding, it has the same toe as the adult NX10. Getting the laterally rigid SPX heel at this price point is a steal. This is a great binding option for women and lighter guys that don’t need a higher setting.
Xcomp 16 GW
Less - way less - than $300 for a 16 DIN binding??? Yes, at a low $269 price point, the Xcomp 16 GW is a deal for those who are looking for a big spring binding option. With the Xcomp, you get a toe that is race-derived and touts one of the fasted return to center designs. If you don't need Gripwalk, you can save a few more dollars and get the Xcomp 16 at an even more reasonable $239. The Xcomp’s GW will work well on skis up to 90 mm underfoot.
- Pluses: A high DIN for not a lot of money
- Minuses: You will need to swap the brake for wider skis, but you would probably switch to one of the Royal offerings anyway.
- Honorable Mention: The forementioned Xcomp 16 ($239) is the same binding, just not GripWalk compatible.
Tyrolia’s AM12 has no business being on the market for what shops sell it at, it should be at least the $225 retail price, because one needs to spend a lot more on other bindings to get all of the features that the AM12 offers. Let's check off the boxes that the AM12 fills. Multi directional toe? Check. Gripwalk compatible? Check. Two-stage heel for easy step in? Check. Tyrolia’s Diagonal heel? Check. Brake with options? Check. Color options? CHECK! So, why doesn’t every shop carry this binding??? Great question, and something that you need to ask your local shop.
- Pluses: I pretty much covered them. Check.
- Minuses: Tough to find.
- Honorable Mention: Protector PR 11 GW, the least expensive single or bi-lateral release heel binding on the market.
So, what is the commonality on these offerings? Well, there are two: They all punch well above their price point in features and performance, and additionally, some of these sleepers come from race categories. That is never a bad thing because racers need to put a ton of faith to finishing the race in their bindings. We are not saying that any of these bindings are the end-all in discussion, but they are viable options that provide a ton of value with little or no cost in performance and/or safety.