How to Choose Alpine Ski Bindings

Knowing how to choose alpine ski bindings is essential to ensuring your safety and enjoyment on the mountain. This guide details what to look for in different alpine bindings, boot-to-binding compatibility, and how to determine which bindings are right for you.

What Type of Ski Binding Is Right for Me?

Whether you’re shopping for your first pair of bindings or a new, safer set of bindings to replace a pair of well-loved (and well-used) bindings, there are a few things to look for when you’re choosing new alpine ski bindings:

DIN Range

The DIN Range, which is more commonly referred to as “release values” or “release settings,” refers to a standardized system that determines how much force is required for a binding to release. While terms like “release values” function more as an approximation of a binding’s exact release force setting, actual DIN values are determined by the German Institute for Standardization, or the Deutsches Institut für Normung (DIN). As such, a skier’s DIN number is calculated using a standardized chart that accounts for weight, height, skier type (I, II, or III), age, and boot sole length (BSL). You’ll first need to know your DIN calculation to select a binding with the correct DIN range for you.

Adult DIN settings range from 3-14, but most recreational skiers have their bindings set between 5 and 9. To accommodate a full range of DIN settings, the springs within the bindings are available in three sizes, one for DINs of 3-10, a second for 4-12, and a third for 5-14. Springs perform best in the middle of their intended settings, so if a DIN setting of 9 is right for you, you’ll want to select a binding with either a 4-12 or 5-14 DIN range.

The indicator on the toe piece shows what your DIN is set at. Image courtesy of Look.

Brake Width

You’ll need to know the waist width of your skis before you select the appropriate brake width. If you’re choosing bindings for 120mm-wide powder skis, for example, you’ll need bindings with a brake width option in the 120-130mm range. We don’t recommend ever going with brakes that are more than 10mm wider than your skis, since they will hang too far over the edges of the ski and run the risk of contacting the snow when you lay the skis on their edge. It’s also important to note that not all bindings come with brake width options that will work with your skis, as many bindings are designed to be used with narrower carving skis or wider freeride/powder skis.


Weight is often overlooked when choosing a ski binding. While downhill racers may want a full metal binding that maximizes retention, durability, and momentum, a lightweight recreational skier may prefer a composite binding that minimizes swing-weight and helps save energy when carrying them to the lift. If the exact weight of a binding isn’t listed, pay attention to the materials used in its construction. Full metal bindings will always be the heaviest, while bindings with a composite housing will always be the lightest. The DIN range of a binding can also help give you an idea of how much a binding will weigh, since a higher DIN requires a larger spring that will result in more weight.

Binding Compatibility

As boot and binding offerings have diversified, boot and binding compatibility has become increasingly more complicated. In addition to DIN ISO 5355 alpine standards, many manufacturers offer bindings in MNC (Multi-Norm Certified), WTR (Walk-to-Ride), Sole.ID, and GripWalk configurations.

First and foremost, you’re going to want a binding that works with your ski boots. It may seem simple enough, but we should preface this section by saying that a truly complete breakdown of boot-to-binding compatibility would need to be specific by brand, model, and model year, while also accounting for all of the models and years from each brand, and any possible inter-brand combination. That level of detail is best left to manufacturer compatibility charts.

There are, however, some key things to keep in mind when considering whether a pair of bindings will be compatible with your existing ski boots. First, you’ll need to know some specific information about your ski boots. Namely, the type of sole and the boot sole length (BSL).

Boot Sole Compatibility

Setting touring and tele boots aside, there are three main boot sole types to understand, ISO 5355 (Alpine), GripWalk, and Walk-to-Ride (WTR).

ISO 5355 (Alpine)

ISO 5355 refers to ski boots with traditional alpine soles and is further categorized by Adult Alpine (Type A) and Junior or Children Alpine (Type C). The difference between Type A and Type C comes down to the dimensions of the toe and heel lugs, with adult lugs being larger than junior lugs. If you have traditional alpine boots, the only thing you need to worry about is whether the binding you’re looking at is compatible with adult-norm or junior-norm lugs. It’s important to note that the manufacturer’s adult/junior categorization of a ski boot isn’t a foolproof indication of which type of lug it will have. Some junior ski boots, for example, are equipped with adult lugs.

Image courtesy of Atomic.


GripWalk is a proprietary sole-binding system from Marker. In terms of your boots, GripWalk takes the form of co-polymer soles with a rocker profile designed to enhance walking comfort. GripWalk-compatible bindings are specifically designed for these soles and require no toe-height adjustment for either GripWalk or ISO 5355 Alpine soles. If you have GripWalk boot soles, make sure the ski binding you’re considering lists GripWalk compatibility.

Image courtesy of Dalbello.

WTR (Walk-to-Ride)

WTR is a sole-binding system found primarily on Salomon ski boots. On your boots, WTR means hard-plastic toe and heel pieces with a slight rocker (in other words, less than Touring soles) designed to enhance walking comfort. WTR bindings, meanwhile, are bindings designed specifically to accommodate those WTR soles (and almost always Alpine soles, too).

Image courtesy of Atomic.

MNC (Multi-Norm Certified) and Sole.ID Bindings

To accommodate the various sole types detailed above, Salomon/Atomic and Marker developed MNC (Multi-Norm Certified) and Sole.ID bindings, respectively. These bindings are nearly identical to standard alpine bindings, with the exception of a height-adjustable AFD plate, which accommodates ISO 5355 Alpine, GripWalk, and ISO 9523 Touring soles. If you need a binding that will accommodate multiple sole types, you’ll want to consider either a Sole.ID or MNC binding.

Boot Sole Length (BSL)

Ski boot sole length, commonly referred to as BSL, is measured from the front of the toe lug to the rear of the heel lug. This measurement is listed in millimeters and shouldn’t be confused with the Mondopoint sizing of the boot itself. One important thing to remember is that sole length is not uniform across Mondopoint sizes. For example, two pairs of 26.5 ski boots from the same manufacturer may very well have different sole lengths. To find your boot’s sole length, check for raised markings along the inside or outside of the heel lug or the midpoint of the sole.

Knowing your boot sole length allows you to determine whether a binding adjustment range will accommodate your boot. If your boot sole length is too short for the binding, proper forward pressure can’t be set. If the BSL is too long, you won’t be able to step-in and engage the binding.

The vast majority of skiers will never have to consider this factor. However, if you’re at either end of the standard size range (small or big), you’ll want to confirm that the binding you’re considering accommodates your boot sole length.

Binding to Ski Compatibility

Binding to ski compatibility is usually not an issue, since just about every alpine binding can be mounted onto any ski. That being said, you should consider a few things before purchasing a binding.

Choose a binding that matches the type of skiing you’ll be doing. Certain bindings will feature more aggressive ramp angles (higher in the heel than toe), or stack (height above the snow), for increased power transmission and leverage on carving skis. Others will come neutral (flat from heel to toe) for easier fore/aft manipulation and better feel on freeride/powder skis. Always keep an eye on the intended use of the bindings you’re considering.

As mentioned above, you should also always choose a binding that offers compatible brake widths to match your skis. Some freeride bindings, for example, will offer 90mm brakes as their narrowest option. If you’re looking for bindings to mount on a pair of 68mm-wide carving skis, you’ll need to choose something else. Conversely, certain all-mountain bindings will max-out at 100mm brakes, which will not be compatible with a 100+mm powder ski. Always make sure you’re aware of the minimum/maximum brake width before choosing a ski binding!

Brake to Binding Compatibility

More often than not, brakes will be included with the bindings you purchase. Sometimes, however, you’ll need to substitute the included brakes for ski-width reasons, or the bindings you’ve chosen won’t come with brakes. In these situations, you’ll need to choose your own.

Brake-to-binding compatibility depends on the manufacturer of the binding. As such, it’s best to always consult a certified retailer or tune shop for this information. Some independently branded bindings are part of a larger manufacturer. Tyrolia, for example, makes the bindings branded as Head and Fischer. Accordingly, some brakes are compatible with a wide range of bindings from multiple brands. While other brakes will only work with a very narrow lineup from a single brand. In short, always confirm that the brakes you intend to purchase are designed for use with your specific ski bindings.