Look has developed three new heels and two toes in the past 30 months, an extraordinary burst of productivity. "We've concentrated on refining components like plates and lifters and minimizing the ski's flat spot caused by the binding," says Product Manager Tait Wardlaw. Traditionally, bindings excel in either their retention or release qualities. Wardlaw says the 2000-01 collection "allows better retention and less possibility of pre-release." Combine the Full-Drive toe and Pivot (turntable) heel, and Look claims you have the tightest roll-coupling anywhere, for improved responsiveness and lateral support of the boot.
High elastic travel is a Look trademark. The Pivot heel absorbs short-duration shocks (those that occur during normal, aggressive skiing) without pre-releasing, because it can travel up to three times the distance of a conventional step-in heel before releasing.Consumers might note similarities between Look and Rossignol, which are sister companies that share some technologies.
Pivot 9.0 Maxflex II
$450 FREERIDER, AMC, AME
The latest Maxflex plate, paired here with Look's sturdiest Pivot binding, raises you 5 mm higher, increasing leverage fore, aft and laterally, yet still optimizing the ski's flex. The ride is smoother, and the possibility of boot-out (when your boot hits the snow in a deep carve and the ski's edge is bounced out of the snow) is greatly reduced.
The Maxflex II offers enormous edgeability—a plus if you can stay in balance, though the increased height amplifies mistakes. And the Pivot 9.0 itself has all the Look features: elasticity; a high, fixed heel cup for good leverage; and tight coupling in the toe. The automatic re-centering of the heel makes getting in simple. As with all Pivots, the heelpiece rotates beneath the boot heel, rather than behind it. Some orthopedists believe this decreases torque on the lower leg. The binding can also be purchased alone (Pivot 9.0 Racing, $350) for use with a high-end race plate.
Pivot 9.0 with Maxplate
$400 AC, PLAYER, AMC
Same binding, lower plate. The 14-mm Maxplate strikes a nice balance between appearance, lift and price—a winner for those who dream of becoming experts. It allows travel between the toe and heel, and much of the mass of the plate is distributed to the shoulders of the ski, for optimal edge-engagement.
The Maxplate can be mounted under either a Pivot turntable or a step-in binding. The amount of lift is powerful but not overwhelming, and its polished-looking integration with the toepiece is slick.
TX 7.5 Maxplate
$190 AC, PLAYER
The TX is Look's top step-in binding, with a gutsy, three-piece heel and a DIN range up to 11. The toe sports Look's stiff roll-coupling, and the entire binding has high retention and release qualities. It also can be had with a female-specific Venus lifter, which offers an extra 3 mm of ramp—something many women find helpful, as it keeps their centers of balance forward. On snow it feels light and agile, with a nice amount of lift/leverage—a simple, friendly solution for the occasional skier.
XR 8.0 Maxplate
The XR is an affordable binding for new or lightweight recreational skiers. It features the Full-Drive toe with a somewhat clacky-sounding two-piece heel that offers little elastic travel (probably unnecessary for most novices). It's a light, short-term binding investment with relatively low DIN values (3-10).