Salomon chose not to present its new Pilot binding-ski system (see Rampant Innovation). Instead, representative Dave Young re-emphasized Poweraxe interfaces, introduced in 1999, as "the only systems designed specifically to get the most out of today's shaped skis." The Poweraxe attaches to the ski right under the brake pad and is beveled upward at either end, making room for a round flex.
As for the bindings themselves: "More World Cup and Europa Cup racers use Salomon bindings than any other brand," Young says. What's more, Salomon, by developing Spheric Technology, claims to be the only company to address the forward, twisting fall.
Salomon's naming system is simple. There is a letter ("S" for Spheric; "C" for classic), followed by three numbers. The first digit refers to the binding's performance level, 9 being highest, 5 the lowest. The last two numbers refer to its highest DIN setting. So the S912 is a high-end Spheric, with a maximum DIN of 12.
Young used the S912 as a benchmark binding in order to demonstrate the performance differences between the following interfaces.
S912 Ti with Poweraxe Race
$290 (binding), $200 (plate)
The Poweraxe Race is Salomon's most sophisticated and most expensive plate, sold separately from its bindings, or sometimes pre-mounted on race skis. It replaces the legendary D-Flex (or Derbyflex) plate, which has finally run its course in the age of shaped skis. Of all the Poweraxes, this gets the stiffest elastomers and tightest tolerances. It should be mounted on a ski with plenty of rebound energy.
The Race is anchored at its midpoint. Bevels at either end of the plate lock up accurately during different phases of the turn, for precision at initiation and rebound at the end. It is specifically designed to boost very short, shaped World Cup skis. Though there's not much sense of added lift, it makes the ski feel immediately smoother and damper, without compromising or deadening the ski in any way¿a benefit, perhaps, of its state-of-the-art dampening.
S912 with Axe Plus
$325 FREERIDER, AMC, AME, RACER
This setup was tested on both a short, shaped Salomon slalom ski as well as on a shaped giant slalom. It is a conventional setup with a separate toe, satisfying three-piece heel and an Axe Plus 10-mm lifter.
Plugs on the Axe Plus lifter, which you can feel through the boot sole, help direct pressure to the right part of the ski. The binding feels light, which is especially nice on the slalom ski. Even with the plugs, the Axe Plus provides little more than added leverage. Clearly some other interface beneath it would make this more than simply a nice reference binding.
S912 with Poweraxe Energy
$300 with plate
AC, PLAYER, AMC, FREERIDER
Salomon calls this the most versatile of the Poweraxe plates. Introduced last year, it may be a good compromise, but does not feel significantly better than the Poweraxe Sport, its less-expensive teammate.
S912 with Poweraxe Sport
$285 with plate
AC, PLAYER, AMC, FREERIDER, AME
This is the least demanding of the three Poweraxe plates, designed for less aggressive skiers. Again, its purpose is to dampen vibration and allow a rounder ski flex.
This plate surpasses its somewhat modest billing, providing a more dramatically smoothed ride than expected. At $285, including the binding, it's a great deal and should be of interest not just to intermediate skiers, but also to mature AME's seeking comfort.