Don't skimp on bindings. They are critical to performance, to say nothing of safety. Learn what's out there, then spend a few bucks to get what suits you best. It's a rich menu. For 2001-02, binding decisions come down to this: Do you buy a ski-boot-binding combo platter, as you might a matched set of golf clubs or a mountain bike? Or do you select components, some from columns A, B and C, building the equivalent of a customized set of clubs or highly personalized bike?
One other point to consider: Not long ago the typical male skier rode a 200-cm ski. Today, that guy might ski a 175. Women's lengths are shrinking, too. Foot sizes and boot-sole lengths, meanwhile, have stayed the same. In 1995, boots and bindings constituted 12.5 percent of ski length. Now it's 20 percent or more. Look for bindings with shortened mounting zones as well as attachment methods that allow these shortened skis to flex fully and roundly.
The greatest technological leap of the year comes from Marker, with its biggest innovation since the Logic toepiece. Where Logic is about safety, Marker's new Piston system is all about performance. The hydraulic Piston is integrated into the binding's mounting plate. It goes to work at the end of the turn, controlling the rebound of the ski in a way that quiets it and prepares it to edge earlier in the new turn. The result, easily discernible, is a more positive carving experience and an enhanced feeling of confidence for the skier.
Again this year, we invited binding manufacturers to Stowe, Vt., to show us their stuff. Each brought three pairs of skis mounted with three different bindings, which we compared on-slope. Here are the highlights, along with binding suggestions for each Skier Type. Note that there are two bindings suggested in each category: The first is for a lighter, subtle skier; the second is for a heavier, more aggressive skier.