Boots and BindingsBoots and bindings connect you to the ski for propulsion and control. Types include 75-millimeter (sometimes referred to as three-pin) and system bindings.
75-millimeter bindings have been around for decades. The heaviest of them are used on Telemark skis designed strictly for Nordic downhill, but they also provide the best control of heavy, wide touring skis used for exploring up, down and sideways in the Great Ungroomed.
Boots for 75-millimeter may be leather, fabric and leather (or leather-like) combinations, or plastic-shelled double boots. The heaviest boots should be matched to the heaviest skis. Double boots give the greatest downhill control and the most protection from the elements, especially on multi-day tours when you want to take the liners into your sleeping bag.
System bindings came in during the 1980s to try to overcome some of the control problems people had with the lightest forms of pin bindings. Light 75- or 50-millimeter boots had to have flexible soles for easy striding. This made them floppy when trying to steer a long ski quickly around a tight turn, or hold a firm snowplow down a long, scary descent. From a mad array of mutants 20 years ago, the market has settled down to two basic systems, Salomon and NNN. The NNN system, introduced by Rottefella, has been licensed to numerous boot and ski companies, so you may find it under many names. Salomon also licensed some other makers.
System bindings use rubber-like flexors or spring-loaded clips and levers to control the movement of the foot. Boots can be stiffer than old lightweight 3-pin gear, to give much better control of lightweight skis for touring, racing and recreational skiers. Many Salomon boots now use a double-bar attachment to two points on the binding, for better steering and control on downhills. NNN bindings still use a flexor and only one bar, and a less rugged binding plate.
Salomon and NNN both offer heavy "back-country" versions of their system bindings. These aren't the most durable for real expeditions into the wild, but they make an excellent match for heavier touring skis for snow machine trails and groomed areas.