Remember this binding system? It was probably top-of-the-line in its day, but hardly anyone alive now has actually skied on it.
Many of us DO remember cross country skiing on old three-pin bindings, though. This 75mm system was developed in 1927 by Rottefella, which in Norwegian translates to "rat trap".
The three-pin system was great if you had stiff, beefy backcountry boots. But with the flexible sole needed for flat-country skiing the boot was too flimsy for the binding, and control suffered. And how annoying was that hunk of snow that built up under the ball of the foot? Thank goodness things progressed in the binding world since then.
The above photo shows one of the first kinds of bindings that replaced the 75mm system. On this Salomon Nordic System (SNS) there was a bar that extended out from the toe of the boot that hooked into the binding, and a ridge on the binding plate that fit into a groove on the boot. A vast improvement, but things would get better yet. (And check out the knickers! Yes, Eb's used to sell them.)
While Salomon was developing the SNS, Rottefella was improving the rat trap. Their New Nordic Norm (NNN) system differed from Salomon's by having two ridges on the binding plate that fit into two grooves in the boot, whereas SNS had only one ridge. This remains the same today and is the reason you cannot use Salomon boots on the NNN system (and vice versa).
Today, there remain the two nordic systems (SNS and NNN) but there are a few variations in binding types.
- Profil - has a single metal bar under the toe of the boot
- Pilot - has two metal bars under the toe and forefoot of the boot
- X-Adventure - wider and stronger for backcountry skiing
If you have a Profil boot, it won't fit in a Pilot binding. However Pilot boots may fit a Profil binding, as long as there is a wide enough groove in the binding plate where the second bar sits.
NNN came out with the Nordic Integrated System (NIS) which consists of a plate attached to the ski and the NNN binding which can slide onto it. This allows skiers to adjust their bindings in the field. You can mount any binding - even an SNS binding - onto a ski with an NIS plate. NNN also has the Xcelerator binding which is 40% lighter than regular NNN bindings, and they make wider backcountry (BC) bindings as well.
There you have it. If you're still not sure about bindings and have some questions, we love talking about this stuff so give us a shout :)
Note: Bindings have changed in recent years and there are new products not mentioned in this post. There is a new post with updated information here.