Nordic bindings | getting them straight
Brief History of Nordic Cross Country Ski Bindings
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.
Rottefella and Salomon
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. The systems were not interchangeable; if you had Salomon boots, you needed Salomon bindings.
Until 2016 there were only the two major nordic systems (SNS and NNN) but there were a few variations in binding types.
- Profil - had a single metal bar under the toe of the boot
- Pilot - had two metal bars under the toe and forefoot of the boot
- X-Adventure - wider and stronger for backcountry skiing
If you had a Profil boot, it wouldn't fit in a Pilot binding. However Pilot boots could sometimes fit a Profil binding, as long as there was a wide enough groove in the binding plate where the second bar sits.
- NNN - made by Rottefella and branded by Fischer, Alpina, Rossignol and Madshus
- NNN BC - wider and stronger for backcountry skiing
In 2005 the first plate system came out which pointed the industry in the direction it would go over the next decade. The Nordic Integrated System (NIS) consisted of a plastic plate attached to the ski and an NNN binding which slid onto the plate. This allowed skiers to adjust their bindings in the field.
Salomon opened up their opportunities in 2016 with the release of their Prolink binding. Prolink is compatible with NNN, which opened up brand crossover opportunities for them. Over the next 6 years Salomon continued to support its older SNS systems but slowly phased them out.
In fall 2017 Fischer and Rossignol released the new Turnamic bindings which slid onto an Integrated Fixation Plate (IFP). Turnamic bindings are NNN compatible. They operated by twisting the Turn Lock mechanism at the front to get into and out of the binding; there were also step-in models. By this time NNN had become the universal system for all major ski and boot manufacturers.
Movable binding systems had really taken off by now and every major brand had jumped on it. They gave a skier an added measure of control over their grip and glide. The bindings developed for these plates had the adjustability to move forwards and backwards on the plate which changed where the skier's weight came down over the camber of the ski. For greater control and grip a binding could be slid forwards by various degrees; for greater glide and speed the binding could be slid backwards. This was relevant for both classic and skate style skis but were a revelation for skin skis where the grip zone is fixed, unlike a waxable ski.
One universal system
Today there seem to be a confusing array of binding choices but things are actually simpler for the consumer than they used to be. One universal binding system (NNN) means you have a larger variety of boots to choose from as all brands will be compatible. The ski you choose will dictate the binding as there are different styles of plates; bindings are generally not compatible with plates of other brands. For example a Salomon Prolink Shift binding cannot be put onto a Fischer ski as this ski has an IFP plate and the Prolink Shift binding will only mount onto a Prolink Shift Plate (PSP).
Buying used equipment
If you are buying used equipment be extra careful to examine the binding system. It's not as straightforward as it used to be to simply unscrew one binding and re-drill and mount a new binding. There are still some bindings that will direct mount onto a ski without a plate, but not many. For more information check out our Guide to buying used cross country skis.
Good luck and happy skiing!