After nearly a decade of in-depth research and development in close collaboration with some of the best freeskiers on the planet, Salomon has unveiled the new S/LAB SHIFT MNC binding for backcountry ski touring , which will be available at retailers September 2018. The Shift ushers in a new generation of freeride capability by delivering downhill performance, touring capability and lightness so skiers can earn their turns by touring uphill, then confidently charge big lines and stomp big air on the descent.
It is the first ever truly compromise-free solution for skiers looking to push the boundaries of the mountain and their skiing, blending the freedom and touring efficiency of a pin binding with the power and transmission of a Salomon Alpine binding. With MultiNorm Certification (MNC), Shift is the only hybrid binding that is compatible with all norm boots on the market (from traditional alpine boots to touring boots). The Shift is also TUV-certified, delivering the safety a skier needs regardless of the type of ski boot he/she uses.
The S/LAB Shift binding was created to meet the needs of a core group of freeriders who are evolving the sport in a new direction by placing an emphasis on earning their turns by touring uphill. Longtime Salomon freeski athletes Cody Townsend, Chris Rubens and countless others who spend the bulk of their time in the backcountry have worked closely with the company’s Alpine R&D team for a number of years to develop the Shift.
In fact, the idea was first broached by the athletes at a team meeting in 2012, when they told engineers that there were no bindings on the market that truly met their needs. Since then, the company’s Alpine R&D team has developed countless prototypes based on athlete feedback to arrive at a finished product that meets their substantial demands and breaks new ground in the binding category.
“There was no blueprint that made you think something like this could be achieved,” says Townsend, who has been involved in the testing and development process of Shift since the beginning. “We said to the R&D guys, ‘If you could make a pin binding that tours like a pin binding but skis like a normal binding, that’s the holy grail, that’s the dream.’ I’ve been really impressed with the design, test, feedback and approval process. It was an engineering feat to get it done. The very first prototypes were so different than the final product, and in the last three years we have seen rapid improvement in the technology and the performance. All of a sudden, the power transfer was there.”
HOW IT WORKS
An adjustable pedal toe is what allows the Shift’s compatibility with all norm boots on the market. Based on the boot you’re using (alpine or touring model), you can adapt the binding to suit your boot via an easy-to-use screw. Then the real innovation begins. By creating an alpine toe piece that integrates pins, the company created the first hybrid binding that delivers ultimate versatility. On the uphill, the pin enables the skier to move efficiently and conveniently by placing the rotation point close to the metatarsal area of the foot and offering a 90-degree range of motion. In addition, a variety of simple manipulations can be used to adapt to terrain changes as the skier climbs.
For the downhill, the binding can be switched in seconds from touring mode to ski mode. A lever in the toe is the key to allowing the toe piece to transform from a touring setup to alpine. By lifting the lever up into ski mode, the wings close into a traditional alpine binding shape. Then the skier steps into the binding the same way he/she would to a traditional alpine binding, and with the same confident feeling. The Shift delivers pure freeride performance with regard to power transmission and safety due to the elasticity in the wings that absorbs shock.
“There is the performance and then there is a feel that downhill bindings have that is incredible and to be able to incorporate that into a binding that toured well is the ultimate goal,” says Salomon athlete Greg Hill. “It transforms into a touring binding, and you’ve got that effortless off your toe. Then when you get to the top, it’s a quick conversion and then within moments you’re clipping in like a normal downhill binding and shredding your way down.”
In fact, the Shift has the same level of shock absorption as the highly regarded STH2 Binding. On the heel piece, a lever switches from touring mode to ski mode in one movement. Even at just 1.7 kg per pair (3.7 lbs), the Shift’s strong combination of carbon-infused PA, steel and aluminum delivers a reliable construction. This is the first time carbon-infused PA has been used in alpine bindings, which helped achieve the strength-to-weight ratio needed in the Shift for both touring and descending. The DIN setting on the S/LAB Shift ranges from 6-13.
“You don’t realize how much technology goes into a ski binding because you just click into it, but they release in ways that protect your knees, your bones and your other ligaments,” Townsend says. “They release when you need them to, and stay on when you need them to. That was the ultimate goal with the Shift; to have a binding that tours easily but lets you ski how you want to ski—with no compromises.”
According to Solene Chappaz, Product Line Manager for Alpine Bindings, the fact that the binding was athlete-driven has led to a product that has been tested to the limits.
“For our freeride athletes, the binding is very important because it delivers the safety they need,” Chappaz says. “Our global athlete team is very demanding, and there has been a lot of feedback from them during the development years trying to challenge the product. It’s a good thing that they are demanding because we know that when they are happy with a product, it means the product delivers what we set out to do. And, of course, having their endorsement is likely to have a huge impact on the success in the marketplace.”