What downhill skiers need to know about adjusting their alpine ski bindings
As a new downhill skier, you’ve become more confident in linking turns and keeping your balance on the slopes. With the end of the regular ski season drawing to a close, you’ll have put plenty of mileage on your skis and bindings, and it’s necessary to keep them maintained. Treat your skis and bindings well and they will reward you with many more runs.
The next step of your downhill ski journey starts with proper ski care and maintenance. You’ve learned how to wax skis, but now it’s time to learn why it’s important to check your binding setup and how to adjust ski bindings.
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Why Adjust Your Ski Bindings?
As you go on to tackle more challenging terrain (like figuring out how to ski powder) you’ll want to be properly connected to your skis. This is especially important for downhill skiing, where speed is a factor. Are you making tighter, faster turns and finding that you have to be careful to keep your boots from coming up out of your bindings? That’s how you know it’s time to adjust your bindings.
Adjusting your ski bindings properly means stability on the slopes and injury prevention. You can do seamless turns without worrying about losing your skis. It also means getting a quick release when you happen to catch an edge so that you don’t twist something.
If your bindings are too loose, your carving will suffer. Boots that wiggle around too much inside a binding don’t keep you stable, and stability is a requisite for carving and fast downhill speeds.
If your bindings are too tight and you get caught in a pickle (or a tree well), it’s going to be difficult to release your boot, which I don’t need to tell you can be very unsafe. Or, if you catch an edge and your boot hasn’t been released keeping your knee stuck in one angle while your ski is going a completely different direction, this is another obvious danger.
For safety and fun, it’s important to have properly adjusted alpine ski bindings.
Types of Ski Bindings
The main types of ski bindings are alpine (downhill skiing) and backcountry bindings.
Alpine ski bindings, the ones discussed in this article, are for downhill skiing. Backcountry ski bindings are for skiing in the backcountry, or off-piste, where there’s a regular need to walk or navigate uphill. There are a few different types of backcountry bindings with their own benefits and drawbacks, such as tech, frame, and hybrid bindings.
Alpine ski bindings hold onto boots better for downhill speeds and choppier snow while most backcountry bindings are designed to be lightweight and allow the heel to pivot for uphill walking.
Alpine ski bindings are compatible with most alpine ski boots and backcountry boots are designed for specific types of backcountry bindings. For example, tech-style backcountry bindings require tech-style backcountry boots.
Before you begin fitting your ski boots to your bindings, make sure your ski boots are compatible with the bindings on your skis. Do this by checking the ISO number.
ISO number refers to the International Standards Organization’s designated number for ski boots and binding types. Boots with an ISO of 5355 are usually labeled “alpine” and fit in a variety of alpine ski bindings.
If you’re adjusting your downhill skis and your boot has an ISO number other than 5355, you’ll need to double-check that it’s compatible with your alpine ski setup.
How Long Does It Take to Adjust Ski Bindings?
Once you’ve established that your boot and binding setup is compatible, it’s time to adjust ski bindings! There is a DIY portion of adjusting ski bindings and a portion that requires some expert knowledge. I know, I know, lame–but I’ll show you why.
It only takes about 5-10 minutes for the DIY portion of adjusting your ski bindings and about 5-10 minutes for a professional to adjust your DIN setting at a ski shop.
The great thing is the only tool you’ll need is a screwdriver.
Steps for Adjusting Alpine Ski Bindings
Step 1: Adjusting the Forward Pressure
Adjusting the forward pressure calls for fitting the sole length of your ski boot to the length of the binding. Your binding needs to accommodate the size of your boot, so first off, check your ski boot sole length number. It’s usually found on the ski boot near the heel, sometimes on the bottom of the boot.
Once you’ve found the sole length, which is a number ending in millimeters (for example, 305mm), look at the list of numbers on your binding. There will be a list by your toe piece and your heel piece.
Adjust your toe piece to the number matching your boot’s sole length by sliding the toe piece up or down on the rail. You may need your screwdriver at this point to loosen the screw on the binding that holds the toe piece in place. Some bindings require this while others don’t require a screw to be loosened at all. Check your binding manual if you’re unsure how to move your toe piece or heel piece.
Then, adjust your heel piece to the number matching your boot’s sole length by sliding it up or down on the rail.
Click your ski boot into the binding to make sure it fits.
Step 2: Adjusting the Anti-friction Device (AFD)
What is the anti-friction device?
The anti-friction device, or AFD, does just what its name implies—it keeps your ski boot sliding smoothly—without friction—out of the binding when a force causes the binding to release. It ensures the sideways movement of your boot out of the binding is friction-free, which helps prevent injury.
How do I Find the Anti Friction Device?
The AFD is located just under the toe piece of your ski binding. A fixed AFD–like this one on the Tyrolia Attack 14 GW bindings–is a smooth pad while a mechanical AFD–like this one on the Marker Griffon 13 ID ski bindings–is a device with a roller or lever that mechanically releases the toe sideways.
To adjust the AFD, click your boot into the binding and look at the gap between the toe of the boot and the AFD. Adjust the AFD until it is touching the bottom of the toe of your boot. Now, grab a piece of paper and do a resistance test. Slide the piece of paper between the AFD and the toe of your boot. If it doesn’t slide in, adjust the AFD lower until you can slide the paper through.
With the paper wedged between the two, check the tension. You should be able to slide the piece of paper between the bottom of your ski boot and the AFD with some resistance but without crinkling or ripping the paper. Adjust the AFD up or down until this level of tension is reached.
Step 3: Adjusting the DIN Setting
What is the DIN number? Why is this important?
DIN number refers to how much force is required to cause a binding to release. Test this at home with your skis. Put your boots on and slip them into your ski bindings. Kick your feet up and see how easily your binding releases your boot. Does it take a bit of shaking or kicking, or does your boot release immediately after one kick? Your DIN number is responsible for this.
The lower the DIN number, the easier your ski boot releases from the binding. The higher the DIN number, the harder it is for your binding to release your ski boot.
DIN stands for Deutsches Institut für Normung, or the German Institute for Standardization, and is an organization that provides standardization metrics for a variety of technologies, including ski binding release settings.
An international standard for binding release settings boosts the confidence of skiers in selecting their gear and helps to ensure that it is not only easy to choose the right setting but safer. This is why most ski boot and binding manufacturers use the DIN standard.
What factors determine the DIN number
When calculating your DIN, a ski technician or knowledgeable salesperson will account for your age, weight, height, and skill level. This way they know how low or high to set the DIN so that your boots come out of the bindings when they need to. In general, a lower DIN setting is used for beginners and a higher DIN setting for advanced or expert skiers.
How Do I Find My DIN Number?
The DIN number is adjusted on both the toe and heel pieces of the ski binding and you’ll see the number in the DIN window on both the toe and heel pieces. The DIN number can be adjusted with or without a screwdriver depending on the binding. Some bindings still require a screwdriver to adjust the DIN while some don’t require screwdrivers. Always have a knowledgeable ski technician or salesperson adjust your DIN setting for you.
Why a Professional Should Adjust Your DIN Setting
Because of the risk of injury in how ski bindings release, it’s important to have a skilled ski technician adjust your DIN setting for you. This is the one part of adjusting ski bindings where DIY is cautioned against and it’s because of the potential for injury.
Risk of Injury in Improperly Adjusted DIN Settings
Why does this matter? According to M. J. Rossi et. al, “…most knee ligament ruptures in skiers occur when the bindings release late or not at all.”2
The most common ski injury in the lower body involves the ACL1, and ligaments aren’t easy to repair. The MCL is also a frequent skiing injury.
Research reviewed in “The Skier’s Knee” and Sports Health shows that fractures of the tibia, sprains of the MCL, and tears of the ACL are the most reported injuries in alpine skiers and about 10-33% of skiing-related injuries involve the MCL and ACL.
You can find more than one DIN setting calculator online, but when a torn ligament incurs serious medical bills and gets in the way of you living your life, spending 30 minutes inside a ski shop to get your DIN adjusted won’t sound as much like an inconvenience.
Want to know more ways you can protect your knees on the slopes? Check out these tips for Knee-Friendly Skiing.
You can see why it’s an involved process to adjust ski bindings—there’s a lot at stake! However, knowing how to adjust ski bindings and the DIN setting properly will keep you enjoying the mountain and ready for your next adventure (maybe Chamonix, France?). Your knees will thank you and you can ski in peace (figuratively speaking. I know the thrill of tree skiing or ski jumping is a different sort of “peace”).
Keep chasin’ those freshies.
Ready to up your game? Check out these tips for how to ski powder.
1. Source: “Alpine Skiing Injuries”
2. Source: “The Skier’s Knee”