By Drew Daly, AMGA/IFMGA Mountain Guide
Do you have a ski you want to use at the resort with your alpine boots and in the backcountry with your touring boots? Are you a ski patroller who needs the ability to access certain terrain with a touring binding but the majority of your time is spent downhill skiing? Are you a mechanized ski guide and need the option to use skins in an emergency? Or, do you simply want a slick touring binding that transforms into a bombproof alpine binding for your decent? Enter the Salomon S/LAB Shift.
After seven years in development, Salomon has finally unveiled the new S/LAB Shift binding. As a Salomon Ambassador, I was lucky enough to receive a pair mounted on the Salomon QST 106 last winter. I skied this setup starting early February and racked up a lot of days on it in nearly every condition imaginable. There is a lot of hype around this binding, and I will be the first to say it is well deserved. The Shift will create a niche of its own in the binding market with the touring efficiency of a pin binding and the unmatched downhill performance of an alpine freeride binding.
At first look, the design of these bindings are a work of art. While the heel piece looks like a standard, lightweight alpine heel piece, the toe piece looks nothing like any other binding on the market. The Shift is nothing short of a world class alpine binding while in ski mode. When you step into the Shift in ski mode, it is music to the ears to hear that quick, sharp snap of the heal and see the slight tightening of the spring in the toe. You are now skiing a 13 DIN alpine binding offering Multi Norm Certification, which allows you to adjust the toe height to any adult normed boots, with or without tech fittings. Additionally, the Shift offers 47mm of elastic travel in the toe, just shy of the industry leading Salomon STH with 52mm. Compared to the Marker Kingpin with just 10 mm of travel, the energy transfer of the Shift makes this an actual alpine binding.
For touring, the wings of the alpine toe piece rotate out to reveal tech pins. This “shift” brings the boots toe forward to where the heel will no longer engage with the heel piece. Stepping into the tech pin toe is similar to other touring bindings. A lever at the front of the toe piece pulls up to lock into walk mode and down to release. A quick flick of the brake lock lever and a stomp of the heel makes the transition from ski to walk quick and simple. The 90º range of motion and well balanced rotation point keeps the skinning and kick turns efficient. There is one bomber riser bar that can easily be engaged with a ski pole and is comparable in height to the mid riser height on most modern tech bindings (10º). For firm skinning conditions, the Shift does accept ski crampons.
I have about 50 days of skiing on this binding so far, the majority of which has been downhill and a few of which have been touring. With firm conditions in Idaho in February, I spent many days skiing teeth chattering bumps and skidding down washer board at high speeds while ski patrolling and have yet to pre release (knocking on wood now).
Personally, this binding will not replace my lightweight tech bindings, but it will likely replace every pair of my alpine bindings. I will use this binding for ski patrolling, heli ski guiding and even the odd backcountry or ski mountaineering day where having a bomber setup is more important than shaving a few ounces. If I was in the market for one binding to do it all, from the resort to ski mountaineering and everything in between, this would be my pick.
Brake Sizes: 90, 100, 110, 120mm