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5 Different Types of Cross Country Ski Bindings

Skier leg on slope with ski binding.

There are many moving parts for the cross-country ski equipment kit, and ski bindings are important ones. These are an important safety feature that attach your boots to the skis so that you can ski safely without worrying about falling off of the ski.

You can’t just get any kind of ski bindings, particularly with cross-country skiing. In this sport, you need to ensure that you have compatibility between the binding, and the ski boot.

Use this guide to learn more about the types of cross-country ski bindings available, and how to pick the best one.

Why You Need Ski Bindings

Ski bindings are a device that attach your ski boot to your ski. Prior to the invention of ski lifts in 1933, skiers would trek up and downhill on skis by foot. When skiing became a more popular activity, ski bindings became more important. They are used in every type of skiing.

The first cross-country ski bindings were metal plates that fastened boots to skis with pins. Ski bindings would hold a boot with wire, and a more uniform ski binding and bootstrap was developed for skiers all over the world.

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Ski bindings are important because they hold the mainstay of the sport together. In cross-country skiing, the boots of the skis will have a different sole than other types of skiing. You can’t purchase ski bindings from other skiing types for cross-country skiing.

If you are purchasing ski bindings, you need to make sure they are compatible so that you have the safest run possible every time.

The History of Ski Bindings

An old ski binding on rustic wooden background.

Ski Bindings have not been around as long as other components of the ski experience, but have been a mainstay to the sport since 1840. Before that, they were like any makeshift necessity, a strap on a boot to the ski.

By 1850, an inventor known as Sondre Norheim designed one of the first ski bindings which included loops around the toes, and the back of the boot.

These first ski bindings were made of birch root. The material of birch was used for comfort and made it easy to walk in the boot and lift the ski with little extra stress or pressure. It is also made for comfort and ease of gliding.

By 1894, a man named Fritz Huitfeldt had made a binding with an iron toe that would increase safety. He was a revolutionary when it came to creating a ski binding, with many of his ideas being married with today’s technology to create cutting-edge ski bindings.

Huitfeldt saw the need for a solid braking system on the ski and began adding metal plates around the boot to fasten it more securely. He also used toe straps and buckles across the boot and connected the plates to ensure the boot wouldn’t move.

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His method was innovative. It combined the need for both friction and braking and has become a mainstay in concept that is still seen in the ski bindings of today.

Your Experience and Your Ski Binding

Skier foot wearing ski binding.

When you are looking for tools in cross-country skiing, you need to keep your experience in mind. Ski bindings are no exception.

For beginners and intermediates, Type 1 or Type 2 ski bindings are the best kinds, and, unless you are heavier, you don’t need a high release setting. Lightweight is the key for newbies on the runs.

For advanced skiers, Type 3 boots are recommended. This is a skier that has the mindset of pushing limits, and you need a boot and ski binding that can show that.

Here, you’ll need a higher release setting and will probably be looking for a lightweight binding made of materials such as titanium. Material like titanium will help to keep your boots secure, and your ski at the speed that you want.

Types of Ski Bindings

Although there are a lot of big expenses with the sport of skiing, ski bindings are not one of them. They can run as high as $80, but can also be as low as $30. The most expensive ones will be light and easy-to-use.

Some types you can click right on, while others you will have to secure manually, using levers to release. Your experience will matter. As you grow in the sport, you will soon learn what you need and prefer when you are binding your boots to your skis.

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Bindings that are constructed for the casual skier will have more stability and be wider as well. A narrow binding is one that doesn’t have the same security on the ski, as balance and technique needed for performance are hindered by that.

Some cross-country skis will have the binding plates attached to them already, making it easier to connect your ski bindings. These metal-binding plates are not ideal for any other kind of skiing because they will ruin the slopes, so you have to be careful where you use your ski bindings.

But you need a very specific ski binding to use those, so keep that in mind if that is appealing to you. Most cross-country ski bindings are like that, where you have to ensure the boot and binding are compatible, or you can’t use them.

The primary types of bindings are three-pin bindings, SNS bindings and NNN bindings.

1. SNS Ski Bindings – Salomon Nordic System Bindings

Salomon Z10 Ski Bindings Sz 80mm

The SNS binding is one that clips with the toe and is compatible with the SNS boot. This binding comes with one ridge and is considered the oldest system for ski binding.

This is your beginner-level ski binding with the most stability. The NNN binding has a double ridge, and that is an example of why you can’t mix and match ski bindings and boots.

So, you will need to purchase SNS bindings and SNS boots. You can’t purchase SNS bindings with NNN boots.

2. NNN Ski Bindings – New Nordic Norm Bindings

Rottefella Whitewoods NNN Auto Touring, Basic Cross Country Ski Bindings - Pair (Black)

New Nordic Norm bindings or NNN ski bindings are among the most popular kind of ski bindings on the market today. Both elite athletes and newbies on the snow love them. These are easy to use with a metal rod attached to your boot.

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The two-ridge system makes them secure while also helping you to create power when you are gliding, and the rubber front helps with lifting your feet when you need to. Again, you need NNN boots with NNN ski bindings.

Prolink bindings are a kind of NNN binding and you need to get them with NNN boots. These are light and narrow bindings that give you a good feel on the snow. They may be preferred by more experienced athletes and can easily attach if your skis have pre-drilled holes.

3. NNN BC Ski Bindings – New Nordic Norm Backcountry

The New Nordic Norm backcountry ski bindings are good for backcountry skiing. Here, the snow is not as shallow as on other runs and is a rougher terrain.

The bindings are a wider type and are more durable than other bindings. Although built for backcountry skiing, these bindings can be matched with other NNN boots, your boots don’t have to be backcountry.

4. NIS Ski Bindings – Nordic Integrated Systems

Rottefella Xcelerator NIS Junior Skate Cross-Country Nordic Ski Bindings, Pair, Black

NIS ski bindings are the best of both worlds with the word integrated giving it away. These are very popular because they click onto the ski without having to be drilled in or attached professionally. These will be compatible with many NNN boots.

5. Three Pin Ski Bindings

Tyrolia SL100 Ski Bindings

The three-pin ski binding is perhaps the most well-known form of ski binding and also among the most traditional. While commonly known, however, they are not very popular and are considered too traditional by many avid cross-country skiers.

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These types of ski bindings have been considered best for backcountry skiing and are not the best for racing.

How to Choose Ski Bindings?

Ski binding on ski resort.

The best way to choose ski bindings is to get the kind that is most compatible with your boots. It is often the case where a new skier will purchase boots first, not knowing how to handle the issue of ski binding. If you already have your boots, the choice of ski bindings for cross-country skiing is easy.

If you have boots and aren’t sure what to do about them, take them with you to the store when you are purchasing your bindings. Or, a picture of the boot’s sole will be just as good.

If you have two ridges on the boot, it is an NNN boot and needs an NNN ski binding. If it has two bars, it is an SNS boot and needs SNS ski bindings. The SNS boot should also have holes for the pins of the binding to snap into.

Automatic or Manual Ski Binding

Another key consideration with ski binding is how the binding is bound to the ski. This process is worthy of an entire guide on its own. You will hear the terms automatic binding and manual binding as you move forward in your skiing journey.

Automatic binding is for skiers that want to step into their ski. To release the boot, you just need to press the pole into the button alongside the binding.

For manual binding, the binding must be open manually by pulling a level. With this, you can then step into the boot and close the binding manually.

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Many bindings need to be drilled in, and the elite skier will tell you this is just part of the process. It can be a pain to deal with, but it is an errand that you will be happy with when it is done.

How to Make it Click?

Ski binding and skis on snow.

When you first start looking at equipment for cross-country skiing, you will hear the phrase “clicking in” or something to that effect, particularly when you are looking at ski bindings.

This is the language used for stepping in and out of your ski with your boot. When you step in it, it clicks. There’s a science to it, that you will get accustomed to.

When you want to make it click with your own boots, you want to make sure of a few things. First, be sure that both your skis and boots are cleaned, and your skis waxed.  You want them to move quickly and efficiently.

The sole of your boot must be cleaned as the most important component of the boot. You can clean your boot by just tapping the outside of it with your pole. When you are ready to step into the ski, put it down on the ground and open your binding with the lever.

Place your toe into the binding. You want to see the metal bar hooking easily onto your boot. Make it click by pushing the lever closed.

For automatic ski bindings, it is even easier. Step into your skis, push the level, and you are ready to hit the trails. In most cases, you can use your pole to open the binding or let it go when you need to.

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To step out of the boot and binding, follow the same procedure in reverse. Pull the lever, or press the front using your ski pole. Walk out of the boot proud that you’ve done something exciting in your day.