Most ski equipment nerds (if you’re reading this, then that’s you) have heard that Fischer and Rossignol have introduced a new binding for next year. Like everybody, we’ve had a lot of questions. This afternoon Andrew Gardner brought some new Speedmax skis with Turnamic bindings down to help answer some of these questions. Andrew is the former head coach of the Middlebury Ski Team, and the founder of Press Forward, a very cool PR company that handles communications for Fischer in the US. With thanks to Andrew for taking the time to come for a little show and tell, and a slushy ski, here are some impressions, and answers to the questions that we’ve had.
Is the new binding NNN Compatible?
Yup – it sure is. Like Salomon’s new ProLink binding, this binding will work with any Turnamic, NNN, or ProLink boot. Swapping skis is not a problem.
Is the new binding NIS Compatible?
No! The Turnamic system has it’s own NIS-style plate bonded to the ski. It slides on, like an NIS binding. Unlike NIS, there are actually two plates bonded to the ski, and the binding assembles in one piece instead of having a separate heel plate. The Turnamic heel plate is attached to the main foot plate with a couple of plastic rods which snap into place below the main foot plate, and allow for adjustable position of the heel plate. The Turnamic binding position is adjustable in 5mm increments, like the NIS system, and with the same range of adjustment. The Turnamic does not require a tool or
“key” for the adjustment.
To be clear, all new Fischer skis (at least the race ones) will come with Turnamic binding plates, and will require Turnamic bindings. You can’t put NIS bindings on these plates.
Can you mount a screw-on SNS binding on skis with the Turnamic Plate?
The short answer appears to be yes. The skis are still manufactured with structural support for screw-retention, and Fischer has said that screwing a binding onto the skis will not void the ski warranty. Because of the gap in the plate system, the mid-foot screw on a Salomon binding will have nothing below it. Fischer does not propose to offer a solution, and we haven’t asked Salomon. But a well-selected rubber washer will probably do the trick just fine. We will need to do a bit of tinkering to come up with the right solution, but we’re confident that skiers on the Pilot or Propulse SNS binding platforms will have good success on Fischer skis in the future.
Are there any advantages to the Turnamic system?
The basic requirement of a binding is to hold your boot onto the ski and to be trouble-free. The Turnamic bindings tick the boxes. The adjustable position established by the NIS system is very useful, and these bindings offer similar functionality. Operating the binding clasp is arguably easier on the Turnamic binding than on most Rottefella bindings. These ones have a big knob in front of the foot that you twist to release. It’s easy to grab, and easy to use. Maybe a bit stiff for little kids?
In terms of performance on the snow, the Turnamic bindings feel good. I think the elastomer bumper feels a bit softer than the standard medium bumper on a Rottefella binding, which allows the tip of the ski to float a bit. I think it makes the ski feel lighter under foot, and I like it for the same reason that I like the soft skate bumpers on Rottefella bindings. Aside from the softer bumper, I didn’t feel a meaningful difference between the Turnamic binding and a normal Rottefella binding. That is a bit of a surprise to me, since I do feel a pretty big difference between various iterations of the NIS bindings – R4, Xcelerator, Classic Pro, Skate Pro. Today’s comparison was between Turnamic and a Classic Pro with medium skate bumpers. But the skis were different lengths as well. It wasn’t a scientific test – just some early impressions.
Are there any disadvantages to the Turnamic system?
I don’t think so – not that I can see. If you’re a big fan of wedge bindings with lifted toes then you’re out of luck. I think there are fewer and fewer fans of the wedge bindings, and I don’t see that as a big issue for the Turnamic system. If you’re in the habit of popping your NIS bindings off for travel you may find that the Turnamic bindings are a bit more delicate because of the connection between the heel plate and the main foot plate. Just pack them carefully.
So, no big advantages, no big disadvantages… why a new system?
Fischer and Rossignol will be quick to point out what they feel are performance benefits and selling points for the system. But with respect to bindings I think this boils down to business. Bindings cost very little to make, and they sell for absurdly large amounts of money. It’s the part of the industry that I personally find most aggravating and insulting to everybody on the consumer side of things. Margins on bindings are huge, and by removing a vendor from their supply chain Fischer and Rossignol will make more money on bindings. They also ensure that bindings get bought from them. In the past we have bought neutral Rottefella-branded bindings for use with both Fischer and Madshus skis for the simple reason that it’s unobjectionable to customers, and we only need to manage one binding inventory. Now we will be buying bindings from Fischer. The good news is that early indications from the Fischer people are that the price point will actually come down a little bit on the Turnamic bindings. As long as broad boot/binding compatibility remains the future, I think consumers have more to gain than they have to lose from a move like this.
The bigger news may be hiding in the boot soles, which I haven’t seen yet. It may take some time to get all the boot models from Fischer and Rossignol converted to their own Turnamic soles, but ultimately they will have a lot more flexibility to design and build the boots that they want to build. The Rottefella agreement has forced them to work with Rottefella soles, and that’s a pretty big limitation. I think there’s a good chance we’ll see some pretty cool boots coming along, and that’s an area where there may be some real performance and fit advantages available.
Well, in short, don’t worry. This isn’t going to screw anything up for anybody. And the new Fischer Speedmax skis felt good on the snow – so that’s a good thing too. In the end, that’s a much more important concern than the bindings. Fischer is looking like a great option, and we’re happy to be reassured that our customers can depend on Fischer, regardless of their boot selection, and with strong confidence that everything will work as advertised. Especially since we’re already building next year’s ski selection list, and our questions about this stuff very quickly become your questions about this stuff!