Let’s get right to it: to me, the Kingpin’s heel feels like a revelation compared to the tech bindings I’ve skied that use heel pins. The Kingpin utilizes an alpine-binding-style, step-in heel, and there is something very familiar and comforting to me about clicking into an alpine-style heel piece at the top of a line. (See Paul Forward’s review for more on this.) I much prefer that interface to heel pins, and even though the technology has been around for a long time, I don’t love the idea that the only thing connecting the heel of my boot to the heel piece of the binding are two small pins.
And more than just liking the idea of an alpine-style heel is my real-world, on-snow experience about how the Kingpin’s heel rides. Simply put, it feels less harsh than the Dynafit Radicals and the G3 IONs I’ve skied and used—especially in firm, nasty conditions.
I’ve now skied both the Kingpin 13 and 10 down some pretty shit *!@% snow, and I don’t find myself thinking about my bindings; I can focus on the line and my skiing.
(1) If you spend most of your time skiing soft, good snow, you may not notice as much the difference I’m describing, because the snow is providing the suspension for you.
(2) Right now, I’d say that 60-70% of my ski days are inbounds, so I’m frequently skiing on dedicated alpine bindings. So if I’m going from a Marker Jester or Look Pivot alpine binding to a standard tech binding, the difference is very noticeable and jarring. And the Kingpin reduces that difference. But if you aren’t regularly going from alpine equipment to AT equipment, you might acclimate to the feel of tech-pin heels and ski them happily. I don’t ski them happily, which is a major reason why I love the Kingpin.
Another Thing: Locking Out vs. Not Locking Out the Toes
Neither Paul Forward nor I ski the Kingpins with the toe pieces locked, and I’ve not had any pre-releases in them. (I weigh ~180 lbs, and Paul is 10-15 lbs. heavier.)
I always skied the older Dynafit Radicals with the toes locked. I have not locked out the toes of the G3 IONs while skiing them, and never had any issues / pre-releases in the ION. So good on G3 for that. But I much prefer the heels and overall suspension / ski-ability of the Kingpin to the ION, making the Kingpin the clear winner given my criteria.
I’ve got about 35 days touring on the Kingpin, and I’ve had no issues. I know some others have reported issues with icing (I’m not aware of any tech binding out there where someone, somewhere, hasn’t expressed frustration over icing), but all I can say is that Paul Forward and I haven’t had any problems.
Thankfully, I’ve only experienced the Kingpin 13s and 10s to go from walk mode to ski mode simply and easily.
Would I use the Kingpin inbounds? (Should you?)
Short answer: No.
Because the Kingpin is a touring binding, and I think we all need to stop expecting lightweight touring equipment to function just as well as dedicated (and heavier) alpine equipment. That goes for boots and skis and bindings—but especially AT bindings.
Longer answer / Caveat: I’d be more willing to turn my “No” into a “Yes” if…
(1) You are an expert skier and a very finesse-oriented skier. Such skiers could very easily still find themselves in situations where some elasticity in the toe pieces of their bindings could come in very, very handy, but the more finesse you have and ski with, the less stupid it might be for you to consider using the Kingpin as an everyday, inbounds binding.
(2) The above point would be bolstered further if you said you spend very little time (a) skiing hard in firm moguls, and (b) you don’t spend much time jumping off of stuff to firm, flat landings. The more you want to do (a) and (b) on a touring binding (while expecting those bindings and your knees to have no issues) the more I think you ought to consider a frame-style binding like the Marker Duke / Baron, or the Salomon Guardian, or perhaps the Dynafit Beast 16. (While I haven’t skied the Beast 16, given that I like to have a flat-mode for touring and given that I’m not that into heel pins, I’m personally not terribly interested.)
(3) 70-80% of your ski days are touring, and you’re only in the resort 20-30% of the time. And you’re willing to dial things back and not ski like an idiot when skiing firm, bumped-up, or variable conditions. So do whatever you want to do, but my primary interest in this review is to rave about the Kingpin as a piece of AT equipment, without encouraging anyone to also expect it to be an amazing piece of inbounds, alpine equipment.
So could I ski it in the resort? Yes. But for where and how I like to ski, I have little interest in forcing the Kingpin into service as an everyday resort binding.
Tech bindings are wonderful for going uphill, and alpine bindings are wonderful for going downhill. The Marker Kingpin’s tech toes and alpine-style heels make this binding the closest thing to offering the best of both worlds and at a competitive weight.
If you have different priorities for your ski touring, you may prefer other options out there. But for me, the combination of overall convenience + ease-of-use + tour-ability + weight + ski-ability & on-snow feel makes this the first touring binding I’ve ever loved.