2020-2021 Marker Kingpin 13

Transitions

As noted above, the Kingpin relies on a lever arm that slides the entire heel assembly back and forth along a track that is mounted to the ski, similar to that of the Marker Duke and Marker Tour F12.

I’ve used the binding in a variety of conditions in New Zealand and Alaska (and Jonathan Ellsworth has over 30 days in these bindings touring in New Zealand and northern New Mexico), and we have not had any issues with them icing up or otherwise being impeded by snow or ice. But the potential is there, although it appears that the sliding interfaces are mostly plastic to plastic, which should be good for preventing icing.

Paul Forward reviews the Marker Kingpin 13 for Blister Gear Review.
Paul Forward on the Marker Kingpin 13, Porters Ski Field.

We have heard reports of others having issues with ice build up—something that is certainly not uncommon for tech bindings. If you are having issues, we have heard of people spraying some Pam cooking spray on the bindings to help prevent that build up.

I typically take my skins off without removing my skis, for several reasons: (1) I’m less likely to posthole and fall, (2) less likely to lose a ski sliding down the mountain, (3) less likely to get my tech fittings iced up, and, (4) in almost every situation, I find it to be much faster and easier.

This can be accomplished with the Kingpin with a little practice, even for someone like me who is not particularly flexible. It’s just a matter of reaching under the boot and sliding the lever into position. I have not yet managed to do it with my ski pole (to avoid bending down) but I think it’s possible. One tip is to pull up both heel pieces into the descend position before clicking into either heel piece with your boot.

Note: Heel Pieces Up

One thing that is a little counterintuitive at first is that the heel pieces are designed to be popped upright (into the same position as descending) when touring. So when you are transitioning, the heel piece then needs to be reset into the “open” position by pushing it down with a ski pole—just as you would when trying step out of the bindings while in ski mode.

Once the heels are “open,” you can step down with your heel for a very reassuring “clunk” into ski mode. I’m not sure if this is an okay thing to do per Marker but a few times I simply stomped into the heel when it was still in the “up” position and the large elastic travel of the binding allowed the heel to slide back and click the boot into place (similar to a Dynafit Beast).

On the ease of transitioning spectrum, I would rate the Kingpin as “pretty easy.” Sliding and resetting the heel piece is a little slower than simply rotating the heel of the Dynafit Radical or G3 Ion, and it’s certainly not as easy as the old Dynafit Verticals (and many pre-Vertical Dynafits) that merely required a twist of the heel piece with my ski pole tip. But the Kingpin is fast and intuitive.

In marked contrast to the relative ease of transitioning the Kingpin is the Dynafit Beast 14. Every time I try to pop the heel from touring mode to descend mode, I have a small wrestling match with the binding. I’m not sure if my pair is particularly stubborn, but I’ve very rarely been able to do it without taking off my ski. And even when using two hands, it’s still quite difficult and often frustrating.

Uphill Performance

Uphill travel with the Kingpins is essentially the same as any other good tech binding. The toe is nearly frictionless, and provides excellent torsional stiffness for sidehilling on hard snow. The heel lifters are intuitive, stable, click easily into place, and seem like they will hold up to a lot of skinning. After using the Beast 14 (which lacks a flat touring mode) for part of last season, it’s been a pleasure to be able to quickly and easily flip the heel lifters between the three different climbing heights, including the flat one on the ski.

The only downside to the Kingpin for uphill travel is the weight, but they are still lighter than the Beast 14 (840 g) and much lighter than the Beast 16 (957 g).

Downhill Performance

On my first day in New Zealand this year, I clicked into a Kingpin 13 mounted to a Blizzard Zero G 108 while wearing the Salomon MTN Lab boots. I skied straight to a relatively steep, narrow chute that had a combination of wind-hardened and bumpy, chalky snow.

By my third turn, I was chuckling to myself at just how good this whole setup skied. I’ve written a lot about the Zero G 108 and the MTN Lab, and if you’ve read those reviews, you know that I feel like both of those products are remarkably close to full-on, inbounds boots and skis. After many more days of skiing the Kingpins, I feel confident in saying that the Kingpin is just as impressive.

By the end of my second run on the Kingpin, I had already chattered sideways through refrozen chunder at relatively high speeds with the toes unlocked, and was feeling a level of confidence in tech bindings that I have not experienced in over a decade of using various types of Dynafits (mostly with the toes locked into “uphill mode”).

Paul Forward reviews the Marker Kingpin 13 for Blister Gear Review.
Paul Forward on the Marker Kingpin 13, Mt Cheeseman backcountry.

Since then, I have skied the Kingpins hard in a variety of conditions (again, toes unlocked) and on several different skis, and have not had a single pre-release.

I think that much of the ability of the Kingpin to be skied hard without releasing is due to the highly elastic travel of the heel piece—especially for a tech binding. This same elastic travel also lends the binding a more suspension-like feel that I’ve only experienced in alpine bindings and the Beast 14.

For more on this concept of elastic travel and other great information about tech bindings, check out Marshal Olson’s “Update: Dynafit Beast AT Binding”. Much of what Marshal says about the heel piece of the Beast 16 also applies to the Kingpin 13.

To be clear, I have not skied the Kingpins with the same abandon that I do with my Salomon STH2 16’s (my favorite alpine binding), and I doubt I ever will, since I’m a relatively big guy (6’ 190 lbs without gear). I like to get my fat skis into high edge angles that create a lot of torque on bindings, and I’m not willing to risk my life on a relatively inelastic tech toe-piece. That said, the Kingpin is easily my first choice for a tech binding if I’m planning to be on any kind of firm or cut-up snow, and skiing fast with bigger boots.

Downhill Performance of Kingpin 13 vs the Dynafit Beast 14

In comparison to the Dynafit Beast 14 (I have not used the Beast 16 enough to comment on it), the Kingpin feels a little stiffer torsionally to me. This is totally subjective and I do not have a way to quantify this, especially since I’ve never even skied both bindings on the same ski. Both the Kingpin and the Beast provide a damper, more elastic ride ride than any other tech binding I’ve used.

From a retention standpoint, my observations are also quite subjective, but I believe that at least one of the times that I came out of my Beast 14’s would not have happened with the Kingpin. I have no way to validate that and I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or bad, but I’ve been surprised at how well the Kingpins have stayed on, and at least once, was a little surprised at how easily the Beast 14 released. When I have more experiences or observations on this front, I will be sure to update.

NEXT: Who’s It For?, Locking Out the Toes, Etc.

30 comments on “2020-2021 Marker Kingpin 13”

  1. Great review as always. Would you say that this binding, along with the Beast now mean that the bindings such as the Salomon Guardian are now redundant, or does the solidness of an alpine toe piece mean that there is still a place for them?

    • Hi Doug,
      The Beast and Kingpin are great bindings and are certainly very capable for a lot of people in a lot of situations. I still think that there will be skiers who want the full capability of an alpine binding that is capable of short tours when the situation arises and for that application, the Guardian and Beast may still be the answer.

  2. I’ve been using Kingpin 13 around 30+ days, mounted on a pair of K2 Shreditor 112, along with K2 Pinnacle 130 boots during last season. I’m 6’1 and 200 lbs. and have skied them in almost any snow condition. This season, I am using Beast 14 on Dynafit Chugach with Khion Carbon boots so I can add my view on Kingpin vs Beast 14.

    Except for toe pieces that were changed on warranty, I didn’t had any issues with the Kingpin. I experienced a bit of icing in the springs on the toe pieces, but nothing major. Touring is excellent and the binding feels very solid and stable downhill.

    So far, I have mostly skied the Beast on hard groomers and chopped pow, and in these conditions, I think the Beast 14 shines over Kingpin on downhill performance! I find the added elasticity of the rotating toe piece to make a big difference, and they feel very, very close to an alpine binding. I find Kingpin to be a much rougher ride on hard groomers, but note that I did not use the same skis or boots which may affect the result, but I feel more confident on the Beasts!

    I only made three quite short tours with the Beasts so far. I will not make many long flat approaches, so the lack of flat touring mode will not be a big issue for me and if I do, flat mode can be achieved by turning the heel piece and using a rubber strap for the brakes. For transitions, I been using the pole to snap the climbing aid of the brake (tip taken from this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YW8jyUvgSRo). I found this to work just fine and did not have to struggle to get into skiing mode again as Paul did and could rip the skins of with skis on! Main drawback for me is that the beast power bar makes the boot incompatible with Dukes or other bindings made for AT boots, at least officially.

    Currently, for my type of skiing, type of terrain and typical snow conditions, I am biased towards Beast 14 on downhill performance. If I would only ski soft snow, I might reconsider!

    • Hi Niklas, Thanks for reading and for your comment. Super helpful and interesting! Like you, I’ve skied the bindings using different skis and felt that the Kingpin had just as much elasticity but I’ll certainly keep your observations in mind going forward. The tip about the transitions was also great to read. I’ll give that a go the next time I take out the Beast 14’s. Thanks again for reading and for the great comments!

    • Hey I use the same method as Niklas does for transitions for Beasts. It works very well

      At my weight 75kg i consider the Beast 16 and the Kingpin to be a tie even for inbounds. Interesting that bigger guys like you feel more of a difference. That makes sense to me

  3. Thanks for another in-depth and interesting review.

    Does Blister have a Radical2 review in the works? I’d be very curious about the comparisons with the Kingpin and how it fits into this spectrum of tech bindings that are more capable than the old generation.

    • Hi David, the Radical 2 is on the list. We’d love to put some time in on a pair as soon as possible. Thanks for reading!

  4. Will be interested to see what you think of the Vipec if you eventually get that chance (hopefully the new black version).

    I received a major ankle sprain last year that took me 2 months before I could ski again. The unlocked binding failed to release laterally due to the tech binding blind spot. This is where lateral forces to the ski near the toe piece will cause the binding to fail to release laterally, because the part that laterally releases is the heel, not the toe (https://www.wildsnow.com/15123/tech-binding-release-testing-acl-broken-leg).

    My ski tip digging into deep snow during a mellow over-the-bars caused my injury. Unfortunately this type of fall is pretty common when skiing aggressively and hucking cliffs in deep snow (i.e. front punching). I’ve permanently moved over to the Vipec when skiing aggressively because of this and am pretty damn happy with it so far. The Vipec feels much nicer in firm and choppy snow compared to a normal tech binding (same ski and boot) – curious to hear what you think about it compared to the Beast and Kingpin in this respect. It has its quirks (which the new black version resolves?), but I’ll take that over an injury any day. Bonus is that it’s significantly lighter, too.

    I’d be curious to know if I’d be just as happy with the Vipec as an alpine binding in firm snow conditions. I need to have my firm snow charger ski mounted with the Vipec first though. After firm snow experiences on my soft snow charger ski, it’s potentially promising.

    • Hi Lindahl, Thanks for reading. Great comment as always. The new black Vipec has been on the top of my list for new gear since I first learned about them. Interesting thought on the lateral release. It makes sense in theory and I’m glad to hear you’ve had a good experience with yours. I can’t wait to check them out and will definitely do some side by side comparisons when we get our hands on a pair.

  5. I’d also be very interested in your views on the new Vipecs – I can’t see how you could recomend a binding that doesn’t release lateraly at the toe for inbounds skiing. Having said that I’ve not skiied the Kingpin so the review was an interesting read, cheers!

    • I’m currently skiing a set of Salomon Guardians on a pair of Kingswood Rocketypes. All-in-all it makes for a pretty heavy set-up, particularly for a blokes who only punches in at 75 kegs.

      As I’m due for a new pair of boots, I’m thinking of switching to touring boots and a TUV-certified binding. The Kingpins sound as though they would work well but I am really curious about the Vipecs and keen to see a review.

  6. Broke the kingpin 13’s on my 4th day using them. Heel piece completely gone after taking a nice tomahawk. The plastic threads on the binding plate (that let you adjust the heel piece forward and backward) completely stripped and the heel piece ripped off the back of the plate in the crash. Wasn’t the most violent crash, and I was extremely surprised to find that the binding had broken.

    This binding skis extremely well for a tech binding, and climbs great too. I want to love the kingpin, but I have definitely lost some confidence. Luckily Marker is being awesome and told my local shop to replace the heel piece out if their inventory for quick turnaround. Hopefully this was just a faulty heel piece and not a recurring problem.

  7. Hi,

    Great review and food for thought. At the moment I’m trying to debate with myself wether I should get a pair of Kingpins or the Radical 2’s. I intend to mount them on my Gotamas and I use a pair of Salomon MTN Lab boots. Up until a few weeks ago I used alpine boots for touring combined with Dukes on before mentioned Gotamas. I like that set up going down, but sweat like a pig going up (I have a tendency to bring a couple of kilos of cameragear) and was constantly outrun by my buddy on radicals and light AT-boots (hence my new Salomons). Buuut (get to the point damn it), I can’t really decide on what touring binding to get. I like the idea of the Alpine-style heel on the Kingpin, but I also like the idea of the rotational toe piece on the Radicals. I’m a somewhat normal-sized guy weighing in at around 185-190 pounds with gear on. I tour on all kinds of snow and I’d like to think that I ski pretty well and somewhat aggressively. My plan is to use the same gear on resort-days as well, I ske pretty much 50/50 resort (backcountry) and touring.

    What would you do, and why should I do the same?

    Thanks for all the good work!

    //Bengt

    • Hi Bengt, I haven’t skied the Radical 2 yet but we do have a review up on the site that is worth a look. I’m hoping to get on a pair soon to do a direct comparison between them and the G3 Ion and, hopefully, the new black Vipec. Stay tuned. For now, it’s hard for me not to recommend the Kingpin for a 50/50 resort/touring binding. I really like how they ski and tour as long as you’re not afraid of the weight. The durability issues raised here by some of our readers are also interesting ad we’ll follow that closely and report back if we experience it on any of our pairs.

  8. On my third pair this year, pins are still backing out! Easy to tell when it starts happening, the toes get more an more difficult to release, when the pin gets far enough out you can see where the pin begins to narrow again. My third pair are already moving, a few more days and I can tell I will be on my fourth set this year! Too bad, otherwise this binding is the Panacea we have all been waiting for, cliffs, ice, switch, fast, never prereleasing, no failures except this one ridiculous issue that still haven’t figured out! If the pin simply widened on the outside as well (which I’m sure they will figure out) then it will be all-time.

  9. Great reviews and comments. I ski patrol at a northwestern Colorado ski resort and would like to use this binding with AT boots and a TST size ski. This means all conditions, all types of terrain and slow to high speed. Plus in and out of them more often than manufactures plan on I think.
    What are the thoughts for this ?

    • Hi Murphy, If I was a full-time pro patroller it would be really hard to justify not just skiing in alpine bindings all the time unless you spend a lot of time skinning while at work. If you want one pair of bindings to use for ski touring on your days off but also to patrol in, the Kingpin is probably a good choice but, based on my time ski patrolling, I wouldn’t like the hassle of dealing with any type of tech binding while getting in and out of my skis all day and skiing inbounds unless I was skinning at work which I’ve never had to do. Maybe check out Salomon Guardians or Warden MNC for bindings you can use at work with your AT boots?

      • Hi Paul

        I’m due for new boots and will be leaning towards an AT boot. I’ve never skied in anything but an alpine boot and so will be looking into your articles on this topic.

        In particular, I’m currently using Salomon Guardians and was wondering how AT boots would go with them. My next bindings will be an AT binding of some sort but for now I’ll hang onto my Guardians.

        I’m pretty light (5’8″ and 75kgs) but am concerned that they wouldn’t release if they needed to. What do I need to take into consideration when buying new boots?

        Thanks

        Jamie

  10. Hi. I have Tecnica Cochise 130 boots with interchangeable sole plates – could I use the alpine heel plate and tech toe plate on the boot with the Kingpin? Or would that cause unsafe release? Cheers

    • Hi Charlie, I have the same setup. I just ordered the Kingpin bindings, so I will find out before too long if it works OK. I have to assume it will work (why wouldn’t it)?
      I’ll report back after I find out for sure.
      Mike

      • Any issues with this combo? I have the same set up but found they do not work well together as there are problems stepping into the toe piece. Am I missing something?

        • BDog, you need to change both the toe sole block and the heel sole block. They are different heights. If you look at the sole blocks it is obvious they are different thicknesses.

            • OK, they should work fine, but have a look at the rubber on the sole to see if it is interfering with the levers as they close? Some boots need to have the sole ground away slightly.

  11. Paul,

    Awesome review, thanks so much. I’m curious if you know how well Dynafit’s Beast Carbon boots will fit in the Kingpins. All I can find is Marker makes a DIN adaptor for Dynafit’s TLT series boots. I believe the sole length and heel ledge is shorter on the TLT’s. The beast looks longer and not sure on heel ledge? Would love some tech drawings to compare how the beast boots measure up to your MTN labs.

  12. “To be clear, I have not skied the Kingpins with the same abandon that I do with my Salomon STH2 16’s (my favorite alpine binding), and I doubt I ever will, since I’m a relatively big guy (6’ 190 lbs without gear). I like to get my fat skis into high edge angles that create a lot of torque on bindings, and I’m not willing to risk my life on a relatively inelastic tech toe-piece.”

    Would you mind elaborating on what that “abandon” consists of for you? I spent all last season at Loveland and A-Basin, and next year I’ll be at Winter Park, Copper, and Eldora. A typical day for me is a few some shorter, fairly steep runs off the top, in anything from fresh to tracked and wind-blown chop, then 1-3 full-on double-black cut runs (like Pali or Over the Rainbow), and then the rest of the day just messing around in trees, bumps, bowls, and fast groomers. So, just about everything the resorts have to offer, but nothing like extreme big-mountain lines or anything. FWIW, I’m 5′ 11.5″ & 190 lbs.

    I understand it’s kinda a personal question of risk, but would you consider the Kingpin 13 reliable enough to be my “quiver of one” for resort days, but still allow me to do the occasional laps at Berthoud? Or is it worth picking up a cheaper pair of rock/sidecountry skis for those days and just spending $200ish on some good DH bindings to put on the Libertys? Probably gonna lean heavily towards downhill use.

    Thanks!

  13. I just purchased the Kingpin 13 bindings on a year end sale back in April, 2017. Have not purchased any boots yet. I have read that some boots do not work as well with the Kingpin bindings. I had been looking at the Dynafit TLT7 or the Salomon Mtn Lab. Since the Kingpin is a heavier binding, I was looking more towards the Dynafit to keep the weight down for the uphill but the Dynafit does not have the ratings for the downhill portion that the Salomon has. Not sure if the weight difference is worth the choice of going for the Salomon’s since they are better in the downhill, based on the ratings. What is your thought and is the Salomon a good fit for the Kingpin bindings? What about Scarpa, have not seen much for reviews with this boot and the Kingpin?

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