UPDATE — 3.12.18
Jonathan Ellsworth and I have both spent more time in the Shift MNC, and we’re ready to weigh in with our thoughts. Spark notes version: we are both very impressed.
I now have about 20 days on the Shift, about half touring and half in the resort (several of my resort days have been using alpine boots). I’ve skied the Shift on two different skis — the 18/19 Atomic Bent Chetler 120 and the 18/19 Salomon QST 106.
- In my last update, the primary questions I still had were:
- How similar is it really to an alpine binding in terms of downhill performance?
- What is the final verdict on ease of transitions?
- Will durability be an issue?
- Will we have problems with icing?
- Are the 2 and 10 degree climbing risers enough?
- Is the brake lock mechanism going to be an issue?
Let’s dive right in. The biggest and most important question to answer is the first one, how similar does the Shift feel in terms of downhill performance compared to an alpine binding? I’ve now had the Shift in a variety of conditions, with strong alpine boots, hammering inbounds laps, and I can’t say with any certainty that it performs worse than an alpine binding. In fact, I really can’t seem to tell a difference. The Shift’s power transfer is excellent, it has a damp ride, and I haven’t pre-released (and I have released when I needed to). I typically ski a Marker Jester or Griffon, or Tyrolia AAAttack, and I can’t discern a difference in performance between those alpine bindings and the Shift.
I have experienced some annoyance when adjusting the AFD to account for boots with touring vs. alpine soles. When adjusting the AFD to go from touring soles to alpine soles, I tend to get some play and have to bump up the AFD a touch more after a lap or two. But after that, my boot is held in quite securely.
When it comes to ease of transitions, I’ve continually had fewer and fewer issues the more I use the Shift. After about 5 touring days, transitions on the Shift became second nature to me. And though I don’t often catch the pins in my inserts when stepping in on the first try, I get them about as often as in a Dynafit Radical 2.0 or G3 ION. I haven’t found transitions with the Shift to be any more finicky or involved than any other touring binding I’ve used.
Though I haven’t had the Shift for a full season of hard use, the 20 or so days I have on the binding so far haven’t caused any undue wear and tear on the binding. The binding works great and looks great. So far at least, there have been no durability concerns — I’ll be sure to update this if that changes though.
When I first got this binding, I was very worried about icing. It seems like a complicated design with many moving parts that could easily ice up. So far though, I haven’t had any issues with either the toe or brake lock mechanism icing up (and that includes many days touring in Japan in heavy, wet snow where my partners were having icing issues with their tech bindings). I’ve been very surprised by the lack of icing on the Shift — so far so good.
One rather contentious topic concerning these bindings is the decision to use only one riser setting at 10° and a “flat” setting of 2°. In my experience, the 2° is fine for flat approaches. I can’t tell the difference between flat setting on the Shift and flat setting on any of the other touring bindings I’ve used.
However, the single 10° riser has caused me a few issues. The design team at Salomon argues that 10° is the ideal pitch for an efficient skin track and therefore it’s the only riser angle you should need. Although I agree that 10° skin tracks are quite efficient, the problem I run into is that most other people in the world have bindings with a lower (~7°) and higher (~13°) riser. As a result, skin tracks that I don’t set on the Shift end up being about 7° or 13°, which means following on the Shift often puts me right in the middle. This hasn’t been a huge deal, but is worth noting as it can be annoying.
Finally, I have continued to have issues with the brakes coming unlocked while skinning. This usually happens on steep, icy, and technical skin tracks when my skis incidentally bump each other and unlock one of the brakes. Salomon has indicated that they are aware of the issue and are planning to tweak the brake lever to address it. We’ll be sure to update this review once we have the details of their planned update.
Sam has already done a really good job of laying out a bunch of information on the Shift, and if anything (and as I noted in our GEAR:30 podcast), I think Sam has been more cautious and reserved in his initial (very positive impressions) than I am tempted to be. Because so far, I have been blown away by this binding. Here’s why:
Ease of Use / Fiddle Factor
Sam did a very good job of really detailing / nitpicking issues of stepping into and out of the binding. But honestly, in my experience so far, I find these bindings really easy to work with. Figuring out how to step into and out of them took 3 seconds, and once you have figured that out (it’s super simple), given that I’m not rando racing, I find everything about the stepping into and out of process to be quite straightforward, and have had no issues transitioning from ski to walk mode. (And I should say that, in general, I have a pretty low tolerance for equipment that comes with a high fiddle factor.)
So far, I’ve liked operating these. I’d say they’re easier to use than the Marker Kingpin, though they aren’t going to unseat the G3 ION as being my favorite / simplest risers to use. And while I’ve heard a bit of grumbling about a lack of a 3rd riser, I won’t be petitioning for a 3rd. If you are someone who has gotten along okay with the Marker Kingpin risers, I think you’ll be just fine with the Shift’s. But Sam raises some legitimate points above about riser angles, so I trust that most people will be experienced enough to know whether this is a deal breaker for them.
Is there anything I don’t like? No. Especially not given what I’m about to say in the “Downhill Performance” section.
And to be clear, I have been on record for being against frame bindings for a long time. They’re heavy as hell, they’re not great to walk in, etc.
Conversely, I don’t mind the weight of the Shift at all (as someone who has been perfectly content with the weight of a Kingpin), I like walking uphill in the Shift, I don’t find them to be a pain in the ass to operate, and I personally have yet to experience any issues with the brakes.
I have skied these inbounds at Telluride in some pretty steep, consequential terrain, and I had no reservations about being in the Shift. I was skiing in my HEAD Raptor 140 boots with Zipfit liners (my current favorite inbounds setup), and the Shift wasn’t a limiting factor at all. In fact, when A/B/C-ed against Marker Jester and Tyrolia AAAttack alpine bindings, I could not detect a difference in performance. Might there be? Maybe. Could I notice any? No.
So to be able to go uphill in a binding that I like as much as a Kingpin, then go downhill on a binding that has the same DIN certification and same / similar power transfer as a good alpine binding … this binding is ticking all of the boxes — for me.
Bottom Line (For Now)
I am a very big fan of the SHIFT so far, and look forward to touring on it a whole lot more.