Ski Reviews

2019 Salomon S/Lab Shift AT Ski Binding Review

2019 Salomon S/Lab Shift AT Ski Binding Review: Welcome to the Future // Ski Reviews

It's here! The long awaited Salomon S/Lab Shift AT binding has been announced and we've been lucky enough to get our hands on a few pairs for some early testing. If you're unfamiliar with the Shift binding it essentially marks a new option for alpine touring enthusiasts. Cody Townsend, one of Salomon's longest running athletes and a skier known for his powerful big mountain skiing went to the Salomon R&D department and said to them, "If you can make a pin binding that tours like a pin binding, but skis like a normal binding, that's the holy grail. That's the dream." And guess what? They did exactly that.

The S/Lab Shift AT bindings blend the uphill efficiency of a tech fit, pin binding with the downhill performance of an alpine binding. How do they do it? The S/Lab Shift is essentially two bindings in one. Both the toe piece and heel piece essentially transform from a touring binding to an alpine binding, and do so quickly and easily at that. The toe of the binding uses a level that allows you to switch between alpine and touring. When you're in alpine mode the toe piece is essentially further back on the ski. The toe wings are inspired by the STH2 and the S/Lab Shift matches its impressive elastic travel figures in the toe coming in at a whopping 47 mm. As the toe piece is positioned further back it allows you to click in to the alpine style heel piece and you're then fully protected with a safe, DIN certified, multi-norm compatible binding. It's designed to give you the same power transfer as a full on alpine binding.

For touring you simply flip a lever in the toe piece and it moves the toe piece up the ski and exposes pin tech fittings. The whole system works really well. You flip another lever on the heel piece, push another little lever to open the pins, secure yourself in the toe piece, step down onto the heel piece and it fully locks the brake in an upright position. You're then ready to go touring! It's a very impressive design and marks a significant change in the available bindings for AT skiers. The long running demand has been a binding that tours well, but doesn't compromise downhill performance. We are, perhaps, finally there.

We've had quite a few days on the S/Lab Shift binding so far and we've skied it on lift service alpine days as well as some touring excursions. It really does change the way you think about and can ski an AT binding. In fact, even calling it an AT binding doesn't seem fair. It's really an alpine binding with touring capabilities. There's never been anything before quite like it and we think that's the best way to describe it.

Our first day on the S/Lab Shift was spent skiing lift service runs at Stowe Mountain Resort. It's somewhat nerve-wracking skiing a brand new binding, especially one that's so different than anything we've been on before. I think the natural response to Salomon saying it skis like an alpine binding is something like, "yeah, okay, I'll see for myself." Admittedly that most accurately describes our mind set before our first run. We really didn't know what to expect. I was hesitant on it at first, but it only took about 5-10 turns before I realized the hype is true. It really does feel like an alpine binding. It feels solid, doesn't feel like it's going to prerelease, and transfers power from your boot to the ski really efficiently. It's a confidence inspiring binding once you learn to trust it, and you can take it from us that you really can trust it.

As a touring binding it's lighter than a frame binding and feels very efficient uphill. It's not as light as most tech fit pin bindings, but they can't even come close to matching the downhill performance and safety of the S/Lab Shift. It's really easy to switch the binding from alpine mode to touring mode too. It does require the use of your hands, and some people have brought up concerns that it might be challenging or annoying on really cold days, but we did some touring on a -15 degree day in Northern Vermont with strong winds and blowing snow. While we did have to take our mittens off to adjust the binding, it didn't stick, wasn't stiff from the cold, and was quick and easy to perform.

Let's compare it directly to both a tech fit pin system and a frame style AT binding. The big difference between the S/Lab Shift and a traditional tech fit binding is downhill performance and safety, with safety being a big one in our mind. It has consistent release, just like a Salomon alpine binding, which really allows you to ski confidently and aggressively. Marcus, one of our testers on the S/Lab Shift, really thought it changed the way he skied an AT binding. Marcus spends a lot of time on tech fit bindings, including the Marker Kingpin which is an obvious comparison, and he feels the S/Lab Shift drastically outperforms them and gives you a sense of confidence that's just not there on other AT bindings. The Marker Kingpin is close, but even that binding doesn't match the feel of the S/Lab Shift when you're descending. On the Kingpin, although it's safer than most tech fit bindings, you're still connected via pins when you're skiing down. Being able to click into a full DIN certified alpine binding is a pretty amazing accomplishment for a binding this light.


Which brings us to the comparison to a frame touring binding. There are a couple key differences here: weight and flex. The S/Lab Shift is much lighter than comparable frame bindings. The S/Lab Shift comes in at 1,700 g per pair while the Guardian 13 is 2,920 g, the Baron is 2,750 g, and even the lighter F12 Tour is 2,204 g. For ascending that's obviously hugely important. A pin system binding is also just smoother and more efficient going uphill. Essentially you'll get to the top a lot quicker and easier on the S/Lab Shift compared to any frame binding, which gives you more energy for ripping it up on the way back down. The other major difference is flex. A frame binding can hinder the natural flex of a ski, especially right underfoot. A lot of people describe it as a dead spot under foot. It does change the way a ski feels and the S/Lab Shift really lets you get the full performance out of a ski, like a dedicated alpine binding would. The other benefit to the S/Lab Shift compared to a frame binding is stand height. A frame binding really lifts you off the ski, which again changes the overall feel. On the S/Lab Shift you're sitting nice and close to the ski, which translates to a great connection to the snow and a very balanced feel.

So, who's the S/Lab Shift binding intended for? Well, to be honest, we think it's going to be a great option for a lot of different skiers. In fact, it probably hits a wider range of skiers than any AT binding ever has. Perhaps the most obvious group of skiers is those that really demand the performance and safety of a downhill binding on the way down. These skiers have basically been forced to ski frame touring bindings, or (say it ain't so) alpine trekkers. Some found the Kingpin had the performance they were after, but others still really were demanding the feel of a downhill binding. If you're touring in order to hit cliffs, backcountry jumps, fly down open faces at high speeds, or other types of skiing that demand efficient power transfer and safety out of a binding, you likely know what I mean. Those Cody Townsend types. On the other hand, remember that we think this is best described as an alpine binding with touring capabilities. Because of that we think it's a great choice for skiers that don't tour very often. You can literally have one pair of skis that you can ski both at the resort and in the backcountry. As long as you have a binding with tech fittings, you're good to go. The S/Lab Shift is multi-norm compatible, so will even accept different style boot soles.

2019 Salomon S/Lab Shift AT Ski Binding Review: Welcome to the Future : Full Width Action Shot2019 Salomon S/Lab Shift AT Ski Binding Review: Welcome to the Future : Binding Closeup2019 Salomon S/Lab Shift AT Ski Binding Review: Welcome to the Future : Half Action Shot

Even skiers who have been committed to tech fit bindings may decide to make a switch to the S/Lab Shift for that extra downhill performance. Why? Because now they're not sacrificing nearly as much weight as they were before. The S/Lab Shift is less than 200 g heavier than the Kingpin 13, and about 500 g heavier than the Dynafit Rotation 10. That's really not that much, so we wouldn't be surprised if some skiers who swore by full on tech fit setups make a switch to the S/Lab Shift.

Whatever type of skier you are you can benefit from this binding. It really does mark a change in the options for AT bindings. It hits a broad range of skiers, has excellent performance both on the uphills and downhills, and we are genuinely impressed. We're going to keep skiing it throughout the season, so if anything changes in our opinion we will certainly let you know, but so far so good on the new S/Lab Shift and there's already buzz around the office about what skis we want to put them on and how many of us are going to pick up a pair of our own.

"The Shift allows people to climb and ski at their top level in the backcountry with no compromises."

-Greg Hill


2019 Salomon S/Lab Shift AT Ski Binding Review: Welcome to the Future : Pre Order Now


Written by Jeff Neagle on 01/11/18

42 thoughts on “2019 Salomon S/Lab Shift AT Ski Binding Review

  1. Great stuff guys, awesome review! Any comment on the mounting hole pattern compared to the Guardian? Getting a new pair of QST 118s this season and was gonna throw a Guardian on there to bridge the time until the Shift will be available. Thanks!

    1. Hi Albin!

      That's a good question! One of my coworkers has the QST 106 with the S/Lab Shift in his car (I don't think he wants to give them back...) and he's out of the office today. When he's in I'll steal the skis back and see if I can do a hole comparison for you. My instincts are you'll be able to do both, but I want to make sure the holes aren't too close.

      SE

      1. Thanks for the quick reply, that'd be absolutely amazing! From the photos/videos I'd also say it should be ok, but better to be sure...

  2. Hello,
    Great review.
    I was thinking of buying touring skis on end of season sale and mounting them with the shift bindings next fall.
    Do these bindings work with the scott super guide carbon gtx boots?
    Is it possible to pre order the bindings from you ?
    What touring ski would you recommend that would works well with the shift bindings and scott boots? I was thinking of an all around touring ski around 95mm .
    Thanks,
    Gadi

    1. Hi Gadi,

      Yeah that would be a good setup! That boot isn't a DIN certified sole, but it should work in the Shift. Marcus, one of our testers, uses a relatively similar boot from Dalbello. Do you want to stick with a lightweight ski to complete a relatively lightweight setup? The Blizzard Zero G 95 comes to mind, although you could go with a slightly heavier ski if you wanted more downhill performance. We talked about it the other day; a Salomon QST 99 with a Shift would be a super versatile ski and binding combination.

      SE

      1. Hi again Gadi!

        I forgot to mention that we can pre-sell you a pair over the phone if you'd like to give us a call!

        SE

  3. I would like to pre-purchase this binding...how do I do that ?? and how much would i have to put down??

  4. I was wondering now I am a short guy 5'4" and 108 pounds will the din be low enough so it will stil release in time?

    1. Hi Romeo!

      What's your boot sole length and level of aggressiveness (1, 2, 3, 3+). Those are both factors in determining DIN setting along with the height and weight you've listed. My guess is that you're going to be at the low end of the 6-13 DIN range, but let me know if you have those other two pieces of information and I'll double check for you.

      SE

    1. Hi Reima!

      I would expect you'll be able to get your hands on a set of Shift bindings sometime in August. We don't yet have them in stock here in the States.

      SE

  5. In the video, there is a comment made about being able to use two boots in the same binding (locations.) That only works if the distance between the pins and the heel piece and the toe piece work for each of the boots, AT and Alpine, at the given location of mountings. My view it my point is a safety issue and the comment in the video should be edited out or clarified. Have an excellent afternoon.

    - Craig

    1. Hi Craig!

      Yes, your boots would have to have the same BSL, etc. Pretty unlikely that someone would be able to easily switch boots that quickly, but we wanted to point out that the Shift binding does work with both AT and alpine style boots. You cannot tour in it within tech fittings, but you can ski it as a resort binding in an alpine boot.

      We'll throw a little note in there when we can!

      SE

  6. Hello,
    Looking to find out the bolt pattern of the heel and toe. Specifically if it will mount on a Volkl BMT 109 in its reinforced binding area.

    1. Hi Nick!

      The easiest way for me to describe the bolt pattern is that it's much more like a traditional alpine binding than most other touring bindings. I just put a pair of QST 106 with a Shift mounted to a 315 mm BSL next to a BMT and there was at least room for 2-3 sizes up in boots. As long as you don't have a huge BSL, you should be just fine!

      SE

    1. Hi Sean!

      Stand height is somewhat dependent on what boot soles you have. Because the toe uses an adjustable AFD it actually ranged from 28 to 20 mm. If you're in an alpine boot, 28 mm, a touring sole boot, 20 mm. Most people use some kind of rockered sole these days, so average stand height on the Shift comes out to around 25 mm. The heel is 29 mm.

      Hope that helps!

      SE

  7. Hello, can you advice how to adjust afd on shift bindings for the boot with alpine sole? I read latest Salomon manual, but I do not understand it correctly.

    1. Hi Vitaly,

      To put it simply, the AFD should be at its highest setting for an alpine sole boot. That said, if you're unfamiliar with how to check for correct AFD height, you should most certainly see a certified ski tech about it. The wrong AFD height will result in improper release.

      SE

      1. Thank you for answer. I am familiar with afd adjustment, but with shift it is a little diferrent. First i shoud rise afd to maximum 28mm height. Then i should click in boot and lower afd to get 0.5mm gap. Is it correct?

        1. Hi Vitaly!

          If you're familiar with AFD adjustment and are a certified binding technician, you shouldn't have a problem with it at all. Pretty much the same as any binding with an adjustable AFD. It sounds like you know what you're doing, but for liability reasons I cannot tell you that it's okay for you to adjust your own bindings. I hope you understand.

          SE

    1. Hi Max!
      If you're spending enough time in the backcountry, I'd say yes. They are a lot more "confidence inspiring" in terms of downhill performance than anything else on the market. They're a bit heavier, but can also be used as your alpine binding, so there's a slight uphill sacrifice over the minimalist toe piece of the Kingpin. Hope that helps!
      SE

  8. I am considering having these installed on the QST 106 188cm skis. What boot would be ideal? I plan to do more alpine skiing, but will likely go out of bounds a lot more with this setup. I don't care to have stiff boots -- I understand boots are a lot softer, these days. I am currently using Technica boots that somehow have lasted 22 years, but are crumbling.

    1. Hi Timothy!

      If I were you, I would get a hybrid alpine/AT boot. Since you're spending a fair amount of time at the resort, you want to retain good alpine performance, while still having the ability to get into the backcountry and tour. The Tecnica Cochise is a popular one, or the Nordica Strider, or if you like 3-piece boots (cabrio-design) you could go with something like the Dalbello Lupo. There are others too, but those all come to mind as options.

      How much do you weigh? Probably don't want to go with a 130-flex boot, but maybe close depending on your weight.

      Hope that helps!

      SE

    1. Hi David!
      Looks like Salomon is coming out with a Shift-specific crampon for this year. We haven't heard much about it yet. If/when we do, we'll circle back to this topic. There is a crampon width option on the binding's page, so it looks like it's a yes. Talk soon!
      SE

  9. Your review was super useful to me before I bought the Shift bindings (thanks!), apart from you forgot to mention one pretty major thing... which is that the lowest DIN of 6 is not necessarily going to work for lightweight skiers, particularly if they have large-ish boot sole lengths. I am a 125 lb, 5ft 6, woman with a boot sole length of 294 mm. I guess an intermediate-advanced skier. Therefore, my ideal DIN is 5. This was only realised once I had bough the bindings and a ski tech had mounted them on my skis, so I am now unsure what to do! One option is for me to buy a slightly smaller pair of boots to get in into the DIN 6 category - my current boots are about 1/2 size too big perhaps, but that is them spending yet MORE money in addition to these expensive bindings! Another slightly smaller women, who is over 50, who also had these bindings mounted cannot possibly use them as she requires a DIN of 3.5/4! I've not found a single review online that discusses this issue... And nor do Salomon highlight this issue on their website (other than through stating the DIN range in small letters). What is your take on this?

    1. Hi Ali!

      First, I wouldn't be surprised if we see a Shift binding with a lower DIN range sometime in the future. 6-13 isn't too uncommon for a DIN range. Some bindings that go up to 13 start a little lower, some don't.

      Are you a type II skier? As a type III it looks like you'd be within the Shift's DIN range. Also, your BSL is VERY close to the cutoff for the next size range, which would bump your DIN up again. So, I can't really tell you that you'd be okay at a 6 DIN because of safety/legality issues, but I also wouldn't be surprised if that DIN worked just fine for you. Something you could consider doing is torque testing the bindings to see the difference in nM for release between the 5 and 6 DIN setting. You can, of course, set your own DIN to whatever you want, so if you're comfortable with slightly tighter release settings, that's an option. I would, however, recommend taking a look at the DIN chart with a certified tech to see how close you are to the cutoffs for different ranges and then making a decision from there.

      Let me know if you have any other questions! Hopefully we can find a solution that doesn't require you to spend more money.

      SE

  10. Hi - I've been unable to confirm, even on the Salomon site, what width brakes this comes with. From retail sites or blogs, I see mention of 90 and 100, assume a 110. And I've heard the brakes run very large, so the alpine practice of going 5 mm or more above the ski width may mean problems skinning in tracks. So anything below 90?

    1. Hi Stephen!

      The Shift has 90, 100, 110, and 120 options for brake width. That said, it's of course limited to availability, and the Shift is currently in really high demand, so there may be a limit to options available right now, whether it's from us or anyone else.

      The brakes do run a little bit big, but not so much that you really need to make significant changes to what you would typically do.

      Hope that helps!

      SE

  11. Hi

    Great info. I noticed that there are two touring settings. Somewhere I read that one retains the release capability as you tour and the other doesn't. Is this true, and which one is which?

    Thanks

    1. Hi Tom,

      There is only one touring mode for the Shift. There is a climbing bar that you use for steeper slopes, but once you're in the Pin touring mode, you're in the Pin touring mode. They don't release like an alpine binding when touring.

      SE

  12. Hey Jeff,

    I really enjoyed reading your great review and, even more so, the discussion in the comments.

    I have been doing quite a bit of research on the Switch, because it seems like they designed for me personally...an avid alpine skier who sometimes tells his friends that he goes into the backcountry. I have come across 2 concerns and would like to get your input on them.

    1. The brake engaging inadvertently and often during climbing.

    2. During alpine skiing, the heel releasing early.

    Also, to your knowledge, is Salomon taking about the next iteration of the binding yet? (read: should I hold off on being an early adopted and wait til next seasons comes out with some of the bugs worked out?)

    Lastly...Any ski and boot mating that you think would work awesome?

    Thanks for your objectivity, loved reading your stuff. Can't wait to get out there and start talking about the backcountry like I'm good at it.

    1. Hi Reed!

      We've heard those concerns too, but haven't had any major issues with the Shift first-hand.

      The issue with the brake has to do with the locking mechanism. If you don't get it to fully lock, that can happen. When you're bindings are snowy or icy you need to be extra careful that it's fully locking. Touring bindings like this have a lot of moving pieces, so you need to take extra care that everything is setup properly, like ensuring the brake is locked.

      The skiers who we've heard of having issues with the heel releasing are generally super aggressive skiers who arguably need a higher DIN range than the current Shift provides anyways. We have a lot of skiers on our staff using Shifts this season. They (we) are all aware of the issues people are talking about, but none of us have experienced any major problems, especially not consistently.

      Boots are, as usual, somewhat personal preference. The key with the Shift, obviously, is to get a DIN certified boot that also has tech fittings. That narrows it down a bit, but there are lots of good options out there.

      Hope that helps. Let me know if you have any other questions!

      Jeff

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