The New Salomon S/LAB SHIFT MNC (Ep.3)

Today we are talking about the new Salomon & Atomic Shift MNC 13 binding, a product that already looks to be one of the most truly innovative products we’ve seen in years. And if our long-term tests are as positive as our initial impressions, the Shift represents a real solution to a problem that more and more skiers are having.

Jonathan Ellsworth and I talked to Salomon athletes, Cody Townsend and Chris Rubens (who both started pushing the concept of this binding years ago) as well as Benoit Sublet, the lead designer on the Shift project.

It’s a great conversation, and we hope you enjoy hearing more about this binding, what makes it unique, and why this was such a challenging and ambitious design process.

And for more info on the Shift’s on-snow performance, check out our review.

TOPICS & TIMES

  • Introductions — Cody Townsend, Chris Rubens, Sam Shaheen, and Ben Sublet (1:58)
  • What does this binding do, and what makes it different? (5:45)
  • Which boots work with this binding? (11:15)
  • “No compromise” safety (14:23)
  • How & when did the idea originate, and why was it controversial? (15:10)
  • How long has the current version of the binding been tested? (23:33)
  • The big breakthrough: carbon-infused plastic (27:09)
  • Downhill Performance: Salomon STH2 vs. S/LAB SHIFT (29:20)
  • What was the most difficult element of this binding to design? (34:23)
  • How the toe works (37:10)
  • How often and in what scenarios will Cody & Chris use this binding? (39:40)
  • Uphill performance (and why “touring steep is stupid”) (47:48)
  • Icing Issues? (52:08)
  • Durability & the question of consumers as Beta testers (55:30)
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46 Comments

  1. Kendall December 8, 2017 Reply

    Good info. Doesn’t the Radical 2.0 design provide elasticity? My personal opinion is the 2.0 skies much better than non-2.0 versions and seems like this would be the primary target market/benchmark for the Shift, so it would be great to see both elasticity and stack height comparisons of the two :)

    As you said, this game is about sacrificing the least and obviously Dynafit has set the high water mark for tourability, while the 2.0 provides just enough elasticity/feel/skiability. But I’m also not Cody or Sage…

    • Hi, Kendall – these are murky waters for sure, but the short answer is that the 2.0 doesn’t “provide elasticity.” The 2.0 toes do rotate on a disc platform, but that’s different than lateral elasticity. And 2.0’s don’t have the TUV certification for alpine bindings (no tech/pin binding does), except now for the Shift.

      • David February 17, 2018 Reply

        I’m really excited about these, after suffering a broken ankle and torn syndesmosis on a failed release on my Radical 2.0s. I caught a tip on a buried chunk of ice at pretty low speed, and just twisted the ankle around. Toes weren’t locked, and the release was only set at 8.5. The extra weight seems worth the piece of mind that I (hopefully) won’t do the same again.

  2. Blister Member
    asakusuma December 8, 2017 Reply

    Exciting stuff. Does the Shift MNC share a hole pattern with any other salomon or atomic binding?

  3. bigwavebay December 8, 2017 Reply

    perfect binding…nice story…but maybe salomon just bought the concept from these guys… http://www.bavarianalpinemanifest.com/de/products

    • pete December 8, 2017 Reply

      nope – they started the process 7 years ago.

  4. Chris December 8, 2017 Reply

    Can you use the Salomon S/Lab X Alp boots (or similar tec boots) in downhill mode or do you have to keep using the pins for downhill too?

    Thanks!

    • Hi, Chris – our podcast conversation covers boot compatibility – check the time stamps for the specific place. But no, the S/Lab X Alp does not work with this binding. And no, you don’t use the pins for downhill – Sam’s writeup and the podcast goes over this.

  5. pete December 8, 2017 Reply

    the really interesting comparison here is the shift vs the tecton. I really see both the radical and the kingpin bindings lagging behind or disappearing when compared to those two designs. For the weight conscious or out-on-a-leisurable-stroll crowd, neither the tecton or the shift is much of an option – they are simply too heavy and the added safety and ride quality is not worth the extra weight for those segments – whereas for the harder charging crowd this could (and should) revert to a battle between the tecton and the shift imo. Interesting times indeed! It is good to be a freerider now a days :)

  6. Boris December 8, 2017 Reply

    Is the mount pattern wide enough to mount those bindings safely on the Volkl V Werks series ?

  7. Jacob December 8, 2017 Reply

    Hey Jonathan and Sam,
    Does the mechanism in the toe of this binding require you to take your ski off in the transition from walk to ski mode?
    “To transition back to ski mode, you push the toe block forward (which folds the wings so the pins are out of the way) and you flip the brake lever down — then you step in like a traditional alpine binding.”
    Just wondering if there is a way to rip skins and then keep you toe in the same place to get the wings to wrap around and push the heal in.
    This is something that I’ve seen Paul Forward write about doing before and it seems like that could be a compromise for someone like Greg Hill if he had any input on the development.
    Great podcast this week and cant wait to hear more about this binding as you guys get some more time on it.
    Jacob
    PS lets ski A-Bay again in the spring!

    • Sam Shaheen Author
      Sam Shaheen December 10, 2017 Reply

      Hey Jacob,

      Yep, you do have to take the ski off to transition both from walk to ski and from ski to walk. Hope to see you again at the Basin!

  8. Graeme Johansen December 8, 2017 Reply

    Very excited to see this in person and I think it will be my do it all binding for skiing in Whistler (current have 3 pairs of skis: STH2 916, Guardians and Dynafit Radical ST).

    The one thing I have a bit of trouble believing is the comparison with STH2. I believe the Shift will ski very well, but the STH2 916 weighs almost twice as much (and metal heel). I just have trouble believing something almost twice as light can ski as well.

    • I find it hard to believe, too. But Sam is currently skiing on the Shift for the 3rd day in a row, and he’s growing more impressed. And Cody was pretty adamant. I’m looking forward to checking out for myself soon…

  9. Blister Member
    tjaard December 9, 2017 Reply

    In climbing mode, do the toe pins have a release function(for avalanche safety)?

    I know some tech binding do and some don’t, but haven seen any mention of it with these.

    • Sam Shaheen Author
      Sam Shaheen December 10, 2017 Reply

      Nope, the toe is fully locked out in tour mode. Just like a traditional pin toe.

  10. Blister Member
    tjaard December 9, 2017 Reply

    And of course, the big question, how does it compare to a Tecton?

  11. Blister Member
    Joseph December 9, 2017 Reply

    What will be the forward/rearward adjustable range for compatibility with different BSLs w/out remounting? Folks considering switching between alpine and touring boots using the same rig (or sharing a rig w/ friends or family?) will need to know that. Sorry if I missed this somewhere in the very well done write-up or podcast.

    Really cool for you guys to have such an in-depth treatment of this new product so soon after it is announced. Thanks as always!

    • Sam Shaheen Author
      Sam Shaheen December 11, 2017 Reply

      Hey Joseph, the Shift has 30 mm of adjustment range according to Salomon.

  12. Doug December 9, 2017 Reply

    Hey Jonathan & Sam,

    What do you mean by the “shark-nose” for dynafit boots? I just bought a pair of Vulcan’s, will they work in the Shift?

    • Sam Shaheen Author
      Sam Shaheen December 10, 2017 Reply

      Hey Doug, The sharknose boots essentially don’t have a toe lug. Any so-called “normed” boots will work with the Shift. That is, any boots with a full toe and heel lug that fit either of the ISO standards for ski boots (13992 for touring and 9462 for alpine). As far as I know, the Vulcan is ISO 13992 and should work with the Shift.

  13. Blister Member
    Lukas December 11, 2017 Reply

    Looks like something I need! :-)

    Thank you guys for staying on top of things and investigating. Most interesting! Love to listen to all the podcasts while walking the dog.

    Currently, I spend the most time on my Bibby Tour with Marker King Pin (skiing lift accessed pow). However, for all those days I’m using the lift, I could switch to a Blister Pro with Salomon Shift.

  14. Peter S December 14, 2017 Reply

    Hi Guys,
    It will be really interesting to directly compare the Shift with the Tecton.
    Hope you will find a way to do it.

  15. kevin December 14, 2017 Reply

    is it just the way im seeing it, or does the binding also put the boot sole higher off the ski deck when in downhill mode?

    • Blister Member
      tjaard December 14, 2017 Reply

      Higher than what? When skiing it functions like a normal alpine binding. Now some bindings have a lower stand height than others, but this doesn’t look particularly high. Certainly lower than a frame binding.

  16. Blister Member
    tjaard December 14, 2017 Reply

    If I understand correctly, they had two goals with developing this binding:

    Compared to “traditional” tech bindings, they wanted to:

    1: Improve skiing performance. Seems like they achieved that.

    2: Improve safety, here it seems it comes up short of what would (theoretically)be possible:

    No toe release in skinning mode. Hazard both for leg safety in case of a fall, but of course also in case of an avalanche.

    Release in skiing mode is likely not reliable with AT boots:
    Jeff Campbell, PhD, performed tests on binding release with AT boots (https://digital.lib.washington.edu/researchworks/handle/1773/38177), and found that:

    – with full rubber AT soles, release was poor, especially with sliding AFD’s (contrary to what we, and binding makers, expect).

    – assuming the toe is the same as the Warden/Guardian, toe wings with rollers covering tech fittings in the boots reduce proper release function.

    • pete December 19, 2017 Reply

      thanks man – i have been looking forever to find that video again, but have not been able to – so cheers for posting the link :)

    • Author
      Sam Shaheen December 20, 2017 Reply

      Hi, Tjaard

      I think one of the most important takeaways from Campbell’s work is that it highlights shortcomings in the testing standards that we, as consumers, rely on. Campbell isn’t trying to determine the safest boot/binding combo — all of his results are blinded. He’s focused on features of bindings and boots that are and aren’t compatible.

      This excerpt (on pg 54, Campbell) shows that the spirit of the test is more academic than practical: “Some alpine ski bindings did not have the ability or range to accommodate properly the AFD height of each AT boot, but the boots were tested if it was possible to place the boot into the bindings.”

      We have a few qualms with (current) standardized tests of release capability, and don’t think any of the testing standards provide a precise analog to real life skiing situations because of the linear and slow nature of the tests. When testing using ASTM F504-05, a release test linearly ramps up the torque until the binding releases. This process can easily take several seconds. How many times when you fall skiing do you have a fall where you slowly exert more and more force on your binding over several seconds? Never. Skiing falls are dynamic, chaotic, and difficult (if not impossible) to replicate in a controlled manner.

      Evidence for this testing shortcoming can be seen in the binding damage reported by Campbell. In his testing, every single mechanical AFD was damaged. In reality, mechanical AFD’s do break, but not nearly at the rate they fail in testing.

      It is incredibly important to have testing standards for safety release, but these standards are not the final say in safety. No test can accurately replicate on-snow falls. Tests have to be controlled so that accurate, un-muddled conclusions can be drawn. However, real life falls are the exact opposite — they are uncontrolled and chaotic. Testing standards need to be understood and respected, but they don’t provide gospel truth.

      That said, here are my responses to your specific concerns with the Shift:

      The Shift has a mechanical AFD, which for me personally, is a more logically sound engineering solution than a fixed AFD. In the mechanical AFD, the friction is determined by the binding design, something the design engineers have control over. A fixed AFD relies on the coefficient of friction between the boot sole and the teflon. This varies based on the boot sole which cannot be designed for. That said, it’s impossible to argue with Campbell’s results. The ISO standards (used by TUV) use a different version of the preload test than the ASTM standard that Campbell used which is the cause for the disparity. Which test is more representative of real world falls? Hard to say.

      Toe wings and rollers interacting with tech inserts is a serious issue, especially due to the large variation in tech inserts on the market. The rollers on the Shift, interact rather high on the toe lug of the boots which hopefully minimizes this issue. The ridges and valleys of the Dynafit Quick-Step-in inserts on my Maestrale RS’s lie mostly out of roller contact (though there is some interaction with the groove and the roller).

      There is no defined release in walk mode, which is a bummer. However, there are two locking positions of the walk mode providing different levels of retention. If you’re worried about avalanches, clicking into the first, rather than the second, lock position will give you an easier release. Obviously this isn’t tested and measured, but anecdotally, there is definitely less hold in this first lock position. (Use that info at your own risk.)

  17. Dylan December 20, 2017 Reply

    Hey Guys,
    Fantastic write up. I’m really excited about this product. I recently purchased a pair of Atomic Hawx Ultra XTD 130s (pretty damn amazing boot I’ll say, good write up on that as well). Will this boot be compatible with the Shift binding?
    Thanks as always.

  18. Blister Member
    tjaard December 22, 2017 Reply

    Hi Sam,

    Thanks for your comments.

    I agree with your first paragraph, that Campbell’s work identies design features that he has shown to correlate to better/worse release performance.
    In light of that, it was unfortunate to see that this new binding, which had an explicit goal of offering safer release, doesn’t incorporate any of those features. (I understand the reason, they have been in development for a long time, Campbell’s paper was only published last year), but the fact remains, for consumers.

    If I understand you correctly, you are saying that testing circumstances are not very close to real life scenarios. I agree. However, I believe, that passing the testing likely represents a lower standard than real life scenarios, so I would at a minimum, want proper function in testing.

    Re: AFDs:
    In the ISO certification- and shop-tests, without forward pressure, the sliding AFDs work better, which is why they are used. My gut feeling is that the forward pressure twisting release is a more realistic scenario than an unweighted twist.
    I think what was happening in the lab tests was that, with forward pressure on the boot, the rubber soles were sticking to the sliding AFD, which has a limited range of motion. Once it reaches its end of movement there is a ‘catch’ as the boot now has to release from the AFD.

    • Blister Member
      tjaard December 22, 2017 Reply

      One more AFD point. Perhaps something like the roller track AFD that Tyrolia uses on some bindings would work well, since as you point out, it allows the designer to lateral resistance, but without a sliding AFD’s limited range and “gap blocking”.

  19. Sasha December 29, 2017 Reply

    Hi guys. Are dynafit Vulcans compatible with shift binding?

  20. adc January 1, 2018 Reply

    If I want a ski that’s 1800-2000g, like a black crows freebird, would the Shift be better than the Radical 2.0? Is the skiing and safety worth the weight?

    • Sam Shaheen Author
      Sam Shaheen January 8, 2018 Reply

      Hey adc, that’s a tough question to answer. It really depends on how you want to use your setup. If you want this setup to be a 50/50 resort/touring setup, then I think the Shift is a much better option than the 2.0. But the more touring you plan to do, they more you should consider the weight savings of a traditional pin binding.

  21. Nick January 10, 2018 Reply

    Sam,
    Did you get any play in the toe when in downhill mode using the Masterale RS with Dynafit Quick Step inserts? Is this toe different than the Warden? I was told by a Salomon rep that the Dynafit Quick Step inserts are not compatible with the Warden as the extra little metal piece interferes with the rollers in the toe.

    • Sam Shaheen Author
      Sam Shaheen January 15, 2018 Reply

      Hey Nick,

      The Shift toe is definitely distinct from the Warden. The small metal piece in the Quick Step insert does interact with the toe roller, though just barely. I would estimate that there is less than 0.5 mm overlap in the vertical direction between the roller and the ridge in the insert. This overlap also occurs in the chamfer of the roller. I’m not convinced that there would be any real interaction between the Quick Step ridge and the roller in an actual release. In any case, there is no play in the toe as the rollers don’t rest on that ridge when you’re stepped in. In a release though, the binding will have to clear the ridge (if your boot releases left, the right ridge will have to clear and vice versa).

      Salomon claims the binding is certified for use with boots using Quick Step inserts.

      I hope that answers your question!
      Sam

  22. Geoff January 30, 2018 Reply

    Any chance that the Shift will work with NTN Tele boots in downhill mode? ie Will the AFD act as a shim under the bellow preventing sole-flex/shortening.

    Reason for asking is this could be the perfect answer for a 1-ski (QK’ed for Shift & Outlaw NTN); 1 boot quiver for combining Tele, alpine & side-country AT when resort skiing (I have a dedicated AT rig for back-country adventures), due to weight/luggage restrictions flying to the Alps

  23. denny March 5, 2018 Reply

    will the toe release locked in tour mode like the fritschi tecton, in an emergency, or is it locked like all other tech bindings and not release

    • Sam Shaheen Author
      Sam Shaheen March 15, 2018 Reply

      The toe is locked when in tour mode, that is to say, it doesn’t have a defined release value. There are two different lock lever positions you can use, each giving a different level of retention. With the lever in the first position, the binding will definitely release in tour mode (I don’t recommend this position as the binding comes off quite easily). In the second position, the toe is locked out very similar to other tech bindings in tour mode.

  24. Zeses June 25, 2018 Reply

    Great review guys, how does the Salomon S/LAB SHIFT MNC binding compare to the Fritschi Tecton 12 ?

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