You Could Hear a (King) Pin Drop – Marker Kingpin
[UPDATE: In Stock! Click here to visit the Marker page on evo.com.]
By Greg Louie, Seattle, WA: Binding maker Marker dropped a bomb on the ski touring world on September 1, 2014. The existence of a Marker tech binding, rumored for months after a chance sighting on the Stubai Glacier in June, became official when news reports of the new Kingpin binding hit the web after the official unveiling in Chile. Tech (binding) geeks were initially caught with their jaws agape, then a maelstrom of forum comments hit the fan.
What’s the big deal? For years, hard charging backcountry skiers have been asking for a touring binding that’s sturdy enough to ski confidently with the throttle wide open while remaining light enough to do big vertical and multi-day touring on. At evo, this has been a consistent request over the past few years, and we know all too well the dangers of going too light as well as the pain of going too heavy. There’s been some remarkable progress in the past couple of years, and bindings like the Dynafit Beast 16 and 14, the Fritschi Vipec, and G3 ION may well fill that niche for many skiers, but the Marker Kingpin is a whole new animal.
While the above-mentioned bindings all make use of the existing toe and heel fittings found in tech-compatible boots, the Marker goes in a different direction, combining a somewhat conventional tech toepiece with what looks something like an alpine binding heel. Lateral release still initiates at the heel, but instead of tech pins, the binding heel cup spans a wider area and sports smooth rollers at the corners. Vertical or “upward” release at the heel is regulated by an alpine-style spring loaded piston similar to a Tour or Squire heel, with a claimed elasticity of 16mm at the heel (compare this to virtually none with a conventional tech bindings.
The heelpiece moves rearward rather than rotating into tour mode, actuated by an alloy lever attached to a thin carbon band ( this can be done without removing your ski and the lever is much easier to reach than the Duke or Baron lever). Pole accessible climbing aids give you a choice of flat, medium or high climbing levels, and a roller bearing AFD provides consistent lateral release and return to center performance.
Looking more closely, the heel uses no tech pins but instead a super wide, wrap-around heel with beefy looking rollers at the corners – this feature alone should generate a much more positive heel connection than tech users have been accustomed to in the past and testers have commented on the Kingpin’s “rock solid” feel. All Kingpins will be sold with a brake and an optional “brakeless” heel pad/AFD will need to be purchased to go brakeless.
The Kingpin tech toes get some extra love too. Look carefully and you’ll see three sets of springs rather than the conventional two sets holding the toe arms. Simple math implies this will generate 50% more “holding” power in the toe when it’s in ski mode, and in fact word among early users indicates that you can skin with reasonable confidence in softer snow (be careful on kickturns) with the toes unlocked – this will potentially be VERY useful in conditions with sketchy snow stability. Aside from that, the Kingpin toe operates much like other tech toepieces, with no rotational function and a nicely designed locking lever. Marker will have several widths of ski crampons available that slide into place in a slot at the rear of the toepiece base.
The other huge news is that the Marker Kingpin is the first tech binding to pass the TÜV SÜD (Technische Űberwachungs Verein, a testing and standards organization) testing for ISO/DIN 13992, ISO/DIN 9465, and ISO/DIN 11087. These standards define how frame AT bindings and alpine ski bindings must perform, so successfully living up to them means that the elasticity and repeatability of release in the Kingpin is on a par with them. Sweet and double sweet, and potentially good news for those who’ve traditionally had difficulty staying in conventional tech bindings.
Quality seems first-rate, and Marker notes that the anodized gold parts are cast by DMM (remember those beautiful minimalist carabiners hanging from your rock climbing rack?) of Wales. The bindings are said to be compatible with all ISO 9523 tech soles, and Marker is providing a horseshoe attachment to be used with shortened soles like the Dynafit TLT6 and Scarpa Alien.
Here are some projected numbers: Shop all Marker.
- Weight: 730 grams with brake, 650 grams without
- DIN range: 5-10 or 6-13
- MSRP: $599 (10 DIN) and $649 (13 DIN)
- Adjustment range: 25 mm
- Crampon widths: 90 mm, 105mm, 120mm
A tech binding that’s tough enough to ski hard day-in and day-out and weighs under 700 grams? Has the Marker Kingpin truly attained ski-touring Nirvana? That remains to be seen, but early reports from pros who’ve been on the Kingpin are super positive. What’s next, drinking full-bodied IPA out of the Holy Grail? Heady thoughts indeed and my mouth is watering already . . . stay tuned.