“Chin to Hell Brook to Heady Topper – bonus points for @g_wright.”
That was the first comment posted on my Instagram feed following an epic New England backcountry run. I was in the area to catch up with the Marker/Volkl crew and try out Marker’s new Lord binding. I had been hounding them to take me up Tuckerman Ravine, but 127 MPH winds and 14 inches of new snow put a stop to that. We “settled” for a mission to the top of Mt. Mansfield via Stowe’s backcountry access. Thankfully, all that new snow had been depositing into Hell Brook, one of New England’s premier backcountry tree runs and a great place to test the new binding.
The concept behind the Marker Lord is simple enough: an alpine binding that can be adjusted to fit AT soles in addition to traditional alpine soles. A binding requires quite a bit more toe height to accommodate an AT sole and currently, no other alpine-specific binding offers this adjustability. The question for most is, “Why would I need an alpine binding that works with an AT boot sole?” The answer comes to you when you’re hiking up an icy ridge via your favorite resort’s backcountry access gate. Once we were at the top of “The Chin” we got a taste of those same 120+ MPH winds that were hitting Mt. Washington. I was glad to have AT soles on my feet and when we started to make our way down Hell Brook, I was happy to have a traditional alpine binding to keep me locked in.
To adjust the toe height on the Lord you will first remove the pin just in front of the AFD (number 1, below) with an allen key, and flip a tab up and forward (number 2). Once the tab is up you can easily remove the toe piece (number 3), flip the tab back down and replace the toe. Slide the pin back into its position, tighten and you’re ready for an AT sole with an additional 8mm of toe height (number 4).
This new binding design is particularly relevant as manufacturers begin to focus on high performance AT boots. Many of these walk-mode enabled boots feature interchangeable or strictly AT soles which tend to be a thicker, rubberized version of traditional soles, thus the need for increased toe height. The upside is that they make walking significantly easier. The downside is a slight decrease in power transfer from the soft sole to the AFD pad on the binding, but seeing as how this setup is usually worn by somebody on the hunt for soft snow, it doesn’t make a huge difference. A lot of AT soles are also rockered for a more natural walking motion and once you’ve battled Mother Nature and all her elements while hiking on icy rocks in high winds, you’ll never want to go back to standard soles.
Plus there’s that whole long walk from the (free) parking lot and the après ski walk to the Alchemist for a Heady Topper, one of the greatest IPAs in all the land.
Keep an eye out for the new Marker Lord binding this fall in a shop near you. Or, subscribe to the magazine now and read all about it in the 2014 Buyer’s Guide, hitting mailboxes in late August of this year.