No matter how Zen a powder day may seem to you, it's still a race to the goods. Every second saved strapping in translates to more fresh lines, and if you strap in fast enough, you could pass the folks on the chair ahead of you. When taking the gondola, you could pass up to ten people if you're efficient with your strapping. Quick entry into your bindings out of the Jackson Hole tram will be the difference between riding in front of or behind eighty gapers.
Fresh tracks aren't the only reason to run speed-entry bindings. Generally speaking, they're easy to get in and out of (hence the "speed" bit), so if you're a beginner, you'll likely spend less time wrestling with your bindings and more time learning how to ride. The same goes for those…you know…with long legs and short arms, as they say.
Speed-entry bindings have come a long way, and while they may not be for everyone, there are moments when time is of the essence. At the Alpine Lab, we set up a test to find out exactly which bindings are the fastest out there. In our controlled setting, we adjusted each model to our boot and strapped in our back foot twenty-five times per binding, averaging the resulting times to find out how they all stacked up.
Whether or not you decide to switch over from your conventional bindings to one of these speed systems, the bottom line is, don't miss out on freshies because your buddies are fumbling with their straps and ratchets while you're ready to drop in to the Glory Bowl…get some for yourself. After all, there are no friends on a powder day. -Axis Media
#1. GNU Mutant
Alpine Lab Seal of Approval: Quick entry, best toe strap, ingenious heel strap operation, lightweight, easy setup.
Avg. Entry Time: 2.57 seconds
Rear entry is the definite winner when it comes to efficient entry. The Mutant shares some similarities with Flow's NXT FSE, but has some extra user-friendly characteristics of its own; most notably its autonomous heel strap. As the Mutant's highback reclines, an internal cam-lever pops open the bail on the heel strap, allowing more room to jam your foot into its rear. To "strap in," flip the highback's lock up, snap the heel strap closed, and you're on your way, with your heel strap's tension right where you set it.
Tight: Quick entry, best toe strap, ingenious heel strap operation, lightweight, and easy to set up. Flip open the heel strap on your front foot to ease tension on the lift.
Loose: No beer bottle opener. Old school strap-binding snobs will still scorn.
#2. Flow NXT FSE
Avg. Entry Time: 2.14 seconds
Quicker and easier to enter than any resort-town pro ho, the NXT FSE will get you there faster, and it's all from the rear…which may prove to be an exciting change. Flow's reclining highback design makes for the perfect parking spot for your foot, so slide it in there, lift the highback, lock it up, and go.
Tight: There's no faster binding out there. Easy entry and exit. You can't screw this system up.
Loose: While on the lift, your front foot is clamped in at full-on riding tension, which may cause fatigue. Not for the boarder on a budget.
#3. Ride Ill Eagle
Avg. Entry Time: 5.57 seconds
Extra parts require more time to operate, so Ride figured out a way around the ratcheting toe strap. Don't be scared, though; a conventional toe strap doesn't actually do much, anyway. After a few minutes of setting up, The Ill Eagle's wishbone toe strap gizmo holds your toe down, and the little fang there on the side of the binding keeps everything in place.
Tight: One of the fastest traditional front-entry bindings out there, the Ill Eagle's heel strap and wishbone toe strap are strong, yet comfy.
Loose: Of the speed-entry options available, these require the most effort setting up to fit your boot.
#4. K2 Auto Ever
Avg. Entry Time: 5.7 seconds
Despite times averaging twice as long as the quicker rear-entry bindings, K2's Auto Ever is no slouch, and is the fastest-operating "normal" binding out there. How does it work? A hidden cable links the toe strap to the heel strap ladder, so when you crank down the heel strap, the toe strap tightens as well. They're easy to set up, operate smoothly, fit like a glove, and are feather-light. There's no reason to be scared of the term "speed entry." The Auto Ever is a secret agent.
Tight: Arguably K2's best binding chassis, the Auto Ever's straps, highback, and footbed are all perfectly matched.
Loose: Since the heel ratchet is tightening both straps, two clicks really equals one. In other words, there is no independent toe and heel strap adjustment while buckling in.