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Friday, July 13, 2012
Updated: August 17, 2:54 AM ET
A binding for going up and down


A few years ago, I bumped into Cody Townsend, a Salomon big-mountain athlete, in the back shop of Porter's Sports, a ski shop in Tahoe City, Calif. We were both getting some skis mounted and we got to chatting about bindings. I remember him telling me that Salomon was in the early stages of development of their alpine touring binding. "It's going to be sick," he said.

Three seasons came and went and I heard little and saw less of this elusive touring binding. Finally, last season, we got a glimpse of it. Salomon's Guardian 16 binding and the Tracker 16 from sister company Atomic were seen in magazine photos, web episodes, and they made their official debut to retail buyers at the SIA tradeshow in Denver, Colo., last January. Both bindings will hit store shelves this fall.

The new Atomic Tracker 16 and Salomon Guardian 16.

The Guardian and Tracker join a growing number of burly, high-DIN touring bindings that are made primarily for downhill performance but with hiking capabilities.

But here's where they set themselves apart from the competition: At 26 millimeters, the Guardian and Tracker boast the lowest in its class stack height, meaning you'll be closer to the ski, which will improve responsiveness with wider skis. An innovative system for switching from ski to hike mode allows you to make the switch with your skis on and without bending over. There's a heel riser for climbing and a metal-on-metal pivot for added durability.

"We involved our freeride team athletes and mountain professionals in the development of the Guardian right from the beginning because they're the ones out in the mountains every day relying on their equipment to perform," says Adam Ruscitto, Salomon North America's Alpine Product Line Manager. "The goal was to make their demanding needs fit with the adapted technical solutions that our design experts are able to provide."

The team athletes seem happy with the end result.

"The Guardian binding has been an exciting project for the Salomon team. There was a deep talent pool and variety of skiers and skill sets that were drawn together to develop this binding," says Salomon athlete Kim Havell. "Serious testing and big meetings were held to assemble the tech features and ensure performance."