Marker Baron Review

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New for the 2008-09 season, the Marker Baron alpine touring binding is the little brother to Marker's highly successful Duke binding. Like the Duke, the Baron is an AT binding that makes no compromises on downhill performance, yet still offers decent touring capabilities. The difference is in the DIN ranges: 4 to 12 for the Baron vs. 6 to 16 for the Duke. Really you should not be cranking your ski bindings anywhere near DIN 16 unless you're 250 lbs +, straightlining Alaskan faces or hucking big cliffs, and carrying top-notch medical insurance. The Baron binding is a better choice for mere mortal skiers (i.e. most of us), and it will save you 150 grams in weight (a size large pair is 2.48 kg or 87.5 oz) and around $80 compared to the Duke.

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We haven't had a chance to fondle the new Baron binding yet ourselves, but we've been told its identical to the Duke except for the release springs and DIN range. We'll repeat the important points from our Marker Duke review below.

Marker Baron Ski Bindings

Since the Baron ski binding is new this year, there's no reliability history. However, the Marker Duke held up well in its inaugural year, so we don't expect problems with the Baron.

The Baron ski binding is intended to be used with wide skis. Most bindings are designed for a minimum 63mm ski waist, but Marker increased the width of the binding to ski mounting area to give better power transmission and a more solid connection to the ski. Marker recommends a minimum 76 mm waist for the ski. This shouldn't be much of a limitation, as this ski binding really doesn't belong on skinny rando race skis, or front side carvers.

In fixed heel (downhill) mode, the Duke feels and acts just like a high performance alpine binding, and we expect no less of the new Baron. The boot to ski attachment is incredibly solid: Lou Dawson at Wildsnow.Com measured side to side flex on all the major AT bindings, and the Marker Duke was the stiffest (followed closely by Dynafit). This solidity comes partly from the wider mounting area, and partly from a plate mounted on the ski under the boot sole. The plate has a series of ridges that engage into slots on the boot plate to help lock the boot in place in downhill mode. Pre-release has been an issue with Marker alpine bindings in the past, but Marker seem to have solved that problem with the Duke and Baron, which offer improved elasticity in the release function.

To switch to touring mode in the Baron ski binding, you have to remove the boot, flip a little catch, and slide the binding plate back. This results in the boot being about 30 mm further back on the ski in touring mode. Switching back to downhill mode also requires getting out of the binding. There are two heel lift positions, at 5 and 10 degrees. Binding forward rotation is limited to about 90 degrees, when the toe piece hits the ski in front of the pivot point. Touring for short distances is generally comfortable, and the 30 mm shift for touring mode is hardly noticeable. What is noticeable is the extra heft of the bindings, especially compared to a lightweight like Dynafit.

The Marker Baron AT binding can be used with both alpine touring boot soles, and regular alpine ski boots. The binding toe height is easily adjusted by turning a screw to slide the front anti-friction device (the little plate under the toe of the boot) up and down a ramp. This is different than some other AT bindings where the AFD remains fixed and the toe piece is adjusted up and down. In theory it would result in a tiny change in the boot ramp angle, but hardly enough to notice.

Marker Baron alpine touring bindings are available in two sizes: Small for BSL 265-320, and Large for BSL 305-370. (BSL stands for "Boot Sole Length", and is the boot length in mm. It's usually stamped on the bottom or side of a ski boot).

Ski brakes for the Marker Baron in 110 mm width are standard, with 90 mm and 130 mm width brakes available as options.

Check prices on the Marker Baron binding at EMS
Check prices on the Marker Baron binding at Alpine Sports Outlet (join their email list to get a 10% off coupon code!)
Check prices on the Marker Baron binding at US Outdoor
Check prices on the Marker Ltd. Barron 110 Ski Wide Brake Binding at Altrec

Marker USA website