Marker Duke Binding Review

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The Marker Duke is the alpine touring ski binding that hard charging sidecountry and backcountry skiers have been awaiting for years: a true performance alpine binding with a touring mode (as opposed to a touring optimized binding with some alpine features). The Duke is the shizzle for heavy, aggressive freeriders who ride the lifts and duck the boundary ropes to hike for fresh tracks. At a manufacturer's claimed weight of 2.63 kg (92.8 oz) per pair (size large), the Dukes are some of the heaviest AT bindings out there. This makes them more suitable as resort/sidecountry crossover bindings rather than true "earn your turns" backcountry skiing binders. The DIN range on the Duke is from 6 up to a knee busting 16, but new for the 2008-09 season is the Marker Baron, a 4-12 DIN version of the binding that shaves 150 grams (per pair), and about $50 off the price.

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The Marker Duke was new for the 2007-08 season, and durability reports have been generally good (especially considering the gear destroying tendencies of their target market segment).

The Duke 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 binding really doesn't belong on skinny rando race skis, or front side carvers.

Marker Duke Ski Bindings

In fixed heel (downhill) mode, the Duke feels and acts just like a high performance alpine binding. 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. It offers improved elasticity in the release function.

To switch to touring mode, 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 Duke 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 Dukes 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 in 110 mm width are standard, with 90 mm and 130 mm width brakes available as options.

Marker also sells a ski crampon that fits on the Dukes and Barons.

Check prices on the Marker Duke Ski Bindings at USOutdoor
Check prices on the Marker Ltd. Duke 110 Ski Wide Brake Binding at Altrec

Marker USA website