The Marker Kingpin took the industry by storm in 2014, giving people fresh hope for the previously mistrusted tech binding. At the time, tech bindings were favored only by the ski tourer who valued weight and touring efficiency above all else. They garnered a poor reputation for their tendency to pre-release at really critical times. In an attempt to circumvent this problem, users resorted to locking out the toe piece. Unfortunately this led to a nasty reputation for broken tibia/fibias and torn ACL’s.
Then along came the Kingpin, which promised better retention in the toe, while still releasing in a crash, and heel elasticity akin to a full blown alpine binding. Unfortunately, the ground breaking Marker product was plagued with quality control and durability issues. And now, there are several new entrants to the freeride tech market, so the Kingpin has some stiff competition. When it came to deciding which binding to run on my setup for Japan, it was a toss up between the Tecton, Kingpin, Cast or Beast. I’ll spare you the details, but after diligent research I decided to go for the Kingpins.
For your reference, I’m 6ft tall, weigh a measly 65kg and don’t ski too aggressively…… most of the time. I run my DIN at 7.5. I have mounted my pair of 10 Din, 2018, Marker Kingpins, on a pair of Line Pescados, in an attempt to create a one quiver ski, suitable for Hokkaido, Japan. I plan to tour on my days off, but my work schedule also allows for a few hours of resort riding each day. So I wanted something that toured well for big objectives, i.e no dukes or guardians, and I like to jump off things, so I also needed it to be sturdy and safe. I’ve since put about 40 resort days and 10 back country tours on them, and I have a few thoughts.
My other ski-mo skis, that I was using in New Zealand, are mounted with a pair of Salomon’s MTN pin bindings. Basically, a re branded ATK lightweight climbing binding. In comparison, I immediately felt more solid on the Kingpin, with a noticeable improvement in the lateral power transfer. Despite this, I still had horrible thoughts of blowing a ski and sliding at mach ten on my face whenever things got a bit chattery. After a few days of keeping up with all the rippers I work with, and sending a few drops, I began to trust the bindings not to fall off my feet.
But how would they release when I needed them to? My favourite thing to do in Niseko, is ski in the trees at night. The Pescados are proving to be pretty nimble, and I find myself taking some pretty tight lines. One night, I came out of the white room, maching it straight towards a tree. Try as I might to avoid it, I ended up catching my ski tip on it. I was flipped around and buried in the snow, but more to the point, my ski had come off without my knee or shin feeling a thing. I was pretty stoked as, according to wild snows article, a lateral force just in front of the boot is the tech bindings most dangerous scenario. Once again my confidence in the bindings was boosted and I was starting to enjoy them more and more. They toured beautifully and I had no issues with snow building up in the binding (unlike dukes I’ve used previous seasons).
One night however, after a hard days skiing, I made a sloppy turn and submarined one ski under the other, sending me into a double tomahawk. I felt my shin levering over my boot wanting to pop out, but it never happened. I came to stop, and once I was sure I hadn’t fractured my tibia, I hopped up and continued to ski. However it became instantly apparent, that I had tweaked my knee. How bad, I wasn’t sure, but that was the end of my night. I rested for a few days, and it came good. Luckily it was just a sprain, and not a season-ender. That experience however has definitely put a bit of a wet blanket in my confidence in the bindings safety.
A few weeks later and I was out on a day trip at Kiroro resort. The snow conditions were fresh, but wind affected and heavy. I had skied about five laps, when getting off the Gondala, I found that my boot wouldn’t engage, due to missing one of the pins in the toe. Upon closer inspection it appeared that the pin had sheared clean off. I hadn’t even noticed it happening. This was a major bummer as it was still early in the day. I kept skiing on them, but it was fair to say that they were unstable at best, pre-releasing on multiple occasions. The first generation of pre-production bindings suffered from the toe pins wiggling loose, but the design was quickly changed. I haven’t heard of the pins snapping before. Perhaps I just got a faulty one. With my weight, I certainly didn’t think I was capable of any kind of damage like that.
I am now pursuing a warranty claim and will attempt to jerry-rig a fix, to get me through in the meantime. I will update this review as the situation develops. I’m disappointed for sure. But at this stage, I’m certainly not ready to give up on the Kingpins just yet.
UPDATE 5/2/18: Marker Japan has denied my warranty twice much to my frustration and dissapointment. I do not understand how it could not be a warranty considering the light use and age of the binding. After two weeks I decided that I was just going to buy some beasts or Tectons but unfortunately the hole patterns clashed. I was forced to buy a whole new set of Kingpins which I am trying to claim back on travel insurance. Its fair to say that I won’t be buying marker again on my next set up.
UPDATE 11/3/18: Travel insurance paid for my new bindings which was great, it only cost me the policy excess of $100 so if you are in this situation I would recommend going down this path. In the end Marker finally came to the table and sent me a new toe piece. However I utilized some contacts that I wouldn’t expect the regular consumer to have and it took almost two and a half months. Certainly not ideal but it worked out for me in the end.