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Active or Neutral, and does it matter

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  • Active or Neutral, and does it matter

    I'm sure that at one place or another this has been chatted-up plenty, but I'm still trying to grasp the physics of it. I see it as just a matter of 'feel', of preference, and that the force to the ski is unaffected by binding activity, and only by weighting bof, and that the point of an active binding is simply to compel the skier to weight that foot. Then 'drive the cuff' leaves me flustered if it means tongue to shin because that's irrelevant in a heel-less contraption, as far as the ski is concerned. I think I have to allow NTN is a bit of an exception given the semi-firm duckbutt which could allow for some shifting of force to points forward (haven't skied ntn, so can't reflect). So, isn't it true that the ski (and Michael) couldn't care less which binding you tele? DD

  • #2
    What you're missing is tip pressure from the rear ski. Mitch wrote pretty extensively about this on teletips and I think he got it right, though I didn't at the time.

    An active binding doesn't force you to weight the rear ski. It uses the flex of the boot to generate more leverage in a forward vector, which results in greater tip pressure on the rear ski. Tip pressure allows you to have more control over the rear ski regardless of how much weight is on it. It's the same thing that happens in an alpine when you lean on the cuff but you can generate a lot more direct leverage on the tip in alpine because your heel cannot move. Nevertheless, the easiest way to bend a stiff tele boot is to lean on the cuff rather than push down with the ball of your foot.

    Active does not mean stiff. A plate binding like Bishop, VPII, Linken, or NTN is very stiff but not active. Think of it this way. An active binding helps generate tip pressure. A neutral binding requires you to generate tip pressure with less leverage which also results in less tip pressure. It's not to say you can't ski aggressively with a neutral binding, but you are doing it from the middle of the edge with less tip pressure. I've come to like moderate activity from starting out firmly in the neutral camp.
    Last edited by cesare; 6 March 2014, 02:25 PM.

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    • #3
      Ultimately my anecdotal conclusion became very similar to the "weight is great" mantra of downhill skiing. For resort skiing a more active binding (22 Designs Hammerhead) allowed me to ski more challenging terrain in a more controlled manner. When stronger forces are at work the bigger and stiffer springs and stiffer bellows are an advantage IMO. Although I would say there was a learning curve and break-in period on the gear.

      The question becomes what you will be using the ski for and what your goals are? Aggressive skiers going for bigger lines in variable conditions are usually better served by beefier more active designs. As you move into more of a backcountry or sidecountry setting the weight of those gains may become a deterrent.

      As far as the physics go, I cannot accurately describe the exact forces at play, but I can tell you what I think is most essential. The stiffer springs allow you to "err on forward" without bottoming out or ending up knee to the ski. They also make it more difficult to weight the rear ski which is what most neutral skiers dislike. That's what takes some time to refine technique and let the springs and bellows seat. In my opinion it loops into an "energy in / energy out" type scenario. Active is more difficult to ski and ski well, but it raises the bar as far as what is possible.

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      • #4
        You're confusing stiffness with activity, Matt. Active is not stiff springs. It's that the farther back pivot point for the cables attached to the springs drives the force of the springs combined with the stiffness of the boot to bend the boot at the BoF and direct that leverage at the to the tip of the ski. That's why Hammerheads are adjustable. Moving the pivot does not make the springs stiffer. It changes the geometry of how the springs pressure the ski. Maybe I'm not saying it well, but let me try this... you can put the stiffest springs in the industry on a G3 Targa and they will not make it active at all.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Matt J View Post
          Active is more difficult to ski and ski well, but it raises the bar as far as what is possible.
          And I don't think that that's true. I think if you prefer active bindings and then try to use the same skis, same boots, and ride the same lines on a 3-pin binding, you'll feel like you're on flip-flops and struggle. Conversely, if you prefer neutral bindings and keep everything the same but jump to HH #4 or #5, you'll feel constricted and struggle. Either way, a good skier will adjust over time.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by cesare View Post
            You're confusing stiffness with activity, Matt.
            His wife tells him the same thing.

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            • #7










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              • #8
                Hard to discuss active vs neutral tele bindings without putting the boot into the equation. Active bindings became popular with the HH when skiers started using big four buckle boots like T1's, CXR's and Energys. These boots benefited from have the leverage in the binding to help bend the boots without having to over weight the rear ski to bend the boot with skier weight and leg strength. These bindings are also laterally stiffer and just work better with bigger more performance orientated boots. Of course, there is a weight penalty and a move away from traditional tele tech, so big boots, stout bindings and a high new school stance and you rule the resort. Sometimes.....
                "Just say no to groomed snow"

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                • #9
                  Without all the physics involved, I've always thought that if a skier was centered over their skis with good technique, and skiing the fall line, then binding stiffness/activity didn't matter. Basically, heavy tele can help compensate for poor technique.
                  Yay!...(Drool)


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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by BillyFromTheHills View Post
                    Without all the physics involved, I've always thought that if a skier was centered over their skis with good technique, and skiing the fall line, then binding stiffness/activity didn't matter. Basically, heavy tele can help compensate for poor technique.
                    This is true with modest sized skis, but now days where lots of skiers both tele and fixed are skiing planky 110+ underfoot skis you really need the power of the stout boots/bindings or the skis will ski you. Unless you ski at a resort that has unlimited open powder, However, not here at Tahoe.....
                    "Just say no to groomed snow"

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                    • #11
                      What quadzilla says. There are hardly any truly neutral bindings made any more intended to go with big plastic boots (I know G3 still makes the Targa but does anyone buy them still?) so less of a difference now, but I personally still prefer most active. And I prefer the defintition of active that means greater heel retention- all the parsing over pivot point verses spring tension etc slices the salami too thin imho.
                      Reluctant enthusiast, part-time crusader, half-hearted fanatic

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                      • #12
                        tryin to get the hang of the login business here.. I go in to town for a bit and you're all over it.. Good, I guess, but I still don't get it, and I don't see how vectors have anything to do with it. The binding is attached at a fixed point. The only thing you can do is to put weight in one place. It can't care about the contortions it takes to get the weight there, or the angles of it. Bof location is typically forward of the line, which means the ski might well flex differently for the rear foot vs the front (don't know if that has anything to do with why dedicated tele skis were made with a round pattern). Lock the heel and pressure locations can be changed. Would love to read links to the subject if you got some. thanks. DD

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                        • #13
                          Careful what you ask for...folks will babble endlessly about this stuff, and leave you more confused than when you started.
                          Yay!...(Drool)


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                          • #14
                            What boots do you ski in? The softer your boots, the less it matters.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by DDDallas View Post
                              Would love to read links to the subject if you got some. thanks. DD
                              Paging tele.skier, this guy thinks he can understand your charts.

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