SeniorsSkiing Correspondent and Cross Country Expert Rates The Big Five Bindings.

You’ve paid for your trail pass and are ready to head out on the trails at your favorite xc ski touring center. How easy is it to put your skis? In this review, I discuss five common binding types, the key features of each, and I rate them on a scale from 1-5 on its “ease of use” (1 being easiest and 5 most difficult).

Unless you’re a ski racer or have some other unique requirement, five types of cross country are available.

Five types of common XC bindings shown on their respective boots.

NN (Three Pin)

The three pin is the oldest of the five bindings and still used by some skiers. (Editor Note: We have a pair of wooden skis and leather boots to match with four pin bindings we still use; these relics are pre-three pin.) But for most touring purposes it has been replaced by more modern designs. When putting your skis on you must be careful to align the three pins on the binding with the three holes in the toe of the boot before closing the clamp (as shown below).

NN or 3-pin Binding and Boot.



This is the binding used by most ski touring centers for their rental skis. The pivot bar is close to the toe of the boot (as shown below); with the idea being you can almost see where to align it with the clip on the binding. I’ve been to a lot of ski touring centers and observed beginners, recreational and occasional skiers using the NNN binding. Many struggle mightily to get clipped into the ski. I also find that if any ice or dirt gets in the binding, the binding spring gets jammed.

NNN Binding and Boot
NNN Binding and Boot


The Salomon SNS Profil

The SNS Profil works like the NNN and NNN-BC bindings (see illustration below). They are a little easier to use because the pivot point is even closer to the toe so you have a chance of seeing what you’re doing. Overall, though, the experience is frustratingly similar to the NNNs.

Salomon SNS Profil
Salomon SNS Profil Binding and Boot


The Salomon SNS Pilot

Originally designed for ski racers, the Salomon SNS Pilot has two pivot bars on the boot and clips on the binding which provides additional control. This is also a great binding if you wish to take up skate skiing. In an experiment, I attached the SNS Pilot bindings to a pair of touring skis. The result was surprising. Stepping into these bindings was incredibly easy. The rear pivot bar is used as a guide and the front pivot aligns with the clip. Then with a simple press of the forefoot the binding snaps on. This is a great package for the traditional or classic ski strider like me.

Salomon SNS Pilot
Salomon SNS Pilot Binding and Boot


Bottom Line: My experiment with the SNS Pilot binding worked the best for the ease of use criteria. Clicking in and out of this binding with recreational (touring) skis was a snap. I feel like I have very good control of my skis when on the snow and turning is a breeze.

What’s your XC binding of choice?  How does it work for you?


  1. 3 Pin bindings are asymmetric, i.e. foot specific, left or right. You can open and close the binding with your pole.

    Putting enough force on the pin of either NNN or salomon can be a bit difficult, especially if there is lots of room in your toe box. Salomon manual bindings are more secure going in, getting a positive latch. They have racing and touring versions.

    You skipped the now extinct SNS system and the Adidas 38mm system (easiest of all to secure?)

  2. Steve hines says:

    Bill, thanks for your comments. I’m sure your correct in your assessment. My review was intended to help folks with rental skis (NNN being the most common) and if/when they purchase skis and bindings. BTW I still use 3 pin bindings on my BC Skis. Thanks again.

  3. Deb McGinty says:

    Yes, moving from a 3-pin to the Salomon SNS Pilot was a refreshing breeze~! No wasting time with alignment.I wonder if the system would be available on more hiking boot styles rather than racing boot styles in future.

  4. Monika Ghattas says:

    Hello, I am 78 years old and have a pair of Rossignol BC skis with NNN BC bindings. Unfortunately, I am not as strong as I was 10 years ago. Therefore, I have a problem when I fall down. I cannot open the bindings and have to take off my boot to stand up again. This is difficult in heavy snow and on very cold days. Do you have any suggestions? Someone suggested NNN BC Magnum bindings–but REI has discontinued them. Does that mean they are not a good choice?

    • Hi Monika,

      Thanks for your letter. After consulting with several fellow xc skiers the consensus for your situation is a three pin 75MM binding and boot. Three pin bindings are the only xc ski binding that is adjustable. You can use one of three tension settings on most three pin bindings. That way if you fall and need to get out of your skis to get back up releasing the binding on the loosest setting is much easier. Hope this helps.

  5. how do i get into salomon profil non automtic bindngs

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