SNS or NNN XC Bindings?

xc bindingWhat XC Binding System is best?

– I get asked this question pretty often. “Which xc binding is better, NNN or SNS?” Thankfully, with all my years at Ski Haus, I’ve found myself in the position of owning and skiing both systems. I am fortunate to have feet that seem to fit pretty much any boot. My history with skate skis has been primarily with Salomon. I added a Fischer RCS skate ski along with last year’s RCS Carbonlite skate boot to my quiver of skis and I ski both systems. I alternate between SNS Pilot mounted skis and NNN Excelerator mounted skis depending on which pair of skis I’ve waxed most recently.

I always suggest to follow your feet. If a Salomon or Atomic boot fits your foot best then SNS Pilot is the best xc binding for you. If your feet prefer Fischer boots (or any other manufacturer working with the NNN sole) then the NNN xc binding is the one for you. If you are like me and find no clear difference between the fits then your choice becomes a bit more complicated but the good news is you won’t make a bad selection either way.

I must say that I am an average skier. I skate and classic ski 5 to 6 days a week. I am not an Olympian or World Cup skier. I’m not chasing hundredths of seconds. I have not developed a “princess and the pea” feel of boot, binding, or ski that if something is minutely off it drives me into an equipment induced tantrum. I enter the local XC races and I really love Nordic skiing… Here is how I see the differences between the two systems.

Salomon SNS Pilot Skate System – The second attachment on the binding to the second bar on the boot sole really helps bring the ski forward after you have kicked and are swinging the ski forward to become your glide ski. I don’t feel any hesitation from the ski. As soon as I want to weight the ski it is there. There’s no waiting for the ski to catch up to my feet. I do feel this a little with skate bindings with front bumpers (NNN or the older Salomon Profile bindings). I think the Pilot lets me step uphill a bit further gaining a little uphill advantage (when I can actually think of doing this as I climb hills). This second contact point also creates a solid sense of stability on downhills and downhill corners. The system feels torsionally strong – edging and control are easy.

One of the knocks on the Pilot system is how far off the top of the ski you are placed. The binding lifts you up off the top sheet of the ski a bit higher than the NIS plate with the NNN system. Those in favor of the NIS plate on their skis say the plate really brings you close to the top sheet of the ski increasing ski “feel.” The other interesting thing about binding height is the advent of the wedge plate that Salomon developed. It is an additional plate mounted under your binding that creates a 5mm ramp, the high point under the toe. The ramp increases the sensation of quickness at the end of your kick, increases edge control and allows for longer kicks. Rotteffella has just come out with their own version of this with the Excelerator Super Skate binding. It has a similar ramp under the toe that tapers back to the heel. This does lift you further away from the topsheet of the ski. Seems like this point of being close to the topsheet just went moot in favor of increased quickness and performance. (Both the SNS Wedge and NIS Super Skate are optional… skiers do not have to ski with this ramp under their bindings and it does take a little getting use to if you have never skied it before).

Rotteffella NNN NIS System – This system incorporates a binding mounting plate bonded to the top sheet of the ski. The Excelerator binding simply slides onto this plate eliminating the need to drill screws into the ski. The thought goes you won’t be affecting the flex of the ski as much. The bonding also creates a very solid interface between boot, binding, and ski with absolutely no play. I agree with both points but I have  never felt any wobble or looseness with my drilled Pilot bindings nor have I felt any affect of the drilled binding affecting or changing the flex of my ski. I do agree mounting bindings onto your ski with this plate is pretty slick and very cool.

New this year with the Excelerator Super Skate, Rotteffella has created a wider platform for the skier to stand on. This platform goes out over the edges of the top of ski. The wider plate enhances stability on the ski and increases power to edges and your kick. This is a really good design and the bindings look great on your skis.

The NNN NIS bindings rely on two bumpers or “dual flexors” to keep the ski horizontal as yous swing it forward to become your glide ski. Is it as quick as the Pilot? It all comes down to skier feel and expectations.

The NIS plate also allows a skier to change the binding position. You can move it forward or back of balance point. I did change the binding position once on my skis. I haven’t moved the binding since. I moved it one click forward and I really noticed the increased forward pressure on my ski increasing drag. The upside of that was I could really throw the skis around and move my skis quicker but… Another way to think about this is on a really soft snow day. Moving the binding back a position could really reduce the amount of trenching your ski might do otherwise. I haven’t tried this but it makes more sense to me.

These are the points I normally talk to customers about when we’re talking  about the two systems. Ultimately, the question is answered with boot fit. That is, of course, unless you believe your skiing buddy who tells you without a doubt that his preferred binding will make you a ski god… then go with that.

 

 

26 Comments

  • Sean Cashin says:

    Excellent article thanks!

    • Murray Selleck says:

      Hi Sean,
      Thanks for commenting. Appreciate it. I wrote this article back in 2013. It could use some updating and I’ll try to do that soon. I did move my NNN skate binding back a click. They say that is better for a soft track – the ski tip will rise and not trench as much in soft snow. I found that to be true but I also noticed the increase in swingweight coming off the kick while returning to the glide phase. Also, Salomon is making two complete lines of boots this year. One is SNS and Pilot and the other is ProLink, NNN compatible. Folks longing for a Salomon fit on a NNN system now have their wish. Salomon boots are now compatible with NNN style skate and classic bindings. Salomon is also making ProLink bindings (screw in style). If someone is determined to switch from Pilot to NNN they can make the switch by pulling the Pilot off and mounting the ProLink – the hole pattern is the same. If you have any thoughts or comments or questions regarding all this – ask away. Murray

  • Hello, Murray. Have you at Skihaus had customers lately that want to shift their SNS bindings for Prolink bindings? This is not unusual here in Sweden now. Huselius Skidsport in Lund claim they see a customer per day ordering this shift.

    • Murray Selleck says:

      Hello Magnus,
      We are having a slow start to winter here so right now we haven’t seen a lot of our customers making the switch. I anticipate more SNS classic skiers making the switch to Prolink than skate skiers. I had the chance to ski the new prolink boots and bindings last winter and felt little difference in the skate systems. I really felt an increase in ‘snow feel’ and better kick with the Prolink Classic boots and prolink bindings. I think Salomon did a great thing introducing Prolink. I think lots of NNN boot customers have missed the Salomon fit. Now they can have that great Salomon fit while skiing their current NNN bindings or making the switch to prolink. Thanks for writing. Keep me posted on any updates from Sweden! Take care, Murray

  • Martha Stobbs says:

    Question……I have Fischer xcounty skies with Salomen SNS Profil bindings and Salomen boots. A friend in CO has offered to let me borrow her country skies when she is working. Will my Salomen boots fit into her Rottefella bindings on her skiis so that when I go I only need to take my boots in order to use her skiis. Her photos of her bindings and boot look similar to mine but thought it wise to check with the pros. Thanks for your help.

    • Murray Selleck says:

      A long time ago Fischer boots came with SNS soles. They don’t any more – now they are Rotteffella NNN soles. The two soles/binding systems are not compatible. The SNS Profile sole is a single center track with a single bar. The Rotteffella NNN (Fischer, Alpina, Madshus, and Rossignol all use their system) is a single bar with two tracks down the sole. If your friends Fischer boot is pretty old it might very well work. The other thing to look for is on the sole it should be imprinted either SNS or NNN. It is a crazy Nordic boot/sole binding world out there. Hope this help. Write back with any questions and have fun out there! Happy New Year! Murray

  • Chris says:

    Will the pro link binding fit on the Fischer speed skate NIS plate?

    • Murray Selleck says:

      Hi Chris,
      Salomon’s ProLink bindings are a screw-in option only. They don’t slide onto a NIS plate like a NNN xcelerator binding will… The consensus for a few years now has been if someone needs to screw through that NIS plate for whatever reason to mount a binding – that is acceptable. The ProLink with its screw-in mounting is a great option for any flat skis (no NIS) plate or if someone is switching from a Pilot binding to ProLink then the hole pattern is the same. Hope this helps. Write back with any questions. Thanks, Murray

  • cori says:

    i am looking for a slightly older style country ski binding.. it has a small stirrup type clip on it… anyone know where i might check for that??

    • Murray Selleck says:

      Hi Cori, Can you send a picture of it to us? Is it a 3 pin style binding? Sometimes we see some older skis come through that customers aren’t interested in skiing anymore and we could rob the bindings off them. Murray

  • Luke says:

    Great article! I just picked up a pair of BC skis with Solomon SNS XA bindings and I can’t find any information on what are they compatible with. Looking to buy boots now and don’t know what type will work?
    Luke

    • Murray Selleck says:

      Hi Luke, The bad news is Salomon is no longer making a backcountry (BC) soled boot these days. When you’re searching around you want to look at the boot sole – it should say SNS BC on it to be compatible with your current binding. If you don’t have any luck finding a Salomon boot then you’ll need to buy a new binding. These days Rossignol, Alpina, Madshus, Fischer – all make NNN BC soled boots and finding a boot/binding combination in this system is easy. Ski Haus has Rossignol, Fischer, and Alpina NNN BC soled boots and we sell the bindings too. Hope you find the Salomon SNS XA boot – it has only been three or four years since they stopped making them. There might be a used pair out there looking for a home. Let me know if I can help you out. Thanks, Murray

  • Debra Humbert says:

    Hi Murray,

    I loved the greater sense of control with my pilot bindings on my skate skiis, so I bought Salomon pilot boots ( UITANE 21 CL) to go with my new classic Atomic (Red Cheetah’s with Skins), and put an Atomic SNS binding on. But with a kick back and a recovery, the second pin lifts out of the mechanism and a loud clicking noise occurs as I ski along. Is there too much flex in the foot with a classic motion for a pilot binding to work, or is my equipment incompatible, or is the binding/ boot faulty? The noise only happens when the skiis are carrying my weight (160 lbs), and I can’t make them “click” if I hold the ski and move the boot in the binding.

    • Murray Selleck says:

      Hi Debra,
      Can you tell me specifically which model Salomon classic boot and binding you have? The answers to two of your questions might be yes… Your pilot soled classic boot should hook up with a pilot classic binding like the SNS Sport Classic Binding with a rigid arm for the second bar hook up. I doubt it is the flex of the boot. They are designed to work together. Perhaps the hook on the rigid arm of the binding is tweaked? An option is look into a warranty replacement binding. The shop where you bought the equipment should easily help you with that. Another option is to switch to a different classic binding. Depending on the toe of your boot you might consider the Salomon SNS Propulse Carbon RC2 binding (the front bumper is tapered back where it interfaces with the toe of the boot) or the Salomon SNS Profil Equipe Classic binding (the front bumper is vertical where it hits the toe of the boot). The second bar on your boot flushes into the track just fine – we’re just eliminating the pilot feature of the boot/binding. Can you go the shop where you purchased the skis and bindings to have them check how the boot is loading into the binding? If you do switch bindings both of the bindings I mentioned should line up with the holes that were drilled for the pilot binding. Hope this helps a little. It’s always difficult to know exactly what’s happening without having the equipment in hand. With classic skiing both the bumper style classic bindings mentioned above do ski nicely. Can you send me a picture of your boots and bindings? The store’s email is info@skihaussteamboat or you can call me at 970.879.0385. Hope this helps a little. Let me know… Thanks, Murray

  • Monika Ghattas says:

    Hello Murray,
    I just found your web site and wonder if you have some suggestions about my problem. I have Rossignol back county skis (bc7o) with Rossignol step-in bindings. The sole of the boot says NNN bc–single bar and two indentations. I am 78 years old, love to ski, but have a problem with getting up when I fall. I am not strong enough anymore to snap out of the bindings when I am down. My only solution is to undo the laces and step out of my boot, stand up, and put the boot back on. Do you have any suggestions on a binding that would be easier to open than what I have.

    Monika Ghattas

    • Murray Selleck says:

      Hi Monika,
      I’m psyched see your age and skiing is still a passion of yours. Fantastic! You’re an inspiration for sure! With your BC set up are you always in the backcountry with deeper/softer snow or do you ever ski at a touring center with groomed trails and packed snow? Here is a link to take a look at. This little visual might help you. This is a technique you can try that relies less on trying to lever yourself back up using your poles, arms and shoulders and uses more leg. http://www.skixc.com/survival-3-1.html

      Deeper snow can certainly be more problematic but I think the technique can help even in the backcountry. In deeper snow – using your skis as a platform to prevent yourself from just sinking into even deeper snow and helping you get to your knees, a kneeling position, and then an upright position. You might even try this and test it our in your living room the first time to see if this is a practical option for you or not.

      Are your bindings the Auto style or the Magnum (manual style with a lever you have to lift open to get in and out of your bindings). Sometimes with the auto bc binding if you are trying to open the binding with a ski pole you just keep pushing your ski away from you. Depending on your flexibility – an option might be to switch to the manual version. Your flexibility plays into this because you have to reach the lever when you are down to open the binding to get out… Hope this helps some (and makes sense). Write back with any questions. Happy skiing! Murray

  • Rick says:

    Hi Murray,
    I’m trying to re-use old Salomon SNS Profil Equipe Skate boots/bindings with new skate skis: are my choices limited to flat Salomon/Atomic?
    Could a NNN sole be removed from Fischer/Madshus skis?
    Thanks!

    • Murray Selleck says:

      Hi Rick,
      You aren’t limited to only flat-topsheet skis. The profile binding can be drilled and mounted through a NIS plate on Fischer skis, Rossignol, Madshus, etc. No need to worry about trying to remove the NIS plate. On another note. If you don’t mind a recommendation… I’d also consider a new skate boot/binding. More than once during my years of skiing I haven’t realized how broken down a pair of skis or boots has become until after I’ve done an upgrade. I know this may sound self promoting since I am employed to sell ski equipment but I really do know how a new boot, ski, binding can add stability, edging power, and quickness. We were testing next year’s Nordic equipment at the SIA demo yesterday and one of my testers said essentially the same thing… she realized how worn down her skis and boots have become once she had skied a few laps on new gear. Ok, enough of that – have fun with your new skis! Write back with any questions. Thanks, Murray

      • Rick says:

        Thanks a lot Murray.. I followed your recommendation and finally opted for new Prolink skate boots. On the other hand, I am very surprised to notice that Madshus skis marked “195cm” are actually only 190cm long (I measured the base, from tail to tip). Is this normal? (I fear it might be difficult to adjust as I am 187cm tall and always used 2m skate skis). Are all Madshus skis shorter than advertised? Thanks again!!

        • Murray Selleck says:

          Hi Rick, Congratulations on your new kit! Lots of manufacturers are adjusting their ski lengths these days. Fischer used to make a 192cm skate ski but they now size it as a 191. The tip profile has been reduced but the running surface of the ski is same from the 192. We don’t stock Madshus skate skis so I’m only guessing – perhaps the running surface is the same but there is less tip material you have to swing forward… Have fun out there. Murray

  • Andrew Jones says:

    Murray, I’m using the Fischer Crown Vasa with their Accelarator NIS binding and find — counterintuitively – that moving the binding up gives me no extra grip (IE moved the binding from -2 to 0 and no difference in purchase). I’ve slammed them up to +3 and will test the reaction this weekend.

    I know there are differences as per air temp and snow condition, but have you heard of this counterintuitivenss before?

    • Murray Selleck says:

      Hi Andrew,
      Coming from -2 up to the balance point I would have thought you’d notice better kick. You’re right, snow conditions and even individual technique will come into play when it comes to that. I bet you will notice more kick when you exaggerate the effect up to +3. I’ll be interested in what results you feel. Guessing, I’d say yes, better kick, but you might also be loading the ski so much forward you might sacrifice glide. One thing you might look at is load up your boot into the binding without your foot in the boot. Place the ski and boot on a flat surface so you can see where the bar of your boot is in relation to the height of the camber of the ski. (So you’re looking at the camber height and boot from the side). A little forward of the peak of the camber should result in more kick… a little back should produce more glide. It’s all theory. To answer your question – I haven’t heard of this counter-intuitiveness from any other skiers – but that in of itself may not be unusual. Have fun with your ski testing. Let me know how it goes! Thanks, Murray

  • Andrew Jones says:

    Thanks Murray for the suggestions. Will report back!

    -Andrew

  • Andrew Jones says:

    Murray, I skied this weekend at the NIS setting of +3 as I mentioned. The conditions were -7C with new (and drifting in open areas) snow. To be honest, although the grip was great (only had to h-bone up the steepest hills) I didn’t notice a huge difference from the “0” setting I had skied last time on. I’m getting the feeling that one of a) I’m not an intuitive skier in terms of testing equipment, b)the NIS system “notch/balance” changes aren’t as striking as some have reported, or c) I adjust my technique according to the NIS setting I’m on, making the changes a wash.

    Again, interested in your opinion. (Should mention, as well, that the Fischer Crown Vasas are great skis…for HP waxless I can’t imagine there are many better out there, but I haven’t tried skins, etc.

  • Janice Shannon says:

    I’d like to remove the Salomon xa bc manual bindings from some old skis and put them on a new pair. Is this something I can do myself?

    • Murray Selleck says:

      HI Janice,
      You should be able to do this no problem. The trick is finding all the screws. It has been awhile since I’ve seen a pair of these bindings… when you open the front throw – there is a screw there. And off the heel track there is another screw covered with a plasic cap. When you take that screw out the track of the binding should be able to be pulled off exposing at least two more screws. You’ll want an oversized “phillips” screw driver – they’re called posidrivers. The screw heads are oversized – standard phillips screwdrivers or standard bits for a drill may only spin on the tops of these screws. The second consideration is the mounting point on your new skis. You want the slot of the binding that accepts the bar of your boot right on balance point or maybe just a centimeter behind. With the bindings off your old skis you can check the mounting placement by balancing the ski on a thin piece of metal – if the tip dips move the ski back a little until it is perfectly balanced on the edge of whatever your using. You should be able to see where the screw holes line up against balance point. I guess the last thing you need to consider are the pilot holes you need to drill to mount the old bindings on your new skis… Our shop guys use a drill bit and a binding jig that prevents them drilling too deep and it also guarantees that the binding is mounted straight (symmetrical) on the ski. For as complicated as it sounds it’s not that hard with the right tools. Just in case – do you have a ski shop nearby that you can quiz for more advice? Write back with questions. Thanks, Murray

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