– 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.