Tech bindings have been more or less the same for a while now—two pins, four springs, one pivoting heel—but Marker saw the potential for some serious improvement, spent a few afternoons tinkering in its basement, and emerged with the brand-new Kingpin 13 AT Binding. It cribs the locking pintech toe from classic tech bindings while throwing in a twist or three. Marker pretty much reinvented the heel, creating a binding that offers the climbing performance of a lightweight two-pinner and the elasticity, power, and security of a traditional alpine clamp.
Let's start with the toe, which is the most recognizable piece of the Kingpin. In classic style, it uses two spring-loaded pins to secure your boot, has a locking ski/walk switch, and sports adjustable boot stops for easy step-in. The differences are in the mounting pattern (a super-wide 38mm for efficient power transfer on wide skis) and the spring configuration, which uses Marker's Six Pack setup to provide greater energy absorption and contact pressure than a four-spring setup, reducing unwanted release in ski mode and giving you a smoother ride. There's also an integrated crampon adapter for stress-free ascents up bulletproof snow or in no-fall zones.
The toe's cool, but it's in the heel that the Kingpin really finds glory. Marker's XXL Power Transmitter is damn similar to an alpine heel—the step-in function is the same, it has a beefy anti-friction device, and it rocks alpine-style brakes that lock up in walk mode—but with a few key differences. First, it's TUV-certified, making it the first tech binding that can actually claim to have real, measurable, and repeatable DIN settings, not just "release values." Second, it pivots laterally to provide consistent release and retention, with plenty of vertical elasticity as well, so you have a powerful alpine connection instead of that rattly tech-binding feel. To engage the heel walk mode, you just flip the underfoot lever to slide the heel back and step down, locking the brakes in a raised position. That'll give you a free, flat heel, and the dual risers can be flipped down with a pole to give you 7 and 13 degrees of climbing comfort. Reverse the process to engage ski mode, and psych yourself to rip the biggest, baddest, remotest lines you can find.