New for Fall 2007, Marker is introducing the burliest alpine touring binding to date, the Marker Duke. The Marker Duke is targeted at skiers who insist on a no compromise downhill experience. They may not care much about weight or ease-of-use when touring, but they are locked in with top-shelf downhill performance with DIN up to 16. This marks the first entry into the A/T market for a traditional binding manufacturer, but if things go well for Marker, it may not be the last.
The Duke enters a market that is dominated by Fritschi Freerides, but hopes to capture the wallets of a specific target market… those unwilling to sacrifice downhill performance in their short backcountry trips or quick hauls in the sidecountry at their local resort. With many resorts offering quick access to backcountry terrain, the Duke offers the best of both worlds for those times when groomers and moguls just won’t do. Ummm… isn’t that all the time?
Course, with all the burl of the Duke, it looks to have some trade-offs:
- You must release your boot out of the binding to switch to and from touring and skiing modes
- Access to the climbing bar doesn’t look possible with the simple flick of your poles
- The overall weight of the Duke will limit its use to sidecountry and short backcountry trips
Despite the above trade-offs, the Duke will be a great option for those who want a do-it-all binding. Personally, I think the Marker Duke will be perfect for people like me who demand versatility. At this point, I wouldn’t even consider buying traditional bindings and if I’m going to buy “resort” skis and bindings, the Duke’s would be my choice for clamps. They are burly enough to handle east coast blue ice and still skin up the sidecountry or hammer out some quick BC trips.
The Fritcshi Freerides are burly enough for my short-lived inbounds adventures, but I do worry a bit if I do stray onto boilerplate or wander into VW Beetle-sized moguls. If I had the Duke’s mounted to my “resort” skis, I could confidently bomb anything in bounds and still make efficient trips into the backcountry.
It’s great to see traditional binding manufacturers jump into the A/T market. Hopefully we’ll get our hands on a pair soon and bring you a full review.