Mark runs Nordic Utlratune and gets to see all the cool equipment before the rest of us.
More than any other single piece of equipment that I've seen for the coming (2010/2011) season, I'm really stoked to see the updated NNN/NIS bindings.
They're called the NIS Xcelerator Bindings. Made by Rottafella of Norway, these will be seen with Rottafella, Rossignol, Madshus, etc. labels, but they're all the new bindings with different labels.
I've been using this set of bindings for a couple weeks. Moving them from one pair of skis to another (aha... ...yes, lets not forget about that benefit of the NIS system), trying them on different skis, in different locations (fore/aft). They seem really reliable and I've had no problems at all.
The new binding are great for a few reasons:
First, they've got a new clamp mechanism that grabs the boot's bar in two places, out on the edges, for great clamping security. Holding on to the bar on both edges makes a lot of sense. Compared with the old NNN and existing Salomon bindings which hold on to the boot with one big tooth in the middle, the new system bites onto the bar tightly on the far ends of the bar. This minimizes the packing-in of snow, and it makes a very secure engagement. This isn't art - it's science and engineering.
Second, they save a lot of weight. The new NNN/NIS Xcelerator bindings are 150 grams per pair lighter (measured!) than the current Pilot skate bindings! That's over 5 ounces! That's just a crazy weight savings, and it's done without performance sacrifice. In a funny juxtaposition, Rottafella has used some metal parts in high stress places to simplify the design (the clamp lever) and allow a more solid engagement without the linkages that are required to make things work when similar assemblies are made of plastic. A simpler, more heavy duty design results in a lighter final product.
(As a note, yes that is a pizza box under the binding in the photo -- a kitchen table photo shoot while packing for Whistler.)
Third, the bumper. The elastomer bumpers provide all the flex control, and do it with a one-piece interchangable elastomer. Simple to replace, but not something that's going to pop out. It's really clever and smartly done. And NO MOVING PARTS!
Finally, it all looks great. They pared down the extra weight and made it simple, but it remains sleek and nice looking. As has been the rule with the NNN iterations, there aren't any boot compatibility issues. You can use your oldest pair of NNN rollerski boots with the new bindings, no problem.
Hey, these are really new. The date-code that's embedded in the molded plastic parts show that the mold date is Dec 2009, which means that these bindings were born just over a month ago. I'm not positive that this is a production version, or if it's a pre-production delivery (for the trade shows, and to get some feedback, etc...).
What would I change? I think I'd make the metal clamp mechanism a little more polished and clean, and maybe even fabricate it from stainless steel. Other than that? Nada. These bindings are very very good as delivered.
Right now it seems that more than half of the World Cup skiers are on NNN/NIS bindings. With this new NIS Xcelerator model, the balance of power is likely to swing even further in that direction. It's not just a home run, this binding is a grand slam.