This first appeard on Mark's excellent blog at http://blog.ultratune.net/. Thanks Mark!
Okay, so it's not exactly stop-the-press news that Salomon has a new classic binding for the 2010/2011 season. The new SNS Propulse binding is a greatly improved version of the old Profil classic binding. That's right - a single bar and an elastomer return spring.
Depending on who you talk to, this new classic binding is either a replacement for the Pilot Classic, or simply an alternative. I can tell you that while I was working at the Olympics in Whistler, I saw very few skiers using the Pilot Classic bindings... ...most skiers who are still on SNS bindings were using the new SNS Propulse. And for good reason.
I had a little bit of trouble getting my hands on a set for testing, but thanks to Rick Halling at Atomic, I got a set of the Atomic version (same binding, in with Atomic labels and colors). I received them mid-week, and did some quick tests and mounted them on a set of Atomic WorldCup classic skis for some weekend klister skiing.
First of all, you should know that the new SNS Propulse binding comes in two versions (RC1 & RC2). The RC2 is the "normal looking" version, while the RC1 has a very minimal design that ditches the heel plate and just has the central ridge screwed down to the ski. I was testing the RC2 version as shown in the photos.
The ProPulse RC2 is a bit lighter than the Pilot Classic. The ProPulse RC2 weighs in at 251 grams per pair (measured), which is a little lighter than the Pilot Classic. A savings of about 10 grams.
It was noticeable to me that the new Propulse bindings are a bit wider than the old Profil (or Pilot) bindings. The new bindings are 46mm wide, which is about 15% wider under the ball of the foot than the old bindings.
The new SNS Propulse has an improved rubber bumper that seems less likely to pop out of place over time, compared to the old Profil bindings. And the new latch mechanism is low profile and seems to be easy to grab, and also latches securely.
These new bindings also have a big spacious notch in them to allow plenty of room for that unused 2nd bar on the newer generations of SNS classic boots that were originally designed for Pilot Classic bindings. Even with lots of sticky snow, there won't be a problem with it clogging up. Nice. I think it's really great that Salomon made the new Propulse classic binding backward compatible.
I got these out on snow on Friday, March 26th, at Stevens Pass Nordic Center. The bindings were on a pair of 206cm Atomic WorldCup classic skis, and I was skiing with Start Red klister. It was wonderful to be out skiing in late March with a big snowpack there at Stevens and great grooming!
The SNS Propulse bindings felt comfortable right away. I've never been a fan of the Pilot Classic bindings - to me they always felt like there was something going on under my foot and I didn't like the way it felt. The new Propulse bindings have a good feel on the snow; a good feel on the ski. In my opinion, this should be the classic binding for skiers using SNS boots.
I was also using a pair of the 2010/2011 Atomic World Cup classic boots with the -17mm setback. I think these brand new classic boots are the most comfortable SNS boot that I've ever used. They have a sock construction and a nice snug fit in the heel - no slipping or blisters at all even on the first day out in them. They get a big thumbs up as well.
Any dislikes? The SNS Propulse bindings are still screwed down to the skis, so you don't get the adjustability that NIS/NNN bindings have. If you're counting grams, these new bindings are the lightest offering from Salomon but they're still 80 grams per pair heavier than the new NIS Xcelerator bindings from Rottafella.
Overall, I think the new SNS Propulse will be the "go-to" classic binding for SNS boot users. They are very good - a big improvement over the old Profil bindings, and a big improvement over the Pilot Classic bindings.
Now... I wonder if you can get some firm bumpers for these and use them with skate skis?