Gear Review

Marker Duke

Marker Duke

After years of waiting, hoping, and speculating, Backcountry skiers can rejoice: Marker USA has released the Duke, the indisputed King-of-the-Hill when it comes to Alpine-oriented A/T bindings.

Those of us who used to bash gates on the race course know Marker has a formidable reputation as a maker of high-performance Alpine bindings. Top Racers have turned to Marker for decades for the world's highest-performing bindings, and they've not been disappointed. Marker has been a major innovator in the Alpine world, driving many of the trends that now permeate the industry.

Equally important for recreational skiers, Marker's relentless technology advances have made them one of the safest bindings on the hill. Can Marker bring that steller performance and safety pedigree to the comparatively primitive world of backcountry ski gear? The answer, several years deep, now, is an enthusiastic 'yes'.

The DIN-16 Marker Duke automatically becomes the binding of choice for one-riggers who want to use the same pair of bindings inbounds and out. Additionally, if you happen to be an aggressive skier, an air specialist, or just on the heavy side by A/T gear standards (say, 175 pounds or greater), the Duke offers the extra strength and burliness to survive practically anything you can throw at it.

And last but by no means least, here at last is an Alpine Touring binding you can actually count on to keep your knees in one piece when you fall. The Marker Duke appears to suffer from none of the binding slop or wiggle so endemic to its backcountry peers, meaning you enjoy unmatched downhill performance, just like your Alpine rig.

Really, you can level only one criticism at the Duke, which is that it is—perhaps!—not a true touring binding. At nearly six pounds per pair, the Duke may as well be an Alpine binding when it comes to carrying them on your back. You can't switch between walking and skiing modes while snapped in, there remain criticisms about the heel elevator and the pivot point, all of which are sure to bring grief on extended tours.

For these reasons, the Duke looks less appealing the more you shift away from 'Alpine' toward 'Touring'. There is of course Marker's Tour F10/F12 series to partially address those concerns. On the other hand, if downhill performance is all that matters to you, nothing else in the A/T world really comes close.

About SierraDescents

When there is snow, SierraDescents is Andy Lewicky's California backcountry skiing and mountaineering website. Without snow, sierradescents becomes an ill-tempered hiking and climbing blog.

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