Cross Country Ski Binding Guide (How to Choose and Change Your Bindings)

Cross country ski bindings are an essential part of your gear. Bindings are what give you control and operation over your skis. Understanding how they work is what will allow you to master cross country skiing.
Cross Country Ski Binding Guide

Table of Contents

A rider needs to control its steed. If jockeys use reigns, cross country skiers utilize bindings. Bindings allow you to control your ski. So naturally, poor quality bindings result in poor control which can damage your expensive skis.

You’d want high-quality and excellent performing bindings for full control. This gives you a more enjoyable skiing experience. If you’re new to cross country skiing, it helps improve your skill level. And by understanding how bindings work, you can maximize your ski’s capabilities.

What Are Cross Country Ski Bindings?

Cross country ski bindings are what secure your boots to your skis. But more importantly, they give you control over your skis. How you want to turn, move, or stop, is possible because of bindings. Without them, cross country skiing would be impossible.

The right bindings help you maneuver and properly execute different cross country techniques. They also release your foot from your skis in case of a fall. This minimizes the chances of injuries.

There are different binding types available. They vary in design, compatibility, and functionality. What you need depends on your skill level, the skis you’re using, location, among other things.

How Do Cross Country Ski Bindings Work?

Ski bindings attach the front part of your ski boots to your skis. It’s not like other skis and ski boots where the whole boot is attached to the ski. The heel is free and this is what allows you to cross country ski.

Your boot’s toe part is usually attached using a lever that locks the boot in place. This ensures it won’t detach at any time. Some bindings are automatic which is a whole lot easier to use.

Are All Cross Country Ski Bindings the Same?

Not all cross country ski bindings are the same. There are different types that you can use and they have different characteristics. Some are compatible with specific boots, they can have different widths, and have unique advantages. Picking the right one depends on these factors as well as your skill level.

What Are the Different Bindings for Cross Country Skis?

There are several binding systems available in the market now. They are:

  • New Nordic Norm (NNN)
  • Salomon Nordic System (SNS)
  • New Nordic Norm Backcountry (NNN BC)
  • Nordic Integrated Systems (NIS)
  • Turnamic
  • Prolink
  • Three Pin

Bindings can be manual or automatic. Manual requires you to lock the bindings to the boots and with automatic, it does so by itself the moment you step into them.

What Is the Most Popular Cross Country Ski Binding?

When it comes to popularity, NNN and SNS are the two most popular. There are significant differences between the two. Your choice will depend on your skill level, where you’ll ski, your boots, and your budget. Of course, personal preference also factors in your decision.

Cross Country Ski Bindings NNN vs. SNS

These two bindings are the most popular but they’re not compatible with each other. Here’s a short comparison of the NNN and SNS ski bindings:

NNN Bindings

  • Compatible with NNN, Turnamic, and ProLink boots.
  • Used by beginners, recreational, and professionals.
  • Uses a metal rod to clip onto your boot.
  • Has a rubber front to assist you in generating more power when lifting your foot.
  • Utilizes two ridges for grip and control.

SNS Bindings

  • Compatible with SNS cross country boots only.
  • Offers more stability which makes it better for beginners. Also used by recreational and professionals.
  • Uses a metal rod to clip onto your boot.
  • Utilizes a single ridge for grip and control.

As you can see, the main difference is the number of ridges used. Is one better than the other? Not really. It all boils down to your preference. Whatever you choose, either one can be a great ski binding.

Cross Country Bindings vs. Alpine Bindings

If cross country bindings connect your boot’s toe box to the ski, alpine bindings connect both your boot’s toe box and heel. It’s not a heel-free system since it’s made for traditional downhill skiing.

Alpine bindings are designed to release during a fall. This function is determined by its DIN (Deutsche Industrie Norm) setting, which is then determined by your skill level, weight, and other factors.

This type of binding is also equipped with brakes to prevent your ski from going downhill on its own. Alpine bindings are compatible with alpine ski boots, which are different from cross country boots.

How Do You Choose Cross Country Ski Bindings?

The first thing you have to consider when choosing a cross country ski binding is your boot type. Here are the different boots and the compatible binding systems:

  • NNN boots: compatible with NNN, Turnamic, Prolink
  • SNS Pilot boots: compatible with SNS Pilot
  • SNS Profil boots: compatible with SNS Profil
  • Turnamic boots: compatible with NNN, Prolink
  • Prolink boots: compatible with NNN, Turnamic

If you don’t have boots yet, other factors that you want to consider when choosing a binding are:

  • Locking Type: Bindings come in either manual or automatic locking systems. With manual bindings, you need to lock or release the bindings yourself. This is usually done by pulling or pushing a lever. For automatic bindings, all you have to do is to step into them and it locks on their own.
  • Binding Plates: Some skis are equipped with binding plates that offer two advantages. First, it allows you to easily install your bindings without the need to drill. Second, it allows you to adjust your binding’s position. Skis with binding plates are compatible with certain bindings. So you have to check compatibility before purchasing your binding system.

What Are the Best Cross Country Ski Bindings?

SNS and NNN bindings are the two most popular and considered the best in the market. However, the difference between the two is negligible. It really boils down to personal preference. The only way to find out is to try different bindings, assuming you have different compatible boots. Who knows, you might even prefer the Turnamic or Prolink.

Are Cross Country Ski Bindings Universal?

Cross country ski bindings aren’t universal. Some will work with several boot types but not with all. For example, NNN bindings only work with NNN, Turnamic, and Prolink boots. It won’t work with SNS boots.

So if you already have a pair of boots, it makes it easier to choose which bindings you need.

Are Cross Country Skis Sold With Bindings?

Some brands sell skis with bindings, some don’t. Because bindings aren’t compatible with all boots, you have to ensure compatibility. If you opt to buy skis with bindings, then you have to purchase compatible boots. If you already have a pair of boots, then make sure you’re getting the right bindings, whether it comes with the ski or not.

How to Adjust Cross Country Ski Bindings

Adjustable ski bindings have now been introduced in the market. It’s more convenient than having to manually remove the bindings and screw holes on your ski.

And where you place your bindings affects how your ski reacts to the snow. Bindings at the front area give more stability when gliding. Binding more at the back improves maneuverability.

Adjustable bindings allow you to move the binding location. All you have to do is release the locking mechanism and move the bindings to the desired position.

But if your bindings aren’t adjustable, you have to remove and re-install them yourself. You have to unscrew your bindings, drill new holes at new locations and screw it back into place. It’s not as easy as it sounds so if you’re a beginner, you better let the pros help you with it.

Do Cross Country Ski Bindings Release?

Cross country ski bindings won’t release since it’s not designed for downhill or high-speed skiing. To get out of your bindings, you either pull the lever manually or use your pole to press the button located at the front part.

Can You Change the Bindings on Cross Country Skis?

It’s possible to change bindings on cross country skis but there are still some limitations and restrictions. You need to consider the effort needed and if your skis allow for adjustments to be made.

Binding systems have different designs and screw locations will differ. You’ll have to check the number of holes already on your ski to screw in your preferred bindings. In some cases, skis already have too many holes, different bindings installed, or have a set-up that doesn’t allow any changes or modifications.

Is It Easy to Change Bindings on Cross Country Skis?

Changing bindings requires getting used to. First-timers will naturally find this difficult, but clear instructions will help. But before changing bindings, you must possess a good understanding of how they work and how they’re connected to the ski.

This makes it somewhat easier and you don’t go into it blind. You can find online instructions or ask professionals to teach you how to do it. Either way, it’s important to always proceed with caution so you don’t hurt yourself or damage your skis when using the tools.

How to Attach Bindings to Cross Country Skis

There are different reasons why you need to change or attach new bindings to your ski. It could be that it needs replacing or you want to try a different binding system with a new boot. Whatever the case, it’s common for cross country skiers to attach bindings on their own.

Attaching bindings is a straightforward process. First-timers may find this intimidating but it’s really not that complicated.

How Do You Install NNN Bindings on Cross Country Skis?

Before attaching cross country ski bindings, you need a drill, hot glue, and screws. Once you have your tools, here are the steps to attach the bindings:

  1. Remove all stickers on your ski. They can get damaged anyway when you install your new bindings.
  2. Find and mark your ski’s center or balance point.
  3. Line up the ski mounting jig using the balance point as a reference. Note that the jig type varies for the different binding systems.
  4. Drill the holes present in your mounting jig.
  5. Fill the holes with hot glue.
  6. Place your binding, making sure the holes are aligned. Drill the screws in and tighten using a screwdriver.
  7. Let it dry properly before using.

Where to Mount Cross Country Ski Bindings

You can mount cross country ski bindings in three different locations. Each one provides a different skiing experience and changes your ski’s performance. There’s no single best location, it really depends on how you want to enjoy cross country skiing.


This is where bindings are traditionally placed. When at the center, your ski performs according to its specifications. You get what you expect from your ski.


Mounting your bindings on the front part of your ski will make you feel you have a  shorter ski. Doing this allows you to make easier turns especially at low speeds. You also get more balance. On the flip side, you get less stability when making turns at higher speeds.


When your bindings are at the back end, your weight is shifted at the back of the ski. This is ideal for powder snow. This lets you float better on wet snow conditions too. The downside is that it’s harder to make turns on hard-pack snow.

How Do You Remove Cross Country Ski Bindings?

The main thing you need to do when removing bindings is to find the fasteners that connect it to the ski. Most of the time, those fasteners or screws aren’t easy to find. For example, the SNS binding system has a hidden screw underneath the automatic release button.

But once you know where all the screws are located, you just need to use a drill to unscrew each one. This will easily detach the bindings from the ski.