A ski binding is a device that connects a ski boot to the ski. Before the 1933 invention of ski lifts, skiers went uphill and down and cross-country on the same gear. As ski lifts became more prevalent, skis—and their bindings—became increasingly specialized, differentiated between alpine (downhill) and Nordic (cross-country, Telemark, and ski jumping) styles of skiing. Until the point of divergence in the mid-20th century, bindings held the toe of a flexible, leather boot against the ski and allowed the heel to rise off the ski, typically with a form of strap or cable around the heel.
To address injuries resulting from falls while skiing downhill on such equipment, ski bindings emerged with the ability to release the toe of the boot sideways, in early models, and to release the boot forward and aft, in later models. Downhill ski bindings became standardized to fit plastic ski boots and incorporated a built-in brake that drags in the snow after the ski detaches from the boot.
Cross-country ski bindings evolved from being simple, bent-metal attachment plates with pins, which held a square-toed leather boot toe under a wire bale, to becoming standardized systems that held a plastic boot, attached to a bar in a recess in the boot's toe.
Back-country, jumping, and alpine touring ski bindings incorporate features found in alpine and Nordic bindings.
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