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Jan 25 2011

OR Winter 2011 – renewed interest in Tele Lite

The annual Outdoor Retailer Winter trade show has come and gone again. The most encouraging news to report is the return of Scarpa’s T4 and a resurgence of interest in light telemark gear.

According to some manufacturers, it accounts for as much as 25% of the market for telemark gear. T4 isn’t the only sign of new products for tele light. Lest you think the demise of Karhu was the result of chasing a misguided dream with their XCD Guide, do not be fooled. That was merely an accounting decision to save the cost of licensing the brand.

The Madshus Annum

It’s not like K2 or Madshus couldn’t sell more skis without Karhu in the way, right? So the core of the Guide lives on as the Madshus Annum with new graphics.

Fischer S-Bound 112 w/Crown pattern and 78mm waist width for turn worthy flotation.

Nor is that the end of the options seen for tele light next year. Along with the return of Scarpa’s Tourminator 4, Fischer will add the 78mm waisted S-Bound 112 to their metal-edged waxless line. Fischer’s trademark crown pattern is known for excellent grip, so it will be interesting to see how much drag this wider version creates on the down.

Voile's Vector with a waxless pattern — the Vector BC. Click to enlarge.

Perhaps not nearly as much drag as the Vector BC with a 96mm waist from Voile, the first super-phat touring ski. Some of you are thinking “that’s not super fat, super fat skis are at least over 100mm wide, not less than.” In the downhill world that’s true. Not in the touring world, not with a waxless pattern for grip and metal edges for turns. In that world, the Vector is king o’ the phatties. How well it climbs remains to be seen, but it seems reasonable it could climb better than any other patterned ski by virtue of the increased surface area of the pattern.

Besides the T4, Scarpa will continue to offer a leather touring boot, the Wasatch. If you simply refuse to mooooove off a leather platform for tele, Scarpa has your boot. Keep in mind though, the T4 is not only warmer, dryer, longer lasting, and a better turning boot, it’s also $90 cheaper, retailing for $279. When Scarpa dropped the T4 and T3 from their offerings in America, it was because the target consumer couldn’t justify spending $300 for a pair of touring boots. The average touring customer wanted their boots in the $150-$200 range. Since then $279 for good walking AND turning performance doesn’t sound so unreasonable anymore, especially when it has the torsional rigidity to drive fatter skis that leather lacks. I hope Scarpa does well with sales of this boot as I’d hate to see it go away again.

There is another potential upside to the renewed interest in telelite – the opportunity to wean the terminally timid off of slowshoes and onto a rig that is easier to balance on than the typical skinny cross-country platform while keeping the glide in your stride.

© 2011

 

  • http://www.skitour.fr/blog/talonlibre/ Talonlibre

    Tele lite is for me something rather new. I was used to ride with heavy, strong and wide skis, and high and stiff boots.

    This winter, we just have a very thin layer of snow in the french north Alps. I have discovered kick-wax and it’s great.

    With a very nice pair of Crispi D-Racer leather boots from Montebelluna I can walk and glide everywhere (couloirs, slopes or backcountry).

    I just can do everything with only one pair of skis. I hate crowns and I prefer kick-wax and skins.

    I will be very happy to share with you some routes in the Aravis.

  • alexis

    I want to start learning to telemark this year, and I’m wondering if this Scarpa T4 boots will be good for a beginner?

    Thanks for input.

  • http://www.earnyourturns.com Dostie

    Ignoring the fit for a moment – absotively! There are two schools of thought on learning to tele and I’m a proponent of starting out with softer, less powerful gear. As Steve Barnett points out, with softer, less powerful equipment the only way you can tele is if you get the balance and coordination correct. With heavier boots, more powerful bindings, and fatter skis, it is easy to fake it.

    T4′s are a great middle ground boot. Being plastic they have WAY more torsional rigidity than leather boots, but they are soft enough to give a nice supple feel so you will really know when you’re weighting the rear ski well, and it is easy to weight it because you don’t have to overcome a stiff sole and cuff to get your weight on the ball of your foot.

    The only real issue is whether they fit you well. If they don’t, try Garmont’s Excursion or try to find an older pair of T3′s.

  • alexis

    Thank you for the reply Dostie.
    I tried Scarpa T2 and I found the fit really good. I hope it is the same fit for the T4.

    Here is another question then, I’m thinking to pair the T4 with Mt Baker Superlight (120 / 88 / 108mm) skis and a Voile Hardwire CRB Telemark Binding w/Ski Brake. Any of you have experience with any of this gear? what do you think about the 3 together.

    Thanks again.

  • http://www.earnyourturns.com Dostie

    The Scarpa fit is pretty consistent throughout their line. I haven’t tried a T4 on myself, but really like their ‘default’ last. It is the brand that requires the least amount of customization to fit my foot well (low instep, wide forefoot, narrow heel – very girly).

    As for the rig you propose, my only hesitation would be the Voile CRB. If you simply must have release, then this is a good option. But it sounds like you intend to do some touring since you are emphasizing lighter equipment. Voile’s CRB is lighter than the 7tm Power Tour, but lacks the free pivot. If you get the 3-pin cable CRB then you can unhook the cables for climbing and only use the 3-pin. Better than climbing with full cable resistance, and not much resistance with a T4, but more resistance than a free pivot. The free pivot really does make a difference.

    So overall, good choice. If you could pick up a pair of 7tm Power Tours used you might find they are a good 2nd choice.

  • alexis

    Thanks again, I’ll take a look at the 7tm Power Tours. But I have to admit that having release in my binding gives me a bit of peace of mind, real or placebo. I think Voile also makes the hardwire 3pin with release.
    I do intend to do touring, but I’m sure it will be a long time before I get confident enough with free heel.

    Cheers,
    Alexis

  • http://www.earnyourturns.com Dostie

    Voile’s CRB system is a good releasable binding. It is not DIN certified, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work well (release reliably). This design used to have a problem with pre-release when used with plastic boots, but that issue was solved around 2005. If you buy used, make sure it is newer than 2006.

    The 7tm series is the only releasable telemark binding that is DIN certified.

    And enjoy. Once you nail your first tele in deep powder you’ll be hooked. Don’t get discouraged, tele takes a solid 30 days of flailing to get a handle on it, and about 120 days to ‘master,’ but worth the investment. But you should be grinning after the first day. The width of your smile only gets wider the better you get.

  • gbedford

    Dear Dostie,

    This is a great site. I find your articles informative and balanced – plus they match my own experience.

    I am all for light gear. I ski Garmont Excursions which might be considered too light by some – however what is need is Excursions or similar that will match the TTS binding.

    I am getting old and lightweight touring is a priority.

    The funny thing is that I can match much of what I ski on heavier gear using my Atomic Rainier skis with 3 pin bindings. The great beauty of my old Rainiers is that they will hold an edge, have a 1+1/2 camber and a negative grip pattern. This incut pattern is great for moderate angle touring if you know how to ski. The trouble with these newer no wax jobs is the positive pattern – too much drag

    Anyway I am excited by this TTS binding. We just need a range of boots to match it. From big and burly down to Excursion / T4 light weights.

  • http://www.earnyourturns.com Dostie

    Bedford,

    Agreed, although I think the Kenai and boots like them are too tall in the cuff to make a really great touring boot. The tall cuff restricts the length of your stride. It is my main beef with all NTN boots at the moment.

    Like you I am looking forward to a NTN boot with a cuff that rocks backwards in tour mode like the rando race boots do. The good news is, I’ve heard rumors to the effect that…

  • alexis

    Finally I got to try my new setup, it was hard but fulfilling and prompted another question for the experienced telemarkers. Do you use lots of tension in the springs on your bindings or not? I was experimenting with it, but because my technique sucks I can’t tell what is better.
    PS: If there is a better space in your site for this type of question, I’m sorry, and I’ll be happy to repost. Thanks.

  • http://www.earnyourturns.com Dostie

    Alexis,

    That all depends on what your goals are. Most folks feel like they have more control of their rear foot when there is more tension on the cable (tighter). However…the less tension you provide, the more you will have to rely on technique for control. In the end it will make you better, but you will flail more while you are learning.

    My recommendation is to go with medium tension. The heel lever should give a solid snap when you latch it to the heel of your boot, but it shouldn’t be too hard to put on.

    What boots are you using? That makes a difference too. If you have a soft flexing boot, go with lighter tension. If you have a stiffer boot, you want more tension to help you flex the boot. Hope that explains things a bit better.

  • alexis

    Happy New Year to you all. I’m using the Scarpa T4 boots featured in this article, which by the way I like a lot.

  • http://www.earnyourturns.com Dostie

    Alexis,

    If you are using the 7tm binding, the heel lever is one of the more difficult to put on so the tension should feel pretty high. It really isn’t that much tension when you’re skiing, that’s just a side effect of the 7tm heel lever not being easy to flip up.