A quick note. Some classic cable bindings are included for reference, like the Hammerhead and Targa, but the focus will remain on bindings that are designed with a free-pivot touring mode for earning your turns.
Unlike alpine bindings, telemark bindings are a large part of the control equation when it comes to downhill performance. Controlling your rear ski in a tele turn requires varying amounts of lateral control and forward pressure, all dependent on the size ski used, the speed desired, and the terrain being navigated. Plus there is the preferences of the skier, how aggressive they are, and whether they like a more rigid boot/binding system, or a softer one.
If you’re new to telemark I’ll point out the time honored principle, though rarely followed anymore, that learning on a softer system is more difficult, but will hone your telemark skills better. In the short run it is more humbling, in the long run more rewarding. It is always easier to transfer skills to a beefier, more rigid boot/binding system than to adapt to a softer one.
The selection guide below is semi-intuitive, and not explicit. By not explicit I mean the positions of each binding are relatively accurate from one to another, but not explicitly accurate in terms of what boots or skis they are best with, although after 25 years I think I have some sense of what most people prefer and this experience and bias is embedded in the relative positions and the resulting recommendations. Likewise for weight or lack of resistance for touring, or the relative percentage of time spent under the lifts VS out of bounds.
Here’s the real cool part of this. Mouse over a binding and if you see a small pop-up window describing the binding…like “Hammerhead review”…you can click on it and it will take you to a review of that binding. Not all bindings are reviewed, and thus do not have reviews (yet). But most do. Check it out and let me know what you think.
The key things to ask yourself are:
- What skis will the bindings be mounted to?
- What boots will be driving them?
- How much time will be spent in the backcountry, or, how important is touring (uphill performance)?
The more time you spend in the backcountry, the more important a tour mode with a frictionless pivot will be, and the more a lighter weight binding will be preferred. The more time you spend in bounds, or the heavier your boots and skis are, the more you want a powerful binding that will probably be heavier. The key is balancing the weight, power, and performance you desire against your skiing goals and other equipment. There is no right answer, but some bindings will be better than others for you. Hopefully this chart will help you zero in on the best ones to consider.
Feel free to ask questions in the comments section of each binding. Someone will answer soon enough and with any luck, the answers will help you zero in on the best combo for you.
2014 Telemark Binding Selection Guide