Aug 20 2012

Telemark Binding Selection Chart


Small, non-functional version of binding selection chart.

This is a dry run of a page that I’m working on for helping people select a telemark binding. Your feedback, input, and criticism are requested. This isn’t complete yet because some of the relevant bindings are still absent in the archives of reviews available. Some will be published soon, others a bit later. But the basic guidelines will, provided it passes muster with your criticism, remain essentially the same with the addition of new options.

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.

Hammerhead review Telemark Tech System review Axl review Voile Switchback X2 review 7tm PowerTour review BD O1 review 1st Look - G3's Enzo preview Rottefella's NTN Freeride review Voile Switchback review G3 Ascent review Lite Dogz step-in 3-pin review

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.

© 2012

  • teletilyouresmelly

    Nice job Craig. Not sure the “weight” label works though, as many of the tour versions on the right are heavier than the resort-only versions on the left- maybe just have “% backcountry” both above and below?

  • http://ThompsonPass.Com/ Matt Kinney

    Backcountry efficiency?
    Hope you don’t mind me drawing all over your excellent graphics.

  • Dostie


    Good point. Your suggestion triggered another idea that should work on the web. I was trying to do it all in a single graphic for print…but this is the web where it could be more interactive.


    Draw away. I like the suggestion. I think I would put the line in a little different location, but I see what you’re getting at and concur.

  • http://ern.reeders.net.au/blog/ Ern Reeders

    Great work. Over-ambitious trying to correlate at least 4 variables on two axes?

  • skier

    How about the Burntmtn Spike 75 mm tele binding? There is also the NTN compatible NT “Spike” bulldog setup too. Full free pivot with both these bindings.
    Here is the NTBulldog, in free pivot mode, with my Prophets.

  • Dostie

    If you will, this was a dry run. Spike will be added after it has been reviewed. The final placement and configuration of this chart will change by then too. It will be part of an Intro page for Telemark bindings, and I have some new ideas on how to better present it.

  • hakuba13

    Hi! I´m going to buy a pair of Black Crows Freebird (97-98 mm waist) and I´m choosing between Voile Switchback x2 or 22 design axl. I will use both my old scarpa t2 and my new T1. I  will mostly use the  skis for skitouring and offpist near the lifts.  I´m a intermediate + skiier, quite strong but not an aggressive skiier. I´m 172 cm and 64 kg. Do you have any advice regarding my choice of bindings?

    I will use the skis this January for a trip to Japan, Hakuba and I will do skitouring there also.

    I have a pair of 7 tm power tour on my old skis and like the idea of releasable binding but I have understood that they might not be the most rigid (latteraly) for wider skis.

    Thankful for some advice…:)


  • http://ern.reeders.net.au/blog/ Ern Reeders

    The 7TM Power Tours I’d rate as about 2.5 – 3 on the HH scale of 5.   

    For release you could put either of the other 2 choices on Telebry SafeOuts.  With the Axls that starts to look like a heavy rig though; the SB x2s would be lighter, perhaps more reliable, are well rated but not adjustable.  

  • Dostie

    Concur with Ern that 7tm ~ HH#2.75ish. Switchback X2 ~ HH#3.0, maybe HH#3.5.   Axl#1 = HH#3+ and  Axl#2=HH#4+.  You should be fine with either – it depends more on whether your priorities are to trim weight from the 7tm rig, or increase power. 

    Both the Switchback X2 or Axl will increase power, but the Switchback X2 gives only a moderate improvement in power with a significant drop in weight while the Axl gives a strong improvement in power with little to no change in weight. And…as Ern implied, neither Axl or Switchback are inherently releaseable.  

    There is value in knowing how to do a starfish turn. :wink:

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=568622848 Anna Andersson

    Thanks all for your reply! :) I bought a pair of Axl hammerhead – will ski them during Christmas!

  • http://twitter.com/carlo_leo carlo leonardi

    nice job! used g3 targa for years, bd01 freeflex. and mid last 1 year. I think bd02 should be at left side of targa: g3 with tourthrow is still ok for backcountry in my opinion, i still prefer it on icy traverse, bacause I usually was able to put more pressure respect bd01 tour mode! I really think bd 02 is a totally resort binding. bye, carlo

  • Dostie

    Agree with you that BD’s O2 should be left of the Targa because it is heavier. The space each binding name occupies and the scale of the graphic prevent it from being as precise as your recommendation suggests. Hope you agree the O2 should be above the Targa, implying more “power.” 

  • Tryingtotele

    This is just the kind of advice I have been looking for!  Here is my situation:  Snowboarded all my life but have changed to skiing in the past few years.  I have been convinced that tele is the way to go so the first pair of skis I bought (a lightweight pair of K2s) were mounted with pair a of my boyfriends old Switchback bindings … a great back country set up.  BUT since I am a newish skiier and really cannot link tele turns (except on flat groomers with no obstacles) I quickly learned that those were not going to be my best bet in the back country so I now primarily use and AT set up when skiing out of bounds. 

    That said, I am still determined to figure out tele turns and have spent time on groomers at the resort trying to do so on those switchbacks.  I don’t like to blame my inability on gear (and wish I could follow your softer system principle) but I just feel like I don’t have control.  So I would like to try something different.  Based on the chart I am thinking of something like G3 Targa … does that make sense? 

    To summarize I will use these primarily inbounds to figure out tele turns, skis probably about 90 underfoot, boot = 3 buckles, skiier = female, 130 pounds, 5′ 4″, intermediate/advanced.

    Thanks for any help!

  • Dostie

    @try2tele:disqus  - You’re on the right track. Perseverence is costly, but pays big dividends. There is very little difference in the “power” quotient between a Targa and Switchback. You probably need a more supple boot, something like an old T2 or SynerG. Not too small, but smaller and softer than a T1 type boot.

    You would also benefit from a narrower ski – at least for learning. It is hard enough to learn how to put weight on the rear ski without also using a wide ski that is intrinsically harder to put on edge than a narrower ski. Try to find something closer to 80mm at the waist, or even narrower if you dare, until you get the hang of it. 

    You are probably missing one other ingredient. A friend who is pursuing the same goal, but is slightly better than you to encourage you. As a former snowboarder, part time AT skier you probably get heckled more than encouraged when you work on your tele skills. Hang in there. As a former snowboarder you may appreciate the versatility of skiing for backcountry vis-a-vis AT gear and parallel turns, but you will LOVE earning your turns when you can telemark in deep pow.

  • Pingback: OR Report: Backcountry bindings for 2014 | EarnYourTurns

  • Giorgio

    I’am Giorgio, a telemarker from Italy. I read your very interesting articles
    in Earn Your Turns and I would like to know what do you think about this
    set: 85mm waisted skis, T2 Scarpa boots, SW X2. Thank you.