Then there is the ability to get into the NTN binding without bending over. A nice convenience, but it still won’t prevent your friends with training heels from making fun of you because your mind is broken just like your binding.
Along with release came brakes. Perhaps the single most convincing factor about Rottefella’s NTN Freedom and Freeride bindings was the elimination of bending over to put on a leash, and the likelihood of getting clobbered upside the head by your own ski in a cartwheel crash. That and edging power previously unknown in the telemark world.
As we head into next winter, the field of NTN binding choices will have grown from the Freeride to a total of seven models that work with a compatible, NTN boot. With that, the reasons to switch go from being merely significant, to compelling, depending on what your priorities are.
Rottefella’s NTN OptionsBesides the Freeride, there is the Freedom, both from Rottefella. Freeride got the ball rolling and still offers the sort of control aggressive skiers demand. Complaints of cracking frames have faded since the last round of revisions (2013), and patrollers swear by them for how easy they are to get in and out of. Even though they won’t set any records for touring efficiency, they’re good enough for short shots and infinitely superior to cable bindings like the Cobra. What ails the Freeride in the touring department, noticeable resistance and only 30° range of motion for touring, is cured with the Freedom. While there is still slight resistance in the touring mode, unless you’re breaking trail in fluff, it is barely perceptible and it delivers a full 55°+ ROM. Plus it has two heights of climbing post, not only one. It isn’t as active as the Freeride, but has a smoother, faster engagement. Many prefer the Freedom for that alone.
Burnt Mt. Designs NTNThen there is Spike, the oft overlooked, easily adaptable binding from Burnt Mountain Designs. Spike provides plenty of downhill power, works with any NTN boot, and has five pivot positions to adjust the tele-resistançe. It has a frictionless tour mode but switching modes takes a bit of fiddling.
22 Designs NTNThe one many are looking forward too, 22 Designs Outlaw, an Axl power train on an NTN chassis, will provide power on par with the Freeride but with faster engagement and frictionless touring efficiency for a full 45°+ ROM. One thing you are sure to love is how dang easy these bindings are to get in to. Easier than most alpine bindings, even low DIN alpine bindings. However, getting out of them requires learning a new way to fiddle with your pole, but you’ll master it eventually. It has brakes, but no claims of safety release, although a few beta testers did experience it once or twice.
For the touring minded, Dynafit has invaded the telemark world and this is the reason the NTN system will steadily lure converts, not only from duckbilled telemarkers, but also from those who switched to AT for efficiency, yet miss the tele turn.
OMG’s Telemark Tech SystemOlympus Mountain Gear’s TTS will have a revised toe and a heel system that can hardly be beat for simplicity and mountaineering functionality. This binding requires a bellowed boot with tech fittings, which means a NTN boot. The simple addition of snow shedding tape on top of the cable block does an admirable job of preventing snow building up under your toes. For those who like high tele-resistançe, TTS delivers that in spades. If you prefer less cable tension, you’ll need to experiment to fine tune the cable position, but there is some evidence that 45mm behind the pins will detune the pogo stick factor enough. As with most tech based bindings, the 2-pin touring efficiency and lack of weight make the TTS undeniably appealing.
Moonlight Mountain GearTTS won’t be the only kid on the block sporting tech teeth at the toe. Moonlight Mountain Gear will offer what is clearly a TTS copy, but with some variation in the cable system and the option to improve parallel performance, either with a Dynafit-style race heel, or a simpler, heel stabilizer to add lateral control when the heel is flat. The cable system comes from Voile and is easy to remove for skinning, or put back on to tele. A roofed spacer between the cable block and the toe does a superb job preventing snow buildup underfoot. As of this writing (sept’15), the cable pivot position is not adjustable.
7tm et alI’ve seen a prototype of a 7tm tech binding, but don’t know if it will be available this season. It has the same heel strap and spring system as the 7tm, paired with a tech toe.
There are bound to be a few other knock-offs of the basic TTS design, mostly small production run cable systems sold at an underground level. Nor will I neglect to mention the handful of tinkerers who can and will spend excessive time building their own heel contraptions for various tech toes to create their own, unique garage-band binding.
The M-EquipmentThe binding that has many tele ducks quacking about switching from a boot with a bill to one with a butt is Meidjo (pr: may’-zho), from The M-Equipment. Meidjo combines a 2-pin tech toe with NTN technology. A spring-loaded plate hooks on the NTN second heel with a smooth, medium stiff flex that engages right off the deck. It isn’t over powering, but there is no lag time when engaging the power available. It’s also releasable, and will offer brakes in November 2015. There are even plans to offer a tech heel for those who want to switch-hit between a free or locked heel.
NTN BootsWhen you look at the choices available for bindings you’re struck by the variety available, a clear indication that there is plenty of interest in the new telemark norm. Unfortunately, things don’t look so optimistic on the boot side of the system.
There are now 10 models of NTN boots available for 2016 – Scarpa’s TX-Pro, men’s and womens, the TX-Comp; Crispi’s Evo, Evo World Cup and Shiver men’s and women’s, plus Scott’s NTN Voodoo and Minerva. Between them there is some variation in last shapes, but nothing particularly light weight, or with record setting cuff mobility. While AT boots may be lighter, and offer more cuff ROM, bellowed tele boots still walk more naturally, especially NTN boots sans duckbill.The lack of choice and availability in the realm of NTN boots will be the biggest obstacle to growing the ranks of telemark skiers sliding on NTN gear. This is particularly poignant if you are interested in the possibilities presented with tech-style telemark bindings, for then your choices are limited to three models of boot, five if you count the women’s models separately. That also implies that for women, there is but one choice. Not exactly, but you get my drift.
While it is easy to harp on manufacturers to step up and provide more, their response is really driven by consumer demand. I’ve heard rumors Scarpa has improvements they are considering, but unless they’re confident they’ll sell enough to cover development costs plus profit, why bother?While it is easy to lament the lack of choice with NTN boots, the reality is the boot designs available are clearly adaptions of the most popular 75mm tele boots. Which means, though limited, they address what 90% of telemark skiers are looking for in a boot.
If you’re just switching over to tele, let boots be your guide. If the only boots that work with your foot come with a duckbill then stick with 75mm; the available performance is proven and solid, with safety release being the only
missing ingredient, ironically, lacking market endorsement. However, if you can find an NTN boot that fits your foot, the full range of performance available in the 75mm realm now exists with NTN, plus safety release, easier entry, and better touring efficiency. When you look at the variety of choices available with NTN bindings, and the features they provide, unless you’re in a monogamous relationship with chairlifts, the reasons to switch to NTN are compelling indeed.
I’ll admit I was reluctant to buy Mitch Weber’s claim that “NTN is the future of telemark.” His enthusiasm is finally being vindicated with results.
Telemark Binding Selection Guide
Review: Rottefella’s Freeride
Review: Rottefella’s Freedom
Review: Burnt Mt. Design’s telepup, Spike!
Review: Telemark Tech System, v2
First Look: Meidjo – Tech + NTN
Meidjo gets a makeover, v2 details.
First Look: Moonlight’s 2-pin Tele Binding
Status of 22D’s Outlaw Beta Program