…tele tech bindings that use the duckbutt, like the Meidjos do, are pointing directly at the future of telemark.
DisclaimersI am a certified retrogrouch and notorious late adopter. But I’m not a Luddite, I swear. I have a smart phone and I’m even beginning to learn how to do some cool things with it. I can write code; that’s FORTRAN, right? I’ve never used a GPS in my life… not once. But I can navigate precisely in a whiteout with a map, compass, and altimeter. I have some modern ski gear, kind of… if you consider skiing unbuckled black and silver T1s in walk mode to be modern.
When it comes to new gear I usually let others do the beta testing. I waited several years before even finding a way to demo NTN and when I did finally try it, I was kind of underwhelmed. It was ok. But also being someone who is not above dumpster-diving for ski gear, I could never see throwing down cash for something I didn’t think was any better than what I already had.
So a few months ago, when I was looking for a pair of new Intuition liners, I found some, inside a pair of Scarpa TX shells on a screamin’ Wilderness Exchange Unlimited demo deal. I posted on BackCountry Talk, speculating about what binding I might pair them with on a lighter ski and risking ridicule for wondering if I could use them with Meidjo bindings and lighter than air BD Carbon Convert skis to save a full five pounds over my T1s, Switchback X2s, and SkiLogik Bomb Squads. My long-range plan was to demo what I could and look for deals at some point in the future, not this year. And I rationalized the entire purchase by telling myself I could use the new liners—on which I spent close to $300—in one of the two pair of T1s that I bought for less than $100 total.
Then Dostie moved to Colorado.
I Can Resist Anything Except Temptation
We had chatted backchannel a few times over the years but had only skied together once or twice. Craig offered me a chance to demo the Meidjos (ver. 1.2) on a pair of Voile V6s, and since I had these shells still holding onto my new liners, I thought, what’s the worst that could happen? Might I like them so much I would sell everything I’ve got to buy a quiver of one? I carefully evaluated this risk, determining it was asymptotically close to zero since I’m not willing to part with any gear that I didn’t pull out of a dumpster or find in somebody’s trash on the street. We talked about me doing a review of the Meidjos and I wondered why should we limit it to only the binding? Who wants to read another boring binding review scientifically isolated from all the other gear I use when we could tell a boring story about actually skiing powder instead? I could see the click-bait.
This Neo-Luddite retrogrouch changed from riding heavy tele to tele tech: What happened next will blow your mind!
Will he suck? Will he get injured (again)? Will he want to lock his heel for parallel turns? Will he actually learn something? Well, let’s not get too carried away here.
We arrived at Loveland early, picked up our season passes, and after a brief clinic on cocking the second heel assembly and stepping into the tech toe, I laid the skis down on the snow and attempted my first entry. I didn’t fall. Not too bad. Then, to engage the second heel in the TXs, Dostie said just step down and then pull my heel up. It was surprising when, after lifting my heel up and hearing the snap under my foot, my boot was secured and I had not so much as bent over to fasten a leash. Then I remembered, these bindings had no brake and I wished I had taken that Pepcid before breakfast.I didn’t think to ask how to get out of the bindings. We loaded Chair 1 and in a few minutes we stood at the top of Spillway, a White Ribbon Of Death that connects to Lower Richards run, another WROD, to get us back to the base. A considered approach to ski testing might have been to start with some fundamental techniques such as pizza and French fries, kick-turns, and riding it switch to the road. But spillway is just an icebahn that gets bumpy around the edges and can have lots of moving targets. Seeing the whole slope without another person on it, I pushed off and straightlined it about halfway down before I started making turns.
The first thing I noticed was that the V6s were a much more impressive ski than I expected. The speed limit was higher than I would have thought given how light they are. When I dropped a tele turn low, the Meidjos put me right on the edge of the inside ski and it simply took the line I wanted it to and held on. I was in the fall line and wasn’t trying to control my speed since there was nobody nearby to hit. Everything just hooked up and felt familiar—not unlike Switchback X2s. I was not finishing my turns at all, just pointing down the mountain and carving big superG turns. That’s kind of how I prefer to ride as long as it’s not steep and exposed. Also, I was riding with the TXs in ski mode, something I never do in my T1s.
After a few runs on the WROD we got a little bored and went for a hike. The TXs, being softer than T1s, were easy enough to hike in ski mode and I didn’t bother changing them. I thought they skied fine too, but in variable wind affected snow I found that I could get tossed around a little and I kind of missed the increased flexibility I have in walk mode to adjust to minute terrain and snow differences. I wasn’t sure if it was more the light skis or the soft boots yet but I kept the TXs in ski mode because of that learning thing.
We dropped below tree line and over a roll into some deep powder. The bindings had already disappeared for me, not that I would notice much in the snow we were in. It was light, cold, and deep… and barely affected by the wind. I felt perfectly dialed in billowing clouds of ego snow.
After our little hike we returned to the mountain and skied a couple of white ribbons on our way to the bar. I liked everything I had experienced so far. The skis were surprisingly stable and the boots were fine. The bindings were easy to get into and, once I learned the trick of pointing my toe up and rotating in that position, easy to get out of, too. They had a familiar but more powerful feel under my feet. They felt more solid than I expected, given their extremely lightweight. I reminded myself I had not toured in them yet.
Day TwoFor my second day we gravitated back to Loveland. Again we skied white ribbons until boredom drove us out of the ski area. This time we went for a tour up Dry Gulch to ski some lines on the north face of Mount Trelease. A steepish skintrack was already in. The boots felt great going uphill in walk mode as they have a lot more range of motion than my T1s have. The bindings performed perfectly. The snow was cold and I had no problems whatsoever with snow packing or icing. At the top Dostie showed me that it was indeed possible to switch from tour to ski mode with a pole grip at about the same time I figured out I could operate the little wire switch with gloves on. I told you I am a slow learner.
I flicked TXs to ski mode and we skied some really variable snow around tree line before dropping into deep, soft powder below. In the variable snow at the top I was getting tossed around a little. It wasn’t bad snow—just variable and slightly uneven wind-driven snow on a variety of hard slab conditions. Based on everything else I had skied, I thought the V6s should have been able to handle these conditions better than they did. I remember wondering if the issue here might not have been the boots so much as having them in ski mode. I like skiing in walk mode because it allows me to make tiny adjustments in my balance that ski mode can inhibit. I made a mental note to try skiing the TXs in walk mode some time in the future, as Dostie had been doing.
At one point on the descent, we skied over a big pillow of a wind-hammered drift with very little new snow on top of it. Suddenly wanting to finish my turns for the first time since I’d been on the new gear, I cranked a left turn hard to control my speed. The V6s suddenly started bouncing sideways several inches at a time. Because of the double fall line I was on, the left turns chattered more than the right, but both turns chattered until I stopped at an island of safety where the slope turned back to powder. I waited for everyone else to finish skiing the line and then took a little side slot around some trees where I found the deepest snow of the day. Everything was back to perfect performance. The slope was actually just as steep but being protected from the wind, was deep powder. I was beginning to grasp just how soft the TXs are. They skied like a dream in powder or on slopes shallow enough that I could stay close to the fall line. But when I needed to put on the brakes, I realized they were not going to be adequate for me to ski all the terrain I normally ski in T1s.
Takeaways from this day were that the Meidjo binding tours great… just like I would expect a tech binding to tour. I still didn’t experience any icing issues but again, the snow was cold and dry. The skis, being light and snappy, did not give me the solid damp ride that I prefer. But that’s not surprising. They are what they are and I like them more than I expected to. The TXs gave me the most to think about. They are very soft in the upper cuff—softer than I remember T2s having been. This too should not have been revelatory but more of a confirmation. While I don’t mind the fore-aft softness, laterally, they just are not up to steep, firm slopes on skis wider than 100mm underfoot.
I skied them a third time on Christmas eve. This time we rode lifts at Loveland all day. I started the day on T1s and a pair of custom skis I have that I like to call the MachLoonies, a pair of ponderosa pine and carbon planks that are happiest going at least 50mph. Lots of trees were opening and those Loonies were not the right skis so I switched over to the tech NTN rig pretty early on. After a couple of runs in ski mode, I flicked them to walk mode to see how it works. While I’ve got to admit it makes the boots even softer, and while the much greater backward range of motion was a little disconcerting at first, I felt more comfortable. Once I found my center, I didn’t want to go back to ski mode. I like a certain amount of sensitivity and feel through my feet and ankules that must come from having learned on floppy leathers and misery sticks. Anyway, skiing in walk mode forces me to be centered because if I’m not, there is nothing there to lean on to recover. The limitations of this boot are, for me, in lateral stiffness of the cuff and my associated ability to maintain an edge when I most need it. After a couple of runs in walk mode, We noticed that the gates were opened on West Ropes. There were three sets of tracks when we went through the first gate and we got first-of-the-season tracks four times in a wide, steep, tree skiing zone of about 800 vertical feet.
The Cliff Notes:
So the boot is for touring. For a wide and high volume fit, they were tight on my supposedly narrow, low volume feet. There was ample width in the forefoot. But around the instep, they were really tight. I recooked the liners and buckled everything up tighter than I normally would and they came out perfect the second time. But I did find this boot’s limits as they apply to me and to the way I ski. If I were to make any general statements about them they would be to stick to softer skis under 100 mm and choose a stiffer boot for no-fall zones.
Knowing they are soft to begin with, the V6s perform much better in deep powder and fall line speed than I expected. When the consequences of a fall are high, I prefer a damp, sandwich construction ski anyway. So while the dimensions of the V6 are in that quiver-of-one range, I don’t think it’s that kind of ski for a lot of skiers. As pleased as I was with it, and even though I think the steep problem was more the boots, let’s face it. This is a light ski that is not as stable and predictable as something heavier. At 102mm, they ski powder like a much bigger ski, are very responsive, and have a longer radius than some other skis in this size and performance range. They do very well when you point them down the mountain and keep them close to the fall line. Again, I liked them a lot more than I thought I would.
I think tele tech bindings that use the duckbutt like the Meidjos do are pointing directly at the future of telemark. I never thought getting in and out of a tele binding could be so easy. In addition, they are crazy light. The Meidjos are a neutral binding, and by that I mean the mechanism that grabs the duckbutt does little to help to bend your boot. My understanding is that Meidjo 2.0 has a little less active feel than the 1.2. I wouldn’t expect that to be a problem for me, but for those of our brothers and sisters who like an active binding to help drive the turn from the tip, this might not be the best choice for them.
The Meidjos do provide very solid transmission of leverage to the edge of the ski, and ski a lot like Switchback X2s but with a more solid feel when you are heeled over riding the edge. They also have a little more progressive resistance when you drop the knee. And they tour great, though I have yet to experience the icing problems some speak of in warmer temperatures than are normal for November and December in Colorado. I would like to be able to switch between ski and walk modes on the fly in either direction. But having to take the ski off to switch from ski to tour mode is not a deal breaker. As it is, I can go from tour to ski with a pole grip, and that’s the one that really matters to me.
Did I mention they feel really solid? As an older skier who skis fast but with minimal effort, I love the way they ski. But I can understand how a larger or more aggressive skier might not have a lot of confidence in something so light.
My only concerns would be:
• Is icing really that much of a problem that it is worse than other telemark bindings?
• How durable is that little wire switch that controls ski and tour mode?
• Will the brakes on future versions be workable in both resort and backcountry?
I have seen my future and it is in tech.
For more user feedback on Meidjo check out several threads at BackcountryTalk.com
Meidjo – New TTS/NTN binding coming soon