Two steps back
Prior to this year, 2016, no binding existed that could do all those things. Now that it is available, via the M-Equipment’s Meidjo and Moonlight’s Tele Rando binding, Scarpa has coincidentally eliminated the tech insert at the heel. For the 2016 season, the metal heel insert has been replaced with a removable plastic plug. This does allow the metal insert to be added by cannibalizing another pair of boots. Next year the sole will be solid, making an add-on difficult, but as the example of the CAST binding suggests, not impossible.
Scott was finally ready to add tech inserts to their NTN boots, the men’s Voodoo and women’s Minerva, but decided to follow Scarpa’s lead and only provide toe inserts. According to Scott’s US marketing manager for ski products, Topher Plimpton, the insert will be absent for liability reasons. This is truly a bummer for fans of Garmont’s Prophet since that boot offered a more alpine like cuff flex, something that would be beneficial with a locked the heel.
Safety requires LiabilityThis liability thing has been around for a long time but telemark equipment was free from the scourge of liablity, afterall, what isn’t clear about the trouble with skiing a non-releaseable binding? Telemarkers willingly take on that risk because they know they aren’t freeing the heel to be safer, they’re freeing it to be free’er, especially of things that bring lawyers out of the woodwork spoiling all our unsafe fun.
Now, if by chance the person who brought this liability trouble on us were a telemarker we might be able to shame some sense into him. But it was an alpine skier who was using Scarpa’s F1 Evo, the one with the Tronic mode switch, where the boot cuff would automatically be loose if the boot wasn’t locked into a Dynafit type binding at the heel. In a freak set of circumstances some guy managed to have his boots switch to walk mode while he was skiing downhill. He was hurt and threatened to sue Scarpa. According to an anonymous source, Scarpa’s lawyers made that one go away. After that close call, Scarpa eliminated the Tronic system, not for Europe where this happened, but for the US market where ambulance chasing lawyers salivate over such opportunities.
Setting the precedentIn typical legal fashion, the bribe to settle out of court doesn’t really make the problem go away, it sets a precedent that leaves Scarpa — or any other boot maker with a tech-compatible boot that has the potential to slip out of locked heel mode while skiing — potentially liable for further out-of-court settlements. That meant all those NTN tele boots with tech fittings already out in the world were lawsuit seeds waiting to sprout.
Any reasonable pinhead who had the option to ski an NTN boot in a Dynafit type binding should know the flexible bellows can cause the boot length to contract, “slipping out” of the heel pins into tour mode. No respectable telemarker would sue a boot company because their teleboot disengaged from the heel of a Dynafiddle binding. If you don’t know enough to support the sole under the bellows to keep it from flexing that doesn’t mean you deserve social justice because you were too stupid to know better. Even with tech inserts, flexible soled tele boots are inherently incompatible with alpine bindings, even though they seem to work.
The old adage, “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should” becomes law, not merely advice, in our increasingly litigious society. Thus, unfortunate as it may be it is not surprising that Scarpa decided to stop including tech heel inserts. In a way, it’s amazing it took this long considering the potential for that trouble existed since the beginning. But it’s still sad that lawyers have now entered the free heel sphere and in typical fashion their first move is to restrict our freedom to chose such a tool.
Crispi to the rescue!
All is not lost, however. While Scarpa and Scott have chosen to eliminate heel inserts, Crispi plans to continue offering them on their Evo and Shiver models. I hope it helps them sell more boots, enough that Scarpa and Scott reconsider their latest decision to remove them.
Scarpa’s F1 Evo review
Scarpa Recalls F1 Evo
Garmont Prophet review
Scott Voodoo NTN to add inserts
Scarpa TX Review
Scarpa TX-Pro Review
Meidjo’s Low Tech Heel
Other Meidjo Articles
Moonlight Mountain Gear’s Tele Tech bindings
News of Scarpa dropping Heel Inserts