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Mar 28 2016

Scarpa & Scott drop heel inserts on NTN boots

Not even a heel groove is left for Scarpa's 2017 TX-Pro.

Not even a heel groove is left for Scarpa’s 2017 TX-Pro.

Good tele skiers know there’s a time and a place for parallel turns and if it doesn’t add much extra weight, why not add that ability? Unfortunately it looks like lawyers are about to put the big kabosh on the final pieces of the “pink pony,” the Holy Grail of telemark systems with a binding that telemarks well, tours well, is lightweight, has a safety release, and when you want or need it, can even let you lock your heel. The ability to do all those things requires a system of compatible boots and bindings.

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 Liability

Now you see 'em, soon you won't!

Now you see ‘em, soon you won’t!

This 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 precedent

You can see an outline where the insert used to be.

You can see an outline where the insert used to be.

In 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.

Related Posts
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

© 2016
 

  • Alex

    Is this change only in North America?
    ie. Will items ordered direct from Europe also have these changes?

  • jasonq

    ok, so yeah it sucks, not heel lock down (except kingpins).

    But what really sucks is they also didn’t put in a cable groove like a
    75mm boot. That means the spike NTN users will have to file a groove
    into their boots.

    And if they had added the groove, it would have made TTS and Moonlight
    type bindings better since stock heel throws would now work.

    removing the insert, and then not even adding the groove as a small compensation is a double insult.

  • joslstap

    Does anyone know if they did anything else with the TX pros (like stiffening up the bellows), or is it basically just a color change and an insert removal?

  • skier6

    jasonq
    I filed two small slots in the heel of my TX Comps for Spike Bulldogs. So not a big deal.

  • jnicol

    Great article, Dostie. I like that you didn’t beat around the bush and addressed this issue head on.

    Will Crispi use Dyanfit inserts in the future or continue with their knock-offs?

  • jnicol

    Not sure about the future, but the Scarpa TX Pros I bought from Europe this month had both the heel inserts and the bellow shims. Scarpa NA told me when I called them earlier this winter that they were no longer supplying bellow shims.

  • repete

    So the only news so far is that Scarpa is taking away features rather than adding them? While neither the heel groove or heel insert affects me it is a disappointing turn of direction. It’s funny that after decades of making boots for non releasable tele bindings, it is a releasable alpine binding that prompts this decision.

    I’m hoping there is more promising developments in Scarpa boots to come such as inserts in Comps. There seems to be no interest on Scarpa’s part to do so.

  • Dostie

    It’s always darkest before the dawn.

  • repete

    I hope you’re right. My thought has been that NTN would standardized boots and binding design allowing more options. I know that I am not alone in wanting further improvement in tele boots, so close yet so far away.

  • Mike Kavanaugh

    So, does this mean I should hold off any end-of-season deals on the TX Comp, as inserts may be coming? Pretty please!

  • Alex

    Europe says,
    “Yes, Scarpa’s TX Pros will all be the same worldwide next winter – without the tech heel attachment.
    Amazingly stupid, but there you go.”

  • Dostie

    There is zero chance the heel inserts will return to Scarpa NTN boots anytime soon. Soon is a relative term, but I wouldn’t bet on anytime sooner than 2018 at the earliest. I hope I am proven wrong.

  • Mike Kavanaugh

    Toe inserts on the TX Comp are what I’m holding out some small hope for. Heel inserts would be nice but a distant hope…

  • Dostie

    You’ll be waiting a loooong time for that. If you want a stiffer flexing NTN boot with tech inserts, try Crispi’s Evo or WC. A smidgen narrower, but with a similar instep buckle.

  • Hans Joergen Guthe

    Interesting view! My TX comp (used with both Freedom and the Meidjo) definitely died last month after 3 years of use. I am seriously thinking of a switch to Chrispi. Any comments/thoughts regarding the Evo compared to WC when walking with skins is equal important to ski downhill?