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Mar 26 2012

Review: Telemark Tech System (ver. 2.0)

To the casual observer, the updates to the Telemark Tech System look cosmetic. To a user, they transform a fledgling idea in beta form into a product worth owning, especially if you already have the boots.

The new TTS with a heel lever that latches solid and strong on the heel step of compatible boots, adjustable tele resistance and it stands flat.

Gone with this production version of TTS is the phenolic base plate which held the toe piece and cable posts in position relative to each other. The bad news is, now you get a paper template for mounting, so you better be good or get someone who is to mount these. The good news is the cable posts now come with three positioning slots, so you can make the binding more or less aggressive relative to the beta version, which is somewhat akin to Axl#2 or HH#4.

Another improvement with the cable posts is they don’t stand as high, so your foot can rest flat when you want it to. The beta posts put you mildly on your toes. It was bearable, but noticeable and is now thankfully corrected.

The borrowed Hammerheel post was an equal contributor to the toe-tippy sensation of the beta version, so the production upgrade kit for TTS comes with its own heel post. The climbing bales for it are reminiscent of the O1 – simple and effective, but lacking spring activation like the climbing peg on the Hammerheel. That is a worthwhile sacrifice to have a heel post that lets you rest your heel flat.

The second biggest improvement is the heel lever for the spring cable assembly that is dimensioned to work with a Targa heel yoke and G3 spring cartridges. It provides a good snap off the heel step of an NTN boot, something a stock G3 heel lever simply cannot do. If you insist on using a Voile spring assembly, which you may, or a Cobra spring system, use their heel levers.

TTS upgrade kit with La Sportiva RT toe piece. Use whatever flavor tech toe you have.

Considering that a good chunk of interest in this binding will come from telemarkers who abandoned the restrictive tele heel for the skinning superiority of Dynafit, and they left while Targa’s still ruled retail sales and free pivot tele bindings were still but a dream, the TTS upgrade kit is a perfect match for you since it only provides the pieces you’re missing to make it all work together. Pull out those old Targa cable assemblies and order up a TTS upgrade kit.

Don’t have any spare Targa cables and springs? Visit your local shop. Like mine, your local shop probably has a box full of old Targa springs and heel yokes that they’ll part with for a bargain – either a 12-pack or a greenback with a picture of Andy Jackson on it.

For those who never abandoned tele but still want a super light weight rig with lots of control on the downhill, TTS delivers a complete binding too.

Many of the early adopters like yours truly were impressed with how much power TTS delivered, but not enamored with it. That’s perhaps the most important improvement — you can ratchet that power down a notch with the new cable posts.

The only problem with the adjustability of the new TTS is you have to unscrew the posts to reposition the cable. To minimize that, here’s my recommendations.

TTS still delivers tons of free-pivot ROM, plus dual climbing post heights.

If you like a lot of cable tension, in the HH#4 range, go with the middle setting. If you don’t need that much power, by all means, start in the forward position. Switchback, Cobra, or O1 mid-stiff converts who like the resistance of their bindings will definitely prefer the forward position. If you think Axl#3 or HH#5 were just a tease, move that cable back to the last notch or just go back to using training heels.

While this is the biggest improvement to skiability for the TTS binding, it may still not fit the bill, especially if you prefer even less cable tension for turning ala Switchback or Targa. At that point you need to recognize that you’re on your own. Be aware that without a duckbill and toeplate to provide a forward stop to rotating the boot sole, there is a limit to how far you can move the cable pivot point forward without losing the ability to compress the bellow and apply pressure to the ski. It seems prudent to move the cable guides a full notch further forward so the rear position is now equivalent to the middle thus giving two less active options to chose from.

It is also worth mentioning that in the current incarnation, especially if you have a large foot, the odds of fully compressing the springs is high. The TTS binding will, more or less, force you to maintain a tall stance because of limited spring travel. However, it provides so much control maintaining a high stance shouldn’t be a problem. If you absolutely must have more spring travel distance, you’ll need to build your own custom spring assembly. Don’t rule out future options for this either.

The only thing that appears to be amiss is how to accommodate ski crampons behind the toe piece. Indeed, the cable posts will prevent that, but you can put a ski crampon behind them as long as you eliminate the forward climbing bar from the heel post. My recommendation is to use B&D crampons with the telemark accessory post.

At a pound per foot the Telemark Tech System practically disappears on the ascent.

The new cable posts deliver another unexpected benefit – reduced icing underfoot when climbing. The beta version collected a lot more snow between the toe piece and the old cable posts, perhaps because of how high they were or from the snow sticking to the base plate. Whatever the reason, the tendency for snow to build up underfoot seems to be gone, or at least reduced (see comment below).

If you’ve been waiting for TTS to grow up a bit, it has. The chubby cable posts and ill fitting heel posts are more slender, functional, and adaptable. Equally importantly the heel lever got the nose job it needed to snap on to the heel step of any compatible boot. Weight matters. Power matters. Why carry more than you need to?

I can only think of only one reason not to get a TTS binding…boots. There are not many boots to chose from and if you want the walking comfort of a T2 or SynerG you need to get a pair of F1s which are expensive. Next season’s TX is supposed to tour better than this years, but that remains to be experienced. It sure doesn’t look like much has changed other than the color and minor improvements to the buckles. The cuff range of motion appears unchanged. Keep in mind that for most conditions I’m making a big deal of a small issue since that cuff ROM is sufficient as long as you’re climbing.

My advice? Start looking for deals on Scarpa boots with bellows and tech fittings. To be specific, the TX or TX-Bro with NTN soles, or the F1 and F3 that can tele with the TTS binding (but not NTN). If we’re lucky, Crispi will actually show up in North America next season (12/13) with tech fittings on the Evo and Shiver like they said they would, but didn’t, this season. That would provide two more boot options.

One of the big concerns you may have is whether the tech toe will release prematurely. Whether you believe those who have been using it or not is a test of your faith in the tech system, or lack thereof. If you don’t believe, then it won’t work. If you do, there’s plenty of examples already out there to reinforce that faith. My own was descending a hairy, moguled and steep run that provided plenty of opportunity for the toe to let go. I locked one out so it couldn’t, but forgot to lock the other out – a simple case of anxiety induced amnesia. But neither binding released, further evidence that believing is seeing, not the other way around.

The updated, significantly improved Telemark Tech System.

For those who have dreamed of blending Dynafit efficiency with the sensual telemark turn the Telemark Tech System is what you’ve been waiting for. It has its own set of limits, but at roughly a pound per foot with plenty of turning power there is very little not to like.

Marcus Engley demonstrates fluid style w/power using TTS:

Wasatch Ski Distribution
Telemark Tech System

Basic Conversion kit (w/o springs)
Price: $149

Full Conversion Kit (w/springs)
Price: $249

Full Binding w/ Dynafit Radical Toe
Price: $459

Related Posts:
BackcountryTalk thread – TTS, strength, weaknesses, workarounds
Verdict on Telemark Tech System
Dynafit goes bi-sensual
Day 2 on TTS
Day 1 on TTS

© 2012

  • DrDanger

    Good review of what I think might just be the best new development in teleskiing since plastic boots came on the scene. My set up is the one you have pictured on the bottom of your post only with Voile hardwire/cartridges. Matched to Scarpa F1 carbons with my BOA liners from my BD Custom teleboot instead of stock liners. Have pivot in the middle position, and even with these much lighter boots (as compared to my BD Customs) I have experienced the most powerful set up I have ever skied on. It helps that the skis I have them mounted to are lighter than typical, the Voile Vector BC @ 180cm, making this feel much snappier since the my new set up has saved me 8 pounds!

    I did the “garage floor” binding test using that exact ski. I like the Voile springs set up better as the other set up had a very hard end to the end of the forward flex, and Voile’s was much more progressive and natural feeling. Mark told me that they are currently trying to manufacture a cartridge with a disc spring inside that will allow for more travel, and perhaps less wear/greater longevity of the current offerings. I still enjoy a good low boy turn now and then and find that works well with my set up, likly because of the extra soft bellows of the F1′s.

    If conditions are just right (sticky snow conditions) the mounting support blocks tend to ice up and can put you up on your toes. Suggested considering metal reinforced plastic construction to eliminate that problem. Only 8 days on them so far but have tested them from epic resort powder day…yes we actually did have one this year, to breakable crust skiing BC and performed admirably.

  • http://www.thompsonpass.com Valdez Telehead

    Looking much better.

    This may seem like a dumb(er) TTS question, but would it be possible to put (modify) tiny metal inserts on each side of a telemark duck bill to accept the AT binding toe piece versus having to buy an AT boot? Maybe its been tried or ignored.

  • http://www.earnyourturns.com Dostie

    My bet is it has been tried and subsequently abandoned. The problem is that the wedge shape at the toe of the AT norm is symmetrical, whereas the 75mm norm is asymmetrical. So proper alignment would be difficult, and probably require removing a fair amount of material on the outside of the duckbill to make it be properly positioned.

    You’re hitting the nail on the head of the biggest drawback to NTN/TTS – the limited choices for boots. Most of the NTN boots are aimed at in-bounds skiing with limited use for uphill. Thus they’re beefy and have limited cuff range of motion for walking.

    The best option for lightweight and good downhill performance appears to be Scarpa’s F1 which is pricey and doesn’t show up on the used market much.

    OTOH – I know a lot of US retailers who would be happy to strike a deal to clear their shelves of Scarpa TX or TX-Pros which are very equivalent in performance to the Kenai’s. The comparative weight gain of the boot will more than be offset by the weight savings on the binding.

  • DavidN

    I have 30 or 35 days this year on TTS bindings. Using F1 Carbon boots which I replaced the stock liner with Intuition Pro Tour liners.

    The F1s walk like running shoes, are warm and comfy and ski down with finesse. I think I have better feel of my foot guiding and shaping the ski with the snow underneath than any other boot I have used including some that were much stiffer. My experience with this combination of boot, liner and TTS is now by far my preferred setup.

    The cool thing with the F1 boots is I can put the boots on at home in Aspen, very safely drive my car with boots on, over to Highlands or Tiehack, skin up for some exercise, ski down with the best of tele control and go home and take a nap. Walking the 2000 foot hike up the Highlands Bowl is a pleasure with light equipment carried on my back and very walk-able boots. I like skiing down the steeps of the bowl with the F1s equal or better than four buckle boots with Hammerhead bindings.

    I have TTS mounted on Kastle TX87s and DPS Wailer 99. Works equally well on both sets of these very different skis. Zero pre-release skiing down in ski mode, not tour mode, on the toes. One egg beater fall and release happened on one ski. I am particularly enamored with the adjustable pivot point and the feel of the tech toe as opposed to the connection of a duckbill. If this binding catches on, I think beginner tele skiers will gain much from the TTS pivot point as they go through the learning curve to weight and shape the rear ski.

    Has anyone tried the La Sportiva RT brakes with a TTS setup? Anyone know if RT brake unit will work with other Tech Toes. One of my TTS setups has the SkiTrab toes the other has the Plum Guide toes.

  • JTMtn

    Hello,
    Am Beta testing these and (finally) got a chance to ski them a bit.

    I sent this off to TTS
    Some suggestions are:
    You might consider using a “tube” (rather than the blocks) for the forward bail (I bent mine a bit in the backcountry but it bent right back) to add a bit of strength and lateral stiffness. This would/may also allow the use of a cable (curved tube) which would permit placement closer to the toe piece.

    The primary reason for the very active feel is that the boot and binding swing thru two different arcs (binding is the shorter arc). You can get a more “Neutral” (meaning more like a classic G3 feel, for those whiny telemark guys) as the two arcs approach each other. This would help the spring from bottoming out for the bigger skiers as well.

    You could also add a logarithmic spiral to the binding to adapt to the two different arcs and keep the tension constant but this would take a bit of work…

    You may consider adding some esthetics by:
    Adding scribe marks to the bail to assist in knowing when the spring adjustment has “walked a bit”, two should do it (I filed some scribes and colored them in)
    And a cabled attachment for the leash rather than looping it around the side of the binding as it flops about a bit and gets under the boot.

    Basically — the binding skis quite well but you better have an upright stance, which can be alleviated by reducing the “bind” as the distance between the two circles is reduced. I have also experienced some rather substantial icing which could be reduced by making the blocks either round or come to a point. There is no reason why you could not just use a cable straight from a G3 either. I also sent off an e-mail to BD saying they need to take a new look at the Tele thing as they are just getting heavier and bulkier forcing a switch to AT.

  • teletilyouresmelly

    Thoughts on releasability Craig, either in an avy or ski-under-log scenario? My NTNs saved me once in the latter situation, so I wonder about that.

  • http://www.earnyourturns.com Dostie

    @TTYS,

    Hard to say. I’ve seen one ttipster claim they have experienced release but can’t remember who and the tipsters appear unwilling to share their thoughst anywhere but there and once it gets lost in thread drift it’s lost. C’est la vie.

    I also spoke with Nurse Ben and he made of point of telling me he had them come off once in a crash when, in his estimation, they should have come off. So that’s encouraging.

    As for coming off if hooked under a tree branch – I wouldn’t count on it. Same for an avy – but NO binding is reliable in that instance since the forces are not necessarily the same as a safety release is designed to work under. I’m still adamant that for avy release you want the release tension to go to zero on command, whether by pulling on a release cord, or pressing a radio controlled button – either way – just get those anchors off my feet NOW!

    Again – so far – the best option I’ve see for that is on Rottefella’s NTN bindings.

  • http://www.earnyourturns.com Dostie

    @JTMtn,

    Am a bit unclear on your terminology. You use the word bail but I think you mean what Mark Lengel is calling the connecting rod. Can you clarify a bit?

    Also, what version TTS are you testing? The original beta version with the single pivot location, or what I called ver. 2.0, with 3 cable pivot locations?

  • JTMtn

    Sure happy to;
    By bail I just meant the “connecting rod” my bad. I am using the 1st-ish version, i e-mailed Lengel after mounting them as the blocks are a bit too high as the boot sole hits them just prior to hitting the heel piece but I just shimmed the heel piece to fix it. They also have a flat top which encourages snow/ice packing up under foot in these weird ass conditions we have been having lately.

    I really like the binding and am enjoying the loss of weight under foot and it skis with quite a bit of power. I am using the TX-Pros which help with smoothing the flex out. However that being said I would like to emulate the smooth flexing I get with a G3/Ener-G set-up [my preference is a large range of motion]. I took the metal heel piece out of the TX as when it was up on the heel ledge it pre-loaded the lever and popped on me a couple of times.

    Right now I think given the geometry of the binding (two arcs and forces in the spring becoming more vertical as the heel of the boot comes up) counteract the smooth flexing I prefer. That been said I have been adjusting my stance to be more upright anyway. My opinion is I think the new multi-position blocks are a bit of fiddling rather than getting at the mechanics of the binding, which I think are better served by changing only the spring tension to account for style and weight. Hope that helps Mr. Dostie…Nice website by the way

  • http://www.earnyourturns.com Dostie

    Must admit after a tour in fresh snow being ripened by the sun that the problem of snow building up under the toe has NOT been fixed as well as I thought when I penned the review of TTS v2 above. Will have to see if spraying with Pam does the trick or if something more elaborate is required.

  • turnfarmer

    The first thing I would do to try to stop icing would be to cover all the screw heads (including the dynafit toe piece area) with Voile anti-ice tape. Screw heads always seem to attract icing.

    This binding concept does look really cool, even though I don’t really care about telemark turns. There’s times when being able to scoot around without unlocking is really handy. Since I have a pair of F1s I really like I’ll probably buy into this at some point. Mounted to a pair of Voile BC Chargers or Vectors sounds like a great meadow skipping/bushwacking setup. I think cheap used F1s will start showing up more frequently now that it has been outdated as a Rando Race boot. Craig, thanks for the continuous coverage on the TTS.

  • Ben Kadas

    I continue to ski my home brew TTS Axl’s as reviewed in my article, one complete season with no problems to date, the TTS bindings ski amazingly well, so much so that I no longer ski anything but TTS. My set up uses a different spring system, so I can’t speak to settings and such for the production TTS V.2, but I have no problems skiing as low as I want and running spring pressures ranging from HH 1 (slick pin removed) to HH 7-8 (slick pin position three).

    As Dostie mentioned, I have had some releases, both were a couple weeks ago while skiing heavy new snow in Oregon. I had been skiing the toes locked (tour mode) and decided to try them out unlocked (ski mode). I had one release when I came to a stop and stuck the tail under a big pile of snow. My toe simply walked out of the binding when I tried to pull the ski back onto the snow surface. The second release was with the binding locked, this was a quasi tip stuff as I came skiding to a stop, binding popped off clean just like you’d expect an alpine binding to release.

    I would say that the tech toes have two release settings, light and heavy, ski mode and tour mode, I think I posted something under my article tread about the release values I got using a home brew Vermont Tester. I’m a big guy so I plan to continue skiing them in the ski mode on firm snow and dry snow conditions, tour mode when the conditions are heavy/deep or avy prone. I am confident they will release when needed. I also think a variable release is in the works, at least this was suggested when I met with Mark at New Years.

    So Dostie, can you mount the three position TTS hold down anywhere on the ski, in such a way that you can fine tune the position? For sure, it would be good to narrow down a preferred “feel” before doing a final mount. Maybe premount ona 2 x 4 pr on some old skis. It’d be sweet if instead of three slots there was a an adjustment track, like with a Dynafit tech heel, that way the fulcrum could be moved in smaller increments by simply twisting a screw.

    Anything new and interesting show up on your doorstep? :)

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  • http://profile.yahoo.com/WILXBO4HVUHXVXYMEYH44TA4R4 ivan

    If
    you love making Tele turns on steep and deep terrain, if you love
    burying your knee and getting down in dirty when you need to, or want
    to, if you love the feel of the snow under you as you gracefully link
    “true” Tele turns with efficiency and flow, you may not appreciate these
    bindings very much.

    If you are a skier who wants a light weight binding that tours
    wonderfully with an AT boot (that you can use with and Alpine set up as
    well) that allows you to ski down hill with a limited free heel to make a
    “new school Tele turn” with a more upright stance , then these may work
    for you.

    I skied the 177 La Sportiva GT skis that are in the pic above with
    last years TX. I am 5’6″ weigh 140 lbs so this system seemed way too
    built up for me. I was very happy to get back into my old Blue T2′s and
    Targa G3 bindings.

  • Julie J

    Does anyone know of smaller people (women?) who have tried this setup?  Say 120lb or so?  I am wondering after reading the part of this review saying people looking for less tension are on their own.  Thanks for the in depth review though, this is great info!!

  • Dostie

    Less tension meaning less cable resistance, not lower weight on the part of the user. That said, lower weight people tend to use/need less tension. But, more importantly, what tele binding and boot are you currently using? IME, those who are used to less powerful (lower tension) cable bindings (like a Targa) find TTS to be too dramatic of a change. Those familiar with Hammerhead or BD’s O1 with rid-stiff bindings like TTS. Usually. 

  • BenKadas

    I tried to modify a Crispi Evo, adding tech fittings from a BD AT boot. I’m a decent craftsman and to put it bluntly: I messed up a pair of ski boots.

    Unfortunately, Scarpa is the only game in town for tech fittings on a tele boot, Crispi has the Shiver and Evo Rando, but they are hard to find and only go up to a mondo 29. I had a pair of Shiver Rando in my hands, nice boot, same weight as a TX, stiffer in all ways, just too short for my mondo 30 foot.

    So I’m skiing the new TX, which is softer than my first gen TX, but they ski good enough for now. I dream of a Scarpa tX Comp with tech fittings.

  • PQ

    Yep, the snow packing in moist conditions is a major problem. I’ve tried using the old Voile anti-ice tape but with no success. Would love to hear of a good solution. I would hate to have to add weight by making a plastic block to fill the gaps between and in front of the blocks….

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  • algeirr

    Snow packing can be avoided to some extent by tipping the TTS conversion kit forward. I always do this when skinning. This operation requires engaging of the rando front. I also cover the heel block with teflon shims if necessary, but so far I have too little experience to say if this solves the problem. Conditions in Norway this last year have not been really sticky when I’ve been touring.

    I’ve mounted the TTS conversion kit with ATK Race RT on mounting plates. On one pair of skis the TTS is also placed on mounting blocks, making for easier TTS adjustments. The ATK Race RT also has brake options and a possible rando heel piece in combo with the TTS. The brakes are sometimes engaged when passing through bushes, so be aware of that if you go brake loaded.

    So far I’ve not made much use of the rando option, but it is quite snappy if you get a downhill section while ascending, just turning the rando heel. Of course you then have to disengage the binding to get tour pivoting back on the next uphill. Also consider if the skins can pull a trick or two when descending…

    The skis involved are DPS112RP and RPC, and I feel they work seamlessly together with the bindings and my F1 boots. I also have the F1 Race (modified for easier put on/take off) and F1 Carbon, but the standard version is the best, in my opinion, considering both up- and downhill capabilities.

    The picture shows F1 with climbing aid lifting the boot and F1 Carbon ready for rando descent with TTS tipped forward. The picture size makes it a bit unclear, due to upload limitations(?).

    This setup cries for high stance, quite suitable for my almost 59 years, and altogether this is by far the least effort-consuming rig of mine. Just looking forward to next winter!

  • John ‘Ski’ Shaski

    It seems counter-intuitive that tension is reduced by moving the cable to the forward most channel…

    Did I read this wrong?

  • algeirr

    My explanation will be as follows:
    If the TTS spring and rod is aligned from B to C, during a turn ,
    the force you have to apply to achieve additional spring action, is
    less than if the spring and rod is aligned from A to C. This can also
    be visualised by considering the distance you move the point C
    in these instances. The length of the spring and rod must of course
    be adjusted to fit when the mounting point is moved along the ski
    This example is greatly exaggerated compared with the actual equipment,

    but maybe this helps clarifying the issue…

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  • Morgan

    Hi David,

    My name is Morgan and I am hoping to use a tele tech system for the grand traverse this year. I have been training on Dynafits with F1 boots but as I die hard tele skier I have not been enjoying the locked heel and I am also excited about the quick transition of the TTS and the potential for an easier skate mode than the floppy free pivot or the locked heel.

    I live in Aspen and I was wondering if I could come look at your setup because I want to check it out before I bite the bullet and by a conversion kit or try to make my own. My number is 948-8837

    Thank you so much for your help!!

    Morgan

  • Dostie

    Bite the bullet Morgan. I doubt you will regret it. You already have the toe, so all you need is the cable. The TTS cable kit is worth it. You might need to modify the heel post (per my post on that subject), but otherwise should be quite happy with it. Inserts on the cable posts will allow you to change the “activity” setting, so inserts are advised there.