Aug 20 2012

Telemark Binding Selection Chart


Small, non-functional version of binding selection chart.

This is a dry run of a page that I’m working on for helping people select a telemark binding. Your feedback, input, and criticism are requested. This isn’t complete yet because some of the relevant bindings are still absent in the archives of reviews available. Some will be published soon, others a bit later. But the basic guidelines will, provided it passes muster with your criticism, remain essentially the same with the addition of new options. (Updated 2014 Telemark Binding Selection Guide)

Some classic cable bindings are included for reference, like the Hammerhead and Targa, but the focus will remain on bindings that are designed with a free-pivot touring mode for earning your turns.

Unlike alpine bindings, telemark bindings are a large part of the control equation when it comes to downhill performance. Controlling your rear ski in a tele turn requires varying amounts of lateral control and forward pressure, all dependent on the size ski used, the speed desired, and the terrain being navigated. Plus there is the preferences of the skier, how aggressive they are, and whether they like a more rigid boot/binding system, or a softer one.

If you’re new to telemark I’ll point out the time honored principle, though rarely followed anymore, that learning on a softer system is more difficult, but will hone your telemark skills better. In the short run it is more humbling, in the long run more rewarding. It is always easier to transfer skills to a beefier, more rigid boot/binding system than to adapt to a softer one.

The selection guide below is semi-intuitive, and not explicit. By not explicit I mean the positions of each binding are relatively accurate from one to another, but not explicitly accurate in terms of what boots or skis they are best with, although after 25 years I think I have some sense of what most people prefer and this experience and bias is embedded in the relative positions and the resulting recommendations. Likewise for weight or lack of resistance for touring, or the relative percentage of time spent under the lifts VS out of bounds.

Here’s the real cool part of this. Mouse over a binding and if you see a small pop-up window describing the binding…like “Hammerhead review”…you can click on it and it will take you to a review of that binding. Not all bindings are reviewed, and thus do not have reviews (yet). But most do. Check it out and let me know what you think.

Hammerhead review Telemark Tech System review Axl review Voile Switchback X2 review 7tm PowerTour review BD O1 review 1st Look - G3's Enzo preview Rottefella's NTN Freeride review Voile Switchback review G3 Ascent review Lite Dogz step-in 3-pin review

The key things to ask yourself are:

  • What skis will the bindings be mounted to?
  • What boots will be driving them?
  • How much time will be spent in the backcountry, or, how important is touring (uphill performance)?

The more time you spend in the backcountry, the more important a tour mode with a frictionless pivot will be, and the more a lighter weight binding will be preferred. The more time you spend in bounds, or the heavier your boots and skis are, the more you want a powerful binding that will probably be heavier. The key is balancing the weight, power, and performance you desire against your skiing goals and other equipment. There is no right answer, but some bindings will be better than others for you. Hopefully this chart will help you zero in on the best ones to consider.

Feel free to ask questions in the comments section of each binding. Someone will answer soon enough and with any luck, the answers will help you zero in on the best combo for you.

Related Posts
2014 Telemark Binding Selection Guide
© 2012

  • teletilyouresmelly

    Nice job Craig. Not sure the “weight” label works though, as many of the tour versions on the right are heavier than the resort-only versions on the left- maybe just have “% backcountry” both above and below?

  • http://ThompsonPass.Com/ Matt Kinney

    Backcountry efficiency?
    Hope you don’t mind me drawing all over your excellent graphics.

  • Dostie


    Good point. Your suggestion triggered another idea that should work on the web. I was trying to do it all in a single graphic for print…but this is the web where it could be more interactive.


    Draw away. I like the suggestion. I think I would put the line in a little different location, but I see what you’re getting at and concur.

  • http://ern.reeders.net.au/blog/ Ern Reeders

    Great work. Over-ambitious trying to correlate at least 4 variables on two axes?

  • skier

    How about the Burntmtn Spike 75 mm tele binding? There is also the NTN compatible NT “Spike” bulldog setup too. Full free pivot with both these bindings.
    Here is the NTBulldog, in free pivot mode, with my Prophets.

  • Dostie

    If you will, this was a dry run. Spike will be added after it has been reviewed. The final placement and configuration of this chart will change by then too. It will be part of an Intro page for Telemark bindings, and I have some new ideas on how to better present it.

  • hakuba13

    Hi! I´m going to buy a pair of Black Crows Freebird (97-98 mm waist) and I´m choosing between Voile Switchback x2 or 22 design axl. I will use both my old scarpa t2 and my new T1. I  will mostly use the  skis for skitouring and offpist near the lifts.  I´m a intermediate + skiier, quite strong but not an aggressive skiier. I´m 172 cm and 64 kg. Do you have any advice regarding my choice of bindings?

    I will use the skis this January for a trip to Japan, Hakuba and I will do skitouring there also.

    I have a pair of 7 tm power tour on my old skis and like the idea of releasable binding but I have understood that they might not be the most rigid (latteraly) for wider skis.

    Thankful for some advice…:)


  • http://ern.reeders.net.au/blog/ Ern Reeders

    The 7TM Power Tours I’d rate as about 2.5 – 3 on the HH scale of 5.   

    For release you could put either of the other 2 choices on Telebry SafeOuts.  With the Axls that starts to look like a heavy rig though; the SB x2s would be lighter, perhaps more reliable, are well rated but not adjustable.  

  • Dostie

    Concur with Ern that 7tm ~ HH#2.75ish. Switchback X2 ~ HH#3.0, maybe HH#3.5.   Axl#1 = HH#3+ and  Axl#2=HH#4+.  You should be fine with either – it depends more on whether your priorities are to trim weight from the 7tm rig, or increase power. 

    Both the Switchback X2 or Axl will increase power, but the Switchback X2 gives only a moderate improvement in power with a significant drop in weight while the Axl gives a strong improvement in power with little to no change in weight. And…as Ern implied, neither Axl or Switchback are inherently releaseable.  

    There is value in knowing how to do a starfish turn. :wink:

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=568622848 Anna Andersson

    Thanks all for your reply! :) I bought a pair of Axl hammerhead – will ski them during Christmas!

  • http://twitter.com/carlo_leo carlo leonardi

    nice job! used g3 targa for years, bd01 freeflex. and mid last 1 year. I think bd02 should be at left side of targa: g3 with tourthrow is still ok for backcountry in my opinion, i still prefer it on icy traverse, bacause I usually was able to put more pressure respect bd01 tour mode! I really think bd 02 is a totally resort binding. bye, carlo

  • Dostie

    Agree with you that BD’s O2 should be left of the Targa because it is heavier. The space each binding name occupies and the scale of the graphic prevent it from being as precise as your recommendation suggests. Hope you agree the O2 should be above the Targa, implying more “power.” 

  • Tryingtotele

    This is just the kind of advice I have been looking for!  Here is my situation:  Snowboarded all my life but have changed to skiing in the past few years.  I have been convinced that tele is the way to go so the first pair of skis I bought (a lightweight pair of K2s) were mounted with pair a of my boyfriends old Switchback bindings … a great back country set up.  BUT since I am a newish skiier and really cannot link tele turns (except on flat groomers with no obstacles) I quickly learned that those were not going to be my best bet in the back country so I now primarily use and AT set up when skiing out of bounds. 

    That said, I am still determined to figure out tele turns and have spent time on groomers at the resort trying to do so on those switchbacks.  I don’t like to blame my inability on gear (and wish I could follow your softer system principle) but I just feel like I don’t have control.  So I would like to try something different.  Based on the chart I am thinking of something like G3 Targa … does that make sense? 

    To summarize I will use these primarily inbounds to figure out tele turns, skis probably about 90 underfoot, boot = 3 buckles, skiier = female, 130 pounds, 5′ 4″, intermediate/advanced.

    Thanks for any help!

  • Dostie

    @try2tele:disqus  - You’re on the right track. Perseverence is costly, but pays big dividends. There is very little difference in the “power” quotient between a Targa and Switchback. You probably need a more supple boot, something like an old T2 or SynerG. Not too small, but smaller and softer than a T1 type boot.

    You would also benefit from a narrower ski – at least for learning. It is hard enough to learn how to put weight on the rear ski without also using a wide ski that is intrinsically harder to put on edge than a narrower ski. Try to find something closer to 80mm at the waist, or even narrower if you dare, until you get the hang of it. 

    You are probably missing one other ingredient. A friend who is pursuing the same goal, but is slightly better than you to encourage you. As a former snowboarder, part time AT skier you probably get heckled more than encouraged when you work on your tele skills. Hang in there. As a former snowboarder you may appreciate the versatility of skiing for backcountry vis-a-vis AT gear and parallel turns, but you will LOVE earning your turns when you can telemark in deep pow.

  • Pingback: OR Report: Backcountry bindings for 2014 | EarnYourTurns

  • Giorgio

    I’am Giorgio, a telemarker from Italy. I read your very interesting articles
    in Earn Your Turns and I would like to know what do you think about this
    set: 85mm waisted skis, T2 Scarpa boots, SW X2. Thank you.

  • Pingback: Telemark Binding Selection Guide (2014) | EarnYourTurns

  • Maddie

    Help! Light woman skier with a love of touring and turning in the backcountry needs new bindings for a pair of bd starlets. What to buy? Has to not ice up too much, tour and climb well, and love the powder as much as I do.
    Thanks, all suggestions appreciated. Not too worried about the price; just want bindings I won’t have to replace.

  • http://ern.reeders.net.au/blog/ Ern Reeders

    What boots do you use?

  • Dostie

    Indeed, what boots do you have? Since the Starlet is 100mm wide I’ll limit my choices to the Switchback X2, Enzo, and Axl with the assumption you’re using a boot like the T2-Eco which is enough boot to drive that width ski. The Enzo is the least likely to ice up, but is no longer in production. It should still be available for the short term. You might consider replacing the heel post. Same power quotient with Axl, but more likely to ice up. Switchback X2 is a medium power binding (which should be enough), and only slightly more prone to icing than Enzo, and less than Axl. Axl isn’t terrible for icing, but if you’re in a maritime climate, it occasionally will. The least likely to ice up 75mm binding is Enzo, followed by Switchback, then Switchback X2. The original Switchback may be shy on power for the width ski you have.

    IFF you’re ready to upgrade to an NTN system, TTS is the way to go. Snow does pack underfoot when climbing, but is easily removed when you transition and it won’t prevent switching modes. TTS is still in development and won’t be mature for about 2-3 years (my estimate) while competitors leap frog each other. It has the power of Axl and the climbing efficiency of Dynafit. For boots on this, Scarpa TX or Tx-Pro recommended.

    Did ya see the NEW telemark binding selection guide on this site? Link added at the bottom of this article for your convenience.

  • http://ern.reeders.net.au/blog/ Ern Reeders

    If I may add to Dostie’s excellent outline of options, the X2 is significantly lighter than the Axl. You are a light skier and unless you need a very active binding the Axl would be overkill.

  • Maddie

    I use a softer old three buckle boot, much like a bedroom slipper…..the good part is that I’ve telemarked for years so do just fine in them in most conditions on my too long world pistes.

  • Maddie

    I use soft older three buckle boots, good question, of course you need to know.

  • Dostie

    Ja, now that you mention your boot I agree with Ern to go with a Switchback X2, or possibly even the original Switchback. High resistance to icing, excellent touring, reliable mode switch, and a good match with soft boots.

  • Maddie

    Thanks so much, I will look for the x2 or Enzo, but will continue to check this site for additional advice. I hope you have a fantastic season! …..we just had a very poor one in NZ. Have had to buy a ticket to Northern hemisphere..

  • http://ern.reeders.net.au/blog/ Ern Reeders

    Small world. I’m just back from 6 days on Fox/Fanz Josef Glaciers and I used to ski World Pistes too. My combo was old T2Xs and Axls. The Axls are right for the job as the old boots have a good bit of rocker but hours of skinning with them … phew! Each foot was dragging 3.6 kg excluding skin. I’m tempted to go with X2s with my new boots.

  • Maddie

    Thanks skiers! A friend is off to buy the sx’s and bring them down. Write next time you are headed this way. Hope you had some good skiing on the Fox and Franz……at the very least you should have those killer views down to the sea. Friends were on the Tasmin side and really had to earn their turns.

  • http://ern.reeders.net.au/blog/ Ern Reeders

    Thanks. The views in every direction were a mind boggle :-) The snow was varied as you’d expect in October. Oddly though the huts were piled high while a good many crevasses were unfilled.
    Hope you enjoy your new bindings.