Nov 11 2014

Eulogy to Black Diamond’s telemark boot line


Lament for a fallen hero.

Lament for a fallen hero.

Although the story announcing the demise of Black Diamond’s teleboot line was not unexpected, nor is it unlamented. It might be easy to read into that a sense of good riddance because of the reference to BD boots fitting like buckets. That was not universal, a small but clear majority of bootfitters I spoke to blamed that for of the lack of success than didn’t.

Judging BD boots to be buckets can’t be completely true since there are many folks who like the fit of BD’s tele boots, and especially like the on-demand power of the Push. It has a firm flex for driving fatties and a tall cuff for extra power transmission. Some dislike the BOA lacing, but those who like it, love it.

Stiletto - the ladies beef boot.

Stiletto – the ladies beef boot.

In terms of what the market seemed to be clamoring for, Black Diamond pretty much nailed it with their bigger, badder choices for telemark skiers that love to ski hard. As good as Scarpa’s T1 and T-Race are, they don’t fit everyone and some folks wanted even more. BD accommodated that clientele with their Push and Custom boots. The flex was certainly stiffer than the T1 or T-Race, and even though BD may have wanted to appeal to folks clamoring for more, the larger portion of the dwindling tele market was content with T1 caliber power. Which is why, in-spite of its imminent extinction, the Push was Black Diamond’s most popular and endearing telemark boot. It had plenty of power, it aged well, transforming from a hingy sort of bellows flex into a smoother, rounder sensation of pressure around the ball of the foot, and for higher volume feet, fit comfortably.

The Seeker never found what it sought - customers.

The Seeker never found what it sought – customers.

To this half of the foot market BD did an excellent job of incorporating an instep buckle. This is a key ingredient to hold your heel solidly in place while flexing your ankles deep into a crouching tele turn. Those with high insteps often complain about such buckles crushing the top of their foot, the buckle on the entire BD line distributed that pressure evenly across the tongue.

An important part of the sensation of power was how well the BOA lacing system coupled power from the lower leg. A more positive connection between cuff and leg is hard to imagine. Will anyone else adopt that strategy, or will it be relegated to the dustbin of ideas that failed to establish a threshold of interest?

The least of BD's tele boots got booted early.

The least of BD’s tele boots got booted early.

BD even created some really good small boots, the Seeker and Axis, but the market rejected them. It’s sad because those were really good 3-buckle boots. The Axis was a perfect match for the waxless-metal edged sort of tele skier. Unfortunately these models were the first to get axed, which, in hindsight, was merely an indication that interest in telemark was not that strong.

The bigger part of abandoning tele is the lack of sales, across the board. It certainly wasn’t a decision that BD employees are necessarily happy about, whenever any product is cut there is a loss, but business demands a return on investing in parts, labor, and ideas. If there is insufficient return, it’s time to move on. BD is moving on and the tele tribe is not the richer for it.

© 2014