New Telemark Norm Boots and Bindings (Finally) Debut

After years of development, Scarpa, Crispi, and Rottefella show their long-awaited NTN boots and bindings at ORWM.

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by Mike Martin | 2007-01-26 23:10:00-07

Background

Telemark boot and binding technology has been slowly evolving since the original long, skinny skis with three-pin bindings attached to flexible leather boots. As the sport gained popularity skiers sought increased downhill performance at the expense of the comfort and light weight that made telemark equipment effective for backcountry touring. This led to increasingly wider skis and stiffer plastic boots that could be skied more aggressively. These larger skis and heavier boots put increased strain on the traditional three-pin binding that clamped the boot to the ski at the toe. To answer the demand for a more robust binding that could handle the higher stresses involved with the newer heavier equipment, binding manufacturers added a loop of cable around the heel of the boot, in place of or in addition to the three-pin mount at the toe. This stronger cable system increased the reliability of the binding, and also provided increased torsional stiffness to the boot/ski interface. But, the weight grew. Eventually, the cables in these bindings were replaced with solid rods to further increase stiffness and strength. And the weight went up again. Finally, the boots had become so stiff, and the equipment became so heavy that uphill climbing performance in the backcountry suffered noticeably. Unlike the flexible leather boots of old, the stiff bellows on the plastic boots took energy to compress with every uphill stride. In the past two years, binding manufacturers have responded by adding a low friction pivot in the toe area of the binding, such as used in Alpine Touring bindings…And this added still more weight. The telemark boot/binding system has evolved from a light, simple system for backcountry travel to a complex and heavy system which provides more power and control, but still lacks features common in conventional downhill ski equipment such as safety releasability, integrated ski brakes, and step-in capability. Today most tele skiers still have to bend down to fasten the heel latch on their bindings, attach leashes to prevent runaway skis, and lack the safety of a binding that will release the ski from the boot in a severe fall. Plus, today’s boots still retain a “duckbill” protruding off the front of the boot that can make walking awkward and limit their use in mountaineering situations.

The New Telemark Norm

The New Telemark Norm (NTN) boots from Scarpa and Alpina (Crispi), when used with the NTN binding from Rottefella address many of these shortcomings:

  • The duckbill, breakage-prone cables, and heel latch are all eliminated, replaced with an attachment point under the ball of the foot that provides a stronger, more secure connection between the boot and the ski.
  • The Scarpa Terminator X boot is also compatible with Dynafit Alpine Touring bindings, allowing the same boot to be used with tele and AT skis!
  • Although not a true “step-in/step-out” binding, the Rottefella binding can be attached to the boot easily without bending over and fussing with heel levers.
  • The binding features a low-friction pivot at the toe for improved climbing efficiency.
  • An integrated ski brake on the Rottefella binding does away with the need to attach leashes to prevent runaway skis.
  • The Rottefella binding features a release capability that provides some safety in a catastrophic fall.

All of these features add…you guessed it…weight. For the telemark skiing community, The NTN boots developed by Scarpa and Crispi, and the compatible binding by Rottefella may be the most exciting products shown this year at ORWM. However, ultralight backpackers looking for light, efficient telemark tools for travelling over snow might have to wait a few years for one or two buckle boots and simplified bindings made from lighter materials to emerge.


Citation

"New Telemark Norm Boots and Bindings (Finally) Debut," by Mike Martin. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/02729.html, 2007-01-26 23:10:00-07.

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New Telemark Norm Boots and Bindings (Finally) Debut
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Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
New Telemark Norm Boots and Bindings (Finally) Debut on 01/26/2007 23:51:20 MST Print View

Companion forum thread to:

New Telemark Norm Boots and Bindings (Finally) Debut

Jonathan Shefftz
(jshefftz1) - MLife

Locale: Western Mass.
Ultralight backpackers should just use Dynafits... on 01/28/2007 21:26:19 MST Print View

"However, ultralight backpackers looking for light, efficient telemark tools for travelling over snow might have to wait a few years for one or two buckle boots and simplified bindings made from lighter materials to emerge."
-- I suppose that statement is true as far as it goes, but ultralight backpackers looking for light, efficient ski tools for travelling over snow don't have to wait, since Dynafit bindings have been available now for over a decade, and no telemark binding will ever be as practical for ultralight backpackers interested in efficient skiing as Dynafits are.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
Dear John(athan) on 01/28/2007 21:44:37 MST Print View

Dynafit...HMMMMmm...
Ever heard of Voile' release plate bindings?
Fairly light and very good release charasteristics in all directions but forward.
No, Voile's are likely not as light as Dynafits but I'll take their safety in the back country over a bit of extra weight.

Jonathan Shefftz
(jshefftz1) - MLife

Locale: Western Mass.
Voile: extra weight for extra drawbacks yet no benefits on 01/29/2007 20:44:38 MST Print View

Sure, of course I’ve heard of them and seen them - and I even remember the old Besser alpine downhill plate binding that is still the basis for the release mechanism.
So the CRB 3-pin hardwire weighs about 57 ounces, compared to 18 ounces for the lightest Dynafit binding, 24 ounces for the standard TLT, and 28 ounces for the Comfort.
Besides the static weight differences (i.e., from 2x to 3x depending on which Dynafit is considered the baseline), I am not aware of any Voile model that offers both release for skiing and a resistance-free pivot for touring.
Plus all Dynafits have lateral and vertical release functions that meet the ISO/DIN standards, whereas the Voile mechanism does not meet any standard, as none exists for releasable telemark bindings.
In summary, Dynafits offer:
- unrivaled lightweight performance in the static sense
- absolutely zero swing weight, since the binding stays put, and only the boot pivots on each skinning stride/slide forward
- resistance-free pivot
- both lateral and vertical release
No telemark binding offers even three out of these four features. (NNTN, about seven years after it was first discussed, will apparently offer two out of four of these features.)

Edited by jshefftz1 on 01/29/2007 21:01:13 MST.

Richard Lyon
(richardglyon) - MLife

Locale: Bridger Mountains
New NTN on 01/30/2007 07:30:56 MST Print View

Despite the advantages of having one pair of boots for tele and AT bindings and a releasable binding, it looks to me like this system (and BD's competing system) are pitched toward in-bounds tele skiing rather than better b/c performance. Brakes aren't needed in the backcountry, for example. They are certainly heavier than currently available AT and tele set-ups for touring and climbing for turns.

That said, are the NTN setups available for demo anywhere?

Michael Martin
(MikeMartin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: North Idaho
Re: New NTN on 01/30/2007 13:40:00 MST Print View

>> That said, are the NTN setups available for demo anywhere?

There were demos available at OWRM, but I could not find boots in my size so I demoed the Lite Dogz bindings (which were awesome, btw) instead. All three manufacturers are planning availability for the 2007/2008 ski season.

Mike Martin skiing on the new Twenty-Two Designs Lite Dogz telemark bindings

Cheers,

-Mike

Forrest G McCarthy
(forrestmccarthy) - MLife

Locale: Planet Earth
3-pin forever on 12/14/2007 20:31:20 MST Print View

It has been very amusing to watch the evolution of both Tellemark and AT equipment. I started telemarking in Colorado in the early eighties and have been an active participant throughout its evolution. I confess to having been a big proponent of heavier boots and stiffer bindings. As an early freeheeler, who spent equal time at ski areas, I wanted beefy equipment that would allow me to keep up with my alpine buddies. In the early days we put alpine boot liners in Asolo Summits with “Jet Cuffs”. “Jet Cuffs” where made by cutting the upper sections off alpine boots providing a stiff buckle shell for our soft leather telle boots. This was the inspiration for the Merrill Comps, a plastic/leather hybrid popular in the late 80’s and early 90’s. The soles of Asolo and Merrill boots where not very rigid and to compensate cable bindings became popular. Chounard’s front throw cable started this trend.

Then we got Terminated. I was an early convert. In my opinion the best plastic tellemark boot Scarpa ever made was the first year Terminator. They were light, soft, and only had two buckles. I skied on them for over 5 years. And still would if they had not ended up at the bottom of Bowman Lake in Glacier National Park, but that is another story. It is interesting to note that of the first 5 skiers at Jackson Hole that got Terminators, 4 of them had knee surgery that winter. Somehow I slipped away unscathed.

Chounard front throw Cable Bindings were not strong enough for heavy plastic boots. So to keep pace many things were invented; Rainy Super loops, Hammerheads, Riva Cables, Voile Cables, G3, etc.,. The funny thing about this trend is that cables were originally used to stiffen up the soft soles of leather boots. Terminators, and later Garmonts, have a stiff plastic sole and cables are mostly unnecessary. But the boots just got bigger, the bindings stiffer and heavier, and our backcountry abilities suffered. In the late 90’s I went retro, at least part time. I mounted up my old Chounard Cables and Asolo Summits on some semi-fat shaped skis and used them for longer tours.

As AT gear improved Silverata 404’s gave way to Friche and now Dynafit bindings. AT equipment overtook the backcountry. The only real grudge I have regarding this trend is the backcountry is more assessable to more people. I now have to share many of my old powder stashes. While none of my ski partners, who use AT, ever waited for me, I was envious of their lighter equipment. In an effort to find a Nordic system competitive in function and weight I purchased a pair of Garmont Excurions and mounted a pair of Voile three-pin detachable cables on various light weight AT skis. This set up is comparable in weight to a Dynifit AT system. The only con is that they are not easily releasable. With a free heal I have never found this to be an issue. The pros include all the benefits of a Nordic system. I can telle or parallel turn. I can wax, kick, and glide. I am not reliant on heal lifters. I can negotiate more variable terrain, more efficiently, and faster then anyone on AT. Catch me if you can. The detachable cables live in my pack and are only deployed when skiing breakable crust or other nar-nar. A three-pin binding does not give much resistance when touring or climbing. Three-pins do allow more control of your ski then some sloppy free hinged AT rig. To doubters I ask; why don’t competitive skate skiers use a free hinge binding?


I hear good things about the new style telle bindings that can be released to a free hinge when climbing. I am resistant due to more weight, moving parts, and complete satisfaction with Voile three-pin detachable cables.

I have heard that Black Diamond’s answer to the NTN is going to be equally complex and heavy. They are gearing this to “free riders.” I find it amusing that telemark skiing is becoming a ski area activity while AT has become the popular choice for the backcountry. Manufactors of tellemark equipment, in my opinion, are missing a huge market by catering to the inbounds “freestyle” skiers instead of the ski-mountaineer or backcountry skier. Our local shops in Jackson Hole won’t stock Garmont Excursions nor Voile 3-pins. When they do they stick them in the corner with cross country skis. Sad.

But the world is cyclical. Spring mountain traverses using skating gear or “Crust skiing” is becoming more popular. I have been impressed by both the speed and distances accomplished. Recently I overheard a statement regarding the application of skate skis in the mountains. It went something like “If we just had slightly stiffer boots, less camber, and some mettle edges”, Flashback 1970’s.

Bottom line: use the right tool for the right job. If you have no Nordic background and just want to yo-yo some powder run go AT. If you like the advantages of a Nordic system and want to cover a lot more variable terrain get a light weight tele set up. It is after all a free country. Free your heal and the mind will follow.

Edited by forrestmccarthy on 12/16/2007 08:58:22 MST.

Jonathan Shefftz
(jshefftz1) - MLife

Locale: Western Mass.
Dynafit on 12/14/2007 20:46:13 MST Print View

"This set up is comparable in weight to a Dynifit AT system. The only con is that they are not easily releasable."
-- Your setup is also providing resistance on every stride you take. Plus it doesn't offer anywhere near the same downhill skiing control.

"I can negotiate more variable terrain, more efficiently, and faster then anyone on AT. Catch me if you can."
-- If you really want to prove that (as opposed to just boasting on the internet), then enter a ski mountaineering race.

Michael Martin
(MikeMartin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: North Idaho
Re: 3-pin forever on 12/14/2007 21:14:31 MST Print View

Forrest-

I think you might like the new 22-designs Lite Dogs. I demoed them at OR last winter. They are a revised version of their Telebulldog binding that's lighter, has a free-hinge pivot for climbing, and a detachable heel throw for more control when needed. It retains the step-in, 3-pin, with integrated brake setup of the Telebulldog.

I swing both ways and use both Tele (Heliums, T2's, and Superloops) and AT (Dynafit on Norbert Joos Skis). I've found that the AT system climbs faster and gives more control on steep descents and cruddy conditions. I too much prefer Tele on rolling terrain as you don't have to constantly lock, unlock, repeat ad nauseum like you do with AT. I also like Tele in powder just 'cause it's so much fun. :-D

Cheers,

-Mike

Forrest G McCarthy
(forrestmccarthy) - MLife

Locale: Planet Earth
re: on 12/14/2007 21:44:53 MST Print View

“Your setup is also providing resistance on every stride you take.” A 3-pin does provide more resistance then a Dynafit. However there are many advantages to have some resistance. I have watched many AT skiers flailing in rotten TG snow, having to do the funky chicken when their tip catches a twig, and pulling a sled-forget it. This slight resistance of 3-pins does not inhibit my climbing at all.

“Plus it doesn't offer anywhere near the same downhill skiing control.” It does take better skiing ability to ski with a free heal. I have seen tele skiers inexperienced in breakable crust and variable conditions struggle. I know plenty of telemark skiers that have mastered these conditions. I generally don’t struggle in these conditions and find the benefits of a Nordic system far outweigh the limited benefits of an AT system.

As far as mountaineering races: I regularly ski with many of the accomplished races in the so called “Mountaineering Races”. While these races have been a great inspiration for many skiers. I do struggle with them being called “mountaineering.” Ski-mountaineering involves route finding and avalanche assessment both attributes lacking in these races. I do hear the races in Europe are bit spicier. I make this point because the equipment used in these races, while progressive, has little bearing to real ski-mountaineering. Do you ski with a plastic Snow Claw for your avalanche shovel? Or use skate skiing poles when in the mountains? These races are typically more yo-yo in nature with very little variable terrain.

“If you really want to prove that (as opposed to just boasting on the internet), then enter a ski mountaineering race.” I can see how you would interpret it that way, ie “boasting on the internet”. And maybe due to the limitations of the internet medium it is an inappropriate statement. However, if you are ever in Jackson Hole contact me. I would be glad to go for a friendly ski. I have skied in the region for nearly 20 years. I have pioneered descents and traverses throughout the Tetons, Windrivers, Madison, Beartooths, etc., On tellemark equipment I have ski patrolled and continue to guide for Exum Mountain Guides. I suppose it does sound cocky, but I am confident in my abilities as well as the abilities of lightweight telemark equipment.

Edited by forrestmccarthy on 12/16/2007 09:03:50 MST.

Jonathan Shefftz
(jshefftz1) - MLife

Locale: Western Mass.
Apologies & Clarifications on 12/15/2007 07:41:23 MST Print View

I agree that ski mountaineering races are somewhat of a misnomer (especially in the U.S., and especially in the Northeast...although oddly enough the MRG/SB race has variable terrain that is challenging in the way you describe), but I didn't want to use the other term randonnee rally, since that unintentionally biases the focus toward a type of gear.

And googling reveals that you are certainly not the typical ttips gaper -- sorry about the presumptive counter-challenge there. So I am quite confident that you get out of your gear what you need, even on very challenging routes.

However, for the typical backcountry recreationalist, especially one who wants to apply BPL methodology/outlook to skiing, the only issue is exactly what kind of Dynafit setup will be best.

(And I have to confess that I've somehow never skied in any of the northern rockies states, but one of my ski partners moved to Boisie last year, and his sister is a longtime resident of Jackson, so maybe one of these seasons...)

Joshua Gilbert
(joshcgil2) - F

Locale: Seattle
Snowclaw on 12/15/2007 15:32:11 MST Print View

Forrest, just curious, when you said "do you take a plastic snowclaw for your avalance shovel..." do you not feel like these are a viable choice, vs. a metal one? I can't say I've dug through a lot of avy debris with mine, and haven't used it for a rescue yet (thank god) but it seems to work really well.

Just curious about an expierenced backcountry users opinion.

Christopher Plesko
(Pivvay) - F

Locale: Rocky Mountains
Re: Snowclaw on 12/15/2007 20:28:00 MST Print View

Avy debris can be extremely hard once it sets up which can be really fast. I've got a snow claw but I don't think I'd take it for avy rescue. I like it for digging a snow cave though and trips where I might need to dig but avalanches aren't a concern. Works a lot better than a pot.

Forrest G McCarthy
(forrestmccarthy) - MLife

Locale: Planet Earth
re: Snowclaw on 12/16/2007 01:33:49 MST Print View

I have not personally used a Snowclaw. I am skeptical they would be very effective in avalanche debris. Avalanche debris sets up extremely fast. I have seen Lexan shovels break on it. I have heard rumors of a metal Snowclaw. That would certainly be an improvement. It would not resolve the problem of digging a deep hole, efficiently, without a handle. Ask your self this; If you where in an avalanche what would you want your partner to have?

An interesting option is the Komperdell Shovel Adapter. It uses a lexan blade, weighs only 12 oz, and attaches to a standard adjustable ski pole. I purchased one just a few weeks ago from Albino’s. However it is no longer on their web site. They are still available in Europe (http://www.sportler.com). I have not tested it. It feels sturdy and appears at least as durable as a Life Link Lexan shovel.

Another thing to consider when considering plastic versus metal shovels is their other uses. In an emergency you can use a metal shovel blade as a make shift pot to melt snow.

Edited by forrestmccarthy on 12/16/2007 01:37:49 MST.

Forrest G McCarthy
(forrestmccarthy) - MLife

Locale: Planet Earth
Komperdell Shovel Adapter on 12/16/2007 09:16:44 MST Print View

Komperdell Shovel Adapter

Joshua Gilbert
(joshcgil2) - F

Locale: Seattle
RE. snowclaw on 12/16/2007 18:42:15 MST Print View

What would I want my partner to have in an avalanche? a freakin' bulldozer.

I'm going to have to find a field of avy debris (a safe one of course) and get jiggy with my claw, see how that works out.

Sometimes I think it's more important to have something that you will take with you rather than something you will leave behind in marginal conditions, even if said shovel is a bit less than optimal.

I think that you gain enough of a mechanical advantage w/the claw, that it probably wouldn't break vs. a lexan shovel.

I think I'll move this thread over to winter hiking, since we have stopped talking about bindings.

Jonathan Shefftz
(jshefftz1) - MLife

Locale: Western Mass.
Avy Rescue Shovels on 12/17/2007 17:52:52 MST Print View

A Snowclaw is a very useful (and superlight!) snow-moving device for many applications (plus it makes a great emergency splint), but it is not an acceptable avy rescue shovel. (And the last time I looked at the ski mountaineering race rules, the Snowclaw or anything like it seemed to be effectively banned.)
A metal version of the Snowclaw was previously made, but it is now discontinued.
I don't want to delve into the entire metal vs. plastic shovel debate, but I will say that with lots of very light metal designs on the market, I really don't see the point any longer of a plastic shovel for avy rescue.