Interest in telemark bindings with a tech toe gained more advocates last week as fourteen writers and photographers from around the world tested beta versions of Moonlight Mountain Gear’s new telemark tech binding. Conceptually there is nothing new with Moonlight’s version of TTS as it mixes a low tech toe with a Voile Hardwire cable. As with many bindings in this new genre of tele bindings using the 2-pin tech toe it shows much promise, but the bindings tested were still in beta form.
What distinguishes Moonlight’s tele tech binding from the original TTS by OMG are:
1. A roofed spacer to minimize snow build up underfoot
2. Cables that are easily removed to reduce touring weight
3. Optional, longer spring cartridges to allow knee-to-ski motion
4. Two options to improve lateral stability at the heel:
i) by locking it with a minimalist AT low-tech heel, or…
ii) using a heel stabilizer to improve free heel lateral stiffness
There was little question the snow shedding spacer would reduce snow build up. The question was, to what degree? Thankfully, it did so quite well. It didn’t prevent snow from collecting underfoot between the toe unit and cable post, but it never built up to the point where it pushed your boot up. The pitched roof appeared to allow snow to escape to the sides, even in sticky snow conditions. Surprisingly this was true even in cases where the roofed spacer only covered a portion of the gap between toe pins and cable hooks.
Low-Tech Toe Details
The current incarnation of the low-tech toe unit is a common knock off design made originally for skimo racing with a focus on lightweight. Thus, it takes a bit of careful alignment between the boot inserts and pins to latch in. Experienced Dynafiddlers won’t notice anything unusual; inexperienced newbies will have to figure out their own fiddle factor. In addition, it rarely gives a resounding snap as it closes. Thus users are strongly advised to swing the toe to make sure the pins are clamped tight. Bjarte Hollevik, Moonlight’s founder, acknowledges in humid conditions it can pack with snow, preventing the pins from fully seating. An improved toe unit is on the drawing board with clear paths to allow snow to escape and not be trapped under the toe arms (aka jaws).
For the Pure Tele Moonlight binding testing was done with an obviously prototype configuration where the climbing wire pulled up from the front. The final version will pull from the heel, much the same as many existing heel posts so it will probably require a ski pole with a hard, bird’s beak sort of grip to be able to quickly, reliably pull the climbing wires up. With any luck, Moonlight will work a deal with 22 Designs for a spring loaded climbing wire.
The actual cable is a Voile Hardwire cable unit, with the option to get an extra long spring cartridge for people with big feet that need more travel distance on the springs. This is one of the obvious improvements Moonlight will offer. However, the heel lever latching the cable around the heel is the standard Voile heel lever, made for latching on to a 75mm boot with a heel groove, not on the top of the heel step. For it to yield a reassuring snap when you latch it on, it needs to be tight enough that putting it on takes a little extra effort compared to an OMG heel lever.
The position of the cable tested depended on the exact pair of skis tested. The proposed pivot location of the cable is expected to be approximately 5.5 cm behind the toe pins. Adjust-ability will be limited to where the cable post bracket is mounted.
My only semi-serious complaint was that the heel posts did not allow for simply latching the heel lever behind the climbing post to keep the cable tucked out of the way when climbing, or slinging the skis over your shoulder. It was assumed I would want to take the cables off to save weight for climbing. For a long climb, maybe I would. As a telemarker though I’m used to much worse and I’d rather have the cables ready to snap on my heels at the top of a climb and de-skin with skis attached than have to take my skis off to add the cables, remove the skins, and then, click back in to the binding. How embarrassingly similar to the inconvenient, time consuming procedure AT skiers put up with. ;)
Improved Lateral Control
Where Moonlight ups the ante in the telemark tech realm is with their two heel options. The most obvious, a feature often talked about, is the ability to use a lightweight tech heel, available with the Tele Rando binding. The heel unit is reminiscent of a Spartan tech race heel with a non-adjustable release value of approximately eight. This means the height of the climbing post when climbing is either flat or the equivalent of a low, 5° climbing post, something many free heelers will be underwhelmed by. However, if you want the ability to easily, and quickly, lock the heel, then this climbing limit may be acceptable. Keep in mind that with a flexible sole in a tele boot, you need less post height to maintain good skin grip. For a stiff soled AT boot, 5° isn’t much, but with a flexible tele boot, with good technique, it should be enough.
If you’re in the camp that a 5° climbing post is not enough, or you don’t need to fix your heel ‘cuz free heels are not a problem, Moonlight offers the Pure Tele binding. In this binding the heel unit comes with a higher climbing post (estimated ~10° incline) and a heel stabilizer which is a V-shaped piece of metal that, when properly positioned, hugs the sides of the heel insert of an NTN boot so that there is very little lateral slop at the heel when flat. It doesn’t prevent making a telemark turn while adding extra lateral control to both feet in a parallel turn, or the front foot in a tele turn. As is clear from the photo with the heel stabilizer, the associated climbing post is clearly an option still under development, but it added noticeable lateral control.
As mentioned earlier, this is based on a cobbling together of various existing parts for elements like the tech toes or heels, and the cables. The unique items that Moonlight brings to the table were tested in varying degrees of prototype development. The clear conclusion was that, even in prototype form the functionality was there. Any issues that were experienced were due to things like missing screws that weren’t properly tightened and came loose in the field, or were over tightened and couldn’t be easily adjusted. The validity of the performance comes from the fact that over a dozen of us were subjecting both the Tele Pure and Tele Rando bindings to a variety of conditions with different styles and expectations, but no serious complaints.
The only murmurs of disappointment I heard were about the dwindling availability of compatible telemark boot choices.
Moonlight Mountain Gear Pure Tele
Weight/foot: 300 g (toe+heel+cable post) + 650g (cable)
Weight/foot: 350g (toe+heel+cable post) + 650 g (cable)