Simple Telemark Binding Guide

When it comes to telemark bindings, there are a lot of good choices to consider whether you’re in the 75mm camp (Nordic Norm), or NTN (New Telemark Norm).  Which norm you choose depends on how you plan to use it: in- or out-of-bounds, standing tall, low, learning, or groovin’.  Here’s a quick overview to guide you without belaboring the minutia.

NTN or 75mm

Newbies know these two terms are NOT intuitive; herewith a short explanation.

For decades the telemark boot/binding interface was called the Nordic or 75mm Norm. The 75mm term refers to the width of the boot sole (behind the 3-pin line) and the wedge-shaped toe piece that a 75mm, or duck-billed telemark boot fit in to. The beauty of a 75mm telemark boot/binding system is how instrumental that simple duckbill is in creating a smooth, sweet flexing boot for weighting your rear foot in a telemark turn.  On the negative side, the wedge shape of all 75mm bindings means that there is always a little lateral slop to the system which compromises edge hold on icy snow. This is not to say you can’t hold an edge, but with a wedge-shaped toe cage you’ll have to work harder and hone your technique to achieve acceptable results. There are only a few 75mm bindings that are releasable, and they are hard to find. For learning the turn, duckbills are the cheapest option since there is plenty of used gear available from those who went to the darkside and abandoned tele (A.T.).

“The classic 75mm duckbill on the left: simple, loose and asymetric.

On the right, NTN moves the tail hook midway underfoot for a tighter connection with a symmetric toe. Inserts advised for touring and more binding compatibility.”

The New Telemark Norm (NTN) was developed to overcome the limitations of 75mm gear, especially with regard to step-in functionality, releasability, and improved control. There is no question that NTN systems have raised the bar in these characteristics, but the simple smooth flex of a 75mm system is not one of them. Not to say it isn’t possible with NTN gear, but it has taken time to develop options that replicate the legendary power transmission of Hammerhead. Because the connection point shifts from the real heel to the second heel (approximately in the middle of the boot) the flex sensation is a combination of the two components.  With 75mm the boot sole dominates the flex sensation. With NTN, it is the synthesis of the boot’s flex pattern with spring tension applied at the duckbutt to compliment that flex. The net result is NTN systems offer a greater breadth of performance – downhill and uphill. Taking advantage of the downhill usually requires tweaking your technique.  For those who have made the transition, it is worth it.


NTN

Rottefella Freeride/Freedom

Rottefella’s FreeRide – first NTN binding evah.

For those who don’t plan to go further than an occasional run out of bounds for a skin back up, Rottefella’s Freeride adds the security of release to the NTN equation. The release function is not DIN certified but it is adjustable and there’s plenty of testimonials proving it works.  Touring range of motion is only 30 degrees, but it’s better than straining against a classic high tension heel cable.

Rottefella’s NTN option for better touring Freedom.

Rottefella’s Freedom increases the touring range of motion to 50 degrees, but doesn’t deliver the edging power that the Freeride can.

Bishop BMF-R/3

Bishop’s BMF, NTN’s heavy metal option

For those looking for the ultimate in raw telemark power you should look at the Bishop BMF. The main difference with Bishop bindings is how lateral control comes from an old-fashioned metal plate. While one might argue that the difference between Bishops solid metal frame and 2-pin NTN bindings is negligible, there is no scientific proof of either — it’s all anecdotal. Even if such data could be verified independently with objective measurements I can assure you the difference you can perceive is imperceptable. Which does not nullify the claim that the BMF represents the epitome of lateral control from a telemark binding. Because it does. And it offers step in convenience, and a tour mode. What it does not offer is light weight. If you’re only harnessing gravity, weight is great. On an occasional uphill you can bear the weight, or for the masochistic, consider it training weight so you can slay your AT buddies in the uphill track when you adopt a 2-pin tele binding and that new tele boot made of unobtanium.

22 Designs Outlaw

The no-brainer choice for NTN bindings, 22 Design’s Outlaw-X

If you’re new to NTN and you split your tele time between the backcountry and lifts, get the Outlaw. It’s powerful and adjustable. The tension turns on fast when you lift your heel. The 2nd heel connection delivers solid edging. And it has a free-pivot range of 55 degrees, plenty to make kick turns a snap on the uphill track. Perhaps best of all, it’s the easiest dang binding to get into, tele OR alpine. Slide the toe in the cage, step down, click, you’re in. With brakes it takes a bit more fiddling and practice to master jamming the toe in the cage, but you’ll get it. For those who’re switching from 75mm, the Outlaw is a no brainer.  All the performance you’ve come to luv, only more of it. At least one ski in your quiver should have an Outlaw on the topside.
Review: Outlaw-X


2-Pin Tele

There are two basic choices for a telemark tech binding. The original, TTS by Olympus Mountain Gear (OMG) is a simple, lightweight, adjustable tech toe with a heel cable.  Or you could merge the 2-pin tech toe with an NTN second heel connection with bindings like the Lynx or Meidjo.

TTS (Telemark Tech System)

For lightweight backcountry reliability simplicity is a core component. For that, you can’t do better than the original Telemark Tech System binding; a low-tech toe with a springy cable latched on the real heel, not that silly duckbutt. As such, it works with any bellowed boot with low-tech inserts.  The basic difference between competitive brands boil down to differences in the 2-pin toepiece, and incompatible variations in the compression springs used.  If you’re not impressed with the pre-defined packages offered, it is rather easy to build your own DIY TTS binding by mixing your favorite tech toe with OMG’s cable adapter kit, which uses a simple cable clamp and Voile spring cartridges.  Or check out my Tele-Tech Chronicles (below) and do it yourself from scratch.

Olympus Mountain Gear TTS

Olympus Mountain Gear’s TTS: Simple, functional, lightweight.

The binding that proved 2-pin tech toes are strong enough to do the tele dance inspite of their diminutive size.  As tech toes go, OMG’s toe pins open wider than any other brand on the market which tends to require more practice to click in the first time. The cable clamp is solid and simple.  While inserts are not required on the cable block, they are recommended if you don’t really know which of the three available positions you want the cable pivot located at.  The fave position tends to be 55-60mm behind pin line. Position that for the center position, and adjust until you decide your fave pivot point.

Voile TTS

Voile joins the telemark tech revolution with their ultra simple TTS binding.

In this version of a TTS binding Voile uses their spartan Splitboard touring tech toe in combination with their classic spring yoke using a heel lever to snap the cables tight to you boot.  The pivot positions measure out at 45mm and 60mm behind the pin line, but are a bit deeper than the classic TTS configuration. That makes them effectively further back and thus more active than similar TTS bindings.

There are also competitive TTS rigs across the Atlantic from Moonlight Mountain Gear or Kreuzspitz. Both of these Euro versions of TTS allow you to quickly remove the cables and stash ’em in your pack for an uber light rig when skinning. From a relative standpoint, Moonlight’s cables come off the easiest.


2-Pin NTN

Lynx

22 Designs low-tech NTN binding. Lightweight, Dynaficient, adjustable power.

The latest addition to the 2-pin tele ranks is Lynx, from 22 Designs. What Lynx does different is use a composite plate to hold the claw that connects to the duckbutt. It acts like a leaf spring to deliver instantaneous engagement that is adjustable. You’ll love the spring-loaded climbing wires in two heights – 7 and 13 degrees.  And it’s light, a smidgen over a pound per foot. 22D customers will appreciate the mounting pattern, same as the Outlaw or Hammerhead, but shifted relative to Axl.

Lynx v2 Review Lynx v2 upgrades Review: Lynx v1

Meidjo

The M Equipment’s Meidjo. Low-tech toe, step-in with adjustable releasability AND a locked heel if you want it.

Meidjo was the first to mix a low-tech toe with a step-in second heel connection. Turn engagement is instantaneous, with a wide range of power adjustment from nearly neutral to Hammerhead 4ish. The toe connection is among the easiest to use, and the step-in function is super reliable. It lets you know you’re connected solidly by giving an audible click as the magic red stub retracts inside the spring box.  In tour mode the toes will hold you reliably when locked, and the heel post offers two climbing heights. Meidjo requires regular maintenance to clear the claw after skinning and it pays to add some anti-ice tape in strategic locations, especially on the underside.  What Meidjo does that no other tele bindings can is offer an alpine heel in case you want the security of a locked heel.

Review: Meidjo v2.1 Meidjo Installation Tips

 


75mm

If you’re still hanging on to your duckbilled boots, or you doubled down with a new pair of Terminators then you’ve already got the binding you want. Or maybe you’re FINALLY ready to retire your Targas and see what all the fuss is about with a free pivot (took you long enough Gramps).

Switchback: the lightest, simplest, least likely to ice up free pivoting 75mm telemark touring binding.

If you picked up a pair of abused duckbills to learn the turn, then get Axl unless you’re planning to tour a lot, then get Switchback to save weight. Axl is more powerful, Switchback and SWX2 more neutral. Your call.  If you earn your turns at the office and burn them under the lifts, the Vice is an Axl without a touring pivot, and Hardwire is Voile’s in-bounds Switchback.

22 D’s Axl: A Hammerhead with a free pivot.

© 2020


Related Posts

Tele Tech Chronicles:
Part I, State of the Art
Part II, Picking your toes
Part III, The Force
Part IV, Cobbling the Cable
Part V, Spring Size Matters

Picking a Tele Trap

16 thoughts on “Simple Telemark Binding Guide

  1. Hi,

    I’ve just read through your Simple Telemark Binding Guide and am still not sure what I should get. I’m 53 years old and have been telemarking for over 25 years and have a duck-billed boot (Scarpa T2 Echo) and older G3 binding. I ski at least once a week in the backcountry and would like to switch to a releasable binding for safety reasons. Can you recommend a binding for me? And would I have to get new boots? Any thoughts on those?

    Many thanks.

    1. If you want releasable there are a few choices. In the 75mm camp you can try to find a used Voile CRB binding. They’re no longer made and the versions before 2003 did not work reliably (they pre-released) with plastic tele boots. After 03, Voile fixed the problem, but not the lack of demand, hence their inevitable demise. You could also seek out a 7tm releasable binding. Again, hard to find but compatible with your T2 boots. Moving forward, Meidjo is a releasable NTN binding with touring efficiency you will appreciate but it also requires a compatible NTN boot. What you really want is a Meidjo with a Scarpa TX. Meidjo is available, the TX is not, but a TX-Pro is. Meidjo + TX-Pro will set you back about 1500 clams. Are you worth it? Absolutely. Can you afford it? Only your financial advisor knows for sure.

  2. Great review and thank you for all the advice over the years! Been skiing the freerides for a while, definitely deforms the duckbill a bit. Have a new pair of Crispi evo’s and thinking of getting the Meidjos. Concerned about switching between both. Do you think the freeride toe wear will have any effect with the performance and fit/engagement when going to the Meidjo 2.1or 3.0?
    Thanks- Cort

    1. Wear on the Crispi toe from the Freeride toe cage should not affect Meidjo performance. It’s a completely different connection. The Freeride toe cage can affect the longevity of NTN toes with inserts – but Meidjo should not.

  3. NTN Freedom: I’ve had these for about 4 years mounted on DPS Wailers as my main ski for ski hill and touring (the wailer is heavy on long tours, but i’m a big guy so like the stability). Overall it’s a great binding and feels much more robust than the classic Black Diamond 01s I started on years ago — it’s not hard to adjust to turning in NTNS. Two fatal flaws:
    1) The purple tab you see pushed down in the photo is in “ski” mode. If it’s not pushed down, the binding is in tour mode. The problem is when touring, especially in more difficult/risky conditions, that tab sits up while touring so snow and ice gets in there and hardens. When you strip the skins and try to get into ski mode, it can be very hard and worse, it often pops out of ski mode in the middle of a descent. This happened to me as the weather turned at 13000 feet, very exposed, in CO backcountry.
    2) The risers are great but not easy to pop up with poles. Also, they can pop up themselves on an aggressive descent. This happened to me on an aggressive turn (maybe it got hit by a piece of hard snow/ice), the boot heel got outside the riser, and ripped the high riser out of the binding. I can’t find a way to fix it without unscrewing the mount, which I don’t want to do. Not an easy one to solve… we all want risers easy to pop up with a pole tip but staying absolutely locked during descent :), but I’d rather err on something harder to pop up… you don’t want to be surprised on the descent.

    1. I’m on record warning about the purple tab not locking down reliably after touring but that was on another site in another era. Sorry you missed that detail. It’s why I didn’t fill this overview with superlatives for the Freedom.

  4. Love this overview! I know you have mentioned G3’s in previous articles as being pretty simple to use, but do you think upgrading to 22D Vice’s is a smart step for a newbie?

    1. Your source is suspect. I’ve got 3 on mine, soon to be 4. Turns out, it’s important to balance the spacers on both coil springs. IOW, add spacers in pairs so the increased tension on both springs is balanced.

  5. Thanks to our gracious local shop which still has the freeheel soul (sole?), I was able to demo both the Outlaw and the Lynx downhill, which is all I do. I felt like I didn’t have the option of making traditional (i.e. lower stance) turns, which I am unwilling to quit. What if any of the NTN systems would be best in this situation?

    1. NTN tends to require an adjustment to style. That doesn’t mean abandoning a lower stance, but you will need to make some adjustments. Usually (you might be different) it means weighting the rear foot earlier in the turn and then, to get lower, tighten up the spread between your legs. You can do it, but you will need to tweak your technique.

  6. Great summary of all the binding choices out there. I’ve got one short tour on my new V8/Lynx combo that FHL set up for me (thank you fellas!), and I have a question about the claw engagement on the duckbutt. After only two transitions into downhill mode, it seems that the claw needs a little extra encouragement from a hearty knock with ski pole handle to fully seat around the duckbutt. Is this something that folks do every time they get into downhill mode? Or, does the claw/duckbutt interface become a little more simpatico after some repetition? Thanks for any advice. -Andy

  7. I love everything about Voile and hate to say anything bad, but honestly the Switchback suffers from a serious design flaw because of the possibility for unintended switching to free-pivot mode while downhill skiing. Free-pivot mode is supposed to be easily deployed by using a ski pole to slide a switch out front of the toe piece from inside edge to outside edge on each ski. Unfortunately, it can also be deployed unintentionally if the inside edge of one ski crosses over the other. That wouldn’t happen if the switch was oriented to slide from outside edge to inside. It’s not that remote of a possibility. It actually happened to me. Result: toe piece ripped right out of my V6 ski. Fortunately I was skiing in-bounds at my local resort (Schweitzer Mountain) and only suffered the inconvenience of having to descend on one ski to the comfort of a lodge. Could have been an ugly scenario on a remote backcountry tour.

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