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 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.
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 Freedom increases the touring range of motion to 50 degrees, but doesn’t deliver the edging power that the Freeride can.
|Rottefella Freeride||Rottefella Freedom|
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.
|Bishop BMF-R/3||1st Look: Bishop BMF|
22 Designs Outlaw
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.
|Outlaw-X||5 key points about Outlaw||Outlaw announcement|
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
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.
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.
|Voile TTS||Voile offers LT springs|
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 2021||Lynx v2 2020||Lynx upgrades||Lynx v1 2019|
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 v3 & 3½||Review: Meidjo v2.1||Meidjo Installation Tips|
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).
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.
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
Thanks so much for your post. I’m still a bit confused about NTN but will come back to you if and when I am ready to make that shift.
I have been tele-skiing since 1987 and haven’t upgraded my equipment in 20 years. I currently ski the Atomic TM22, 170 cm (love them but they are worn out and I know that ski tech has improved so much since then), 2010-ish Scarpa T1 boots that are extremely comfortable and seem to be in good shape, and 7tm power release bindings (not featured in your article.)
I mostly lift ski — all snow conditions, variable terrain — and would say that I was once advanced but am now advanced intermediate because of my age (67) and my increasing aversion to steep, deeply bumped or firm conditions AND my fear of reckless snowboarders (having been broadsided by one while I was skiing a beautiful, predictable, respectful fall line 14 years ago, resulting in a torn meniscus and fracture.)
I ski 5 to 15 times a year and my goals are to have fun (like dancing), not stress myself physically or emotionally, and protect my knees, so releasable bindings are critical.
I plan to keep the boots and mount an unused (new) set of 7tm power release bindings on a new set of skis. SO, that means I am looking for new skis that are light and quick-turning/responsive but can also hold a longer carve in variable conditions/terrain if needed. Skis that are, perhaps, slightly wider, shorter and lighter than my TM22’s — but not dramatically — and aren’t too wide to be effectively driven by my older boots and older-tech bindings.
Two local Seattle ski shop telemark ski experts recommend that I order the K2 Mindbender 82 Alliance for Women, 163 cm, a good all-mountain choice for intermediate alpine skiers. Given all of the above info and older boots/bindings set-up, do you think this ski would be a good choice for me?
THANK YOU for any guidance you can provide!
Katia in Seattle
Ah, the TM22. That was a great ski in its day. Not sure but I think the Mindbender and Wayback are almost the same. Wayback is probably lighter but at a resort I’d take the heavier of the two. As for releaseability, the 7tm was the only telemark binding ever to be officially (TUV) certified to provide reliable release.
Gee friends, other than TTS and the other Voiles, looks like a lot of expensive contraptions (and I’m a mechanical engineer).
What we have now are two worlds of tele skiing, with younger people just pursuing turns at ski areas with heavier, complicated equipment, rather then northern European-style backcountry touring. And touring seems to be falling way behind in popularity in the U.S. People here don’t seem to remember that the whole point of skiing is to get out in nature. Area tele skiing these days is expensive, boring, and crowded at most places. (And slogging up a backcountry trail on wide skis with heavy bindings and plastic boots is tedious.) 30 years ago you could still find small, inexpensive downhill ski areas that were a lot of fun. Few of those left in the country anymore. No one I know wants to drive up highways with the mobs to expensive ski areas. For those who just want to get out in the forest and so some touring and turns, you don’t need the super expensive binding contraptions. And you don’t want wide, short skis.
I’m still backcountry skiing on Voile Mountaineer 3-pin bindings (still made) mounted to their release kit with lightweight 1990s-style narrower touring skis. Under all conditions in the Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming mountains . Climb up the trail for several miles over a few hours with this lightweight equipment and then do your turns over one hour on the way down (or up and down in rolling hills in lots of other places in the U.S..)
As you may know, there are far fewer people out backcountry skiing than there were even 10 years ago. Same is true of backpacking. Often you can go out and see no other ski group the whole day. Only perhaps some snowshoers (and of course always snowmobiles.) Lots of people today are at home staring into their phones or computers. I think some of this has to do with some of the newer equipment appearing too complicated to them. And way too expensive.
Over the years, I bought three sets of the Voile Release Kit when they were on sale at Neptune’s in Boulder (they still sometimes show up on ebay). They made several versions of their releasable three-pin bindings. When set up right, they reliably release, and have saved me from injury countless times over the years. Too bad Voile stopped making them. Also Asolo nice leather Snowpine (fairly tall and stiff) boots, Snowpines, and some similar Merrell’s . If you know how to take care of these quality Italian-made, Norwegian welt leather boots they can last a lifetime. Some brands of similar leather 3-pin boots are still made – Alico and Crispi. For backcountry touring, they are far superior to rigid plastic boots (I’ve tried plastic “touring” boots, and found them to be uncomfortable.) For a time after the three pin boots, Asolo and Merrell also made leather NNN BC boots. (Not bad, but of course NNN BC bindings have no way to release.) Most 3-pin boots these days are nylon, yinyl and plastic, or they have a molded rubber welt that often fails.
I use the leather boots with super lightweight “Fischer Telemark” mid camber skis (65-55-60) form the 1990s, and also some stiffer Europa 99s for great kick and glide time (with the lower Snowfields). And some old style adhesive skins when needed to climb (but usually not). The Fischer Tele’s (red with silver graphics) were only made for a short time. They are actually great for turns if you know what you are doing. (Bought three pairs on sale, and still have a brand new unmounted set of the Fischers in reserve.)
I note that most outdoor stores in the Rocky Mountain region are now only carrying wider, shorter, waxless metal-edged “touring skis” with NNN BC bindings, which yes are easier to turn, but actually so much less fun to tour. And they make that stupid “ZZZZZ” noise with the waxless scales. But these skis don’t seem to be selling very well; there are often still stacks of them in the stores in March.
There are only a few remaining stores like Neptune’s around here selling the old-style waxable, narrower touring skis like the Asnes and perhaps Madshus (still very popular in northern Europe). And XC ski wax is now also getting hard to find too, exept online. I think many people are actually too lazy to learn how to wax any more – weird. EVERYONE used to make waxable, light touring skis like this for the U.S. market – Atomic, Rossignol, Alpina, Fischer, Karhu, Tua, Kazama, Trak. And they were in all the outdoor stores. But no more – now wider, shorter, heavier, and waxless.
So at this point, I know what you are saying – “old fart.” But I have a question. Would you rather own Steve McQueen’s Highland Green 1968 Ford Mustang GT, or that new expensive, complicated contraption that is today called a Ford Mustang? Sometimes new and improved, is just new and more complicated.
Dave C, I hear ya, but it really isn’t about old VS young it is simply the FACT that newbies to sliding downhill haven’t logged enough time on the hill to yearn for the backside of beyond. Not yet. It is intrinsic to the Nordic side of skiing that they will, eventually, be drawn to the backcountry. And those newer, more complicated contraptions DO offer more versatility for in-bounds and out-of-bounds turns and the backcountry experience. The problem is lack of a market size to develop more options for telemark boots. You ain’t wrong, but you’re not completely right either. I, for one, empathize with your rant. ;)
Amazing article thank you for writing so comprehensively.
I skied tele most of my life and even ski patrolled (pro) as such at Ski Cooper – a small Colorado mountain – Scarpa T1s, Voile Hardwires, Rainey Super Loops, and G3s. I switched to AT – Marker Dukes – when I hired on at Copper Mountain Ski Patrol (pro), thinking I needed heavier duty gear for a bigger mountain.
Now, ten years later, I’ve gone back to tele in the form of Outlaw Xs and couldn’t be happier.
Holy cow! You patrolled at Cooper? I joined the NSP there when I was 15 in ’97, but within the season I was lured to the dark side and joined the ski school. I was the director of the children’s school from ’01-’04. Almost the whole ski school learned how to tele during this time and we started by borrowing old Garmont equipment from Ty at the Nordic Center. I only tele these days, and have for most of the past 15-18 years. I’m only now debating whether I should make the change to NTN. I’m loathed to give up my 75mm stuff and drop the dough for the NTN.
If you’re still around Cooper and/or Copper, give them my best!
Help! I am on 8+ year old tele gear: Scarpa T1 boots (so comfortable for my picky feet), G3 skis, Hammerheads. I love my set-up but my skis are spent. I do area skiing, mostly. I love powder days the most, but also like to be in control carving on groomers. I love my tele turns (in the powder and bumps) and I love my alpine turns (for the rest). Can you give me some advice about my next setup?
For general guidelines on picking a ski check out “how to read a ski” (Dostie’s View #18). If you want to have control on groomed (read:firm) snow don’t get a ski that is too fat or too light.
Great overview. I switched to tele in 1987. Up until 2 years ago I’d stuck with my mid-90s setup of Leathers or Scarpa T2s with Rivas cables/Voile CRBs/Chillis on a variety of 80s and early 90s skis (Atomic/Tua/BlackDiamondblahblahblah) This year I decided to completely go modern with Volie V6/Meidjo 2.1/Scott Voodoo. No demo. I just switched. Dostie and Rene made me do it. I love the setup. I’m was surprised at how familiar the Meidjos and Scotts feel compared to my old time setup. They’re setup pretty soft so the overall flex doesn’t feel that different. My biggest challenge is finding an edge on the super-wide (at least to me) V6s – also on my left turns I find I keep crossing my tips on the low profile shovel – just bad form I guess – I’d never notice much because the old traditional ski tips would probably bang together and stop the crossover. On the other hand the bang-thru power of those wide planks is unbelievable – I just power thru stuff I’d have to negotiate with a lot more finesse on my old skies. Works great for an old timer like me. I love the step-in and go and the ability to powerfully switch from parallel to tele at a moments notice. I cannot believe how stable the new setup is – no reason to purchase the alpine heel. Next year I’m buying into Ski Mojo and gonna rip turns like I’m 25!
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?
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.
Anything more than three pins is cheating
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?
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.
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.
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.
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?
Yup. Or Axl so you have the option of earning turns with a free pivot. If you want to “copy” the activity of a Targa, get a Voile Switchback.
I have size small Lynx bindings. I heard one spacer was the max suggested spacer with the small binding.
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.
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?
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.
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
Add another spacer. Should cure what ails the claw.
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.