When it comes to ski boots, especially Telemark boots, the most important criteria in picking the best boot for you is to make sure you get a great fit – not a good fit – a perfect fit, because you’ll be flexing that boot over and over every turn you make so it can’t just be a good fit in 2-D, but a dynamically comfortable, snug, powerful 3-dimensional fit. Especially if you earn your Tele turns.
Beyond the fit, and fit IS king in all circumstances, you want to find a boot that has the performance features you want. There are two basic options: a boot that is good for touring and good for turning, or a boot that is great for turning and acceptable for hiking in. If you want a lightweight Telemark touring boot, you have to downsize and compromise Tele speed or compensate the lack of power with finesse. As ever, you’re trading one side of performance for the other.
While the boot is a dominant factor in these opposing criteria, going uphill or downhill, the binding used also affects what is possible. In both areas, knocking out sublime Telemark turns or earning them, NTN systems offer more downhill power and control as well as more efficient touring compared to 75mm systems.
That said, the trademark flex of the sweeping Telemark sensation is more consistent among 75mm boots. My theory says that’s because the sole of the boot is, more or less, a consistent thickness from the duckbill to the heel. Add to that a dumb duckbill that’s an incredibly smart, organic flex machine.
By comparison, NTN boots have a discontinuity in the sole thickness at the second heel, and NTN bindings apply telemark tension mid-sole, not at the back of the boot. The net effect isn’t that it hinges at the duckbutt, but once the bellows bottoms out, which can be quickly, flex comes from the tail of the boot – the cuff and, to the degree it can bend, the back half of the sole. The net result is that NTN can mimmick the flex of a 75mm system, but not without extra attention, either through the careful selection of boot and binding, and/or an adjustment to your Tele technique.
Crispi is the only manufacturer still building NTN boots with tech inserts in the heel. If you like to switch things up between tele and parallel without changing skis and/or boots you can lock the heel with Meidjo’s optional low-tech heel, or Moonlight’s Tele Rando binding. I know it sounds antithetical to telemark purists but even without locking the heel well rounded telemarkers know that demanding every turn be a tele turn turns the passion for the turn into repressive dogmatic religion. Parallel turns have their place, as does the option to lock it when you want to.
Aside from that, Crispi boots have the stiffest flexing bellows of any Telemark manufacturer. On their first foray into plastic Telemark boots Crispi made the softest flexing tele boots — too soft — a lot of folks had black and blue toes from the toe crunch they delivered. Crispi corrected that and now their bellows are the stiffest option out there. Your first couple of days they might seem overly stiff but they do eventually loosen up and when they do, they deliver the level of resistance aggressive Telemarkers look for. For those who might want to switch between a free and locked heel, Crispi is the only Telemark brand to let you make the choice with all of their NTN boots.
About the stiffest flexing new 75mm boot you can find. If you can find it. Axl advised to help “break” the bellows.
With 3 buckles you think this is a low-powered boot ‘cuz it ticks the same 3-buckle box as the T2, and what seems like ages ago, the SynerG. But the XP has a stiffer bellows that won’t give in too easily, but the cuff lacks muscle for pushing the envelope of what a 3 buckle Tele boot can do. It has decent touring ROM but nothing to brag about.
In theory the Shiver is the XP in NTN form. In practice it doesn’t measure up thanks to a cuff that is significantly shorter, and thus under powered for driving the boot to flex at the bellows. It works for the XP thanks to the duckbill, but by the duckbutt, most folks will wish the cuff were a bit taller. YMMV. The lower cuff improves leg flex to the rear for touring compared to other models from Crispi, but it sets no records for ROM.
For those who have made the switch to NTN but find the bellows of other brands too soft, Evo is calling your name. With a 101mm last it can fit all but the widest of feet. The two buckle cuff couples every ounce of power from your lower leg for powerful Tele turns. Or lock the heel, if you are able — meaning you have a capable binding and the huevos to scorn the sneers of Tele snobs.
Evo World Cup
You’re young, aggressive, and have the muscle to bend Crispi’s XR all day, every day but you’re in the NTN Camp. Introducing your new Tele mistress, the Evo WC. If you’re a candidate for this boot I can’t tell you much about it other than I would hate it, which is why you’ll love it. Stiffer than the Evo, but it still sports a tour mode and tech inserts in the heel just in case you feel like bashing gates and humiliating your friends on the race team with bellowed boots. Charge on!
A family run operation out of Italy, Scarpa pioneered the first plastic Telemark boot — the Terminator. The ski world has not been the same since that day in 1993. It put Scarpa on the map but their attention to detail and desire to innovate and push the sport are why they remain king of the heel for Telemark boots. A new boot line is in the works, and the bookies are taking bets in Vegas when it will arrive. Call 1-800-TTN-2DAY to place your bet.
All joking aside, Scarpa is wise to move slow even though the market is impatient; bigger forces are at play that do not encourage risk. Scarpa’s history of innovation has led it to offer a patented bellows that sweeps in a curve to the outside. The sole flexes along the angle of your metatarsals better than any other brand. Combined with an instep buckle that holds everybody’s heel tightly in the pocket there is little reason to look at any other brand except for fit or the option to have a tech insert in the heel. Thankfully Scarpa has adopted and held to a last that, in combination with heat moldable liners, fits about 90% of the free heeled feet in the world.
Unless you’re going into the backcountry regularly there’s nothing being cooked up in Scarpa’s Skunk Works Labs that you don’t have already, and what they’re building won’t improve your in-bounds game enough to justify the cost of adding, ugh, uphill efficiency. In other words, for in-bounds telemark performance what exists today will not be rendered obsolete when the new line arrives any more than when NT Norm tried to eradicate Nordic Norm. For impatient Tele skinners the near term answer is to DIY (see below) and the answers are still in the Scarpa lineage.
Over time the T2 has been Scarpa’s best selling model. It got taller and tougher when it inherited the molds from the all-black T1 around the turn of the century. Then it went green and got a bit softer. It’s still the best duckbilled Telemark touring boot unless you’re totally into the tour, not the turn, and then you’re in a different camp, maybe T4, maybe leather. I’ve skied wicked stuff in softer boots than the T2, so this has plenty of horsepower provided you have the horse sense to drive it where it don’t belong.
If you haven’t made the switch to NTN, the T1 is probably why. The overall flex resistance is a notch firmer than T2, Synergy, or XP, but equally as smooth. Depends on how much power you want at your disposal and how fast you really go. If you’re pushing your limits, this boot will not be the piece of equipment holding you back. It will be what’s between your ears and beneath the boot. Touring ROM is an embarrassment, but older men than you have suffered worse.
The TX-Pro is the T1’s equivalent for NTN. The only reason you haven’t switched to the TX-Pro from the T1 is you really do want a stiffer boot and/or you don’t tour at all, so the efficiency of a tech binding means nothing to you. If you want stiffer, the TX-Comp beckons. If you want dynaficient touring and a stiffer bellows, Crispi beckons.
In theory the TX-Comp is the T-Race with an NTN chassis. In practice it’s a TX-Pro with a stiffer cuff. The bellows is stiffer, but not compared to how much beefier the cuff is. For some, that’s exactly what they’re looking for. For others, the result is unbalanced. As a touring boot, the cuff ROM is the envy of no one. Tech inserts are not an option for the Comp.
Scott inherited the molds for Garmont’s telemark boot line. Garmont had already scaled back to the Prophet as their lone NTN boot, and in the 75mm camp, two kids models, the Excursion and two more adult models (already slated for extinction). Scott picked up the pieces and has let market attrition and spreadsheet accounting eliminate all but three basic models, one for NTN (Voodoo) and two for 75mm (Synergy/Voodoo). If you have a high volume foot, Synergy is your best option. Buy two pair while you can.
This is the venerable Prophet from the days of Garmont; the colors, brand and model name are different but the mold is the same. Where the Voodoo excels is transferring as much of your lower legs force to the boot sole. It does this by tightly connecting the cuff to the lower shell so forward pressure is directly coupled, not dispensed at the traditional cuff pivot. The consequence of that is reduced cuff mobility for touring, not just range of motion, but resistance to motion. What’s good for the down subtracts from the up. Although the cuff transfers lots of downhill control, implying a stiff flexing boot, the bellows are soft.
Contrary to Garmont’s reputation for building boots to fit high volume feet, Voodoo kept the high instep but reduced the last width from 103 to 99mm. Don’t believe the marketing claim of 100mm, that’s wishful thinking.
Comprehensive Scott Voodoo review • Buy a pair here
Same basic mold as the Voodoo NTN, but with a duckbilled chassis. Notably absent from Scott’s website for the 21/22 season is Minerva — the women’s version of the Voodoo with a different color scheme and smaller sizes.
The Synergy is the boot for everyone with a high volume foot, not just wide, but also with a high roof that won’t crush your instep. If you’ve experienced that with all the other Tele boots, this is your safe harbor for a smooth flexing Telemark boot that won’t crush your foot. If anybody is listening at Scott marketing, marry this mold to an NTN sole and you might sell more boots. The problem is, particularly at industry conventions, nobody cares if Scott makes Telemark boots.
Comprehensive Scott Synergy review • Buy a pair here
DIY — Recycle It
It is less about being frugal and kind to the earth as it is about practical solutions to people who cannot wait for the next new telemark boot from ANYBODY. Hello? You’ve heard the rumors but you’re tired of waiting.
Options exist to reduce weight and significantly increase touring range of motion, neither without compromising downhill performance at least a little (ymmv). They are scarce, but not impossible, unless, perhaps you want size 26 or 27. Even so, I scored a pair of mondo 26 F1’s last summer, so they are out there, hiding on e-Bay and Craigslist.
Scrounging for boots
If you’re looking to redefine performance in terms of ROM and weight then you’re going to be looking for the discontinued line of bellowed boots with tech fittings: Scarpa’s TX, F3 (aka Defender), and the first few iterations of the F1 with the bellows. If saving weight is paramount, the original F1 is the only option. F3 is a tad lighter than TX, with better range of motion to the rear, but not by a lot. Oh, and you might also consider used Crispi Shivers. They haven’t been discontinued, but are not a commodity in America, North or South.
If you’re willing to accept the weight of your current boots, or have a spare pair you’re willing to sacrifice if you blow it, then you can increase the ROM of a TX or TX-Pro by swapping cuffs with an older Maestrale cuff, or similar AT boot. This isn’t the place to describe it and if you think you’re able, you will figure it out without my help.
TX and Shiver are compatible with all telemark tech bindings. Take a Dynafiddle toe and combine it with a real heel, TTS, or second heel connection, Lynx, or le Meidjo.
For those who are looking for a mid-sole connection at the duckbutt, F1 and F3 don’t qualify, but they can. Just add a Michael Bolt-On aftermarket duckbutt. Garmont pioneered the bolt on duckbutt concept, and history proves it’s a strong enough connection to not rip out. So Bobby Too Slow did a 3-D mold and you can order your own pair from Shapeways. BTS doesn’t get any royalties, he just offers his drawings to order your own. Mounting the Michael Bolt-on is not for the unskilled or tool impoverished, but you don’t need a full-on machine shop either. If you follow the carpenters rule and do precision geometric alignment relative to the pin-axis you should be successful.
The original proposal by Scarpa for a dedicated ski mountaineering boot with a bellows for a more natural stride. It was discontinued because stiffer, lighter AT boots without a bellows beat it consistently in rando races. Ah, but the F1 was the inspiration for Mark Lengel to develop the Telemark Tech System which spawned all the recent advancements in Telemark bindings, and potentially resurfacing in boot form in the not-too-oh-so-distant future. Until then, there are about three versions of the bellowed, Tele compatible F1. The difference is in the tour mode lever that not only unlocks the cuff but simultaneously loosens the cuff buckle. Touring ROM is in the 20 degree range. Not quite record setting anymore, but in the Telemark touring world it is the best you can get. In downhill mode the low cuff of the F1 requires finesse to overcome lack of horsepower when you need it, but still far superior to cowhide.
While the F3 was developed as an F1 with more horsepower, with the intent of making locked heel turns, in hindsight is was a stroke of serendipity that created the ultimate balance (evah!) of saving weight for touring and delivering T2 caliber Tele turns with a bellowed, TTS compatible boot. But that wasn’t why it was made so it got cut.
In short, the TX is more or less an F3 with an NTN sole. The cuff ROM doesn’t set any records and is improved over the TX-Pro a smidgen only due to being slightly shorter. This is the boot you want if you’re migrating to NTN from a T2. It delivers a similar balance of weight, touring efficiency, and Tele power. You needed to convert before 2015 to get a pair, but a few still exist in the dark corners of the web.
Telemark Boot Sizing Guide