The Hope and Risk of TTN

To eliminate issues of boot/binding incompatibility,  Pierre Mouyade is proposing a Telemark Tech Norm (TTN) to define the sole of a telemark boot that is compatible with bindings like Lynx or Meidjo. The TTN specifies dimensions related to the tech inserts that are absent with the current NTN specifications. It nails down the width of the embedded insert at the face and tip of the cone, plus its location behind the tip of the toe, and height.  Most of these dimensions are derived from existing norms related to the original Dynafit specifications.  What the proposed TTN supplies is a definition for the distance between the insert and second heel. 

Unlike NTN, which is licensed by Rottefella, TTN would be open source to encourage adoption  and innovation.

Up to this point, everyone agrees with Mouyade’s proposed norm.

The Hope of TTN

Just a lil’ shave (highlighted area) is all TTN wants to remove.

Where hesitation exists is that the TTN spec proposes changing the dimensions of the sole at the toe, making it narrower than existing NTN soles behind the inserts.

This would save weight.  Not a lot, but when you’re trying to cut it every ounce counts. The savings would be even more significant in womens boots.

A less appreciated benefit of a narrower toe is to allow the use of classic snap-on crampons. The sole width of NTN boots demands a wider toe bale, but there isn’t much demand.  A narrower toe would overcome that dilema.

The Risk of TTN

Josh Madsen, owner of FreeHeelLife and publisher of this website says, “That’s not where the bulk of the market is. That’s the fringe of interest from telemark skiers, yet it accounts for the majority of focus in development.” 

Everyone can appreciate saving weight, but crampons are a mountaineering benefit, not a ski benefit. In Europe, the mountain perspective is common; in the US, not so much.

Whether the majority of skiers operate at this level is not the driving force behind innovation and progress. It is the people on the edge who push boundaries and determine what does and does not work. The improvements found can be adopted or ignored. It all depends on the level of interest.

The core performance criteria for all telemarkers is making powerful, sensual, tele turns. On that, a telemark tech binding sets the bar higher than ever before. 

Defining the inserts in a telemark NTN/TTN boot.

Scotty McGee teaches tele at Jackson Hole, is a 22D athlete, trains instructors for PSIA, former coach of PSIA Nordic demo team, a true, cagy old Nord in American skin. He’s been through all the phases of tele gear development since the early 90s. Scotty confirms, “the touring is better. Undeniably. Duh.”  “But,” he emphasized, “…the turns are better too. It edges better. It’s just better. Period. ”

Kim Miller, CEO of Scarpa USA told me, “We’re on the verge of making new molds. We don’t want to invest in something that won’t be embraced.”

The problem is telemarking is a small enough market mistakes can be fatal. It’s pretty simple math. The molds for a single model boot, with multiple sizes is a million bucks. That’s some serious coin for a gamble.  

In response to vocal demand, and a recent uptick in TX-Pro sales, Scarpa’s Miller was clear about their desire to make a new tele boot, with a caveat, “When the bindings settle down.”

If sales of Meidjo and Lynx skyrocket in the next year the decision to adopt TTN would be easier, but still a bit of a gamble. Interest in tele is trending up again, but the splintering of two incompatible options, 75mm VS NTN, has handicapped growth by causing telemark’s economic pie to be divided, rather than expanded.  Here’s the rub. The 75mm Norm has inherent performance limitations. The NTN was created to move past those limits.  TTN offers the option to go even farther.  

There are two questions this begs. Are the changes significant enough to raise demand to a profitable level?  If so, when would that occur?

TTN When?

For the proponents of progress, telemarkers are notoriously slow to adopt change. The joke goes, “What did the telemarker say when he quit smoking pot?” A: “Man these bindings suck.”

If you’re satisfied with what you have, why change? Or, why change if you don’t know about anything better.

There’s a huge abyss between what the average tele skier knows about gear versus what is available. Most know about the New Telemark Norm, but very few are aware that tech bindings are even possible for telemarking, let alone desirable. 

To say that modern tele gear is twice as good as 75mm gear would be stretching the truth. It IS better, but how much better is a hard thing to quantify.  Part of the issue is that new gear requires adjustments to tele technique.  Plastic tele boots forced a change from leather, and the results created a cultural shift. 

Rottefella’s Marketing Director, Torstein Mykleboosted nailed it when he observed, “if Telemark should ever come back to growth, we have to make it ‘cool’ again in the resorts and among younger people. For this group, pricing will always be an issue; as far as I see the Tech/NTN solution is significantly more expensive.”

Ducks Endangered

In the final analysis it doesn’t matter who you’re in bed with, or what gear you’re devoted to, indebted to, committed to — the scene will change and technology will be driving it. Tele-tech is here to stay. The duckbutt is here to stay. But the ‘bills?  Those poor plastic duckbills and their 3-pin soles are dead as a duck, marked for extinction. The question is — when? Based on what I see at ski resorts, half the knee rippers are riding 75. It would be convenient if those boots passed away, but they won’t. So the end of the ducks is not even nigh. Not yet.


Related Posts

Telemark Tech Norm – Another One?

© 2019

28 thoughts on “The Hope and Risk of TTN

  1. Does anyone have info on the NTN specification? As a curiosity that would be interesting to see as well.

  2. I second Ryan’s comment. If there a prospective specification and mechanical documentation out there it would be great to take a look through.

  3. Also have to reply to “Prospective tele”: “If anyone can refer me to a resource that has beginer rentals and lessons (east and west) it would be greatly appreciated.”

    I just started tele myself, and part of that was because of a local organization here in Ontario that provided cheap rentals and a 1 hour lesson. I then went out and bought my own gear as I enjoyed it. I just came back from “Telestock ’20” at Holiday Valley in W-NY and they were providing free demos and lessons and it was a blast. Very warm and friendly crowd! This coming weekend (Mar 7th) is World Telemark Day and there are events all over. I think you’ll find there’s something in your area or within a two hour drive. For example this Friday Holimont ski area (beside Holiday Valley) is having cheap lessons with gear. There’s a tele day thing happening at Bolton Valley in Vermont.

    Good luck!

  4. So if this standard is open, and proposed, is it possible to get the technical description of it somewhere, if one wanted to build CAD models to 3d print, etc? I see the snippet of the technical drawing in the banner above — is this available anywhere at this point?

  5. 35 year old, skied about 5-15 days a year every year (well starting at 3), east coast (ski in rockies mostly), live in eastern PA.

    I’m a good enough skier to go down most off trail shoots, handle all conditions, and charge fast in control. However, the new alpine ski challenges for me at this point either take me away from less experienced family/friends I may go with or involve potential significant increased danger. I see tele as a way to slow it down, enjoy turns more on regular trails (like out east), ski more with nieces/nephews/future kids starting on greens/blues falling on my face along with them, etc.

    If I could walk into a resort with a lesson and rental available I would have started already. After-which if there was 1 single standard of boots/bindings I would feel quite comfortable spending a few thousand to get a setup.

    Some of the articles I read have odd comments about not using the old gear that often come off as a rather arrogant non-inclusive tone. As an outsider, my goal is to engage in a new ski challenge yet there are availability, gear, and seemingly exclusionary culture of tele that make it a challenge to jump in easily. 1 modern standard in addition to 1 legacy standard would help. Alpine skiing is super simple: probably >95% of sold equipment is all compatible and interchangeable (AT being the other <5% which is still partly interchangeable). Alpine probably sells 100+ times tele, and it seems like there are at least 3 tele standards.

    If anyone can refer me to a resource that has beginer rentals and lessons (east and west) it would be greatly appreciated. I feel there are many 30-50 year olds that are in a similar boat. I've seen many friends convert from board to skis in 20/30s. Some of them are now starting to think tele but don't know how and where to begin.

  6. Late to this thread, but it feels like the good folks at Bishop are on so something. While not lightweight , Their BMF system just plain works – whether NTN or 75mm. My guess is that they could also shape an a TTN toe if one ever comes out.

  7. Come On Scarpa! Time to step in and help develop the market as a entire group along with the binding companies! Waiting for the bindings to settle down seems like a waste of time.

    Join up and create a Norm.

    Then we can begin spending all the $$$ we have to shore up this $@&!ing market. Makes me sad to hear that 1million $ is holding all this up… $1million is the new $100.

    Lets Go! I demand new updated boots! Or at least drop the price of the current NTN boots that are about 4 years old now.

  8. I’ve always regarded NTN as a missing link, a necessary imperfection that would lead to the creation of something new, something…perfect!

    I’m still riding 75 mm, and with the voile switchbacks I can keep up with my rando friends uphill. Wouldn’t mind a lighter boot than my ancient T2s though. Would easily buy TTN if someone made a great boot!

  9. The path for growth with TTN in the Nordics is with Ski Mountaineering / Rando. Being a tele skier since the early ’80s it’s truly frustrating finding no Tele boot that is anything near the functionality and weight of the modern Rando boots. How difficult and risky??? can it be for Scarpa to take one of their great Rando boots and convert it to a boot fitting the TTN norm and the Meidjo bindings? Beats me.

  10. A major problem I’ve found with Lynx and Bishop is a lack of demos. $1400 in boots and bindings is a bit much to ask if I have never put them on my feet. I’ve looked but nobody within 100 miles of me in SW Colorado has more than one pair in stock.

    I’ve pieced together my T2 boots for many years now but when my local shop ran out of spare buckle straps, I had to contact Scarpa USA. They offered one for $20 plus shipping. Each. I can buy some used T2s for the price of 3 buckle straps from Scarpa USA. Super disappointed in Scarpa USA. I scrounged up 4 free ones in junk drawers around town.

  11. I’m no expert tele skier. I’ve only got about 4 seasons on tele gear but I’ve sampled 75mm, NTN, and the Meidjo. Coming from alpine to tele at 35 years old was intimidating, but one selling point of the meidjo was the idea that you could lock your heel down if desired. I know, I know, some of you will call that lame. I get it. But I’ve got limited days on the mountain and the idea that newer technology could let me both improve on tele and get steep runs in with a locked heel on the same skis/boots was very appealing. I know a lot of younger skiers that appreciate that sort of flexibility, too.

    I know that the heel-lock is not what this announcement is about, but I mention it because any technology that can make it easier and more flexible to get into tele means there will be more tele skiers. Being able to jump between a buddy’s NTN setup and your own tech binding opens up the world just a little bit more, so while I like the TTN idea I’m against it if it means the slightly narrower TTN toe would not be compatible with existing NTN bindings.

  12. When NTN emerged the telemark tips website was the place to learn about it. Mitch (the site owner) had been skiing the prototypes before they were released to the public and liked the system, but it wasn’t a great first binding. It had flaws and it’s activity was very neutral at all but the highest spring settings which when adjusted to that setting often broke the binding. That lack of binding activity was a hard sell to people who were skiing hammerheads which were the king of bindings in that era because of their greater activity (activity discribes the binding’s ability to lever pressure into the tip of the ski).

    The NTN system is excellent, but rotte’s bindings needed a few improvements which rottefella never really addressed. At this point, rottefella’s binding has been greatly surpassed by a few different bindings and the system is everything the best 75mm systems ever were and more….

    IF 22Design’s OutlawX binding had been the first NTN binding ever made, there would be NO 75mm telemark gear anymore. That’s how good that binding is. Meidjo and Lynx are both getting great reviews. I’ve skied all of them and they are all much better than the shakey reputation that Rottefella’s binding gave the NTN system right out of the gate. Establishing a standard dimension for tech toe NTN boots and bindings means compatibility of all boot brands and all bindings. That just makes sense…

    As far as guys who love their 75mm gear, it still works, so enjoy it. The newer gear won’t make you a better skier. That limitation is within you, but the TTN and NTN are much better systems.

  13. I’ve been tele skiing for almost 40 years and have accordingly been through plenty of tech improvements over those years. I re-geared a few years ago and while I thought about going with NTN, I concluded that the available systems were still in too much flux to make the switch. Consequently, I wound up back on the venerable duckbills yet again (currently T-Race boots with BD-01 bindings).

    So here I am once again, trying to divine what’s up with the new systems — reading all I can find on NTN (with and without tech inserts) bindings and boots. Conclusion? Nope, not yet. While I applaud the companies that are researching and investing resources toward refining free heel systems, I simply can’t justify spending upwards of $1200 for gear that might become obsolete or incompatible with newer components once the dust settles. Given that Scarpa itself has expressed concerns about the unpredictability of the emerging trends in binding systems, with or without a consensus on standardization, then why on earth would the average consumer take the risk at this juncture?

    The upshot is that a lot of folks like me will sit it out for a few more years to see what transpires. The sucky part of that scenario is that tele skiing will continue to wither, both from internal attrition and a very confusing (!) tech landscape that surely dissuades new recruits from jumping in.

    Sorry if that sounds like a rant, because I’m actually kind of encouraged that there are still companies, forums and websites devoted to tele skiing.

  14. Josh propose to your sponsor Scarpa to find out a way to cut the duck bill and place inserts on a 75 mm boot this would be very clever, help saving money, environmental responsible, super welcome by the community, an example from Telemark to all the ski world and industry. I know it could be easily done. See if you can do it

  15. 28 year old chiming in. As a younger skier, I would have been willing to throw for an NTN or TTN style setup when I bought my rig, but boot fit is the nail in my coffin. I would love a TTN setup for the touring ability here in the mid Atlantic, (short ups, short downs) but all those boots are so dang wide that I’ll have to suffer with my T1s on the up for the lack of slop on the way down.
    When Scarpa comes out with a new boot, I just hope it’s not like, 104 in the toe box.

  16. Will the narrower toe eliminate the compatibility with NTN? If so, I would be against that. The weight weanies could mod their boot to shave weight if they really want to. I feel the bigger weight savings would come from a carbon cuff.
    Also: I own two pairs of Grivel crampons (Airtech steel and Ski Race alu) both fit my Scarpa TX pro fine out of the box. Other brand combos may be more difficult to fit but you just need to go to a good climbing shop with the boot in question.

  17. Just a discussion of “TTN” seems to stoke a little bit of fear that NTN gear will suddenly become obsolete. Perhaps calling the new standard “NTN 2.0” instead of TTN could bring some assurance that the new Norm won’t wipe out everyone’s investment in NTN?

  18. Great article.
    The fact that the boot market is the highest risk (compared to ski or binding) is very legit and is the main reason we have not seen development in that market in years. I’d like to see the numbers, but Scott is the biggest company of the three, they could afford to take that risk more than anybody else. But again, as the biggest company, the share holders might not like it. Anyway, 75mm, NTN, we have lost a lot of cohesion and a lot of new telemark skiers are lost. I would agree with Josh that the crowd is not there yet. It makes sense to modify NTN a bit to include a norm for the tech inserts. I’m not sure we should give it a name like TTN outside discusion between gear heads like Craig and Pierre 😉

    Finally, I would also prone the development of a unique norm and promote it. Even if I feel that I’ve lost a bit of the feeling with the NTN. I remember talking to Black Diamond director of ski. They worked years trying to invent a new 75mm binding. condition number 1: They didn’t want to change the 75mm norm. They never managed to achieve all they wanted (step in, din, touring, light, brakes) so they moved away.

  19. For me the new standard isn’t a negative – if the torsional rigidity and strength are still there we could probably go farther for the weight savings.

    We already have TX Pro and similar boots – those likely aren’t going away for a good while which will give some compatibility to use bindings we already have.

    Maybe even swap in some more hi-tech light materials like what SCARPA did with the Alien series (maybe stopping short of the Alien 3.0) or offer a couple of levels of light if it’s the same molds.

  20. What about us big footed yetis? current NTN boots top out at 30.5 and I can’t jam my foot in one, its just too small. I’d like to go NTN, but I don’t fit in the boots. when my latest pair of T-races wear out, do I have to go back to training heels?

  21. 100 days backcountrying +/- a year there is no doubt what kind a gear I’ll use. 75mm is out of question due to too much heel resistance uphill. Energycilling! Moonlight telebinding just like the TTN is perfect uphill and the spring resistance or downhill performance can be adjusted as hard/soft as you prefer. On resorts good old 75 are more than ok due to ski lifts. You don’t need the new expensive gear there. Rottefella chili works gooood! 😉 Never looked back. 😉

  22. SCARPA, Crispi, Scott should just stop making 75mm boots. They won’t, but it would force the binding split down.

    I’m going to run out of f3s at this point. Ugh. I really don’t want to buy a big heavy boot!

  23. I’ve got way too much money into 75mm setups. The cost to switch all of my bindings out from duck-bills to NTN for my quiver of skis would be huge. That’s half of why I didn’t make the switch. The other half is I couldn’t find an NTN boot that fits me. Now the industry is moving on from NTN to a new standard? Sounds like I made the right choice not to go to NTN.

  24. As a 30+ year Tele skier I applaud this move forward toward a true tele norm.
    If releasability and standardization can be added to better performance bring it on.
    Give manufacturers a standard and customers better function is what this seems to be about
    Cheers to all that can make it a more available sport with wider appeal.

  25. The release function of NTN bindings is not yet at the level of the old Voile CRB Hardwire. I’m not about to take a step backwards, particularly for something that increases my risk.

  26. So no new light stiff ntn boot with inserts from Scarpa any time soon?
    Will they at least buck up and put inserts in the TX comp?

  27. TTS and NTN do what the 75 mm system is trying to do…just much better. 75 mm feels great cause its freeheel skiing – but you get used to an amount of slop. TTN or NTN, is the same great feel but with efficient energy transfer to edges and better control. Either is freeheel skiing…i.e. Paul Parker’s tips apply to both. Unless you’re rocking Sondre’s rig, you’ve embraced some technological advancements in the telemark gear – and to denounce NTN/TTS and call yourself a purist or “real telemarker” for sticking to your T1s and AXL’s? Let’s be real…

    I understand how telemark can grow through resorts and the youth and I believe it will, no doubt, but the soul of telemark will always hold its primary residence in the backcountry. A legit lightweight telemark touring boot is essential. The backcountry market (tele, splitboard, AT) is growing and telemark should reclaim its leadership in this field. We have the bindings – just got to get our boots up to speed. Creating a “norm” with TTN is a good message to send to Scarpa and Crispi that we are ready for boot development.
    However, my BD neve pro’s fit on my Tx Pros size 28, so I’m not sold that changing the sole size for TTN needs to be a priority, but whatever it takes.

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