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
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.
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?
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.”
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.