Telemark bindings connect the ski boot to the ski only at the toe or front of the boot, so the rear foot can flex and lift when turning. Which binding is best for you depends upon your skiing style and whether you’ll be touring or resort skiing. Here we’ll explain the criteria to consider when deciding which binding will be best for you.
Binding System – 75 mm, NTN or 2-pin NTN?
There are now three boot and binding systems: 75 mm, NTN and 2-pin NTN. The 75 mm standard is based upon the original telemark design and uses a wedged shaped toe piece to hold a boot with an angled toe extension 75 m mm wide, hence the name. Several brands make 75 mm bindings, including Rottefella, who invented this design, Black Diamond, Voile, G3 and 7tm. The original 75 mm binding used a flat lever and three pins to hold the boot, but this simple "3 pin" binding is now used mainly for lightweight nordic touring. Most 75 mm bindings use springs mounted either under the boot (Black Diamond, 7tm) or alongside the boot (Voile, G3) and attached to the boot heel. These "cable bindings" provide more power than the simple 3-pin bindings. 75 mm bindings offer good forward flex so that the skier can bend the front knee fully, and varying degrees of "activity" depending upon spring strength and are generally cheaper than the other binding types.
Over the last 20 years alpine touring bindings became lighter and safer, more efficient and reliable tools for backcountry skiing. Telemark binding manufacturers responded with articulated touring bindings but were not able to offer the same level of performance using the 75 mm standard, which was considered to have too many limitations. Rottefella introduced the "New Telemark Norm" or NTN Freeride binding in 2008. These offered excellent power transmission to the ski thanks to the higher lateral rigidity, rudimentary lateral release, adjustable spring tension and articulated touring functionality.
Despite the reduced forward flex compared to the 75 mm system, the NTN Freeride rapidly gained a following amongst freeheel skiers wanting a powerful binding. Rottefella introduced the NTN Freedom touring binding with reduced weight, greater rotation in climb mode and increased forward flex. NTN bindings connect to the boot via the toe and a lug under the ball of the foot that connects with the boot's "2nd heel". 22 Designs started manufacturing the NTN Outlaw in 2015, a powerful binding for strong skiers.
Neither freeheel binding system could match AT bindings for touring efficiency or releasability. When Scarpa launched the TX Pro boots for the NTN bindings they included Dynafit AT inserts. For several years DIY skiers tinkered with adding an AT heel unit to the NTN system (the "Frankenstein" bindings), or using an AT insert binding toepiece with the TX Pro boots for efficient climbing combined with heel units from Voile or Rottefella. This latter design gave good touring efficiency but still could not offer the reliable release of the AT bindings.
In 2014 Pierre Mouyade introduced the Meidjo. This "2-pin NTN" binding combines an AT style insert toe unit with the NTN's "2nd heel"', making a lightweight binding offering good lateral rigidity, touring efficiency and lateral release. The Meidjo has taken the telemark world by storm and tipped the balance in favour of the NTN standard, which is now seen as the future of the sport. 2-pin NTN bindings use boots with the NTN sole and Dynafit style tech inserts. See the telemark boots page for more details.
Resort Skiing or Touring?
All 75 mm binding manufacturers make telemark touring bindings with walk and ski modes. In walk mode the toepiece can articulate for more efficient climbing. On the way down these bindings ski pretty much like the resort bindings, but are slightly heavier in weight, and also on your wallet. Both NTN bindings have a tour mode, the Freedom offering greater rotation in climbing mode. The Meidjo is by far the most efficient telemark touring binding available.
Active or Neutral Bindings?
During the telemark turn the rear foot lifts off the ski. The flexible leather boots and 3-pin bindings of the original 75 mm design offered very little resistence to the heel lifting off the boot, but also comparatively little control. Modern plastic boots and cable bindings are stiffer and require more effort to flex the boot due to three factors:
1 - Boot bellows flex: the stiffer the boot bellows the more effort is needed to flex the boot. This greater effort gives a more precise boot-binding contact and more power transfer to the ski.
2 - Binding cable / rod position: the further back the point of attachment on the toe piece of the rods or cables, the more effort is required to flex the boot, and the more energy return and rebound there is at the end of the turn.
3 - Binding spring strength: the stronger the springs the more force is needed to flex the boots. Stronger springs drive more power to the ski.
So which is best for you? Some skiers want a neutral binding with only a small amount of resistance more in keeping with telemark’s roots, while others require the additional drive to the ski and rebound at the end of the turn of an active binding. What’s best also depends on snow conditions – active bindings can cause tip dive in powder. The 22Designs bindings offer a range of activity – moving the pin underfoot changes activity. This is a pretty neat solution for skiers who want to experiment or who want a particularly active binding. The “fixed” positions chosen by BD and Voile suit most skiers.
The activity of the NTN and 2-pin NTN bindings can be adjusted by tightening the springs underfoot, or using stiffer springs. Rottefella supply the small size bindings with soft springs, the size large with medium springs. These can be bought as accessories should you want to change. The Meidjo comes with standard springs plus an additional smaller diameter spring that can be added to increase tension 30%. Super stiff springs should be available as accessories late 2016.
Most telemark bindings do not have a release mechanism and for many skiers the fact that the heel is free of the ski means that injury is less likely. There is however no lateral release and some skiers prefer the security of release. There are currently only two release telemark bindings available, the 7tm Power / Power XR, and the Meidjo. The 7tm system works pretty well. The toe plate slides out laterally in the event of a fall and release is easy to adjust.
The Meidjo releases laterally and release can be adjusted according to skier preference and weight.
The Rottellea NTN bindings can release laterally in a heavy fall but release is not adjustable and these should not be considered release bindings.
Need more help?
Should you like some help deciding what’s best for you then get in touch – we’re here to help.
We ski these bindings and know their strengths and quirks and can help you ensure that you have the right model for your skiing.
Earn your turns!!
ranges from 74 to 450