Well I know most everybody is thinking biking, hiking, beach, fishing, golf, yep spring and summer. But there are some of us, and that does include me, that are still playing in the snow. All of the ski resorts are closed except Squaw Valley, and it is skiing quite well. But in the backcountry it is corn season. And if you can get the timing right, the corn is on! There is still one ski related thing I need to share here. Over the past month, I have had the opportunity to ski the NTN (new telemark norm) system by Rotefella.
NTN is something that has been talked about for a number of years now, but has just this past winter actually started to take shape. NTN is a boot and binding system. The current telemark boot has the protruding sort of squared off toe area that encompasses the three pin holes which used to engage the three pins of the binding. I say used to because you would be pretty hard pressed to find a telemark binding these days that still has the three pins. Most modern tele bindings have no pins and some sort of cable arrangement around the rear of the boot that gives the binding its ski turning power.
On the NTN boots the square toe area has been greatly reduced to resemble a randonee or AT boot toe and the pin holes are gone completely. Then they add an additional binding interface area right under the instep of the boot. This is just a small lip facing toward the rear of the boot. Everything else about the boot remains the same as any current tele boot out there. At this point only Crispi and Scarpa are going to produce boots. Black Diamond is secretly working on their own NTN boot and binding. I am skiing the Crispi boot and it is their best boot yet, new bellows and heat to fit liner, it is their lightest big boot ever.
The binding is where the real changes happen. The cable around the heel is gone. There is a toe attachment and the part that clamps under the instep of the boot. There is a ski brake, climbing bar for the heel and two levers at the toe area which serve to close/open the binding on one and lock /unlock the free pivot for climbing on the other. This is also a release binding.
I had looked at some photos of the boot and binding together earlier in the season and was very excited by the look of the setup in the pictures. But then when I first got to touch the binding I would have to say I was a little shocked. First by the weight of the system, and second by the very mechanical nature of the binding, it looked to me like a device that some bridge engineer had designed! There are many moving parts on this device and I weighed it out at ¾ of a pound heavier per single binding than a current binding like the Voile or G3 (without the free pivot ascent mode).
Next I headed for the resort for a ski test. My first run was just an intermediate cruiser on firm spring morning snow, not ideal for ski testing. Right away the system felt very different, maybe a little stiff and restrictive, (this was a brand new boot though). Again not the first impressions I had been hoping for. On the second run everything changed. I realized what the conditions were. I was on a very wide powder ski and firm snow, something you just don’t ski very comfortably on tele gear, or any ski gear for that matter, yet without even thinking about it this stuff was really skiing fast and effortlessly, hmmm! By the third run I felt like I was about to have an affair and betray my regular tele setup which I love very much!
The next morning we were out again on the NTN gear, now feeling more comfortable the pure power of this setup became very apparent. There is so much more edge power and with the binding attaching under the midsole of the boot, it really keeps the ball of the rear foot down on the ski better than our current setups. This makes it amazingly easy to pressure the rear ski during any part of the turn. This aspect of the binding means you have to ski a slightly taller stance, something that the modern boots and technique are teaching us anyway, so if you ski a much lower, rear knee to the ski, feet spread out kind of stance, it will be a big adjustment.
Day three, time to do a little tour test. We start at Carson Pass and head to Round Top. With the binding in the free pivot mode it tours like an AT binding, both in ease of stride and weight but it is still lighter than most AT bindings. We reach Round Top and take skis off to kick steps straight up the Moon Couloir. Here is another advantage of the boot toe. It kicks a much more comfortable step in firm snow than the old duckbill tele boots. Once at the top clicked into the binding and looking over the edge things get real serious. It is STEEP and NARROW and probably not the place to be getting used to a new setup, dropping! My first couple of turns were alpine turns (which this binding does very well) just to get set up in the chute. Then amazing tele turns to the bottom, “That was sick!” Skins back on and we climb to the Sisters for a Life on the Edge drop then over to Emigrant for California Chute, and finish at Kirkwood with the last chair 4 ride up and finish with Thunder Saddle, that’s what it’s about!
The next morning I had to call the rep and beg to keep this setup until the snow is gone instead of the week I was supposed to have it. About a week later it snows sixteen inches of good quality winter snow at Kirkwood. In the morning I ski the telemark setup, then at mid day swap to a ski with an AT binding. Here is just one more advantage to this NTN boot, it steps right into this binding and skis amazingly well. Just a quick note, this is a custom made carbon fiber ski called One Reality, designed and built locally by a friend of ours, Steve. I was also giving this ski a test ride, more on that in a different article.
So now I am in a situation where I don’t even want to go back to my standard setup, I need to thank Ricky Newberry, the BCA and Rotefella rep, and Arlo Bock the Crispi boot rep for letting me do the extended test program on this gear and completely changing my plans for next season! Is it here yet? Well it’s my Friday and we are going hiking to do some corn hunting.