I don’t quite remember when I took my first step as a toddler. But, I vividly remember strapping my first set of skis to my feet when I was barely 3. I haven’t looked back; Skiing has been part of my life ever since. Eight years ago, the wear and tear of athletics finally caught up to me. I had my last knee arthroscopy and my orthopedist whispered 6 words that hit me in the gut, “you have to back off skiing.” My knees would ache for days after a moderate day skiing. There was an alternative. My doctor, who was an extraordinary mountaineer herself, recommended telemark skiing. Huh? Isn’t that what hippies with dreadlocks and leather boots do? Modern day telemark skiing can’t be further from this.
The standard telemark equipment is the 3-pin, cable binding with an awkward looking 75mm duckbill toe boot. This hasn’t changed for decades. But, several years ago a joint partnership between Rottefella and Scarpa was formed to look forward into the future. The future was the New Telemark Norm or “NTN.” The NTN system features a releasable, step-in binding. Also new, the NTN would sport a different type of boot. Instead of the clunky duckbill toe, the new boot would have a rounded toe, similar to alpine boots. The goal was simple: produce a better telemark experience.
SCARPA TERMINATOR X PRO BOOT
Today, I finally got a chance to demo the NTN system at Alpental, Washington. I set a pretty high bar of expectations. It was about 23 degrees and about 18 inches of snow fell overnight. Traditionally narrow in the 75mm version, Scarpa‘s NTN boots are the widest among the manufacturers. The Terminator Pro X boot boasts a 102mm forefoot last width and medium width heel. The Intuition liner feels heavenly. The Active Power strap holds your shin in place. I wasn’t a big fan on the buckling system. I spent more time messing with the buckles that seemed to get in the way of the overlapping plastic. The boot has a nice “walk mode”. The forward lean on the boot ranges from 14 degrees to a maximum of 20 degrees. Underfoot, the sole features Vibram to dampen shock.
ROTTEFELLA NTN FREERIDE BLACK BINDING
The Rottefella NTN binding looks nothing like a cable binding. The NTN binding uses cartridges to adjust the power. Black is the stiffest and white is the softest. One standout feature: ski brakes! NTN is an easy in, easy out system. You step in, push down the lever, and you’re good to go. If you want to tour, there is a secondary lever that you can lift up and voila. You’re ready to skin up the mountain. It’s so simple and so functional.
I’ll be honest. The first few turns were a mess. The binding position, boot flex and stance felt completely foreign. The setup prevents you from dropping too low on your turn (Tele-hippies need not apply). The power stance is somewhere between an alpine lean and progressive tele lean. After a few ugly turns, I slowly got into the groove. Immediately, I noticed superb edge control. The binding does an amazing job absorbing energy from the boot to the skis. You could really feel the horsepower being generated from turn to turn. I felt way more in control. The Terminator X Pro was moderately stiff. I’m guessing the flex and stiffness is between the Scarpa T-1 and T-2. The bellows felt smooth when initiating a turn. The rudder ski (uphill ski) felt more stable and allowed me to plow through the deep stuff with ease. On bumps, superior edge control allowed me to snap back and forth between turns. The transition was smooth. Bottom line, the NTN has tons of promise; I could really see myself in this system.
BLACK DIAMOND PUSH TELEMARK BOOT
This boot looks cool. We first spotted them at Winter Outdoor Retailer over a year ago. Black Diamond brought a refreshing look with a white and orange exterior. The Push boot has 4 buckles, a BOA lacing system, forward lean of 14-22 degrees, wide power strap. I demo’d a pair last year but this was the first time in the deep stuff. It would give me a chance to put them in the ringer. Even though the Push is a notch below the Custom, it’s surprisingly stiff–comparable to the Scarpa T-1 and Garmont Voodoo. The bellows are super silky smooth. It’s about a medium width boot. The heel is a bit too narrow and I found it pinching me a bit. Off piste, the boot held its ground. It’s pretty responsive and quick to engage the binding. On piste, I could really dig in and carve on edge. The boot is a bit too burly for my taste. There are a lot of things going on from the 4 buckles to the BOA lacing, which I was constantly playing with and adjusting. The boot is aesthetically pleasing but at the end of the day, I’d trade design for performance. It’s an intermediate level boot at best. There is no “wow factor” that leaves the rider wanting more.