Selecting Telemark Bindings
This is where telemark bindings began. Traditional cable bindings secure the "duckbill" of a telemark boot into the toe piece by tensioning a cable wire that runs around perimeter of the boot with the upward flick of a heel lever. The cables in this category of binding generally exit from the toe piece alongside or in front of the ball of the foot, which largely give these bindings their characteristically "neutral" flex, where the heel more freely raises off the ski. The cable is allowed to tighten through the activation springs attached to the cables toward the rear of the loop. Earlier versions of these springs were exposed tension springs as with the Black Diamond Riva 1 and 2 bindings and the Voile 3-Pin Cable.
Most current cable bindings use a compression spring enclosed within a steel cartridge. The compression spring reduces the chance of the spring s needing replacing, and the enclosed cartridge prevents snow and ice from building up and interfering with the function of the spring. Some of the best-selling bindings fit in this category such as the G3 Targa, Rottefella Cobra, Black Diamond O3, and Voile Hardwire bindings. G3 and Black Diamond telemark bindings are available in different cartridge stiffnesses to suit the skier's preference.
In a more "active" cable binding, there is more tension in the system; i.e. the heel of the boot is more strongly pulled back down toward the ski. This is achieved mainly by repositioning the point-of-exit of the cable from the toe piece. For example, the cables of the Black Diamond O2 bindings leave the toe piece at the very back end of it, underneath the foot. The 22 Designs Hammerhead, most active in positions 4 and 5, illustrates this with its pop-pin adjustability of the cable exit point to accommodate the skier's preference.
22 Designs, G3, Black Diamond and Voile are all making binding with a pivot system that allows the binding to pivot at the front of the toe instead of at the ball of the foot. This acts more like an AT binding, and if you are spending more than 50% of your ski time in the backcountry, you should seriously consider the extra expense. The difference it makes in hiking efficiency is huge, and your legs will appreciate it on the way down. Check out the Black Diamond O1, 22 Designs AXL or Voile Switchback.
Many of you who spend time in the backcountry know that releasable telemark bindings can quite literally save your life in the event of an avalanche. Nobody wants their skis working like an anchor if they're caught in a slide. For those folks, releasable tele bindings are required equipment. We currently carry traditional telemark releasable bindings from Voile. The Rottefella NTN (distributed by Scarpa) also has release capabilities. Although not a true DIN release, the boot will disengage from the binding with the correct amount of torque.
New Telemark Norm (NTN)
NTN bindings are designed with increased lateral stability and better edging in mind and must be used with an "duckbill-less" NTN compatible boots such as the Scarpa T2X NTN and the Crispi Evo NTN. Benefits include a free-pivoting touring mode, easy entry and exit, integrated brakes, and better contact between ski and ball-of-foot. Of course the main drawback is the initial financial investment since both binding and a new boot will need to be purchased. But the really good news for those who split their time between tele and AT is that Scarpa's TX NTN boot will work in Dynafit AT bindings! We do not recommend using NTN boots in Fritschi or other step-in AT bindings, however.
Are women's specific bindings really necessary? How could they be any different? Well, telemark bindings designed for women have one major difference from most "unisex" bindings - the ability to fit the smallest women's boot sizes. Women who wear a 21.5-23.0 Mondo size boot can relate; some models out there just don't adjust small enough for these boot sizes, or if they do, the cartridge spring ends up practically running the length of the boot. Granted, not all women's bindings will fit a 21.5 (the G3 Targa RX, Black Diamond O3, and Black Diamond O1 and O2 in sizes Freeflex Small or Midstiff Small will), the Voile Women's Hardwire and Rottefella Cobra R6 fit down to a 23. As for other differences, some claim for have softer cartridges (Rottefella Cobra R6) while others stand by the fact that the cartridge is the same as the men's version (as is the case with the G3 Targa RX). One or two have a resized heel bail to accommodate for the narrower shell of some women's boots (Voile Women's Hardwire).
If your little shredder is using any of the kid's specific tele boots (Garmont Teledactyl, Telesaurus, or G-Rex, Scarpa TJ), going with a kid's specific telemark binding is a must. Reason: the duckbill of a kid's boot is thinner (therefore easier for a flyweight to flex), and won't fit securely into an adult binding. Try the Rottefella Junior Softwire.