The New Telemark Norm
Hype or Hope?by Rocky Thompson
After years of design and testing, Rottefella gave the public their first look at a prototype telemark boot and binding interface earlier this year. Dubbed the New Telemark Norm (NTN), the system replaces the traditional duckbill toe boot and cable binding with a setup that looks more like a modern AT rig.
Rottefella is planning a product launch in two steps. A limited number of bindings will be available in Norwegian outlets in winter 06/07, followed by an international launch in January 2007. The size of the launch depends on how many boots will be available, which ultimately depends on how well the binding lives up to the hype.
The new binding’s designers boast of increased skiing performance by focusing power under the ball of the foot. Usability is improved by a touring mode, easy entry and exit, and a ski brake. The NTN uses two compression spring cartridges under the foot for resistance. NTN boots will also work in AT bindings, and they can accept crampons.
At winter 2006 trade shows, manufacturers showed retail buyers and industry insiders functioning prototypes of boots from Scarpa, Crispi, and Garmont. Rottefella released pictures of the bindings and boot prototypes to the public. The Scarpa boot is basically a modified T2. Scarpa reps said an extremely small number of the NTN T2 would be produced for testing this winter in Norway. Crispi is also producing a limited run of NTN boots for testing, and Garmont is developing their prototype. A rep from Garmont said attaching the binding under the ball of the foot will change a lot about the flex of the boot—they may need to change where the bellows go and create new molds. Making a boot that works in NTN and AT bindings presents even more design problems.
Years of internet chatter and speculation by pinheads preceded Rottefella’s NTN, and the interest was through the roof when the first pictures of the binding were released. Rottefella and boot makers aren’t saying much about the plans for the NTN, but it’s mostly because there isn’t much to say. Rottefella has set a launch date, but their company reps have said there’s no way the binding will be released unless Rottefella is absolutely certain they have a solid product.
The boot manufacturers face producing extremely expensive new molds and designs. Telemark boot designers have taken a ‘wait and see’ approach before beginning the mass production of new boots. If the binding performs as well as Rottefella’s claiming, the boot companies will begin building molds. In the first year there will likely only be one boot from each company in the most popular sizes—if there is a sea change in the telemark industry, it will be slow one.
Early rumors that Black Diamond and G3 would be involved in the binding development proved to be false. Rottefella says they don’t want to have a monopoly on the NTN, but no one else has stepped forward to say they’re working on another NTN binding. Rottefella reps said the company has been working on this project for years, and they’ve invested heavily in the NTN. The idea is that Rottefella will accept a lot of the risk in bringing the NTN to market, and once it’s successful, more boots will be built and other binding manufactures will sign up. We can only hope that Rottefella will license the binding cheaply at that point so that companies like 22-Designs and G3 can begin to manufacture bindings and really bring the NTN to life.
The NTN shows enormous promise. In a few years we could see a step-in NTN and DIN releasable NTNs. Designers say they hope the modern binding will convert alpine skiers and make skiing more fun for everyone. Unfortunately, it likely won’t be for sale for at least a couple years—there’s already been rumblings of pushing back the launch date another season.