NTN—solid fun or flail-fest?
NTN—solid fun or flail-fest?by Genevieve Mount
So what’s with the NTN (New Telemark Norm) system? There’s still quite a bit of hype going on. Some people are stoked—the NTN takeover will prevail … mwhahaha—some people aren’t—dude, what’s wrong with the setup I have?
The goals of the NTN mission seemed simple: to make an integrated boot and binding system with a step-in releasable binding, ski brakes, and free-pivot touring mode (current tele systems have releasable bindings and free-pivot touring modes, but not the rest).
Rottefella, Black Diamond, Scarpa, Garmont, and Crispi began the quest. Rottefella has emerged with its brand of NTN bindings that are compatible with Scarpa and Crispi NTN boots, while Black Diamond decided it would concentrate on improving boot designs for 2008, and possibly release their own new tele binding system.
The NTN bindings attach behind the ball of your foot instead of wrapping around your heel. With a direct connection between the ball of your foot and your ski, the binding actually transfers the power from your collapsing boot bellows (as you lift your rear heel) to the tip of the ski. This hooks your ski into the carve right away, which is a very different sensation from what you have with other telemark setups. What does this mean for your technique? The NTN forces you to concentrate on weighting evenly throughout your stance. If you don’t have enough weight on your back leg, it tends to slide out and create the dreaded “one foot in the grave and one on a banana peel” feeling. Skiers on the NTN are constantly moving their feet, because they need to weight and actively steer the uphill ski.
The left graphic shows a weighted boot in the binding. The right graphic is a top view of the NTN binding in the open position. Flip down the top alpine-style lever to close the hook around the ball of your boot. Two spring cartridges are located under the flex-plate in the binding.
The interchangeable cartridges also play an important role with the NTNs. There are four to choose from: soft, medium, rigid, and extra rigid. Changing the cartridges basically adjusts the binding from a neutral to a very active setting. What you use is based on your preference, and also on the conditions (skiing pow or hardpack).
Now, let’s talk about the boots. Scarpa and Crispi eliminated the telltale teleboot duckbill and changed the flex of the boots. Specifically, they softened longitudinal (length-wise) flex, so you’re not tip-toeing, but not torsionally (side-to-side)—binding stiffness won’t do much good if your boot is soft. So basically, the flex pattern of the boot combined with the binding gives you crazy lateral control and edge hold on the slopes.
Did Rottefella et al succeed in their quest for The Holy Grail of Bindings? Or did they end up galloping around with good intensions but a not-too-solid result (brave, brave Sir Robin)? That answer, not surprisingly, really depends on you.
- You like to race
- You rock mostly inbounds, with short side-country forays
- You have legs of steel that don’t mind touring with four-pound bindings
- You ride park and want releasable bindings (by the way, so far, the “releasable” part of NTNs is not certified to ISO standards, so take this with a big grain of salt, more like a solid salt-lick)
- You like a stiff feel
- You want to step into a binding just like your downhill buddies
- You’re sick of replacing the cables on your bindings every season
- You’re a newest-gear whore
- You drool over using the same boots for telemark and randonee
- Brakes on your skis make you feel better
- You like making parallel turns on your teles
- You prefer the softest-flex plastic boots out there
- You’re stoked on long fast-and-light tours
- It makes you feel stabby to chip ice out from under your feet on tours
- You like your low-stance tele style and aren’t terribly interested in a system that might throw off your weighting technique
- You like having one set of spring cartridges that work for most conditions
- You don’t mind bending down to clip into your bindings
- You’d rather wait to see what improvements get made down the line
- You like your setup and don’t have the money to throw down for new boots and bindings
- You believe the AT-like power would be the condom of your telemark experience
If you’d like to spy on some NTN equipment, check out:
We had more NTN gear, honest ... but we sold out already.
Before you go out get a whole new setup, the best thing you can do is go out and demo.