The New Tele Norm by Gary Bell

December 28, 2016
    Skiing

When you were a kid, did you ever meet a new friend that made you feel bad because you didn’t want to play with your old friends anymore?

This is what the NTN system by Rottefella has done to me.

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The New Tele Norm (NTN) is a boot and binding system that eliminates the duckbill/three pin area at the toe of the boot. The front and rear lip are just like an AT boot. The difference is of course the bellows and one additional rear facing lip under the instep of the boot that gives the binding its rear interface. This eliminates the cable we currently love/hate so much. But this is a complete boot /binding system and so far only Rottefella has a binding and Crispi and Scarpa have committed to building boots.

I had seen the early photos that were circulating and was very excited by them. Then a mounted pair was handed to me and my first impression was, “Yikes, these are kind of heavy!” And they look like some bridge engineer designed them because they are a very mechanical looking device. I did weigh them out at ¾ of a pound heavier per foot than a standard (no ascent mode) G3 or Voile hardwire. The binding has a toe clamp and the rear clamp which attaches to that lip under the instep of the boot. This is a release binding so there is a ski brake. The heel pad flips up as the climbing bar and is easy enough to operate with a ski pole. The front of the binding has two levers, one which is the open and close lever, the other puts the binding in tour/free pivot mode and can also be operated by pole.

Too excited to sleep in the next morning we are out at the resort for first chair, but it is spring and the snow is firm and the binding is mounted on a fat ski, the K2 Hippi Stinx to be exact. Not the ideal ski for these conditions. I am also skiing a brand new pair of Crispi’s NTN boot. My first turn almost throws me on my head, oh this is going to be different! I get through the first run just trying to reprogram and deal with firm snow. Then on only the second run things started to click and by the third I was actually having fun on snow that I would never even consider going out on with my normal setup, this thing is powerful.

treeskiing.JPGThe morning warms quickly and we begin to see corn, I like this stuff. The first thing I notice is the steering power, front and rear foot alike. The back foot has amazing power whether the heel is up or down, and this is a rather active binding so it is easy to load the tip of the ski to carve turns. This all adds up to a very nice feel on the rear ski, you can stand on it anywhere in the turn and really count on that ski to come around and share in the responsibilities.

The power of this setup becomes more evident on every turn. The attachment point under foot seems to help keep the ball of the foot down on the ski better than most current bindings. I can see a problem for anyone that likes to stand low and spread out, knee to the ski kind of turns. This setup does limit the range of motion. If you still think leather is for ski boots and jackets, NTN is probably not for you, unless the old dog is ready for some new tricks. These would be the same new tricks that the new equipment has been teaching us lately anyway. Stand taller, use the back foot for more steering and power. Use bigger skis and don’t back off because it is weird snow, steep terrain or large air!

Day one done, I would give NTN good resort marks, but it seems a bit much for a backcountry setup. Only one way to know! Day two, up early again and off to Carson Pass for some climbing. Just a flip of the lever with a pole tip and the binding free pivots for touring. If you have skied any of the current crop of telemark bindings with a tour mode, you know how nice and efficient this feels. This system really benefits from the free pivot and tours surprisingly well for all its bulk.

I found two issues during the first climb. First was that on some steeper traverses the binding would not come down perfectly centered over the plate on the ski and consequently had a bit of a clunk when the heel settled. Second was that to operate the tour lever, you have to stick a pole tip in a hole in the top of the lever and move the pole handle rearward. I found this awkward and not particularly friendly to my breakaway carbon fiber pole tips so I chose to operate the lever by hand instead. This was a little difficult because the lever was hard to grip with a gloved hand and could benefit from a small pair of grip tabs on its sides for manual operators. As I understand it Rottefella will be making some refinements in the production version.

The added weight is noticeable, but still lighter than most AT setups, and when kickturning or sidestepping the tail of the ski does pick up much better than any AT binding out there which always has that tail drag.

We arrive at the base of Round Top Peak, pack skis and begin to kick a thousand feet of steps up the Moon Couloir. Instantly another benefit shows. With no duckbill these boots kick a wonderfully secure step on steep snow!

Once at the top you are looking down a rock walled nearly fifty degree drop which is just wide enough for a pair of skis. Not a great spot to be learning new equipment but the power of this setup was definitely confidence inspiring.

The first ten turns had to be alpine turns due to seriously limited space, no worries, these things do that better than any tele binding I have ever skied! Then rather quickly the pitch mellows and the rock walls move back. A little more comfortable for powered up, lots of rear foot steering telemark turns, just the way we like them! I like this setup, day two, through.

4thjulypeak.JPGIt’s a couple of days later, we are in the first week of April and true to Sierra weather we get a sixteen inch dump, (more than any January storm this year). Back to the resort. Knee deep with a bottom. I expected some tip diving with such an active binding. Much to my surprise there was very little. And what there was seemed to be controllable. This may be because the tighter taller stance keeps you on the ball of the foot and not low and driving the tip down, until you really want to, then a little heel lift is all it takes. The binding did well as far as snow packing under foot, and if some did start to build up, it was easy to tap out. Where I did have some icing was in and around the tour mode lever. This made it a little difficult to operate at times.

But wait! There is one more bonus. In the afternoon we came down to the van, I pulled out a pair of skis mounted with an AT binding and stepped right in with the same Crispi NTN boot. Because the sole is AT norm they are able to do this, the bellows don’t flex and the boot skied incredibly well. Well until I just had to switch back to the good stuff. Day three wow wee!

I switched the binding to my own Rossignol Sickbirds and skied that setup daily for the next five weeks. Eventually the day came where I had to give the gear back. The bindings needed to return to Norway to be studied. I felt like my summer vacation friends had gone home and I had to go back to playing with my old friends. But I’ve changed and I don’t want to go back to duckbill days. I can’t wait for my NTN friends to come back from Norway next fall!

Bio:
Gary Bell
Owner of Sierra Ski and Cycle Works for 28 years
Skier since the age of 3
Telemark skier since 1978. And a short period of 8 years as a snowboarder, but I’ve recovered now.

Drawing by Jameson Simpson