Big Things in the Backcountry Skiing Boot World — NTN and Black Diamond

Post by blogger | January 13, 2006      

Interesting things are happening in the backcountry skiing boot and binding world. Black Diamond announced today they’ll be designing and producing their own backcountry skiing boot line (see below)! Over on the telemark side, Rottefella recently made the production model debut of their New Telemark Norm (NTN) binding.

Designed to work with a specially shaped boot sole, NTN eliminates the archaic and problem prone cables common to most telemark bindings, instead using an ingenious (some would say Rube Goldberg) system of catches to hold the boot sole in the binding.

What’s interesting to me about NTN is that the boot sole has a standard randonnee (DIN) shaped toe, and may work in randonnee bindings (again, telemark gear gets ever closer to being randonnee gear). More, the specially shaped sole is the first attempt in years by any backcountry binding maker to establish a boot/binding interface, the last being the quickly (and thankfully) abandoned Silvretta SL system that attempted to compete with Dynafit.

It is remotely possible that the catch built into the NTN boot sole could also be made to work with some form of randonnee binding, thus becoming the boot that does it all. On the other hand, NTN is a heavy binding without safety release, and thus continues a sad legacy of telemark gear: that of the binding being the least developed part of the system. NTN does get rid of the duckbill sole I’ve always contended was ridiculous for alpinism, and it eliminates having a left and right binding (another laughable legacy of ancient nordic bindings).

Perhaps having a step-in telemark binding such as NTN will continue the growth of telemark as a lift served sport, as step in convenience is obviously a desirable trait. If NTN helps, fine. But remember our subject here at is backcountry skiing, not mechanized resort skiing. We’re concerned with gear and technique that makes climbing up and skiing down natural snow easier, more fun and safer.

New Telemark Norm
Rottefella NTN telemark skiing binding, lift served and backcountry skiing. Amusing to note the groomed snow in the photo — subtle hint of some sort?

While NTN does make a nod to backcountry skiing by having a free pivot for touring, the binding is heavy, complex, and has no safety release. Telemarkers will make all sorts of gear sacrifices to be able to shuffle their feet between turns, but will they continue to sacrifice safety? The knee protection offered by tele release bindings is an open question. But think beyond that. If you’re locked into a binding as solid as NTN appears to be, and you stick a ski under a log, what exactly is going to happen to your body? Or what if you’re in an avalanche, even a small one? Results of medieval torture come to mind.

I happen to know a guy who stuck his tele skis under a log. His monster cable bindings held him in quite well, as would NTN. His hamstring muscles provided the release mechanism. Repair took more than a year.

Another thing I find interesting about NTN, and tele bindings in general, is the effort that goes in to making the bindings active. Consider alpine bindings. By virtue of its powerful ergonomics the alpine turn asks very little of the binding. If you forget safety release, you could epoxy your boot to your ski and turn just as well without a binding as with. Contrast that with telemark bindings.

In the active tele binding, beefy systems of springs and cables are configured in various ways to give you resistance to heel lift, all adding weight and complexity. Meanwhile, release systems are an afterthought and just this year we’re seeing a selection of bindings that have a free pivot for touring. And now we have New Telemark Norm, with a heavy and complex mechanism that makes it active and allows step-in, but has no safety release. Is this progress? Indeed yes, but so is the movement of a glacier.

Some of you may think I’m bashing telemark. I’m not. Again, our mission here is to cover backcountry skiing, and write opinion about what gear and technique makes backcountry skiing safer and more fun. Telemarking has proved to be part of that equation, and provides many people with substantial grins but telemark bindings are still the weak link, and NTN does not appear to be the answer. I’d love to be proved wrong.

In other boot news:

Black Diamond announced today that they’ll be developing a new line of alpine touring and telemark ski boots. This is a huge step for the company, as designing and marketing a ski boot line from scratch is one of the more complex juggling acts in the outdoor sports industry. Presumably the tele boots they develop will be NTN compatible, but word on the street is that they may be developing their own boot/binding interface. Should be interesting.


Please Enjoy A Few Suggested WildSnow Posts


3 Responses to “Big Things in the Backcountry Skiing Boot World — NTN and Black Diamond”

  1. Jarrett Luttrell January 14th, 2006 2:10 am

    Well, they missed the mark on light weight and releasable, but at least the corporate world of mainstream boot manufacturing has acknowledged that there is a demand for improvements in telemark equipment, which is more than I can say for the snowboard industry. I know I’m not the only one out there frustrated by the industy’s complacency. Sure, the new line of glorified moon boots are fasionable for the kids, and comfortable to walk in, but the only question these designers have addressed in the past ten years is what color to make them in next. So here I am again, making a mess on the kitchen floor with a drill and utility knife trying to make an old pair of Koflach Velluga Lights I found by the dumpster at Six Points into soft tops. Somebody help me before I hurt myself with these dull tools.

  2. Mike McDonald January 14th, 2006 9:43 am

    Why not just put the Dynafit in lock mode and take away the heel?

  3. Mark Worley January 14th, 2006 7:55 pm

    NTN is always intriguing to me. Too bad it is appears so bulky and heavy–and without release. Still, it is progress of a sort. Release would be more than nice too. Good for Black Diamond producing their own boots. I definitely can’t wait to get a look at them.


  Your Comments

  Recent Posts

Facebook Twitter Email Instagram Youtube


  • Blogroll & Links

  • Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information & opinion website. Lou's passion for the past 50 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about ski touring and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free ski touring news and information here.

    All material on this website is copyrighted, the name WildSnow is trademarked, permission required for reproduction (electronic or otherwise) and display on other websites. PLEASE SEE OUR COPYRIGHT and TRADEMARK INFORMATION.

    We include "affiliate sales" links with most of our blog posts. This means we receive a percentage of a sale if you click over from our site (at no cost to you). None of our affiliate commission links are direct relationships with specific gear companies or shopping carts, instead we remain removed by using a third party who manages all our affiliate sales and relationships. We also sell display "banner" advertising, in this case our relationships are closer to the companies who advertise, but our display advertising income is carefully separated financially and editorially from our blog content, over which we always maintain 100% editorial control -- we make this clear during every advertising deal we work out. Please also notice we do the occasional "sponsored" post, these are under similar financial arrangements as our banner advertising, only the banner or other type of reference to a company are included in the blog post, simply to show they provided financial support to and provide them with advertising in return. Unlike most other "sponsored content" you find on the internet, our sponsored posts are entirely under our editorial control and created by WildSnow specific writers.See our full disclosures here.

    Backcountry skiing is dangerous. You may be killed or severely injured if you do any form of ski mountaineering, skimo randonnee and randonnée skiing. The information and news on this website is intended only as general information. Due to human error and passing time, the information, text and images contained within this website may be inaccurate, false, or out-of-date. By using, reading or viewing the information provided on this website, you agree to absolve the owners of Wild Snow as well as content contributors of any liability for injuries or losses incurred while using such information. Furthermore, you agree to use any of this website's information, maps, photos, or binding mounting instructions templates at your own risk, and waive Wild Snow owners and contributors of liability for use of said items for ski touring or any other use.

    Switch To Mobile Version