New 22 Designs Axl Telemark Binding Makes Debut

Post by blogger | January 20, 2009      

Editor’s note from Lou: Since I was just in Livigno, the Italian capital of the dropped knee, I thought we should throw a bone to you tele guys and gals out there (for the 5 of you that read WildSnow, anyway). Better yet, if your’e burnt out on hearing endless chatter about the crazy NTN system here is something more down to earth — or actually up the earth, as from what I hear this new binding tours better than NTN.

For those tele skiers who have been unwilling to abandon the smooth turning power of the Hammerhead (HH), even for the benefits of resistance free earning, the wait is nearly over. Axl, 22 Designs telemark touring binding, will be unveiled to the world next week at the Outdoor Retailer show. For those who want the best of both worlds, renowned power and easy earning, beta bindings will be available later this season.

Backcountry Skiing

Axl telemark backcountry skiing binding.

With Axl the single underfoot Hammer-spring will be replaced by a pair that tuck under the boot, behind the toeplate. The boot never contacts the springs themselves, only the plastic housing holding them. With this configuration the sole rests on the tensioned cables allowing the sole of the boot to flex evenly for an equally smooth engagement of the spring.

Nearly every other feature that set the Hammerhead apart is retained in the Axl. The indestructible, unitary wrap-around stainless steel toeplate remains, as does the six hole mounting pattern, still the strongest telemark mounting pattern available and the only one unaffected with binding pullout problems that Lou so loves to blog about. Also retained, the finger adjustable heel yoke and heel lever. But the most important is the ability to easily adjust the power position of the heel cable. Axl will provide four different positions, roughly corresponding to HH#2½ through HH#5ish.

Axl’s pivot is located at pin line for efficient striding, and allows a full 50 plus degree range of motion, for unimpeded kick-turns in deep snow or steep terrain. Switching between modes is accomplished by pushing, forward or back, a latch at the front of the binding to switch modes from turning to burning back up for another lap.

If there is a bummer with Axl, it is the weight, tipping the scales at just under four pounds. Experience shows a free pivot more than offsets the extra weight it adds, and with luck the post-beta program version, i.e., the final version, will be significantly lighter.

Some history: Almost as revolutionary as the Hammerhead was the original beta test program. The young guns at 22 Designs decided to maintain that tradition. It is hard to argue with the results. It is the longest running unchanged design of the recent telemark revival to have undergone no major revisions.

At the time, Russell Rainey, inventor of the Hammerhead, couldn’t afford to deal with repairs. He had already experienced an overload with the Superloop. However, that experience taught him that real customers, those who expected to get their money’s worth, would tell him what was wrong and what he needed to fix with passionate honesty. So he partnered with his customer base and humbly invited them to join his demo team. 200 people did, which allowed him to get a finished design in the very next version, in time for December 2000. All those who paid full pop for the prototype binding received the final revision as a free upgrade.

(WildSnow guest blogger Craig Dostie founded Couloir Magazine, the first North American ski touring and backcountry skiing serial publication.)


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53 Responses to “New 22 Designs Axl Telemark Binding Makes Debut”

  1. Lynn January 20th, 2009 3:59 pm

    Craig, what are your opinions on any of the releasable tele bindings out there today? Also what do you think of the Scarpa tele/AT boot, the Terminator X I think?

    Good to see a knowledgeable tele person infiltrating wildsnow:) And there are more than 5 of us lurking out there.


  2. Tom January 20th, 2009 7:07 pm

    I guess that makes it 6 of us.

  3. Adam January 20th, 2009 8:15 pm

    And what is one called who goes both ways? bi-…..?

    I’ve been going tele for a decade, but now that
    my knees are a decade more used, and AT bindings are lighter than tele, the old Swedish-Iranian poem goes: don’t a go knocking the neighbors until you eat their goulash.”

    I’m very much bummed that Mr. Rainey has not come up with an improvement
    on Voile’s releasables (so far). If anyone could, he’s in the right spot to do it.

    Craig–what’s the gossip about avy safer bindings for tele? and/or bindings/boots that could satisfy those of us who like to enjoy both flavors?
    Scarpa has bellowed AT/dynafit boots. NTN has brought us step-in-able,
    duck toe-less comforts. Now how about releasable, fixed /free heel bindings
    to match?

    Yes, I _do_ want it all 😉

  4. Bob January 20th, 2009 9:16 pm

    I gave the HH a try a couple of years ago and walked out of them numerous times (even w/ the tension cranked up). I also found the adjustable feature to be less than user friendly while in the field – so hopefully the touring feature will eliminate the need to adjust the pivot while out on a tour. I’m back to breaking G3 Ascent toe plates but at least I don’t walk out of those in the middle of a turn.

  5. Cory January 20th, 2009 9:30 pm

    Nice, but…I feel like the binding manufacturers keep addressing the “symptoms”. I want one that does it all…lightweight, releaseable, free-pivot, solid feel. Basically, a dynafit tele binding.

    I want 2 dynafit toe pieces. The first one mounted in the usual place. The second, I’d mount 3″ or so back, on the ball of my foot . This one would be used/not used depending if you were touring or turning. I’d use a “baffled” boot to supply the flex when turning and both toe pieces were locked down.

    Anyone ever try one? Am I dreaming? Engineers…what am I missing?

  6. Mark January 20th, 2009 11:11 pm

    Nice looking tele binding, the Axl. On the binding pullout problem, I met a gent who had successfully wrenched out an 01 with rid-stiff springs from a single pair of skis on three occasions. When this guy had mounted the same skis the third time, even with J-B Weld, the binding pulled. He was running race boots. At some point in this sequence, the ski manufacturer decided to halt warranty service. I concur with the ski manufacturer, though I didn’t say this to the skier who had the pullout problem. The braun of some of these setups no ski should be expected to withstand–except perhaps the Hammerhead’s six-screw pattern. Oh, by the way, how’s the Dostinator coming along?

  7. Telehead January 21st, 2009 7:27 am

    I am sooooo excited about these. The new NTNs have been getting all the press, but I love Hammerheads so much that these just might be the perfect binding. Keep the heel free!

  8. nick January 21st, 2009 8:27 am

    Cory- the double dynafit toe sounds great in theory, but having the ball of your foot locked down would not feel right. In all current bindings the ball of your foot lifts up some, even though it doesn’t feel like it.

  9. Clyde January 21st, 2009 9:14 am

    It’s a pity the ski press makes so little of bindings designed to put skiers in avalanche terrain with anchors attached to their feet. Nothing but praise for BD, G3, Voile, and now 22 selling touring tele bindings that don’t release (well at least the 01 rips out of skis fairly regularly but that isn’t exactly a feature). These bindings only exist to put skiers onto terrain that has a potential to slide and no avy professional has ever advocated non-releasable bindings. The reviews should start off with that observation instead of ignoring the truth.

  10. Randonnee January 21st, 2009 10:11 am

    Good point Clyde. I was holding my tongue, but that is a glaring contradiction. Some Certified Guide(s) ski backcountry with avy hazard exposure on non-releasable gear (!?). Yesterday I was reviewing accident reports online and noticed bios/ photos of professional avalanche workers showing them on non-releasable gear.

    I sometimes see such a suspension of clear and logical thinking and behavior resulting from skiing and avalanche hazard evaluation, and tribal/ friendship behaviors. Also, the ever-present amoral marketing. This use of non-releasable bindings is yet another example.

  11. gonzoskijohnny January 21st, 2009 10:40 am

    I gave up tele for AT 5 years ago after the leather to plastic, and 3 pin to big cables made travel such a pain, and I discovered how easy AT is to travel in.
    Since I commonly BC ski foo-foo light pow on moderate terrain in the Steamboat area, AT is a bit of overkill, and i missed the smooth feel of the tele turn.

    The new gen of tour tele bindings started to bring me back, but with the non-releasable issue showing up in burials, friends’ torn ACLs, tibia rotational fractures and torn off hamstrings, I soured. I wondered if I could mount a tour binding on an old voile release plate.

    then I found it- the 7Tm does it all.
    heavy as hell, but tourable, good control, solid and DIN std. safety release.
    Never walked out (yet), released easily when I 1 tip over and 1 under a down burried tree, and if you use weak saftey cords, probably safe in an avy. Fairly easy to change tour to tele turn mode, and reliable. like them so much i could be a salesman!

    if you want the heel of a tele to lock down too (why?- is the boot stiff enough to forward shin pressure an alpine turn?), think about installing a dynafit heel piece on your ski and install the metal pin plates on your current boots…..

  12. Lou January 21st, 2009 11:10 am

    I really appreciate Clyde bringing up that point. I’ve gone on record many times about detriments of tele such as none or little safety release, duckbill toes, etc., and gotten so much grief from the acolytes it’s been very disconcerting and even, shall I say, nauseating? Tele turns are cool, but if used for backcountry skiing the gear needs to continue to get with the program. Better performance and control for turns and touring are admirable, but safety needs to be addressed as well.

  13. Cory January 21st, 2009 11:19 am

    I tele in the b/c with a helmet to protect from blunt-force trauma in an avalanche. Am I better or worse than an AT skier with releasable binding who doesn’t use a helmet?

    Just wondering (and stirring the waters).

  14. C. Lowe January 21st, 2009 11:24 am


    You said it well. AT gear has progressed nicely to incorporate many of the safety and efficiency features that are important to backcountry skiing. I fully understand the numerous benefits of a good AT setup. However, many of us simply want to make tele turns on the way down and even the best AT setups don’t allow for that.

    So, it’s tricky situation to be in. Give up making the turns you love in order to utilize safer, more productive gear, or stick with the arguably inferior gear and take some risks in order to drop the knee on the way down.

    Many of us are hoping that the evolution of tele gear will speed up so that we can enjoy many of the benefits that the AT community does while still making the turns we love. Unfortunately, this evolution has been slow to materialize and riddled with problems but some of us are still keeping our eyes on it closely.


  15. Sal Paradise January 21st, 2009 11:52 am

    east coast skier here – although we lack the avy risks you all have out west i still use releasable (7tm) bindings (and lov ‘em) since fracturing a fibula with non-release bindings….(I also use a helmet since a slide down on my back headfirst in the trees at Mad River Glen on an icy day a few years ago) it is hard to understand that so many western tele skiers ski in avy terrain without releasable bindings, I guess the reason is performance, and I may be getting old here, but I learned to tele over 20 years ago in bowling shoes and wooden skis on a NOLS trip (thanks Darren!!) and I guess my skills developed so that with plastic boots, fat powder skis and the 7tms, my performance is sooo good! I can’t imagine sacrificing the safety features of my bindings for some marginal performance benefit, having said that, when I win the lottery I am looking forward to converting to the NTN set-up, no more duck-bills!! We have certainly come a long way from the days when I would be ripping out from my three pins on Primo at Ski Sunlight, back in the day…(Goodbye Diamond Dave – we still miss you).

  16. Matt Kinney January 21st, 2009 12:14 pm

    I have skied “non-releasable” tele binding for ever. Most of the the time a telemark binding with a cable system will release when pressured by the forces of an avalanche or a severe fall. If you want more “releasiblity” all you have to do is simpy loosed tha cables. I have literally walked right out of telemark cable bindings if the cable were too loose. Floppy cables will come off. Some telemark bindings I do not use, such as those with hard wires cables, as they are to rigid and will tear you up. There is this myth out there that telemark binding will not release. But then I have seen alpine skiers tumble many times with no release in many types of AT systems..Ouch.

    You need to know your binding and adjust the DIN or cable tension accordingly. My O1’s are much looser than what BD recommends for this reason. Nice thing about the O1 underfoot cable is it will not ride up and around the ankle should you in chaos. The HH does the same with its underfoot riggings,

    The main issue with cable systems, even those with a release plate, is wether the cable ends up riding up and over your ankle and snags.

    Nice review Craig.

  17. Cory January 21st, 2009 12:21 pm

    It’s a sport of calculated risks. (Thus my helmet comment.) We tele skiers should be aware about releasability (that seems obvious). I agree it is an important issue and I will accept the “holy(er) than thou” position from those who can honestly say they do not take any risks in their backcountry travel.

  18. Mike January 21st, 2009 12:50 pm

    I use alpine touring gear. Wouldn’t use telemark gear under any circumstances. From an engineering standpoint, telemark gear is obviously inferior. In fact I think it’s fair to say that telemark gear is incredibly inferior to alpine touring gear. Everyone, including telemarkers, knows this is true. This doesn’t mean telemark gear is bad … just inferior.


    Don’t really think non-releasable telemark bindings should be singled out as a “safety issue” in avalanche terrain when probably hundreds of equipment safety issues exist. First, people are in avalanche terrain by choice. So if you look at your most important piece of gear ( your body ) then perhaps it’s fair to say that safety issues begin at home.

    Many skiers routinely travel in avalanche terrain with ice axes. Should manufacturers design ice axes that are safe to carry in avalanche terrain? What about skis with metal edges? What about clothes with slippery exterior surfaces. Should clothing manufacturers get with the program and realize that people who travel in steep terrain while wearing slippery clothes run the risk of experiencing difficulties during self-arrest?

    Really, if someone wants to ski on expensive, crappy gear … it’s their choice.

  19. Greydon Clark January 21st, 2009 1:16 pm

    Matt Kinney’s suggestion of running loose cables is ludicrous. Or maybe he enjoys chasing runaway skis and is comforted by a totally unreliable release system.

    If you want a releasable binding buy a releasable binding.

  20. Matt Kinney January 21st, 2009 1:51 pm

    As usual with the internet, certain things are real hard to explain even if you telemark in your sleep…(-:

  21. Sal Paradise January 21st, 2009 2:16 pm

    gotta agree with Clark, if you are loosening your cables to act as a release binding, you are only asking for trouble, I doubt any of the manufacturer’s recommend that technique….

  22. Matt Kinney January 21st, 2009 3:12 pm

    Let me try….When I talk about loosening the cable I am talking about backing the tightness off a wee bit, not to where they are flopping around like loose chains on a tire. That would be ludricrous. With the 01’s, I back them off about 1or 2 full turns, which does not compromise performance at all, at least with mid-stiffs. I assume BD could care less about these minor tweeks. BD as yet to produce a releasable. mmmm?

    During the break-in period I wear leashes so they don’t run away. Once I find the “sweet setting” then I dump the leashes The binding rarely if ever releases unless I overpower them with forces beyond typical skiing. A release to me means the heel lever pops off and cable falls away fromt the boot. Typically at this point, the duckbill also slide out of the toe piece. This is certainly not as good as a pure “releasable telemark toe plate binding “. From a preference standpoint, I’ve never seen a releasable telemark binding that I like to be honest. Right now I ski 01’s and I could not be happier or feel safer knowing that the binding will not pop off in hair-ball terrain while cranking a turn or worse, pop off just as I am exiting a moving slab while peeing in my pants. I spend a heck of lot more time cranking turns in hairball terrain than exiting or riding slabs by a about a miillion to one. A release in such terrain while popping hard turns in mank is not good. Worse is if you do fall and COULD recover, but that darn binding released, and golly the ski is now at the bottom of the mountain. Beside I find releasables much more applicable in preventing leg injuries from simple falls and snagged tips than the avalanche equation anyway. I never wear leashes after I break in a new ski or binding.

    Perhaps to make all happy I could keep the O1’s and add an ABS!!, but wait I just got a Avalung, and last time it was a newer beacon, my helmet is a bit worn, but now some say my probe is too short and I also need a new…… etc….etc…etc.

    There are so many things that we could each be “mommys” about in regard to what others do or wear in avalanche terrain and releasable telemark binding still brings out some deep concerns. If you are caught in a bad slide, releasables will one of many issues, big and small, that may determine the final outcome. Problem is none of us can list them all.

  23. JD January 23rd, 2009 9:46 am

    It’s always interesting to see what “new & improved” tele bindings are coming out. AT has evolved substantially in the past 10 years. In the same time frame, telemark equipment has modestly improved, but still is trying to work around inherent design flaws and weaknesses. It cracks me up to hear all the banter about the ultimate tele binding (free pivot, light weight, releasable, durable, etc. etc.) Tele bindings are kinda like wagon wheels: you could make one w/ a Ti hub, precision bearings and carbon spokes, and at the end of the day, you’d still have a wagon wheel. Props to the NTN developers for acknowledging some of the issues w/ a standard cable design. Hopefully the system will be beta tested while there are still interested tele skiers. In the meantime, I guess I’ll continue to carry lots of extra parts when I tele, and take out the AT gear when I really need to go somewhere 😉

  24. Jon Miller January 24th, 2009 9:39 am

    I’m a guide who teles. . . and I run on releasable 7tm’s. As said, they are heavy, but I haven’t had any issues with them. The safty of the release is worth it for me. I enjoy the tele turn, which is why my goto rig for big days in the BC is a pair of Scotty Bob Fat Bastards with the 7tm’s and Garmont Energ boots. It is heavy and big, but sweet on the way down. For longer tours I ride a G3 ticket for lighter weight. However, I am the first to admit, tele is a ski only rig. The duck bill is prohibitive when it comes to any sort of climbing. So, I have broken down and purchased a Dynafit rig for ski mountainering when the emphasis is on the latter part. Now if I could only stop trying to drop a knee with them. . .

  25. Dostie January 24th, 2009 6:26 pm

    First off, sorry for my late reply to those who had questions about Axl. The logistics of not having wheels or internet access at the hotel du jour made logging in to see anything a bit of a cluster.

    The most important thing I can say is that Axl does indeed ski like a Hammerhead. It only has four pivot locations for adjusting the power quotient, which correspond to HH#2.5 thru HH#4.1ish. This is based on a static, side by side comparison of a Hammerhead with Axl and adjusting the various positions.

    Axl seems to engage a tad smoother than Hammerhead. That will take a lot more field time to confirm and understand why (if indeed that perception remains true).

    Didn’t actually tour in it, but did switch it in to tour mode to see how easy it felt which was as frictionless as any of the other 75mm telemark touring bindings. There are a number of changes that can be anticipated already owing to the prototype nature of the bindings I skied. Hopefully the “production” version of some of these shortcomings will be addressed in the refinement of production for the beta test version.

    I’m still enroute and will answer direct questions in subsequent posts but first wanted to give a bit more insight and apologize for the tardy response on my end.

  26. Dostie January 24th, 2009 11:21 pm


    You asked “what are your opinions on any of the releasable tele bindings out there today?” There are three varieties of releasable telemark bindings currently; the 7tm system, Voile’s Complete Releasable Binding (CRB), and Rottefella’s New Telemark Norm (NTN). All of ’em work pretty good, but the one with the best record of reliable release without prerelease is the 7tm binding. If you insist on having release, any will do but the 7tm is the only one with an untarnished record.

    Voile’s CRB suffered from prerelease until it was redesigned around 2003 or 2004. The problem was the rocker in the toe of plastic tele boots caused an upward force on a flat binding which essentially prestressed the release piston to let go. They changed it to have a 3 degree ramp angle at the toe which eliminated (or dramatically minimized) that upward force from the rocker in tele boots and it works reliably these days.

    The NTN system is not widely accepted (yet) so there aren’t a lot of reports on the reliability of release. Despite that, I’ve talked to a few people who have released to indicate it does release as claimed.

    Adam asked about release in avalanches, and other folks have commented on the stupidity of using telemark bindings in avalanche country. AT may have a release advantage in avalanches, but it is hardly a reliable one. Avoidance is a better tactic, although it isn’t any more reliable than the release on AT bindings in an avy. I’ve watched this and hereby proclaim that the lack of release on telemark bindings doesn’t appear to have any measurable impact on survivability compared to AT even though one can analytically make a case that it does, or should. In the final issue of Couloir, as my final soapbox to the backcountry world I suggested that binding manufacturers start working on an avalanche release system. I doubt any have given it a second of thought, let alone seconding that thought.

    Interestingly, Rottefella has the basic ingredients of an avalanche release system with their NTN binding. Simply pull up on the lever that clamps your boot in place and your boot should flop out of the binding. It is a feature they have not publicly acknowledged exists, let alone promote but I claim it is there.

    What do I think of the Scarpa’s Terminator X with NTN? I’m a bit disappointed in the reduction of touring range of motion in this years incarnation of the NTN binding, but the downhill performance of NTN with any of Scarpa’s NTN boots (Terminator-X or Terminator-X Pro) is superb. The engagement is smooth and powerful. Same goes for NTN with Garmont’s Prophet, which won’t be available until next season. Scarpa is having some issues with the toe boxes of the X-Pros cracking, but that should be solved before the end of this season. As long as Rottefella doesn’t tweak their binding again over the summer while boot manufactuers are refining their boots we just might see a stable NTN platform that can begin to attract new users. It absolutely rocks with fat skis.

  27. Lou January 25th, 2009 4:33 pm

    Nice details Craig, thanks.

  28. ScottR January 25th, 2009 8:53 pm

    With the exception of one trip down Tuckerman Ravine on a pair of skinny 213 Tele Supremes with 3 pins – I’ve been skiing releasables since the late ’80s. For my money its the G3 Targa with a Voile release kit – best of both worlds.

  29. Snorky January 26th, 2009 9:56 am

    What a bunch of useless egoistic chatter. You all read magazines that show morons hucking off cliffs, pack the Wheeler to watch lame films that show some conflicted young hero cheating death in Alaska, and seek to justify how elite you are by displaying contempt for your peers who ride on different equipment than you. Get over it! Skiing is a frivolous luxury. It’s also a way of life for many of us. For many Wild Snow readers, it has become a religion. Religions inevitably result in conflict, hating, and irrational justification. Who cares what bindings I ride on? You think bindings are killing people in the backcountry??? Name one victim of a binding, please. I bootpacked at Highlands, on steep, early-season snow, with people climbing all around me, who were all super-baked, and I was the only one who EVER wore a helmet. What a safety-conscious and savvy crowd, right?

    If you are frightened by your own inability to be the best skier on the mountain, don’t blame bindings. Maybe you’re just not the best skier out there, and that’s OK. It’s about having fun, right?

    I have my personal reasons for telemarking. By the way, I can make alpine tunrs whenever I want. And, yeah, I use soft, lightweight, unreleasable, cable bindings that actually give me resistance while I tour. Imagine that! What are you all doing? Tying helium balloons to your packs to eliminate weight? What about using bottled O2? You all seem so soft.

    Who cares if I’m on Targas, or O3s, or some new 10-pound steel jaw attached my ski? As for safety/releasability, can someone in this forum provide some evidence that telemarkers or dying or getting hurt because their skis don’t release? Did the victim of the Aspen Expeditions avy class a few years back die because his ski didn’t release, or was it because he trusted his guide? What percentage of telemarkers have had bad knee injuries compared to AT skiers? Why are snowboarders exempt from the releasability stigma? I seriously doubt any of you can back up your hysteria with numbers.

    Get out there, appreciate what you’ve got, and, if you die, it wasn’t because of your bindings. It was because you took a big risk.

  30. Sal Paradise January 26th, 2009 10:18 am

    Thanks for input Craig, would love to see a scientific study regarding releasable binding issues during avalanches ands survival rates (tele vs AT). Safety in the backcountry really is all about risk and assessing risk. Taking avy classes, assessing the terrain, having the right equipment, choosing the correct partners, etc. etc. In the end however, we still read obituaries of our bc bretheren in our favorite bc ski rag, and even those with the highest reputations sometimes “die doing the thing they love best”….

  31. Dostie January 26th, 2009 8:05 pm

    Sal et al,

    Hope I’m not being too cavalier about tele bindings contributing to avy deaths. I’m certain that they increase the probability of death over AT, but there is no statistical evidence to prove it. Not yet. Asked for avy centers to keep track of that beta several years ago. Bureacratic habits are hard to break.

    JD and AT aficionados,

    Yeah, we tele skiers know that we’re playing on dated bindings that aren’t optimal in lots of conditions in the alpine zone. But AT gear can’t deliver the sweet soulful swoosh of a tele turn, so we put up with the limitations for the sake of the turn. We can make P turns or T turns, but we can’t release. In most cases we don’t need it. In the big one, we do. The fact is, releasable tele gear has been available for years. Collectively teleskiers know the risks and chose non-release with our eyes wide open. Do we wish our tele gear released? Only after the fact. Otherwise, we like the fact that we can make a starfish turn and if we land right side up, keep on skiing. That’s the problem with AT gear. It can release, oftentimes when you don’t want it to. 😉

  32. Randonnee January 26th, 2009 11:59 pm

    Lots of emotion in some responses here. Interesting.

    My interest is in randonnee sking. This includes a serious interest in traveling with light gear in an efficient manner, while maintaining the ability to make downhill turns in a manner that I enjoy. The ‘soulful swoosh’ fascination perhaps mattered to me when I skied toothpicks and leather, when Jimmy Carter was President, and I had a head of full, thick hair. holds my interest because my sport is randonnee skiing. That focus is what I look for.

  33. Snorky January 27th, 2009 9:38 am


    You are “certain that” telemarking “increase[s] the probability of death over AT.” Yet the consensus here is that AT gear is better, lighter, smarter, faster, etc. So, if AT gear makes backcountry so much easier to access, then it should be increasing the number of potential avy victims by placing more of them in harm’s way. More bc skiers = more avy deaths. So, by that logic, better AT gear will probably increase avy casualties by lowering the bar for skiing in danger zones.

    One “Mike” simply says Tele is “inferior” straight up. Yeah, and stoppers are inferior to bolts for stopping falls. So, does that mean Gritstone climbers in England climb in an inferior style beacuse they eschew bolts? So Tom Perkins has a better climbing style than, say, George Lowe? In climbing, it is considered better style to rely on minimal engineering. Apparently, according to most readers here, skiing is the opposite. The more old-school and “trad” your gear is, the more the community thinks your are an outmoded ass and a liability to the entire sport.

    Let’s hear it for elitist mountain boys! Whether it’s about land use, gear technology, or whatever, this blog is an amazing demonstration of the snobbery that afflicts the Aspen-area outdoor community. Everyone just wants it to be EASIER for them to do whatever they do. It seems very self-centered and divorced from the word “Wild.” The blog should be called “Child Show.”

  34. Lou January 27th, 2009 9:44 am

    We’llll, I’m glad we’re still amazing!

  35. Snorky January 27th, 2009 10:00 am

    Hey Lou

    Do you mind if I put about 6 bolts on Plaque Center? Seems the copperhead is gone (inferior gear!!!). I just think it would make it safer, and more friendly for your blog’s wing-footed readers.

    I’m starting to gather statistics. Were you on tele or AT when you got tossed down Highland Bowl?

  36. Lou January 27th, 2009 10:07 am

    Sure I’d mind if any route was retro bolted, though I don’t mind the new routes that have enough bolts to be 100% safe. They’re fun. As for Highland Bowl, I was on AT, Ramer bindings.

  37. Matt Kinney January 27th, 2009 10:32 am

    I remember an avalanche course. I was in A group. As we all headed down a steep slope with lousy snow one at a time in a variety of gear types, each of us stumbled, some fell and struggled. No one did it clean and there were real “experts” in the group and style points were pretty much laughable when I think about it.

    The last one down simply made a series of quick kick turns, easily then swiftly, he made it to the bottom without an itch. I was beautiful to watch, while the rest of us adjusted pack straps and wiped snow off our brows. It was Doug Fesler on pins with bamboo poles.

    There’s a moral in the this small story and it has nothing to do with the gear selection.

    Cheers and ski hard….

  38. Dostie January 27th, 2009 10:39 am


    All I’m trying to say is me and my like minded pinheaded brethren prefer tele in spite of the many “advantages” Alpine Touring gear may provide. As Matt Kinney and you point out, it’s not always about the gear, although it can have an influence, and sometimes the opposite of what you think. I like Nils Larsens approach of doing more with less.

  39. Lou January 27th, 2009 10:54 am

    Once you’re out there, you run what you brung. It’s fun and sometimes even amazing to blog about and talk about backcountry skiing, but once we’re out there… In much of my writing, regarding choice of AT vs Tele, in so many words I just say “know your gear and use it within its limits, and your own athletic limits.” Sure, I think AT is more fun, safe and effective for most people, but I see telemark as viable as well. Mainly, I’m disappointed when I see style victims on tele gear using it poorly. Same with AT gear. As Dostie has mentioned, the main thing is that the myth of telemark being necessary for backcountry skiing has been pretty much buried. Took a long time, but it finally got done, and no thanks to the print media over the years who worshiped a ski turn like it was some kind of spiritual practice, and seem sometimes to still do so.

  40. Snorky January 27th, 2009 11:26 am


    AT gear has been lighter and more “user-friendly” than tele gear for almost 10 years. This is not new information.

    Of course tele gear isn’t necessary for backcountry (although I thought it was when I started free-heeling in 1999). In fact, as Lou’s machine worship has taught me, skins aren’t even necessary. It is clearly best to snowmobile. And I can’t wait to read your review on the first ski-specific jet-pack that is commercially available.

    Face it, for most people, AT (and tele) gear is an outfit that they “wear” while skiing on-piste. It says: “Hey, if I wanted to I could’ve skied in the backcountry today. I would skin all this shit if there weren’t lifts here. But…”

    You go on and on about safety, access, and your opposition to wilderness. If that’s your opinion, you definitely belong at the resort. Why not use “Wild Snow” to encourage wild experiences in wild places? If fun = 100% safety, why ski avalanche paths?

    Would the first descents by Landry, Briggs, etc. be respectable accomplishments if they had ridden lifts to the top, or had modern big-mountain gear? Would they even have been fun? No, we are in awe of these feats because of the style of adventurous commitment they were achieved with. This style was important in “Wild Snow” the book, but is mysteriously absent from “Wild Snow” the blog. At what point did your adventurous philosophy become so pedestrian? Does that just happen with age? Or was it the accumulation of near-death experiences that domesticated your wild spirit? That would probably do it.

    Props to Matt Kinney for having a clue about how skis do not make skiers.

  41. Lou January 27th, 2009 11:42 am

    Snorky, just because I write about the realities and attendant debates of backcountry skiing, such as the fact that it sometimes requires machinery and frequently requires land use, doesn’t mean I’m going against the adventure. Sometimes even the choices and issues machinery brings up can be part of the adventure. Read my stuff. There is plenty of traditional adventure and human power involved. I’m just not a fanatic either way.

    If you don’t like the tone here, there are tons of other websites and blogs to pick from, or just publish your own blog.

    As for safety, most backcountry safety is so from a warm bath that I’ll harp on it all I want without fear of ruining the adventure.

  42. sam January 29th, 2009 9:29 am

    i started tele in 1998 while realizing that after 10 years of snowboarding, i was really bored if it wasn’t powder or i was riding the park.

    to this day, i find tele skiing to be a challenge and i learn something new every day out there. i do it because its challenging to do a proper tele turn. i have fun while not coming anywhere near the ability i have accomplished while snowboarding for over 20 years now. there is no way i will ever huck myself off a 50 or 60 footer and do a 540 on tele’s. the degree of difficulty for me to do that on a snowboard is about as hard as doing a proper tele turn on a blue run:) but i get the same thrill without putting myself at risk.

    in terms of bindings releasing and not releasing, its not an issue for me to have a releasable binding because i know the inherent risk of what i am doing and accept it whenever i strap on my snowboard(non releasable) or tele’s.

    in terms of fashion, i would have to agree that a solid majority of resort only skiers are very worried about fashion. but people reading these blogs, and this blog in particualr, are most likely not to worried about versace’s latest snow suit or if people know they ski backcountry.

  43. nodrinkbrownsnow February 2nd, 2009 5:56 pm

    I’ve been making the genuflecting turn for about 18 years (I’m 30). It started on the hill behind grandmas house with ski’s that were long and skinny and bamboo poles that reached my shoulders. I appreciate the turn. I taught the turn. I enjoy telemark at the resort. No bumps. Everything else though. Moguls and my telemark-Fu don’t mix well. Anyway, I like the turn more than any turn I’ve made sliding around on the snow. Telemark also gives the option of making standard alpine style turns (which I taught on tele gear). Sounds like an argument for telmark no? Not really an argument for either. It’s about choice. I can’t afford fancy heavy free pivot telemark bindings and I like the security and light weight of dynafit’s outback behind the shed. I use AT in the back and Tele in the front. That’s what works for me. If you think people like Matt Kinney are silly for skiing “non releasing” inferior bindings, ok that’s what you think. Doesn’t make Matt goofy for choosing his own way. It seems to me that telemark has made GREAT strides (no pun) in the way of power to the ski and tourability. I don’t feel that one is superior or inferior. Really that sounds like chest thumping to me. Instead of saying “those people from the other valley making funny turns like Sondre are all idiots,” join in the fun. Leave your elitist attitude in your domicile and just go slide around on some (or one) sticks. Doesn’t make sense to posture about “my Fu- is better than your Fu.” Choose your turn. Choose your gear. Manage your own risk. It’s really all personal preference. The most important piece of safety gear is your brain. Choose your own Fu and make informed decisions.

  44. Greg Floyd February 22nd, 2009 10:36 pm

    GEEZ Dostie – way to get these AT skiers all riled up 😉

    I enjoyed reading your initial thoughts on the Axl, and have high hopes for the binding. I’m in on the beta program, so am anxiously awaiting….

    I noticed some of these explanations were kinda on the long side. To make it simple:

    Efficiency: AT > Tele

    Fun: Tele > AT


  45. Steven L Peterson March 1st, 2009 4:50 pm

    Regarding release systems for telebindings, have skied with with people using the Kahru and the Voile systems. So they are available if you desire. Voile is linked to their hardwire binding. Have swapped out and skied on the Kahru and think it is a little weak versus the O1’s I am currently using on and off piste.

  46. Dave March 1st, 2009 7:45 pm

    Interesting posts all. I have been telemarking for about 20 years and have greatly enjoyed many of the advances in tele gear over that time. My current bindings are 7TM releasable free-pivots, and I could not be happier with them.

    Releasability is worth more than just avalanche safety. A few years ago I tore a knee ligament when my ski got staked into some heavy early-season snow. I think that releasable 7TMs would have prevented that injury – and the painful and expensive recovery during a prime ski season. I think releasable safety is well worth a bit more weight on the ups.

    I am mystified as to why more tele skiers don’t use the 7TM. It weighs only a little more than the BD 01, never ices up like the 01, and skis great!

  47. Lou March 2nd, 2009 7:07 am

    Yeah, I still think one of the most amazing things in ski business is that telemark binding companies can get away with selling ski bindings that have little to no safety release. This has mystified me for decades. I could see it back in the days of bindings that you would just rip out of in a fall, combined with flexy leather boots that used ankle and foot movement to absorb dangerous forces in a fall. But now, with as beefy as the tele gear has become, it seems like the kind of thing that would keep Ralph Nader up at night.

    Yet beyond safety release, main thing is that due to consumer demand, telemark bindings have become as much a part of how a ski turns as the ski itself. In other words, they’re an active system in terms of downhill performance, rather than the much more static nature of most alpine bindings.

    Nice in theory, but in reality this has introduced hideous problems into the engineering of a good tele binding. In my view the whole thing (tele binding design) has become overly complex, and tries to accommodate so many styles of telemarking and skiing in general that trying to make a binding that does it all may as a rule be doomed to failure. The saga of creating the ultimate telemark binding used to be fun and interesting, but has become painful to watch — though a good traffic generator for web forums and blogs (grin).

  48. Sal Paradise March 3rd, 2009 3:00 pm

    the discussion continues, this is great..ima gonna get fired because of this site! I’ve been a tele skier (east coast) for going on 26 years (holy cow, time flies) and switched to a binding that releases by design (after fracturing a fibula a few years ago)- the 7tm and have been very happy with it, and I can almost keep up with my 12 yr old son (hes an alpine racer) skiing lift serve by making “alpine turns”, but since the little bugger is only getting faster, I made the plunge for an AT setup…its all good and I can’t wait for the new gear to arrive (I bought mostly Dynafit stuff – scored a new pair of dynafit boots from STP for $225!), rock on.

  49. Lou March 3rd, 2009 3:45 pm

    I can not imagine trying to keep up with my son if I was on tele gear. I’d have to have him ski with one leg on nordic racing gear if I was to have any hope. That is all.

  50. catus May 13th, 2009 9:08 pm

    The things need to be sorted out because it’s not about the individual but it can be with everyone.

  51. Scott Loss January 7th, 2010 8:30 pm

    Voile has answered 99% of the safety, durability and cost-effectiveness issues with the crb. They took the simple 3-pin cable binding and “contemporized” it, making it releasable with a brake, leaving all of the other more expensive “new” ideas in the dust. After three years on the market, I’ve seen 2 (two) NTN systems on the mountain, total.
    The sky hoy was ahead of its time, and with a few simple design tweaks, it would have flown, big time. Manufacturers can try to reinvent the wheel all they want, but the fact is, any binding that is designed to release is safer than one that is not. I chuckle at my fellow nords as they fiddle with their safety straps. Skiing is hazardous, so why wouldn’t you do everything possible to reduce the hazards? Ask yourself that when you spend your next dollar on gear. Learning efficient technique is also a great idea, as no gear can withstand some of the pressures exerted by some “testers.” That is what killed the sky hoy.

  52. Cathy Chute February 16th, 2010 10:34 pm

    Bindings that don’t release = injury to your body! Forget about the avalanche business all you need to do is fall down in a non-releasable binding and you can do serious damage to your bones and joints. As a nurse that has worked in surgery in Mammoth Lakes, Tahoe, Wenatchee, Seattle and San Francisco I have made a living off of injured skiers for over twenty years. If I had a dollar for every patient (alpine or tele) who said “My binding didn’t release” I could have retired by now!! I still tele on my old voile releasables and hope for the best. Shame on the ski industry for minimizing the risks.

  53. Chris January 26th, 2011 10:43 am

    I’ve been backcountry skiing since 1978 (grew up skiing the Wasatch) on all sorts of equipment. I have never been close to getting caught in an avalanche and I don’t have any expectatins of survivign one if I do. Chances are you are going to die. Wheather I have fun or not on any given day of skiing – and its all about having fun, no? – has nothign to do with my equipment but with my own attitude and the choices I make that day. I still ski on tele bindings but mostly parrallel turn on them and I can get myself most slopes with some grace. I have skied Voile CRB hardwire for over a decade and have never had a problem with prerelease. And they have save me from injury at least a dozen times. I have had one ski slip under a falled aspen more than once and not even fallen as my binding released saving my ass. Sure its a sloppy binding but it can be skied on easily and well. Just adjust how you ski it. I’m reading this cause I’m thinking of going with the Axl on a new setup but keep thinking about those fallen aspens just under the snow. In the end all the time I am now spending stressin gabout which binding is the best will make no difference once i’m out skiing. I’ll just be grateful as hell that I am fortunate enough to be one of the very few people in this worrld who are lucky enough to be able to ski. Where’s the spell checker on this thing?

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