New NTN Tele Binding Gets Worked

Post by blogger | August 15, 2007      
NTN binding detail.
NTN binding detail.

Over at Rottefella’s space age NTN telemark binding got what’s easily one of the most extensive new product reviews I’ve ever seen published. (An example of using the web to its advantage, with no ink/paper costs and all the space you want).

Writer Mitch Weber and his cohorts pounded the new grabber for 100 days. Informed by no less than eight years of obsessive investigative reporting about the product and associated industry standards, their testing epic sets the standard for take on a new ski binding.

But how “new” is the NTN? The binding’s step-inn function is no doubt cutting edge, and since the NTN requires a proprietary boot sole shape it may very well lead the future in tele bindings since it will possibly set a new standard — yet according to Weber the NTN is “in fact a cable binding.” Oh well, steel cable is pretty amazing stuff, so it’s no surprise the latest in tele bindings is still using it. My take: This is indeed a NEW thing in telemarking, especially since it gets away from the fossilized duck-bill sole standard.

In one part of the review that made me chuckle, Mitch relates how their prototype bindings sometimes switched to free-pivot tour mode in the middle of a turn. In the AT world we call that “insta-tele.” Since the NTN switch happens while you tele, perhaps they’ll call it “insta-AT?”

One thing I found curiously lacking in Mitch’s review was information about the Rottefella NTN binding’s safety release function. If not to protect your legs from injury during a fall, safety release is key to increasing your odds of avalanche survival, and along with a free touring pivot is in our opinion the killer feature of tomorrow’s telemark binding. We’re assuming the NTN does have some sort of safety release…? Mitch or Big Tim, pray tell?


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17 Responses to “New NTN Tele Binding Gets Worked”

  1. sherry b August 15th, 2007 10:55 am

    Lou, I had a chance to demo the “new” (2006) NTN binding last winter! How exciting that was!
    I used them one day in-area at Beaver Creek and one day backcountry up on Ptarmigan Pass.
    I had to chuckle about the comment of the binding giving better edge control than an AT set-up in one review (was that Craig Dostie or Mike Hattrup?) but when I tried them myself I could feel what he was talking about. I would translate that feeling into PRECISION. I think even the best mating of any duckbill boot with a standard tele binding still leaves just a little slop in the distance between the toepiece and the heel throw. The slop must be lateral in the toepiece. I would have to say that the input to the ski was instantaneous and precise.
    As far as the touring mode goes, I had the BD 01s to compare it to. The feel uphill was very much the same. The weight was just about 1 pound over my 01 tele rig. I could feel the extra weight initially but got used to it soon enough. I wasn’t trying to set any uphill speed records but rando rig is out of the question.
    I had an absolute blast charging down the slopes in-area playing with the extra edging precision I found. I even elicited an unsolicited comment from a BC ski instructor on my turns. I did not experience any episodes of insta-AT in the two days of usage.
    On Ptarmigan Pass the snow conditions were less than ideal with new pow on top of breakable crust, sometimes strong enough to hold me, sometimes not, with a little bit of uneven ski weighting thrown in for good measure. I did take one good dump through the crust and the binding did release. I had forgotten all about the release function and when it happened I thought I had broken the binding. My setup was equipped with ski brakes and that was a pleasant addition to the situation not having to chase my ski down the hill! One additional feature of the design (and this is a big one for me) is that I did boot up the road for about 2 miles to get to the drainage I wanted to ski and the absence of the duckbill made walking much more efficient. I forgot I was in ski boots!
    My overall impression of the new system is very, very positive. The feedback I gave to the local shop that sent me out with them is that when the system becomes widely available I would go for them in an instant as a new backcountry rig. Unfortunately, I needed to replace my tele boots this last season and had to go with another duckbill as the NTN was not yet available in the U.S. So, some people may say, are we reinventing AT gear? I think not. The new NTN does take advantage of some AT design while leaving the heel free for the style of telemark. Dropping that knee is just one of those televangilistic things that you have to do well to understand. Anyway, I am probably way beyond trying to ski any kind of radical terrain as demonstrated in PowderWhore ’06. The soul of tele is where I’m at and anything that will improve backcountry safety and convenience and still let me do MY thing is all good to me!

  2. Mark August 15th, 2007 10:58 am

    I’ve looked at the NTN, and it appears that the tour throw could be rigged for avy release, but as to dedicated release, I don’t recall any being part of the design.

  3. Jonathan M August 15th, 2007 11:31 am

    In the Ttips forum Mitch states several times that the NTN does not incorporate “official” release functionality. Some feel that this is not as important in a tele binding as the movement of the boot mitigates against some common injuries seen at resorts. The backcountry skiers though want releasabiity in case of being caught in a slide. Future releases may have some sort of release function.


  4. Dostie August 15th, 2007 11:32 am


    You got it!!! The best part of NTN’s release system is that the lever used to make entry to the binding easy, can also be easily rigged to create what I have termed “avy-release.” Although I haven’t tried it myself, I am confident it will do the trick (if required). This was suggested in my Soapbox in the last (ever) issue of Couloir (Vol. XIX-5) wherein I waxed about the need for this feature in ALL backcountry bindings.

  5. sherryb August 15th, 2007 9:05 pm

    Perhaps I am mistaken or misunderstood, but I was told that the prototype that I used did have “unofficially” a side release only function. For that reason the binding could not be sold as releasable. However, I took that to be the reason the ski did come off when I dumped in the crust. Comments?

  6. Clyde August 16th, 2007 10:33 am

    Contrary to some reports, the current NTN does have release functionality. As Sherry B noted, it will occur with a lateral heel movement in a twisting fall. And it’s a function of the particular spring chosen and the amount of tension dialed in. From what I understand, a medium spring with high tension will be less likely to release than the stiff spring with low tension. Changing springs and tension makes a big difference in the way these perform so I suspect it will take a lot of experimenting to find optimal settings for a particular ski. Of course nobody has skied on a production version of the binding yet and we won’t see those for another 2 months; expect more tweaks. Scarpa isn’t delivering boots until mid-October. And nobody has skied the Crispi boot since the protos were totally wrong. So take all the early reports, including mine, with a grain of salt.

  7. Julin Maloof August 16th, 2007 11:07 am

    “Some feel that this is not as important in a tele binding as the movement of the boot mitigates against some common injuries seen at resorts.”

    As someone who has broken their leg using a non-release binding I strongly feel that it is important, both for leg and avy protection. I hope that Clyde is right and that it is have release function, and I hope it ends up being easier to dial-in that it currently sounds.

  8. Bill Bollinger August 18th, 2007 8:42 am

    The release function as noted above is similar to the “boot out” of current cable bindings. While it provides a form of a release, that release is not only dependent on the spring cartridridge setting, it is also dependent on the position of your boot. As you bend forward with your knee and the cartridges compress it takes more force to boot out. This why it is difficult for Rotefella to claim release and is why a completely different form of release is most likely necessary to meet any common standard to claim release.

  9. cory August 20th, 2007 5:32 pm

    If they really did their job and engineered the ultimate tele/at binding, then what would they have to sell us chumps next year?

  10. Sandy D. September 20th, 2009 5:30 pm

    I’m a complete newbie to telemarking.

    I have been skiing AT in the backcountry for about 10 years.
    this year I’m running BD Kilowatts, Dynafit TLT bindings, and Dynafit Zzero4 boots- if you care.

    Thinking about waxless skis and the many advantages of the NTN system has me ready to try free-healing. YAY! I’m pretty stoked to go and PLAY in the snowy mountains- learn to make a tele turn and enjoy the ski out.

    A couple questions…
    First, are there any waxless skis that are even wider/beefier than the Karhu XCD Guides?

    Second, I bought a pair of ’09 ROTTEFELLA NTN Telemark bindings on a whim because I saw them posted online for 50% off (don’t tell my girlfriend). I’ve never been able to pass up a deal.
    Anyway… I know that there have been some advancements & improvements made each year since they were first released, but it’s hard to keep track of what improvements were made, when. Can anybody fill me in on which were made before ’09 and which were made after?

    Finally, can I feel confident getting rid of my Dynafit Zzero4 boots and using the Scarpa Terminator X Pro for both AT and tele? I will still be heading out on my AT skis lots- especially with my new Killowatts. I will be hoping for both uphill and downhill comfort and performance. I tend to ski fairly agressively. Will the TXP’s disappoint?

    I saw somebody posted this:
    “You should look at Paul Parker’s video posted at to undertsand why there are no Dynafit fittings even though NTN boots CAN be skied AT in dynafit TLT bindings, it’s less than ideal, and causes problems building them into the boot. You should really have AT boots for AT skiing.”

    I looked around but failed to find the source of what this person posted about.

    Basically, I acknowledge that, in a perfect world, I’d have both the Radium for AT and the Prophet for tele because each would excel at its job. However, it’s not a perfect world and gear costs money. I aint rich. But I do love having good ski gear that works great for me so I want to know what people think about the performance that I could expect from these different types of equipment.

    Thanks in advance for an wisdom you can share

  11. Lou September 20th, 2009 5:37 pm

    Sandy, whew, that’s a long one! For NTN wisdom of the ages I’d suggest, they seem to worship that stuff over there :angel:

    As for Terminator X as a crossover boot, that thing has some BEEF so it shouldn’t be a big deal, but do remember that using a bellows boot in a Dynafit is not ideal. In the Dynafit, your boot is suspended between toe and heel units, and will sag unless it has a shim under the sole. Problem is, that shim may compromise safety release as it creates the possibility of friction or even obstruction of lateral release.

    Yep, it’s not a perfect world, as you do point out!

  12. Sandy D. September 20th, 2009 7:25 pm

    thanks Lou

    One follow-up question: you said, “The shim may compromise safety release as it creates the possibility of friction or even obstruction of lateral release.” How significant is this issue? Deal breaking? I must admit that one of very few, if not THE ONLY complaint that I have about Dynafit bindings is the somewhat unreliable release- and that is without a shim.

    I’ll see what has to say about my LONG posting with many questions.


  13. Lou September 21st, 2009 9:29 am

    Sandy, what do you mean by “unreliable release?” I’ve found Dynafits to be very good in terms of release…

    As for the compromise in safety caused by using the shim, I think it’s significant. I tend to be VERY careful about binding safety as blowing a knee or something could be a disaster for my work. Other folks, many in fact, just dial their bindings up all the way, lock the toes, and don’t look back. In the latter case, who cares about some shim? In the former, yes, it’s an issue.

  14. Dave Good November 24th, 2009 8:20 pm

    Hi Lou,

    The one time I went out and splurged on gear without a demo was a few years ago when I got some NTN bindings, Dynafit TLT’s, and Terminator X’s. I weighed my decision on the Telemarktips review. The good news is I really like the Dynafit set-up. The bad news is the NTN is only good on groomers- it seriously rails on groomers with a good ski, but in the backcountry where I want to be it feels grabby and mechanical instead of fluid and natural- and the touring mode is sub-par compared with the Dynafits and my Voile Switchbacks which I think is the best tele binding out there.

    Anyway, what I want to try now is to mount a Dynafit heel piece with the NTN. Ever heard of someone trying that? I know the clearance while tele turning could be an issue and maybe I need an Onxy heel piece instead (if it shifts back out of the way for the flexed ski during a turn). ANYONE got experience or advice besides quit telemarking? I like being in constant ‘touring mode’ which is telemark but the occasional lockdown would be a sweet option for the Sierra slackcountry I often ski during storms.

    Thanks, Dave

  15. Lou November 25th, 2009 10:10 am

    Someone posted such a rig over on Telemarktips a while back. I wasn’t that impressed by the functionality as it must have weighed a ton. Also, modern latched heel alpine turns on today’s skis are so fluid and fun I really don’t see the point in trying to make a telemark binding switch to alpine mode instead of just using something like a Dynafit. But it’s pretty fun to see the innovation, the weirder the better!.

  16. Clyde November 25th, 2009 10:35 am

    Sounds like Dave got suckered by the infamous “review” of pre-production boots that were nothing like what reached the shops. Indeed that generation of boots are too stiff and will probably never telemark well. On the bright side, the current NTN boots are working well but that doesn’t help Dave (hint: Ebay). I know of several people that have created hybrid NTN/Dynafiddle rigs and they seem to like it. The concept of tele in the morning when the legs are fresh and the snow easy then locking the heels in the afternoon when the snow is crud and you want to cheat makes sense, at least to non-purists. The main issue is building a shim for the heel piece so it’s the proper height. Be sure to set the release on the lowest setting.

  17. Dave Good November 29th, 2009 2:40 am

    It is true that a locked heel modern turn is fluid and true it is for more than a few decades back. Telemark turn too is fluid. But, locked heel scoochin’ is not fluid. So for me when I want to shuffle, skate, traverse and kick over to the next little high spot for an extra drop during a descent , the free heel allows constant tourablity. I am not likely to unclick my Dynafits and re-boot to walk a few deep steps up to a little nubbin that looks fun to ski off of.
    For years and years I have wanted the option in one setup that could telemark and ‘powerboard’ as we used to call it. All this talk of the telemark holy grail over the years but no mustard. NTN at least lost the duckbill boot, but its releaseabilty, weight, performance and tourabilty fall short. So really I should just sell that crap on Craigs list and wait it out with two completely different set-ups- one AT and one tele. . I’ll think about Clydes input though, and maybe try a Dynafiddle if I have the time-just for kicks, and a bit of glide.

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