In my opinion the binding is the most undervalued piece of telemark skiing equipment we use, people focus more on skis and boots and underestimate how much the binding significantly affects the skis’ performance. In other words, a good binding gets more out of the ski it’s mounted onto, in some cases exponentially more…
The same cannot be said for alpine setups with alpine bindings feeling more or less the same regardless of brand, they don’t significantly alter the performance of the ski, their design pretty generic.
Telemark bindings on the other hand vary hugely, from cables wrapping around the foot, to heavy elastic running under the foot, to metal toe boxes attached to the fore-foot, to differing flex patterns and pivot points. An experienced telemarker can tell the difference, the less experienced tend to blame the ski or the boot.
In terms of features, alpine bindings are also pretty generic, they all have a toe piece, a heel piece and a break. In stark contrast, tele bindings offer vastly different features; some release, others don’t, some have breaks some leashes, some step-in while others require a balancing act to put them on.
Another fundamental difference between alpine and telemark bindings is that tele bindings are stressed far more - on every turn! There are moving parts required to accommodate the heel lift and flex patterns to help control this movement. Hence tele bindings seem to break more readily than alpine.
Telemark bindings aren’t only designed for skiing downhill of course, they’re also built to allow us to walk uphill. This whole functionality has generated a multitude of designs and systems with varying pivot points and weight demands. In todays market there are some bindings geared more towards touring, while others toward lift accessed skiing, although all have some touring functionality.
If you’re looking for a telemark binding, these are some of the main features that can vary from brand to brand:
We seem to be a community of tinkerers and engineers, you can imagine telemarkers spending the summer in their garden shed workshops creating new designs and improving old ones. It’s evolution inspired and driven by passionate individuals. The number of NTN based designs on the market now are testament to this culture.
The bottom line is that unlike alpine we still haven’t settled on a generic binding style that works best. For the consumer, this means variety and choice, which often goes hand in hand with complexity and confusion.
Long live our culture of tinkering and developing, I imagine that one day we’ll find that generic design. In the meantime we’ve put together some telemark binding reviews to help guide your binding choice. Nothing is better than testing gear however, if you get the chance to test different bindings - go for it. Just bear in mind, you’re testing the binding as well as the ski.
Check the Tele Tracks ski reviews for some independent advice on a range of brands, if you've got any feedback or have any kit you'd like to review, give us a shout! We'd love to hear from you...
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