I always take my hat off for tinkerers, people who sit in the shop or their garage late at night and try to make stuff better. Drilling holes, taking things apart, and maybe even involving a saw or hammer (and beers or whiskey) - making something different or new requires some destruction and enlightened thinking.
Tele skiers are truly tinkerers. I've seen some Frankenstein bindings built in the shop myself, but with risk often comes reward. And some smart folks get it right and create something unique, usable, and marketable.
I asked telemark tinkerer and White Pine Touring Programs Director Mikey C. to teach me a few things about the evolution of tele. While the technology isn't so much about skis since any ski can be a tele ski, it's the bindings and their evolution that are really worth talking about. Mike pointed me toward some new technology that we think is the perfect representation of making something better by tinkering.
Tele bindings have come a long way. Just think back to the good ol' days of leather boots and three-pin bindings. Next came the 75 mm duck bill, cable, and cartridge based bindings that provided resistance and rebound. Next, Rottefella introduced New Telemark Norm (NTN), adding stiffness and power and letting a tele skier really open up on the mountain with control and confidence. And with NTN came brakes, versatility, and ease of use. But they were a bit heavy to tour with for some.
So to shave some weight and progress the sport, some thoughtful tinkerers got to work and came up with Telemark Tech Systems (TTS). TTS is a hybrid tech-style two-pin toe binding (imagine Dynafit) combined with an NTN or conventional cable and cartridge tele binding. The uphill benefits of the tech binding are clear. Your boot pivots uninhibited at the toe, and the bindings overall are very light which makes walking uphill demonstrably easier and quicker. Now combine that tech with the best part of NTN and you have a backcountry setup that skis great and lets you motor back up the hill for seconds.
Out of the Garage
22 Designs caught onto this idea and capitalized on it with their LYNX TTS binding. They took their NTN technology and combined it with a custom tech toe and then went about optimizing the system with adjustable tension, room for crampons, and matching it to their existing six-hole mounting pattern. One of our White Pine Touring guides, Weston Deutschlander, helped 22 Designs develop the Lynx. Here is Weston's take:
"The Lynx has been in development for over 4 years and has seen many iterations. Notable... is that 22 Designs will be producing their own tech toe - no small or easy feat. Another first for the Lynx will be the composite plate underfoot. These plates have undergone rigorous testing both in the real world and in the lab."
We also reached out to 22 Designs directly to comment on why they felt there was a need to develop a TTS binding when users have been making their own for years. From 22 Designs Co-Owner Chris Valiente:
"With how many people we saw building their own tele tech bindings and the growth of Alpine touring, there's obviously a market for lighter, more efficient touring bindings. However, one thing we did notice was that a majority of the homemade bindings didn't seem to use the NTN system, and we wanted to create a binding that worked with NTN boots the way they were meant to be used. Frankly, we just wanted to create something both easy to use and bombproof."
TTS bindings have gone from being tinkered on in garages to being fully developed, tested, and brought to market. 22 Designs isn't the only manufacturer out there making a TTS binding, but they're one we're keeping a close eye on. We've had a great relationship with them at White Pine Touring and we know their product is solid. So what's next in tele-tinkering?
The Missing Piece
The next part of TTS is the boots. Right now there are only a couple manufacturers that make a tele boot of any style with tech inserts. So we'll have to wait and see how that technology evolves and what new products come to market to take advantage of this promising garage-grown technology.
Paul Boyle, Production Manager, jans.com
Tele Tech Chronicles
White Pine Touring
22 Designs Bindings