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75mm Skiers Should Try NTN

Read reviews and tests of all the newest gear courtesy of Eric Fey and Telemarkdown.
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75mm Skiers Should Try NTN

Postby teledawg » Mon Jan 11, 2016 9:40 am

NTN—A 75mm Skier Learns to Love It

Since I started telemark skiing in the late 1980s, I have been using 75 mm bindings. But I have been “NTN curious” for some time, and this year, I finally had the chance to own a set up. And I have to say—I like it more than I expected to. A lot more.

If you don't know me, by way of knowing me a little as skier: I am a pro telemark skier and instructor, a member of the PSIA-E Telemark Examiner corps who is/has been an alpine and telemark staff trainer at several different ski schools, including Killington and Sunday River. I am the director of training for New England Telemark. I am an all-terrain backcountry skier. I am a former mogul racer in the Rocky Mountain Telemark Series. I say all this by way of indicating that I do have some history on telemark gear, and that I don’t completely suck.

As a telemark skier, I have historically been in the 75mm camp, most recently on Black Diamond (BD) Custom boots and BD 01 bindings with mid-stiff cartridges on 184cm BD Verdicts. I have long been a disdainer of the NTN gear. I skied it for a day a few years back, and while the experience wasn’t bad, it didn’t convert me. I voiced the typical anti-NTN rationales that 75mm curmudgeons use—the gear is too mechanical, too complex, too heavy, feels different, too expensive to switch—and continued to be perfectly happy on my 75mm gear. I recommended that my ski clients should purchase 75mm gear much more often than NTN.

But now I own a set up. I mounted them on the exact same ski as my 75mm bindings are on so I could really compare performance. And now that I have had a chance to ski NTN more and really compare it to my 75mm boots/bindings, I have to say that I was wrong about NTN. It doesn’t feel different. It doesn’t feel clunky. It feels good!

Most importantly—it doesn’t feel like I have to do anything different on this gear to ski as I’ve always skied. It feels pretty much like what I’ve been skiing on for years. My technique hasn’t changed. Rottefella and Scarpa have nailed a design that flexes and moves like the traditional set up, also but offers more powerful edging and step-in convenience. It’s an impressive achievement that really is pretty cool. I do have some minor gripes with some features, but I think that any 75mm skier can be completely happy on NTN gear. If you’re thinking of switching—my opinion is that there are no performance reasons not to do so, and several reasons that might make you decide you should.

Here are some more detailed observations on my set up.

Ski: I mounted my NTN set up on the exact same ski I have my 75 mm bindings on: 184cm 2014-15 Black Diamond Verdicts, a rugged fully-rockered ski perfect for New England ice, crud and powder.

Boots: I’m skiing the Scarpa TX Comp, which is the stiffest off-the-shelf NTN boot Scarpa makes. It doesn’t seem excessively stiff to me, especially in comparison to the 2014 BD Customs I’m in, which are the stiffest telemark boots I’ve ever skied. The TX Comp boot feels comparable in stiffness to the Black Diamond Push, and perhaps a bit stiffer than Scarpa’s T-1. In general it’s a comfy enough boot, with plenty of room in the toe box.

The boots ran big for me. I downsized my size from a 270mm in the Custom to a 265 for the TX Comp, and the boot still seems plenty roomy.

People tell me I’m going to love the Intuition liner, but so far it seems pretty unremarkable. I miss the BOA lacing system that the BD boots offered (thankfully I have an extra set that I plan to try in the TX Comps!), which really held the liner onto the lower leg and prevented heel lift.

The shells have four buckles, which include a cable buckle with a floating bail that gets hooked to a levered buckle closure. This buckle is considerably more of a hassle to use than a standard rigid wire buckle loop. It does create a lot of pull across the instep to hold the foot into the heel pocket, but I hope Scarpa improves the buckle. Or that I figure out how to use it more efficiently.

Overall, the boot is light (about a pound lighter than the Custom) and comfortable, and I expect I’ll like it more as I continue to fine tune how it fits.

The cost of the TX Comp is comparable to Scarpa’s classic T-1 Terminator 75mm boot.

Binding: I’m skiing the Rottefella NTN Freeride. One of the coolest aspects of the NTN Freeride is that it permits one binding to be used on a quiver of different skis as long as they have the NTN mounting plate installed on them. The binding also has ski brakes, a free pivot touring mode, and easy-to-adjust spring cartridges that are critical to fine tuning the system’s performance. My recommendation for 75mm skiers switching over to NTN is to experiment with spring tension—it wasn’t until I lightened up the tension on the cartridges that the bindings really began to perform the way I wanted. And having ski brakes and a release, even if it isn’t DIN-certified, are nice features.

The binding system feels very powerful in edge-to-edge movements, and is a great hard snow performer.

The binding is about a pound heavier than my my Black Diamond 01s, but given the lighter boot, the overall weight for the system is comparable to a high end 75mm set up. Rottefella does make a lighter binding for touring, the "Freedom", but it lacks the interchangeable from ski to ski feature. I have not yet done a long hike in the NTN set up, but as the system is about as heavy as my current system, I don't expect to notice much difference.

Most people I know have broken parts of the NTN system, which is another reason that I haven’t experimented with a set-up sooner (or chosen the lighter Freedom binding). But at this point, with the system in use for 8 years now (they were introduced in 2007), I’m hoping that most of the bugs and weaknesses have been worked out. I’ll let you know if they haven’t been. . .

The NTN Freeride binding is about $130 more than a high performance 75mm binding, and about $40 more than the only other NTN binding on the market, the 22 Designs Outlaw (which I have looked at closely but not yet skied).

The last word: NTN rocks. I don’t care if you switch over to it or not. But if you say it feels too different from a 75mm set up, I think you’re mistaken, and probably haven’t spent enough time on the gear. Having visited the future, I don’t know if I can go back, and expect to make the NTN set up my primary telemark binding going forward. There. I said it!

Cheers,

Jim Tasse
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Re: 75mm Skiers Should Try NTN

Postby almckay » Mon Mar 20, 2017 6:49 pm

Hi Jim,

Great report! I'm about to buy a pair of TX Comps but living in Australia we never get to even try on boots before buying. I'm wondering if you would be able to measure the length of your bare foot for me, preferably in mm, so I can try and compare boot size with you? Also can you describe your foot shape?
Thanks,
Alistair
Australia
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Re: 75mm Skiers Should Try NTN

Postby capecodtele » Fri Apr 14, 2017 3:40 pm

Demo'd new skis and NTN bindings last week from Telemarkdown for an upgrade to my current setup using hammerheads. Demo'd both the Outlaw and the NTN Freedom. Both bindings skied quite nice but the Outlaw was definitely more active (but does have spring adjustment which I did not fool around with). The NTN Freedoms felt like they had more flex than my hammerheads set on 4 and when going back and forth between them and the Outlaw, you could really see a big difference in the activity. As far as getting in and out, the Outlaws are way more "step in" than the Freedoms...you have to push down 2 clamps to get into the Freedom, one for the binder and one to lock down out of tour mode. The only fiddlely part of the Outlaws is the break lever that sticks up under your boot can be a little difficult to push down and then slide your boot into the clamp, but it truly is step in otherwise. I decided to go with the Outlaws which gives you the active binding with tour mode, so the best of both worlds between the Freedom and the Freeride. I will definitely fuss around with the spring settings to tune it to the activity I prefer when I get back on the snow next year.
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Re: 75mm Skiers Should Try NTN

Postby Go Fish » Fri Apr 14, 2017 9:02 pm

I was on Outlaws for the second half of this past season and it took me a while to develop a method to get the brake actuator out of the way while "stepping in" to the bindings. What worked for me was to stand on the tail of the first ski with a bare boot so I could wiggle the toe of the opposite boot into the clamp without the ski sliding forward. The same operation was performed for the other ski using the tail of the first ski.

Prior to the Outlaws I rode skis with Vice and Hammerhead bindings. The happy spot for me on the Vice was the middle setting and on the Hammerhead it was the #4 spot (one less than all-the-way active). The springs on my Outlaws are set to 1.5 - 2 out of 5 and that seems to be all I need. The outlaws are WAY more active than the other two.
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Re: 75mm Skiers Should Try NTN

Postby jrjr » Wed Nov 29, 2017 10:05 am

Sending this to the top.

I tried the NTN thing way back with the Freedoms and just couldn't get it dialed. Took some wicked falls including one that changed my thumb forever. I remember reading a few posts about how it was a bit of a different technique and it clicks eventually, but injuries are great for making fears stick.

Been sticking with my AXL's but keeping an eye on the NTN tech. I love the idea of a step in and releasable binding. I need to get to a demo and try out the Outlaw x. I still have my NTN boots. They are the black and orange scarpas.

Point being, i would like to hear some more positive experiences of it "clicking" and how that click came to be. When i hear about how it was a seamless crossover, i cringe and feel less than! :)

I think my mistake on the NTN was putting the system on a totally different ski. In Jim's initial post he made it clear he used the exact same ski as his normal setup. So, my go to set up is the Axl's with the BD push. Axl set one notch down from stiffest with stock springs. Ski is the rolling stone edition of the the k2 sideshow at 174 with a waist of 90.

I mounted the NTN's on a pair of k2 backdrops. Totally different ski. 112 waist powder eater.

Never skied before trying tele in 1998. Stuck with snowboarding til i moved back to New England in 2003. Now, its pretty much tele with the occasional board day. Maybe get 20 days a year.
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Re: 75mm Skiers Should Try NTN

Postby Go Fish » Thu Nov 30, 2017 8:04 pm

jrjr,

My transition from 75 mm to NTN wasn't as physically painful as the description of your past attempt, but it sure as hell didn't happen overnight. It took me a while to figure out how to get the boots to flex and stay balanced. However, the time I put in was WAY worth it.

My 75 mm set up was T1's and Vice or Hammerhead bindings on slalom race skis, GS race skis and Atomic Theory. I set up all the skis with inserts and bought a pair of 22 Designs Outlaws and a pair of Crispi World Cup boots and had at it. My first outing was on the Atomics and it was a train wreck. I picked the Atomics because they were the softest flexing skis I had, thinking it would be easier if I didn't have to muscle the skis...that was wrong. The boots and bindings were so powerful that I couldn't get them to play nice with the skis. Just a tiny bend of the knee caused an immediate and unanticipated response from the skis. As a result I never fully flexed the boots on the first day and I was all over the hill like a complete flailer. I ended up resorting to alpine turns so my wife and daughter would not have to worry about my safety anymore.

For day 2 I picked the slalom skis. They have been, and probably will always be, my favorites. I was at my home hill and the snow was soft so my confidence level was high. The boot/binding/ski combo was better because I had to flex the boots to get the skis to move but I was not ready for how the skis moved. With the 75 mm set up on the same skis, I could get them to carve but I had to work at it. When the pressure got to be too much for my legs , I just relaxed a bit and went from a carving ski to a comfortably skidding ski. The same could not be said for the NTN rig. There was no grey area between carving and skidding. As soon as I engaged the skis with a bent knee they were on rails and heading for mach schnell. I actually got tossed over the skis because I was not strong enough to fight back against the outward going rotational force.

Day 3 was on the GS boards...it just took a little bit longer to get to the speed/g force combo that made me blow up.

I bet it was another 10 days before I got to the point where I could control the power. It took realizing that little tiny changes in pressure, rotation and angulation turned into really big changes in ski direction. The extremely humbling experience was worth it. My gear has made me a much better skier than I was on 75 mm.
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Re: 75mm Skiers Should Try NTN

Postby jrjr » Fri Dec 01, 2017 9:56 am

Thank you for the reply.

Your explanation of the Day 2 experience seems to be the experience that took me down. Just went from "Ah, nice mellow turn here..." to "What the...!!!"

I have to go back to what my goal is for switching to NTN, i want a step in binding that releases. Ease and relative safety. But it also has to be as fun and engaging as my 75mm setup!

"Nothing worth doing is easy. I'm relatively young still and have a few more new tricks i can learn. Seems like i just need to accept the challenge and drop in to a new adventure." That's the positive side of my brain.

"10 days for it to click, for a weekend warrior from Cape Cod, could be half the season (depending on how much snow we get)." That's the less positive side.
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Re: 75mm Skiers Should Try NTN

Postby Go Fish » Fri Dec 01, 2017 10:44 am

If you want to show up at Wachusett some Saturday morning, I'll ski with you. Maybe we can shorten the learning curve. The snow sucks right now but it should be fantastic after X-mas.
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Re: 75mm Skiers Should Try NTN

Postby jrjr » Fri Dec 01, 2017 11:01 am

I totally appreciate that! That would be awesome. I'll reach out after the holidays.

Sam
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Re: 75mm Skiers Should Try NTN

Postby Brenda » Tue Dec 05, 2017 3:20 pm

I went from Voile CRBs on Jils/Vectors to Outlaws on Rossi Temptations, and loved NTN right out of the gate, BUT I set the bindings to their lowest (least stiff) setting. Even at that they are still really responsive, but not overwhelming. For me, that makes a lot of the difference. I've been on really stiff NTN bindings and nearly pulled a hamstring trying to bend a knee, so it's important to get the right setting for your weight and skiing style. I have also tried the Freedoms/Freerides (don't recall which one), but wasn't a fan--I didn't feel like the binding worked as smoothly. YMMV. I'm a pretty average skier, like to ski BC, and do some teaching, but not an expert by any means.
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Re: 75mm Skiers Should Try NTN

Postby jrjr » Wed Dec 06, 2017 10:13 am

Thank you Brenda. Looking back, i should have done that with the tension. I just set them to what was the consensus of equal to where i set the Axl's.

I'm looking forward to getting on the Outlaw and seeing how it goes.
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Re: 75mm Skiers Should Try NTN

Postby dschane » Wed Dec 06, 2017 11:17 am

I can give you one more data point.

I've been skiing on Voile Switchback X2s for a few years now, with T Races and occasionally T2 Ecos. Solid and dependable. I tend to get low and enjoy that springy feeling.

I have tried Freedoms and Freerides and didn't like the stiffness, esp. as you got low. It was fine to a point, but when the tension kicked in, it felt like I was hitting a wall. I didn't play with the settings; I just used them according to how my friends had set them up (and didn't pay attention to where that was).

For the last 3 years, I've been using a tech tele system, mostly for touring. It's quicker to engage and was hard to find the right activity, but now I have that dialed, it's amazing. Where I have it set up, it's maybe a little more active than the X2 (but not by much) but with immediate engagement. The X2s have a noticeable deadspot before they engage.

Last season, I tried the Outlaw and did the same as Brenda. I moved the spring's tension setting to its absolute lowest. It was excellent. After a few runs, I was interested enough to lay down the money this season for the Outlaw X. You can also remove the inner spring and make it even softer, so that's my plan, but I haven't been out on them yet.
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Re: 75mm Skiers Should Try NTN

Postby jrjr » Wed Dec 06, 2017 12:50 pm

Looking forward to a report!
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