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  • a sport at a crossroads

    Sorry for the overly-dramatic title. I think gear-wise, though, we really are at a bit of a crossroads. I've started this thread so I don't further contribute to drift on the new scarpa boots thread. My basic question: Overall, are hybrid tele/AT bindings (like the Meidjo w/ alpine tech heel) good or bad for the growth of the sport? Is this an avenue we should charge down, or distance ourselves from?


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    I agree with the premise of #spreadtelemark; the more popular it is, the better gear choices we'll have. I saw somewhere that >25% of Meidjos are sold with the alpine tech heel option. That's a lot, especially considering how difficult it is to buy boots that will even work with it.

    Apparently the only way Scarpa & Scott would consider making tele boots with tech heel inserts again is if someone were to develop a unique, telemark-specific interface that is incompatible with standard AT pin heelpieces. So, basically, the powers that be -- i.e the boot & binding manufacturers -- either need to double down on this hybrid idea, and push it hard (to justify the R&D + retooling costs) or kinda just let it burn itself out, leaving it for the dwindling contingent with early-gen boots and Crispis. Developing a new standard could quite possibly hold up long-awaited boot progress even further.

    Would charging ahead with it be good or bad for the sport? Will it make diehard tele skiers get a taste of alpine turns, and then be lost forever? Will it encourage people who can't (or don't want to) telemark full-time to stay with it part-time? Will the benefits to ski patrollers & workers help justify it? Will it help telemark regain some status as a legitimate backcountry tool? Will tele-curious folks be more likely to jump in if they know they have trusty alpine turns to fall back on? Is any revenue good revenue, because it's going to telemark companies?

    I'm not firm about any of the answers. Personally, I'm content doing alpine turns in tele bindings if I need to. There are plenty of folks, though, whose needs sync up quite well with this, quite possibly enough of them to significantly bump the sport's popularity. But I know that there are also folks who say we can't live in that wishy-washy gray area, that companies need to be 100% committed to telemark, and I respect that viewpoint too. Either way, the manufacturers are kinda at a point where they need to make a decision. Which route do you think is best for the sport?
    Last edited by bobbytooslow; 14 October 2021, 09:21 AM.

  • #2
    Love the discussion - drama and all! I've had conflicting opinions on this since getting on Meidjo last year.

    I think the hypothetical move forward with hybrid bindings would be great for skiing, but ultimately bad for telemark. It allows more options, more cross-pollination, more innovation, all are great. But telemark skiing is beautiful in large part because of the devotion it requires. Learning the turn requires a single-minded drive, there's something transcendent in it to those who get addicted. I believe the hybrid lends itself to more tepid devotion, and that won't build the kind of passion for telemark like you see in places like this forum for instance. Less passion for just telemark will hurt further innovation and growth down the line.

    I also think that move forward would split telemark worse than before because the skiing sensation just isn't as nice as on 75mm - and the boot companies will drop 75mm to go for the new norm, if that's how things shake out. I get it, 75mm has seen it's day and long ago reached the end of it's innovation phase. It just doesn't feel as nice to ski it, however more efficient and powerful NTN is.
    Last edited by JackO; 14 October 2021, 07:26 AM.

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    • #3
      Any revenue is good revenue, period. I'd bet 95% of tele skiers started with alpine anyway. If they're committed enough to spend $1k on boots and bindings, they're not going to leave because a locked heel is easier. They're going to leave because of limited gear selection or lack of gear development (mostly boots at this point), which goes back to: any revenue is good because it sustains the cycle of new gear development and revenue.

      I think it was brilliant of Scarpa to try things like tech-compatible inserts on telemark boots and bellows on light AT boots. That supply of innovative gear created demand 15+ years into the future. It's a damn shame that the perception of legal risk overshadows what was objectively a fantastic business decision. Even ignoring the heel piece, tech toes kept the TX/TXP relevant when Lynx and Meidjo came out years later. And TTS revived the F1/F3 after they failed in the AT market. One could argue that Scarpa's biggest problem was discontinuing production before the market caught up (TX/F1/F3).

      I'm also fine doing alpine turns on tele gear. I'm one of those that bought the Meidjo alpine heel and almost never use it. But it was a factor in my decision to finally pony up and convert to NTN, which also benefitted Meidjo and contributed to binding development. If Scarpa sticks to the current, known landscape in terms of bindings, materials, and legal risk, it will sacrifice future demand for the boot. I am a lot more likely to stick with my F3's and modded TXP's if the new boot has the same or less functionality. If it has more (lightness, ROM, features), I would be likely to switch.

      What features would drive adoption? Tech inserts. Lightness through materials like carbon or maybe modularity like a removable duck butt and swappable cuffs. I think Scarpa could cover a lot of the market with 1 scaffo and multiple cuffs, kind of like the F3, TX, and TXP but more modular. Maybe a tunable cuff using spring-loaded resistance for ski mode. Tunable bellows, somehow? Better ROM and simpler mode switching like the Dynafit PDG. Or something really innovative that I haven't thought of because Scarpa thinks about boots all day and I don't. I never could have come up with tech inserts in an NTN boot back when I was skiing T2's and had never heard of Dynafit.

      Any revenue is good for the sport, and moreso if that revenue goes towards common standards rather than proprietary.
      Last edited by jtb; 13 October 2021, 08:23 PM.

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      • #4
        The reasoning to have hybrid bindings is solid. From the perspective of someone who is a skier first and telemark skier second, I can see the value in someplace like Chamonix or other regions in the Alps, where you have a lot of temptation to ski big, exposed, no-fall zones but would telemark everything right up to that. living in Hokkaido, I don't need the Meidjo with heels but if I lived in the Alps, that is definitely what I would have. I know a lot of other skiers who think like I do and a lot of skiers who went back to alpine before the current crop of tech toe telemark bindings hit the market. It seems to me that they would also be part of the market for hybrid systems.

        Most of the time, I do not need the alpine heel. I probably make more alpine turns than tele turns and most people can't tell I'm not on alpine gear until I drop a knee. There are few conditions where I am not both comfortable and fully capable of skiing safely on tele gear. But when it is very steep, tight, and difficult snow conditions, there are limits to my ability to do it safely without a locked heel. I'm getting old but I still can't see wanting a purely alpine setup on which tele turns are impossible. I'm also old enough that I don't know how many more years of this I have in me. I hope it's a lot but I can't predict what this body will do. But looking out for the sport, the only way I see for it to grow is to broaden its appeal. And the place where I can best see that happening is with people who are already high performing alpine skiers who also want to drop the heel in powder or whenever somebody is watching. ;-)

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        • #5
          I don’t use very often the Meidjo alpine heels, but i recall situations where i could have skied much better and enjoyed it a lot more with the heels locked, and afterwards i felt that i was just too stubborn insisting with tele. On those tougher conditions, such as steep and icy, alpine turns with tele are not the solution for me, i feel in survival mode. I’m sure a big number of tele skiers will find their limits on tele before than alpine, and that gap is the reason why I have the heels. The goal is to enjoy the day and I think you can enjoy it better this way. Learning is continuous but doesn’t have to be 100% of the time. I don’t see the threat for the sport, on the contrary. As long as there is one brand that make the boots, we are served.

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          • #6
            I suspect the big plus is for seasoned Alpine skiers looking to transition to Tele, and the option to be able to Alpine may be enough to make the jump. I get the impression that most new tele skiers are Alpine skiers looking for a new challenge
            (personally, I learned on tele kit, so having heels locked down feels like trying to run with your shoe laces tied together)

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            • #7
              I think one group that the heel may be attractive to is people who think they may want to learn to tele, but aren't sure they'd be able to pick it up or get very good at it. Having the heel, they may think that at least the expensive equipment wouldn't be wasted in that case. I do think that if they stick with learning tele, eventually they'll seldom, if ever, use the heel. But it may help them take the plunge and buy the gear and get started. But I doubt it is worth having a heel option if this were the only group that were interested in it. Meidjo was my first NTN setup, and I thought about buying the heel, just in case. Now I don't see where I'd ever use it since I can make alpine turns fine, and am glad I didn't buy it.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by bahboric View Post
                I think one group that the heel may be attractive to is people who think they may want to learn to tele, but aren't sure they'd be able to pick it up or get very good at it. Having the heel, they may think that at least the expensive equipment wouldn't be wasted in that case. I do think that if they stick with learning tele, eventually they'll seldom, if ever, use the heel. But it may help them take the plunge and buy the gear and get started. But I doubt it is worth having a heel option if this were the only group that were interested in it. Meidjo was my first NTN setup, and I thought about buying the heel, just in case. Now I don't see where I'd ever use it since I can make alpine turns fine, and am glad I didn't buy it.
                That might be true but I don’t like the idea to promote compromising more than complementing. Having a plan B is not a very exciting reason to go for tele+alpine. It should really be about being able to chose the preferred technique for the conditions, which actually adds a lot, it doesn’t just provide an escape alternative. We have been evangelizing for so long that we closed mental doors based on weak reasons.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Andinista View Post

                  That might be true but I don’t like the idea to promote compromising more than complementing. Having a plan B is not a very exciting reason to go for tele+alpine. It should really be about being able to chose the preferred technique for the conditions, which actually adds a lot, it doesn’t just provide an escape alternative. We have been evangelizing for so long that we closed mental doors based on weak reasons.
                  These are great points

                  The telemark skier who goes into varied conditions who might make a lot of aggressive alpine turns when they need/want to but also feels they actually need the alpine heel is obviously this system's bread and butter user. But the telemark mode of hybrid bindings doesn't have the same practical purpose for those who are alpine-first, or who would be getting exposed to telemark from buying a hybrid setup; it doesn't have a performance advantage from that angle whereas for a telemark skier, switching to alpine on the hybrid setup can amount to batting-up to the conditions.

                  Some alpine skiers would see hybrid bindings and be into it, especially those who telemarked before and went to AT before the current gear was available (quoth cesare). But I think the vast majority look at them and ask "why would I ever need this?" Many tele skiers ask the same thing, even in this thread to a degree.

                  The discussion is making me wonder if the hybrid norm would actually bring very many people into telemark who aren't here already
                  Last edited by JackO; 14 October 2021, 09:52 AM.

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                  • #10
                    Not interested. There's a very few people that legitimately could use this. For all but a few, up your freeheel technique or stick to more mellow terrain.

                    Or ski the tough terrain in more conservative fashion. Unpopular opinion of mine: on freeheel gear in difficult terrain, the tele turn is the more aggressive turn than the alpine turn (on that given gear, not comparing to fixed heel gear, of course).

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                    • #11
                      Lots of passionate responses, and really good arguments both ways! The serious tone of my initial post makes me think of this meme.


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                      There's one thing I probably could have been more clear about in that initial post. It's not necessarily a simple question in a vacuum "Should the binding companies include a tech heelpiece option or not?"; this kinda ignores the fact that it's close to impossible walk into a shop and buy this binding + a boot to use with it.

                      The question I'm really interested in is "Should the boot & binding companies go to the great lengths to engineer a solution that will allow tech heel boots & bindings to be sold as a complete system?" In other words, all this debate is purely academic if the only way for it to bring in new people requires a search for what are becoming "holy grail" old boots. Will creating a system like this be enough of a benefit to long-term growth to justify the short-term investment in R&D/retooling costs (and possible boot production delays)? Or would it be better to focus on other things (like getting new/better/lighter boots out ASAP) and let this remain a niche for those who have a strong enough need for it to seek out their own boot solution?

                      (Yes I realize Crispi boots still have the tech heel insert, but 1. They have relatively few US dealers, 2. Most people prefer the fit & feel of Scarpa, and 3. They too are probably a lawsuit away from removing the insert.)

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                      • #12
                        For me, I am well beyond the nostalgia of telemark and the culture of what it was just a few years ago, so when I look at ski gear and in particular the ski gear I like and use I just look at performance, reliability and safety. Looking at this hybrid, it lacks just about everything I would want in a ski setup. Starting with heavy boots like Crispi's that would climb like boat anchors, to do they release? do they ice up? will they hold you in burly tough conditions? Not for me and I bet as compared to my AT, resort and even my 75mm tele they would not do anything as well.
                        IMO
                        Last edited by Quadzilla; 14 October 2021, 11:13 AM.
                        "Just say no to groomed snow"

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                        • #13
                          In the old days, forums had so much less wisdom, I always felt like I was helping to set aside misconceptions and promote the good ideas and gear that were less known and understood. It seems like those days are over now. I read responses and just nod my head, psyched that so many people see these situations clearly....

                          Regarding this situation, the definitive answer IMO is:

                          Tele boots NEEEEED to fit into AT bindings. Period! The lawyers are wrong as usual. If they were right based on the liability of risk, then nobody would drive a car or ever go skiing. Nobody would bicycle or roller skate, or a million other things. As a manufacturer you're hung whether your head is in the noose, or half way in. You might as well seek the best profit with the most appealing gear because you will still get sued eventually regardless of what you produce. (IE, Fin Doyle's binding liability law suit )

                          As for whether trans-skiing is good or bad for tele, it will probably go both ways!!!!! (joking there) Just as many people who might decide to go fixed heel from having a "trans-rig", might also decide to buy a "trans-rig" so they can try tele and still not give up AT.

                          If scarpa's boots don't come out with heel fittings, then I figure I'll either be in my grave or have one foot in it, by the time Scarpa realizes their mistake. Back when I posted stuff on tele tips about "binding activity and how it generated ski tip pressure" nobody agreed with me right off the bat. It took 10 years before people on forums began to routinely described binding activity as driven ski tip pressure. I remember the first time someone mentioned really fat skis for powder skiing and it was so cutting edge back then that it was practically an unknown thing, but lemonboy knew it and predicted it well before it was common.

                          It's clear to me that a "Trans-rig" capable of either tele OR AT would be a great benefit to tele, but as Bobby said, IF the boots don't make that possible, then we missed that boat.
                          Last edited by tele.skier; 14 October 2021, 12:20 PM.
                          the fall line is your friend.... resistance is futile

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                          • #14
                            And it's all an AT skier's fault:

                            https://earnyourturns.com/33505/scar...-on-ntn-boots/

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                            • #15
                              I want to break this into parts.

                              hybrid dual use boots:
                              I think a dual tele/at boot could a be good thing. the could part is that to it needs to be a tele boot with no excuses first. if the boot is comprised for tele, then it defeats the purpose of spreading telemark. I don't think TX/TXP compromised the boot to add rear tech fittings.

                              tele specific bindings:
                              again, any new boot can't result in a compromise of tele specific bindings or it defeats the purpose.

                              AT specific bindings that work with the hybrid dual use boot:
                              Again, i don't think these bindings can be comprised or there is no reason to use a dual use boot. This seems like it can be done. TXP in a dynafit speed radical with a machanical AFD under the bellows would be a fully functional, no excuses AT binding.

                              Alpine specific bindings that work with the hybrid dual use boot:
                              Again, i don't think these bindings can be comprised or there is no reason to use a dual use boot. This seems like it can be done, but this binding does not exist today.

                              dual use bindings:
                              This i am on the fence about. There will be comprises for either the tele mode or AT mode, just like Meidjo comprises the AT mode (heavier than needed, complexity of enter/exit/mode change with heel and spring box, cost). Something like TTS + with removable cables + heel + mechanical AFD could work, if the TTS unit was not a comprise for tele.

                              General musings:
                              who is the customer for a dual use boot?

                              is it the lift skier that wants into telemark? In that case, they have an alpine set up, and they can switch boots and skis mid day if they want. And for them, any comprise on the telemark side is bad, we are trying to hook them after all.

                              Is it for the AT skier than wants to try telemark? in that case, similar to the alpine skier. they have the AT gear already, and unlikely they are going to try to learn telemark in the backcountry, so the mode switch wouldn't really appeal to them much either. Again, any compromise on the telemark side would be bad.

                              Is it for the telemark skier that wants to ski all day at the lifts, likely with fixed heel skiers (or younger telemarkers), then click in when the get worked? I can see that. For ME, this case requires better than "typical AT" release capability. Again, any compromise the telemark side would be bad. plus, if they clicked in while skiing with a bunch of telemarkers, they will be mocked relentlessly.

                              Is it for the telemark skier skiing in no fall terrain, who wants to click in. I can see that too. But is that really a market worth pursuing with any substatial investment?

                              that leaves the traveling skier who wants to bring one set of gear and ski both tele and alpine/AT. I can see that too. But is that a market worth pursing?

                              My opinion is that dual use boots would be good. On the fence about dual use bindings.
                              Last edited by jasonq; 14 October 2021, 04:33 PM.

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