For the past several years much talk has occurred in the telemark community about various new revolutionary tele bindings. Much appeared to be just that; talk that was more mist than reality — including some of our previous blog posts.
But the fog is condensing. Backcountry Access is now promoting the production model Rottefella NTN telemark binding they’re distributing. That’s the binding that’s said to have caused incredible strife for Rottefella and is still iffy in terms of acceptance by telemark consumers, but may offer telemarkers much of what they’re looking for in a binding.
Adding to the buzz, Black Diamond (BD) just published a press release detailing their effort to make what some folks call the “holy grail” of telemark bindings, as well as a new line of tele and rando boots. Interesting news, but somewhat of a downer as they’re now predicting no retail product until 2008. But good blog fodder nonetheless.
From what I’ve heard and read, by Black Diamond’s definition the grail appears to be a binding that has full backcountry touring free-pivot mode, step-in step-out convenience as well as safety release, but does NOT have a latch to allow fixed heel skiing. By our definition here at WildSnow.com, the uber tele binding has to allow choice between fixed or free heel, or it’s still not the grail. But that’s just opinion — the market will vote with their wallets and make the final determination.
We know BD is incredibly passionate about developing their new binding and boot system — we thus have no doubt something incredible is in the works. Finances of the endeavor are interesting to say the least. Over at Telemarktips.com, publisher Mitch Weber quotes Black Diamond CEO Peter Metcalf sharing that by the time the new boot/binding system is on the shelves, they’ll have spent up to six million dollars on the project. That includes the AT boots, but still! For the sake of discussion, let’s say (optimistically) that BD can recoup an average of $300 of that from each customer. Do the math, and that means they’ll need perhaps 20,000 customers (for boots and binding). Knowing the size of the worldwide telemark market that sounds perfectly reasonable, though mind boggling considering telemarking was a fringe sport just several decades ago. Of course they’ll sell some AT boots as well, but they couldn’t be counting on that to carry the investment — unless they’ve got an AT boot coming out that’s so revolutionary it will shralp the market. If so, can I get a spy shot?
As for my own well known feelings about the archaic state of telemark bindings, telemarkers out there might think I’m full of it and just a “basher,” but it seems some telemarkers agree and have put six million dollars on the table to prove it.
We of course wish BD would spend six million on developing new and better AT bindings. Shucks. At least we have Dynafit. As consolation, part of BD’s new boot line will be AT models, and their ski line is of course always pushing to provide both fixed and free heel skiers with excellent planks… Here is the Black Diamond press release as received:
PR: Black Diamond Finalizes Ski Boot Timeline
December 8, 2006 (Salt Lake City, Utah) Black Diamond Equipment Ltd., a global leader in climbing and skiing manufacturing, announced today the final timeline for its much anticipated ski boot launch.
Peter Metcalf, BD’s President and CEO states, “BD Ski Boot Line will officially launch in Fall/Winter 2008. We are breaking this news well in advance of the SIA and OR Winter trade shows for many reasons, including the desire to test the boots for a full season before bringing them to market. We want to focus in winter 2007 on the unmatched strength of our new freeride ski line, refining our boots and honing the development of a proprietary binding system.”
Metcalf continues, “BD has been at the leading edge of boundary-free skiing for over twenty years, and while the progress on the ski boot program has been phenomenal to date, the emergence of a new lightweight, ingenious telemark binding design that can be integrated into a new boot/binding system has encouraged us to move the launch to 2008.â€?
Riding the current momentum from the award-winning Havoc, Verdict and Lyric skis, the Fritschi Freeride Plus binding and the new 01 telemark binding, BD has set the table for a strong Winter 07 with the launch of ten new styles in their Freeride Ski Line. In 2008, Black Diamond will dually launch their new alpine touring and telemark ski boot line in addition to the new integrated telemark binding system.
Metcalf details, “The new telemark binding is a patent pending design that integrates boot and binding in a step-in, 360-degree releasable, compact and light weight system. The Fall 2008 telemark boot line will be reverse compatible, meaning the new boots will work equally well with the new binding system as well as all existing 75mm bindings.”
The development of the freeride/alpine touring ski boots will coincide with the telemark boot launch in Fall 2008 as an equally dynamic and featured element of the line.
Black Diamond Equipment Ltd. is an employee-owned manufacturer of equipment for rock climbing, alpinism and freeride skiing. By consistently building innovative products and actively preserving the mountain environment, Black Diamond has assumed a leadership role in the international outdoor community. For more information on Black Diamond visit www.blackdiamondequipment.com
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.