Altitude Sickness

Binding control

I think I am at 93 days of skiing now for the season; 88 lift service, five uphill.  All in all, with a season as occasionally dismal as this one, I have to say, once again, that the skiing has been great. So we haven’t had powder, but the corduroy has been delightful. At least we have something, you know?

I tell myself that as I look at the thermometer outside my Killington Road home and see that the standing temperature out there is a balmy -17 degrees F., and I realize that when I ski in the morning, my eyelashes will be frozen.

Having found this year to be non-conducive to the uphill travel I hold so dear, I purchased a cycle trainer. I now spend at least an hour a day spinning away my cabin fever, pretending that I am slogging my way up East Mountain Road, people giving me the thumbs up, yelling “you can do it” like Rob Schneider in “Waterboy.”

Due to the uncooperative weather, I have been holding off reviewing my most important gear switch for the year. In years past, I have ridden duckbill telemark, most recently a pair of 22 designs “Hammerheads.” Last year I demo’d a pair of Rottefella NTN (New Telemark Norm) bindings and boots (skis too).  The skis were terrible, but they were the only skis in the shop of an even remotely appropriate length for my lanky 6’4” frame, but I sucked it up and rode them.

Even on those terrible skis the difference in edge control and stability was startling. On my old comfy floppy boots and bindings, I constantly ran the risk of suddenly flopping on my face at the slightest encountering of sudden resistance. With NTN, I was able to fearlessly huck small drops and more ably push the boundaries of what my legs were capable of.

My enthusiasm was dampened when during the second run (executing a perfectly normal low speed GS turn) I snapped the toe cup right off the boot (an old Scarpa rental).  It was -7 degrees F. The Rotefella bindings grip the Telemark boot rather far back on the toe, and when you add to that my style of turning with my knee all the way down, you get the recipe for a broken boot and some very cold toes. Thankfully, I did not have far to go to get to my car.

When I learned bout the 22 Designs “Outlaw,” a step in/step out NTN binding with optional brakes and the same mounting hole patter that is drilled into my other skis, I immediately ordered a pair from the folks at Peak Performance, and then proceeded to stop by the shop daily to ask if my bindings were there (“Another two weeks,” they’d say. “It was two weeks three weeks ago,” I’d counter. “Another two weeks,” they’d repeat again.) When they arrived, they mounted the first pair that came in the door to my Sir Francis Bacons, and I entered a world of exquisite edge control tantamount to alpine skiing!

I had to greatly loosen the tensioner spring, and am toying with the idea of getting the light spring. I had to ditch the brakes and go back to leashes. First off, the springs were too strong, and being under the toe — alpine bindings have them further back — they actively prevented the stepping in unless they were on a hard surface.  Second, I noticed that every once in a while I would be down deep in a telly turn, and I would just suddenly lose all control and explode into a yardsale sliding wipeout.  It took me  while to figure it out, but I finally saw it.  The shovel of my  uphill ski (further back) was getting caught under the brake of the downhill ski.

Once I left the brakes behind I was able to easily step into the skis, and had no more problems with sudden explosions. There was a small problem actually getting out of the binding, but I finally figured that out. Release the binding, and then tap down with the heel, sort of like double clutching an old car, and the boot comes right out.

All in all, these bindings are stellar, and have led to an incredible increase in my control and stability, without affecting my agility or my ability to get my knee down. It took some adjusting, most NTNs you see stand pretty upright, but the beauty of it is, I’m so much stronger and agile than when I was an alpine skier (doing jump squats daily will do that to you), so I am able to do more things on the less stable platform of NTN (as opposed to alpine) than I ever was on alpines. 

I cant wait to get these bindings onto some bump skis and see how I do!

Come on snow!

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