The Evolution and Options for Every Freeheel Enthusiast

Telemark Bindings

The world of skiing is diverse and vibrant, with telemark skiing holding a special place for its elegance and history. Central to the telemark experience are the bindings – the critical interface between skier and ski. Understanding the nuances of telemark bindings, and how they differ from alpine bindings, provides insight into both the sport's heritage and its evolution.

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Telemark Bindings: A Combination of Tradition and Innovation

Sondre Norheim demonstrated telemark skiing before 1866 and the Open Christiania turn in 1868, both made possible by binding designs dating back to the late 1840s. This design added a twisted birch root loop that ran from the existing birch root toe loops around the heels of the boots and back again. It allowed the heel to rise as before for walking and sliding but kept the boot on the ski better, providing more control. Norheim could control the skis with his feet and legs, replacing the previous technique of dragging a large stick across the snow. This control led to the development of the Telemark and Christiania ski turns.

The Difference Between Telemark and Alpine Bindings

The versatility of telemark skiing is reflected in the design of the bindings. The primary distinction between telemark and alpine bindings lies in heel freedom. Alpine bindings secure both the toe skibots and the heel, providing stability for downhill runs. In contrast, telemark bindings only attach at the toe, leaving the heel free. This difference is crucial, as it enables the execution of the characteristic telemark turn. In this maneuver, the skier steps forward with the outside leg of the turn, bending the knee of the leading ski, while keeping the heel of the leg on the back ski, which is inside the turn, raised. Therefore, telemark skiing is also known as ‘free-heel skiing.’


The versatility of practicing telemark is reflected in the design of the bindings. Current development trends are towards hybrid dual-function bindings combining the features of approach-touring and downhill-telemark bindings, the so-called tour mode. Sometimes the degree of activity is used to determine the characteristics of telemark bindings. This is the force that must be used to bend the shoe in a given binding (e.g., to kneel). The greater the force required, the more active (stiff) the bindings are. The more active type provides greater comfort during descents but is less comfortable during the approach.

Main telemark binding systems dominate:

⏺ 75 mm-Norm     ⏺ NTN (New Telemark Norm)    ⏺ TTS (Telemark Tech System)

TELEMARK BINDING: The 75 mm-Norm System

This system is asymmetrical [right, left] and requires the use of shoes with a traditional protruding shape of the front of the sole, the so called duck beak. They have elements such as cables or wires surrounding the shoe (called telegram), springs, tension tubes (cartriges), and metal clamps fastening the fronts of the shoes, the so-called “jaws”. 


They have an adjustable length relative to the shoe shell. Some models of bindings have additional construction elements that allow you to change the stiffness of the binding. Most bindings have multi-stage heel counters to facilitate climbing (called wires).

The 75-Norm models , include  Nordic 75 mm 3 Pin and not include cable ties, wire bindings. The evolution of telemark bindings is closely linked with technological advancements. The development of plastics facilitated the creation of stiffer boots, which in turn drove the development of new standards for telemark bindings. These advancements allowed for the production of more powerful bindings suited for aggressive skiing, and concurrently necessitated the design of safer bindings to complement the stiffer plastic boots


In 2006, Norwegian binding manufacturer Rottefella introduced the NTN system, breaking the previous domination of the 75 mm system. NTN bindings are designed for ski touring boots (they do not have a duckbill). They offer simplicity and safety as well as better edge control and energy transfer to the ski. This user-friendly system does not require manipulation when attaching the binding. Additionally, the characteristics of the binding can be changed by swapping the tension tube. Rottefella offers three types of tension tubes, from soft to hard. 


The bindings are standardly equipped with ski stops, approach heel pads, and the tour mode function. Annually, manufacturers of telemark bindings engage in a competitive market, continually modifying and enhancing their products. Their primary focus is on improving performance by reducing the weight of the bindings and increasing the strength of composite materials. These efforts reflect the ongoing commitment of these manufacturers to meet the evolving demands of telemark skiing enthusiasts.

TELEMARK BINDING: TTS (Telemark Tech System)

The Telemark Tech System (TTS) is a newer innovation, combining elements of both traditional telemark and modern alpine touring (AT) technology. It uses a tech-toe unit for the attachment, akin to those found in AT bindings, coupled with a cable or spring system for heel retention, or without them. TTS offers lightweight performance and is ideal for skiers who prioritize uphill efficiency along with telemark downhilling.

TELEMARK BINDING:NNN BC (New Nordic Norm Backcountry)

NNN BC bindings are not typically used for downhill telemark skiing but are worth mentioning for their role in backcountry Nordic skiing. They provide more stability and control than standard NNN bindings and are suitable for rugged, off-trail conditions. However, they lack the robustness required for aggressive telemark turns and descents.


Lishi - safety equipment

Many telemark bindings, especially the 75 mm models, lack built-in ski stops, which are essential for stopping the ski on a slope in case of a binding release. To enhance safety, bindings are often equipped with a unique system where the skis are attached to the boots using a carabiner on a cable or rope. This simple yet effective approach ensures that skiers can enjoy their sport with an added layer of safety, preventing runaway skis during falls or binding releases.


Telemark bindings brands:

⏺ Rottefella

Founded in 1927 in Norway, Rottefella is renowned for its ski bindings. Named after a rat-trap-inspired three-pin binding created by Bror With, their products were pivotal in cross-country skiing. They innovated beyond the 75mm Nordic Norm, developing the New Nordic Norm, a testament to their commitment to skiing and product evolution. In 2006, Rottefella introduced the NTN (New Telemark Norm), marking a significant advancement in telemark binding design. This system offered increased safety, simplicity, and improved ski control, demonstrating Rottefella’s ongoing dedication to innovation in the winter sports industry. 


⏺ 22 Designs

22 Designs leads in telemark bindings innovation. Since 2004, founders Chris Valiante and Collins Pringle have built on the HammerHead binding legacy, introducing products like the Axl and Outlaw X bindings. The company, named after Wyoming Highway 22, focuses on eco-friendly manufacturing and is dedicated to the telemark community.


⏺ Voile

Voile, based in Utah, is a key player in backcountry winter sports. Known for introducing the backcountry splitboard in 1991, they have a rich history in ski innovation. Their focus on performance, reliability, and durability, without compromising on weight or cost, makes them a favorite among backcountry enthusiasts.


⏺ Bishop Telemark 

Hailing from the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, Bishop Telemark is a family-owned business specializing in telemark skis, bindings, and accessories. They emphasize precision and durability, driven by a passion for the free heel turn and a commitment to innovative design and mountain play. 


⏺ 7tm

7tm, a German company, stands out for its 75mm standard telemark bindings. Their original designs incorporated a reliable release mechanism, a feature that set them apart. They continued to innovate with models like the 7tm Power and Power Tour, adapting to the needs of skiers preferring more active bindings.


⏺ INWILD (formerly The M equipment)  – Meidjo telemark bindings

INWILD, a French company, is known for its MEIDJO telemark bindings. The brand, driven by innovation and a love for wild nature, focuses on creating high-performance, safe, and user-friendly bindings. Their evolution from a garage start-up to a brand moving closer to the Alps illustrates their dedication to the sport and environmental values.


⏺ Kreuzspitze

Kreuzspitze, originating from the Italian  mountaineering tradition, is recognized for its precision-engineered telemark binding parts. Their focus on quality, reliability, and minimalist design, using high-grade materials like Ergal and titanium, reflects their commitment to ski mountaineering and innovation.


⏺ G3 Genuine Guide Gear – do not currently produce telemark bindings. 

G3, based in Vancouver, Canada, is a leader in backcountry skiing and snowboarding gear. They started with avalanche probes and have expanded to a full range of equipment, including AT bindings and safety tools. Their commitment to reliability and innovation caters to both professionals and enthusiasts in backcountry sports.

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