At first glance telemark bindings seem to
be pretty much all the same, performing a simple duty in a similar
manner. Talk to any group of tele skiers though and you will
get a wide difference of opinion as to which work best. Perhaps
no other part of the telemark setup provokes such strong opinions
and loyalties as this seemingly humble contraption. Like the
rest of the telemark gear we use, the key is to match the binding
to your intended skiing style and goals. Skiers looking to do
lots of touring with only occasional turns may want a 3-pin for
its very free heel and light weight. Those heading out for turns
on the steeps may want the opposite, a binding with lots of "heel
return" (perhaps) and control. Telemarker's who work while
skiing or spend all their time at the resorts might find the
step in feature of a couple of the new bindings to be paramount.
With this in mind lets jump right into the "Roundup"
where these terms and uses will be further defined!
Black Diamond Skyhoy
Weight: 3 lb. 14 oz. Type:
Well, what can you say? the binding we have
all dreamed about around the campfire for years has arrived.
Well sort of anyway. This first of it's kind, step-in binding,
has not been without problems in it's inaugural season. Trouble
with the ski brake and some parts failures have been reported
and are well known to most of us, but the truth is the Skyhoy
represents one hell of a leap forward in telemark binding progression.
The first time you stand tall while clicking into your tele binding
you know that something has changed. Like the apes touching the
monolith in the beginning of "2001 A Space Odyssey"
I heard the alarm go off, a big step in binding evolution had
The Skyhoy skis extremely well. The boot is
held very securely and flexes naturally. Indeed this flex is
so smooth and neutral that it feels like a 3-pin! No 3-pin ever
transferred the boot movement to the ski like this though. The
positive feel is startling. The plate connecting the heel piece
to the toe piece is hinged in two places and really does the
job in allowing the boot to flex in the right place. One thing,
heel return is non-existent, in difficult snow conditions or
while jump-turning the steeps this may be missed.
Adjusting the plate to accommodate different
size boots is accomplished with a simple lever and requires no
tools. The Skyhoy comes in two sizes to fit boots 2 1/2 to 8
and 6 to 13. It has a built in 35 mm riser which takes a bit
of getting used to but boot out will never be a problem again
with this setup.
Much has been said about the Skyhoy's weight
and how this makes it unsuitable for backcountry use but I think
more of a problem is the durability and complication problems
inherent in such a technically advanced binding. It will be interesting
to see how this binding comes to be accepted by tele skiers as
the kinks get ironed out of the design and it becomes more dependable.
As it stands this year, the Skyhoy is a killer
binding for those who work on the snow at resorts and need the
convenience of a step-in. Ski Patrollers and Instructors will
find this binding a joy to have. Hard charging recreational tele
skiers ripping at the ski area will love it too. Imagine working
the gondola at a place like Mammoth on a good day and not having
to hassle with a cable binding over and over. Oh, there goes
that high pitched alarm again!
Black Diamond Riva II
Weight: 1 lb. 4.7 oz. Type:
Rear heel latch cable
Ah the Riva II. I wonder how many of us started
on the Riva I or even the no longer available BD "Classic"
cable? The II with it's easy entry and neutral feel has been
a popular binding for years. Though many have complained about
how easy it is to slip out of it unexpectedly, others have found
a way to stay in and others have decided this might even be a
good thing: a sort of release binding!
Like the Chili, you want to set the cable
tension so that when the lever snaps up the springs begin to
stretch open. Most people set them more by feel though, not too
tight but not too loose! Make them too tight and you run the
risk of over-stretching the springs in a fall and damaging them.
Also, we have all heard reports of cable breakage on the Riva
II but this can usually be anticipated by inspecting the cable
at the pivot point for wear (broken strands).
The Riva II is a lightweight binding with
little to go wrong. It may not be the highest performer on the
block and it may not have all the latest tweaks and gadgets but
it continues to work well and is a good value; it is often found
on sale at reduced prices.
I skied this binding recently and I have to
say that I had forgotten, it actually skis pretty darn well and
has a nice feel. Durability has been good, just watch out for
the cable adjustments loosening and the aforementioned cable
problem. With the cable set up pretty tight you can avoid that
premature exit I mentioned. Also, watch for cracks in the plate
where it is bent upward to form the sidewall, they start in the
corner and run along the bend. You get plenty of warning if you
check for these cracks, if you don't, catastrophic failure can
Again, many tele skier have used this binding
for years and been pleased with it's performance.
Black Diamond Pitbull
Weight: 2 lb. 7 oz. Type: Rear
heel latch rod
The Pitbull II is a strong binding, that much
is for sure. Designed in response to the fact that BD's Terminator's
were chewing up bindings right and left in the early days. The
Pitbull eliminated the traditional cable in favor of a single
cable that runs under the binding and connects to a beefy compression
spring in the front and a bail on the back with a heel latch.
It was a nice attempt to try something different
but unfortunately, most of us found that the Pitbull just did
not ski very well. It also had some durability problems of it's
own and this resulted in the Pitbull II coming to market. The
II eliminated the failures but everybody I know that tried it
still felt it skied like a, well, dog. And it did not help that
they named it after one. I am told that bump skiers like it for
it's strong heel return, I don't know, I'm not a bumper.
Recently someone posted a thread on the Telemark
Talk Forum asking why everyone bags on the Pitbull and the responses
were, for the most part predictable but a few posters actually
said they liked it, so who knows? "Feel" was the problem
for me with the Pitbull and that certainly is a subjective thing.
I often see this binding on sale at deep discounts, still, I
would really have trouble suggesting to anyone that they buy
it, I really don't like the way it skis at all.
I hear that the reason this binding remains
in the Black Diamond line is that they have a warehouse full
Black Diamond XCD
Weight: 13.3 oz. Type: Traditional
A post on the Telemark Talk Forum in the "Binding!!"
thread got me to thinking. Perhaps it is time for me to try a
3-pin again. It has been a long time.
Originally we all went to cables to help with
the torsional rigidity of our crummy, floppy old leather boots.
We abandoned the simple, lightweight 3-pin to try to get more
performance out of what we had. But maybe we don't need all that
so much anymore, perhaps we get so much torsional rigidity out
of out modern plastic boots that the humble 3-pin is worth a
revisit. I don't know but I am going to try and I find out. I
think it would be an interesting exercise to mount up a pair
of light skis with a 3-pin, clip in some T-2's and see how it
The problem with pins is that the boot pinholes
have always ended up stripped and fouled with dirt and debris,
unacceptably so. Maybe these new, non-floppy boots will not rip
the holes so easily. It sure would be fun to see how the boots
flex without a binding induced flex point!
The XCD is a strong 3-pin binding. Voile also
has a good one.
I will let you know on the Forum how my experiment
Weight: 2 lb. 8 oz. Type: Rear
heel latch cable
An elegant looking binding, the Genuine Guide
Gear (G3) Targa is a relative newcomer and as such has received
a lot of attention this year. It has a stainless steel plate
with a riveted toe piece. The cable goes through the guides on
the side of the plate and passes under the binding. Channels
in the integrated riser plate provide major adjustment to cable
length while threaded rod on the cable, where it enters the spring
housing, is where you fine-tune the length. A heel latch like
the Chili or Riva binding is on the back. The cable guides are
quite far back on the plate giving good control but they are
not adjustable or replaceable.
G3's excellent 15 mm riser also has a bit
of a wedge shape to it to compensate for boot rocker and to reduce
"tip dive", something that people are talking about
these days but most long time tele-ers I know have never noticed,
me included. If you believe this to be more than a phantom problem
then you might like this riser or the wedge that Voile has made
for years. The riser supplied with the Targa also has a place
to store spare parts. This Stainless Steel wires can also be
added to the stock heel piece for up-hill climbing. These consist
of 4 pieces to give the heel post a dual height capability.
The compression springs, like the SuperLoop,
are available in three stiffness types, G3 calls them "powder",
"all-mountain" and "race". These springs
combine with the placement of the cable guides to produce a very
powerful boot flex. The springs are loaded into cartridges, we
have heard some reports of these cartridges being dented by ski
edges and subsequently not working, requiring replacement. The
side placement of this design does make the spring housings vulnerable.
The G3 Targa can be used with the Voile or
Rottefella TRP release plates but requires an expensive and heavy
adapter. If you are going to use these release kits you may want
to consider another binding.
The Targa binding plate provides a secure
interface between boot and binding. It also comes with an anti-ice
plate that covers the under-foot area (a great idea, all bindings
should come with these). The plate itself looks very strong but
a word of warning here, we have heard many reports of the toe
bar popping loose at the rivet points. Oliver Steffen, president
of G3, has informed us this was a production problem that has
been resolved and that they have had no warranty returns, related
to this problem, on bindings made after December of last season
(99). Word is that G3 has been very good about taking care of
customers with this problem. They won't be able help you in the
backcountry though, if you have a Targa, keep an eye on those
The Targa skis great and it is the only cable
binding I have tried that I feel approaches the level of control
of that provided by the SuperLoop. The feel is very good, quite
neutral, with only a little heel return (good if you like that).
For the most part, everyone I have talked to has said the same
thing, looks great, skis very well, as well as the SuperLoop,
but is a bit more expensive. Another thing to consider over and
above the added cost is the additional weight. The Targa as it
stands now is quite heavy. Those spring cartridges add weight
to the foot that you feel each time you raise your heel.
Next season G3 will be bringing to market
the Targa T-9. The plate, toe bar and rear heel tube will be
made from a lighter, aerospace alloy that is said to shave a
whopping 8 ounces. This will bring the Targa more into line,
weight wise, with other bindings currently available.
The Targa is a very good binding and the only
cable binding available at this time that is in the same performance
class as the Superloop. It is a good choice for those skiers
looking for an extremely neutral, low heel return binding.
Rainey Designs SuperLoop
Weight: 1 lb. 12 oz. w/shims,
Type: Front throw cable
The Superloop has had a long
and interesting evolution, mirroring changes in tele boots, skis
and technique. The first model that I owned was a stainless steel
plate with a bungee type cord for a "cable". Ahead
of it's time, this first incarnation of the Superloop was a just
a precursor of things to come. Soon the bungee was replaced with
a thin, wire wrapped cable sporting a spring loaded side-throw.
These cables snapped at an alarming rate (I used to keep a log
and do a preventive replacement every 25 days!) but the binding
itself offered control far beyond that of anything else out there
at the time and the stainless steel plate definitely iced up
less than the aluminum plates of the day. The adjustable cable
guide/pivot points were nice too. But eventually this binding
came to look way out of proportion to the boots we were using
(that thin cable wrapped around the heel of our new Terminators
looked ridiculous), this and the cable durability problem led
Rainey to introduce a whole new binding with a front throw and
a beefier plate and cable. Every year after brought modifications
to strengthen and improve the SuperLoop. Eventually the plate
came to be made of specially hardened stainless steel with a
welded toe bar and a spring loaded front throw. The springs could
be changed to a stiffer type for heavier/more aggressive tele'ers
and the adjustable cable guides remained. The 'loop seemed dialed
but another serious problem started cropping up: toe bar were
failing at the weld.
Eventually the SuperLoop got
a riveted toe piece with a turned up edge for strength (think
half an "I-beam"). Previously the plate gained a turned
down edge at the rear for the same reason. The adjustable cable
guides are still there but with a special design, they are now
smooth on the outside with no protruding nuts or screw threads
to mar your boots. The toothed cable length adjustment wheel
on the throw has been has been reinforced to prevent stripping
and the bindings now come with a taller, 15 mm shim and a heel
piece to match, the shim has been made narrower to stop snow
from building up under it. Also improved is the optional heel
lifter and Rainey also offers an integral ski crampon (that latches
on to that turned down edge of the plate) as well. Rainey is
the only tele binding maker to provide this option. A pull tab
has been added to the back of the cable to make it easier to
get it into the groove on the back of the boot.
The SuperLoop is compatible
with both the Voile and Rottefella TRP release plates. My last
pair came with a special, smaller shim to use when mounting to
The control that the SuperLoop
gives the tele skier has always been outstanding and this latest
incarnation is no exception. Rainey's plate is well designed
and holds the front of the boot very snug. Tour-ability is helped
by setting the cable a bit looser and, conversely, if you set
the cable tighter you will get more heel return (the tails of
your skis will stay up and not drop down so easily) which helps
when executing jump turns on the steeps. The adjustable cable
guides give the user a chance to set the flex point for their
individual needs, indeed the guides can even be set up asymmetrically
to help with toe pinch problems. Some people find that this toe
pinch is helped by moving the big toe side cable guide forward
a notch, since that part of the foot is longer. The compression
springs in the front throw can also be changed, stiffer or softer.
These adjustments allow skiers to find the right setup for their
needs. Speaking of adjustments, the "one size fits all"
cable and the easy re-sizing is really nice to have. These days
of fat, short skis find us swapping skis with family and friends,
I would have never thought of using my wife's short skis (or
my son's) but now the spread between the lengths we are all skiing
is smaller and we often use each other's skis. Quick and easy
cable adjustment is a fine, fine thing.
The five screw design, using
the special Torx head screws supplied, is very strong. While
I have heard of them coming off, I have never had this happen
on a single one of the dozens of these bindings I have installed.
I believe that if you follow the directions we have put up on
this website, including the use of epoxy (oh no, here come the
letters again), you will probably not have this problem either,
but ever bigger and stiffer boots are likely to continue to challenge
both binding mounts and the retention plates built into the skis.
This is an excellent skiing
binding, and with a little practice it is fairly easy to get
into. As mentioned, control is excellent and the overall "feel"
of the binding is very good. When installed all the way back,
the cable pivot points are far back on the boot making it easier
to get more of the ball of the foot onto the rear ski. This is
especially noticeable with stiff and/or new plastic boots.
Reports of SuperLoop plate
breakage have finally stopped. Rainey claims (as our experience
and the word on the street confirms), that there have been no
reports of cable breakage in years.
Russell Rainey has continually
made changes to improve the SuperLoop. He has tweaked, redesigned
and improved every part of it and this year will be the first
season that will see no changes in the design at all. Obviously
he has not been afraid to make changes in the past, so the fact
that there will be none this year says a lot about how the Superloop
Rottefella Hot Chili
Weight: 1 lb. 12 oz. Type:
Rear heel latch cable
This binding was available last year as a
Rottefella or with the Black Diamond name on it. It will not
be in BD's line this year though it will still be available as
a Rottefella binding.
The Chili used to remind me of a bit beefier
version of the Riva II and it suffered from the same problem
as that venerable binding: it was easy to come out of unexpectedly.
That problem has been taken care of by the addition of a toe
bar across the front which helps keep the boot securely in the
plate. This is a well designed binding plate with high sidewalls
and a secure fit. Rottefella refers to this binding plate as
an asymmetrical design. Although all bindings are essentially
asymmetrical, having a right and left, the Chili's are "bent"
up a bit on the inside part of the plate under the boot which
is said to help increase edge control.
The best thing about the Chili's, from my
point of view, is the easy in and out of this design. It really
is easy, you just slide your boot up into the plate and reach
down and flip the heel lever up into place with a reassuring
"snap". Problem areas have been the unexpected release
mentioned above, reports of cable breakage and the fact that,
like all aluminum plates, fatigue cracks can cause plate/sidewall
The Chili's come in two sizes, the larger
size fits sizes 8 to 13 1/2 and the smaller size fits boots in
the 3 1/2 to 9 range. Although not as handy as the 'Loops for
swapping skis among different size tele skiers, this range will
work for most of us. The cable is easy to adjust. I have heard
reports of this adjustment slipping so it is best to make sure
you have the lock nut set down tight. Also, it is possible to
set the cables too tight and over-stretch them in a fall. Set
the tension to a point where the heel lever snaps with a solid
"thunk" and the springs just begin to open up. It has
been said that you should be able to slip a credit card between
the spring coils when the cable is on the boot and the lever
is up, this may be a bit too tight. If it is hard to get into
the binding and work the lever the cable is definitely too tight.
With the cables set tight the Chili's have
quite a bit of heel return, not as much as the SuperLoop but
more than the Riva II.
A riser plate is also available for this binding,
I believe it the same as the Riva lift kit, 13 mm's under the
binding and 16 mm's under the heel. Heel lifters for uphill climbing
are an available option.
The Hot Chili bindings ski well and have a
good "feel" to them. They have also stood up to our
own Big Tim's skiing style and he has been known to break a lot
of gear so that says something as to their durability.
Voile CRB 3-Pin Cable
Weight: 2lb. 14 oz. w/straps
3 lb. 4 oz. w/brake
Type: Releasable side throw
cable w/3-pin plate
This is a hybrid binding combining the traditional
3-pin plate with a removable side-throw cable. The idea being
that if you break a cable or latch you still have the 3-pin to
get you home. With the CRB, the binding plate is the release
plate too, you save a few ounces compared to using the Voile
release plate kit with another binding such as the SuperLoop.
The CRB comes equipped with either a safety strap or for a little
more money a ski brake.
Cables come in three sizes and many tele skiers
have enjoyed the fact that you can remove the cable from this
binding for the climb up or for touring, thus freeing the heel
to the extent that a 3-pin does for good tour-ability. This can
be a good thing if you are using lightweight skis and trying
to get some kick and glide. It is not as much of a factor when
climbing for turns using today's heavier fat skis and mondo boots
where we use more of a shuffle technique to avoid lifting the
skis off the snow to save energy.
All of the Voile cable bindings have a substatial
amount of heel return and this one is no exception, at least
with the cable on that is.
All of this redundancy and releasability does
come at a price: the CRB 3-pin cable with brake weighs in at
just 10 ounces less than the Skyhoy with it's step in feature!
We hear a lot about the Skyhoy being too heavy for backcountry
use yet this Voile binding is sold on the premise that it's redundancy
is ideal for BC use. A lighter weight alternative for those seeking
release is the Voile "Classic" (there is that word
again) cable binding (no pins) designed for the CRB that weighs
in at just 2 lb. 8 0z. This Classic setup is not recommended
for heavy or aggressive skiers though. That has got to be seen
as a "red flag". Also available from Voile is the 3-pin
Cable without the release feature, it is said to weigh just 1
lb. 10 oz.
Getting into the CRB 3-pin requires one to
negotiate the 3-pin bail as well as the cable side- throw. Some
tele skiers have complained that the release plate is hard to
get back onto the ski after a release and I will never forget
the day we were at Mammoth a few years ago. It had snowed 2 feet
the night before. The top had been closed all morning for avalanche
control work (the BC was out of the question) and then was suddenly
thrown open and the mad dash to get the goods was on. We got
a gondola ride to the top and ripped the fresh down to chair
23 but before we got there one of my ski partners took a beater
and his Voile plate released. As he struggled to get it put back
together, the rest of us tried to wait but with the chair loading
and the pow getting torn up as we stood there... well, we caught
up with him later on the deck at lunch. He reports to me that
he now has the system down and it is not so hard to get the plate
back in but I hear on the Telemark Talk Forum that others have
trouble with this so it is something to be aware of.
Still, this binding has some very unique features
and release is considered vital by many telemark skiers. The
CRB 3-pin Cable has had lots of fans over the years and is a
tried and true design. The only failures I have heard about are
stories of people popping the 3-pin bail and not often. Oh, and
just a couple of weeks ago I did see a plate that had cracked
on both sides in the front where the binding curves in toward
the part that sits against barrel.
Many competitors in free skiing events and
other tele-ers that like to jump a lot find that the 3-pin cable
binding (w/out the release plate) will keep them locked in when
landing hard while other bindings may tend to prerelease, ruining
an otherwise recoverable landing.
This Voile binding does offer good control
and between the pins and the cable the boot is held securely.
If the combination of features here appeal to you can use this
binding with confidence.
Overall this is a good binding at a great
Voile Classic Cable
Weight: 1 lb. 12 oz Type: Side throw cable
This is a lightweight binding that offers
easy in and out and a simple, reliable side-throw. It skis OK
and tours well. Retailing for about $65 it is also a good value.
The reliability of the Classic appears to be good, there is not
a lot to go wrong. We have not heard much about failures with
this binding but that may be because aggressive skiers are using
other setups. It does have a nasty habit of releasing unexpectedly
if not cranked hard.
Weight: ? Type: Step-in tele
This binding is being made by a couple of
guys in northern Norway and to me represents some more of the
"thinking outside of the box" that will have to take
place for tele bindings to move forward.
An early production model had major durability
problems and the designers have gone back to the drawing board,
coming up with a new design they feel will be much stronger.
Ronny Dahl and Terje N. Larsen, number 1 and 2 in the Norwegian
Telemark Extreme championship comp are sponsored by Linken and
have served as the testers of this new design.
Linken sent me an AVI movie of the step in
feature. It shows the boot clicking in and being captured in
the heel groove rather then the top of the heel like an alpine
binding. The heel lock down appears to be spring loaded and travels
on the plate, moving back as the boot drops in then forward as
it snugs up against the heel.
More information on the new design (pictured
above) will be coming to the Linken
website in the next few weeks. Currently they have drawings
up of the old design on their site.
The guys behind the Linken binding are aiming
for an October introduction of this non-releasable, step-in binding.
If you have stuck with me this far you deserve
a medal! The length of this "Binding Roundup" make
it more of a reference work than an article. Since I don't have
medals to hand out I will give you, instead, a hot tip: the anti-ice
tape sold by Voile really works, in the words of Big Tim: "best
six bucks I ever spent", if it will help with that annoying
under-foot snow build-up them it is truly worth every cent and
I have tried to present a comprehensive report
that will not only help guide tele skiers in their binding selection
but identify and define problem areas as well. I encourage you
to check out the "BINDINGS!!!"
thread in our own Telemark
Talk Forum archive, where readers posted their experiences
with the bindings currently available. It is a tremendous resource
and any binding manufacturer who has not checked it out certainly
should. Thanks to all of you who have shared your thoughts there,
you have done a good thing.
For what it's worth (and I think it is worth
a lot) I received fast replies several times to questions directed
to Black Diamond. My questions were answered cheerfully and within
ONE HOUR by Jeff Maudlin of BD. Voile always answered me the
same day and Russell Rainey actually wrote ME and volunteered
to answer any questions I might have when he found out I was
working on this article (he regularly checks out the site and
Forum as many of you know). Thanks to Oliver Steffen at G3 for
getting back to me with info on the Targa. Also, thanks to John
Lee, Dana Dorsett, John Wade, Tim Connolly and Jon Myklebust
for reviewing the text and helping with the editing.
So there you have it, a lot of good tele bindings
are available these days and keep in mind that all of them have
had problems from time to time, what counts is how the customer
is treated and how the company addresses the problems, whether
it be in design or workmanship. Also, I have to tell you, I have
seen tele'ers ripping in all kinds of bindings from ancient 3-pins
and Black Diamond's old "Classic Cable" to the latest
Skyhoy. Technique is of overwhelming importance but a good binding,
modern boots and great skis can help the rest of us mere mortals
Shop our affiliates! Check out the latest Gear Deals here..
Or use the drop down menu above to