NTN Good to the
A Four-Season Run-Down
- Jan. 2008 to May 2011
By Bob Mazarei
A curious Sheathbill
checks out the first NTN's,
and the first pair of Movement
Skis in Antarctica.--ph. Bob Mazarei
Just the Facts
Here are some impressions after
four seasons on the NTN new telemark norm system. I'll start
with the numbers first:
All of the days skied were on one
of five different models of Scarpa
TX Production (stiff) 7% of test days
All of the days skied utilized one of three different versions
of the Rottefella
The total number of ski days on the NTN: 431 spread over four
Scarpa TX-Pro (softer) 32%
Scarpa TX-Comp (stiffer) 26%
Scarpa TX-Comp Proto (stiffest) 31%
Scarpa TX-Comp Production w/Walk-Mode - (dialed back slightly)
Thirty-three of those days were
on a pair of race-stock 217cm Rossignol Power Pulsion DH boards,
a half-dozen days on a pair of 208cm, early 80's Spalding Squadra
Corse Sideral 450, several-dozen days on a pair of 179cm Palmer
P-01's (tip rocker), and the rest on various Movement
Ski models, i.e. modern freeride skis.
on the 217cm DH boards. Skiing NTN on these boards was a worthy
way to test the system.--ph. Mark Shapiro
The NTN works
so well you don't even have to think about it. --ph. Mark Shapiro
All of the skis were professionally
mounted and set up at Mountain
Air and No.1 Sports
(never mounted bindings in my life).
Binding springs: I don't know, I've
used whatever came with the bindings. I've never paid any attention
to it. Fact is, I've adjusted the springs only once early that
first season, tightening them by a few spins when we filmed "Size Matters."
One adjustment in 431 daysso again, as far as springs are
concerned, I don't know and don't care because the NTN has always
worked perfectly for me after shop set-up. And I won't dick with
anything if it is working fine.
The 208cm Spalding
Squadra Corse Sideral 450.--ph. Mazarei
The majority of skiing was done
in the Swiss Alps, in every condition imaginable, followed by
Mammoth, the French Alps, Austria, Chile, Argentina, Antarctica,
and Morocco. Ski-touring and ski-mountaineering figure prominently
within these days.
As you can guess, I think the NTN
system is, as Scottyrottan would say, "the dog's bollocks."
I knew I would never go back after I completed my first run on
them four-seasons ago. One run, and done.
Im six-foot tall (182cms)
and about 170lbs (77kg).
on a crowded day.--ph. Mark Shapiro
I've had a few experiences where
heavy, soft snow built up, then was compressed to ice under the
boot. It's happened about a dozen times just skiing normally.
Skiing backwards really loads snow under the boot. I've read
of ways NTN users are combating this underboot snow-packing.
These ideas look good, and more importantly, simple. I'm a bit
lazy, but I promise to get on it soon.
After a stint of 30 days ski-touring
on the trot a couple of springs ago, I had one of the NTN's get
stuck open on me. I eventually got it locked down. It was late
spring and there was a lot of grit in the snow at lower elevations.
The grit worked into the binding causing the problem. I solved
it by a rinse, then using what I had on hand, i.e. bike chain
indication is that I still love to ski on most anything, from
skating gear to heavy metal." Paul
Parker. --ph. Mark Shapiro
A Rottefella designed ski-crampon
system would be a nice addition. I've never actually used ski-crampons
before but AT friends tell me they work great, so I'd like to
give it a go. I've always, in the past, just switched over to
boot crampons when things got too firm. I have a pair of semi-rigid
Grivel 2F cramp-o-matic's that fit my Scarpa NTN's perfectly
allowing me to climb up anything I'd be willing to ski down.
Some years back I skied on Rottefella's
riser that allowed a true free-pivot with the R8. So, I know
how it feels. The NTN's free-pivot range is a bit more limited,
but in the end, it doesn't make that much difference to me. I'm
of the mind that a lot of telemarkers tend to overthink these
things. The NTN is awesome in its current "Freeride"
form, and the coming "Freedom" NTN binding will reportedly
shed weight and add significant free-pivot range.
Thats it as far as NTN binding
issues have gone thus far with me.
What it comes down to is this: NTN
just...works. I'm in, then voilà, I don't have to think
about it anymore. Telemark beauty in one package.
I haven't broken many bindings in
a quarter-century of telemark by the way; can count them on one
hand: the side of a Riva once, the top bar of a G3 once, and
three instances of Riva cable breakages. Never pulled a binding.
This with an average of 150 days a season for the last 20 seasons
here in Verbier.
(Breaking bindings. If you are regularly
breaking any of today's tele bindings, it is because
you are flailing, getting way too low on stiff springs, or both.
That whole "I rip" thing doesn't fly if binding
parts are littering the snow. It's one thing to blow a binding
- or ski - by big jump hard landings or in a torquing yardsale;
another altogether if you are regularly busting bindings "ripping."
The original concept behind what
and Crispi were
trying to accomplish was to use the NTN with a "stiffer
overall boot but with a soft bellows."
It's all blended anyway.--ph. Mark Shapiro
I like the idea of "stiff boot
with soft bellows." But in the end, I prefer the stiffest
boot of the five Scarpa models I've skied on.
The TX production model: I loved this boot from the get-go. The
power of this boot combined with the NTN blew me away from the
second turn. This combo is what did it for me from the start.
Many skiers apparently had problems with the bellows flex. I
wasn't one of them. Still love the boot. We filmed "Size Matters"
with the TX Production. All my days on this boot were with the
217cm DH boards.
Here we have the smooth, softer-flexing Scarpa. I loved this
boot as well. I have many days on these, and have had no cracks
or other problems. I believe Scarpa has taken care of all skiers
who have experienced problems. This is a great boot but personally,
I've come to prefer the drive of a stiffer bellows flex.
I've toured in these boots. I can't tell too much difference
between having the walk-mode compared to the non-walk mode TX-Comp
while skinning with the NTN in free-pivot. Not much difference
as far as I can tell. There is a difference, however,
when regular hiking. It is a bit Frankenstein-like unless the
top two buckles get loosened completely. Skiing-wise, the power
of the bellows, as well as the smoothness of the flex, made this
my no.1 boot. The bellows did get incrementally softer as the
days went on.
easier it is to be critical than to be correct." Benjamin
Disraeli. --ph. Mark Shapiro
out of Movement Skis, some
of the finest, most durable skis made. Nanni Tua owns, when it
comes to ski manufacturing.--ph. Mark Shapiro
TX-Comp Proto: Stiffer still? Some of us were wondering.
So we put it to Scarpa. I like this boot even better. I've skied
a full 30% of my NTN days with this boot. Excellent stiff flex,
smooth, powerful. The boot is holding its stiffness through the
days better than the TX-Comp. These are the boots I took to S.
America, Antarctica, and Morocco, so yes; I have toured in them,
no problems. I do believe a walk-mode should be added to make
hiking easier. I do not believe Scarpa will go any stiffer then
this (but we'll see).
TX-Comp Production w/Walk-Mode: Well, Scarpa did it. The flex is close
to the same as the proto, but with a burly, sweet walk mode.
Thank you Scarpa. Unbelievable boot.
The really good thing is that NTN
skiers can already choose from many makes and models of NTN boots
with different flexes, so you can get what is best for your
style and skiing.
People with Problems, aka
NTN may not be for everyone. As
Mitch has said on the Telemark Talk Forum, if you ski in
a spread-out, knee-to-ski style and use stiff springs,
have fun, but NTN may not be for you.
Skiing low is not hard. It's just hard on your
body, inefficient, (try knee-to-ski on a couple of big Euro descents
and you'll quickly learn about burn) and hard on your equipment
if you use stiff springs. But, most of all, friends do not let
friends ski low because
One of the most
stylish skiers ever. Brit Don Carslaw, Feb. 1987, Tignes, France.--ph.
Levi's and leather.
Merrell XCD's. Spring 1987, Verbier, Switzerland.--ph. Mazarei
Mammy! Al "shredder"
Skiing low is freaking ugly. Style, at least to
me, is one of the most important things about telemark. The mammy,
unicycle-without-a-seat pose should be tele-banned. Very few
low-riding knee-to-ski telemarkers look good. I'm not talking
telemarking in bumps or in steeper terrain, because even mid
to high-stance telemarkers sometimes momentarily get low in these
situations. I'm talking about skiers who like to be low all the
time. If you have to wear kneepads, you ski too damn low. Again,
a few make it look decentmost look like Al Jolson. Which
on Swallow TR/Alpine's. Spring 1987, Verbier, Switzerland.--ph.
There is a right way, and a wrong way to tele.
"That's what I love about tele, everyone has their own style
is no right and wrong!" Whatever. Look around you. Some
rip, some don't. Take a lesson or get Paul Parker's book Free-Heel
Skiing. Study it like your style depends on it. That, and
ski. Bring Paul's book with you to the hill. On the lift. Read
and visualize. Then ski some more. You can usually tell the skiers
who are doing it right. Rock the tele but also
rocking his Kazama's. Mt. Baden-Powell, San Gabriels, Southern
California, 1989. Hey Scott, you're cheating! Uh, was ist talking
about?? --ph. Mazarei
da f#%ka is a Chinese downhill?"
next to ancient Limber Pine. Mt. Baden-Powell. Spring 1990. Snowboarding
rules. --ph. Joe McBride
Parallel like Kendo in 'Hot Dog' the Movie. Don't
be like the tele Swiss-Germans who spout crap like, "was
ist das? Parallel is cheating!" People who scoff at free-heel
parallel turns (and snowboarding, and alpine skiing, and sub-90mm
waist skis, and traditional camber) usually have 4-dollar haircuts
(a dollar, a side). Unabashedly ski parallel; and work
on the technique when it is least appropriate. I used to parallel
on Swallow TR/Alpines, through horrendous breakable crust, with
apple-kicker leathers, just for the challenge. Paul
Parker said it best: "Parallel turns work. They are
stable and efficient. They are remarkable on the steeps. Learn
them to be an all-around skier."
Speaking of 4-dollar haircuts
descent, Bec des Rosses, Verbier. Mar. 1995. Mazarei & Bernthal.--ph.
5.) If you need a helmet,
you need a helmet. But
don't go on the interweb and proclaim skiers who don't wear them
as thick. You are essentially calling thousands upon thousands
of ripping, stylish skiers, as well as 95% of UAIGM skiing mountain
guides, most of the pro instructors, and most of the big-mountain
pro patrollers (at least in Europe) ignorant and stupid. Now
that is just dumb, isn't it? If you need a helmet,
you need a helmet. Doesn't mean the guy next to
you does. The Bec des Rosses awaits you. To reiterate
stylin' Kazama Outback's. Baden-Powell, 1990. Perfect form.--ph.
I am Caine
it's a myth that the low style is old and the taller style is
new." Cesare. Exactly. Mazarei, 1988.--ph.
6.) Be stylish or don't. Going low is good is for proposing to your
woman, or begging, not for style credits or logging thousands
of vertical feet. Be like Kwai Chang Caine and
advises skinny skis.--ph. Mazarei
English style-master Don Carslaw,
Val d'Isère, Feb. '87--ph. Mazarei
7.) Get on tiny XCD, old tele
skis at least 10% of the time.
Have a laugh and learn about movement. Learn the history. Be
the Miki Dora of telemark. Think of Dickie
and Bard. Steve
Barnett. Think of Borkovic and Ned Gillette. Jan Reynolds
and Rick Wyatt. Embrace the old as well as the new. Practice
and love telemark for the movement, not the equipment. This will
lead you to an enlightened state of style. Traveling also opens
things up so
Surf and Turf,
1989. Mazarei skiing off 10,068ft (3069m) Mt. San Antonio aka
Old Baldy, the highest point of the SoCal's San Gabriel Mts. After
cracking beers, BT and I enjoyed the view of most of LA, the thin
strip of beach, the Pacific, and Catalina Island 16mi (26km) beyond,
before dropping in.--ph. Tim Connolly
That's it. No Discussion.
8.) Skiers in Colorado, Whistler,
and especially Utah.
Get over yourselves already, please. Take off your helmets (or
don't) and go spend a couple of seasons in St Anton, Chamonix,
or Southern California (surf and turf). New Zealand, Alaska,
or interior Canada. 'Rado-tah is not the center
of the ski Universe. Sure the skiing is great, but there is oh
so much more out there, much, much more. Don't be sucked into
the vortex of your own hype, 'cause that superior air you are
exuding is just not happening. Which reminds me
Be here now.
Big Tim Connolly
high and tight on his Tua Espresso's, 1990. Baden-Powell.--ph.
9.) Helicopter skiing is not
evil. You can ride a
helicopter. It's ok. It doesn't automatically make you a dick.
There are plenty of people who only skin named Rick
Cranium. Some ride heli's as well, so it's all good. Just
don't use that knee-to-the-ice Curling-style. Oh, by the way,
the whole helicopter skiing thing reminds me that
Nov. 2009.--ph. Mazarei
10.) Just because you mostly
backcountry ski does not put you on a higher plane. Elitists need to turn around and skin right
back into "their playground" (I pay taxes too,
mofo's! Actually I don't, but you get the gist). Backcountry
skiers are not any cooler than skiers who ride lifts all the
time. Spend some time skiing Europe and you'll see it is all
blended anyway. These definitions are blurred so no one turns
into an I'm-so-cool skin-gnome. Again, please get over
11.) Embrace mogul skiing.
Skiing and getting proficient
in bumps is probably the single best thing you can do to help
your skiing. Any kind of skiing. I love the bumps, but powder
is sweet too, as long as you remember to
Swallow TR/Alpine's, Merrell XCD's. What a combo. Mid-high and
tight. Mammoth Mt,
California, 1989.--ph. Tim Connolly
big mountain, little skier. Bob Mazarei on Kazama Outback's in
the Swiss Alps, spring 1993.--ph. Pat
12.) Use releasable telemark
bindings in avalanche terrain.
When I got flushed in my big avalanche incident, going under
into blackness twice, pummeled in the process, it was all I could
do to try and keep my skis pointed straight down the hill. Because,
as it was happening, I knew if even one of my non-releasable
skis got turned sideways, I would stop upside-down, locked in
the cement-like snow, with a horrendous spiral fracture and my
foot facing backwards. I got away with it that time. Speaking
of attaching skis
skiing. Heading down in the San Gabriel's, ready for a glass-off
surf at County Line in a few hours. 1989.--ph. Scott Klaus
3-pins, t-shirt, and Levi's. Mazarei drops in the Swiss Alps,
spring 1987.--ph. Martin Carver
13.) In the end, bindings
are just bindings. Sure
you want releasables in avy terrain. The NTN is the mutt's nuts,
fits the features bill in spades, and skis incredibly well. But
remember, bindings should mean nothing in the larger scale of
actually skiing. Skiers were, and are, ripping hard on the simplest
bindings. You want bindings to hold you in (and release in an
avy) and nothing more, all the rest is personal feel. If something
breaks repeatedlyand I'm thinking specifically of the TelemarkTalk
Ben Story" hereyou gotta ask yourself
The Talk Forum
So here we are four seasons down
the line in the production history of the NTN system. Four-plus
seasons of Internet sparring between friends and (a few absurdly
vocal) foes of the NTN system (a few agenda-boys as well).
I was reluctant to get into the
debate about NTN on the Talk
Forum because it just went round and round non-stop, a tornado
of tomfoolery with some guy calling himself "Nurse Ben"
reveling in its eye. It made my head spin whenever I'd read NB's,
as well as a few others, spiel. Then I'd get a headache. His
experience was not my experience.
That was part of the reason Guido Perrini,
and I made "Size
Matters." (The whole film, by the way, was filmed in
six runs over three days). After reading all the negativity,
wondering how NB and others could have such a vastly different
experience with the NTN than mine, we quickly filmed it. A picture
is worth a thousand words, and I figured, an actual NTN film
would be roughly worth at least 600 Nurse Ben NTN posts.
The video thing ironically, can
work the opposite way: I had, four seasons ago, the Scarpa Production
TX's sitting in my hallway for two full months. They sat there
unused because I saw a couple of videos some guy made. A ski
shop employee, he evidently wanted to show how NTN worked. Cool.
He started into his demo... then proceeded to ski like a hack
on some intermediate piste. It looked awful, but this guy went
ahead and posted the videos on the Talk Forum as an example of
NTN in action, badly.
I thought, oh man
the new system looks horrible! I ain't
wasting my time. I put off trying it for 60-something days...thanks
to this dude and the crappy skiing in his videos.
He made it look so bad that I didn't
want to waste precious ski days on a system that, I was made
to believe because of those clips, would suck.
Finally, after two months I thought
the hell with it, I gotta try it. So I mounted NTN's on the race-stock
Rossi Power Pulsion DH 217's and went out for a test. And everything
changed for me on the second turn. By the bottom of that first
run, I was like: Thanks a lot ski-shop video-boy, you didn't
do me any favors. The comfort, power and superior control of
the new system was immediately obvious. The rest is happy history.
Today, if I didn't dig NTN so much,
I would ski on something else, no hesitation, and yet...
Gasparini and I are planning our next tele
expedition to the Himalaya. I will be taking NTN's. After
close to 450 days on the system, I know the NTN
system will rule in this enviornment.
Skiing is way too precious a thing
to ski on gear that you are not 200% behind.
About the author:
No Nimby. Csimby.
Come ski in my back yard.--ph. Mark
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