With on-snow testing
beginning some 17 months ago on advanced prototypes, we came
to know the Prophet very well
Garmont Prophet NTN
testing Prophet prototypes, Breckenridge, CO, April, 2008. Ph:
October, 2009-- As the first full-feature telemark boot
and binding system in the sport's 150-plus year history, the
potential promise of the NTN-- Nothing less than to take freeheel
into the modern era of skiing-- has not been lost on three of
the four boot makers. Enter Garmont, with a well thought-out,
powerful, and what would seem to be a perfectly timed entry into
the NTN boot arena. The Prophet is going to put a lot of smiles
on the faces of NTN skiers this season.
An Early Sneak Peek
In mid-April 2008 I traveled to
Breckenridge, Colorado, home of author and former PSIA Telemark
Demo Team member, Paul Parker, Garmont's veteran ski boot product
developer. Paul had phoned to say he had a pair of advanced prototype
NTN boots that he thought I could squeeze my foot into. If interested,
I could try them.
Are you kidding? How soon could
I get there?
The 07/08 season saw NTN debut publicly,
and it had not gone well. There had been problems with, well,
with the boots. And Garmont's toe - in - the- NTN - water, especially
at that dark time, seemed to represent the possibility of better
days ahead for the beleaguered new system, especially given Parker's
long experience with NTN, working closely with the Norwegians
in various ways from the beginning, more than a decade ago.
I could not have asked for better
testing conditions than the two days I spent skiing Parker's
multi-colored (rough in a few places but obviously well-along)
prototype boots of what would eventually become known as the
Prophet. We had boiler plate the first day, served with generous
helpings of frozen chicken heads, along with ruts a la mode.
It was a lot of work to get an edge in. Day two was like a miracle.
We woke up to 24 to 30 inches of prime Breckenridge powder under
a bluebird sky. Far more than was forecast, yes, I tell you,
it was like a miracle. I've
spent a lot of time in Colorado through the years, but never
really got it, never got exactly what it is the place is supposed
to be so famous for... that champaign powder thing. This day
I got it. Long runs down to that platter, farming turns in light
and fresh, sparkle-ey like diamonds April love. Oh boy. Sorry,
back to the review.
Anyway, it was a great opportunity
to feel what was going on with the boots. Familiar skis (I brought
my own) and bindings helped isolate the boots as well. The prototypes
skied great. Bellows flex being a critical element in boots made
for NTN, I was pleased to see that the Prophet's bellows made
it easy to hit the binding's sweet spot, where that feeling of
a stable and powerful platform, driven by the ball of the foot,
kicks in nicely. These boots worked with the binding,
making for an easy skiing combo that took full advantage of the
system's new-paradigm level of power and control.
As others have noted, including
Parker, one looks at the mountain differently on NTN, and we'd
been having a lot of fun on the NTN for quite a while at that
point. I felt bad the rocky start had meant that too many others
were not having fun, so I went home relieved to know that Garmont
and Parker appeared to be on track to produce a solid, high performance
boot, optimized just right for NTN. The prototypes I skied were
close to dead on ready to go, now the question for the 08/09
season would be, will Garmont's test run production boots capture
similar magic? In late December I would find out.
The Curtain Comes Up: Prophet
The boots I received just before
last Christmas were bright red, although when photographed they
appear more orange. Like the prototypes, they had three buckles.
The way the front of the boot is configured and the overlap designed,
a fourth buckle would likely just get in the way, but make no
mistake, these are big, stiff, four buckle-class boots in every
As with Garmont's higher-end ski
boots generally, the buckles are easy to use and adjust, even
with gloves on. And they are strong. I spent a lot of time buckling
and unbuckling those red Prophets last year without a complaint
or even a single struggle. Nice.
The Prophets are constructed using
three different injections and densities of Pebax, each represented
by a different color in the final product. As can be seen at
right, the bellows is well protected from sharp ski edges by
stiffer plastic, contributing to the boots impressive durability,
more on that later.
The shell has a lot of little contours
and shapes, giving the Prophets more of a performance alpine
boot-like feel, and this sensation is only heightened by the
absence of a duckbill.
An attached spoiler on the cuff
gives the Prophet a shell height a little taller than that of
a TX-Pro, a little shorter than the EVO.
Skiing Garmont's Prophet NTN
On snow the Prophets delivered,
and right out out of the box, this is important for any new system
and yet it has been a problem area for NTN thus far. These Prophets
have a smooth and user friendly bellows flex that brings out
the best in the new system. Finally, the heel is truly free again,
and it is the forefoot that is now the focus of retention. The
Prophet's flex takes full advantage of this paradigm shift, using
NTN's unique strengths to harness unheard of new levels of big
boot power and stability, while recapturing some of what has
been lost along the way in the plastic tele boot revolution,
that being the easy and precise control boots with a softer flexing
bellows have long been known for having.
find they don't have to sit
so hard on their back foot and can achieve a more balanced stance,
for others it might be something else. There is a feeling of
breaking new ground here, that's for sure. And yet, like the
sport itself, what's new is actually old again, a truly free
heel, and the freedom to ski however you feel like skiing. The
essence of telemark.
It's like bringing a gun and
a knife to the fight.
That being said, to me the Prophet's
flex during transitions is a tad more "off/on" than
other NTN boots. If you like to linger in transition and don't
ski very aggressively, you might want a boot that pushes back
a little more. This prophet likes to rock, and they respond well
to being driven hard.
The Prophets are also playful. You
can have fun experimenting with the way you ski tele, and without
the rig encouraging one way to ski or the other. Some may
Durability was excellent. I had
other boots to test as well last year, so the Prophets were not
the only boots I skied, not by a long shot, but I still managed
to get a respectable number of days on them, around 65, including
a few climbs and rock scrambles. While photographing this test
pair for review, I noticed how relatively unscathed they look.
The replaceable bellows guard is small but accurately placed,
and the minor nicks around the front portion of the dark gray
bellows guard show that it also did its job well. Interestingly,
there are only a few nicks, barely scratches even, around the
thin red middle bellows guard of either boot. This bellows
seems well protected.
Our test pair has an indentation
molded into the toe box at the welt, apparently this is to accommodate
the binding, as I believe it was something Rottefella asked be
included. In any case, the toe box area, like the rest of the
boot, came through its first season looking good and ready for
more, to an extent beyond expectations.
The Prophet sports a robust ski/hike mechanism, giving the cuff
a maximum 25 deg. forward lean when locked. Right: A look at the
Prophet's overlap shell and the liner's tongue. Bottom left: The
replaceable "second heel," the anchor point for the
NTN binding, is still in good shape.
As I shot the accompanying pictures
and began to write these words this morning it was 15 degrees
F with a couple inches of fresh snow coating the back deck. I
slept (sort of) with the light on so I could watch the flurries,
swirling in the wind, from bed as they came down overnight. Winter
is more than in the air and the focus is on stuff that matters.
Who am I going to ski with? Where will we spend our time? How's
it Donna be? What's the latest with the gear? Should I stay with
what I've got or move on? If so, which way should I go?
In a Battle
of the Titans that, even without a proprietary binding of
their own, has increasingly become Black Diamond versus Everybody
Else, the new Garmont Prophet NTN is more than a shot across
the bow, it's a direct hit.
With all that is at stake, many
will be watching, and a lot is riding on the success or failure
of this boot. As such, Garmont needed a solid home run with it's
first foray into NTN, and a home run is exactly what the legendary
Paul Parker has delivered with the Prophet NTN, though, pardon
the screwed up metaphor, whether or not it clears the bases will
remain to be seen.