The world of telemark skiing is one unfazed by the trends of the retail marketplace and the greater realm of skiing—crusty backcountry curmudgeons will continue to delightedly drop knees on three-pins and leathers until the end of snow. But still, a small cadre of diehard gear-heads and free-heel aficionados have been working the past few years to push the boundaries of the sport.
Living On The Edge
NTN bindings have been around for more years than many folks think, but they started out clunky and lacked the progressive and smooth flex that draws many skiers to the knee dropping life. Luckily, garage-minded tinkerers and inventive creators started to innovate upon this new technology—and the increasing supply of tech-style toe pieces—to develop a new breed of light, powerful, and enjoyable tele bindings.
These bleeding-edge ideas have given birth to what is becoming a new era within the industry: Meidjo bindings from the M equipment, OMG’s Tele Tech System, Moonlight’s Pure Tele, and finally, the Lynx from 22 Designs have all come on the scene to vie for tech toe tele binding supremacy.
The Lynx First Impressions
To be honest, my first day out on the Lynx wasn’t the greatest. They were a pair of the first production run sent out to our local rep, and they had an issue where the springs bound up under the flex plate that has since been resolved. Sitting in the snow for 20 minutes fiddling with the bindings put a sour taste in my mouth out of the gate, but once I was able to fix the issue, the following run was one of the finest of my life.
A smooth, progressive flex paired with the lateral stiffness of a tech-style toe made driving even my relatively stiff, extra-fat (124mm waist) powder skis a breeze. Binding freedom inserts allowed me the pleasure of swapping them over to my narrower (87mm waist) lightweight touring skis, which is where the Lynx really came to shine for me: It’s as light and fast as any alpine touring setup I’ve ever used, making long skin tracks seem short and repetitive kick-turns up steep faces easier. They solidified their touring prowess during a local beer-league skimo race, where they even outpaced several of our lycra clad brethren on full race setups.
As with any tech-style toe piece, there aren’t really any questions of efficiency or ease of use when touring. The integrated toe stop is intuitive and the pins snap into place with a resounding assurance. Putting the binding into walk mode can be done with a simple light step on the second heel attachment. Double heel risers on an updated Hammer Heel design allow for less fatigue on longer tours, and still offer the simple confidence of an integrated spring-loaded riser. The transition of the second heel attachment is one of the simplest and fastest I’ve ever used (second only to a low-tech skimo racing binding, and only by milliseconds), enabled by a flick with the hand when bending down to put your boots into walk mode. The audible snap when you step down into ski mode instantly feels secure and provides quick engagement.
Compared to the Meidjo, the Lynx, while not quite as light (they weigh 2 lb 3 oz vs. the Meidjo’s 1 lb 13 oz), offer a much simpler user interface as well as being a much more…durable product. Icing on the Lynx has not yet been a problem, even when post-holing through knee deep powder for multiple laps—a problem far too common with the Meidjo. Feel is almost identical, with the Meidjo offering a slightly larger range of activity when swapping springs and adjustment settings. Another point towards the Lynx’s user-friendliness is its mounting pattern; compared to the Meidjo’s 13 holes, 22 Designs designed the Lynx to use their tried and true 6 hole pattern, meaning anyone currently running one of their bindings could easily make the switch without putting more holes in their skis.
Next to its more front-side oriented cousin, the Outlaw X, the Lynx really only stands out differently by its tech-toe and the lighter, easier touring that entails. This becomes noticeable with the brass bushings the Outlaw uses for its tour mode, which with extensive use, develop noticeable play even when in ski mode. Ski ability and feel are pretty closely matched, given all the variable settings and springs.
Free Heel Flexin’
This is probably one of the biggest concerns folks have when asking about NTN setups in general, and tech-toe style bindings in particular. While sharing origins with their 75mm brethren, NTN style bindings definitely take a bit of a transition as far as balance point and overall skiing stance are concerned. The balance point moves rearward slightly; going from just in front of the big toe, to just behind the last knuckle or directly under the ball of the foot. This in turn, translates to a much more upright stance for the same power transfer, and therefore less energy required to turn bigger and stiffer skis and more control at higher speeds.
Having skied uncountable days on the Outlaw X, TTS Teletech, and Meidjo, the realm of NTN bindings has crept closer and closer to finding the nirvana between the liberating feel of leathers and the power of plastic boots with the Lynx. Flex and feel of the Lynx is the smoothest of any NTN style binding so far, offering the tried and true slic pin adjustments from 22 Designs, as well as an additional spring spacer for those folks who are used to skiing a stiffy spring or more active binding.
Feel in the lowest activity setting was a bit soft for my style of skiing, but would be great for mellower meadow-skipping and those folks who want the lateral stiffness, but want most of the power coming from their legs and boot bellows. The middle position seems to be the sweet spot so far (without the spring spacers) allowing for quick and easy turn transitions and still allowing powerful carves and control in variable conditions. The third and stiffest setting is closest to an Outlaw and stiffy spring combo, great for front side skiing on stiffer skis and harder snow.
The Lynx is another great step toward what I firmly believe will be a second great revival of the telemark movement (which is only being slowed by the lack of lightweight, high range of motion boots). The Lynx provides a simplified, powerful, light, and enjoyable binding; evening the playing field against the overwhelming number of alpine touring options, which has been consuming so many telemark skiers of late.
Will they make you a better telemark skier? No. Will they convert your friends to smelly tele skiers? Probably not.
What they will do is allow you to leave your AT skiing friends behind in the skin track while still giving you the freedom to feel the nirvana of freeing your mind and heel on the way back down through that powdery paradise.