Frequent storms were hitting the Wasatch since the start of February, and the Wailer 112RP proved to be a fantastic powder ski in 18-24 inch pow days in the Comma Chute, Westward Hoe, High Traverse, and the Supreme area’s Rock Garden. The 112RP floats effortlessly, though perhaps not as beautifully as the Black Diamond Megawatt when the snow got bottomless.
Telemark skiing is a sport that highlights individuality, simplicity, and grace. Most free-heelers pride themselves on the purity of their turns and the simplicity of their gear. This can make a skier accustomed to a spring and cable system that uses a thin piece of plastic to secure the heel a bit dubious of the NTN binding.
The Rottefella NTN offers no heel strap, and its cable/cartridge system is hidden under a large amount of plastic and metal. A very valid concern is that, if a part does break in the backcountry, you may need to have an extra third binding on hand because a “jury rig” probably isn’t as simple as with a standard 75mm three pin binding.
Having spent a good amount of time in the backcountry on the NTN, however, my confidence is growing in its reliability, and I can’t wait to take them on a hut trip. Furthermore, swapping out the binding is amazingly easy because the NTN is mounted with two screws on a plate. This provides many benefits, the greatest being that you can buy extra mounting plates for your other skis and only own one set of bindings.
The plate also offers different mount positions that you can adjust in a matter of seconds to find your personal sweet spot on the ski or to adapt to the current the snow conditions.
The NTN can also be set with more tension (depending on the cartridge) than the Hammerhead in the fifth hole slider position, but the placement of that tension is where the NTN is far superior.
As fellow telemarker and Blister Reviewer Kate Hourihan points out, the Hammerhead achieves resistance by tightening the cable and engaging the spring. Moving the sliders forward or backward underfoot not only dictates the range of motion, but also decreases or increases the tension of the cable. This gives the desired feel and power/control ratio. However, as it changes the range of motion, it also changes the pivot point where the cable bends under the foot (creating the free heel). This means that the more tension and control you want, the more you must keep the foot fixed on the binding.
Personally, I always wanted the TENSION created by the fifth position, but the PIVOT POINT of the fourth or third position was ideal. I have found that a combination of the slider position and the cable tension is the best way to achieve the desired resistance. This is a limitation in the powerful Hammerhead design, because the binding itself dictates where it is most comfortable instead of the skier deciding on the perfect amount of resistance/tension.
Neither the NTN, nor any other Rottafella, Black Diamond, or G3 binding for that matter, change the pivot point with tension adjustments because cartridges are used to shorten or lengthen the cable. The NTN still has a cable, but it doesn’t run around the heel. Instead, it runs through a clamp/cartridge system that grabs the boot at the ball of the foot. This design creates a releasable binding, a very cool feature for those of us who tend to hang out in avalanche country.
The clamp system allows the binding to release the boot similar to an alpine binding release: it requires powerful and forceful movement in the sideways plane to release. Any twisting motion that would normally translate to twisting legs and limbs forces the binding to release. The cartridges can be tightened to the desired tension, or DIN setting. Again, the pivot point is not changed, and the binding can achieve levels of resistance far beyond the Hammerhead.