Rottefella offers four different levels of cartridges, called (unfortunately) “Power Tubes.” Also unfortunate: you have to purchase in addition the specific one you want if the binding doesn’t happen to come with the Power Tube you need. Thumbs down on that; it would be better if, upon ordering your binding size (small, medium, or large, depending on your boot size), you could also request and receive the correct cartridge.
With the NTN, the boot is now allowed to really flex at the bellows and function as it was designed to, without the influence of the binding’s pivot point. I settled on the Scarpa TX Comp after riding the Scarpa Terminator X Pro and Terminator X, the Garmont Prophet, and the Crispi Evo, and all of these boots offer different placements and stiffness of bellows.
The fact that the ball of the foot is clamped rather than the heel gives the NTN amazing amounts of control, and places you on your edge quicker. Try an experiment: stand on the balls of your feet, and try to change the direction of your upper body by leading with your heels. Feels awkward and clumsy, doesn’t it?
Now, try to do the same with all your focus on the balls of your feet. You should feel much more stable and the change in direction is almost intuitive. This is what the NTN does. It is actually freeing your heel from all responsibility by focusing all the directional energy where it should be: on the balls of your feet. This design also diminishes the amount of left-to-right play the boot has in the binding, translating every movement you make more directly and quickly to your edges.
With other bindings beside the Hammerhead, you will see tele-skiers up on the toes of their back foot. But if the back foot is where you place at least fifty percent of your weight to carve your turn, wouldn’t you want the ball of your foot and your toes to be engaged?
Try another experiment: place your right foot flat on the floor, step backward with your left foot, and land with your weight on you toes. Now do the same thing, only land on the ball of your foot. Which stance feels more stable?
When your back foot is on its toes, your front leg will take the brunt of your weight. When the back leg is stabilized by the ball of the foot, your center of gravity is right where the ski wants it: centered over both feet, allowing the edges on both skis to fully engage and do their job.
Santa Fe / Arapahoe Basin local Tele Tim instilled in me the importance of carving on teles as apposed to sliding, and the Rottefella NTN binding helps make this possible. When the back foot is stable, you can really squash the pinky toe to get the ski on edge while leading your turn with the front foot. This is what gives tele-skiers the ability to really carve a powerful turn with grace and efficiency, almost superior to an alpine turn. While alpine skiers must put the uphill foot forward of the downhill foot in order to get the ski on edge, all the tele-skier needs to do is bend the uphill knee. The NTN’s design places your weight so perfectly on the ski that the back leg wobble isn’t an issue.
I am looking forward to riding the NTN on stiffer, comp-oriented skis (i.e., skis that have stiffer tails that demand more speed), as well as huge powder skis. I would also love to try the NTN setup on a newfangled design like the DPS Spoon.
But for now, and with more than 50 days on the NTN, I can say that every ski I own will have an NTN binding on it. I will continue to ride other telemark bidings for purposes of reviewing, but I feel that the NTN is to telemarking what the parabolic design was to ski building: it is a game changer, and an evolution that is in keeping with the spirit of what telemarking truly is, a powerful and free connection to the snow.