Thursday, 8 January 2009

back country ski bindings

Since I've been living in Finland (not many down hills here folks) I've been getting into cross country skiing and learning heaps about the different bindings for off track cross country work. After a little rooting around with trying the field I've found what works well for me.

No surprises its the New Nordic Norm BC binding and boot system! (pictured below)

If your familiar with the older types of off track cross country bindings like the trusty (rusty?) 75mm Nordic Norm 3 pin system you will notice some differences straight up, like the lack of the 75mm wide tag at the front of the shoe.

This results in a binding which (like the original intention of the the three pin system) does not crimp the shoe (with its binding strap around the heel) and gives a solid mount to the ski which prevents squirming around while allowing easy pivot.

You can see how easily it kicks this in the small video below.

If you don't happen to be so familiar with Cross Country Skiing this will also show you the basic style of getting along the flats.

You can see in this closer crop how my boot lacks the familiar wedge at the front, and seems to be just sitting on top of the ski. This not only makes walking easier (when not on your skis) but they pivot easier on the binding too.

With the behind the heel Telemark style binding you need to have the cable tight to ensure that your toe does not move around in the wedge and this means some resistance and boot sole deformation.

With this system I can get better kick and surprisingly good boot to ski contact. I can even side step up steep icy hills (my ├ůsnes ski's have metal edges) without having my ski flex away from my boot. I've never felt my feet more planted on my skis.

In complete contrast to this the most popular bindings among off track snow workers here in Finland is this system. Its a variant on the 75mm Nordic Norm binding that is designed to work with modified gum boots.

Now (so the old farts here tell me) since ski conditions in Finland are quite flat the need for better (tighter) connection to the boot is not really needed. (well perhaps they just pick boring lines and hope for the best on the downhills?)

Either way they then have good boots for walking around in the deep (sometimes wet) snow and for extended trips they have these neat felt liners which keep your feet warmer. They're removable too so you can swap them for a dry set and dry the others out after a days skiing / working / hunting. Its a practical solution and seems popular here (I wonder how well it would work in an envrionment like the snowy mountains in Australia).

For those unfamiliar with the 75mm NN style, the boots have a wedge on the toe to slide into a wedge shaped binding. In the image below there is the NN boot on the left and my regular hiking boot on the right.

Anyway, back to the BC bindings, the author of this article about the 75mm style NN boots admits to not knowing much himself but quotes Steve Barnett (author of "Cross-Country Downhill" and "The Best Ski Touring in America") as praising the system, saying:

Barnett reports that the boots are powerful enough to drive larger skis, saying "I'm currently using them with skis as big as the Atomic TM26 (97-62-88). That is a very capable ski, and it works well with the SNS BC system. It is easier to ski a ski like that than a smaller, less turn oriented one with the system boots and bindings - not harder. This is currently my favorite combo for mountain tours."

perfectly consistent with my own experience


Anonymous said...

I think that those finnish system boots are wider than nn75 and are 87-91mm - that is why the "duck bill" don't pop in front of the boots. What is more - finnish army leather boots don't have duck front - only straight elements on both sides of the sole in the toe area.

obakesan said...

that is correct. They are specific to those gum boots and are not Nordic Norm (NN)

I believe the older Finnish army bindings fitted those boots too