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Apr 28 2014

Review: OMG’s TTS

 

TTS for 2014. Better cable posts and the first American 2-pin tech toe.

TTS for 2014 with better cable posts, optimized heel lever, and their own OMG 2-pin tech toe.

It has been a season now since Olympus Mountain Gear has introduced their own 2-pin tele toe to make a complete binding package. The looming question, is it ready for prime time, or is it still a beta binding? Sadly, the OMG’s toe piece confirms beta status, albiet with good performance if you’re willing to accept a few operating caveats.

By and large the response from mavericks willing to be on the bleeding edge of telemark binding progress has been positive for the Telemark Tech System. Nobody complains about Dynafit caliber touring efficiency. When dealing with the down side, there is lots of spring tension for ripping tele turns in all manner of snow conditions. You have to be willing to invest a little personal time and extra effort to make TTS work since, until this year, you had to piece your binding together based on whatever 2-pin toe you had or could obtain in combination with the OMG cable kit or a DIY cable. To top that off, jigs don’t exist and the number of people you can get first hand accounts from is limited.

TTS = Telemark Touring  System

For those who prefer step-in entry, ski brakes and a more reliable safety release, NTN is for you, not TTS. When uphill efficiency is a priority though, it is hard to beat the earn-your-turns functionality of TTS.

Unlike the NTN bindings, you can adjust the cable pivot location for tele-resistance on par with HH #3—#5, but not as conveniently as the Axl or Enzo. Once you dial in what power you like the only shifting you will need to do is between tele and tour mode. The only way you can beat TTS is by going full rando to shave weight but only at the expense of sacrificing the ability to tele.

It is worth noting the heel blocks are easy to mount, even without a jig. Although they are not immune to snow building up underfoot, the newer single piece heel block does reduce snow packing underfoot by providing one less cavity for the snow to be trapped by. It will be a great day when a unitary mounting block holds the toe and sheds snow everywhere behind the pins. Until then, a shot of Pam can’t hurt, and I’d also suggest teflon tape over the heel post. Though it is plastic sticky snow does manages to bond to it, which begets more snow and a climbing post of snow when you may not want one.

About those turns…

OMG's toe pins open wide, with a high center, making entry more difficult than average for a 2-pin tech binding.

OMG’s toe pins open wide, with a high center, making entry more difficult than average for a 2-pin tech binding.

If you want knee-to-ski range of motion, you will need to build your own custom spring system. The current TTS configuration uses the Voile X2 cartridges and springs. They are longer and stiffer than the standard Voile cartridges, but do not have knee-to-ski range of motion without being fully compressed. If you keep a tight stance you’ll be satisfied, and this system with its aggressive under-the-foot pivot location helps maintain that.

A key part of the OMG cable system is the heel lever, which has been optimized to latch in securely when placed on top of the heel step, not the heel groove other heel levers are optimized for, but that is missing with an NTN compatible boot.

OMG’s 2-pin tech toe

When closed, the OMG toe does not yield a confident click. Note the shallow angle of the pin arms below the cantilever point.

When closed, the OMG toe does not yield a confident click. Note the shallow angle of the pin arms below the cantilever point.

Where TTS comes up short is OMG’s own toe. While at the recent Backcountry Magazine gear test the people we needed to help most skiers into the available TTS binding. Many of them complete novices with a tech toe — a known challenge for many folks — and simply could not get the jaws to clamp on their boots without a tech on his knees helping to manually lock the toes in tour mode (akin to DIN 12+ish). They agreed to ski ’em locked out because, after all, you can’t tele and expect release anyway. No one regretted that decision and they skied great. Even those who did get in on their own recognized the lack of a confident snap from the jaws to let you know the toes were locked shut.

Further exacerbating that basic lack of a resounding click of the jaws when closed, is when the jaws are open. The center point is much higher than any Dynafit or other brand of 2-pin tech binding out there. This forces an angled style of latching in that puts the boot further away on the high side and harder to align correctly as you rotate your toe down. Of all the 2-pin tech toes I’ve used – Dynafit’s TLT, Vertical, and Radical, G3’s Onyx and Ion, the La Sportiva/ATK, Plum, or Vipec, — the OMG TTS toe requires the most fiddle to get in, and the most faith to trust. It’s not impossible, but noticeably more challenging.

Once in you’re solid, but in my testing I locked ’em out anyway, just to make sure — call it a lack of faith. If you compare the position of the arms between the various 2-pin toes when closed, the OMG toe shows the smallest deflection below horizontal, which means less holding force. Dynafit isn’t a lot more, but it is noticeably more while Ion is dramatically more, a factor that clearly affects retention force.

The toe lever creates a nice, simple, solid lock and one that, in spite of the relative difficulty getting in to the pins, does hold solid. On the flip side, the toe lock lever has such a solid feel when locked, it takes a bit of force with the tip of your ski pole, strategically placed, to unlock it and open it back up.

Conclusion

At this point I can’t help but hope this toe will undergo design changes to make it easier to enter, and inspire more confidence when it snaps shut without having to lock it down. Others have done it, so it can be done, although, based on results, there appears to a fair amount of art in addition to science to building a good 2-pin tech toe.

From a functional perspective, the TTS complete binding rips great turns, and offers the most efficient system for touring of any telemark binding. If you’re willing to be a beta tester, I can confirm, the reward is worth a few risks.

Olympus Mountain Gear
Telemark Tech System v2014
Complete binding: $399
Weight/pr: 2.0 lbs. (905 g)
Toe Conversion Kit: $350
Heel Conversion Kit: $200

© 2014
 
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