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.


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
Related Posts
Verdict on TTS
Dynafit goes Bisensual
Review of TTS v2.0
BCTalk Thread: TTS fixes

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Sep 24 2013


Submitted by Tom LeCount. Iceland melts from global warming. Details here.

Submitted by Tom LeCount. Iceland melts from global warming. Details here.

Keep earning your turns

Jun 29 2013

Review: BD’s Dawn Patrol Touring Pant


Filler photo ’til BD sends something. 😉

When Black Diamond announced they were going all in on clothing, I was fairly confident they would do a good job with respect to functionality first without ignoring fashion. Of the few pieces I’ve worn and used so far, they hit the nail squarely on the head.

Keep in mind it isn’t like I had not experienced the quality of BD clothing before. There’s an old, but still quite capable pullover wind shirt in my BC wardrobe that remains tough enough to withstand abrasion, wind. It is mildly water resistant too, able to shed snow as long as you’re driving heat out with a little earn your turns action. It also gets a lot of use when I’m pretending to be Paul Bunyan.

Made with Schoeller
That tradition is carried on in spades with the new Dawn Patrol Touring Pants by Black Diamond. The design is simple and clean and BD didn’t waste time with a knock-off but uses premium Schoeller® fabric to provide a level of breathability that prevents overheating on a climb, but sheds wetness when it needs to. It isn’t the best option for riding lifts on a soggy Sierra storm day, but for most other conditions the water-resistance is good enough.
Keep earning your turns

Jun 15 2013

Technique: Estimating Slope Angle

Knowing exactly how steep a slope is can be important information for understanding potential avalanche danger. Or, even if you’re not concerning yourself for the sake of safety, but instead, to prop up your ego, having an accurate measurement is imperative in either case.

Fig. 1   Three key angles in the “fun zone” worth remembering for estimating with a pair of ski poles.

The best way to do that is with a clinometer (often referred to as an inclinometer), a device to measure the incline of the slope. There are several options available in the new millenium. The classic clinometer is a ball bearing suspended in a cylinder of oil, bent into an arc with marks every degree. Any decent snow study kit comes with one.

For a time Ortovox’s S1 avalanche transceiver could measure slope angle and, of course, there is a smart phone app for that as well. My fave is Pieps electronic 30°+ inclinometer that straps to a ski pole. It doesn’t double as a phone and can’t surf the internet, it just indicates what angle it is oriented at and also senses the air temperature (C°/F°). It is fast and accurate (±1°), but two decimal points more expensive than a phone app.
Keep earning your turns

Jun 25 2012

TR (’94): Skiing Denali’s Wickersham Wall

© 1994
It felt nakedly brazen to be linking turns on the Wickersham Wall, a slope whose name is synonymous with avalanches. A slide now, while skiing in the center of the upper face, would carry me over 10,000-feet over cliffs and icefalls to a frozen, broken death. But we were confident in the results of our snow stability tests and I was having the run of my life, the culmination of every moment I’ve ever spent in the mountains. The higher power, grinning from ear-to-ear, had given us the nod. We got away with it!

Denali's North Face, The Wickersham Wall, first climbed in 1963.

Keep earning your turns

May 04 2012

Review: Rab Stretch NeoShell® Jacket


Skinning up while wrapped in weather.

Skinning up in a storm has always been a special treat – especially in the trees while the wind is howling above and the flakes fall thick on the shoulders of your pack while you stoke the fires of warmth with the energy of climbing, cloaked beneath the wet in a weatherproof shell.

On a recent storm day that shell was courtesy of Rab, made of Polartec’s NeoShell®. The Neoshell® claim is waterproofness equal with that popular 3-layer teflon laminate but more breathable.
Keep earning your turns

Feb 27 2012

Canadian Study reduces Avalanche Survival Time

An updated study of avalanche survivability statistics, spearheaded by Pascal Haegeli, PhD and published in relative obscurity in the Canadian Medical Association Journal last year indicate that survivability chances are significantly lower than previously thought, at least in Canada compared to Switzerland.

Comparing Swiss VS Canadian avalanche survival rates over time.

For years avalanche educators have reasoned that the commonly accepted statistics derived by Brugger and Falk’s study of Swiss avalanche incident data did not accurately reflect probabilities for North America. The rationale was simple; nearly all the Swiss data was based on incidents above treeline while in the US and Canada skiing among trees is more common than not. As noted in the CMAJ report, “the universal validity of the [Swiss] survival curve and recommendations derived from it [were] unknown.”
Keep earning your turns

Feb 12 2012

First Look: Gecko Climbing Skins

As skis have gotten fatter, the criteria for judging skin glue has changed. Back in the day when today’s skinny skis felt fat, it was hard to find a climbing skin with glue that was too sticky. Stickier was always better, unless, of course, the glue was going bad and then the issue wasn’t the inability to pull skins apart after storing glue-to-glue, but the goo it left everywhere, especially on dry ski bases.

Ordinarily this would be a terminal case of glue contamination. Not for Gecko skins.

Those who own fat skins know it is possible to have too much of a good thing. The first clue that the glue is too sticky is when you need to use those silly mesh strips for storing your skins. What a royal pain those strips are, especially on a windy ridge. If you can’t store your skins glue-to-glue without worrying about separating your shoulder to pull them apart then something is wrong.

Gecko skins change the root chemical formula to get friendlier bonding properties, using a silicone based adhesive. I’m no chemistry major, but the results appear positive. Not only do the skins not stick to each other with much strength, neither do pine needles or dirt. And, should you drop them where other skins would be permanently compromised, you can simply wash them off with running water and put ’em back to work.
Keep earning your turns

Feb 12 2012

CCSP Guide to Mendocino Ski Tours


Home turf for the CCSP
click to enlarge

The Mendocino National Forest in Northern California contains nearly one million acres. From the Snow Mountain Wilderness in the southern end to the Yolla Bolly – Middle Eel Wilderness in the north, numerous peaks hold snow well into the summer. Access to these peaks can be tricky. And time consuming. The better part of two decades has been spent unraveling the possibilities of earning turns in the Northern California Coast Range.

The Coastal Crest Snow Patrol (CCSP) consists of a group of friends that have spent the last couple decades exploring the possibilities of getting turns on the snow-covered peaks of the Mendocino National Forest.

I first discovered the skiing here with my good friend Eric Heim (sirjibalot). We got our first turns in the Coast Range on Hull Mountain back in the mid 90’s. We were amazed at the depth of the snow, the 1000′ of vertical and the steep terrain.
Keep earning your turns

Sep 25 2011

Review: Fritschi’s Freeride Pro (2011)

Few pieces of equipment can claim to have propelled the popularity of backcountry skiing like Fritschi’s Freeride binding. It was the first alpine touring binding that appealed to the mindset of the relatively untapped market of American alpine skiers lusting for untracked powder, but unwilling to let go of their reliance on beefy alpine bindings.

The binding that ushered in the alpine touring era of the American backcountry scene.

In fact, it had to have been quite an internal struggle for Fritschi to even produce, what to them had to have been an antithetical backcountry binding. After you’ve spent even a modicum of time earning your turns you realize that there is a penalty for every extra pound you lug around, particularly on your feet.

The basic configuration of Fritschi’s Freeride had existed for years, first introduced as the Diamir. It quickly gained a following in Europe as a light weight plate binding that was a compromise for performance, but that compromise was made knowing that in the long run, weight is of paramount importance.
Keep earning your turns

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