The O1 Telemark Touring Binding from Black Diamond raises the bar to a new level for freeheelers. A free-pivot touring mode for more efficiency and energy at the top, compliments the beefiest binding BD have built for the downhill. This binding does change the ideas of what you should expect from a telemark binding. Read on to get into the nuts of bolts of the O1 and watch the video review.
The first and most rewarding feature of this binding is the touring mode. Flick the pole-activated, green switch in front of the toe, and you will be amazed. This is how touring should be. Free.
When I first stepped into the binding to tour, I genuinely couldn’t believe how much better it felt. It certainly felt different to the resistance of pre-free-pivot bindings, but instantly better. Skinning up was a whole new game and I had no excuse for lagging behind my AT buddies. Learning to do kick turns provided a few laughs, but I was laughing hardest when I mastered them and was no longer trying to bring a rigid ski around on steep switchbacks.
At the top, I simply have more gas left in the legs than before. And you need it to drive them back down again, because the compromise between tourability and the downhill is no longer relevant. The activity of the biding in downhill is far greater and I find provides more control. You may prefer a more neutral binding, but I find I can pressure my uphill foot far more powerfully with a stiffer binding and get more out of my skis.
The O1 is for big boards and brings them to life. The under foot cable routing provides the ability to stiffen the binding far more than regular configurations. In saying that, a choice of cartridges means you can still tailor the flex of the binding with FreeFlex, MidStiff and RidiculouslyStiff cartridges.
I ski the MidStiff cartridges wound pretty tight and love them. Why? I find the cable design holds the ski more parallel to my boot in the air and in turn doesn’t encourage going over the handle bars when stomping airs because the cable is working to pull the boot down to the ski far more than round-the-heel cables. When skiing steeps, my tails don’t drag as much when making turns and that inspires more confidence while the power of the binding allows far more pressure to be put into the uphill ski for fast, open turns.
One other subtle benefit that I really like is the ease when stepping into the binding. The heel yoke is much easier to lock than round-the-heel cables when standing exposed at the top of a steep and icy face or chute.
The touring mode also works to preserve you boots. How? When the binding has a free pivot, you no longer need to break the boot to take a step. Over time, breaking the boot to take a step works to soften your boot and create the camber that pulls you forward over the front of your skis. With the touring mode, the boot no longer has to flex, leaving them flatter and your legs fresher.
In the field, I have found the binding to function flawlessly. In wetter snow, sometimes you need to clear some ice from the toe switch and lock when de-skinning before the binding will lock down securely, but nothing that my Fritchi counterparts don’t also deal with.
In bounds, I enjoy the binding for its greater power and control when skiing hard, and would not go back to anything more neutral. One thing with a touring binding, and this is why most people don’t ski the resort on AT bindings is the small amount of play associated with a pivot point. A Naxo or Fritchi has an inherent amount of torsional play, and so does the O1. I would say, however, that it is far less than AT bindings, but with hard skiing and abuse hitting cliffs, the green bushes in the pivot may be the weakest aspect of this binding.
That being said, I have logged over 50 days of abuse on my O1s from the hill at Whistler Blackcomb to 2 weeks at Rogers Pass and everywhere in between. I have had an absolute blast on them simply because I find they have greater stability and control enabling me to push my skiing further. Throw in the touring function and I am a very happy boy.
Weight: 1.68kg (3lb 11oz)
For more information, go to the Black Diamond website.