Tune In, Turn On, Drop Knees
"Yes, Virginia, Active Bindings Do Ski Better."
By Douglas Mock
Getting the fit of a new pair of tele boots dialed is a process predicated on patience. Sure, you can just pull your new, Italian plastic fantastics out of the box; shove your feet in; and start breaking trail, but by the time you get back to the truck your fave ski socks are gonna be chock full of lost toenails, layers of pulverized dermis, and buckets of whatever that gross, sticky fluid that fills up blisters is called. If you've any respect for the magical work your feet do while you're skiing (or any hope of lasting more than a few hours on snow without developing a crippling plantar fasciitis) it's worth spending the time to make new boots your own. Thus, I spent a number of hours at the bootfitter last week.
The general-ski-related ethos in my guy's shop is pretty aggressively egalitarian: the
sliding you do on those green groomers is just as cool as the sliding that guy does in the back-bowl-bumps, and both of you are fully as righteous as the professional athlete sitting next to you in the "Free The Heel, Free The Mind" beanie. It's an aura the Snow Sports Industrial Complex ruthlessly projects/protects. All skiing is good skiing, we're all in this together, snowboarding is actually pretty rad, did you know your credit card can link wirelessly onto your season's pass, etc. etc.
All of which belies a stark, venomous reality: there is an arms race afoot in every ski
shop. It rides up on every chairlift, pretends to be having fun in every skintrack, and roars from within every powder turn. You can see its ravenous, red-eyed glow hiding just beneath the benign smiles of children rocking power-pizzas down the bunny hill; it lurks, masterfully cloaked, in the helpful wisdom of your backcountry guide. Every winter sports enthusiast feels its teeth-gnashing pull, only to deny its presence and declare, "Oh yeah bro, there's plenty of powder here for everyone."
We are all, each and every, locked in a furious, relentless, technologically advanced
Race To The Most Fun. Competing in this race is pretty much the best thing ever though. It's especially rewarding for us telemark skiers, the most thoroughly evolved of cold weather recreationalists.
But OH! Can you hear the angry voices?! Those crazy dissenters shouting down—or better still, pretending to ignore—the graceful purity of our free-minded supremacy? These voices resound from the pages of nationally circulated ski magazines that won't publish tele-photos just as loudly as from the chairs above when I'm ripping lift line pow: "Telemarking is stupid!" "What's wrong with your bindings?" "Take a shower, hippie!"
Admittedly, much of this derision is our own, and our industry's, fault. For as long as
rugged individualists have been making freeheel turns (which, I'm sure I don't need to remind you, is longer than anyone else has been making turns), the appeal of our turn has been limited by three major factors: telemark skiing requires much practice, balance, and physical fitness just to get down the groomers (undeniable fact); the telemark skiers who master these demands become god-like powder elitists (debatable, case-by-case basis); and telemark gear flat-out sucks (truth, bro).
Let's explore this third truth.
I'll save you a long-winded leather boots and rat traps description of the history of sucky tele gear. Nonetheless, the focus of such a description would be the inevitable downfall (generally a propulsive, face-planting sort of downfall, as seen above) of tele gear to date: a lack of resistance to forward flex—what the Telemark Talk gurus used to call "activity"—in telemark bindings. Those gurus would lionize the "touch" and "feedback" that less active bindings provided to the uphill ski in a telemark turn. This neutrality offered tele skiing its sweet, surfy feel. It was also very difficult to do and, with Alpine Touring bindings still in their infancy, kept backcountry powder free of tracks.
Then skis got bigger and stiffer, Alpine Touring gear got lighter and somewhat more
reliable, and, as backcountry stashes steadily began to look like Vail, the vast majority of my friends sold off their telemark gear. Inevitably, there will always be some historic Cro-Magnons —the ones who almost evolved to perfection, then just missed—for every Homo Sapiens. Evolution crowns far more losers than kings, and our poor, locked heel brethren have come up short at the finish line of ontogenesis.
The Race To The Most Fun is now consistently won by freeheel skiers. A new
generation of telemark gear offers unparalleled versatility of turn shapes and styles; the ability to bend the biggest skis; hold edge at Olympic speeds; rip fat arcs with heels down or heels up; and surf, slarve, huck, dance, straightline, pop, and play better than any ski gear before it.The telemark skiers who've mastered this gear are the most impressive athletes on any mountain. Stylish. Graceful. Creative. Powerful. Dangerously attractive to the opposite sex.
We are the Kings of the Hill.
We are Badass Muther F*@%ers.
There's only one binding that has our name on it.
And good golly is it active.
by Douglas Mock
My body's gettin' stronger
But this mind, it's growin' weak
As these legs, they are a-itchin'
To git climbin' up those peaks
In my deepest soul I'm achin'
Man, for pow, for my fat skis
But this crazy autumn season
Got me on my bended knees
—"Those Shoulder Season Blues" (traditional)
If you're the sort of tele-kook whose pre-season training occasionally breaks up the dumbbell lunges and squat jumps with a little stretching in the yoga room, you've inevitably listened to some skinny girl in tight pants expound upon "transitions."
"Times like these," that girl will tell you with a big smile and flouncing ponytail, "Can be
very challenging for us yogis! The days are getting shorter—gosh, it's dark before work's even over!—but it's, like, still warm outside? And the trees don't have leaves anymore, but there isn't any snow! Times like these—in yoga, we call them transitions—well, transitions can be really challenging for maintaining your high-frequency vibrational energy field. It's like you wanna be there, but here you are here!"
Totally, babe. Here you are here. Where it's not snowing.
Autumn certainly presents challenging questions for the telemark skier: Just how accurate are those Farmer's Almanac forecasts? What does a "weak La Nina" mean for my mountains again? Were my boots feeling a little worn out by the end of mountaineering season last year, or were my legs just tired? What color jacket is gonna look best with the X Pro II filter? If I buy a plane ticket to Whistler now while it's cheap, can I be sure it'll snow in the first week of February?
Since there's never been a binding as incredible as the Bishop BMF-R and BMF-3, why haven't I pulled the trigger yet? It's enough to make you feel a little crazy, bro. And thus you end up doing crazy things.
The year's first snow finally arrives in the second week of October, and out come the rock skis.
But at least it got the heart pumping.
Except now you're asking yourself, "Did it get the heart pumping too much? Have I been
training hard enough? Are my buddies gonna crush me in the skin track, leave me so far behind I'll have to find new, slower buddies? OMG am I gonna be downgraded?! How can I up my aerobic fitness fast???"
Oh, how those voices gnaw at you. Suck you deeper into autumn's insanity. Compound
those freeheelin', shoulder season blues. Force you to make seriously silly choices in the name of skiing.
You are flailing. You are ridiculous. But then, in the first week of November, it snows again. When your buddy calls, you play it cool.
"Yeah man, I dunno, I guess we can head up there and hit some rocks, slide on some fast
grass. It'll be good to get a little cold air into the lungs." Out in the garage, you burn some wax onto the fat skis. You even put them into the truck, you know, just in case. At the top of The Pass, Hey! It almost kinda looks like winter up here!
The next day, some hill up north opens for the season with 350% of average for
November. Face shot pics all over the place. Bastards.
So you head back to the gym. Tele-lunges with the bar on your shoulders. Box jumps with 180's on and off. Transfers, one leg to the other, on the Bosu balls. You even put some big socks over your shoes, slide around on that ice-skating-board thing in ninety-second sprints. You try not to puke, eyes on the prize: "All this stupid exercise will let me ski more powder. So much more. The most powder ever." You do crunches til you can't sit up again.
Then you head back to the yoga room.
"The most important thing we can do, in this time of transition, is to be present to what
we have, to where we are right now. Sure, we can focus on the future, on what we want to
happen, on where we'd like to be, but if we give away the time we're actually inhabiting, well, how can we be ready for the future when it finally arrives?"
Phone rings the next morning. "Bro! Did you see the webcams?!"
"Uhhh...what time is it?" Between December and May, you'll be waking up pretty much
every single morning before the sun's up to go skiing. Part of your effort to be present to
autumn's bounty is enjoying sleeping in.
"Well get your ass going! We're all gonna meet at The Pass in an hour!"
You hang up, gather your wits, decide it's time.
You call the yoga teacher: "Hey, um, you busy? Wanna come touring?"
And wouldn't you know, it could almost totally be winter today.
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It’s not about presents, candy, or material things (unless you count tremendous quantities of amazing food). As a vast and diverse country we come together to focus on gratitude with those we love. Hence, my first thank you is to my wife and two daughters. Those girls help me laugh and play every day and are a constant source of support and encouragement. My wife, Andie, has been a steady supporter and also a great partner in this wild ride.
I am grateful for the education and we inherited. The Bishop telemark binding was born in 2001. It was the brainchild of engineer/owner Fin Doyle of Bomber Industries in Silverthorne, Colorado. He borrowed parts of the design from his legendary hard boot snowboard bindings creating the basis for the Bishop toe and heel boot connections. Th
en he invented a brilliant and unique sliding plate system to link them together to form the Bomber Bishop. But Fin stopped making the Bishop in 2006 and had moved away from telemark binding design until I met him in 2009. He is a top-notch designer and machinist and had a sweet machine shop that was able to prototype some tricky parts for a medical device I was working on at the time. I was impressed with his work, we got to know each other, and we had fun strategizing together about the next generation of telemark bindings but both of us had to keep up with our day jobs. So, after a few years, I decided to commit to my dream of combining product design and my love of mountain sports and telemark skiing by taking the torch from him to start Bishop Binding Co full time. I collaborated with Fin to incorporate improvements from the Bishop 1.0, and released the Bishop 2.0 in fall of 2013. Thank you Fin, without your inspired bindings and faith in me I may not be living my dream. Instead, the Bishop lives on and lives big!
We have come a long way from working in the basement of our house and garage, to the new office, design and manufacturing space. The BMF-R and BMF-3 telemark bindings are the outcome of intense product design - over 3,000 hours of design and development work went into these bindings! But, it’s not all engineering. For example, Matt Jones's dedication and sales and marketing advice, and Sean Hanagan’s infectious mountain spirit, connections and passion for the mountains and the tele tribe. Many friends did a lot to get Bishop off the ground, and continue to offer support. They are all part of team Bishop. thank you for working long hours and pouring your heart and soul into this mountain venture.
Designing a new telemark binding based on the Bishop core, but with all the new features we wanted is no small task; and we did it on a tight budget. It would not have happened without the dedication of engineers Peter Van Dyke and Erik Warmenhoven. I thank both for working long, hard hours and for all the intense thinking, testing and rethinking. For me, and for them I think, the sacrifices are worth it to build a business in a place that we love, on products that are our passion and that put smiles on people’s faces. There is no way the BMFs would have been born without them. Thank you, Peter and Eric.
Finally, I must thank the telemark tribe and our customers for believing in us. Especially those that have pre-ordered our new BMF bindings.
Thank you and Happy Thanksgiving! Pray for snow!
Turns out the boys at Bishop Bindings have been on a roll designing, promoting, hiring, moving and growing through the past few months. With three new products for the winter season designed completely from the ground up, A new office, and a laundry list of new athletes, we're pretty sure this is some good news.
First, The Featured BMF Bindings; Two models of bindings that have never seen before features, plus the strength and durability of the tried and true Bishop 2.0.
Plus, the addition of a new ski (Chedi) designed and manufactured just down the hill from the Bishop offices in Colorado. Bishop engineer, Erik Warmenhoven states "I can't wait to have a rippin' ski that's been designed with tele'rs in mind".
We've also gotten a new World Headquarters in Edwards, Colorado that will act as out main hub for Design, Assembly, Punch-Bowl Spiked Corporate Holiday Parties, and all out Hang-Spot.
This has certainly been on of the most productive summers that we've ever seen!
Although most if this is all "old" news in terms of what's been happening at the new HQ recently, as the newest employee at Bishop, I knew I had to make some waves. So I hit the web and contacted the best freeheelers I knew: Andreas Sjobeck (Sweden), Taylor Johnson (SLC, Utah), and "Kooky" Carl Heath (SLC, Utah). We're excited to have them join up and push the new BMF-R and BMF-3 for this coming season, joining our already stacked team of "Badassadors".
You can find more info about our new athletes in Telemark Skier Magazine's newest article, "New Bishop Athletes Announced"
Here in Colorado, spring doesn’t so much “spring” as it does incrementally loosen the white-knuckled death grip of winter. That being said, the pow keeps coming. With the flick of a little lever at the BMF-R’s toe, I’m setting yet another skintrack into pristine wilderness.
I’m not gonna say it’s effortless. Even the best touring telemark binding in the world (which the BMF-R is) is still not a Ski-Doo or snowcat, let alone a helicopter. But compared to doing it on tele touring rigs of the past, it’s certainly a joy on the BMF-R. I can lift my heel nearly perpendicular to the ski without even a whisper of mechanical resistance.
When the going finally gets steep, I’ll have two different heel riser choices: one a perfect height for cruising, the other for stomping a skintrack into the sort of vertical escarpments the Dyna-fiddlers will all have to put their ski crampons on for. There’s simply no substitute for lateral rigidity; the underfoot plate that lets the BMF easily destroy spring crud and not-quite-yet-corn on the descents makes me feel like Superman on the uptrack.
I quickly get my rhythm and start covering ground. When I check over my shoulder after the first quarter mile, my lovely wife is still back at the trailhead, struggling to get those orange bindings from Idaho to stay clamped onto her boots.
Conventional wisdom holds that you shouldn't judge a man — or stuff he writes about skiing on the internet — until you've walked a mile in his boots. So step into my TX Comps while I fast forward our narrative through many miles of BMF-empowered skinning.
We arrive at the summit. I peel skins and step with unbelievable ease into my BMF-Rs. Of course we scoped this line on the way up. We've been looking at it for months, years in fact, thinking, "Man, if it keeps on snowing like this, that thing is finally gonna come in this year." And it kept on snowing. So now we have to ski it.
The narrow little chute at the top is the easy part. It's just wide enough that we're not gonna have to hop turn and can instead ski it fast. After ten turns, the chute opens onto to a big, steep, Euro-style face. We're planning to Bode Miller that face, to make the widest tele-arcs imaginable down to the giant, frozen waterfall below. I’m hoping to land a 40 foot cliff and not to tele-tumble once my skis are back on the snow. That tele-tumble could easily go on for a 1,000 vertical feet, so I’m doing my best to not think about it. I’m thinking about skiing fast and stomping it.
I smile at the beautiful woman standing next to me, take a huge breath, and count down from three. Then, “Wait. Hold on. I have to blow my nose.” We stare down the chute. Can’t even see the waterfall from here. Darn if this thing isn’t steeper than it looked from the truck.
What I'm trying to say is: commitment is scary. You can get out of my boots now.
Big mountain skiing, and telemark skiing especially, is so much like being in love that it is easy to enumerate the parallels. Both are terrifying, liberating, dangerous, humbling, silly, empowering, sometimes injurious, difficult to master, and wondrous to behold when done right. And all that hinges almost entirely on commitment. You just have to go for it; say "Yes!"; ignore the scary stuff and drop in. Maybe even drop a knee.
And in both pursuits, for better or worse, there's going to be quite a lot of trekking uphill. It undeniably helps to have a good partner. Spend enough time climbing mountains, skiing down, then climbing up again, and that partner inevitably becomes an essential part of you. They applaud your commitment to setting boot pack up the summit ridge. They watch in awe as you shred the heck out of a big, steep face. Occasionally, they sacrifice the line they climbed five hours for in order to retrieve the skis, poles, goggles, hat, and two front teeth you lost after tomahawking 1,000 vertical feet to a frozen waterfall.
Like having your true love with you, the right gear is key. Bishop’s BMF-R telemark binding is quite possibly the most life-altering piece of outdoor equipment you’ll ever have the opportunity to brag about on social media or your blog. So go ahead — fall in love; treat yourself to the BMF-R or BMF-3 now because the pre-sale bonus of a free Switch Kit won’t last long.
A young man's love interests are sometimes many and form an inevitable pattern — or at least this young man's did. I've no doubt that there are high school sweethearts out there who never thought of another, content to stick with their first love for a lifetime. Bully for them. Those people are probably still very happy with the performance of their Black Diamond 01 telemark bindings.
Speaking solely from my own experience, though, finding true love requires some trial and error. As one loves, falls out, then loves again with someone new, they refine what they are looking for and discover new traits they find endearing or perhaps even extraordinary. But sometimes a new love interest’s deficiencies can't be overlooked. For instance, if a prospective mate is attractive, intelligent and fun, but only skis groomers… or, god forbid, doesn’t ski at all.
Perhaps others are not as discerning as myself, in love or when it comes to tele gear. But man, I have skied a lot of telemark bindings, and there have been some truly exceptional developments over the years.
The first time I toured a free pivot, oh yeah, that was hot. Getting rid of the cable around the heel? So sexy, thought I'd never need more. The NTN Freedom skied OK I guess, assuming you don't mind spending powder days on the corduroy or fiddling with that toe-lever thingamajig. The step-in/brakes combo on offer from Idaho just last year? That one was a terrible date actually — we weren't together long. But still, my desires were refined. And I kept on looking for tele love.
Let me say that I am truly lucky on the romantic front. My wife doesn't complain when it's her turn to break trail and will happily spend eight or more hours achieving a summit. If it's snowing and I'm feeling lazy after ten consecutive powder days, she will make coffee and breakfast before dragging me up the hill again. She is The One. I've been blessed. But I also refused to compromise.
That unwillingness to compromise has finally paid off when it comes to telemark bindings. I have spent the last month skiing Bishop Binding’s NTN-compatible prototype, the new BMF-R telemark binding. And after years and years of, "Wow, this binding skis pretty good, but...", I have finally found The One.
The BMF-R is no compromises. My buddies have accused me of being a broken record: "It's just like an alpine binding! It's just like an alpine binding!" A statement that is the best compliment a tele binding can get.
If the 3-pin dudes think telemark gear should remain its own unique monster and nothing like it's fixed-heeled competitor, well, people who don’t ski seem to find partners too. For better or worse, Markers and Looks are the gold standard alpine ski bindings. They are easy to get into, ski great and rarely break. These are not compliments often given to telemark bindings. Until now.
When I get off the gondola or step up to the trailhead, I toss my skis down, press my toe into the BMF-R and step into the heel. The ski brakes flick up and I'm ready to shred; no bending over, no throwing levers, no "kick kick kick, stomp stomp stomp" trying to get some Byzantine cam system to engage. You wouldn't even know it's a tele binding. It's so easy. Maybe even graceful.
And, totally crazy, the same is true when skiing. Watching from the lift, you can always tell when a skier is making alpine turns on tele gear. The knee angles are wrong, the butt sits too far back, the skis don't really bend. It's one of freeheel skiing's darkest secrets: we're all a bunch of tailgunners, feeling safe in the backseat but not really driving.
The BMF-R offers a true world's first in its ability to switch at will from powerful telemark turns to equally powerful parallel turns. Press shins to cuffs and lay those boards over, bro. There is so much power to the edges.
The BMF-R binding puts you in the driver seat. If you want to ski old-school low, go for it, but there's really no need. Maximum telemark action is available as soon as your heel leaves your ski. No deadness, no rocker launch, just smooth, effortless engagement of your energy to the sweet spot.
Three turns into my first run, I felt like I had new skis; I'd never bent a board with such ease. The BMF-R skis like no other telemark binding before it — an incredible blend of stiffness, activity and user-friendliness. By the end of that first fateful lap, I knew the search was over. I'd found true love. The best skiing telemark binding the world has ever seen. Totally flawless telemark technology. Like she was created just for me ...but only if she likes to go touring, right?TO BE CONTINUED!
You have to take into account many factors when you talk about how you did at the Freeheel Life Cup at Grand Targhee. For starters, you have to factor in the nerves. Could I have been any more nervous? I don’t think so.
There I was in my first big mountain telemark competition: I had never skied the mountain. I had one inspection run on the course, but still had only the slightest idea of where the take offs and landings that I wanted to hit were. So forgive me if I drank what was available while waiting for my bib number to be called. At least I had a pair of bomber Bishop 2.0s on my boots. at least I didn;t have to worry about anything breaking.
When they called my number it felt totally unexpected. As in, I wasn’t ready to be called. I thought I had more time. But the guy with the radio motioned me forward. “You’re up, buddy.” I stood at the top of the run, looking down, trying to remember where that band of rocks was. Where was that cliff I wanted to hit? My first run was ragged and choppy. I didn’t exactly flail, but I wasn’t pleased with my performance.
But on my second run I found redemption. I pursued the exact same aggressive line as my first, except the second time everything was clean, pure, smooth. Nothing felt rushed. To make this second run happen I had to forget about the first, forget about the feeling of uncertainty, forget about the nerves, forget about the other competitors, forget about the sharky conditions — just stop thinking completely.