SNEWSÂ® is happy to report that we were wrong!
In the 2006 GearTrendsÂ® Winter Outdoor Magazine article 'Kick Up Your Heels', beginning on page 20 (click here to read), we reported: â€œKarhu 7TM â€“ Alas, the 'ultimate' telemark binding is not to be. Following the introduction of the free-pivot Tour last season and the more aggressive Power this season, many in the telemark tribe were hoping for a 7TM Power Tour next season. However there is insufficient room in the current design so it will require major retooling of the binding. While no significant changes are planned for next season, the Tour remains the only releasable binding with a free pivot; it will remain one of the best choices for backcountry skiers. The Power is more of a resort-oriented binding with better forefoot retention, so it's a better choice for skiers who want control and DIN release. The original All-Mountain is all but obsolete.â€
Nothing had changed by Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, according to Charlie Lozner, general manager of Karhu, the ski division of Trak Sports USA (the U.S. distributor for 7TM bindings). And, indeed, the All-Mountain was officially discontinued for next season.
However, 7TM recently announced that the company had solved the technical problems and the Power Tour binding will be available next season. Even better, the existing 7TM Tour bindings can be upgraded with a kit that will sell for $45. The new Power Tour will remain the same price at $320, and stores will be offered a "very special deal" on the upgrade kit for existing inventory. We are told that the upgrade is easy for those who are mechanically inclined and it doesn't require special tools.
The new 7TM Power Tour is supposed to be slightly more active than the current 7TM Power (click here to view online). The upgrade of the Tour, which was at the low end of the scale, moves the pivot point back and adds a slight ramp to the binding so the skier has better control.
This is very significant news for telemark retailers, who may now want or need to adjust preseason orders. As SNEWSÂ® has reported in both GearTrendsÂ® and online with our Winter Market trends reports, next season there will be four telemark bindings that offer a free-pivot touring mode. Of these, only the 7TM Power Tour will release if the skier is caught in an avalanche or during a particularly heinous tumble.
While there is a lot of excitement about the Black Diamond 01 ($300), G3 Ascent ($290) and Rottefella Cobra Free ($250), none of these bindings offer a release function. Certainly, each of the above-listed touring bindings appears to have an excellent design with good performance characteristics, and each is slightly cheaper than the 7TM.
And, there are those that are quick to point out that the 7TM Power Tour is far from perfect -- the tour-mode lever is hard to actuate, the heel elevator design is weak, and the boot still has a metal plate attached to it following a release. However, since the 7TM is the first telemark tour binding that does allow the ski to release during a fall, those weaknesses pale by comparison to its strength -- preventing injury and, quite possibly, death.
SNEWSÂ® View: Customers shopping for telemark bindings for backcountry touring -- the primary purpose of the free pivot -- need to be warned of the dangers of non-releasable bindings that can turn skis into anchors. Skiers caught in an avalanche with skis attached find swimming to stay afloat or near the surface virtually impossible when an avalanche is triggered. Once the avalanche stops, those with skis still attached find self-rescue more difficult or impossible and assisted rescue more difficult and even dangerous. A skier buried in the snow with skis still attached is, for all practical purposes, securely anchored to the snowfield by the skis, meaning rescuers will have to dig down to the binding to be able to extricate a victim, and that means more time spent in the avalanche zone for rescuers.
Jim Moss, an attorney specializing in risk assessment for the outdoor industry, and the editor of the SNEWSÂ® Law Review, states that any manufacturer that fails to disclose the risk from a binding that does not release is putting itself at greater risk for a very damaging lawsuit. Retailers who sell non-releasable bindings and don't disclose to customers that the bindings are, in fact, non-releasable, are also putting themselves in legal jeapordy.
Given the major safety advantage of the Power Tour and acceptable downhill performance, it is clearly the binding stores should be selling to off-piste skiers next season. SNEWSÂ® will provide a detailed review of the binding once we are able to get it out on the snow and put it through the testing ringer.