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2nd Look: Rottefella NTN Freedom Binding

Rottefella NTN Freedom, Blister Gear ReviewRottefella NTN Freedom

Weight: 1,500 g per pair

Height: 25 mm

Rotation: 22 mm behind tip of boot

Walking opening angle: 60 degrees

Heel lifter: 35 mm and 65 mm

Ski brake: standard 110 mm

Boots: Crispi Evo size 27.5, SCARPA TX-Comp size 27.5

Skis: DPS Lotus 120 Pure, 190cm

Test Locations: Chugach and Talkeetna area ski touring; Alyeska Resort; Arctic Valley Ski Area, Alaska; Hakuba area, Japan – lift served and touring

Skier size: 6’0”, 185 lbs.

Days tested: ~20

MSRP: $430

Getting into the backcountry has been my primary focus in skiing since I was in middle school in the mid ‘90s, and I was immediately drawn to telemark gear as an inexpensive way to start ski touring.

Since then, boots and skis have improved dramatically, but I’ve always felt like tele bindings were lagging behind. Starting with three pins, then Rivas, Superloops, Pitbulls, G3’s, Cobras, Bombers, Linkens, O1’s, multiple versions of NTN Freedom and a few more, I’ve skied them all, and have owned most of them.

Based on this experience, I think the NTN Freedom is among the best overall bindings to date.

Intro to NTN

New Telemark Norm (NTN) was developed and brought to market by the Norwegian company Rottefella around 2007. As Kate Hourihan mentioned in her review of the NTN Freedom, the idea was to address several perceived shortcomings in existing 75mm telemark bindings, mainly a lack of torsional rigidity and a release function. (You can also read about this in more detail in our Telemark Skiing 101.)

Uphill Performance

Prior to the arrival of my NTN Freedoms, I had toured off and on for three seasons on the NTN Freeride. The Freeride skis well, but its poor touring performance very often made it an easy decision to leave the teles at home and grab some Dynafit-equipped skis. Not only does the Freeride weigh 2,010 grams per pair, but the touring range of motion maxes out around 30 degrees of heel lift.

But even more frustrating was the substantial amount of spring tension when raising the heel, even in tour mode. On a hard skin track, the extra resistance was just an annoyance, but breaking trail in fresh snow or kick turning could be exhausting. The Freedom binding addresses all of these issues.

As Kate mentioned, weight is reduced by about 25% to 1,500 grams (3 lbs. 4 oz.), which is a noticeable difference both in your hand and on your feet.

And range of motion of the touring mode is almost doubled to around 50 degrees. (Rottefella claims 60 degrees, but my old plastic protractor from high school shows it about 10 degrees less with boot in binding.)

The increased range of motion (ROM) makes longer strides on flats easier, facilitates better kick turns, and allows the efficient use of the heel risers. Skiers who utilize really long strides and big steps while climbing might find the Freedom’s ROM limiting, but I prefer a shorter, more compact stride while skinning on any kind of equipment, and find that the current Freedom ROM is adequate.

Paul Forward on the NTN Freedom

Paul Forward on the Rottefella NTN Freedom. (photo by Jonathan Gurry)

Heel lifters on the NTN Freedom are adequate. They flip up with a ski pole handle, and I haven’t had any trouble with them collapsing. They are a little more fidgety than the TwentyTwo Designs-style, spring-loaded heel lifter, but with a little practice, they work great. Unlike Kate, I do like having two climbing heights, which, again, is something I’ve grown accustomed to from using tech bindings.

The resistance to heel lift in tour mode is still present in the Freedom, but is much reduced compared to the Freeride. And like the Freeride, it does seem to depend on the pre-load settings of the springs. I’ll discuss spring tension more below, but I run my Freedom’s with blue springs at about four or five (out of five) most of the time, which is about the maximum tension possible. The heel lift tension is notable compared to a completely free-pivot binding (like a tech binding), or the Black Diamond O1 or TwentyTwo Designs Axl, but is not particularly cumbersome in the skin track. During a long day of ski touring, it’s a little more tiring and less efficient than a true free-pivot, but even breaking trail in light, soft snow is only minimally more taxing.

For the sake of testing, I backed off the springs (which can be done in a minute or two by hand, without tools) to two out of five on the blue spring power box, and noticed considerably less resistance when climbing.

After hundreds of days of skiing on tech bindings, I have come to appreciate having the pivot point as close to my foot as possible when skinning. When demoing skis with Fritchi’s, or using 75mm free-pivot tele bindings like Axls or O1s, I immediately notice the tippy-toe feeling when climbing. This may just be personal taste, but the pivot location of a tech binding feels more secure on icy sidehills and more comfortable overall. The NTN Freedom is the only tele binding that approximates the pivot position of tech bindings, except for the Telemark Tech System, which utilizes an actual tech toe (and I have not yet skied).

Boot Selection

The boots available for NTN and 75mm also have an affect on touring performance. When comparing the NTN Freedom (3 lbs., 4oz.) to 75mm tele bindings with tour modes, such as Axls (4 lbs) or O1s (3 lbs., 12 oz.), it would appear that the weight savings are modest. And yet, it is important to note that NTN boots are one to two pounds lighter per pair for comparable models in the SCARPA line.

For example, the SCARPA TX-Comp weighs 7 lbs., 8 oz. per pair, while the equivalent 75mm boot, the T-Race, is 8 lbs., 12 oz. in the same size. That comes out to 12 lbs., 12 oz. for the Axl/T-Race vs. 10 lbs., 12 oz., or one pound less per foot. To me, that’s a big difference during a long day of touring.

(Note: I personally don’t feel like the TX-Comp is quite as powerful as the T-Race, but the NTN binding closes the gap and makes it a fair comparison. I should also mention that there are very light 75mm bindings on the market, such as the Voile Switchback, but I have not found them to be in the same category as the Axl and NTN in terms of downhill performance.)

Next Page: Downhill Performance

29 Comments

  1. Bill September 25, 2013 Reply

    Hey great review. Any info on changes to the NTN Freedoms for the 2013/2014 season?

    • Author
      Paul Forward September 26, 2013 Reply

      Hi Bill, Thanks for reading! As far as I know the Freedom will be unchanged for this season. The Freeride got a new color scheme but also appears mechanically unchanged from last years version.

  2. Simon October 21, 2013 Reply

    Hello Paul,

    I am looking for a NTN binding for my new touring ski. I actually ride the NTN freeride and this binding is awesome. So I started to read about the freedom, the lightest version of the freeride. I found some reliable issue from some customers like; short elevators kept on collapsing, consistently the bindings pops up into touring mode when descending and the lever pops out of position when fastening the binding a bit too easily.

    So should I stay with the freeride, witch seems more reliable, or the freedom might do the job as well.

    Thanks again for all your great review.

    Simon

  3. geo December 18, 2013 Reply

    Thanks Paul (and Kate) for the reviews.

    It is great skiing the NTN and commiting to them after almost 30 years on all the other 75mm free heel bindings. I need to sort out extra base plates, for extra skis. I’ve already got 2 pairs of NTN, one with a metal plate and the newer (2012?) Freeride, the one with the pink plastic plate. And now, of course, we also have the still more sexy Freedom (lets not confuse those model names..!). Can you add a little piece on NTN evolution and compatibility? I watched when the NTN first came out (red ones) years and years ago at this point (2006?). But I waited until about last year to convert. Cheers, Geo

  4. TOH December 27, 2013 Reply

    Thanks for the review.

    Do you know of any NTN boots that would be a bit more relaxed, more of an all-day touring boot?

    I’ve got Prophets and like them, but I would love a lighter weight, more comfortable boot for all day stuff, even though it means losing strength.

    Hear of anything?
    Thank you!

  5. Mike K December 29, 2013 Reply

    Nice review, but you guys should all switch to a telemark tech (tts) binding. The weight is nothing! Combine a dynafit tow (you can buy them online from a split board company) and take a old G3 wire and then buy the conversion kit from Wasatch Ski Distribution. The system totally works and it is very powerful. And of course the super light weight makes it a dream for touring. The telemark companies have really lost their way on that one – not sure why BD and G3 don’t make a version but surely it is coming. Enjoy the turns!

    • Francesco December 30, 2013 Reply

      Hi Mike K,

      I tried telemark this year first time a couple of times, and I will like to buy the right equipment. As I used to use touring ski and boots, do you think it is even possible to use a common ski mountaineering boots like mine tlt5 with the telemark tech (tts) binding?

    • Todd B December 9, 2016 Reply

      more weight = better workout = better fitness,strength and health.
      less weight =s easier = less workout = softer body
      unless you are counting micro seconds in an Olympic medal competition, man up and stop counting ounces. Unless you are the least fit of your group, you need more weight to keep yourself challenged and not bored.
      If you’ve come to Tele, you must already know that harder is always better than easier, in every aspect of life!

      • Jeff D December 9, 2016 Reply

        If you want it to challenged go higher and further, don’t go heavier. Training at home is a workout, climbing a mountain is an adventure.

  6. Jeff D December 30, 2013 Reply

    The TTS isn’t smooth as the Freedom on the downhill. I have both, and really don’t like the TTS feeling.

    Why don’t you actually weight the binding when you do such a long review ? The weight of the whole binding is not what is advertised by Rotte…

  7. Mike K December 30, 2013 Reply

    Francesco, you still need a boot with bellows above the toe so it can flex to allow you to stay on the ball of your foot. Scarpa makes the TX pro boot with tech fittings. That’s the one I use. I’m not sure about the other manufacturers.

    Jeff D, TTS is very dependent on the spring setup that you have. It does engage earlier so I “borrowed” the silver G3 cartridges from a buddy and then put the heel riser in the loosest position that it still engages. It makes the whole system more like a traditional 75mm binding. In the end the weight savings are so huge that I can’t use the NTN bindings for touring. For on piste sking and ripping whistler Blackcomb to shreds, then fo’ shizzle the Freeride kicks ass. But it’s hard to keep up with all my buddies on dynafit set ups and Peter Pan feather weight boots. At least TTS gives us the binding component. Tele boots still remain crazy heavy in comparison to AT but we suffer for having extra soul in our turns :)

  8. Jeff D December 30, 2013 Reply

    Mike K, I have tested the TTS with Scarpa Tx (orange, very soft version) and both switchback and switchback X2 springs, various pivot points, even Scarpa F1… I can’t find a setting that has enough tele spring engagement and a smooth flex. Whereas the NTN Freedom is very smooth out of the box, and a real bliss on the down. I think the TTS needs longer and softer springs.
    For long alpine touring, I’ve switched to 100% tech bindings until a very light tele binding that I like is released.

  9. John Kunka February 28, 2014 Reply

    Just completed 6 days touring in the Pyrenees and the real problem with these bindings is that you can’t fit ski crampons which are really essential on steep icy slopes. I’ve used them now for over a year and they have never released which is a bit unnerving. I think I’ll be switching to Dynafits before I do anymore serious tours.

  10. Mike K February 28, 2014 Reply

    John, just switch to TTS. If you use the dynafit toe it takes crampons. It has release on me when i have needed it. and of course as you know with dynafit, you can lock and unlock the toe as you wish. SO if you are doing a soft bowl, but are worried about it sliding, then leave the toes unlocked. it won’t release in powder unless you hit a rock or death cookie. But if you are doing a gnarly couloir, you can lock in. I usually keep it semi-locked in the first click. and it has release if i bail hard.

    I have now used TTS in the BC and in Niseko/Furano Japan for a full season. Both on piste and backcountry. It is awesome. so in credibly light and lots of power. I find it has smooth flex and it never hinders my skiing. it is frankly awesome! I still can’t believe no big company is jumping on board with this. Not sure why

  11. John Kunka March 2, 2014 Reply

    Thanks Mike, just to be clear I was referring to NTN bindings. I’ll check out the TTS then if it can take the Dynafit toe. To be fair to NTN I do find them a lot more stable than my old 75 mm and no problems with getting in and out in deep snow. Getting in on a gradient however is tricky. The real disadvantage of the NTN is inability to take a ski crampon. Lack of release even though I’m using the correct spring setting is worrying. I’ll be seeking advise on this from Rotefella. I’m using Scarpa Terminator boots which I love and are Dynafit compatible.

  12. Dan April 1, 2014 Reply

    Thanks for the great review. As is understandable, much of your review and most others discuss the advantages of the Freedom over the Freeride for touring and going uphill. For several reasons (time, alpine skiing friends, wife concern about avalanches), my telemarking is done 100% at lift serviced resorts.

    So the question is if you were only going downhill on them in resort conditions – powder when available but otherwise crud, bumps, glades, chutes – and mounting them on regular alpine skis (likely the Blizzard Bushwacker or Bonafide), would you go Freedom or Freeride? Rotafella seems to push the Freeride for that purpose, but you comments about increased range of motion, equivalent edge hold, and perhaps increased reliability indicate that you might think Freedom is better. Swappabity across skis is not that important because you can do that with either binding using quiverkillers.

    Would love to hear your thoughts on this.

    Thanks!

  13. Jeff D April 2, 2014 Reply

    For resort use only, I would definitely use NTN Freeride. There’s more torsional stiffness and available spring retention than the Freedom that make them more suited to drive big skis on icy slopes and hard snow. With the Freedom on blue #4 (one notch more than the average setting for my weight/boot size), I can’t get the same power from the binding to the ski.

    The Freedom might be easier at first, or have a more “traditional” feeling for telemarkers coming from a 75mm setup, but that’s it.

    BTW, you can get ski crampons for the Freedom at B&D ski gear.

  14. Peter T April 11, 2014 Reply

    As someone who has skied and toured Rottefella Freedom and Axl during the last southern hemisphere season (NZ), plus neutral and laterally rigid bindings in earlier seasons (Linken, Voile VPII), I just want to reinforce for other readers that your review is an accurate assessment in my opinion.

  15. Tanner January 8, 2015 Reply

    Hey Paul,
    How did you like those orange crispi evos? Im a an ex apline racer getting some ntn gear together and already have a pair of freedoms mounted on some BD megawatts. Found a great deal on those same evos you wore for the review but have heard lots of complaints about stiffness. Any insights? Im 6′ and close to 200lbs, aggressive skier, so im thnking a used pair might not be too stiff for me. Cheers!

    • Author
      Paul Forward January 8, 2015 Reply

      Hey Tanner, Thanks for the message. Yes, I think you’ll like the orange Crispi Evo’s. I’ve had 2 pairs of them and I think that a skier our size should have no trouble flexing the bellows. I think you’ll dig the extra power. Good luck and let us know how it works out for you.

  16. Drew March 5, 2015 Reply

    I have to disagree completely with the assessment that these are durable. They are not even ready for prime time yet, and should be considered a beta release. I have had them break on my twice in less than 20 days. I’m 6’3″ 220 and a super aggressive skier, but I only had my old voile hardwires break on me 3 times in a decade of skiing on them. The first breakage, a plastic piece under the tow broke and fell out while skiing bumps at breck, and I was unable to get my boot out of the binding, having to walk back to my car in my sock. After the super crappy customer service, I finally got a replacement binding from Rotte after 1 month, and skied them 5 days and the binding broke into about 12 pieces while skiing down the highlands bowl. Also, the lever for switching from tour mode is super unreliable and pops into tour mode quite frequently. Finally, they have designed this binding with so many nooks and crannies that the binding is prone to icing up all over the place, not least of which is the tour mode lever. When they work, I agree, they are a great backcountry setup. But think twice about trusting them deep in the backcountry.

    • Philip December 18, 2015 Reply

      Hei Drew

      I had the same problems as you. I used them in spring for easy skitouring and they were OK. But next fall, when I used them on hard slopes, already the first day of skiing, I broke the plastic piece that stops the bindings touring mode. I had them replaced quickly, but I broke them just two skidays later again. This binding might be OK for lightweight touring, but not for skiing aggresively. In the end, they just ruined my skis since I had to drill them twice.

      Best,
      Philip

  17. Peter T December 18, 2015 Reply

    Since my last comment, in Sept 2014, I had a slow crash with the Freedoms, they didn’t release, and I broke my ankle. Click my link to read the full story.

    The B&D crampons work very well with the Freedom, with one important caveat. While striding, depending on factors such as length of boot, position of crampon hinge, etc, you might find that the rear of the crampon nicks the spring adjustment knobs, every stride you take. This happened to me, and eventually, far from civilisation, the knob was leveraged off like a bottle-top, and all spring tension lost. By a miracle I found the knob back in the ski track and it popped right back on. The solution is to grind a piece out of the crampon so it doesn’t catch.

    To bench-check for fouling between crampon and binding, you must have the boot clamped in the binding in tour mode.

  18. Joel January 13, 2016 Reply

    I had the steel bail/like piece on the freedoms come out on some easy lift served skiing.Seems like it could have a circlip or cotter clip holding it on.But it stays in if you bend it out slightly and squeeze it back into place.Seems hoky though

  19. Jørn February 4, 2017 Reply

    Hi.
    The Scarpa TX is my first plastic boot and Im totally impressed. Is it possible to just lift the release mechanisme while we are falling? Sounds like a fair stunt?

    Got the Freeride binding (2148g) and Stormrider DP Pro 184 ski (4100g). I enjoy the high speed stability from the weight!

  20. TA1 April 19, 2017 Reply

    Hey folks. I am new to Blister Gear , so greetings everyone. Question regarding NTN Freedom. Does anyone experience a slight resistance in tour mode. I feel it on the bench cycling the binding in tour mode with boot installed by hand. Not so noticeable when actually touring. However , if I feel it while bench testing, the resistance is there. Just curious if I might have an adjustment issue or whether it is normal. I am using blue cartridges’.

    I am gravitating back to the Freedom due to continued frustration with my 22 designs Outlaw set up relative to the finicky step in action of that binding. Was working just about decent without brake installed and was trying to really be optimistic and like it ( brake is an absolutely terrible design and should not be offered until it is refined more, IMO ) , however, I have had it . Not fun when transitioning after a long tour / climb!!Really not at all. So , before I return to 75MM as my primary set up ( Oh how I miss the simplicity and functionality of my Voile Switchbacks ) wanted to give the Freedom another go.

    Thanks for any insights

  21. Peter T April 19, 2017 Reply

    Hi TA1, yes the slight resistance in touring mode is normal. Presumably this does soak up a little striding energy, but I don’t think anyone has ever complained that they have noticed it in practice. I certainly haven’t.

    I’ve gone the opposite way to you and gone to Outlaw, to get the classic 22 Designs heel retention power, which I enjoyed with the Axls. I don’t have the brakes. Due to going to AT bindings the last couple of years, I haven’t used the Outlaws enough to offer feedback.

  22. TA1 April 20, 2017 Reply

    Thanks for the insight Peter. Yeah, after a more thorough reading of an Earn Your Turns and the Blister review on the Freedom , the reviewers do touch on the resistance that still exists with the Rottefella design. Not a big issue for me, just wanted to be confident that it was not a defect in my bindings or poor adjustment, etc. Regarding the Outlaw, I really like how it skis. I just find it overly awkward to get into and out of the binding. Also, for my tastes, I find it a bit heavy and clunky to tour with as compared to my Voile Switchbacks or a tech toe AT set up / Dynafits . The Freedom lags behind a Switchback binding or a Dynafits set up for touring in my opinion as well. Although I have both an Outlaw and Freedom option, for long days of touring and backcountry skiing, my Voile Switchback set up is still my go to rig. I’ll grab the Outlaw or Freedom set ups for resort / lift served side country days where I don’t have to worry about any uphill/skins transitions ,etc. . Anyway, hopefully 22 and RF continue to refine their designs. Always great to see innovation in the Tele segment.

    Tony

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