Ninja Star: Black Diamond 01 Telemark Binding

Over the past few seasons I have been able to log tons of ski time.  While I do split my time between my telemark skis and my snowboard, I regularly manage about eighty days on snow per season.  Over those days I have been fortunate enough to ski a bunch of different skis and a bunch of different bindings.  One of those bindings stands out from the rest and, in my opinion, is superior to the competition.  I believe that this binding is so much better than its competition that I will not fully give my impression on a ski if is not equipped with the binding in question, that binding is the Black Diamond 01 Telemark binding.  I have been so impressed with the 01 binding that it is the only binding I use on my personal skis.

What makes the 01 standout is that it is the only binding that offers resistance-free touring but still delivers power and feel on the downhill.  The resistance-free touring allows the ski to break trail easier and skin easier than traditional telemark bindings that have constant tension.  For a skier like me, who splits time between the resort and the backcountry, having a binding that does it all well is extremely important.

With the majority of the competition’s bindings, I feel as if they either deliver resistance-free touring or they can ski, but none do both as well as the Black Diamond 01.  It has been my experience that the resistance-free offerings from Voile (Switchback) and G3 (Targa Ascent) tour as well as the 01, but when it comes time to ski they do not have the chops that the 01 possesses.  On recent occasions, when given the opportunity to demo skis with Switchbacks and Targa Ascents, I have been very impressed with the skinning ability of the bindings but letdown when it comes time to ski (the real reason I am out there…the touring is just to keep some fitness).  The problem I find with the Switchbacks and Targa Ascents is that they do not have the power to drive even moderate skis, leaving the skis feeling like they wander underneath your body.

 The 01s also possesses the easiest system for switching between tour mode and ski mode.  While the Voile and G3 offerings have a lever that must be moved from left to right and right to left, the Black Diamonds simply have a button to depress which is easily accomplished – without even having to bend over – by simply pushing the button with your ski pole.

When it comes time to ski I have found that the 22 Designs Hammerhead and G3 Targa binding provide plenty of power and feel to the ski, but neither offers the touring efficiency of the 01 binding.  The problem with these bindings is that once you have experienced resistance-free skinning it is hard to go back to traditional bindings.  I have spent a great deal of time on G3 Targas and been very satisfied with how predictable they are to ski.  On the uphill, however, I have yet to meet a pair that doesn’t have a squeak that will eventually drive you and your partners crazy.  The Hammerheads are also an amazing binding to ski and surprisingly light (weighing less than the 01s) but are way behind the Black Diamond 01s in touring ability.  I am, however, excited to try 22 Designs’ latest offering, the Axl, which is unfortunately currently out of stock.

To conclude: if you are looking for a does-it-all binding for your telemark skis, look toward the Black Diamond 01s, as they will not disappoint.  They offer the perfect symbiosis of uphill touring and downhill capability, perfect for keeping you happy no matter how you tackle the mountain.

Disclaimer:  All gear reviewed has been purchased with money earned through my day job at the local outdoor store.   That is not to say I am above receiving free gear for review, it is just saying that no one is giving me any (if you would like to change that, feel free to reach out).  The fact is if I did not like the piece, I wouldn’t be writing about it.