On a hut trip in January, I got to take Black Crows' Trios Freebird ski…
After three months working at Mountain Chalet, I finally asked the question: “How do you even pronounce this?”
By “this” I meant the Meidjo, M Equipment’s NTN telemark binding. Upon hearing the unmistakable nervous and excited tone of an employee asking about one of his favorite pieces of gear, Jim appeared from around the corner exclaiming, “Oh, it’s pronounced ‘med-jo.’ You’ve gotta try them.”
I picked up tele skiing at age 13 after my dad, a long-time telemarker, and I collided in a high-speed race down the slopes headed for lunch. We both avoided serious injury, but he thought it was time for me to slow it down a bit and try something new. Cue the Craigslist purchase: a set of K2 She’s Piste skis with the originally mounted G3 cable bindings paired with Scarpa T1 prototypes. Since 2008, I’ve upgraded my skis and bindings, but the T1’s keep me going to this day – they’re tall, still, and after 10+ years, are seriously in need of new liners.
After work, Jim sent me out the door with one of our tele demo setups: the Meidjo binding mounted on a pair of DPS’s Zelda Tours with Scarpa TX Pro boots. The package is designed to be light – relieving some of the burden of long backcountry tours – but also high-performing on the downhill. It just so happened that my day off corresponded with Monarch’s biggest snow of the season. I woke up the next morning to 11 inches of fresh powder.
Walking from the car to the base area, the first thing I noticed was the lightness of the TX Pro compared to my T1s. No surprises there. They’re more flexible, too, which had me a bit nervous, seeing as I pride myself in the rigidity of my telemark setup. I have heard that the women’s boot is more flexible than the men’s though. I tightened the springs on the Meidjo (as easy as twisting them with my fingers until reaching the desired tightness), lined up the tech-toe with the pins on the binding – easy enough thanks to some bumpers in front of the toe – and stepped in with my toe, and then my heel. The binding clipped in under my arch (the “duck butt”, as it’s lovingly referred to), and I was ready to ski.
A college friend trying his luck at ski photography was in town visiting. For our first runs, he shot from the bottom of groomers while I made “hero turns,” over-exaggerating my knee drops and trying to edge through loose powder. While it provided some fun photo-ops, it also gave me a chance to test out the full range of the ski and binding.
The tips of the Zelda, 106mm underfoot, staying reliably afloat at high speeds, and they offered a tight turning radius I hadn’t expected before. The combination of the Zelda’s side-cut and the responsiveness of the binding gave me a brand new agility – unlike my Ax1 bindings (which I absolutely love for their stiffness and touring capabilities); the Meidjo is engaged before I even life my heel. The smallest bend in the knee and my ski is already responding. For a day like this, when control is key, it was a dream.
After a couple of groomer laps, we were ready for Mirkwood, Monarch’s hike-to terrain. Fifteen minutes of boot-packing puts you at the top of a small bowl with steeps, trees, and fresh tracks galore. Tree-skiing has never been my strongest area. I’m still perfecting my quick telemark turns, and I often find myself slipping into alpine skiing when I get going too fast in tight trees. This time was different, though. My skis were responding at a level I could not believe. There was no lag time between dropping my knee and waiting for the cable to tighten and engage. Duck butt for the win! The Zelda continued to perform exceptionally through tight trees, steeps, and waist-deep powder.
After three laps on Mirkwood, we were about ready to head back to the lift-serviced runs. A snow mobile towed some patrollers up the hiking trail – even patrollers get to enjoy some leisure laps on a day like this. On the snow mobile’s return, we realized that the patroller driving was another college friend. Just like that, he had us in tow for our forth lap. My quads burned, but, even though my end-of-day fatigue, the Medijos responded just as I would have hoped.
The Zelda, TX Pro, and Meidjo combination proved ideal for a deep powder day at Monarch. The next question is: how will they do on the ever more common icy, choppy days? Those are times when I rely on my own über stiff set-up for control and edging at high speeds, but the Meidjo’s quick responsiveness is promising. I guess I’ll have to find out!.