Q: I’m curious about using some NNN-BC bindings instead of 3-pin. My wife has pretty much zero interest in ever doing telemark turns, and I’m thinking the telemark boots might be a little less comfortable. What are your thoughts on this?
A: If you are primarily backcountry touring (skiing flat or rolling terrain over ungroomed but mostly packed snow), the NNN BC system is the best option. NNN BC is more comfortable for long days of kicking and gliding because it is less bulky and lighter weight than 75mm boots/bindings. NNN BC boots have a nice soft forward flex, but have enough lateral support to enable you to safely navigate technical sections that come along using the snowplow technique, and if you’re skilled enough, you can even control your speed with parallel turns. But because you are only connected at the front of the boot, (versus all the way to the ball of your foot with the wings of a 75mm binding) NNN BC boots/bindings do not enable effective telemark turns. And although you can force your way through a telemark turn with NNN BC boots/bindings, it isn’t pretty or fun in any way. I liken it to riding a road bike on a gravel road. Sure, you can do it, but… Anyway, It sounds like your wife is more suited for NNN BC.
As far as releasable 75mm bindings, they are available but only in stiff, telemark (lift-served) specific bindings that are overkill for all day touring over moderate terrain, and they don’t have pins so the stiff downhill-turn-oriented cables can’t come off to take away that unnecessary spring resistance when on flats. For releasable 3-pin 75mm bindings for backcountry touring, Voile used to manufacture a release kit that was compatible with their 3-Pin Hardwire binding, but it is no longer available. Because your heel is free and the boot can twist, and because touring speeds are generally much lower than downhill skiing, ACL injuries are very uncommon in backcountry touring, even though free-heel bindings don’t release. Same with NNN BC boots/bindings, speeds aren’t generally high enough (as opposed to flying down a groomer at a resort) and with a free heel and a soft boot, Alpine skiing related knee injuries are very rare.
Here is a great 75mm Backcountry Touring boot: Scott Excursion backcountry telemark boot
And there are several Voile 75 bindings to choose from: Voile Ski Bindings
For more info regarding NNN BC boots and bindings, and 75 mm BC 3-pin boots and bindings, click here.