Telemark Skiing - Are You Up For It?
With January upon us and February around the corner, we here in the Northern Hemisphere enter the height of ski season.
Skiing has long been a great adventure sport, turned extreme sport for those who live in mountainous, snow-covered terrain. The Olympic Winter Games features skiing as the biggest attraction, along with snow boarding and biathlons. And of course, for those in flatter areas, cross country skiing is quite popular. But one of the more extreme styles of skiing is know as Telemarking. Telemark skiing is quite popular, so much so that there are magazines and organizations dedicated to the sport.
What is telemarking you ask?
Telemark skiing, also known as "free heel skiing", is a form of downhill skiing using bindings where the boot is attached only at the toe (similar to those of Cross-country skiing), allowing the heel to come up from the ski. Because the heel is free, it allows the skier to go into a lunge position in order to turn. The act of lunging while turning is a technique called the telemark turn.
Telemark turns are led with the heel flat on the outside ski (which becomes the downhill ski at the end of the turn) with the knee at a 90-degree angle. The inside ski slides back under the skier's body with a flexed knee and raised heel. This position resembles that of a lunge. The skis are staggered but not quite parallel, and the downhill ski is pushed forward by the skier’s lunge. Normally the 50% to 60% of the body weight is distributed on the outside ski, depending on snow conditions.
Telemark turns are rounder and more graceful than alpine turns. They are also much more strenuous, so expect your quads to burn afterward — though, compared to downhill, Telemark skiing is considerably easier on the knees.
Equipment for telemark skiing differs from traditional alpine skiing as unlike alpine ski bindings, which lock the heel and toe of the boot, Telemark skis only lock in the toe and leave the heel detached; for this reason, Telemark technique is sometimes referred to as ‘free-heel skiing’. Traditionally, the bindings are different as well. Older telemark bindings used a ‘three-pin’ system that locked the duckbill in place but for the last 30 years or so, spring-loaded cable bindings have been the most widely used models.
The next, and possibly largest difference, as explained above, is the telemark turn. Making a proper Telemark turn generally requires a lot of practice and beginners should first learn the skill on relatively flat terrain.
Here is a video to help you learn the basics of a Telemark turn. So sit back, watch, and enjoy. The get out there and give it a shot if you are up for it.