Telemark Skiing – So What’s it All About?

Snow.Guide likes all forms of sliding on the snow, but Telemark skiing is perhaps the most elegant of art forms found on the slopes today – and it’s also one of the oldest. We’re going to be publishing regular features on Telemark skiing in our dedicated column with contributor Scott Hammond, a Brit based in Norway – the home of skiing.

Telemark Skiing – The Foundations

Telemark, widely known as the original form of skiing was founded by Sondre Norheim in Morgedal in the mountainous region of Telemark in Southern Norway in 1866. Sondre Norheim is considered by many to be the Godfather of modern skiing, inventing both the Telemark and Christiania turn (now known as the parallel turn and origins of the term ‘Stem Christy’) and the first modern Telemark binding, attached at the toe but not at the heel.

Skiing on Telemark skis became popular throughout Europe until the early 1900´s when early fixed heel bindings became more popular due to the invention of the ski lifts. Over the next 70 years, Telemark skiing deteriorated and was really only seen in Scandinavia until the 1970´s when (as the story goes) some American Hippies found some Telemark equipment and started to use it to climb up as they had no money for lift tickets.

Telemark again increased slowly in popularity over the next 20 years until the invention of the Plastic boot, which is much like what we know and use today. There was an explosion in the 90´s and Telemark has maintained its popularity since then taking a bit of a hit over the last few years as Alpine Touring (AT) equipment has become better and cheaper, though Telemark is far far the most gracious way of getting down the mountain – when done properly that is.

But what is Telemark skiing? What do we do?

The equipment is the key – the Telemark boot is specific to the Telemark binding. It has an extended front called a duckbill which is a standard 75mm wide across all models, makes and sizes. The boot is attached at the front only and in general, has some sort of cable around the back with a “bail” locking the cable in place holding the boot forward, locking the duckbill with a snug fit into the binding. This allows the heel to rise as the knee is dropped down to the ski.

scarpa-t-race-telemark-boot

Scarpa T-race Telemark boot

Where as in Alpine skiing, the “valley” ski is slightly behind the “mountain” ski, in Telemarking it is the opposite. The front ski, or lead ski as it is called in Telemarking is pushed forward and becomes the valley ski. The knee on the back ski then goes down to the mountain ski. The back ski is hardly ever slid back, it is always the front ski that leads by sliding forwards.

Is Telemarking tough on the legs?

Yes it is! But the more you do it, the less tiring it becomes. Telemarking is more about grace than power, and when you make a great Telemark turn, it stays with you – it really does. I remember my first “real” Telemark turn like it was yesterday. It´s a more surfy type of a turn. It has its downs when conditions are tough, but when they are not, it is by far the best way to get down and around the mountain.

Earn you turns – Telemark!

If you have any Telemark questions/queries, feel free to contact Scott at scott@snow.guide and he’ll answer as many as he can in the next Telemark article in Snow Guide.

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Scott Hammond

Alpine and Telemark Ski Teacher

Scott Hammond is an ISIA Alpine and Telemark teacher for the Norwegian Ski Schools (DNS – Den Norske Ski Skole), Member of the DNS Telemark Demo team and owner of We-Freeski Performance courses in Lillehammer, Norway.

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