Telemark South America: All you need to know

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This is the complete guide to choose your ski destination in South America

Today we meet with Serge Berthiaume, A French Canadian living and skiing in South America. I first meet Serge more than ten years ago; ski bumming his way all over North America. I was not surprised when I heard Serge’s plan to ski South America over the summer; it was a bit of a shock when I heard he would go back every year. Saving money, working winters back home just to go back to ski the Southern Winters. After all, most of us were doing the opposite. Serge now lives full time in Chile and skiing is still his main occupation.

Tell us the story behind a Canadian who lives and work in the ski industry in South America

It’s been 10 years since we started our history here in Chile, that was in 2003. When we arrived to Santiago after saving up our money (for a
 whole winter), we understood that what we did was the 
best choice, skiing 30 inch of fresh snow on our first day.

The first days were hard! Trying to figure where the best lines were, the best happy hours, the best restaurants…
well, the best setup for us! Two months after our 
return to Canada we realized that we loved our trip so 
much that we didn’t’ spend a day without talking about it!
 It was done: we were addicted. We had to come back, we never miss a ski season in Chile ever again!

What’s so special about skiing in South America?

943253_10151695118028900_556224209_n Continue reading »

Telemark stance: high or low

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Telemark skiing is a fluid a dynamic movement.

I often related to it as dancing down the mountain. I like the flow and the freedom freeheel telemark gives me. And it’s all about that feeling.

Different styles can be seen and two skiers can easily approach the same terrain differently. One big question remain: Should I go down all the way or should I stay high in my telemark stance ?

Moguls telemark competitionMt Edouard-4

Above: high stance and low stance in moguls.

There’s no easy answer to that. It is generally said that a higher stance limits your efforts and gives you a quicker response should you lose balance. So telemark instructors have preached with a higher stance. Good reasoning. And that’s what I tend to do.

But a lower stance also have lots of advantages:

  1. it’s fun;
  2. it lowers your center of gravity, making balance easier;
  3. it enable you to stay in movement for a longer period during your turn. I call this dynamic balance. If you are moving, dancing, you can stay with the rhythm of the song more easily. The analogy relates to the terrain dictating the technique. We have to adapt to it. If, on the contrary, you pause and change rhythm constantly, making short movements, it will be much harder to stay balanced, especially if there is an unforseen obstacle that creates an unbalance. The slope is not constant, other people around you are not constant, the snow is not constant. Keeping your body in motion is one key to staying balanced and in control. Telemark skiing offers that freedom more than alpine skiing or snowboarding because of the equipment, because of the freeheel. Momentum is an advantage. Getting low sometimes gives you the extra motion you may need.

Getting low, staying high, both have advantages. There is no one way. I teach to stay as high as possible when you can and to get as low as possible when you need. Also, a common mistake is that people will try to stay high all the time and have never experienced to go low. You need both in your tool box.

Finally, telemark skiing is a lot about feeling. Stay up to save energy, respond quickly and get down in technical, unpredictable terrain.

And get some style for the show…

Oh by the way, the guy with the green pants is by far the fastest telemark skier I’ve ever seen in moguls :)

What’s your approach? Leave us a comment below

Newschool telemark

telemark NEWSCHOOL 2.3

Telemark skiing is an art form that peacefully integrates you with your surroundings. You eat granola, drink herbal tea and good craft beer, and bearded men and strong women are the norm. If your backpack has a name and you can’t go skiing without your dog, you’re a telemark skier.

True but there is another side of telemark: Newschool telemark.

These youngsters are all about jumping and grinding in the park. They look the same as the rest of the park rats and spend hours perfecting their spins.  At first it looks like a completely different sport.  They don’t appear to be turning, but seem to be simply jumping around. Don’t be fooled. These young skiers are just as passionate about our sport, and are as dedicated as most of the traditional crowd. Best of all they call themselves telemark skiers.

Check out this link to see what I mean.

Progression has no limits. Be open minded

Mike Douglas, known to many as the godfather of Freesking has raised the bar for skiers. He and other free-spirited skiers have changed the look of skiing by taking what the snowboarders were proving was possible and adapted their styles to skiing. Telemark skiing is already seeing a similar make over.

Continue reading »

Telemark skiing: weight distribution

weight distribution

The telemark stance define the sport. This split squat creates the turn and stabilize the skier.

 A lot of the modern telemark technique and equipment is influence by the alpine ski technique. Balance and weight distribution are no exceptions._X7A5648

How much weight should you put on your back ski?

It use to be really clear: 50% on each skis. At all time. When parabolic skis came on the market, that’s what the alpine world did too. Get both skis to carve is more efficient. For the past few years, alpine has come back to 80% on the outside ski. They say that it reduces the chance of falling on the inside ski. And people are winning world cup with that technique.

What about telemark weight distribution? Continue reading »

Life: Backcountry Telemark

Life backcountry

Telemark creates a community and backcountry is a place where time and space are different. People are different. Hiking for your turns, on a good powder day, you hear it all over.

On a good crew, you’ll hear all sorts of them. We all get incredible feelings from the face shoots, nice flow on long arc turns, a clean line with a few hits. Seeing your friends ski and getting good snow, we all cheer once in a while. Or more.

What is your backcountry cheers.

Are you a loud backcountry lad?

My favorite basic sounds are: Youp youp youp. Whiiiiiiiii. Yeah wouhou yeah wouhou. But you also get full on cheer like a buddy of mine yells stuff like: Awesome, Get some cheese! Solid! MASSIVE! My favorite all time is a friend of mine going:

To all the friends in the backcountry; HIIIIII HAAAAAAAA

You can have some folk signing. From Divas like Celine Dion to Austrian yodeling (special greetings to Pierrot Lortie who can really sign all the Yodeling in the repertoire) to the latest music hits from your favorite ski movie and so on.

Continue reading »

Where to wear your Avalanche Beacon

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Where do you wear your avalanche beacon?

For more than a decade, I have not asked myself the question. Where to wear your Avi Beacon? Companies provide a web system especially for strapping it around your torso (shown here). And that’s what I have learned to do, strap it around and never remove it.

But to my great surprise, more and more experts, avalanche technicians and forecasters, guides and everyday backcountry ski bums wear it in their pocket; ‘as long as it’s attached with a sling’, I’ve been told.

Why, or why not.

When you do something for years and never ask if it’s right because that’s all you’ve ever known, it can be a trap. So I asked Dominic Boucher, director of the avalanche center in Quebec’s Haute-Gaspesie, what he thought about both options.

Most of the forecasters where their beacon in their pocket he told me, himself for 8-9 years now.

First reason he told me was comfort, the beacon was in the way with the chest harness, is back pack and his bibs. Then, to wear it under all the layers of cloathing was limitationg in case of a search he told. Have you ever search in real terrain condition he told me. No, I never did thak God. Well, having your jacket open when you search, walk in avalanche debris and shovel is not the greatest idea…

But I was told that an avalanche could undress me and that I should not wear my beacon in my clothes. And never to put it in my jacket in case you remove it.

To that, Dominic answer was to the point, he wears his beacon in his pants, not jacket. And secondly, if you get caught in an avalanche to tear your pants off, good luck not been buried so deep your chances of survival are limited. And he specifically chose his pants to accommodate his beacon. A nice side pocket with a leash, always handy when you need both hands.

Final words…

In everything, changing habits requires a trigger. In safety more than anything, we need to keep sharp and take nothing  for granted. If last year was the chance I took to ask questions about where to wear my beacon, it had been a couple of years that I notice to change, but I didn’t feel the need to question my habits.

Never take for granted that you know what you are talking about. There will always be a better way. Has for me, I will try a new beacon set up this year and see for myself the end result.

 

telemark medical survey

medical survey

Is telemark safe for your knees?

Is telemark more strenuous?

Is telemark more prone to injuries?

We talked about it in this post: trying to awser it the best, but we are missing knowledge. The research I found was from Scotland, limiting the accuracy of the data. We need a truly worldwide research.
Photo-Axis slopestyle 2007 ski knee injury
 

Here’s your chance to contribute to the knowledge

Dr. med. Kai Fehske and Theresa Hardörfer are conducting this research and your input is crucial for the accuracy of the survey.

Here an email I got this week end

Dear Mr Trudel,

my name is Theresa Hardörfer, I`m studying medicine in Würzburg, Germany.
While searching on the internet I found your website.
Last year we started a survey about risks and injuries connected to telemarking. Our aim is to conduct the world`s most comprehensive study about injuries connected to telemarking.
The survey is neither supported by economy nor by the pharmaceutic industry; at the end the results will be accessible to everybody of course.
So far the survey goes on quite well in German speaking areas, but I didn’t have much success in English speaking (and other language speaking) countries.
That’s why I`m writing to you. I want to please you, to help me forward this link to as many telemarkers as possible. Thus I wanted to ask you whether you could post this link on your website or if you have other ideas to reach as many telemarkers as possible.

 

There you go Theresa…
here is the link to the study https://www.soscisurvey.de/ski/?q=ET

I did the survey and it took my a big 6 minutes.

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Backcountry Telemark skiing grand opening in Jacques-Cartier National Parc

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It is with great pleasure that we finally saw the Jacques-Cartier National Park in Quebec, Canada, open a 1 sq. km area to backcountry users.RM wood telemark

Mathieu Brunet, Park director, was really please to see the minimum snowpack of 1 meter finally reach Thursday evening. This season was not the most constant with two major rain episode in January and February.

© parc national de la Jacques-Cartier

© parc national de la Jacques-Cartier

After two year in the making, obtaining the environmental approval for this pilot project, , it was finally happening and it produced immediate results, confirming the potential. On the first week end, more than 200 persons went and came back with smiles on their faces.

Having developed the idea and selected the area, I was pleased to hear about that.  Eastern Canada does not have a great deal of backcountry access and the park opening could really be the start of something. Who knows! One thing is for sure, the sport is growing fast and people dream of powder.

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© parc national de la Jacques-Cartier

The backcountry area:

With 300 meters of vertical, an average of 30° slope, there is definitely great terrain. It’s a forested area with birch, spruce and fir, it has a moderate density. The top plateau has a 150 meters vertical at 20-25° slope and has a low density, it is perfect for backcountry beginners (i.e advanced skiers/boarders). For more information, you can call the park at (418) 848-3169

© parc national de la Jacques-Cartier

© parc national de la Jacques-Cartier. Red Arrow point at the backcountry area

The Park is 30-40 minutes from Quebec City and the Welcome center is a few hundred meters away for the base of the area so the access is not a problem. We’ll try to have a short video edit shortly.

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Telemark skiing, Elvis style

Elvis Style Telemark.001

Telemark is a fluid movement, renowned for its style.

While we do it for the pure pleasure it brings, the technique is quite a challenge to master.
Out the many things, short turns AND upper body position are not easy at first.

Rhythm is key to moving fast from one turn to the other. And keeping the torso oriented in the fall line is the absolute criteria to make it happen. Everyone’s heard about having the shoulders facing the fall line or having your hands up in front of you, here is an exercise to really make it all happen AND making you ski short turns.

To do this, you should be a confident intermediate skier, able to ski groomed blue (difficult) runs in a medium radius turn.

Imagine Elvis, saluting the thousand in the crowd in front of him.

Now it’s your turn. Imagine you are Elvis and the thousands are at the base of the ski run. Every turn, to keep your audience, you have to salute them just as seen above, both hands forward. Here’s how you do it.

1. Select a blue run that as a constant pitch. Make sure it’s a run you feel comfortable skiing as you are about to try something new, something that can put you off balance.

2. While you make a turn, rapidly squat down in a telemark turn. As you do so, bring both hands forward, high, right in front of your face. Look at Elvis, elbows are bent, do the same. (There is no pole plant in this exercise.)

3. Salute the crowd of thousands saying: «Yeah» (This is where your speed should be the slowest, your skis should be across the fall line)

4. Stand up from your squat, lower your hands at about hip height. Keep your elbows bent. It’s important that your hands don’t go too low or backwards. (Your skis should be in the fall line, this is where you should gain some speed.)

5. Repeat step 1, turning the other way. You should feel the rhythm after 2 or 3 turns and that’s where this exercise really pays of.

Bonus tip #1: For the upper body, only your shoulders are in motion, elbows and wrists are not moving. Although you don’t need your poles for this exercise, you can keep them and rely on them to balance yourself if you were to lose control.

Bonus tip #2: If you feel that you gain too much speed over a few turns, practice each turn as a stop turn, bringing your skis to halt at each turn. It won’t be as easy to feel the rhythm but it will allow you to master this weird movement on both sides.

Bonus tip #3: Like any exercise, this only to get you to feel something different, to experiment. Make sure you try normal, short turn, with a pole plant, make sure you have fun.

Finally practice regularly, but don’t over practice. Practice to a point that you feel that you gave it a try (one run or two) but stop before you feel exasperated. Repeat later in the day or another time.

Telemark gear talk: gear life extectancy

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In quality products, performance is often the main criteria.

What should you expect from your telemark gear?

If it’s good stuff when we buy it, we are left with one question: how long it’s gonna last?

I try a lot of new gear every year. And have been doing so for more than 10 year now. I get new skis, new boots, new poles, new pack, new everything. But I also have stuff I keep for many season because I like it. I usually keep a quiver ski 2-3 years and use it untill the ski is really dead (I ski 120 days a year). Same for boots and boot liners. I have a pair of old liner I keep, There my slippers. But I can’t argue that new stuff will perform like no other.

In telemark, quality is not a problem since most gear is high end. (compare to alpine gear or snowboard which have all quality grades including low quality)

I think it’s because of the size of the market, there is no room for cheap. Good for us.IMG_0376

 

SKIS:

It is well known that skis have a life expectancy. That it soften with time and will loses its snap. But just how long. This may vary depending on the ski construction, the usage of the ski, the type of skier and so on. One thing is for sure, after 50 days of skiing, the ski as changed and is not the same. But it’s definitely still good. After 200-300 days, It’s usually very dampened, and you want to change it. (you can always keep an old pair for rocky/thin snowpack conditions)

Maintenance: Edge Wear

Keeping your ski edges sharp is generally neglected on the telemark scene. If you ski powder every day, it’s obviously not as important. But even then, sharp edge will make a difference on high traverse, on that couloir that avalanched half way down and that is now frozen hard. For the daily telemark skier, telemark edges is the difference between: “wow, I have great skis, the rip through every thing”, or “I don’t feel confident, these skis s…”

Mark my words, sharp edges are key to 80% of good telemark technique. If you do it bad with sharp edges, you have a chance. If you do it good on round edges, you have no chance.

Make a habit to sharpen your skis every 2-3 days on the mountain. It will not take you long and you will get better at it very fast. You can go crazy with edges sharpness. DON’T. Just take a simple file and work the edges. I tried to find a simple video on the Web but I didn’t. So I’ll made one in the weeks to come.

Base wear:

Wax your skis from time to time. This is a question a moving fast on flats more than downhill performance. There are different kind of wax depending on snow temperature and performance. I use a cheap, general wax. For real cold snow, -20c (-5F) and below or spring/wet snow (above freezing point), it’s a good idea to have an adapted wax.

Ski base are meant to be flat. With time, it will need to be flatten to keep a good glide. This needs to be done at your local ski shop and cost around 30-40$ (stone grind). This is not the most important but can be done once a year.  With a stone grid comes wax and edge tuning which facilitates hand edges tuning since you start with a constant edge surface. Grinding your base flat too often will reduce the life of your skis. (varies with the ski type, just don’t do it every week!)

TELEMARK BOOTS:

Boots wear out. Yes. It takes a while but the plastic definitely soften with time. Especially at the bellows, especially for the aggressive low stance telemarkers. And it affect performance. It’s hard to put a time on its life expectancy but if you haven’t change in a while, you won’t believe the difference it makes in the performance (I’d say 200 days) Liners will pack and your foot won’t have the same drive force to the ski. You can remold boot liners many times. (usually 5-6 times) so don’t be afraid to try it out.

Maintenance: Boots

Telemark boots don’t really need maintenance. Have the liners molded for comfort (you can do it home quite easily). Remove and dry the liners after each use.

TELEMARK BINDINGS:

If there is one thing that doesn’t wear out, it’s the bindings, right? almost.

Even telemark binding wear out. Usually the spring cartridges will loosen in the first few days. I notice stiffer spring cartridges usually loosen more and faster, which, in my opinion, makes them useless. Just buy regular spring cartridges for your bindings. After that, bindings won’t wear much for a lot of days on the mountain. Inspect them carefully before going out on a trip for unusual wear, check the screws torque tension and you should be fine. The end of life of a telemark binding is usually the purchase of a new ski (and you want to sell your old pair with bindings). If not,you can generally mount bindings over again without problems. Some ski techs will change the screws, it’s not a bad idea but not 100% necessary. As mentioned in the post: Gear talk: where to mount your telemark binding, get a knowledgeable technician to mount your binding or, one day, it will probably rip out. Technology improvement is an other good reason to change your binding once every few years.

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Bonus:

I’m not a fan of fashion and of consuming new gear for the sake of it. But their is a difference between planned obsolescence and perceived obsolescence. At least the telemark industry creates good product and their planned obsolescence is more durable than other outdoor products.

  1. Make the most out of your gear. Use it, maintain it.
  2. Change it before it get worn out. Performance is more than a luxury.
  3. Considering that a regular telemarker usually ski 20-30 days a year, I consider the stuff we pay for can last between 5 to 10 years.
  4. Technology evolve faster than the life expectancy, you can always sell your old stuff before it is worn out. And you will make a ski bum happy.

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