Is telemark safe for your knees?

If I have knee problem,  can I telemark ski ? or is telemark safe for your knees.

I’m not a doctor.

But after 10 years of mountain rescue as a ski patroller in 4 different resorts, I certainly can tell you that telemark skiers are less prone to injuries. Here‘s somewhat of a proof. Ok it’s ski stats from Scotland, but still. It clearly shows telemark is less prone to injuries than any other snowsports. Their is a new research you can participate here

Is it because of the telemark gear or because of the people’s behavior? Again nothing scientific here but I’d say a bit of both…

Questions I’m often asked:

1. I have knees problems, will I be able to telemark?

Real honest answer is that I know more people that have quit alpine skiing and are now telemark skiing because of knee problems that the opposite. Telemark builds muscles around the knee and stabilizes the articulation. Also, when starting telemark, you will be less aggressive (probably) than you where on your skis or board. If you’ve never downhill before, telemark is a great way to approach the mountain at a friendly pace.

2. Are telemark binding safe?

“That’s true, there’s no release…

No binding system on the planet is 100% safe.

On most telemark bindings, there is no release. Old data found here tend to show that it’s safer with a telemark release binding than a non release binding. Although, equipment has continued to change a lot over the years, few brands have developed release bindings. The arrival of NTN bindings, a solid performing binding with release has not created a mass movement toward this product because of the release option. Don’t get me wrong, releasable binding is not bad, but it’s not a must.

The way your foot is attached and the way the binding moves, in most cases, a fall will not cause injury. And believe me, telemark skiers are reputed to fall a lot. If you want extra psychological support and have the release option, there’s a few out there, but other than the NTN, none are really on my list. Again, After years of telemark skiing and being around the community, I feel perfectly safe telemark skiing.

What is the most common injury when you alpine ski: knee ligaments (way up there) and is alpine skiing more prone to injuries, yes. So if you are alpine skiing and are concern about your knees, think about telemark as an option.

Is telemark skiing safe for your knees: definitely. Can accidents happen? Obviously every day, every where.

Go on and try it, telemark skiing is pure pleasure

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  • Jan Light

    My own experience would support this. The only injury I ever incurred was from jamming my kneecap through thin snow cover into frozen ground. But that was over 35 years ago, when I didn’t know what I was doing and on pretty rudimentary equipment. At 66 I still ski often and always telemark. Knees are still hanging in there. But remember, there’s another case for releasable bindings. In an avalanche, it’s a good thing to be separated from your skis.

    • Rene-Martin

      Hi Jan,

      Very good points, thanks for sharing. As for Avi risk, this is why a lot of patroller are not allowed to use tele gear.

  • Hugh

    Another older guy here, 72. Like most folks my age, I do wonder about my knees, BUT, they get stronger during the telemark season. It seems that the surrounding muscle and tissue strengthen, offering more blood flow, oxygenation and protection. I’ve been on NTN’s for three years and would never go back. They allow precise skiing with a somewhat more upright stance (easier on the knees) and do release (although the manufacturers make no promise).

  • Sean Montague

    One thing to consider in telemark vs alpine is rigidity. My knees ache whenever I jump on alpine gear. I just think the transfer of stress to the joints is much greater with alpine gear. On telemark gear, especially with the likes of my old T2s I still ski on, one absorbs so much of the shock throughout the whole body. This is dictated by the stance and posture necessary to maintain good balance.

    • Rene-Martin

      I have to agree. Or we could say that it is much harder to put the same among of stress while telemarking. I’m sure the guys from the world cup do have a lot of stress on their knees

  • rongon

    I think the most persuasive argument for having releasable telemark bindings is if you’ll be in avalanche terrain. Should the worst happen and you’re caught in an avalanche, you want the skis to come away from your boots so you don’t get dragged down deep under the surface. Other than that, I don’t see much need for releasable telemark bindings. I’ve actually popped out of my Voile 3-Pin Hardwire and Switchback bindings when I’ve gotten tangled up in an awkward fall. Neither me, nor my boots, nor the bindings were damaged in those wipe-outs.

  • Charles Carlson

    Hi Renee,
    Nice to catch a blog on the topic. I’m 70 and have torn my ACL twice, same knee, do activities un-related to skiing. The most important thing, as alluded to in other comments, is knee strength and its useful to engage in knee strengthening activity (muscle building exercises) to accomplish this. Lunge steps, lunge jumps, etc. really make difference.

  • Andrew

    Worked as a Doc in ski resort for over 15 years. Not enough tele skiers to get accurate stats but my impression is also of fewer injuries. I tele at only an intermediate level so still fall over a bit especially on BC snow. My belief is that with the heel free, the ankle and boot can absorb some of the force that would otherwise be transferred to the knee. Bit like the way a dynamic climbing rope stops a carbiner exploding with the force of lead climbing fall.

  • Reto Badertscher

    That’s why I’m still using the 7tm Bindings. The 7tm-“releasable”models are the worlds only releasable telemark bindings tested and approved by the German TUV according to DIN/ISO standards. A forward-shear release is included also.

  • Sergio Benzio

    friday i wrote a little text for my soprtclub and ski school about telmark skiing as winter activity for athletes and i’d also cited the relative safety of this sport discipline, today reading your text i fully agree with your words .

  • RJ

    Alpine Skier for 40 years, Tele skier for past 12 years, since undergoing both hip replacements and a total knee replacement. Tele skiing is so much easier on my joints, I am able to ski pain free. I believe the main reason for this is:
    1. The difference in equipment weight. Tele set up is much lighter than any Alpine set up.
    2. Stress on the joints caused by angle of attack when Alpine skiing. Ankles, knees, and hips are placed under stress to properly turn and edge Alpine skis. Lower body is locked in lateral angles. By comparison, Tele skiing loads up the big leg muscles and core muscles. The low lunge allows the joints in the lower body to work more independently, in a more vertical orientation, versus lateral forces.
    More orthopedic surgeons should suggest Tele skiing to their Alpine skiing joint replacement patients, as a pain free alternative.

    • vanhoskier

      #2 for sure! Besides more lateral loads, I think alpine skiing requires a smaller range of motion in the knees than tele as well. I’ve noticed that when my knees are flexing more, as in a tele lunge, they don’t get as stiff or sore.

  • vanhoskier

    This is exactly the reason why I decided to switch from alpine skiing to telemark starting next season. I never had knee problems until I started alpine skiing – and I was also a half marathon runner and competitive cyclist. I agree with the others below who say that the tele “lunge” strengthens the knees. Part of my work out is practicing tele lunges, and wow…it HELPS my knees feel better. I just got my first new tele boots – Scarpa TX Pro – so I will get some releasable bindings if for nothing other than psychological feeling of safety. I’m looking forward to working my quads, glutes, and core for real next winter!

  • Tom Hodgman

    Nice article. Some good points. Good comments as well. Thanks for sharing.

  • Rosie Cunningham

    Hello Rene,
    Thank you very much for your wonderful knee pain relief treatment blog. I have some experience in tosh hospital. This post is marvellously descriptive. I loved this treatment clarity.
    I am going to share this post right now!