Modern Telemark Ski Selection and Problems

I have tried and tested dozens of skis with the years.

I’ve been sponsored by Black Diamond the past 13 years, but I’ve still tried a lot of other brands.

In this article I want to talk about what you should look for/ avoid in your quest for the right telemark ski, whatever the brand.

In the last 5 years, more and more skis have early rise tips like shown. These tips can be great on big powder skis but don’t translate well to piste, all around skis.


I think the design is popular on alpine setup because it reduces ski vibration that they call chatter.

For us telemark skiers, the back ski gets a lot of pressure transferred to the tip when we flex in a telemark turn. From this, if the tip curvature is not big enough, like we see on all-around skis (95mm and less), I have found a lot of tip dive.

Telemark modern ski guide

Here are the ski categories I like and the use I make of it.

All Around skis (80mm to 95mm) For inbound, usually ski patrolling

I will look for:

  • 90mm underfoot
  • 15m-16m radius
  • reduced rocker
  • traditional tip shape
  • underfoot camber
  • Don’t take them short even if you want to play in the trees

Weight is often not important. I will mount these skis with a full frame binding like the BMF from Bishop or the Outlaw X from 22Designs.

I use these skis to rail turns on groomers, ski trees, bumps, all inbounds, with some quick outbound laps.

It’s been a couple of years I have skied a perfect ski in this category.

In the last two years, I’ve tried the Salomon QST 90, the Nordica EnRgy 90, the Nordica Enforcer, Atomic Backland 95, Black Diamond Helio 95, Black Diamond Route 88, Bishop Gonzo.

My favourites were the Salomon QST and the Bishop Gonzo.

My all-time favourites  were the Black Diamond Warrant (2013) and the Black Diamond Aspect (2012). See the Philosophy section to learn why

Backcountry Telemark, Touring skis (100mm to 120mm)

I will look for:

  • 110-115mm underfoot
  • lots of rocker (350mm+) soft shovel. I don’t mind the early rise tips for big powder skis.
  • some camber underfoot, avoid full rockered ski (banana shaped ski are not the best for telemark)
  • tail: not a lot of rocker  and stiffer . If you lose balance and end up in the back seat, it will be harder to bring back.
  • radius is absolutely not important but it is usually around 18m- 22m
  • Weight is definitely important and I will aim for around 3 kg per pair.
  • Don’t hesitate to go longer than you are used to. 5 to 10cm longer is my general reference. The big rocker will still make the skis quick. In the end, it’s all about the float you need in the deep days.

My favourite all-time in this category are the new BD Helio 115. The old version called the 116 was already my favourites but the new 2020 version is just a notch better in variable snow conditions, the Achilles heel of big light skis.

Philosophy of modern skis, and the telemark turn

These are just the guide lines I found in the last years.

On piste All-Mountain experience.

We see more and more telemark skiers on piste with wide skis. I’m one of them.

Going back to old set up last year, I realized that we are going too wide.

Reducing the ski width for inbound skiing has enabled me to ski with ease, in moguls, carving, even in powder. Yes, I went slower in some conditions but in general, it was the opposite, I could go a lot faster, especially on hard pack and in moguls.

I fell in love with a pair of Salomon Slalom ski, with 67mm underfoot and 13m radius for carving. I had the best feeling in years on piste with these. Of course they didn’t allow for variable terrain shred, so this is not the solution for an all-around ski. Still, I found feelings I had forgotten, carving each turn like crazy.

I will be looking for a true all mountain, good for the condition we get in the East. Carving, moguls, trees. The Icelantic Sabre 89 would be a ski I’d like to try.

Touring Experience

I tried 2 versions of BD Helio 105. These skis are great. They are good in all conditions, jack of all trade, quiver ski for snowy condition. But I really like the wider skis. 115 is so much more fun.

I will still try some 105 skis in the next few years because I can, but if I had one backcountry ski to get, I would go 110-115mm underfoot, light skis.

Some exceptions.

Ski shapes and intended use vary so much. There is one for everyone.

I ski manly East of North America with one occasional trip out West for the big mountains.

If I was out West year round, I would have a 100-105mm ski for inbound and the same 110-115mm for off piste

Also, I have a Bishop Chedi I really like. this ski doesn’t fit in any of the categories I explained above.

  • It’s not light,
  • It’s not wide
  • It’s a 100mm ski, full camber,
  • with a long radius.

In short, it’s a boring ski.

But it just works. A bit like the BD Warrant I mentioned above. Those kinds of skis seem to work really well for telemark. (Or at least, my style of telemark)

Last word about lenght.

Skis lateral stiffness has increased in the last few years and people are tempted to try shorter, wider skis. For me, this has never produced positive results.

For reference here are my skis lengths. I’m 6’01” / 200 lbs or 185cm / 90 kg. The ski lenght will vary depending on the ski category

slalom racing carving skis: 163cm

GS racing carving skis: 170cm

All mountain skis: 178 to 180cm

Powder, touring skis: 184 to 188 cm

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  • David Norris

    Great advice. I agree on your approach. I personally try and do everything with one ski. I want good float underfoot off-piste and I want good stability on piste (where I tend to ski fast GS turns). I am tall (6’5″/1m94) and 190lbs/85kg. So – my current ski is a 2015 Blizzard Bonafide, 180cm: 133-98-118mm with a sidecut radius of 21m meters. It has a half-rocker at the front and only a little rocker at the rear. So I get good snow contact on piste and descent lift off-piste. I really love these skis. They are hard chargers. As I get older I might choose something softer or add an exo-skeleton to my knees. For now, in my 6th decade, I’m still charging.

  • Pär Willneborn

    Great Advice regarding All-Mountain skis. My current set-up is the Outlaw X from 22Design mounted on the Icelantic Sabre 89mm. A fantastic combination. Rene. you really need to try them. Look here

  • HeCB

    Thanks for sharing your thought process. Sadly fewer and fewer shops are stocking, much less demoing, tele gear. I recently moved to BC from the sf bay area. There were a couple shops down there but I’ve yet to find any around the Vancouver area.

  • René Kunz

    Hi guys,

    I like the “old” shapes. As a Swiss guy I prefer to ride Swiss skies :-)
    When I am not touring, I am riding a Fjell TM2 ( with an Outlaw from 22D. A crazy weapon…

    When touring, I still have my Movement – Bond with an G3 Targa Ascent. I love the 75mm feeling and like the challenge in rough conditions. But I think this will be the last season with this old setup. Does anyone have an interesting advise for me?

    Wish you all a great coming season!
    The Swiss Rene 😉

  • Brett Mitchell

    Hey there Rene and others, looking for a new lightweight touring ski in the 100-110 waist to enjoy powder and play in the backcountry. Looking at the Line Vision 108. Any experience out there with this ski or feedback? I feel like it ticks most of the boxes for Rene’s criteria so should be a good fit. Just don’t want something all carbon light and chattery. Looking for something that is also fun to ski like my old Bent Chetlers. I’m 179cm tall. Going for the 183cm length to keep it easy for the tours and trees. Any thoughts or feedback on these babies?

  • Fabien Grand-perret

    good advices
    I’am 1.91m and 100 kg, riding bonafides width 22 design (75 mm) . I like them on hard pack snow, less in powder. So I should try to find my helio (but helio are to short for me)
    just a question : do you have an opignon about how to center binding, eventually depending on ski shape ?