My Teaching Philosophy for Telemark Instructors

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Hello Telemark Tribe,

 

I was contacted by CANSI, the Canadian Association of Nordic Skiing Instructor to write a paper to my fellow instructors. Unfortunately, it never got published so I taught I could share it here.

Here is what I wrote for my fellow teachers.

 

When I teach telemark skiing, my number one objective is for every student to retain a clear learning objective and to know precisely how to achieve it. 

Too many times, I have taken the wrong approach by trying to have my students find instant results with advice such as: “Do this, move like that…” Sometimes it works. But often, it does not.

As telemark skiing instructors, we want to give our students several tools to achieve a given movement. Our goal is for them to be confident in the way they improve.

Introduction— The Absolute Telemark Way:

Every time I meet with students, I want to know two things: What they feel good about (their Positives) and what they want to improve (Their Objectives).

 

The positives

First, I will ask them about their experience, their strengths and what they have improved on recently. My goal is to quickly assess their mental game, because learning starts in one’s head. I am looking for positive thoughts. I will ask about things that they feel good about:

  • Types of terrain (groomers, steeps, trees…)
  • Types of turns (short, long, speedy or not…)
  • Types of telemark stance (low, active, high…)

I only ask specific questions if they cannot seem to bring positive ideas. I want to know what makes them feel good before what they want to improve.

If they are new to telemark skiing, I will ask them about their skiing or snowboarding abilities, or other sports they practise. 

 

The Objectives

Subsequently, I will ask them about their expectations and what they hope to improve.

All this takes about three minutes. If I have a large group of students, I will shorten this part and go for a direct question:

“Describe your telemark skiing experience and comfort level.”

Once I have compiled everyone’s input, the lesson starts. 

I could go many ways from here, groups, first timers… But for this article, we will use the example of a one-on-one lesson with an experienced telemarker searching to improve.

 

Initial Approach

We start with a warm up run. I will lead for the first third of the way. Then, I will stop to see how my student is doing. I will then let them take the lead so that I may assess these points:

  1. What is making them waste energy?
  2. How is their body balanced?
  3. What path or choice of lines do they make going down the mountain?

I want to integrate the student’s requested areas of self-improvement to what I observe and apply it to a specific type of terrain. 

 

The Path to Improvement

People like to know promptly what you think of their skiing. I will often stop my students before the end of the first run to give them immediate feedback. If you both see eye-to-eye, their confidence in your teaching skills will be boosted.

Be forthcoming in your evaluation but, formulate it so that they feel their past efforts were not in vain. Remember to remind them that what they are doing is working for them. 

“If you do something and you feel it’s working, then it’s working. If you feel like you are doing something wrong, then it’s most likely wrong.”

It is that simple!

 

Then, introduce one thing that they could improve on. It has to be related to their learning objectives. It does not have to be directly related. But it needs to be brought up as part of their progression plan. For example:

“I see that you have good balance and that your telemark stance is solid. This is good because it will enable you to gain more rhythm, make tighter turns in the steeps like you talked about achieving. One of the keys to really improve your rhythm is how you use your hands.”

BOOM! 

 

You just reminded them of their positives, you have pointed out a possible solution for them to reach their goals. The direction: better rhythm, and the way to get there: your hands, are clearly pointed out. 

You now have their full attention. They will focus on doing precisely what you suggest, knowing that it will lead to them achieving their goals.

 

Building a Plan

This is the “easy” part. This is what we do as a telemark skiing instructor: Build a series of exercises that will get your student to discover new movements, thus getting them to where you think they should be.

Here are a few things that make a plan work regardless of the selected drills:

 

Share the Plan Before Doing the Exercises. 

Take a minute to explain to your student the expected outcome of your plan. 

What will they gain? If the exercise is about hand movement to increases pivot or rhythm, tell them. Relate it to the end goal; Hands = one step closer to their objectives.

 

Move Quickly From One Exercise to Another. 

Do not stick with one exercise, even if it is working. If it is working, find a variation. If it is not working, find out why and try to address it in the next exercise. 

Find “Ah! Ha!” Moments. 

If you feel that your student has had a great gain, celebrate it. Talk about the success. Try to integrate it to their skiing.

 

The Psychology of Learning

 

Remember the moment you learned something new and how you felt about your past struggles, your previous failures and successes? That is the teacher’s challenge!

Now that your students have been working hard for an hour or two, get them back to something they feel good about: terrain, types of turns, body position…

 

Finish With a Positive. 

Find a way to reveal their original skills at the end of the lesson. Link the newly acquired skills to their original positives. If you did it correctly, your student will feel like they have improved one or more aspects of their telemark skiing technique. They will know what to work on to keep improving. They will associate their learning to you, the instructor.

The worst scenario is a student leaving the lesson more confused than before. They will feel frustrated because they just do not get it. 

Or worse, they will think that they have to learn something completely different because they had it wrong all along. This mindset will not lead to a quest for improvement.

 

Remind yourself the following:

  • Everybody learns at their own pace.
  • Everybody can execute something in the way their mind tells them to; But the mind has to send the correct instructions.
  • You are responsible for the message in their minds.
  • Practice remains the number one factor for improvement.
  • There is more than one road to progress. 
  • Remember that your taught approach is not the only way to success.

 

Finally, you have to remind your students the number one rule of learning:

“If it feels good, it probably is. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.” 

Because you finished the lesson on something that your student already felt like they were good at, the positive effect will create a good mental state to keep working and improving. 

 

But there is more to it… It is called proprioception!

I will talk about proprioception next time. In the meantime, you can Google it if you are curious.

That’s it for now,

René-Martin his a certified telemark instructor. He is the creator of Absolute Telemark. You can book a private lesson here

 

 

 

Review of the Meidjo Telemark Binding

Meidjo

This is my first impression of the Meidjo Binding.

I wanted to do a review for this equipment but warning. I’m not a pro at doing reviews. I’d like to point to my friend Craig Dostie from EarnYourTurns.com for a true review on this binding or actually any review on telemark gear.

He did a complete review of the binding with clear views of all aspect which this review is not. This is more about giving my impressions

I want to mention that I was also trying a new ski, the Corbon Convert and some new boots, the Scarpa TX Pro.

I had a lot of anticipation for this set up. It’s like whenever you go see a movie that you heard was the best of the year. You will be disapointed if it’s just great.

So first the technology of the Meidjo.

This is binding as all the ingredient to become the next big thing in Telemark.

It’s Step In, releasable, It’s light and it’s suppose to ski great.

Plus it’s got low tech touring capacities. When I first wrote about the preproduction model last spring, I was already in awe.

Like I said, It’s got to be a great movie or I’m going to be disapointed.

I think that every body in the telemark tribe looking at this binding for the first time are like, wo, it looks complicated, How do you go from walk mode to telemark mode, it’s such a different design that I didn’t understand it before I actually tried it.

So behold, let check this beatifull design and put it to test.

So I went in the Chic Chocs backcountry for 3 days with some friends and tested the thing.

First,

I’m no used to low tech and getting in and out, I expected it to be hard. Craig Dostie mentionned to me that it was the best fitting low tech he had seen on the market and he was right, It’s fairly easy to get it on.

I like to have the binding in the touing mode to put it on, so their is nothing in the way to get the insert lined up.

To do so, you have to do these steps, harm the binding up, push down and clip the touring hook.

Then, put it on by aligning the the pins witht the boots inserts and press donw, you can wigle a bit if needed to get it on.

Then, to get in telemark mode, release the touring hook and clip on.

This is not the way Pierre, the inventor explains how to put the binding on, because, by doing it this way, I have to bend down, so it’s not a true step in. So maybe with more experience witht the low tech, I will simply arm the binding and step in. In the end I’m so used to bendind down to put on my skis that I really did preffer to do it like this.

On the down side, I had some icing problem once and it prevented me to properly in the second heel. I simply had to manually snap the binding a few times and it was ok. It only happened once. I have to mention that I don’t know one binding on the market that never ice up.

Telemark is a downhill technique

Everybody so far liked the skiing so I was not so worried. Usually, everybody can’t go wrong. I want to point out that there is two dials to adjust tension and that you have the choice to add a second spring on each side for more tension. My good friend Max form Xalibu skis, mounted the binding and had already added the second set of spring knowing my style. It created a really active feeling very close to HamerHead #4. It did not feel like a NTN binding but it’s neither anything like the mellow 75mm binding Black diamond O1 or Voile.

I will play with the springs tension to see all the possibilities

Note on the skis and Boots:

I had never tried the Carbon Convert and this is a solid charger. It’s not at all a mellow soft playful ski that you can push around. It’s a driver and it contributed to my feeling of having a strong set up.

The only odd were the boots. I actually love the Scarpa TX pro, there so comfy, light and warm but I had to adapt to it’s softness.

Conditions were windpack and I had to tighten the boot like mad to get the power I needed.

After a few days, I got used to the boots and it was ok, but I really missed a more powerful boot.

So I would give the Meidjo a strong 10/10 for skiing.

It really delivered in terms of power vs feeling it’s unmatched in my mind except for the HamerHead/Axl and definitely better than the NTN freeride

Release

There is no clear indications on how to set the release tension.

I love the idea that the tension of the release is independent of the tension of the binding activeness. But I would like to know how to adjust the release tension. My tech set it up half way as he didn’t have any more cues.

I had no pre release problem while skiing either on the toe piece or on the second heel, I did not fall either, so really, I did not test this part of the binding.

Touring

For me, this was by far the part that interested me the most.

All the TTS family binding alike like the original TTS, the light moon and the Meidjo uses the low tech advantages of what ATers have had the pleasure of having for years. I have never tried the TTS or the Moonlight so I will consider the Meidjo as my first binding that integrates all the benefits of low tech in telemark gear.

What a pleasure.

The touring hook was changed and this is one aspect I was worried about not being user friendly. It never iced, I was easy to operate and I actually love how easy it is to go from walk mode to telemark mode. To go the other way around you have to remove the binding, which is not my favorite thing, but I can live with that

I had tried Plum, which is a light low tech AT binding many years ago and I don’t remember the low tech to be sooooo efficient.

But with the Meidjo: WOW.

In this, I have to consider the whole package. Boots offered great comfort, movement, skis are very light compared to my Amperage and the Meidjo really delivered. Wow again.

Untill I had a lot of release of the pins, with medium side force. This is wrong. I was missing something. All the people can’t be in Awe if this binding is always releasing in walk mode. But where is the walk mode!

This is a great exemple of a telemark skier not used to a completely new design and being confuse. And Although I feel dumb about not finding how to look the front low tech on the binding at first, I’m sure I’m not the only one that will make this mistake.

I kept trying lifting the red tab from ski to walk like on a Dynafit, or any low tech binding I know, this is not how it is…

In the end, I had to read the instructions (I can hear Craig Dostie laughing at me right now) to find that you have to press a big black bar that simply locks the red tab.

Told you, I’m no expert at all the gear

What I’m good at thought is being out in the mountains and telemark skiing. I do more than a lot and this binding delivered in every aspect except one. the Climbing raisers. The red one sometimes fell without any cause. The second wire one was ok. Maybe I still need to read instructions…

In the end, I did not use and of the two climb riser simply because the efficiency of the low tech is that much more. I could easily climd very steep tracks all the way to the skin holding limit so I never fell the need for the risers.

In the end

I have to say that I’m very impressed. The binding hold to the reputation it already have.

  • Skiing is very good, a strong 10/10 and that’s number one for me,
  • Touring is exceptional, and it makes the game radically different in the mountains
  • By far my biggest surprised is that the overall binding is very user friendly. It all makes sense and I got the hang of it very naturally (Okay! except on how to lock the front pins :)

Time will now tell if it holds up and until then, for me there’s just no point in going back to another system.

On that note, The Meidjo have already made a few adjustments, adding some screws to better hold up, changing the touring hook, which like I said I found very convenient.

Episode 12: Telemark skiing in Thompson Pass Alaska with Matt Kinney

Matt Kinney

This episode is Powered by

telemark skier Magasine

Follow one of the most dedicated telemark skier on the planet on his journey to ski and pioneer some of the most challenging descent in Valdez Alaska.

Matt Kinney former guide, hiking for his turns for 35 years now, and author of Alaska Backcountry skiing: Valdez and Thompson Pass.

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Links for this Episode:

Matt’s website: Thompsonpass.com

Matt’s equipment:

Skis, Carbon Convert or on Earn Your Turns

Binding, Voile SwitchBack Or on Earn Your Turns

Boot Garmont Kenai

Matt’s Book: Alaska Backcountry Skiing: Valdez and Thompson Pass (I think I’ll buy a copy just as a dream trip coffee table book )

 

In the same idea: here is the link for the movie A Life Ascending

All pictures are curtesy of ThompsonPass.com

Telemark leash or no leash

telemark leash

Do you use leash on not releasable telemark binding in the resorts.

On all skis or boards, you need to have a system to hold or stop the device from going down if it were to leave your feet. Image a ski or board going down a slope at great speed hitting someone on the head and killing him. It’s happened, I’m sure.

As a ski patrol, I have seen a lot of dangerous situations and a few close calls.

On Alpine skis, the fact that the binding is releasable, brakes have been the norm for quite a while.

On snowboards, a leash should be attached to one of the legs. This practice is not followed by any snowboarders I know. The reason is quite simple, the binding system is very reliable. 20 years back or so, I remember seeing bindings rip from boards after a hard landing and going down like crazy. I’ve seen this happen with alpine skis and telemark as well.

Telemark skiers are mostly responsible people and most of them use leashs to link the boots to the binding. If after a great fall, if the binding was to release, the skis would go nowhere.

Now there is a few telemark bindings that comes with release and brakes so we’ll leave these out of the conversation.

 

I don’t use a leash and have been doing so for 10 years.

I know, I know, that’s not very wise. Quite stupid frankly.

And you are right. If my binding was to release for no reason, my ski would go down like a missile.

But it’s never happened.

That’s another stupid thinking I know.

Then comes risk management.

 

Risk zero does not exist.

Any living is doom to end. The goal is to rationally choose the most acceptable path to the end.

Water is dangerous so we learn to swim.

Telemark binding are not safely held to the boot so we put a leash.

My years of experiences have thought me that binding tension will always loosen, so I’ve made a rule to always check that the tension is all good. And that’s always  been enough to keep my binding to my feet, unless a great fall. Like a really good bail.  And then, I’m kind of happy that the ski releases.

This has happened to me a few times. Manly in tight woods, where the skis got stuck and got riped from my feet.

See what I mean at 2:50

That one time, I was skiing with a demo ski and it had a leash. I injured my leg on the scene. When my leg when under the snow, I felt the binding go with out to much tension, then I felt the leash hard wire create a large amount of tension. It broke. At the time, I was sure I had blown my knee, but luckily, after a week, I was good to go…

 

So, did the leash do it’s job?

NO

It did not prevent the ski from becoming a missile.

And it injured my knee in the process

 

Managing the Risk

As I said, it’s all about reducing the risk to an acceptable minimum.

This is what I see as a ski patrol, 99% of the time:

  • For telemark skiers. If they have to remove their skis in a steep slope, they will have a lot of difficulty to put it back on. and sometimes, one of the skis will escape…. Missile of dead
  • For snowboarders, beginners will remove their snowboard to walk down a harder section. The board will slip out of their hands for what ever reason, and the missile is launched.

Now there is still that 1%

That’s where risk management comes in place. Is that 1% were the missile launch could have been avoided by a leash.

Leashes are not a no fail system as seen in the video. And they don’t even avoid the main danger’s I’ve seen.

It’s now accepted in the snowboard scene that leashes are non sense and, around me at least, you never see a snowboarder wear one.

For the telemark scene, I don’t think it’s that much different.

Make sure your binding tension is right every time you put the ski on. That will save you and the surrounding skiers 99.9% of the time.

Then if you feel more secure wearing a leash please do. Especially if you’re a beginner and you are not aware of what is the right tension in your bindings… Or if you are using older bindings that did not create as much tension.

 

Telemark stance: high or low

tree2

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 what I tend to do that.

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 your in movement, dancing, you can stay with the rhythm of the song more easily. If, on the contrary, you pause and change rhythm constantly, making short movement, it will be much harder to stay with the music, especially if that music changes it’s rhythm unexpectedly. A lot of this happens while telemark skiing. 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.

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…

What’s your approach? Leave us a comment below

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 »

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.

Don’t forget to subscribe to our free email updates…

Flawless method to learning movement, telemark skiing

Jonglerie

I can juggle five balls. And this blog is about telemark skiing.

I often meet people that are starting telemark skiing. One of the things I tell them is that they are very lucky to be beginners because they have so much to learn. The learning curve is fast and your milestones come every few days practicing. They then look at me, and go:

I’d like to be good now, ski the powder and rip through anything.

Goal is important but it is the mean that gets you coming back for more. It’s the fun part.

How to telemark then. I have a flawless method of learning movement. Skiing is just a combination of movements. So is juggling.

Ingredient one: get a tutorial method to learn the skill. Instructor, video, book… Anything. I learned juggling with a book that had all the 3 balls, 4 balls and 5 balls juggling tricks. Guess what, I can juggle 5 balls, not one more. Not because I can’t learn 6 and up. Just because I never got motivated in getting instruction for more. Make sure you have the tools to learn.

Ingredient two: Get a buddy as motivated as you. It will, in most cases, be the determinant factor to perseverance.

Ingredient three: Don’t wait to master a movement, try it on your weak side right now. We all have a weaker harm, a weaker kick leg, a weaker golf side. From juggling, I can tell you that you need both hands to catch and throw. Telemark is the same, you need to turn both ways. Practicing the weak side right away, you will master the skill FASTER on both sides. Spend a little more time on the weak side, and the good side will learn it in a flash.

Ingredient four: Don’t wait to master one skill before trying to do another one. Move on and come back. This will keep it fun.

Ingredient five: If you can’t do it instantly, don’t panic. You just need more practice. Keep it simple and make sure that you finish practicing that particular movement on a good note. your brain learns movement. It’s called proprioception. And it learns movement from resting in between practice session. I don’t know anybody that can juggle 5 balls the first time. Every time you come back at it, your brain have learned as assimilate more, and one day, it will just happen.

Bonus tip: Executing movement is more than an on/off switch. Learning is ongoing. Technique will always improve and future generations will always be better. I guess that’s why we can fly to outer space, or ski down climbing routes. Never take for granted that you know something, look around and learn from others.

Bonus Video:

 

Don’t hesitate to leave a comment!

And have fun…