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

 

 

 

Fast track to telemark

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Telemark Lessons Fast Track to learn Telmark skiing for alpine skiers and snowboarders HD

here is a new trailer for our web tutorial series:

This tutorial is for intermediate alpine skiers or advanced snowboarders that are transitioning to Telemark.

Our experience have showed that the knowledge developed skiing or snowboarding is  going to make a positive difference in learning Telemark.

This comprehensive course will enable you to progress faster and better. We will go from beginner to intermediate skills  and even how to get started in moguls.
This is a step by step tutorial, with drills for every skills shown along the way .
This is also THE tutorial for telemark skiers that are stock in their progression with an Alpine like position. It will unlock the skills to go in harder terrain such  as steeps, powder or moguls. Note that this is NOT a tutorial on moguls, steeps nor powder. We develop here the skills that will enable with to approach this types of terrain.
Never before a tutorial as been set up like that. We skip the classic approach and give you the best for your buck package.

This tutorial will be available November 8th 2013. Preorder your copy now in our Telemark Lessons section

This tutorial is part of our tutorial video series. If you would like to learn specific thing about telemark technique, leave us a comment below.

Big news, follow us, subscribe to our mailing list, a special Webinar event will take place for our November 8th launch. Sign up below

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 ?

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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

Newschool telemark

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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 »

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…

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.

Don’t forget to subscribe to our free email updates. Lots of cool stuff coming up.

Flawless method to learning movement, telemark skiing

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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…