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

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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 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 »

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 »

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.

plan de carte PNJC copy

© 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 gear talk: gear life extectancy

jump mur w logo_2

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.

Absolute telemark3_16-12-12

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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What creates a great telemark community

Moguls telemark competition

Telemark skiing, unlike main alpine sports, have the opportunity to have a strong community. This is a subculture, a community of interest. A telemark community is like no other.

If you haven’t tried telemark and would like to, one thing you need to know is that there is absolutely no advantages to telemark. Technique is harder, equipment is as heavy or heavier and it’s more strenuous to name a few.

But once you try it, it’s a whole new story. The fun, the feeling, the flow are just out of this world. And the community is different.

Recently, at a telemark festival I attended in La Réserve, I met some newbies. Smile on their faces told the day they just had. They told me just how incredible the people were, sharing tips, helping them as they go. After so many years in the community, I had forgotten that it was something other riders don’t have. Perhaps the Freestyle Park Rats have the same, I honestly don’t know. But telemarkers really have a way to make it happen, to be accessible.

Then I looked around me. It was a telemark festival I had never been. I didn’t know most of the people around me. I realized that I had skied the whole day meeting people, going in crazy places, having fun without a second thought on this being normal or not. That moment, I really had a special feeling about all this: being a telemarker, sharing the sport I like.

The next week, two of my good friends were just back from a ski trip in Utah. The spark in their eyes was intense, the ski had been good. But far more, the people they met, where they got to go with locals, just because they were on tele, really stood out from their stories.

It made me remember my trip last winter to the Alps. The people I met were just incredible, the telemark scene was small but everybody knew each other, told stories, invited us for apres ski… I never thought French skiing would be like that. The mountains, the food, and most of all, the people I met.Nanou smiling on tele

Last weekend was the Rendez-Vous Telemark at my local mountain, Le Massif. It was my turn to welcome people. You then realize that you want to give back as much as you can. Get people to have a great experience. Unfortunately this year, mother nature was not on our side and the skiing was not the greatest. But the weekend was still great. What really made the difference was this community, the warmth of the people at the event, the awesome after party. People shared more than the daily experience and they were easy to speak too. And again I met some folks who weren’t used to all this. It was my turn to smile.

I can’t wait for the next rendez-vous, Absolute Telemark will be at a few more during this season.

What is your favorite cultural story on telemark? Share it below.

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Telemark tutorials

Absolute telemark3_16-12-12

Absolute Telemark is in the process of making a tutorial on telemark skiing.

HD quality, well conceive by more than 15 years of teaching experience, each lesson will be 12-20 minutes long and available for pc/mac, Ipod/Ipad, Android tablets and phones

These tutorials will cover subject like:

  • Basic telemark; a series of 3 tutorials will cover everything a beginner needs to know to get started. It even include a fast forward method for alpine skiers or snowboarders, eager to get rippin’ fast.
  • Telemark freestyle; a series of 2 tutorials will cover the new style telemark: switch telemark, snowpark jumps and modules.
  • Mogul telemark, a series of 2 tutorials will cover all the know how from the fundamental to all the advance stuff.
  • Powder telemark, a series of 3 tutorials will cover how to travel the backcountry, tree skiing, and of course powder turnspowder 1

These tutorials will be release for the 2013-14 season.

Just register to our free email updates below. And make sure to visit our telemark tutorial page

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