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?


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.


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  • darrellskis

    The leash is not for You. It’s for the OTHER people your ski might hit. You speak of risk management, but what you are really doing is making a decision about what risk OTHER people are exposed to without asking them if it is ok. Your knee becomes more important than my body?

    If you are worried about a leg injury, get a releasable binding. If you are worried about avalanche danger, get a releasable binding.

    You can also use a break away link or “fuse link” in your leash:

    A DIY version would be a strength rated “zip tie” with a 150 to 200 lb breaking strength.

    There really is no excuse to not use a leash, and in my personal experience, the reason people do not use leashes is laziness.

    As for practicality: I find a leash helps me get into my ski more easily on steep hardpack terrain: I clip the leash to my boot FIRST, then insert my boot into the binding, Using the leash to hold the ski at the proper angle. Then, if I screw up and loose balance while closing the heel lever, the ski won’t disappear down the slope. As a patroller I am in and out of my bindings many times a day, sometimes multiples times in a single run.

    Back country and expedition demand leashes also. Do you want to be the person who just lost their ski into a crevasse three days from the trail head?

    My Bona Fides: 41 years of skiing, 23 years telemark, professional ski patroller and Avalanche Technician in Utah. I ski Axls and TTS, and NTN. I average 150 days skiing a season,with 40 to 50 of those being backcountry days.

    Ultimately, for me, I telemark ski because I love the turn and the mobility. I ski on telemark equipment in spite of the challenges and accept the responsibility of using a leash as part of the experience.

    In the end, this issue is actually about what is a reasonable behavior, not what possible or probable outcomes my arise from the behavior.

    In other words, a reasonable expectation is that a skier will use devices or methods to prevent runaway skis. You say that you always check your equipment to prevent unwanted release. Is it reasonable to expect that EVERY skier will us the same prudence and discipline?

    Another way to put it: It is not UNREASONABLE to expect a skier to use a leash. The leash does not create an unbearable burden to the skier. Especially in light of the options in the market for releasable bindings and break away leashes.

    • Rene-Martin

      Hi Darrell,

      This is a great comment and that’s exactly the king of reaction I wanted. I think your opinion is right and in the end, you bring up some really good points.

      One question, I don’t understand the point of a break away leash. What’s the point? In my experience, telemark binding do not release under mild tension. If it release with force and the leash break… This is back to square one!

      And even with a standard leash, they do break under strong tension like in the video. I had a standard leash and it was new.

      One must do everything in his power to be safe toward others.

      And I feel that I’m doing that!

      And I see that a lot f telemark skiers are not using a leash and nobody is debating the subject.

      Or I see people with shoe lace or 10 years old wires with serious wear and tears.. And nobody is talking about that.

      I feel that you and I are the not average skier and that our behaviour as telemark skier do not represent the chalenges most of the telemark tribe.

      Not everybody needs to put on their skis on when on steep hard pack terrain.

      Not every body skis in glaciated terrain.

      Everybody’s situation is unique and that should be added to the discussion.

      Risk management become ineffective when it is standardized to a point that one do not understand the why.

      This is why I do recommend people to use leashes until the feel comfortable getting in and out of the binding. And Yes, you are right that it is not UNREASONABLE to expect a skier to use a leash.

      Because almost of the loose skis going downhill happens when getting in or out of the skis or if the binding screws rip out which none are contain with a leash.


      • Quad

        Beyond the safety to others, there’s also the safety issue of losing your ski in a remote area. There’s a real risk of having just one ski in committed steep terrain or long traverse back that ranges from safety to major hassle to a nice story to tell. Skiing back is safer than hiking or one skiing. You’re mileage, resort, terrain may vary.

        There’s also a balance with (temporarily) removing leashes when there is avalanche exposure, but still no reason to not wear leashes when that risk is low.

        I’ve released from my bindings. I’ve noticed an unclipped leash on many occasions after I was sure I was clipped in. I’ve also had a leash fail and lose a ski. 😕 I have better leashes now. Never been hurt by my leash though and suspect that is the outlier.

        While I respect you, I wonder if this is the best lesson to share with others and leverage your influence.

        Even though it’s a hassle (IMHO this is the real reason people skip the leash), I’ll keep the leash. I hope others do as well.

        • Rene-Martin

          Hi Quad,
          Very well put.

          I agree that is not the best use of my influence over a delicate subject and I honestly hesitated before publishing. I do not recommend people not to wear leash. In the end, the law says you have to.

          But why are so many people not wearing it and why are there no control form the resorts?

          If you set a rule and you are not doing anything to enforce it, then, you shouldn’t have that rule. (I’m certainly not the only one who skip leash and if you had the snowboarders…)

          If as an expert telemark skier, I feel that I do not need a leash and I’m saying it, at least I’m being honest with myself and the community. Is it the best solution for all situation and people? no.

          I wore leashes for a least 10 years. Did they ever prevented me from loosing a ski and going downhill, probably. But I honestly don’t remember. I do recommend that you use leash untill you are really comfortable with your binding and know the correct tension it should have.

          Yes at first the reason I really skip the leash is the hassle but now I really have my doubts on the safety as well.

          On an other note, I now use the Meidjo binding on all my skis with breaks, so I don’t need leash anymore. I had forgotten all the advantages ski brakes give you. Wow

          • Phillip Simon

            The attitude that a bit of safety is not necessary because you are an “expert telemark skier,” is selfish. Leashes do not interfere with your skiing, and it takes an extra 15 seconds at the most to hook them on. You can check your bindings, but what about equipment failure. One of my bindings broke on a turn and I tumbled three times. The ski was flopping around as I went head over head. The torque was so much that the cast metal hook on the leash cracked and the ski went flying down the hill. Fortunately there was no one below me except my ski partner. He was knocked over by the run away ski as he stopped it. I always wear and check my leashes and make sure they are top quality.