1. WHAT IS TELEMARK SKIING
THE TELEMARK SKIER BEGINNER'S GUIDE
Simply, it is a technique use to go downhill.
And although you need a specific equipment to do it, at it’s root, it’s the technique that is called telemark skiing, not the equipment. This allows the skier to turn and to keep his speed under control. Telemark is for anyone, all ages.
Put in words, Telemark is this squat-like motion on downhill skis.
Today, Telemark is the most incredible feeling one can get on snow (subjectivity here There is ABSOLUTELY no limit to what can be done.
And if you can do it on a snowboard, or on Alpine skis, you can do it on telemark as well.
If you can’t do it on alpine skis, you might be able to do it on Telemark.
How to Telemark - beginner
IS TELEMARK FOR ME
TELEMARK IS A FEELING. Most people will want to try because it looks so fluid, graceful, smooth.
Telemark skiing is perfect for:
First time snow experienced,
Seasoned alpine skiers,
Anything in between,
Like any snowsport, the learning curve is different for every body. Usually it takes about two season to go from beginner to being really comfortable.
Telemark is a challenge. But it’s definitely not as much of a challenge as what people thinks. We hear so many “excuses”…
1. It looks so hard, I don’t have strong legs, can I still telemark?
2. I don’t know where to start. Equipment, lessons, destination, what is right for me?
3. Is telemark safe for your knees?
4. I’m an expert skier, I don’t want to start all over.
5. It looks complicated, which leg do you bring forward again?
6. Can you do the same stuff on telemark gear?
7. When do you split in the telemark turn?
8. Is the equipment expensive?
9. It’s so old school, I want to have modern equipment a rip.
10. I don’t know anybody that telemark, how can I learn?
This is a misconception. In the end, they love how easy it is to pick up their kids, how mobile they are, how fun it is. One of the things I hear the most is that they regret that they did not start earlier. It’s a lot easier then I thought, now I wanna take it to harder terrain.
Do not make the mistake to wait for a better occasion before you try. Chances are you will regret that decision.
THE FREE HEEL FEELING
1. Telemark skiing is the ultimate downhill feeling. This technique has no direct advantages over skiing or snowboarding. Everyone that practice the sport will agree, it’s the movement, the freedom, «It’s so gracious» is what you often hear. The reality is much more than that. It’s a vibe, a flow that link you to the mountain like no other.
2. Yes, telemark skiing is harder that alpine skiing and that’s definitely why it’s only a small proportion of mountain riders that do it. Yet, Telemark is growing more and more every year, attracting newcomers.
3. The physical condition is important in every sport. Telemark is no exception. One of the greatest advantage of telemark skiing is the level of fitness to you gain doing the sport. Not only does it makes you fit, it also balance your muscles, making it a complete exercise. This will favor aligned rotula, one of the most common problem of alpine skiers.
4. Telemark skiing is all about enjoying the ride but it’s also about enjoying the surroundings, taking your time half way down, or halfway up. Some top telemark skiers won’t agree here because they charge all day long. But for most of us, the approach to telemark is different, the terrain is there to challenge your every move, your eyes are open for details that the alpine skiers just don’t need to care about.
5. Telemark is a safe sport. Or at least safer than alpine skiing or snowboarding. Telemark skiers don’t get injured as much as the other riders. Is it because that they don’t charge as hard, maybe. But one fact remains, most Alpine Ski injuries happen on easy or intermediate terrain and so the charging aspect is out.
6. Telemark skiing is unique. It’s a close knitted community. People are friendly, welcoming, always ready to help out. The subculture is very different than the other two majors sport. There is no mainstream, no big sponsor, no money. But still, competition, events, festivals are happening every year all over the planet.
7. Learning is going out of your comfort zone. This is the key that once realized opens you a lot of doors. We put all our efforts in structuring our tutorials so that people don’t even realize they are beyond their comfort zone.
2. HOW FIT DO I NEED TO BE
2. HOW FIT DO I NEED TO BE TO TELEMARK
Telemark skiing is not hard. Or at least, not any harder than skiing to learn. The challenge is more toward technique.
Telemark is that squat like motion. You need to do that repeatedly. It can to very tiring, very fast.
Having a good level of fitness will help, but it is not mandatory. This is for sure the biggest misconception people have.
In the end, every snowsport you start, your lack of technique will make it very strenuous. Take snowboard for example, you are guarantied to have a sore butt, knees, legs and arms. And you will be more than likely soaked, drenched.
Telemark skiing is actually easier on the body in your first few days.
If you have never tried telemark skiing, no particular level of fitness is needed.
The physical condition is important in every sport. Telemark is no exception.
One of the greatest advantage of telemark skiing is the level of fitness to you gain doing the sport. Not only does it makes you fit, it also balance your muscles, making it a more complete exercise that alpine skiing. This will favor aligned rotula, one of the most common problem of alpine skiers.
We encourage novice to seasoned telemark skier to do some off season training as your level of fitness will reflect the performance of advanced to expert skiers. It is by no mean mandatory.
If you are interested, follow my pre season training. I’m not an expert in any way. If you don’t feel good, feel pain during or after a training session, stop immediately and consult a physician.
THE TELEMARK SKIER BEGINNER'S GUIDE
3. Learn How to Telemark
Telemark is unique. It’s a different sport.
Treat it like so.
Get a lesson. Go to a telemark festival. Check out our Telemark Tutorials.
If you are going to spend money and time to learn something new, why not do it right from the start. The funny part is that it is actually very close to Alpine skiing but with very precise things that you have to master first.
Check out these free tutorials and click on the link for more information on our tutorials.
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THE TELEMARK SKIER BEGINNER'S GUIDE
4. What equipment do I need to telemark
You need skis, boots and bindings. Easy! well…
This is a vast question. Depending on the type of skiing you plan on doing, it can vary a lot.
But a good starting point is that all telemark ski gear is high quality. Cheap doesn’t exist, the market is too small. The following products are only suggestions, we strongly believe that almost all telemark equipment is high end and that you should definitely try telemark before buying anything. You can usually rent equipment at your local shop or ski resort.
This is my guide to buy a CHEAP telemark equipment to start
First you will need three piece of equipment
Boots, skis and Binding.
Shop for used gear or discontinued gear. Shop around, Here is a list of places to look for:
- go to telemark festivals and ask the crowd. You will often see many equipments left at the base of the lift line with the price and person to contact,
- Look for used rentals at your local shop, your local resort, a telemark ski club…
- Look on Facebook for telemark clubs, groups and so on.
- Look on telemark forums like: TelemarlEast.com, EarnYourTurns.com, TelemarkTalk.com, Telemarcoeur.com and many more. You can do a search in google with the term: forum: telemark. Depending of your location, google will find a forum close to you.
- Look on sales website like: Ebay.com, Graigslist, mec.ca/gearswap, Kijiji, and again many more.
- Ask around. Friends of friends is often the best deal
Boots are the most important piece of equipment. And there are the hardest to find at a good price. But let’s start our search of the perfect cheap equipment for beginners with this piece of equipment.
There are two kinds of telemark binding systems, the classic 75mm duckbill, invented almost 100 years ago, and the recent NTN binding. These uses different boots soles so it’s important to know that it will affect your set up in the end. My advice, do not look at the bindings systems, find a good boot for you. This will point you in which binding system you will end up. Many dedicated telemark users will not agree with me on this. But honestly, that’s because the are dedicated telemark skiers and they have forgotten what it’s like to be a beginner. Trust me, start with the boots. They need to be:
- with no pressure points,
- with a good fit in the heel cup with no movement at all,
- not too stiff or not too soft.
Also, when trying boots, you will need some ski sock (socks that are warn, comfortable and that will not move around during long ski days (these are my long-time favorites).
this is very important AND not an option, do not try boots just walking around. try them strapped in a telemark ski. Obviously, we do not have ski or bindings at this point so ask the merchant or the guy you are buying from to step in a pair of skis on the carpet. this will enable you to flex the boot and to really feel if the below is hurting your toes and if your heel is lifting in the boot while you make a split in the telemark stance.
One thing to be careful about boots is that the plastic will wear out. Scratches don’t mean nothing. But if you buy a boot from an expert skier that have had 200 days in them, or if the guy is heavy, it will impact the plastic, which will be too soft. This is somewhat rare as most people are not skiing aggressively enough. After trying a few pairs, you will know without a doubt if this happens.
Here are some models as examples but they are others. Especially if you go in older stuff. Choose Stiff plastic boots that are generally as high and as rigid as your alpine boots. These are all recent models, don’t be scared to go into older models but be careful not to go in too soft.
This piece of equipment is at the center of your telemark career.
- Remember that boot should feel stiff when you were them around for the first time.
- You should be comfortable and have no pressure point or very little.
- You have found a great used boot at a cheap price, but the liners are not doing it for you? A lot of liners can be remoulded, although it doesn’t always works good if the previous owner had very different foot shape or if it’s just too old. You can always buy a new sets of liners. It’s around 200$ and most companies will make the originals for a few years. Also Intuition Comformables liners is a great brand amongst others.
Alright turns out you found a pair of boots. Great now you can look for the appropriate binding system.
75mm or NTN. This is not a choice here. Go with your boot model system compatibility period.
For a beginner, I have not seen great difference between the two systems. Again, you should not focus on the binding system even if everybody around is talking about it. It doesn’t matter!
Apart from the kind of system you will have one important option to choose from: get a walk mode with a free pivot or not.
The walk mode is great to have if you are going to use skins and go in the backcountry. If you mainly use your set up in the ski resort and don’t plan on skinning, then you don’t need it. But if you are not sure, this is a great option to have, just in case.
One other things to look for is release capabilities. In my opinion it is not worth the investment but so many people feel more comfortable having it. You can read this blog post for my idea on release bindings. In any way, no binding on the planet is 100% safe, especially alpine skiing.
Here are some of the great binding systems around these days.