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North West Telemark Festival, Chill Factore, Sunday June 12th 2011

By: Caro Brown

Telemark is a form of skiing that I had fancied trying for a number of years but until the recent Telemark Festival at Chill Factore I had never had a go, mainly due to a miserly unwillingness to pay huge sums of money for a private lesson in resort.

So, when the flyer from the Manchester Cross Country Ski Club (MCCSC) came out offering 6 hours' instruction, lift pass and equipment hire for the bargain price of £60 I signed up on the spot. Not to be left out Alan got signed up too so there we were at Chill Factore bright and early on Sunday June 12th.

John Holgate, one of the Festival organisers and an instructor with a long-standing relationship with SCoM, had spoken to us previously to confirm equipment requirements, so on the day there was very little fussing for us in the general organisational melee as we got kitted out.

There were five groups in all, ranging from complete novices up to advanced standard telemarkers. The novices were scheduled for four 90-minute sessions with a 30-minute break morning and afternoon and an hour for lunch. The more experienced skiers had three 2-hour sessions with two one-hour breaks, which helped ease slope congestion.

Our group of eight was allocated to Ralph and Sylvia, who shared the morning sessions. Surprisingly we started by warming up from the top of the main slope. This showed us how supportive the telemark bindings are, and how straightforward it is to ski 'normally' on them. For those who have done a bit of ski touring it feels much less unstable when going downhill than it does on touring bindings.

After a couple of runs Ralph took us onto the nursery slope so we could learn the basic knee bends and weight shifts for turning while travelling down a less challenging gradient. I soon discovered that turning left felt very natural but that turning right was totally impossible! There was only one thing for it - find a left-handed mountain!!

Having got to grips with the basic principles - or not - it was back to the top of the main slope with Sylvia to gradually ease into slowly linking turns. We started with a snowplough to get used to the odd sensation of turning with no heel attachment, Attempted knee bends followed and every time the poma dragged me back to the top of the slope I sneaked in a bit of extra practice by sinking to the correct position, alternating each leg in turn. If nothing else it helped hardwire the correct technique without the complication of making any turns!

By the end of the first afternoon session I was having more success with negotiating right-handed mountains and we were back with Ralph at the beginners get-off point on the main slope. His fond hope was for us to master short linked turns right from the top before the day was out. He had a number of drills for us to practice and gradually I began to develop more fluency in linking the turns. It was a eureka moment when I managed to link more than three for the first time and I headed home with a huge sense of achievement having safely negotiated a whole run of short linked turns from the top on my final run of the day. It may not have been pretty but it worked!

I found the knee bends less strenuous then I expected, I made more progress than I would have thought possible, and even managed to impress our instructors. In short the whole day was great fun. Many thanks to MCCSC for organising it, and if it is repeated I would recommend it to anyone.

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