Telemark Skiing By Andy Stewart
By: Alan Brown
After our AGM, and Tom Russell had won the draw prize for a £50.00 eVoucher from Simply Piste, Andy entertained us with a gripping talk.
He was very modest about his background, but as an amateur enthusiast he has managed to qualify as a BASI trainer, and successfully coached both his son to be current British Telemark champion, and several local practitioners to be capable coaches too. (Caroline and I benefitted from their skills when we attended the Telemark Festival at Chill Factore in June.)
Telemark is at the core of all skiing. Alpine shares much of its technique, and like alpine, has gone through rapid evolution of equipment in the last decade: until then boots were leather, bindings were light and lacked much control and the skis were straight. He showed how light they were by using an example as a pointer for his slide show! Now boots are plastic and provide lots of stability and ankle support, and the bindings give strong lateral support. So much so that most alpine turns can be replicated on telemark bindings, including side sliding and snowploughs. The marketing boys have been busy though, and you need to buy dedicated boots to utilise the latest "Nordic Telemark Norm" standard binding. These can be fitted to any of the range of carving skis which we are familiar with.
Andy only really touched on the telemark technique, whereby going down on the "uphill" knee produces one very long turning tool. He said that executing linked turns feels very satisfying, and I‟m sure you'll agree that - done properly - it looks very graceful too. He claimed that it is equally functional off-piste, and I'll believe him when he says that the technique only starts to fail on slopes steeper than us mere amateurs would attempt!
He kept referring to an annual "holiday" organised by Snowsport England to Kivitvatn in Norway where alpine skiers of all standards from "linked red turns" upwards are welcome to learn telemark. Despite the area having the highest suicide rate in the country, he said the skiing is exhilarating, especially around the Gausta mountain which, at 1800m, is high for Norway.
He described how walking across the frozen lake, climbing up the foothills then telemarking back for breakfast is a special attraction for him. More impressive was his description of his climb up Gausta to ski "three hand-shake gully". They used crampons on the way up, and then enjoyed the challenge of the 40˚+ gully.
Andy managed to get across his passion and enthusiasm for the discipline, and encouraged more of us to try a session with the Manchester Cross Country Ski Club on one of their early Saturday sessions at Chill Factore. After sampling the Festival, I think I just might ...