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2014 British Telemark Championships

Reporter: Caro Brown

My introduction to the art of Telemark skiing was at the Chill Factore, Manchester, at their inaugural Telemark Festival day in June 2011. Until this year I had had a handful of coaching sessions indoors with the Manchester Cross Country Ski Club, some free skiing at SCoM mornings plus a week of instruction in the Alps with MCCSC’s BASI instructor Andy Stewart.

For the past seven years the British Telemark Championships have been run in Rauris, Austria, by the Army Telemark Ski Association and this year Andy persuaded me to go along. For someone with my enthusiasm for a challenge the package was inviting—12 nights half board, 11-day lift pass, 5 days of top quality instruction including gate training and the chance to compete in the three events that comprise the British Championships, all for just £805. Wow..!!

The week before Rauris I went for a warm-up week with Andy in Austria, bringing my Telemark experience up to roughly 2 1⁄2 weeks-worth before I hit the slopes with the military for a further 5 days of instruction. The hot-shots of the British team arrived later in the programme.

Event One was the GS—a series of 29 GS gates with a compulsory jump part-way down the course. There are two runs and the combined time plus penalties give the overall score. Penalties are the same for every event and are awarded for not passing a gate in the Telemark stance, not transitioning from one turn to the next in one uninterrupted movement, not landing the jump in a Telemark stance and not clearing the jump line. Each of the above incurs one second penalty except for the last, which incurs three seconds.

After the first run Team GB’s youngest racer Jasmin ‘Jaz’ Taylor was leading but after some dubious judging in the second she dropped to second place with Team GB’s James French winning the race. A shame as it would have been good to see a woman beat the field. I was very happy with my 41st place out of 66 starters!

Event Two was the Sprint Classic—a shorter series of GS gates, the same compulsory jump, a 360º banked turn (‘rap’ or loom) and short skating section to the finish line. Again there are two runs with the combined times plus penalties determining the result. The first run was completed without mishap but one of the Army Sappers broke his leg just below the jump on the second run so there was a pause in proceedings while he got helicoptered off the hill. Unsurprisingly the next few competitors after the restart were a little cautious! Jaz was the leading lady again and finished 4th overall.

The third and final event, the Classic, is a long version of the sprint—49 gates, same jump, same ‘rap’ and a longer skating section, the final 100m all uphill, so only a single run. The winning time was 1m 51.10s and Jaz finished 3rd with a time less than 3s slower, which put her 3rd overall for the Championship and British Ladies Champion for 2014. Girl power! Biased? Moi?!

I was delighted with my 33rd place overall out of 66 starters and 4th-placed female in the main competition and I can seriously say that my time in Rauris is the most fun I have ever had on snow!!

I am already planning my strategy for next season with the help of 3-times British Champion Chris Stewart (son of Andy) who has put together a strength and conditioning programme for me, and I have started roller skiing to improve my skating so bring it on!

If you’ve never tried Telemark do give it a go—there is a series of 4 indoor races planned in the UK over the summer in conjunction with taster days in Manchester, Tamworth, Glasgow and Hemel, details available on the GB Telemark website. I can confirm that the Manchester event will take place over the late May Bank Holiday weekend, 24th/25th May.

A Navy warning—Telemark skiing can seriously improve your Alpine technique

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