Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Drop a Knee and Ski for Free

Although Andy will try to tell you that AT is a perfectly acceptable way to earn your turns, we all know a high tech AT setup is really just a hackjob attempt to blend the beauty and simplicity of telemark with the weight and RAD advertising dollars of alpine. I mean, when was the last time you heard of anyone being sponsored to TELE?? Get with the program people. Tele is the real deal. It is cheap(ish) to get into, cheap to maintain, free to ski, and the fastest way up and down. If you know how to flex nutts and like to stare knowingly down at your ski buddies as they dick around with their locking mechanisms and climbing bars, then tele is for you. This is what Andy looks like after said dicking.

I'm often asked how I got into this sport, and why I don't go alpine at all anymore. Well, frankly I was just too cheap to replace my pink 210cm 1995 Elan Supercross w/ rear entry Nordica boot setup. Thanks be to Vermont for providing me with consignment ski swaps and shops from which to pick my beautiful used tele setup from, on that fateful day 5 years ago. And now, 5 years later, and I would never go back. My rock hard abs and ass aside, I am in love with the simplicity, grace, and raw kinetic power within the perfect tele turn.

So, there you have it. Now how do YOU get into tele? Well, first DO, find a set of boots that fit you. Buy them on sale in March, wrap them up and put them under the tree for yourself next christmas. Boots are the hard part. Pretty much any ski will do, and there isn't much to the bindings ($150 for G3 targas and $49 bucks for someone else's junk boards on ebay or at the Outdoor Gear Exchange in Burlington). Really the best thing you can do for yourself is buy junk boards. there's nothing worse then trying to figure out how to turn AND sweating every root and rock along the way.

Next, watch a few videos online. Really any video will do. DO NOT, under ANY CIRCUMSTANCE take a group tele class. Nothing will harm the future of this sport for you like the ridicule and stares you will endure as you ski a slalom line of fellow tele-ski schoolers, stopping every 50 feet to talk about your new organic ski wax are and share granola recipes. Oh god I hate those people so much. Ragged Mountain, SHAME on you for letting them on your slopes.

Ok, so a few quick tips to get you moving down that bunny hill:
1. Practice standing perpendicular to the hill and releasing your edges, pushing both downhill edges towards the snow. This functionally sets you into a side slide. Learn to be comfortable here. This is the exact feeling you will have before you drop a knee and engage a perfect tele turn.
2. Now, come to a stop (still perpendicular). Practice transitioning up and down in place. One foot and ski forward, the other foot and ski back. Drop straight town onto your back foot, right in between. Then STRAIGHT back up. All the way up. Lots of people make the mistake of thinking they should make turn transitions while permanently down. This is false and a great way to blow your knees out.
3. Learn how low you need to go. You don't need to get all the way down every turn to make a proper turn. This will wipe you out fast. You just need to get your weight onto the uphill ski so you have enough oomph to steer with your pinkie toe (uphill) and big toe (downhill). Your weight should always be 50/50 uphill/downhill.
4. Keep your hips between your feet, or, slightly over your back heel (more weight to the uphill ski this way).
5. As you engage your turn, think about holding your upper body perpendicular to the slope. This is a seemingly complex move that requires a clenching of your downhill abs (think about holding a tennis ball in that little pocket formed by your obliques), leaning your head into the turn, and getting your hips back a little, over the uphill ski. As you are fully engaged in your turn and thinking about coming up to transition into the next one, get your shoulders downhill (your nipples are headlights. keep them facing forward!) before you come all the way up and slide step into the next turn!

I suppose some day we might be high tech enough to actually have videos to complement our amazing instruction, but frankly that would only reveal how much we actually suck at skiing!


  1. Good point about the junk boards. You could also learn the art of repairing ski bases with Ptex. However, in my experience that involves lots of fire, cancerous fumes, crying, and rolling around on the basement floor... But then again, some people like that kind of thing.

  2. I have been watching the Olympics and nobody skis telemark. Why do you think that is?