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Telemark skiing

Telemark skiing is a term used for skiing using the Telemark turn, which is a technique invented by Norwegian Sondre Norheim. It is also known as "free heel skiing." Unlike alpine skiing equipment, the skis used for telemarking have a binding that only connects the boot to the ski at the toes, just as in cross-country skiing. Telemark turns are led with the heel flat on the outside ski (the downhill ski at the end of the turn), while the inside (uphill) ski is pulled beneath the skier's body with a flexed knee and raised heel. The skis are staggered but not quite parallel, and 50% to 80% of the body weight is distributed on the outside ski, depending on snow conditions. The relationship between the two skis often is metaphorically understood as one longer, but curved ski. The reason for this metaphor is that it is this curve that dictates the turn ratio of the skier and defines the relationship between the two skis. The curve can be adjusted on-the-fly by the telemark skier as conditions dictate. This is often thought of as the skier employing his two skis as a "single ski with variable sidecut."

Telemark

The Telemark turn came to the attention of the Norwegian public in 1868, when Sondre Norheim took part in a ski jumping competition. Norheim's technique of fluid turns soon dominated skiing, and in Norway it continued to do well into the next century. Starting in the 1910s, newer techniques based on the stem gradually replaced Telemark in the Alpine countries. Newer techniques were easier to master and enabled shorter turns better suited for steeper alpine terrain and skiing downhill. The Telemark turn became the technique of ski touring in rolling terrain.

The technique is named after the Telemark region of Norway, just as the Stem Christie turn was named after Christiania (now Oslo), Norway. As well as inventing the Telemark turn, Sondre Norheim and his fellow skiers used and refined parallel skiing techniques. Thus, while the Telemark is part of early skiing's foundation, parallel techniques are of equal importance.

The Telemark revival

The revival in the Telemark technique, after its decline from popularity in the mid-1940s, started in United States in the 1970s. Telemark skiing was a back-to-basics reaction to the high-tech equipment developments of alpine skiing, and the increasing reliance on crowded groomed pistes served by ever larger and faster mechanical ski lifts. The use of traditional clothing is associated with the Telemark skiing revival.

The Telemark revival started almost simultaneously in Crested Butte, Colorado and the northern part of the Green Mountains in Vermont, but spread most quickly to other areas in the Western United States. It came to the attention of a larger public with a demonstration by a team from the Professional Ski Instructors of America at Interski, Italy in 1983. It grew to prominence during the 1990s; and although organizations such as NATO and NET (New England Telemark) sponsor telemark festivals and the sport continues to grow, it is still considered a minority sport.

Equipment

Skis

Modern telemark skis are virtually identical to today's alpine skis. Developments in shape and manufacture have seen the long skinny skis of years past get shorter, wider and heavier, taking design cues from both alpine skiing and snowboarding. It's true that the unique mechanics of the telemark turn should distinguish telemark equipment from alpine equipment, but advances in boot and binding technology have largely obviated the need to have the ski itself meet those demands. However, many manufacturers still have lines of telemark-specific skis, which are, in general, lighter and softer than comparable alpine skis. Telemark-specific skis may also entail a different shape such as having a one sided curve near the back of the ski, usually on the oustide of the ski, to help enhance that "one big curve effect", skis like this for example are ScottyBob's.

Boots

Leather boots are still used by some, but durable polymer ("Pebax") is now the usual choice. Polymer boots feature a bellows above the toes to allow the necessary flex for a telemark turn. All standard telemark boots have a trapezoidal "duckbill" at the front, which interfaces boots with the binding. While most telemark skiers use cables to attach boots to bindings, the duckbill has three reinforced holes in the bottom to attach three-pin bindings. As a general trend, telemark boot makers have been creating stiffer plastic boots each year, with more buckles. NTN boots are also becoming more popular, which instead of the duckbill attach to the binding by a hook in the front and ball of the boot, read more about these new boots below.

Bindings

Bindings hold the Telemark boot to the ski by the toe only. The oldest version of manufactured bindings, so called three-pin bindings, had three pins pointing up from the ski for which boots had matching holes. The duckbill was placed on top of the pins and held down with a locking mechanism (the "bale").

Later, cable bindings that have a spring-loaded cable to hold the boot in the binding became popular. These have a socket that the duckbill fits into, but usually no pins. The spring-loaded cable is stretched onto the boot heel by a throw.

Cable bindings are stronger than three-pin bindings and offer more control in turns, but they are heavier and produce more resistance to flexing the boot, therefore are not as suitable for cross-country skiing.

Also available are hinged plate bindings, combining the lateral stiffness of a traditional alpine binding with the flexibility of a traditional Telemark binding. These bindings switch between a "free pivot" mode (borrowed from randonnee binding design) for touring and a downhill mode with more cable tension applied to the boot.

Telemark bindings have followed the trend of boots, becoming more performance-oriented and stronger to stand up to the large, stiff boots and skis. Most current bindings fit the 75 mm "Nordic norm" (refers to the width of the toe duckbill) but in late 2007 Rottefella introduced the New Telemark Norm (NTN) binding which uses a different boot sole, co-developed with the Crispi and Scarpa boot companies. Current NTN systems are at the heavier end of the boot/binding spectrum, primarily aimed at maximizing downhill control. Black Diamond Equipment are developing another system, expected to debut in 2009.

Skins

For those taking to the wilderness, climbing "skins" (in recent times, synthetic or mohair rather than the traditional sealskin) are used on the bottom of the ski to climb uphill. "Harscheisen" (ski crampons — also called "couteau" or "cortelli") are sometimes used to assist when skinning on hard, icy surfaces.

Technique

The edges used in a Telemark turn are the same as with a parallel turn, but a Telemark turn involves leading the turn with the outside ski while trailing the inside ski. When initiating a turn, the skier edges the outside ski (which becomes the downhill ski at the completion of the turn) with a flat heel while simultaneously lifting the heel on the inside ski to shift the ski to the back of the Telemark stance. Through the turn, the skier's weight is shifted onto the outside ski by a ratio of 50/50 up to 80/20 depending on snow conditions, and rests primarily on the toe-half of each foot—even the outside foot, which has its boot heel in contact with the ski. Inexperienced Telemark skiers often find it difficult to place enough weight on their trailing, inside ("heel-up") ski to force it to turn, or "carve" in unison with the outside ski. When skiing off-piste in light powder the weight ratio can be different than the suggested 50 to 80 % on the outside ski. Often having the majority of the weight on the inside trailing ski can help compensate for poor technique, as it allows the skier to use the outside ski as a 'buffer' to control the snow, and to help keeping the outside ski tip above the snow.

While there is universal agreement that a Telemark turn must involve staggered skis, there is no agreement on how much the skis should be staggered. Increasing the stagger (the fore/aft separation of the skis and boots) increases the amount that both knees are bent and brings the skier's torso closer to the snow. Some Telemarkers enjoy an extremely low stance with the trailing knee almost in contact with the ski top, while others prefer a taller stance, with a consequently smaller stagger, that allows quicker transitions between turns. As a general rule, the back leg should be tucked in, with the knee of the trailing leg aligned vertically over the leading foot. Telemarkers who turn with their trailing knee considerably behind their leading foot are often referred to as "dog-leggers" because their rear leg resembles that of a wounded dog. "Toe-dragger" can also be used to describe Telemark skiers who do not tuck in their rear leg. It is possible to make parallel turns on Telemark equipment, which is why penalties are assessed if the boots are not staggered by at least a boot's length in FIS Telemark competitions. This element of technique is up to the skier, although a very low stance is to be avoided where hard uneven snow might cause the lowered knee to collide with the ground or ski. Some Telemark skiers, therefore, use kneepads to reduce the risk of injury.

Accomplished Telemark skiers, like accomplished alpine skiers, keep their torsos vertical and oriented downhill while linking turns, thus avoiding turning too far. This position also allows greater control over the fine-tuning of weight distribution. Also, when skiing in thick powder it is important not to lean back. Staying forward and facing downhill allows you to respond to changing conditions quicker than if you are in the back seat. The lack of a fixed heel means that it is quite easy to go headfirst into the snow if one hits a hard patch, but if you are centered on your skis and facing downhill, you are actually less likely to fall on your face. Poles are optional. With or without, the skier's hands should be in front of the body.

Some Telemark skiers continue to ski with a single long pole or "lurk" held in both hands in traditional style. The lurk should only contact the snow on the inside of the turn, though some find better balance results if the lurk contacts the snow on the outside of the turn.

Competition Events

As a competition event, the sport is governed by the International Ski Federation Telemark Committee. The Telemark disciplines are:

Telemark giant slalom

Similar to giant slalom, but including a jump marked for style and distance.

Telemark Classic

Classic involves a super-g section, a giant slalom section, a jump (with time penalties of up to 7 seconds for short jumps as well as error in the landing), a 360° turn (Reipeløkke), and an uphill sprint.

Telemark Sprint Classic

The same as Giant Slalom but with a 360° turn and a short cross-country part where the racers sprint for about 200 m using the free style or skate cross-country skiing technique.

Mountain Telemark

Telemark competitions in unprepared snow. Gates and reipelykkje (360°). Telemark equipment. Backpack (5 kg senior, 3 kg junior), helmet. Free style. Most famous is the Norwegian Tinderittet, host of the first Norwegian championship ever in 2005, Galdhøpiggrennet, both in Jotunheimen, and Alperittet in Stranda (Norwegian championship in the year 2006), Norway.

U.S. Extreme Freeskiing Telemark Championships

Similar to the like-named alpine skiing event. This event is held in Crested Butte, Colorado.

Sun Valley Tele Series

The Sun Valley Tele Series is the longest running telemark series in the USA. It host numerous events throughout each ski season.

Telemark festivals

Telemark festivals are traditionally a gathering of telemark skiers at popular ski areas. The idea for a telemark festival was originally started by NATO (North American Telemark Organization) at Mad River in Vermont and organizations such as NET (New England Telemark) and others now run festivals all around the U.S.. Festivals generally offer free lessons and gear as well as races and other telemark competitions. There are a number of telemark festivals in Europe, including one of the world's largest, held at Livigno in Italy. It usually takes place during the end of March/first week of April. Earlier it was known as 'La Skieda' but is now known as the 'Free Heel Fest'. The International Telemark Film Festival Livigno runs concurrently.

Trivia

  • "Pinhead" is a slang term for a Telemark skier, derived from the classic three-pin bindings.
  • "Half a binding, half a brain" is either a term of endearment or somewhat slanderous, depending on the affinity of the speaker for telemarking.
  • "Free the heel, free the mind" is a common slogan used by Telemark skiers.
  • "'Randonee' is French for 'can't Telemark'" is a joke among Telemark skiers referring to the Alpine Touring equipment system that allows skiers to travel off-piste, uphill and down, without knowing the Telemark technique

See also

External links

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