Introductory guide to telemark
February 24, 2021
Last modified on May 20, 2021
Ski touring, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing. They can all be done when the elevators are closed. And then there is the telemark. Our friends from Maison Sport produced the definitive guide. Why not give it a try if you are in the mountains and want a new challenge?
We’ll venture to guess that telemark is something almost none of us, even the most avid skiers, have tried.
Most will have seen it.
Some may have wondered how or even why it was done.
There are passionate aficionados, many of whom do nothing else.
So what is it all about?
Sport House, the online platform that allows independent instructors to book online has developed a comprehensive guide for the novice.
Here is a modified version.
What is telemark?
Telemark dates back to the 19th century and was first introduced by a man named Sondre Norheim from the telemark region of Norway. Hence the name.
The technique is quite particular.
The main feature is the turn which is performed using a kneeling motion. The inside of the leg descends as the heel rises from the ski.
Just like in ski touring, in telemark the ski boot is only attached to the ski from the front, leaving the heel free to go up and down in order to give the skier the opportunity to kneel down in the bends.
You don’t need a lift as you can easily climb the mountain with the binding allowing you to lift your heels to move forward.
You can also use some of the same gear as ski touring like skins for the underside of your skis so you can walk uphill.
Compared to other disciplines, telemark can be more difficult and requires more physical effort, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
The most difficult thing is the flexion of the knee during the turns. If you’ve seen someone telemark it’s like their body is in constant motion which makes them so stylish.
An easy way to imagine the movement is to imagine doing forward leg lunges as you glide downhill.
As a beginner you will not be going down steep slopes and it will be about acquiring the right technique.
Slowly but surely your muscles will get used to the movements and develop resistance.
Like any other sport, if you exercise regularly, telemark can be easier, but really anyone can do it, it just takes time and practice, and at the end of the day a a full day of telemark skiing is better than any workout at the gym. with a personal trainer, and the views are definitely better.
Take your time: Mastering the technique is crucial. Not doing it right can be even more difficult on your body.
Take your time to learn with your instructor, focus on understanding the position your skis should be in when turning, and smoothly moving during lunge and climb. Once you figure it out, it won’t take as much effort.
Benefit from the experience: Telemark is learning the new technique but also backcountry trekking to the top of the mountain.
You can walk in nature and admire the view. The advantage of closing ski lifts is that it forces all those who want to ski to walk and discover new territories.
Kiss the burn: Telemark is a great workout. You not only work your legs, but you also engage your core and upper body. You will definitely start to feel the burn, especially in your upper thighs, but you get in shape and learn something new as you go.
Find the right instructor: It is very important to make sure you have the right instructor to show you how to do it.
The right instructor will know how to get you started correctly based on your fitness level and previous abilities.
There are some sports you can try without an instructor, but Telemark shouldn’t be one of them.
Make sure you can move around: The range of motion when you telemark is much greater than when you ski downhill, so make sure you have clothing that allows you to fully split and do all the movements needed.
People tend to go for clothes that minimize bulk, maximize flexibility while keeping you warm.
We always recommend renting instead of buying to start. If you develop a passion for it later on it is worth investing in good equipment.
The main equipment needed are:
- Telemark boots
- Telemark bindings (can usually be attached to any type of ski)
- Skins for your skis
- Comfortable clothes
- Avalanche equipment
Even if you’re not in the mountains right now, why not put it on your bucket list for next winter?
Head to the Sport House website to find an instructor.
Unfortunately, telemark is not an Olympic sport.
Sad especially since, in Jasmin Taylor, GB has one of the best in the world.
Jasmin is the most successful British skier in the World Cup of all time in all disciplines.
Here on PlanetSKI, we reported in 2018 on the latest unsuccessful bid to get telemark at the Winter Olympics.