A Beginners’ Guide to Telemark Skiing
24th February 2021
Last modified on March 1st, 2021
Ski touring, cross country skiing, snow shoeing. They can all be done when the lifts are shut. And then there’s telemarking. Our friends at Maison Sport have produced the definitive guide. Why not give it a go if you’re in the mountains and wanting a new challenge?
We will hazard a guess that telemark skiing is something hardly any of us, even the most avid skiers, have tried.
Most will have seen it.
Some may have wondered how or even why it’s done.
There are some passionate aficionados, many of whom do nothing else.
So what’s it all about?
Maison Sport, the online platform that allows you to book independent instructors on line has put together a comprehensive guide for the novice.
Here’s an edited version.
What is Telemark?
Telemark dates back to the 19th century and was introduced by a man named Sondre Norheim from the Telemark region of Norway. Hence the name.
The technique is quite peculiar.
The main characteristic is the turn which is completed using a kneeling motion. The inside leg drops as the heel rises from the ski.
Just as in ski touring, in Telemark the ski boot is attached to the ski only by the front, leaving the heel free to rise and fall in order to give the skier the ability to properly kneel when turning.
You don’t need a lift as you can easily trek your way up the mountain with the binding allowing you to lift your heels to walk forward.
You can also use some of the same equipment as in ski touring such as skins for the bottom of your skis in order to be able to trek uphill.
Is it difficult?
Compared to other disciplines, Telemark can be more challenging and requires more physical effort, but this doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
The most challenging thing is the knee bend during the turns. If you’ve seen someone Telemark skiing, it’s like their bodies are in a constant flowing motion which is what makes it look so elegant.
An easy way to picture the movement is by imagining doing forward leg lunges as you glide downhill.
As a beginner, you won’t go down steep hills and it will be all about getting the right technique down.
Slowly but surely your muscles will get used to the motions and build resistance.
As with any other sport, if you exercise regularly then Telemark can be easier, but really anybody can do it, it just takes time and practice, and at the end of the day, a full day of Telemark skiing is better than any gym session with a personal trainer, and the views are definitely better.
Take your Time: Getting the technique just right is crucial. Not doing it right can be even more challenging on your body.
Take your time to learn with your instructor, focus on understanding the position your skis should be in when turning and how the movements should be flowing when lunging and rising. Once you have this down the correct way it’s won’t take as much effort.
Enjoy the Experience: Telemark is about learning the new technique but also about the uphill backcountry trekking to the top of the mountain.
You get to walk through nature and take in the views. The good thing about ski lifts being closed is that it’s forcing everyone who wants to ski to walk up and discover new territory.
Embrace the Burn: Telemark is an excellent workout. You are working not only your legs but also engaging your core and upper body. You will definitely start feeling the burn especially in your upper thighs, but you are gaining a new level of fitness and learning something new as you go.
Find the Right Instructor: It’s super important to make sure you have the right instructor to show you how to do it.
The right instructor will know the correct way to get you started depending on your fitness level and previous abilities.
There are some sports you could try with no instructor, but Telemark shouldn’t be one.
Make Sure You Can Move: The range of movement when you are Telemark skiing is a lot greater than when you’re alpine skiing so make sure you have clothes on that allow you to fully lunge and do all the movements needed.
People tend to go for clothes that minimise mass, maximise flexibility and still keep you warm.
We always recommend renting instead of buying to start with. If you develop a passion for it then later then it is worth it investing in a good set of equipment.
The main equipment needed is:
- Telemark boots
- Telemark bindings (usually can be attached to any type of skis)
- Skins for your skis
- Comfortable clothing
- 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 Maison Sport website to find an instructor.
Sadly, Telemark Skiing is not an Olympic sport.
Sad particularly as, in Jasmin Taylor, GB has one of the best in the world.
Jasmin is the most successful British World Cup skier of all time across all disciplines.
Here on PlanetSKI, we reported in 2018 on the most recent unsuccessful bid to get Telemark in the Winter Olympics.