Free the heel, free the mind. The mantra behind Telemark Skiing plays off the idea that while on a tele ski, a skier frees herself of lift lines and inbounds crowds and finds herself free to explore backcountry freshies at her leisure. You see, tele skis are attached to the boot at the toe, leaving the heel free to lift up off the ski. This sort of freedom allows the skier to skin up a hill, bypassing lift lines, in search of untouched powder and backcountry views.
Turning on a tele ski, aka the tele turn, takes a technique that is entirely different from a typical turn on an alpine ski. Rather than working to keep your skis parallel, a tele skier staggers their skis, placing the downhill leg out in front of the uphill leg while the uphill leg is pushed back under the body with “a flexed knee” and the heel raised up, off the ski. Tele turns requires the skier to position their body into a deep lunge with each turn. As you might imagine after a few hours of lunging on tele skis, your thighs take on a mind of their own; screaming with each turn you make.
I freed my heel this morning with Johnny Vertical (happy birthday JV!) and let me tell you, I haven’t spent that much time thinking about how to ski in about 20 years. Being a fairly proficient skier, I wrongly thought I’d master the tele turn after a few runs. I can tell you, after a few runs it was decidedly obvious that I am DEFINITELY a right-legged skier. Either way, I’ve been presented with a challenge and I intend to conquer that challenge. By April 7, the tele turn will be mine…on both sides. In the meantime, a hot tub and two Advil are calling my name.
If you’re in Keystone and want to rent tele equipment, head to the Nordic Center. Rentals are $25/day…$21 if you take a lesson.