Staff blog: UK Telemark Roadshow
The NTN Telemark Tour has been taking place at indoor slopes throughout the UK, so a few Ski Club staff headed along to Hemel Hempstead to give it a try. After a short session on the slope Snow Reporter Pete Thompson might be the latest ‘free heel’ convert!
If you are anything like me then every day you get to spend on skis is precious. I’m a big fan of first lifts, long days and the harsh but true philosophy, ‘there are no friends on a powder day.’
During hundreds of days on the slopes I’ve only managed to snowboard a handful of times. I just can’t bring myself to return to beginner status when the sun is out and there is powder, or slush for that matter, on the ground.
However, after my first Telemark skiing experience I will definitely be devoting some time to perfecting my free-heeling this winter – and any alpine skiers out there should also give the switch a try.
I only had about an hour on the slope at The Snow Centre Hemel Hempstead, after being slightly held up on the M25, but it was more than enough to feel the ‘freedom’ that tele-fans rave about.
I also realised that the sport is much more accessible than people think, especially if you can already ski.
Along with two Ski Club colleagues I was guided through an introduction to the sport, by TeleTracks’ expert instructor Ben Langridge, and we were all linking turns, one way or another, in no time.
In fact we were doing so on the very first run. The first thing I learnt about free-heeled skiing is that you can easily ski just as you would on alpine equipment, which is perfect if you get into trouble when attempting your first Telemark turns.
There are plenty of similarities between alpine and free heel skiing, which make it relatively easy for competent skiers to give both a go. But of course there are some crucial differences as well.
Telemark skiing is based on traditional all-mountain skiing, before lifts were brought into play. The bindings allow the heel to lift off the ground, when you bend your knee, and the unique boots flex at the toes as you do. Perfect for heading up or down the mountain.
Free-heeling your decent creates a unique feeling that many tele-enthusiasts describe as flying, gliding or running down the mountain.
A little taste of what can be done when you free the heel
All of the techniques you will have learned on alpine skis are used, with some just exaggerated. You have to be perfectly centred on your skis and the lunging technique is quite a work out. Even if you don’t catch the free-heel bug you will certainly return to alpine skiing better for the experience.
The advantages don’t end there. Despite looking punishing on the knees Telemark skiing is actually much better for your joints as the motion used is more similar to your natural walking or running action. There is also the convenience of not having to switch skis and boots for a touring trip. Just slap on some skins and you’re reading to go. It’s what the discipline was originally created for.
Despite the differences it’s the similarities between the two sports that appeal to me. For any seasoned alpine skier, free heeling could quickly become a useful string to your bow that won’t take up too many valuable days of holiday – and could open up a whole new way to spend your days in the mountains.
I only got a glimpse into the world of free-heeling in Hemel. Good Telemarkers can be seen shredding moguls as if they weren’t there, exploring the back country and now, in increasing numbers, lapping freestyle terrain. I might be joining them in the not too distant future…
TeleTracks are currently offering taster sessions and lessons for beginners at indoor snow slopes around the UK. They will be taking up residency in Val D’isere this winter offering week long courses, individual lessons and equipment rentals.
By Pete Thompson, Snow Reporter.