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Telemark for Beginners
  • Telemark Pole Plants Video

    Jimmy Ludlow
    Welcome to the beautiful style of telemark skiing. Sondre Norheim, from the Telemark region of Norway, is credited with developing the telemark turn on cross-country skis almost 150 years ago. Its origin was utilitarian. Now, telemark skiing is a growing recreational sport, with racing at the FIS World Cup level — but most of all, it's fun. And especially with recent advances in equipment, such as plastic boots and releasable bindings, this style of turning on free-heel skis is one of the most versatile and graceful ways to slide around on snow.

    Stand straight up
    The Basic Telemark Stance:
    Balance is the most fundamental skill needed to fluidly dance telemark turns at all levels. Stand on a flat patch of snow so gravity will not cause you to start sliding. Adjust your stance so that your weight is equally distributed.

    Now, stand with both feet together about hip width apart so the skis are flat on the snow and the ankles are slightly flexed. Slide your left foot forward (keeping the whole foot in contact with the ski) and your right foot back (lifting the heel off the ski).

    Keep your weight equally on both feet, hips centered between the feet, hands and shoulders level, with the hands held comfortably in front of you. Take a second to become spatially aware of your body position. This is the basic telemark stance.

    Do the shuffle
    Now simultaneously slide your left foot back and right foot forward, like a shuffle. Slide your feet at the same time, as opposed to stepping forward off the left foot. Listen to the feedback your feet and legs give you, and keep it smooth and balanced.

    Repeat this several times and experiment with rising up tall as your feet pass each other, and bending your knees slightly when you hit the stance. Then, try it a different way, keeping your hips the same distance off the ground the whole time you're shuffling your feet.

    Shuffling your feet like this is often referred to as a turn transition or lead change, because we make this move while going from turn to turn. Once you feel comfortable making several turn transitions while remaining balanced, try making five or six lead changes in a row by hopping up and making the turn transition with both feet off the ground. After the fifth or sixth hop, land and hold the stance. You should be equally weighted on both feet.

    Telemark stance
    When you land, the front foot should be flat on the ski with the ankle slightly flexed forward and your knee slightly bent. Your back foot has the heel lifted off the ski. The hips are centered between the feet, and the hands are in front of your body, relaxed and level.

    Start Sliding Around
    Find a gentle hill that will allow you to slowly slide forward and come to an easy stop. Try the lead changes while sliding forward in a straight line. Keep your skis flat on the snow and about hip width apart. Again, experiment with rising up tall as your feet pass and with dropping down slightly when you hit your tele stance. Repeat several times so the lead changes feel like a natural movement.

    Steer and Stop
    Now we'll add some basic steering skills to your turn transitions.

    First, pick up one foot and twist it, so your ski moves back and forth parallel to the ground. Isolate the twisting from the knee down only. Do not use your thigh, hip or upper body at all.

    Repeat with each foot. This drill helps to develop basic skills you need to steer your tele skis using your feet to guide them — not your hips or upper body.

    Turn Right
    In a straight run on a gentle slope, make a couple of lead changes. Now when your feet pass each other, say left foot going forward and right foot going back, steer both feet simultaneously to the RIGHT. You are initiating a turn to the right, and your left foot is in front. Keep steering to the right, going into the basic telemark stance until you come to a stop. Cool, you are learning to turn, come to a stop and remain standing.

    Turn Left
    Now try steering to a stop going to the left. Again, in a straight run, make a couple of lead changes. Now when your feet pass each other, this time right foot going forward and left foot going back, steer both feet simultaneously to the LEFT. Keep steering to the left until you come to a stop. You should be standing in a basic telemark stance at this point.

    The last goal for this lesson is to link several turns together while going down a gentle hill. Start in a straight run making a couple of lead changes. Then begin to slightly steer both feet in the direction of the turn, moving into the basic telemark stance, then start the transition into the next turn. You go left, you go right, and gravity does the rest. It's pretty simple when you're balanced.

    Jimmy Ludlow, Correspondent

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