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March 6: Giant Slalom
March 7: Classic
March 8: Slalom
Whitefish, MT
Wednesday, March 4, 1998

Just west of the Continental Divide, The Big Mountain Ski & Summer Resort is host to the 1998 Telemark Skiing National Championships this weekend in Whitefish, Montana.

photo Art Burrows'
classic launch
The northern Rocky Mountains are home turf for some of the best telemark skiers in the US, and energy is running high for this sport which is looking to gain momentum toward a possible Olympic debut in the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, Utah.

The Big Mountain has seen almost two new feet of snow so far this week, adding a layer of fluff to the courses for the three competitions that will take place each day beginning on Friday, March 6th: the giant slalom on Friday, classic on Saturday, and slalom on Sunday.

These free-heel skiers, in a sport that might be better known for it's off-piste backcountry freedom following, will show off their knee-droppin' telemark turns around the gates and on the courses, most notable of which is Saturday's classic.

The classic course starts with a downhill section and transitions through a variety of terrain including sections of free skiing, giant slalom, super G, skating, nordic distance jumping and 360 degree bank turns (also known as "the noose").

"We tried to make it difficult and fun, but it's a monster of a course," said Neil Persons, Big Mountain ski patroller, course designer and participant.

Rumor has it that the US Telemark Board was easily swayed to host the Nationals here in Whitefish by promises of free beer from the local brewery. All bribery aside, The Big Mountain is home of the biggest local telemark racing league in the country — an appropriate place to hold this year's competition. There's no lack of tele heads here in Whitefish.

Stay tuned during the next few days for race results, interviews, photos and stories from Whitefish... and free beer.

Michelle Quigley, Mountain Zone Staff Home
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