Ever been out skiing, and wondered whats up with those crazy dropped kneed skiers? This style of free heeled skiing is called telemark skiing. Why would someone choose to ski this way? After all, telemark skiing can often resemble a painful series of lunges performed while sliding down an icy mountain, punctuated by the occasional crash. Why don't those telemarkers just lock down their heel and ski like everyone else?
Simple answer: because its fun! Now, you're probably going to go ahead and count me in with the rest of the crazy telemarkers, but listen to what I have to say. I wasn't always this way. I started out with old fashioned fixed heeled skiing. I only went sporadically with my family. As a teen, a took up snowboarding for a while (hey, it happens to everyone). It was in college that I decided to give telemark skiing a try.
My first tele experience was with my school's Telemark ski club. I had lots of fun that first day, and discovered how great tele skiing was. Being used to a snowboard, where your heels are decidedly not free (and neither are your legs), I was shocked at just how “free" telemarking skiing felt. It hard to describe, but since you have to be so in tune with your body and the snow, skiing feels much more like a dance with tele. Rather than forcing your clunky gear to take you down the mountain, you work with the mountain. And that feels really great.
However, all this “finesse" stuff makes things pretty stinking difficult sometimes. I came up with some of the most interesting ways of crashing ever invented. However, I improved quickly with practice, and am still getting better. I'm really starting to get a feel for the wonderful rhythm that comes with nice, smooth tele turns, which is good because it is this rhythm and freedom that really makes telemark skiing great.
Obviously, tele skiing also give you the option to go backcountry skiing, because your free heel lets you climb uphill with skins. I choose not to emphasize this aspect too much, as it isn't unique to tele skiing. If you just want to ski the backcountry, and you're not interested in the tele skiing experience, then just stick with an AT (Alpine Touring( system, which allows you to use gear that's very similar to alpine in the backcountry. It's great stuff, but its not tele.
So, if you're looking to spice things up a bit on the slopes, why not give tele skiing a try? You might find that the whole hippy, granola crunching, free heel thing really is for you after all. Just make an effort to get started, and you'll be enjoying the free heel life in no time!
David Wilson is the man behind Telemark Skis , which brings you the best deal on telemark skis, telemark boots , and more. Please visit to find great gear and great tips, all focused on freeheel skiing.