Telemarking: a rising trend – Snow Skiing

At downhill ski resorts, there’s a new sport on the mountain: telemarking. And it’s growing fast. Snowsports Skiing America (an industry trade group) reports that the sport is expanding much faster than either alpine skiing or snowboarding.

In essence, telemark skiing uses a binding that only attaches to the boot’s toe. The skis are more flexible than alpine skis. Telemark skiers usually kneel during turns, as this stance makes them more stable.

People are drawn to the sport for its elegance, its extra challenge, and its mobility. Some skiers stay within ski resorts. Other “free-heelers” explore the backcountry (beyond ski resorts). Skins (synthetic strips that grip the snow) are put on the ski bases- the skier can then stride up hills, remove the skins, and ski down through untracked snow.

Telemarking is, in truth, not a “new” sport. Modern skiing was born out of the telemark skiing tradition. Until 60 years ago, ALL skis had “free-heel” bindings. The father of telemark skiing, Sondre Norheim of the Telemark region of Norway, first introduced the bent-knee method of turning way back in the 1800’s.

Telemarking fell out of commercial favor by the 1950’s and 60’s, with the introduction of alpine-skiing bindings. But it is now enjoying a rebirth. A much larger range of people can now enjoy the sport, thanks to developments like plastic telemark boots, and wider, side-cut skis.

Current telemark gear varies widely. Skiers can choose from:

  • Lightweight skis and leather boots, for mostly cross-country travel.

  • Wide, stiff skis and high-cuff plastic boots, best for 100% lift-served skiing.

  • Mid-range gear for skiers wanting options

  • Specialized ski gear for racing or terrain-park maneuvers