There are different strokes for different folks in the landscape of winter sports. Telemark skiing is definitely not the easiest way to get down the mountain, and there are those who will ask whether the extra effort of making free-heel turns is worth it. I would tell those people that is not only worth it, telemark skiing has advantages over alpine touring, snowboarding and alpine skiing. Here are seven of them:
- Hiking and traversing in the backcountry is faster and less work when you are on telemark equipment, especially when your telemark binding has a zero-resistance touring mode. The free-heel effect adds efficiency and glide to your steps, which makes it advantageous on steeps and flats alike.
- Learning to ski on telemark equipment improves your overall skiing ability. It forces new skiers who are inclined to lean back onto the center of their skis and sharpens their balance and agility. The boots also tend to be more comfortable and easier for new skiers to walk in.
- Telemark is great for children of all ages, mainly because they enjoy the lightness of the gear and the greater mobility on the flats. Having their heels free improves their balance and speeds up the learning process. Children also love the freedom of lighter boots when walking and playing in the snow.
- Telemark gear is good for entry-level backcountry skiers, mainly because the equipment is durable, dependable and easy to use.
- Telemark is appealing to many women because it requires more finesse and grace than alpine skiing or snowboarding, which may suit their desire to winter recreate in a new and interesting way. The equipment is also lighter and, in some cases, more adjustable to different skiing styles.
- For ski instructors and other people who are teaching others to ski, telemark equipment provides superior mobility and comfort. This is important when teaching because you often need to move quickly in all directions to help your students. Also the bending action that tele boots promote keeps your feet warmer as you work throughout the day. The added challenge of tele turns also keeps beginner terrain interesting if you are spending the day with someone new to the mountain.
- The telemark turn is more fluid, which is a sheer joy on a deep powder day. Also, when skiing deep powder, the free heel is an advantage over alpine and AT because there is no need to adjust the heel piece when you hit a flat area and need to hike through the snow.
These are but a few of the advantages of telemark skiing. I implore all winter recreation enthusiasts to thank telemark for breaking new trail and helping to create the backcountry ski industry as we know it today. As this list illustrates, however, telemark skiing is good for so much more than just backcountry pursuits — it is as relevant today as ever.
U.S. Telemark Ski Association
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