IOW — Why Tele?As if it isn’t apparent, let me start out by reminding you that tele ain’t dead. The reports of the demise of the telemark tribe are over stated, fueled by mob mentality, juvenile thinking, and reliance on equipment sales to judge interest.
Interest is not defined by consumerism, but the passion of the people involved. That passion is rarely fueled by how easy something is. We all know the saying, “the harder they come, the harder they fall.” It accurately describes the loyalty and how outspoken telemarkers can be when describing their dance of choice in the mountains. Lest you think as a writer and publisher about telemark minutia I am merely too self absorbed to see outside my free heel realm, consider Sir Arnold Lund who pursued his passion for skiing with such zeal he was knighted, and he is on record as a telemarker. The correlation is hard to dismiss.
Part of the reason is ‘cuz tele ain’t easy. Ask any who have committed the time to learn it and they readily acknowledge, it takes extra effort, lots of time and lots of falls to master the telemark turn. In some ways you never fully do, because you’re always learning and adapting to new conditions with a free heel. That challenge is part of the allure, because it makes the satisfaction of achievement that much richer.
This leads to perhaps the main reason I haven’t gone back to locked heels for descent except when I’m testing AT gear or skiing something that I’d be scared spitless to descend anymore with tele gear. Over age 50, skiing above 50° seems foolish unless the conditions are absolutely stellar.Simply put, telemark boots are more comfortable than rigid soled boots, undeniably so. When I first made the transition to tele, leather boots were the only option. I didn’t switch being blind to their downhill limitations, but rather in full awareness that the minute-by-minute comfort of a soft leather boot was worth the compromise. And, with a little practice, skill, and luck, I could descend as steep as I dared, and in my younger years even proved it. Okay, so maybe it takes more than a little, but with a lot of practice the skill can be developed and with luck, the limits exist only in our minds. Without overstating the cliché reason tele ain’t dead, and why it won’t die, is the hook the turn puts in an outdoor heart for the sweeping sensation of the telemark turn. It can’t be adequately described in words, like how a kiss can be mingled with a little bit of magic, transforming it beyond the physical sensation of skin on skin. Some call it metaphysical. For the moment, may I suggest you consider it in simpler, quantitative terms.
In skiing there is a sweet spot in the middle of a turn, that moment when shussing through snow fairly hums with energy. Having done all three, alpine, snowboard, and telemark skiing, I can tell you that alpine turns have the shortest sweet spot, but the energy is high. Snowboard turns that rev the excitement meter are typically long. But with telemark, you can adjust that sweet spot, not only in terms of length, but also in terms of depth. Admittedly not when you’re learning, but once you figure it out, and get it, and practice it, especially in deep powder – whoa – that’s a feeling you’ll want to experience repeatedly and in a perfect world, regularly.In case you hadn’t noticed, the rest of the world is claiming that the best way to go backcountry skiing is with alpine touring gear. I readily admit to being a strong proponent of that sentiment, and do believe that for the majority of skiers A.T. skiing IS the best way to go. But not for everyone. For a few, tele is the best. It is not, nor will it ever again be the most popular way to earn your turns. Being the minority player has it’s disadvantages, but stoopid isn’t one of them. It’s only stoopid until you figure it out. Then it becomes the flip side of stupid. The word superior comes to mind but satisfying is more common.
Why do I bring all this up? Hasn’t this been discussed ad nauseum now for years. Yes, perhaps it has. However, it’s now time to push back because the free heel faithful don’t care whether or not you care that we tele. We care about the hows and whys and doing it. While we won’t insist that you try it yourself, when you’re ready to, we’re here to encourage and help you along. Afterall, not everyone can tele.