Mitch burst onto the ski scene in 1998 with Telemarktips. The world wide web was still in it’s infancy, but it was already past the budding shoots stage and was ready to leaf. Mitch picked up the remains of a budding tele-centric forum, Telemarque.com while the Terminator whipped the imaginations of American backcountry skiers into a telemark fever. Mitch came along and added just the right twist to stirring the telemark potion and in short order the ski industry was in a lather over all things telemark and then some.
This was pre-Facebook and YouTube but not before iPods and cheap video cameras. Mitch got a high-end one and used it to show how his friend Big Tim could rip, and then BT would take the camera while Mitch set forth to interview every important personality in the world of telemark. He knew how to tee people up, how to get them to share more intel than they planned to, and build a relationship while the camera on BT’s shoulder recorded it all.He was gregarious, and disarmingly charming, sometimes to a fault. Mitch would be the first to tell you he wasn’t perfect and I remember roaring with laughter as we both recalled the time he was adamantly demanding that the media and manufacturers at an industry meeting NOT adopt the term “free heel skiing” to promote the backcountry ski industry. He was quite insistent, going so far as to pound the table with his fists so that nearby drinks were knocked over. Everyone in the room was aghast. What few understood was that Mitch was all about telemark and he didn’t want to see his vision of promoting telemark skiing — in or out of bounds — with confusing, backcountryesque terminology. Looking back we both agreed it was hilarious; nobody was willing to pound back, and frankly, none of us had half the wit he did. I’m laughing about it right now, and hopefully, so are you, and so is he.
It is clear why Telemarktips was so successful in the rear view mirror. In many ways it was the perfect storm of contributions in electronic technology and growth in the sport of telemarking vis-a-vis advances in materials from plastic telemark boots to shaped and then phat skis. Forums became places where like minded people could mingle remotely. Although those elements contributed to the explosion of interest, there was another ingredient that few other forums had — Mitch’s love of people and his passion for tele and his natural ability to host a party. He knew how to stir the pot of passionate opinions like an artist adds color to a canvas. He knew when to interject with a moderators voice, and when to encourage others to speak up and offer their point of view.He shared with me once that he modeled Telemarktips after talk radio, where he would determine the subject for the day, and then let the listeners fill in the blanks and provide the entertainment. It was genius.
He did something many have tried since but few have succeeded, he built a community. The outpouring of testimonials to this effect in the wake of his death are undeniable, and obviously genuine. And so, even though there are much bigger places for people to congregate and share their life and opinions on the world wide web these days, nobody really wants to, because really, we just want to hang out at our favorite place, which for a long time and for a lot of people was Mitch’s Bar – Telemarktips.com.
As the web grew up and alternative places for others to get in on this phenomenon of connecting virtually spread across civilization it seemed like interest in telemark began to wane, and perhaps coincidentally it appeared Mitch’s energy did too.
A lot of folks wondered what happened to Mitch as his involvement progressively ceased, and then, three years ago the site itself crashed, and disappeared from the web.Understandably, some thought Mitch had just burnt out and moved on to other passions, but sadly now, we know the truth. Mitch was sick, real sick. He had cancer, and it was bad. He courageously pursued and excruciatingly endured all of the treatments modern medicine had to offer because he was willing to do anything, go through anything, in order to be there as long as he could for his beloved family.
At the time, I shared my hope that he just needed to rest up a bit and he’d be back in some form or another. But when cancer takes control, well, sometimes you can’t bounce back.I count myself lucky on two counts, to turn our once very competitive relationship into a friendship, and to have hung out and skied with Mitch on many occasions. My only regret is not making the time to hang with Mitch one more time before I couldn’t anymore. Like the Terminator he promoted so effectively, we all thought he’d be back.
To his closest family and friends, those who loved Mitch and lived with him, the collective heart of thousands of telemarkers worldwide goes out to you. Just like you, he made our lives better, and we deeply mourn his passing.
I pray that you will learn how to live with the pain of his absence and shine for him in the ways that he taught you.
Telemarktips.com (1998-2013): RIP
Interview with Mitch Weber
Thoughts from TTips refugees at BackcountryTalk (the consolation forum)
Mitch Weber’s contribution to telemark skiing by Cesare (on page 2)