Aug 19 2013

Telemarktips.com (1998-2013): RIP

Telemark may not be dead, but the forum that every fool free heeler used to hang out at, Mitch’s Bar, aka telemarktips.com, has pulled the plug. May it rest in peace.

Mitch Weber, brains and brawn behind Telemarktips.com

Mitch Weber, brains and brawn behind Telemarktips.com

Born the brainchild of one Mitch Weber, Telemarktips burst on to the scene in 1998 to fulfill the hole created when another fledgling internet forum, Telemarque.com, was shut down by its owner who sought fulfillment elsewhere. Mitch was enamored with the vibrant interplay of anonymous personalities that were busy blithering on about how telemark skiing was the sensation of the century. He agreed and saw the demise as an opportunity to pick up the torch and carry it himself.

It quickly became obvious that not only was the telemark community as wild and vociferous as it claimed it was, but Mitch had his finger on the pulse of the free heel crowd and he knew how to stir the pot of controversy. Often all he had to do was call into question the opinions of the then reigning publications spreading the backcountry gospel, Couloir and Backcountry magazines.

Mitch ripping the fresh at Mammoth, his home turf.

Mitch ripping the fresh at Mammoth, his home turf.

He created an unprecedented following and gave us all a preview of how the internet would be used to join like minds across the globe as well as how leaving the door open for anyone to say anything would not only draw a crowd, but also reveal the lack of shame in words and ideas bandied about that comes when everyone cloaks themselves in anonymity. All this from a simple forum devoted to telemark skiing.

Besides launching a forum on a topic that participants were sure to be zealous about Mitch led the way in the use of videos long before YouTube made videos on the internet ubiquitous. Mitch showed that the internet could, should, and would be the medium that could do what all the other mediums did in their own separate space only in one place, from the audio track of radio, the moving pictures of movies, the written word and still pictures of magazines, plus a virtual connection that only the internet could provide. The result was like a rowdy bar that you could drop in on anywhere, anytime. You never needed to use your fists to defend yourself, but woe to those whose hides were thin and their vocabulary thinner.

At the height of its popularity in 2005 telemark tips regularly had hundreds if not thousands of visitors per hour, most lurking, but many posting their own reviews of equipment, trip reports, and insults toward any who disagreed. It was rightly called world famous.

After 2007 interest began to wane. Most subjects related to telemark and backcountry skiing had been dissected in detail ad nauseum. Telemark was no longer the dominant gear for backcountry skiers and though Mitch had always been adamant that his site and forum were about telemark skiing, with backcountry merely being a natural association, when interest migrated away so too did scores of the community of lurkers and posters. Equally to blame was the maturity of the web itself with many of the concepts that telemarktips pioneered becoming full blown separate entities in themselves, like YouTube for allowing everyone to become a movie producer and star. The basic concept of using the web to connect people all over the world and create a virtual social gathering was made more accessible with the likes of FaceBook and other social media such as LinkedIn, Reddit, Twitter, etcetera.

None, of these larger, more connected, more automated social networks have managed to create the sort of community that transcended the virtual and made waves in the world like telemarktips did, from calling out flaws in products that led to recalls and fixes to meeting new ski buddies on the slopes.

The smile behind the myth. Photo by SLHMTB.

The smile behind the myth. Photo by SLHMTB.

Even when the man behind the curtain seemed to have lost interest in the forum himself, the regulars continued to hang on, even more invested in the reputation and atmosphere of Mitch’s Bar than the owner was. The last three years the site has been a tumorous replica of its once vibrant self, full of meaningless, off topic threads that inevitably devolved into childish tantrums of trading insults among the hundred or so regulars who refused to leave until the plug was pulled. From outside it resembled a crippled plane coming in for a landing, bouncing a few times before its inevitable demise. Even with the end imminent, the regulars refused to abandon ship, knowing the end was near but holding on until the final crash. As of this writing, that appears to have happened.

No word from Mitch. It is rumored he received an invitation from SLHMTB to head south for the summer. If the rumors are true he’s been enjoying an extended winter and SLHMTB‘s secret stash of cigars and moonshine ever since. So long my friend. It was a good ride while it lasted. May telemarktips rest in peace.

© 2013
New forum for TTips refugees

  • Grant

    As a long time poster and regular at TTips, I wish Mitch and his family all the best.
    The few times we met and hung out at the World Headquarters, we had a heck of a time (who knew Paralyzers were an aperitif!).
    I’ve skied with folks all over the country thanks the community that the
    TTips forum provided. It’s true many dropped off over the past few years, mostly due to a lack of moderation. The TTips party just couldn’t survive without our thoughtful host reminding some how to mind their manners. It sure was a great ride while it lasted. I guess it really is true…no one cares that you tele, anymore.

  • Baaahb

    So where do I get dates now?

    Although the forum was suffering in the last few years, perhaps from a lack of moderation, it still had a vibrancy and a strong sense of community. Some long time posters had left, new people had joined (when they could). The forum – if is indeed dead — appears to have died because its owner wanted it to die, not because of any declining interest in telemark, or exhaustion of topics, or ghetto-i-zation of the community.. It has died because people can no longer post. It will be missed, but life goes on.

  • Dostie

    As an insider your conclusion, “It has died because people can no longer post,” is dead on. As for dates, you’ll have to suffer with Match.com.

  • Jarl Skibumdad Berg

    Sad to see it go but thankful for the many I have met and skied with through the years due to the community it brought. All the best to Mitch and his family who need him much more than he needed for forum. The good news…there is now a group of Facebook that I happen to think will keep the spirit alive with those who really just came for the stoke either to give it or receive it! Telemark is surely not dead here the Northwest as events in Oregon at least are still stoking the fire to keep it alive…so throw another pair of skis on the fire and keep sliding…one freeheel at a time! :-)

  • Pierre L’Esperance

    As a past active and now occasional lurker I will miss the site. Met some great people on there. RIP Teletips!
    Pierre aka Bricklin.

  • http://ern.reeders.net.au/blog/ Ern Reeders

    That’s a thoughtful post thanks, coming as it does from a long time in the game.

  • SpartyOverseas

    Is the content gone forever or is there a chance for someone else to restore the site back to life? I’d be interested in supporting (running/driving) a phoenix operation. If someone can provide some contact info I’d like to talk privately.

  • tele_skier

    All the best to Mitch and his family…. The door’s always open for you mitch,… dostie, and most of the TTips family. Of course, the “no friends on a powder day” rule is always in effect…

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  • Dave Mann

    The end of TelemarkTips raises some interesting questions about the changing landscape of backcountry skiing and social media. But I think there’s a more persistent universal question in play that merits teasing out.

    In the early 1970s, MIT’s Artificial Intelligence labs had no passwords on the user accounts on their computers. The ethos was that all users should have free and unfettered access to all information on the computer. Somewhere underneath this is the moral assumption that people are basically good and that when given unrestricted access, they would collectively do the right thing. In 1977, MIT began to enforce passwords, thus restricting access. Then programmer Richard Stallman became a vocal critic and even went so far as to begin a password cracking campaign.

    The issue here is not passwords. Neither is it ski forum moderation, really. The deeper question is, can we trust that we will, collectively, do the right thing?

    As demonstrated by his moderation decisions, Mitch Weber was clearly in the “Yes, we can and will collectively do the right thing.” On the surface, that’s a wonderful and laudable sentiment and if Mitch is or was wrong about that, he’s very clearly not alone.

    If Mitch is a glass half full guy, I guess I’m a glass half empty guy. While I affirm that people are basically good, I also affirm that we all carry the capacity to do evil. And worse, I believe that when you get a group of people together, whether it be on an internet forum or to form a country, the one thing you can count on is some percent of those people are going to act badly and do real harm. I believe in the need for checks and balances.

    Not only to I believe in the need for forum moderation, I think society needs to continue to think through the question of how the right to access to information freely and the problem of evil get worked out. Yes, I disagreed strongly and publicly with Mitch about his moderation approach, but I don’t fault him for it. It’s a very, very hard problem.

    In the end, the biggest difference difference between me and Mitch though is that Mitch ran a forum and me?… I’m just a critic from the peanut gallery. So, with that observation, I’ll close with Teddy Roosevelt’s perspective, because it is definitely spot on.

    “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” — Teddy Roosevelt

  • Dostie

    Excellent summary Pinnah. Moderation becomes a touchy subject. Censor comments too hard and they disappear. Not enough and trouble reigns.

  • arno,tm

    Hi Dostie & tm-friends,
    as times are changing, we have to accept it, as there my reasons whatever…
    But: “Schwünge kommen, Schwünge gehen, doch Telemark bleibt bestehen!”
    >> Turns may come and go away, but Telemark is here to stay!

  • Baaahb

    The demise of TTips says nothing about the pros or cons of forum moderation as it unrelated to forum moderation; who’s to say how the forum would have progressed had one actually been able to continue posting on it…… Some moderation is necessary, if nothing else to prevent hackers and others who would shut down the site by flooding it with intentional crap that the poster knows has no value. Dealing with posters who think their stupidity or arrogance is clever or warranted is a different matter — and I, too, advocated a more aggressive moderation on TTips, but the success of TTips while it was a operating site (as well as the even greater success of TGR) demonstrates that non-moderated or user-moderated forums are very viable. HOWEVER (and here, Pinnah I think we agree), I think Mitch misjudged his core audience… he had a very educated and serious audience — one that accepted shenanigans as long as they were clever, but always wanted a healthy base of core communication,. For whatever reason, I think TTips needed some light (rather than minimal) moderation in order to stay on track by providing the kind of site the core users wanted.

  • teletilyouresmelly

    Two things made the forum great:
    1) Funnier than any other forum I know
    2) You could ask a question on ANY TOPIC and get informed, thoughtful answers (plus noise but so what). It’s what “Ask Jeeves” hoped to be and never was. Best group of people on the internet I have ever seen. That is all.

  • Ralph Oppermann

    Tele tips offered advice and humor with out the judgement that I have found in other sites.. There were beer reviews that are priceless.. R.i.p.

  • skier6

    Sorry to read of the demise of Telemark Tips. I wondered why I couldn’t log in? It was quite a vibrant community, and if the occasional wacko posts were a bit irritating, there were always great equipment discussions, and TR/ pictures that Tele Tipsters posted over the years.
    I hope someone can resurrect it soon! Thanks Mitch..


  • Ray

    There was so much useful information and knowledgeable folks on T-Talk. Its a shame to let that all go away. It would be great if someone started a similar site or revived it

  • Dostie

    Uh, didja look around while you were here? There’s a place right next door. Buncha TTips refugees already sharpening up. ;) Try the BC Talk link in the Nav bar up top.

  • Rene-Martin

    I would have kept TTips and dump TTalk. I know people want to chat ad all, I just think their was some great content and notoriety on TTips

  • David Gladish

    Sad to hear, with the turning of the leaves and nip in the air my biological clock went to the site and I ended up here. My recent move further away from the mountains, young children and ski days from the last 2 years counted on one hand it makes me even sadder to know I can’t lurk and live precariously through all the great people who love the feeling of gravity and snow combined with free heals. Trespinero xo

  • Dostie

    Uh, there are a lot of refugees from TTips cruising through the Backside Bar & Grill at BackcountryTalk.com – down the hallway on the left side of this site. ;)

  • Pablo J. Gonzalez

    Wow. just came to visit an old stomping ground to sell all my tele gear…haha, and wound up here. Great memories there at Ttips. Now that my 50 year-old bum, right, big toe relegated me to my last season of tele skiing in 2012-13, I have to turn to AT. How sad, but Dostie did a wonderful job summing it all up, as did opinions of posters here. I’ve been away from real regularity at the Ttips since about 2006 (started in 2000 or so) but it was my first real “sports-forum addiction”. Best meet-up memory: Telemark extreme skiing competition at Bertoud Pass Ski Area (remember the lifts?) where 3-4 of us from the forum met up on a sweet snow day for turns and inspiration from the pros. Thanks to all for the online experience. Paul S. (that’s my real name, not Pablo G.)

  • Christian

    A great forum – I will miss it
    Chris, Stuttgart, Germany

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  • George Grader

    Geo here to “post on this terribly important thread” – Best regards, Mitch! FYI am still mounting free heel bindings on my bench, tweaking gear and blabbing Maven style; and occasionally skiing with great folks in the East, West and Europe. May our ankles and knees hold up – SCHI HEIL. George