Telemark, Alpine & Nordic skiing info

Free-heel skiing
Telemark skiing or telemarking
Alpine skiing or 'downhill' skiing
Nordic skiing
Ski touring & hut-to-hut touring


Telemark Skiing


Telemark skiing or Telemarking is becoming popular because it feels 'free-er' than alpine skiing and it still works really well on or off-piste.

In a 'Telemark' turn, alternately one ski then the other is advanced when turning. Something like a series of curtsies (not very low though) while 'stepping' down the slope. The skis are parallel, weighted and edged in modern Telemark turns, just as for parallel turns on alpine gear. The knee bend is much less than in traditional Telemark turns; only the same amount of leg bend as for parallel turns.

The position in the Telemark turn gives fore-and-aft stability without the fixed-down heel and rigid boots of alpine skiing. Imagine what you would do if you stood with your feet side by side and were pushed forward. You would quickly put one foot in front to stop yourself falling forward (Telemark position). Lateral stability is the same as in parallel turns; Telemark skiers also have their feet hip-width apart.

The greatest misunderstanding is that you can only do Telemark turn on free-heel equipment. In fact, ploughs, plough-parallels and parallel turns are all possible and EASY! That's why it's also called 'Free-heel Downhill'.

We teach complete beginners the same way as those on alpine equipment. It is so much easier and quicker to learn to Telemark turn once you can ski basic parallels confidently. All the same 'body management' and 'ski use' elements are the same. Experienced free-heel skiers will use the most suitable turn for the conditions. E.g. there is no advantage in Telemark turns on icy surfaces so we'd parallel or if we're touring and meet difficult, breakable crust, we may use step swings, while for powder we'd Telemark turn, etc.

Telemark skiing equipment

Modern skis and boots allow us to ski what was previously thought only possible on alpine (aka 'downhill') equipment: pistes of any level, moguls, powder, touring and even extreme off-piste descents. Modern telemark boots will be of plastic with 3 or 4 clips and the skis will be an 'alpine' ski chosen for the same reasons as by an Alpine skier e.g. wider for off-piste (typically 110 mm at the waist and wider), more side-cut for piste skiing, etc. Telemark bindings are either the traditional 75 mm 'duckbill' toe type or the more recently developed New Telemark Norm (NTN) boot/binding system. More information and advice on equipment is available by contacting us direct.

Ski tours such as the Haute Route are easily Telemarked and extreme skiing descents made, but we still enjoy that 'free and natural' feeling when travelling because of the ability to flex the mid-foot when striding forward. See the section on 'Alpine Mountain Touring' below.

Born again skiers – painless conversion/more fun

If you already ski on alpine gear, you will be able to ski parallels straight away on modern Telemark equipment. You can enjoy learning to Telemark whilst being able to ski around happily. However, as alpine gear has been developed to help your balance by keeping you within acceptable limits, you may have to revise your stance, especially if you've become a bit lazy.

Many find that Telemarking really revitalizes their interest in skiing because of the tremendous feeling of 'freedom' the gear gives - it's a great way to enjoy off-piste and touring too. As a bonus, when (if?) you swop back to alpine skis you will find your skiing has improved as you balance will be much better. A friend who recently tried his alpine gear again said he felt 'wooden' in it and couldn't wait to unclip his heels!

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Steep offpiste skiing

Steep, off-piste at Andermatt.

Parallel skiing

Parallel skiing in the off-piste snow at Cervinia – on
tele equipment – honest!