4 Easy Steps To Making Better Telemark Turns in Bigger Terrain
by Eric Hendersen | illustrations by Scott Howard
A telemarker walks into a bar after a bell-to-bell day. The bartender quickly yells, ”I suppose you want a Wobbly Knee.” The telemarker shrugs and responds with a smirk, “Do I have a choice?” The truth of the matter is, when it comes to bending without getting bent, he does have a choice. So do you. These are a few essential steps to remedy weakness in the knees and take the telemark turn to a higher level.
1. BE DYNAMIC
A good telemark turn is dynamic, not static. You don’t get down into one position and stay there. Any time the legs stop moving during a turn, you’re setting up for a face plant or a fake-a-mark. An image I tell my clients is to envision walking through loose scree on a mountainside. The ground is moving below you and you can’t trust the footing but you keep moving forward. This helps with keeping the dynamic motion of the turn and sets you up for one lead change to the next.
2. DIFFERENT SIZE TURNS
The second step in conquering bigger terrain is letting go of the perfect turn shape and radius of our forefathers. Making different sized turns, as the terrain demands forces you to be dynamic, and keep you from bottoming out in your go-to turn shape. There is nothing perfect about the turn except moving through terrain like water runs down hill. In most cases in advanced chutes, trees and mogul fields, two lefts make a right. Learning the balance between a sharp arcing left turn and short, tight-radius right turn will allow you to keep moving down the fall line.
3. BE AN ANKLE FLEXER
O.K., the third step is the big one: Sorry folks, don’t be a knee-dragger, be an ankle-flexer. In today’s modern age of freeheel skiing we no longer get power from only flexing into the toe box and smashing our knees; we get it from flexing in the ankles, knees, and leaning into the boot. Another way of picturing this technique is to place a twenty-dollar bill in between one’s shinbone and the front of the liner. Now keep those twenties in place till the end of the day and finish by buying your friends a beer at the end of the day.
4. PROTECT THE CHIN
The fourth step in improving one’s skill level is simple: Punch your way to the lift line. Like boxers, keep your hands out in front, protect the chin and work the upper cut. Most intermediate telemarkers are famous for dragging the uphill pole. This causes bad body rotation and keeps one from staying in the fall line. Punching your way down hill, you can set your self up for an aggressive pole plant and keep your eyes towards the next turn.
So remember the next time you step into a bar, order the Wobbly Knee—a delicious recipe of Amaretto liqueur, Kahlua coffee liqueur, vodka, coconut cream and double cream. But don’t forget, you do have choice.
I agree with most of this and LOVE Scott’s illustrations. But I have to comment. Hands in front, yes. But don’t drive them up. It doesn’t matter if your heel is locked or free, holding your hands high throws your upper body into the hill just like double poling does. Drive forward and DOWN the mountain. My parents learned to ski in the 40s by following Austrian ski instructors around and eavesdropping on what they were telling their more affluent clients. This is what they heard and taught me in the days when boots were leather, bindings had cables, and poles were up to your armpits. “Imagine you are balancing on your hands a tray full of shit. If that shit falls off the tray, you don’t want it landing in your lap. Get it away from you. Keep your hands no higher than your elbows and your elbows below your shoulders. Throw that shit down the hill.” Watch downhill racers. What is happening when their hands rise up above their shoulders? They are in trouble. How do they get out of or avoid trouble? They punch down the hill. So while I like everything else, I think the uppercut is easily interpreted as advice to throw your hands up when you should be punching down the hill. Don’t assume the saguaro cactus position. And while a pole drag used as a crutch is indeed going to twist your body into the hill, lightly touching the snow with the inside pole to feel like a cat feels with its whiskers is useful… as long as your hands are in front and pointing down the mountain. Yours truly, a lifelong intermediate telemarker. ;-)
Awesome insights to add! Thank you. It is always great to see the great additions people are helping out with. Thank you for reading and chiming in — we appreciate it.
A very useful reminder
Great info! Especially pertinate for me as an intermediate tele skier is to stay dynamic and keep the hands up. Let’s all pray for the snow to come early and be deep!
Praying for snow!