Serial Heelers is a series of telemark ski films directed by Yves Thollon and features athletes Aymeric Cloërec, Bertrand Clair, and Seb Mayer. With big mountain lines and huge airs, the team rips around their home town of Chamonix, France. The latest episode, “Back to the Roots,” brings a different story to the table; the history of telemark.
It all started five years ago when Pierre Mouyade, owner of The M Equipment, reached out to Thollon to create a web series about telemark with athletes Seb Mayer and Aymeric Cloërec. “I was already working on a project with Aymeric when Pierre called me,” Thollon explained. “I barely knew anything about the sport, but I love discovering new things. Telemark had always looked aesthetically pleasing so I was stoked to work on this project.” Thollon grew up in Staint-Jean-de-Maurienne in the French Alps and began skiing at the age of three in Les Sybelles. When snowboarding became popular in France he switched from skiing at age 13. Thollon studied chemistry in university and started working in a pharmaceutical lab with his dreams of being a videographer on the back burner. After a few years he gave up on his chemistry profession and started making ski videos with countless freeriders. He now lives in Haute Savoie, near Chamonix and continues to ski and snowboard.
Serial Heelers started with Seb Mayer and Aymeric Cloërec. Bertrand Clair joined in the second season and they work to feature new riders in each episode. Mayer was born in Risoul in the South Alps of France and started skiing at age two. This is his 40th winter on skis. In 2000 Mayer found telemark during a season in Val d’Isere. Joined by friends, they started telemark just for fun and to learn a new technique, but what they found was the true spirit of telemark. Mayer still goes skiing with a lot of his telemark friends and they have a WhatsApp group dedicated to skiing with telemarkers.
Cloërec hails from the small resort Les 7 Laux, where he started to ski at age three. In 1997 his dad, an active member of the Black Shoes crew, introduced him to telemark. “Each telemark turn is so fun. The balance game is amazing and I really like to push myself physically,” Cloërec says. “I feel like I’m always improving and it’s interesting to think that I haven’t even touched the limits of this sport yet.” Cloërec still takes his alpine set up out from time to time, but insists that it only helps his telemark technique because it reminds him he can always try to telemark as fast as he alpine skis.
Clair grew up in a small town close to Bourg-Saint-Maurice. Like the others, he started skiing at age two at a hill called Les Arc. Clair found telemark at age 18 after attending the Black Shoes festival and talking with Georges Canard Baetz. He now lives in Sainte-Foy-Tarentaise. “The resort is so small and peaceful that I always like to telemark,” Clair says. During the holiday season he works in Tignes.
The goal of Serial Heelers was to showcase the sport of telemark skiing. Thollon had the idea to shoot in majestic mountain settings with big lines and good skiers. Big mountain skiing and backcountry is the main focus of the series. “It isn’t just made for telemarkers,” Thollon said, “Working on this project I learn more and more about telemark everyday and I hope the viewers do, too.” The first season the videos weren’t very long. Thollon wanted to start out with big lines and breathtaking views to get people hooked. The storytelling would come later. Serial Heeler’s third season objective is to work towards a short movie.
“We love to involve other telemarkers, like Peter Steltzner from Rabbit on the Roof skis, Norihide Yamagushi, who guides in Japan, or Ariella Mariani and Giuliano Pederiva in Italy. When we film on location where our fellow telemarkers live, we have to meet up and ski,” Thollon explains. “That’s the cool thing about telemark culture. I’m always surprised how everyone knows each other. When we’re in a new country filming, we end up meeting someone who knows a friend or a friend of a friend.”
“I will always remember one crazy day of shooting in the Dolomites of Italy. It was my first time there and I’ve never ridden such a long couloir in my life. We took half the day just to shoot this couloir from the inside. There was 50cm of powder and we never saw another soul,” Thollon recalls when asked about his biggest accomplishment through telemark skiing. Cloërec says, “Five years ago we began to shoot telemark videos with Serial Heelers. We’ve been to different places like Austria, Japan…last year we went to Norway for our latest movie ‘Back to the Roots.’ It was a nice feeling to go back to the origins of our sport. I will never forget ending our line 2 meters from the sea. It was such a unique experience for me!”
Over the past five seasons, Serial Heelers has gained a following. Thollon is humble when he says he isn’t sure if the series influences the sport of telemark skiing. “What I do know is that since the beginning of this project we have had so much fun shooting these videos. I hope that people who follow us have fun watching it.” Serial Heelers, the telemark world salutes you.
Thollon laughs when people tell him telemark is dead. “It will never die.”
Serial Heelers’ Set Ups:
Yves: “I will not tell my set up, all telemarkers will kill me.”
Skis: Scott Scrapper 115 for freeride and touring
Scott Slight 100 for everything (powder, steep, piste, touring…)
Boots: Crispi Evo WC with inserts
Bindings: Meidjo 2.1 (with brakes)
Poles: 120 to 110cm or my wood lurk in 205cm
Knee pads: Arc’teryx
(“I remember my first set up, an old pair of skis with 3 pins bindings and leather boots!”)