When you hear or see old video of Lorenzo Worster dropping cliffs at free heel competitions, or just hucking a cornice with friends in the Tahoe backcountry, you might think the guy’s a braggert. He has the cred to be one, but to his social cred, Lorenzo is about as soft spoken as they come. If you met him off the slopes you might even find it hard to imagine him non-chalauntly turn toward the cliff you and I would avoid so he could launch off a ramp, do a front flip and stick the landing then lean back to power through a speed bleeding Tele turn. That’s when his eyes light up and the Cheshire grin pops out and you realize he was sandbagging you up until then.
Lorenzo would still say he’s a shy guy but his influence suggests he’s only aggressive in the lines he scribes, not the tone he uses with his tongue. He’s quick to admit he grew up quiet, but that changed when he signed up to teach sliding on snow.
Telemark was just part of growing up in the Worster family. Both his parents skied, X-C and Tele, so he grew up with it. When he was on the high school cross-country team, he and his buddies would go off and do laps instead of the workout the coach proposed. The way they saw it, it was just a different way to get the same workout in.
Bit by the teaching bug
When he first applied for a job as a Telemark instructor he learned quickly there were only six telemark lesson requests per year, and they already had two qualified instructors, “but if he knew how to snowboard they’d hire him tomorrow.” He bought a board and ended up teaching snowboarding for eight years, including one year in Norway.
As a teacher, that shy guy shtick had to go and he found out that under the hungry gaze of kids wanting to learn he had to put on a show and, surprise, he enjoyed explaining and showing how to do it. It was an unexpected buzz, to speak up and speak out. It was just teaching skiing, but it opened an unexpected door to a longer term career.
First, however, Lorenzo was drawn into the new Telemark freeride competitive scene that sprang up at the turn of the century. This wasn’t skiing gates for speed, it was open terrain and it was all about style – how fluid, aggressive, and difficult the line was. It was more enjoyable than gates because, even if you were at the back of the pack there was still the opportunity to find lines where the landings weren’t scrapped off, and there was some fresh to be found on the way down.
When the Telemark competitions came to Tahoe, he soon found out that picking a sweet tele line that had enough air time wowed the crowds more than a series of linked crater landings. In Tele, the wow factor always earns points and hanging on at the edge is better than loosing control.
There were some guys who liked to huck the biggest thing, and other guys like to billy-goat it, but I liked a mixture that was fluid, that was a challenge to ski but you could keep your momentum going.”
Very soon the competitions ceased to be about who won, and became a celebratory gathering of people who enjoyed a sport that was harder on purpose. Just that mindset of people all gathering together generated a tight knit camaraderie at festivals like the Bear Valley Telemark Festival, and the competitions were another outlet for that.
I remember really cheering each other on. It ceased to be about who won the competition and it was more about being with a like minded group of friends where we had the opportunity, vis-à-vis the competition, to unlock the secrets of each venue that would ordinarily be closed. We’d be watching each other at the bottom and that inspired each of us to push it.”
Pretty soon the cameras of Tough Guy Productions and Unparalleled Films were about to show the world how sweet Telemark skiing was and Lorenzo became one of their poster boys.
Lorenzo remembers saying to a buddy, “wouldn’t it be cool to be good enough that someone would film us skiing.” He When I got involved it wasn’t about ‘look at me,’ in fact I remember being kind of embarrassed when people would come up to me as say, ‘Oh, you’re Lorenzo’.” It was more about being a part of a team and making something that got people excited about Telemarking.
In filming, I felt like I pushed it to the next level. You have more control in where you want to ski and the snow so you’re a little more free to take those risks.”
Through the competitions he met Pete Gallup, which led to working with Karhu. This about the time Karhu developed the Jak, the Jill, and the Jack BC, legends in the history of Telemark ski development. Soon Karhu was leading the charge to see how fat phat could go before it became too phat. With the Team 130 Lorenzo showed it was a lot phatter than anyone thought it would go.
After Karhu he got involved in G3’s ski line and the still-born Enzo. He considers the Empire one of his favorite skis. While the Enzo did everything a 75mm binding could do — powerful, adjustable activity with a free-pivot — and it had the best immunity from icing evah (for a 75mm trap) but, sigh, it arrived too late.
In the meantime, Lorenzo got married, and decided to raise a family so he got a real job; an important one too. The teaching skills he learned on the slopes have been translated into the real world where he teaches 6th grade these days, when kids are still kids but waking up to the world. Lorenzo covers it all. “In science we deal with the chemistry of climate change. Algebraic concepts are introduced earlier, so there isn’t a dramatic shift later on. And everyone has to do a final project, a podcast that’s on view for the whole world to see.”
And his kids? They both ski and his son is looking forward to going full telemark next year.
Does Lorenzo ever foresee not telemarking? Not really.
I love freeing the heel. It’s a part of who I am, from telemarking with my Mom to the competitions to making ski movies, whenever I put these boots on it reminds me of these things and it’s not like other things that are so tied to technology. In a way it’s like going backwards because in order to make the turn people have to consciously chose to telemark because it’s NOT easy.”
FHL Podcast: Madsen interviews Lorenzo Worster: