René-Martin Trùdel spreads the Freeheel Gospel
René-Martin Trudel is a telemark skier. He’s lived in many places, worked a variety of jobs and spends time with an incredible family, but he describes himself as a member of the “Telemark Tribe” above all else. The Quebec native started telemark skiing as a 16-year-old ski instructor, when the ski school director asked his staff if any of them wanted to try telemark skiing, which he was sure was going to be “Next Big Thing.” Needless to say, after a few days of smashing around the hill on leather boots, Trudel was hooked.
“I wasn’t any good at telemark skiing, but I was hooked on the vibe,” Trudel says. “I loved the challenge. I couldn’t get down the hill without stopping, and it gave me a chance to really look around and realize I was spending time in these beautiful natural surroundings. I just didn’t do that alpine skiing. I spent the next season trying to telemark as much as possible. Following that I ended up moving to Banff and Whistler, and that changed my life.” Trudel moved on from instructing and became a ski patroller — he also works as a backcountry guide in the Chic-Chocs — but his passion for sharing the love of telemark skiing with others never faded.
In 2012, Trudel started Absolute Telemark (www.absolutetelemark.com). The venerable TelemarkTips.com was fading, so Trudel saw an opportunity to provide something to the community while indulging his own passion. “The blog was a great resource to give the most information possible to the Tribe, and I launched the tutorials the second year. I hadn’t renewed any of my certifications, but with parabolic skis and plastic boots things had changed so much anyways. Skiing more than 100 days a year with all these new innovations was really the key for me to improve and learn the right techniques.”
What Trudel has built is an incredible resource for telemark skiers. Absolute Telemark is without a doubt the most comprehensive collection of instructional information for freeheel skiers of all levels. The telemark community is known for being a DIY heavy group — and many new converts are already accomplished in other downhill disciplines — so the ability to learn on your own is appealing to many people. “The way I teach makes the transition from alpine skier or snowboarder to telemark skier smooth. I focus on seven key flaws that are good for anybody, whether they’re beginner, intermediate or advanced. I’ve only kept the essential stuff. It’s not so much a progression from point A to B, but a focus on how your body will react to certain things. People may not be used to the concept, but the tutorials work for whoever you are.” Telemark skiing is filled with personal and unique style, and a focus on useful fundamentals is an outstanding way to approach teaching.
It’s not all instruction. Absolute Telemark also aims to bring the freeheel community together, and Trudel frequently hosts podcasts featuring telemark personalities from all over the world. The main course on Absolute Telemark, however, is the tutorials. There are three standard tutorials that are available directly on the website — one for beginners, one for converted alpine skiers and snowboarders, and one about switch telemark skiing. To learn the 7 Flaws, you need to subscribe to an email program, where you’ll interact directly with Trudel. He doesn’t just give you some tutorials and leave you to flounder; he’ll analyze video of you skiing and help you along the way. “Telemark Skiers are passionate people, and I know everyone listening will be just as passionate as me. And that motivates me do it.”