Backcountry Skiing: Master The Telemark Turn

The tele turn requires careful technique and some practice. Work on these moves at your local slope before venturing onto untracked snow.
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The tele turn requires careful technique and some practice. Work on these moves at your local slope before venturing onto untracked snow.

There's no more graceful way to travel through winter wilderness than on telemark skis, which marry the best of downhill (wide, shaped boards for flotation and turning) with the best of cross-country (free-heel bindings for kicking across the flats). With climbing skins-grippy attachments that go on the bottom of the skis-you can even motor up hills. Telemarks are simply the best choice for skiers who want to explore mountainous terrain or take multiday winter trips. But the tele turn requires careful technique and some practice. Work on these moves at your local slope before venturing onto untracked snow.

Balancing

Stand with your feet about hip-width apart, knees bent, skis flat against the snow. Simultaneously slide one foot back and the other forward; this is the basic telemark stance (figure 1). Next, quickly switch foot positions, straightening your legs as your feet pass each other. Practice this shuffling motion until you feel smooth and balanced; then try it as you traverse a wide, gentle slope.

Turning

Heading downhill, drop into the telemark stance while steering your forward (outside) ski into a turn; the rear ski follows. Keep your weight evenly distributed over both skis, your knees bent, and your torso facing downhill and toward the fall line, regardless of which way you are turning. It feels awkward at first: As your skis turn right, you twist your upper body slightly left (figure 2). Practice until you're adept at turning in both directions.

Linking

Visualize executing turn after turn in a dynamic, fluid motion. Focus on moving both skis at once and gracefully bringing your body up and down and in and out of each turn.