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Telemark skiing

Telemark is a type of skiing that originates from the technique first developed by Sondre Norheim. Unlike Alpine skiing equipment, the Telemark ski has a binding that only connects the boot to the ski at the toes, just as in cross-country skiing. Telemark turns are led with the heel flat on the outside ski, while the inside ski is pulled beneath the skier's body with a flexed knee and raised heel. The skis are staggered but parallel, with weight equally divided between the two to give fore-aft stability.

Table of contents
1 Telemark
2 The Telemark Revival
3 Equipment
4 Technique
5 Competition Events
6 See Also


The telemark turn came to the attention of the Norwegian public in 1868, when Sondre Norheim took part in a ski competition, impressing with his ability to turn so easily and fluidly. The technique soon dominated skiing - and in Norway it continued to do so well into the next century. However new types of technique based on the stem were gradually starting to replace telemark in the Alpine countries in the 1910s, since it was easier to master and enabled shorter turns better suited to the steeper alpine terrrain and skiing downhill. The telemark turn became the technique of ski touring in rolling terrain.

The technique is named for the Telemark region of Norway, just as the Stem Christie turn was named for Christiania, now Oslo, Norway.

The Telemark Revival

The revival in the telemark technique, after its death in the mid 1940s, first started out in United States in the 1970s as a back-to-basics reaction to the high-tech equipment developments of Alpine skiing, and the increasing reliance on crowded groomed pistes (trails). The use of traditional clothing was (and sometimes still is) often part of the Telemark skiing revival.

The revival came to the attention of a larger public with a demonstration by a team from the Professional Ski Instructors of America at Interski, Italy in 1983. It grew to prominence during the 1990s, but is still a minority sport. While some still choose Telemark for its counter-culture image, others choose it for a fresh challenge, or to do downhill or cross-country skiing, on or off piste, and ski-touring, all on one well chosen telemark ski - once the Telemark technique has been mastered.


At the time of the revival, Telemark skis were long and skinny - and still can be. However with the huge developments in ski shapes and materials, at the present time (2000s) a wide variety of skis are now being used, according to whether they are to be used on or off piste (trail), for ski touring, or for racing.

Leather boots are still used by some, but plastic is now the usual choice.

Bindings hold the telemark boot to the ski by the toe only. Three-pin bindings are now rarely found, having been overtaken by cable bindings that have a sprung cable that passes around the back of the boot. Step-in releasable bindings are now also available, first introduced by Fritschi.

For those taking to the wilderness, skins (synthetic or mohair rather than sealskin) and harscheisen (ski crampons - also called couteau or cortelli) are used on the bottom of the ski to climb uphill.


The edges used in a telemark turn are the same as with a parallel turn, but a telemark turn involves leading the turn with the outside ski while trailing the inside ski. When initiating a turn, the skier edges the outside ski with a flat heel while simultaneously lifting their heel on the inside ski to shift the ski to the back of the telemark stance. Despite the boot heel being in contact with the outside ski, the skier's weight is evenly distributed between the toes of both feet. It is often difficult for inexperienced telemark skiers to place enough weight for proper edge control on their inside free-heel ski.

While there is universal agreement that a telemark turn must involve staggered skis and evenly distributed weight, there is no agreement on far apart the skis should be staggered. Increasing the distance between the leading ski and the free-heel trailing ski increases the amount that both knees are bent and brings the skier's torso closer to the snow. Some telemarkers enjoy an extremely deep stance with the trailing knee almost in contact with the ski top, while others prefer a taller stance that allows quicker transitions between turns. It is, in fact, possible to parallel turn on telemark equipment, which is why penalties are assessed if the boots are not at least boot's length apart in FIS telemark competitions. This element of technique is up to the skier.

Accomplished telemark skiers keep their torso vertical and oriented downhill while linking turns. Poles are optional. With or without, the skier's hands should be in front of the body. Some telemark skiers have been known to ski with a single long pole, or lurk, held in both hands. The pole or lurk should only contact the snow on the inside of the turn.

Competition Events

As a competition event, the sport is governed by the International Ski Federation Telemark Committee. The Telemark disciplines are:

Telemark Giant Slalom

Similar to Giant Slalom, but including a jump marked for style and distance.

Telemark Classic

Classic involves a Giant Slalom section, a jump (with time penalties of up to 7 seconds for errors), a 360 turn, and an uphill sprint.

Telemark Sprint Classic

After completing a downhill section, the skier turns 360 and sprints for around 200m using the classic cross-country skiing technique.

See Also

External Links