Ask the telemarker

{This is a continuation of the thread from the temporary board}

Telemark skiing? Ask away.

How would you like it if we all just called you at random at all hours trying to switch your long distance. I mean you must not have even enough brain cells to flip a hamburger patty over to take that job you mor…
Oh telemarker…

:smiley: I need to call it a day, toodles.

I’m a regular (fixed-heel) downhill skier who’s considering learning how to telemark sometime in the next few years. My concern is my knees. I’m 33, and in reasonably good shape, but how hard is telemarking on the knees of a no-longer-20-something?

I am posting for two reasons:

  1. For the obligatory reminder that “Ask the” threads go in IMHO

  2. See if my post count survived.


You may continue your discussion.

It’s no worse on your knees than fixed heel skiing, and is easier on your knees when bump skiing.

In bumps with fixed heel bindings you can take hits and to some degree use your heel binding to keep you from falling forward onto your tips. With free heel bindings, this is not an option, for if you slam into the back of a bump, you’ll fly over your own tips. Thus with free heel bindings in the bumps you have to be very smooth. By being smooth, you save your knees from being pounded.

Something to watch out in high end skiing, particularly tele, is to not over develop your quads at the expense of your hams. Either put in some hours on the weight machine, or skin up the hill a few times a week. If you build your quads out of proportion from your hams, you might run into trouble with your knees. If you find that your pants don’t fit over your quads they way they used to, have a chat with a good sports physiotherapist to see what you can do to get your hams up to speed.

Finally, to avoid twisting knee injuries, match your bindings with your skiis and boots. For light boots and light skiis, non-releasable bindings usually have enough give, but for heavy skiis and heavy boots, I’d strongly recommend releasable bindings. (Personally, I use releasables regardless.)

I can’t say anything concerning your knees, but if it’s any help, my knees have been problematic (two hundred miles a week running on pavement in my teens did a job on the cartilage of my knees and disks of my lower back), but at forty-one I have no difficulty telemarking, and keeping my muscles in tone helps me handle other activities. I’ve never noticed any difference in my joints between parallel and tele days, but tele turns certainly do work out the quads more.

BTW, free heel gear permits parallel and tele turns, so you don’t have to throw yourself whole hog in tele. Just do whatever you normally do, and when the mood hits you, throw in a few teles. After a while, you’re muscles will develop until you can handle tele all day long.

Yes, they do.

I’ll move it for you.

Cajun Man - SDMB Moderator

I read this whole thread thinking it said “ask the telemarketer” and couldn’t believe any telemarketer would have the guts to post here.

I really wondered what that had to do with skiing.

OK, I have to admit: this scares me a little. You “have to” be very smooth? What’s the learning curve here? Am I going to go out and faceplant the first dozen times out, or what? And should I take lessons first, or just jump into it?

Now that I did not know. I just assumed that since your heels weren’t fixed down, you had to do tele turns all the time. That makes me feel a little better about the transition.

Take a lesson or 2 first.

The proper boots make a world of difference. Before this season I used leather boots- technology which was several years old. This season I rented Scarpa T3s- tall plastic boots which take ankle flex out of the equation. Believe me, the Scarpa boots made it much easier.

Hi all. How did I miss this thread on the temporary board?

I’ve been a pinhead for 16 years or so, gave up alpine soon after I took up tele. If you want to learn, go rent or demo plastic boots and skis with good sidecut. Your learning curve will be much more enjoyable. I say this as someone who learned on touring skis and low leather boots.

Think of yourself as a free-heel skier, not a telemarker. I use parallel, snowplows, jump turns, etc, whatever you need to make it down the slope. In tight trees I often throw in a parallel turn when I need it. On ice I often use parallels. Saturday I was in spring slush and by the end of the day I was struggling to just make my legs move, let alone drop down into a turn. Plastic boots and strong bindings allow you to do most anything you want.

A very good place to read and ask questions about telemark skiing is

Heel free or die.

So talk to me about releasable tele bindings.

Who is making them, what are the model names, how do they work?

I still have some Rossi Black Widows from '95 with some regular old tele bindings, a wedge plate under the toes, and I’m using some Scarpa T2s. I don’t have that many days on the gear, but I am thinking about an upgrade in the ski/binding department.
Thanks for the info.

The learning curve for intro telemarking is pretty much the same as for fixed heel. Expect to topple over the first few days, but also expect to get the hang of it as you learn to apply your fixed heel skills to telemarking.

The learning curve for telemarking in the bumps will depend on how smooth you are as a parallel bump skier. If you are very smooth in the bumps on your fixed heel gear, you will be able to parallel in the bumps on tele gear, so switching to tele turns will not be a big deal. If, however, you pound through the bumps in fixed heel gear, you will be doing a lot of face-plants in the bumps on your teles. During your learning period, expect to step on your own tips, so learn to shoulder roll.

What it comes down to is that the technique for tele turns is essentially the same as for fixed heel turns. If you have a sound technical knowledge of parallel skiing, you can think your way through how to tele quite easily. If you ski by feel and do not have a good understanding of parallel technique, then you may have a bit of difficulty at first when switching to tele.

A good instructor can get you up to speed on the technical aspects so that you can quickly start making consistent turns, and then can be very helpful in detect-and-correct mode in fine tuning your turns.

How do telemark releasable bindings work? The regular non-releasable binding bolts into a release plate, and the release plate slides into an attachment which is screwed into the ski. Under sudden pressure, the release plate squirts out of the attachment, and of you go into space sans ski. The attachment on the ski has a spring which can be cranked up or loosened to provide for different release settings. The shape of the connection where the plate slips into the attachment on the ski determines which directions will permit release (e.g. the Voile is omni-directional though not straight down). Due to screw positioning differences between various manufacturers, you are best off matching bindings with release plates made by the same outfit. Yes, mix and match can be done, but sometimes will require drilling new holes in the plates. Since you already have bindings, simply find the same manufacturer and order up releasables on which to mount them.

I prefer Voile’s ancient release plate with brakes, underneath their heavy-duty mountaineer binding. This is the most robust release/binding combo out there. It’s simple, it works, it is durable, and it is field maintainable. The H/D binding is the most robust on the market (their standard (non-H/D) bindings bend). I don’t go for their CRB releasables because they include a heel cable, which like all heel cables becomes an embuggerance due to it’s getting knocked off on occasion., and due to the extra width of the binding caused by the cable connection to the binding. (Also, heel cables do nothing to improve stability unless you crank them so tight that you bend your footbed. Heel plates work nicely but they break in cold weather. I prefer just to go with stiff footbeds rather than look to support outside of the boot.) The Voile releasables, like many fixed heel releasables, do not release downward, which can be a problem, but otherwise they are terrific provide that they are kept properly adjusted. The bindings have rough calibrations, but are not DIN calibrated, so you need to know how feel your way to a good setting for your weight and type of skiing. (BTW, for Voiles mounted on Black Widows, you might wish to use an adaptor for the release plate toe mount, converting it from a wide four screws to a narrow three screws. This will help avoid having the four screws going in too close to the ski sidewalls.)

Rottefella offers a release plate which works quite nicely, but also will not release under downward pressure. The neat thing about it is that it is DIN calibrated, which helps take some of the trouble out of setting them. I don’t think you can fit brakes to them, but I may be wrong. Their Super Telemark binding which mounts on top of the place is almost, but not quite, as sturdy as the Voile Heavy Duty Mountaineer, but unfortunately the bail release has a nasty habit of releasing when knocked, so you never know if the binding will pop open when you ski through something. If you ever see a racer stuff a twig in a binding’s bail release slot, odds are that it is a Super Telemark binding. Rottefella has several cable bindings, but again there is the problem of cables being embuggerances.

Fritschi has a new binding called the SkyHoy, which is essentially a fixed heel/randonee binding in which the heel is not fixed, if that makes any sense at all. I’ve never used one, so I can’t comment on it, other than to note that there are lots of parts, and many hang off the back of the heel, which does not thrill me. I’d like to mount a set for lift area skiing, but when it comes to back country, if it is not field maintainable, I won’t use it. Time will tell, so here’s to hoping that the SkyHoy holds up.

There are a few others (Ichor Rocket Science, Landmark Sports, Alden Ski Innovations) of which I know nothing, but they might have something that releases, and I believe Rossignol and Karhu have releasable bindings in the works, but again don’t quote me on this.

LindyHopper, I forgot to mention something which is really important. Wear kneepads with hard shells. Every once in a while you will be caught by suprise with a sudden deceleration, and find yourself going down too far and hitting your knee against your ski. The knee-pad can save you from cracking your kneecap. Obviously in the back country this could be of tremendous importance.