Long live the telemark style!

A text about the flow of life, movement and time.

I have availed myself of the telemark style since I was 19 years old. It’s getting a little over 20 years ago now. I started when it was a relatively unknown style in Sweden, ran forward when telemark, for a while was a little hipp and cool, and continued when it was unfashionable.

To this day I am still a dependent telemark skier, now when it is properly unfashionable and tucked away in the same dusty corners monoski is by many pundits. Unfortunately, many of these people, who puts various styles into boxes of modern and old-fashioned, have not understood the soul of skiing, calling the mother of all skiing outdated. For people without insight and understanding, it is difficult to explain. But people with an open heart understand the origins and the basics will never allow to be classified, in any way. Especially not in the category called “fashion”.

Telemark skiing has been everything from popular to unpopular and reviled, modern and innovative, copied and inspired by other skiing styles and attitudes.

But! Never has telemark skiing been bored!

Obviously I’m not completely narrow-minded to Telemark.

A few years ago I actually owned a couple of randonee skis and related equipment, but after two days of skiing with encapsulation in boring alpine / randonee boots, stuck in a pair of rigid, yet lightweight tourskiing-skis I felt it was time to go back to my skiing. “Soul skiing” as it is called so beautifully by Americans.

Americans can be both loud and assertive, but they do know how to appreciate the true and correct. Above all, they put cool names and designations of everything that lie close to their heart. US telemarkers are often bearded, damn bearded.

Bit hardcore and proud. My first tentative attempts at trying to get to this beautiful style, started with a week of hard trials and exercise in Storliens biting cold alpine slopes in the middle of February 1995.

“After two days of skiing with encapsulation in boring alpine / randonee boots, stuck in a pair of rigid, yet lightweight tourskiing-skis, I felt it was time to go back to my skiing.”

For me it was a difficult technique to master, these low Scarpa ski shoes of leather on the narrow Rossignol TMS turtelemark-skis, with around 55 mm center width. Left turn I managed from day one. But when I was going to jump / swing over to the right turn, it became worse. The telemark turn does not let anyone in. You must prove that you are worthy enough to use “the mother of all skiing styles” in the mountains.

Every time it ended the same way, with bumps and bruises. Fortunately we had the Swedish champion of the Swedish national team in telemark as a ski instructor. Same person would certainly have had a World Cup medal of the noblest kind in the United States two years earlier. Thus, the starting point could not have been better. After good rhetoric and even better pedagogy of the ski instructor, the fourth day I had one of my first real turns, with a real cool hip bending technique and with the body in a classic pose in the slope’s falling line.

After ski beer and accompanying Jaegermaister tasted excellent this afternoon.

It was there, after four days of testing and error in sweaty skiwear at the afterski with a classic rock’n roll cover band on stage, I realized that this was my way of going down mountainsides in the future. Telemark took me from Storliens biting wind to many nice places like Hemsedal, Åre, Stryn, Hafjell, Riksgränsen, New Zealand, Whistler, Verbier and returning to Stryn again in the latter part of the 90s.

Somewhere in the mid-90s you could see it, first as a small ripple on the horizon. This ripple would later prove to grow large and become the industry’s largest outdoor wave in modern times. Those who did not dare or did not chose to surf the wave, disappeared into history as a light breeze among the leaves a gentle and beautiful summer.

A revolution was on it’s way.

In the winter of 1996 ski industry had started to sway and was taken by surprise. The first major snowboard wave of young people dressed up in skate and surf inspired clothing from Reef, Quicksilver and Airwalk, who ran on Burton and Nitro Brett. Young people who refused to be guided by the adults invisible melancholic regulations.

Punk and rock attitude had arrived to the mountains and to the snow. I liked the new wave, as one of few I got access to the park in Hemsedal, closed to skiers, through local snowboarders. Many others were mercilessly chased out of bigjump and other fun. The big change did not really happen until the summer of 1999, when the first pair of yellow and black Salomon TenEighty came on the market in the Nordic region.

Stryn was hot-spot number 1 in Scandinavia, at the end of the 90’s.

All that could walk and crawl concerning market people in the ski and outdoor industry, had (or at least wished they had) a foot inside of the Folven camping where most people camped or at least stopped by to drink beer and eat pizza after a day of summer skiing.

Of course there was also the creme de la creme of skiers in place, alpine national teams from different countries, modern extreme skiers, cross-country national teams, aerialists, snowboarders and telemark skiers. And other people who just hung around Folven’s atmosphere. Here, some of Scandinavia’s best telemarkers put their heels for the first time the last year in the 90’s in Salomons TenEighty. No one, except for a few, looked back with nostalgia in his eyes. Not least the ski industry, which had experienced a number of tough years. I guess you could also say that it was this summer that “soul skiing” was stabbed in the back by many.

Amid all this chaos that prevailed, there was no room for telemark skiing. It was a bumpy road for telemark style. It was sandwiched between smart power points, big visions, bouncy sponsorship and market-leading positions. Naturally wintering telemarkers did the only right thing — jumped off the train, stood on the sidelines and waited for the harassment to pass.

That’s where we are waiting for you, we who still do telemark are skiers in mind and heart.

We who have always been “soul skiers’ and looked after, protected, nurtured and supported mother of all skiing. Telemark skiing is your brother who backs you up when you meet the mean guy at school, your sister when you need advice when buying clothes when you’re 15. It’s your grandfather in the garage that teaches you to make crude bow and arrow when you’re 8 , it is your parents when you can not be bothered to cook or wash clothes in the student apartment.

Because the mountains will not forget so easily, the mother of this skiing style is forgiving to those who are curious and excited about the development. Because the mother of the premier skiing style know we all come back. After some years of profligate, vibrant lifestyle with pastel colors, it’s good to get back to the safe and familiar.

- Follow your heart and become a “soul skier” again, because that’s what you’ve always been, even if you thought you had forgotten what it was.