Wait, What? Telemarking Proposed for 2022 Olympics

Maybe no one cares if you tele, but the International Ski Federation does.


The International Ski Federation (FIS) has formally proposed that the International Olympic Committee include telemark racing in the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022. FIS would like to see the parallel sprint and the mixed-gender team parallel sprint included in the games.

“A new day, a new dawn,” said Andrew Clarke, chairman of the FIS Telemark committee and founder of the British Telemark Association, who pushed for the inclusion. “A defining day for FIS Telemark. A giant leap in the right direction.”

Jasmin Taylor, the U.K.’s top bent-knee shredder, told PlanetSki, “It’s incredible that telemark could now really reach the Olympic platform. This has been my lifelong dream and now it could be a reality. This is a huge step for the sport and I’m excited to see where we will move next.”

The odds seem long; this effort comes a year after Powder magazine declared, “Telemark skiing is dead.”

“Sales have dropped, growth has stalled, there is no new gear of note, fewer young tele skiers, and many of the best and staunchest free-heelers have switched to alpine or AT gear,” Hans Ludwig wrote in the February 2017 issue. “The passion for dropping a knee lives on with many skiers, but the state of tele gear tells the tale: There’s no tele-specific ski manufacturing and only a few boot and binding manufacturers. Nobody is putting real money into product development, and most tele skiers consider the available gear flawed–heavy, not as practical as AT gear for touring, and prone to breakage, among other complaints. The introduction of the Fritschi touring binding around ’98 and then viable Dynafit-compatible AT boots in 2010 or so killed telemarking’s efficiency advantage in the backcountry for good. There are still a few thousand telemarkers in America, but that number probably won’t ever increase.”

Megan Michelson, former winner of the World Telemark Freeskiing Championships, told Powder, “The future of tele skiing is what monoboarding is now.”

Photo via FIS Telemark

 

Steve Casimiro is the editor of Adventure Journal. Follow him on Instagram at @stevecasimiro.
Showing 22 comments
  • Aaron Teasdale
    Reply

    Telemarking headed down a dead end with ever-heavier gear that ill-suited its inherent grace. The ideal place for telemark skiing, and the style that will never die, is with light 3-pin gear in the backwoods. It’s a glorious way to glisse.

  • The Woodsman
    Reply

    I switched from bondage bindings to tele in the early (19)80s and haven’t ever looked back. I’m a die-hard tele skier I guess, both for in-and-out of bounds skiing. However, I think it is a terrible idea making tele an Olympic sport. It’s not supposed to be mainstream, and I like it that way. Yes, there are more efficient ways to get down (and up) the mountain than tele- especially when gates are involved. Let skiers and boarders compete using those more efficient methods, unless you get style points as well. Then tele would be akin ice dancing vs speed skating.

  • MK
    Reply

    No one cares?

  • Charlie Rubin
    Reply

    As a former alpine skier, I switched to tele skiing in the late 1970s. Lighter gear allowed us to access back country powder in Utah, Montana, and Alaska. In our quest for more downhill ski control, our skis, boots, and binding became heavier and more burly each season. Eventually the circle was complete, the early dynfit tech bindings and boots with minimalist skis became way lighter than tele gear. At that point, I sold all my tile gear and never looked back. @Olympics, tele skiing showcases a bygone era.

  • Charlie Rubin
    Reply

    As a former alpine skier, I switched to tele skiing in the late 1970s. Lighter gear allowed us to access back country powder in Utah, Montana, and Alaska. In our quest for more downhill ski control, our tele skis, boots, and binding became heavier and more burly each season. Eventually the circle was complete, the early dynfit tech bindings and boots with minimalist skis became way lighter than tele gear. At that point, I sold all my tele gear and never looked back. @Olympics, tele skiing showcases a bygone era.

  • Mike Selby
    Reply

    I’ve been a telemark skier for 45 years now and although I Alpine style turn 85% of the time on-piste, I would never, I repeat NEVER give up tele in the pow. There is absolutely no feeling like a long radius 100 yard long speed tele in bottomless pow. To give that up would be analogous to giving up sex for masterbation, sure the outcome is somewhat the same but the “feel” completely different. For all of those that chose to switch… I would say they were never that into the turn to begin with. For me the elegant beauty of the tele turn is worth all the downsides. I also side country a lot in my local ski area and there are a lot of ups and downs. While my buddies are messing with their high tech Marker bindings I am ducking the rope and skiing on. With tele there is just no messing around… your heels are as free as the wind in your hair. Should it be an Olympic sport, why not? We watch ice dancing and curling don’t we?

    • The Woodsman
      Reply

      Amen- well said!

  • Ben, aka nurse
    Reply

    Tele never really lived, it was all in the mind of the telemarkers, we just convinced ourselves that it mattered.

    Long live the people who make things harder than they need to be 🙂

  • Leslie Anthony
    Reply

    I feel like the Ghost of Skiing Past is leading me around the mountains dragging some heavy chains, showing me all the places I once telemarked with abandon and admonishing me for my decades-long hubris about it… how will I repent? I know—I’ll watch it during the Olympics! Just don’t let any Russians be gate judges…

  • Eric Burr
    Reply

    THE TELEMARK DRAG (to the tune of the Vatican Rag)
    First you get down on one knee, and fiddle with your bindings -see, Stem your skis with great respect, and Genuflect, Genuflect, Genuflect. When in Stowe, do like the stoics, flaunt your lycra, look heroic. Stick some moleskin on your heels, plastic boots- how secure they feels. Fat skis are in, parallels’s a sin, knees down so low again, dragin’ the snow ag’in. Doin’ the Telemark drag.

  • Tele
    Reply

    Whatever bros, your pineal glands are obvs calcified. Detox your brain stem with a free heel!

  • Savvy Senior
    Reply

    I worked resoling and modifying cross-country three-pin shoes from the start in the 70’s, into the early 80’s. The tele turn originated as a technique allowing banking in loose snow, with floppy low shoes and free-heel bindings made for actual “cross country” skiing. As soon as the comp circuit developed, the racers came in craving stiffer midsoles, internal ankle bracing, and the weak pin area of the sole tore out after practically every race, because they quickly realized to win, they had to actually parallel ski, making the tele motions solely for effect and to satisfy the rules. As Alpine touring tech improved, the interest in skiing in to extreme terrain grew, as the desire to wrestle skinny skiis waned. So, I have to laugh to see it all come around again; where and how are rules going to be set, akin to the joke called “race walking” where every competitor breaks the stipulations of heel lift in every stride? Once upon a time I watched a great video of Bill Koch carving parallel turns down through deep soft snow, on his racing skiis. Tele? Try learning to ski.

  • Terry Solomon
    Reply

    Let it rip.

  • Mark Miller
    Reply

    Hard to say it is dead when about 1/2 of Pro Ski Patrol uses Tele gear to work in.

    • gringo
      Reply

      Some might argue that a way to remove boredom from a task is to increase the difficulty of said task.

      The result is not actually improved BTW.

  • David S
    Reply

    To tele or not to tele, there is no question. Tele!!!!

    I think it’s in a lull right now. Experiencing a slight correction from the highs of when Nick Devore and Will Cardamone first lit up Noah Howells Powdershore films and the NTN binding was disrupting the duck bill experience. (I mean shit, Gary Bell switched to NTNs and never looked back). This was also a time when dynafit was for euros and Fritschi wasn’t all over the place. The tele ski held this moment of glory.

    Then Sage hit the scene and snap – every grom on the slope grew out their curly dirty hair and started skiing in a narrow stance and making 3 turns for every 2000’ of vert. The f*#%king freeride style takes over – in parallel dynafit starts to pollinate in Colorado and Utah – snagging any tele hopefuls to a lighter/weaker setup –

    So why did this happen ? Laziness. Plain and simple. And I’m not talking about physical lethargy. I’m talking about mental laziness. Tele turns take time to learn. They take strength to build. They require any weekend warrior too many weekends looking like a little bitch on a green when they could be huckin gainers in the pow like Sage – They require you spend your 1 or 2 backcountry laps goin over the bars instead of making easy powder eights. No one has the desire anymore to put in the time.

    Save those that do – they’re handsomely rewarded.

    Let tele die in the eyes of industry. Jokes on them. Bunch o bitches still got their jimmy hat on and haven’t ever felt the raw dog.

    The freeheel life for ever.

    • Silver PowSurfer
      Reply

      !Boat-Boat!

  • gringo
    Reply

    i like that the picture accompanying this article shows two dudes flailing on free heel gear.

    • Steve Casimiro
      Reply

      Which was posted by the official FIS Telemark feed…

  • Ron G
    Reply

    FWIW

    Tele’s better for bushwhacking in the woods, hunting for powder turns, wandering aimlessly. It’s not the best for ‘climb that mountain, rip that line.’ So what?

    Where I have fun in the snow, telemark makes a lot of sense. I envy those of you who live near the Kootenays, the Purcells, the Wasatch, or whatever. For now, I dodge trees in the pow when it falls. Yeah, I’m often on the edge of my abilities, working way harder than I need to. So what? It’s fun, and *that* is what matters.

    It would be great to see the best telemark skiers compete in the Olympics. It might even get some skiers interested in its weirdness.

  • TelemarKing
    Reply

    Wow – some interesting comments here. The guys in the phot, for the sake of argument are not flailing (well one of them is) this is the parallel race (head to head – in case some of you need to give your solitary brain cell a nudge). The other dude is France’s Phil Lau who is very much in control here and hucking a speed in the gates that many of you on your alpine planks can only dream of. Megan’s quote is misguided and wrong. Tele is very much alive and is going to kick the sh*t out of the other disciplines in the long run. The last laugh is the loudest.

  • Willis
    Reply

    It is about the equipment. I switched from tele 15 years ago because of tech bindings with release, very light boots and skis. Scarpa still makes the T-4 boot, skies are light but the binding other than the basic 3 pin are no longer made. The current tele bindings weigh more than and boots, skis and bindings of an AT set up. It is a beautiful turn but not a trade off for safety. I ski tele on the resort and love to make and see someone tele but the rest is a dead issue.

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