Telemark Ski – Brief History of Freeheel Skiing


Telemark skiing is a form of skiing in which the heel is not attached to the binding of the ski. In order to make a turn the skier drops the knee and raises the heel of his or down hill ski, sliding it back while the uphill ski remains in a forward position, allowing him or her to turn.

Telemark skiers are attracted to this form of skiing as offers a exceptional workout and is graceful and artistic. Compared to fixed-heel Alpine skiing, telemark skiing offers many more dimensions to the physics of the skiing turn, offering the skier a potentially deeper and perhaps more inspirational experience on the mountain. An analogy for telemark skiing to traditional downhill alpine skiing could be driving an automatic car to a stick-shift standard vehicle as driving a standard offers the driver increased dynamics to controlling the vehicle.

Telemark skiing is said to have been invented by the Norwegian Sondre Norheim (1825-1897) in Morgedal, which is in the Telemark region of Norway. Actually, according to archeology, skiing had been practiced from throughout Scandinavia and northern Russia for over 4,000 years on wooden skis for transportation, work, hunting and military purposes. However, Norheim was credited for developing and introducing a revolutionary binding which included a strap around the heel in addition to a just the toe. Norheim was known for his graceful dancing-like skiing techniques, ski jumping and fun personality.

Telemark, also called Nordic and freeheel skiing remained mainstream through the 1920s with freeheel ski jumping and Nordic Combined being the two ski events at the first Winter Olympic Games in 1924. While telemark skiing was adequate for the rolling hills and flatter terrain of Norway, fixed-heel, or Alpine skiing was introduced going into the 1930s in European Alps as Alpine skiing was more suitable for steeper slopes in that region. Eventually Alpine skiing became the mainstream for skiing as Austria and Switzerland developed the first Alpine ski resorts after World War II and Telemark skiing faded out in the coming decades.

However, starting in the 1970s in the United States there was a revival in telemark skiing as a of ski patrol workers in Crested Butte, Colorado found it easier to use lighter freeheel skis to scramble up and down the mountain to perform avalanche-control operations. This soon led to a revival of freeheel skiing which spread through the United States, particularly in northern Vermont, and into Europe. Through the 1980s telemark skiers used leather boots and long straight-edged skis, making turning a difficult task. However, in recent years freeheel skiing has been made much easier one the body thanks to the development of plastic boots and shorter parabolic skis. Today free-heel skiers can be seen at most ski resorts “dancing” down the mountain and even performing tricks on in the terrain parks! Telemark skiing has caught on to the extent that it is almost has somewhat of a cult-like following and thousands of skiers are now trying it for the first time every year. 

Give telemark skiing a try and see how fun and rewarding it can be for you!


Source by Gert Freedman

Agnes Brown

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