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Tele’s Not Dead

Tele skiing's not dead man

A question I get asked—a lot—is, “Why do you tele ski?” This question is often paired with clichéd remarks like, “Fix the heel, fix the problem,” or, “Tele’s dead, bro!”

That old chestnut.

As a matter of fact, tele’s not dead, bro, and here’s why:

It’s immune to forced obsolescence

Look, tele’s been surviving for decades with very little change. You don’t buy a pair of Scarpa T4’s one season and kick yourself when they release the newer, better version the next because, guess what, they didn’t. Same with bindings; how different are the BD O1’s compared to the 22 Designs Axl? The answer is: not very.

Sure, there’s NTN, and a growing cadre of cottage brands making moves towards telemark tech bindings like Olympus Mountain Gear and Meidjo, but how many tele boots even have tech fittings? You’ve got a pair of Crispi EVOs here, the TX Pros there…it’s slim pickings.

While this slow trickle of innovation sometimes chafes knee-droppers, there are some very real benefits to it. Tele gear is built to last, it’s dialed, and when something new does come out, it has to stand up to the laser-like scrutiny of dozens of crusty tele skiers.

Tele skiing exists in a real deep, small niche, and like all outdoor sports niches, the deeper and smaller it is, the more passionate people are about it.

It’s all about the technique, man

I got my opportunity to switch to tele skiing when I broke my Kingpins last year. Without a working setup, I had to figure out how to get my fix, so I demoed some tele gear from the shop.

After one day I was hooked.

Tele skiing reinvigorated my love for skiing—it was like reading an old, well-loved but mostly forgotten book. The broad strokes of skiing still applied, but there was so much more to it. Lunging downhill, feeling the resistance of the binding springs as I carved a perfect turn—telemark scratched an itch I didn’t even know I had.

It’s this emphasis on technique, on finesse, that I think is the permanent draw to telemark skiing. Rather than the rote procedure of hike, alpine turn, rinse and repeat of AT skiing, tele skiing is dynamic, ever changing, and always challenging. It’s surfy when I want it to be, hard-charging when I need it to be, and fun on every turn.

You just look so damn cool

I’ve always been of the opinion that tele skiers were the hipsters of the skiing world. Why? Because telemark is objectively harder, less efficient, and more old-fashioned, and these are all regarded as pros rather than cons for the average tele skier. You’re also more likely to see a tele skier decked out in their grandfather’s wool pants and flannel, puffing on a long pipe as they skin up Teardrop.

That being said, I was always in awe watching tele skiers tear through a mogul field from the lift.

It just looks so damn cool.


Published:February 1, 2018

Gear Head

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