Tele Tips with Barry Smith
By Alesha Damerville
By Deb Olsen
Old School telemark skiers do a forward lunge with every turn. New School tele skiers stand relatively upright, have less distance between their lead and trailing skis, and depend less on knee dips to execute turns.
The difference is technology. Old School tele skis were not very responsive while old leather tele boots were soft. As a result, skiers had to create one long board by keeping their front and back skis relatively in line. Modern skis are designed to turn with ease. New School composite tele boots offer more support and responsiveness.
Steamboat Ski School telemark instructor Barry Smith, who has been instrumental in the evolution from one approach to the other in his role as Nordic ski examiner for the Rocky Mountain region, says the secret is maintaining balance throughout the entire turn. Pressure, edge and turn: those three motions should be simultaneous, not sequential. “If any of that is off, it doesn’t go as smoothly,” Smith says. He suggests a few exercises that can help achieve that goal.
1. Dragging poles: Keep both poles on the ground throughout the whole turn; this helps with side-to-side balance.
2. Short steps: Change leads by pulling your back foot back, rather than pushing your front foot forward. Shuffle and weight, not unlike Michael Jackson’s moon walk. Try this one first on gentle terrain; you can pick up a lot of speed in a short distance. This increases awareness of the back foot.
3. 80/20 or 70/30: A more advanced exercise. Execute a series of Alpine turns with 80% of your weight on one foot, 20% on the other. Do this for several turns, then switch sides. Then try 70/30. Then try the same weight ratios while making tele turns. This helps you achieve equal balance on both skis.
4. Mono-tele: Assume a telemark stance with right foot in the lead. Make several turns, both directions, without a lead change. Then switch off and try it with the left foot in the lead. This helps you to learn body position throughout a turn.
5. Railroad ties: Assume a parallel stance and execute a series of turns with both skis equally on edge. Your tracks should look like sharp railroad tracks, not ski tracks.
6. Late lead change: Begin your turn before you change your lead foot. Feels awkward at first, but it helps achieve equal weight on each ski. “Once you achieve equal weight and centered edge pressure, then you can make the move into a new turn so the edge change happens a little before the lead change,” Smith says. “You can do this any time. If you’re adaptable with your lead change, you’re ready for anything.”
7. Alpine turns: Knowing how to make Alpine turns on tele skis can be a useful tool in the powder or when you’re tired. “The beauty is in having the choice to have your skis side by side or one in front of the other,” Smith says. “One of the great things about teleing is that we have the ability to do both.”
Learning New School tele technique can extend your career, save your knees, help you to be more efficient and add grace to your style. “Watching someone make good tele turns is like watching someone dance,” Smith says. “The ultimate goal is to be fluid and graceful.”