Freeheel skiing is growing as fast as ever but why? |

Freeheel skiing is growing as fast as ever but why?

ADAM BOFFEYsummit daily news
Summit Daily/Kristin Skvorc

Ever wonder how you could combine the joys of skiing and dancing? The answer, it seems, has a lot to do with the ever-rapid growth of telemark skiing.Some freeheel skiers have likened the up-and-coming sport to something normally associated with a ballroom.”When people get good at it, it looks like a dance going down the mountain,” beginning telemarker Cynthia Wolfe said. “There’s a beat and a rhythm to it; it’s beautiful.””The flow that comes from the turn is almost like a dance,” Frisco’s Dean Ronzoni said. “It makes it more addicting to have a rhythm and a flow as you go down the hill.”Not all freeheel skiers yearn to be dancers, however. Some have picked it up simply to try something new. Still others like the versatility that telemarking offers; and some of their peers prefer freeheel bindings because they are the best vehicle for reaching the backcountry. According to Copper Mountain lift operator Tristan Knox, at least 15 percent of the resort’s clientele — or nearly one in five — are telemarkers.

Telemarking as a trend”The industry is driven by trends and right now telemarking is a trend,” said Brian Moon of Bomber Industries, a Silverthorne company that designs telemark bindings. “People want to be part of something interesting that’s growing. Also, more young people want to set themselves apart and be different.””Part of it’s an attitude,” said Chris Richmond of A Racer’s Edge in Breckenridge.”People want to be original. For a while, it was snowboarding, now everyone snowboards. Alpine skiing, that’s what my dad did during the ’50’s. People think, ‘Telemarking, that’s cool, I don’t know that many telemarkers.'”According to Richmond, versatility is a key component to the winter experience. He enjoys the winter triumvirate of alpine skiing, snowboarding and telemarking. He said he practices all disciplines, in part because he wants to be able to do whatever his friends are doing.”I see no reason to pick just one,” he said.The need for change

Many telemarkers are converted alpine skiers who either mastered or grew bored with their former discipline. Although many snow-lovers like Richmond keep alpine skis, a snowboard, and teles handy throughout the season, quite a few people find that once they free their heels, they never go back.”I (alpine) skied for 10 years and I needed something new,” Wolfe said. “I feel like I reached my personal peak with alpine skiing. I didn’t really get any better during my last three years of doing it.”After many years of skiing and a significant amount of experience on a snowboard, Littleton’s Tyson Slater hasn’t touched either one since he took up telemarking.”It makes you look at the mountain a lot differently,” Slater said. “It’s way cooler.”There is also the powder-day difference, lest we forget. “In powder, you get face shots the whole time,” Slater said. “Way more than in alpine.”Embracing a new technique, graduallyAccording to Moon, one deterrent to telemarking is that the technique, with its grueling physical demands, scares people off. He suggests the integration of good equipment and sound, friendly instruction.

“The biggest thing is getting used to separating the legs, transferring the weight and dropping the knee,” Eric Black of Wilderness Sports said.Part of the versatility of telemarking equipment is that it allows skiers to make alpine turns if they are inexperienced or grow tired.”Quite a few people I see on the hill in tele equipment are not telemarking, they’re alpining,” Black said. “And that’s their choice.”Ronzoni, who spent nearly 20 years on alpine skis before switching to teles, still thinks it’s important to drop the knee.”You have to go for it and rely on the stance and what’s going to come out of it,” Ronzoni said. “You can’t be nervous and scared to drop the knee, because that’s the biggest difference between the two (telemarking and alpine skiing).”Adam Boffey can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 13631, or at

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