Also known as free heel skiing, Telemark skiing is a technique that was made popular by Sondre Norheim. It is named after the Telemark region of Norway. Where other ski equipment has the binding at the heel, Telemark has the binding at the toes, leaving the heel free. Telemark turning has the skier using a flat heel on the outside ski, and pulling the inside ski beneath them. The skis, while still parallel are staggered during the turn.
Telemark has been around as far back as 1868 in Norway, but it was replaced with newer techniques, and Telemark wasnt used much after 1940. However, the Telemark technique became popular again in the 1970s. Those who considered the sport of skiing to be a soul sport were becoming disillusioned with over crowded ski resorts. Telemark skiing was used once again for touring in rolling terrain.
Many skiers wanted to get back to the basics of skiing, without the use of higher tech equipment, allowing them to avoid the overcrowded and groomed slopes. These skiers also often used traditional Nordic clothing, and this is still true today, however there are not a large number of Telemark skiers.
Telemark skis are very much like alpine skis, but they are typically wider. However, alpine ski makers have now also started including wider skis in their product line as well. Therefore, Telemark skiers can now use alpine skis as well. The boots are made either of leather, which is traditional or durable polymer. Telemark boots have a trapezoidal at the front of the boot, which is attached to the binding. The binding attaches the ski to the boot at the toe. For backcountry Telemark skiing, you may need climbing skins. These skins are synthetic or mohair, and are placed on the bottom of the ski to make climbing uphill easier.
Where a skier would typically turn with the bulk of the weight or pressure on the ski that is closest to the inside of the turn, Telemark skiing has the skier putting the pressure and bulk of the weight on the outside ski, bringing the inside skin beneath the body, with the skis staggered. The inside ski will be forward of the outside ski. While it sounds easy enough, you must remember that the weight will also be on the toe portion of the foot, and not the heel. It can be a difficult technique to master, but it definitely offers you a new challenge.
The sport of Telemark skiing is governed by the International Ski Federation Telemark Committee. For competition purposes, there are several different disciplines, as follows: Telemark Giant Slalom, Telemark Classic, Telemark Sprint Classic, Mountain Telemark, US Extreme Free skiing Telemark Championships, and Sun Valley Tele Series, which is the oldest Telemark series in the US.
One other thing to note about Telemark skiing is that Telemark skiers are often called Pinheads, which is not meant to be derogatory. It refers to the classic three-pin bindings that are most often used on Telemark skis.