Telemark skiing is a lesser-known but equally interesting ski variation. This form combines elements of both alpine and Nordic skiing to create an entirely new way to traverse snowy terrain. Named for the Telemark region of Norway, this form was founded in Scandinavia in the late 1800s. The founder, Sondre Norheim, experimented with ski and binding design, introducing the side cuts and heel bindings that were originally incorporated into alpine skis.
Telemark skiing became popularized in the United States in the early 1970s. The sport gained a following because it its general accessibility. Telemark skiing utilizes long pieces of synthetic fabric, known as skins, to travel uphill. Later in the 20th century, light-weight alpine touring skis were introduced, bringing more popularity to the Telemark style.
This form of skiing uses specialized equipment. Often, Telemark skiers use flexible alpine skis with specialized bindings. Similar to cross-country bindings, these affix only the toe of the ski boot to the ski, creating a free heel. The bindings are often non-releasable, but they allow the user to utilize self-generated momentum and gravity to traverse terrain. However, turning in Telemark skis is markedly different than with alpine skiing. Athletes must utilize step turns more than carving in order to maintain balance.
While Telemark skiing is not as popular as its alpine and Nordic counterparts, it is continuing to gain attention and interest worldwide. The FIS Telemark Committee recently announced a proposal for Telemark Parallel Sprint and Team Parallel Sprint to be included in a proposal to the International Olympic Committee. In the coming years, we expect to see this sport take off.