Author: Kevin Stevens

Ski Spotlight: Telemark

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.

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Ski Spotlight: Cross-Country

Cross-country skiing, also known as XC Skiing and Nordic skiing, is one of the most accessible variants in the Wichita area. This form of skiing allows athletes to rely on their own movements to traverse snow-covered terrain. The sport is widely practiced around the world. Skiers propel themselves by striding forward, known as classic style, or by making a side-to-side skating motion, known as skate skiing. Poles and arms aid in this movement by pushing off against the snow. Cross-country skiing most closely resembles the first ski form.

 

Skiing began as a technique for traveling across snow-covered land—around five millennia ago in Scandinavia. As a result, cross-country skiing evolved as a utilitarian means of transportation, eventually becoming a popular recreational and fitness pastime. Other forms of skiing sprung up in the mid-1800s.

 

Cross-country skiing can be practiced nearly anywhere with enough snow. Touring and off-piste skiing is widely utilized by the community, offering an accessible way for individuals to appreciate skiing without concomitant and prohibitive prices. Groomed trail skiing is equally popular, often occurring at facilities and parks wherein trails are laid out and groomed for both class and skate-skiing.

 

Cross-country skiing is separate from the well-known alpine variant in several ways. The heel on a cross-country binding moves freely, serving as the force behind forward movement. This free heel dramatically changes the ways in which cross-country skiers turn and traverse terrain. While alpine skiers rely almost entirely on gravity for forward motion, Nordic skiers must generate their own momentum.

 

The skis used in cross-country are lighter and narrower than those used for alpine skiing. The bottoms provide a gliding surface, and varying lengths affect maneuverability. Skiers also use poles to create motion. While alpine skiing may be the more “adventurous” or dangerous of the ski variants, cross-country is the most accessible to those in the Wichita area. Users do not need elevation or expensive lift tickets to practice the sport; on a snowy day, you can lay your skis out on your sidewalk and go for a glide around the neighborhood.

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Ski Spotlight: Alpine

Enjoying the sport of skiing means increasing knowledge of its variations. We’re introducing a series called “Ski Spotlight,” which will serve as a space for us to explain and explore different types of skiing. The first, most obvious, and best-covered on this site is… *drumroll* … alpine skiing!

 

Alpine skiing is the variation of the sport most people think of when they hear the term. This variant utilizes fixed-heel bindings and is typically practiced at ski resorts. However, there are several opportunities for off-piste, backcountry alpine skiing. Through the use of hiking, snowmobiles, helicopters, or snowcats, alpine skiers can practice their sport nearly anywhere with elevation.

 

As of 1994, there were estimated to be around 55 million people worldwide who engaged in alpine skiing. To practice this type of skiing, athletes follow the fall line of a slope in order to reach maximum possible speed. A skier will point their skis perpendicular to the fall line—across rather than down the hill—to slow or stop. Additionally, alpine skiing focuses on the use of turns to control both speed and direction.

 

Alpine skis are shaped to enable carve turning, having evolved significantly since the sport was popularized in the 1980s. Skis come in several shapes, each intended for different conditions. For example, powder skis are often used when there is a large, fresh amount of snow, and they are often wider and lighter. All-mountain skis are often heavier, straighter, and narrower, whereas freestyle skis are tipped at both the fronts and backs. Every detail of an alpine ski has a practical purpose.

 

As with all sports, alpine skiers are susceptible to injury. The most common types of alpine injuries include damage done to the knee, head, neck, shoulders, hands, and back. Alpine skiing is known for its break-neck speeds, thrilling adrenaline, and spectacular sights. Though this is not the only type of skiing practiced in the Wichita area, it is certainly the best-known.

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Snow Creek: A First and Favorite Experience for Wichita Skiers

Everyone who grew up skiing in Wichita has a shared experience—Snow Creek. The perfect destination for a weekend ski trip, Snow Creek has a place in every Wichita skier’s heart as a beloved winter wonderland. We certainly remember these trips fondly—spending the three-hour drive singing and laughing, looking out the window as Kansas slipped away.

 

Established in 1986, Snow Creek has been a purveyor of winter fun and family memories for generations. Their 300-foot vertical drop allows for fourteen runs, two terrain parks, and over 30 acres of skiable terrain. Getting to the summit was never a problem, either—we remember singing call-and-response songs on any one of their three chairlifts. Snow Creek also sports 60 state-of-the-art snowmaking machines to ensure quality conditions throughout the season.

 

We all learned to ski and snowboard at Snow Creek. Around a third of the mountain offered beginner terrain, which was perfect when we were growing up. The fun continued as we got better at skiing—if you weren’t hurdling down Six-Shooter, the resort’s only black diamond trail, you weren’t living. We’d top the day off with a few runs on the tubing track while the parents spent some quality time at the Last Run Bar.

 

Though we may not have known it as kids, Snow Creek also provides one of the most affordable skiing opportunities in the region; depending on the time of season, adult tickets were rarely more than $30. Those savings still exist, encouraging hundreds of Wichita families to make Snow Creek their winter home. If you didn’t grow up learning how to hockey stop on the Oregon Trail or slipping and sliding your way down Flatlands, did you really have a Wichita skiing childhood?

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Travel Options for Colorado Ski Resorts

We love Snow Creek in western Missouri as much as anybody, but the most popular ski destination for most of the people we know who love to ski is Colorado. Now, we could talk all day about the different mountains and resort options, good and bad, but one of the toughest decisions for people is simply the best way to get there. Drive or fly? I-70 or State Route 400? 

We had enough talks with people to know that there are a lot of individual differences between time and monetary constraints. Younger folks and those who can find extra time in their work schedule may end up making the drive. People who are more established in their careers or whose back doesn’t do well with long car rides may prefer to fly. Still, many people have multiple factors pulling them in different directions. For this reason, we did a little research to provide you with some basic information and benchmarks to help make your decision.

 

Flight and Travel Options

 

  • You can fly from Wichita to Denver in under two hours, though it’s probably more like 4 hours at least by the time you deal with getting to, through, and out of the airports. But the thing is you’re still a 1.5-4 hour drive to get to the closest mountain resort. So you’ll either need to pay for a rental or a shuttle service. For comparison, it’s almost an 8-hour drive to get to Denver, or 9 hours to get to the closest resort.

 

  • The cost really depends on the destination and time of year. During non-peak times that are still during the ski season, you might spend $300-$500 on a flight to Denver. During the holiday season, you might spend $400-$600. You can also fly all the way to Aspen (ASE) or Telluride (MTJ) regional airports. These flights will generally start at $400 and go up from there with limited itineraries to choose from.

 

  • If you’re flying to one of these regional airports, you’ll also have a layover as there are no direct flights. If you’re staying at Aspen, one alternative is to drive down to the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport. Last time we checked, American Airlines flew from Dallas to Aspen.

 

  • If you’re driving and especially if you’re heading to one of the ski resorts further to the south, then you’ll want to think about State Route 400 into Colorado. This is the best way to get to Monarch Mountain, for sure. We’ve also done a loop when going to Aspen/Snowmass by going I-70 on the way there and 400 on the way back.

 

  • Needless to say, you’ll also need to think about ski rentals, travel, and/or storage. If you own skis and have a vehicle that can haul them, you’re naturally going to have a huge incentive to drive. Otherwise, there are a number of ski rental and travel fee options you can take advantage of when choosing to fly.

 

For most ski adventures, our personal preference is to drive, but the cost-benefit analysis is often close enough, especially given the right circumstances, that we understand why a lot of people in Wichita choose to fly either to Denver or to one of these regional airports. Have any good insights that we missed related to driving or flying out of Wichita? Tell us, and we’ll be sure to share these tips with our local audience.

 

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Welcome

Welcome to the Wichita Ski & Snowboard Club! We specifically chose today to launch our site because it’s the 156th birthday of Fridtjof Nansen, the legendary Norweigan skier who led the team during the First Crossing of Greenland. Nansen would go on to become a Nobel Peace Prize laureate in 1922 for his work with POWs and refugees. He also did some ice skating.

More relevantly, he’s the namesake of the oldest ski club in the United States, the Nansen Ski Club, circa. Now, 145 years later, we thought it would be a good idea to pay homage to this history by choosing this date to launch our own ski club. Especially once we saw that it was today’s Google Doodle.

The Wichita Ski and Snowboard Club is devoted to helping more people in and around Wichita, KS enjoy skiing. This includes good routes, ski areas and indoor facilities, training gear, lift tickets, ski equipment and rentals, and other ski-related resources. We have friends and connections throughout the country but especially in Colorado and Utah down through Oklahoma and parts of Texas.

We’ll be back soon with more information and resources that you can use to create an amazing ski experience this season.

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