Telemark Ski Technique

Telemark Ski Technique
Telemark skiing, also known as free heel skiing, is a fluid and graceful way to ski the slopes. Anyone with a background in alpine skiing or even snowboarding will be able to learn the movements of telemark skiing, though as with anything, practice makes a world of difference. Mastering stance, balance, body position, lead changes and pole planting are the main components of the telemark ski turn sequence.


Difficulty: Moderately Challenging

Things You’ll Need:
  • Telemark skis and bindings Telemark boots Ski poles
  • Telemark skis and bindings
  • Telemark boots
  • Ski poles
Step 1
Keep an athletic stance with your knees slightly bent. Start by standing perpendicular to the slope with your feet shoulder width apart. The uphill ski should be trailing slightly behind your other ski or lead boot. Your weight should be centered over both feet, but the leading boot should remain flat and the trailing boot's heel should lift up as that knee bends. This configuration reverses as you make a turn and begin to face the other direction.
Step 2
Work on your balance as you lift one heel up and then the other at a standstill first, then on a gentle slope before putting speed into your turns. If you are not centered and balanced, then the signature element of telemark skiing (free heels) is not going to work well for you.
Step 3
Keep the knees slightly bent when making a turn and also angle them both towards the uphill. This puts your skis on their edges and is what keeps you solid throughout a turn. Carve with the inside edge of the downhill ski and the outside edge of the uphill ski. Keep your arms out in front of you as you are holding the ski poles-imagine that you had a barrel between your hands at chest height. Angle your upper body towards the direction you want to turn. Angle your shoulders and the rest of your body should naturally follow.
Step 4
Work on lead changes once you have balance. Telemark skiing is different from alpine skiing in that a certain foot leads depending on what way you are turning. Transitioning from one lead to the next is the most difficult part of learning to telemark ski. When turning left, the right foot needs to reach out in front and lead, leaning on the inside edge while the left foot's heel lifts and trails behind. When turning right, the left foot needs to reach out in front and lead as the right foot trails behind. Work on rolling the weight from the tip of the lead ski to the back as you turn and prepare to transfer most of your weight to the other ski.
Step 5
Practice pole planting after you feel comfortable making telemark turns. Pole planting helps to keep the upper body in a correct position, keep the pace as well as help the skier sense the terrain around them. Reach your pole ahead and aim out near the end of your lead ski. The tip of your pole should briefly but firmly touch down before you begin to switch leads and extend the other pole. Use only your wrists to maneuver the poles, as the rest of your arms should stay in position.

Tips & Warnings

Make sure that your gear fits well and is in good condition before trying out your moves on the mountains.

Article Written By Naomi Judd

Naomi M. Judd is a naturalist, artist and writer. Her work has been published in various literary journals, newspapers and websites. Judd holds a self-designed Bachelor of Arts in adventure writing from Plymouth State University and is earning a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from the University of Southern Maine.

Don't Miss a Thing!

All our latest outdoor content delivered to your inbox once a week.



We promise to keep your email address safe and secure.