How to Choose Telemark Ski Gear

How to Choose Telemark Ski Gear
Telemark skiing is one of the most fluid forms of skiing and allows for easier backcountry access. If you are new to the free heel turn and interested in acquiring your own telemark gear, then there are some things you should know to look for. Having your own gear will mean no rental fees and a personalized set of skis, bindings and boots, among other items, that you can fine-tune to your liking.


Difficulty: Moderate

Step 1
Find skis for your telemark setup. Tele bindings can be mounted on a variety of skis, though some are designed for the telemark turn specifically. Backcountry skis that are made to be mounted with either telemark or an alpine touring setup have a groove on the back for skin clips and curved tips. You could even say that many of them work as twin tip skis. They are not extremely different from alpine twin tip skis in shape though the bindings are not as heavy. Good examples of these are any of Black Diamond's Power Series. If you plan on going into the backcountry at all or even hiking up your local resort before the lifts open, you will want skins for your skis. If you aren't experienced in cutting skins to size, then it is best to have these cut to the size of your skis at your local outdoor gear shop.
Step 2
Chose telemark bindings that have cartridges of correct stiffness, which depends on your ability and skill level. Black Diamond's 01, 02 and 03 bindings/cartridges are the basis for these ratings. The 01s or FreeFlex are the most forgiving, the 02s or MidStiffs are for intermediate to more aggressive skiers, and the 03s or Ridiculously Stiffs are for very aggressive telemarkers. If you are unsure of what stiffness is right for you, then try out a friend's setup for a day to see what you prefer.
Step 3
Wear telemark boots that are of comparable stiffness to your bindings. If you have a boot that flexes way too easily in the bellows, then it may hard to take full advantage of your Ridiculously Stiff bindings. Likewise, if you have boots that are super stiff and meant for advanced telemark skiers and you are just learning, you may have a hard time. A more flexible boot may be for you. Again, Black Diamond makes it easy to tell them apart with a line of telemark boots ranging from the Custom, the most stiff, to the Axis, which flexes much more easily. Of course, there are other brands of telemark boots, such as Scarpa, Crispi and Garmont. You may want to search for a used pair, which is less expensive and already broken in, if you are just starting out. Try on boots in a gear shop with socks the thickness of those you wear skiing.
Step 4
Get knee pads such as Black Diamond's TeleKneesis Kneepads to help to protect your knees from rocks, stumps and other backcountry debris when you drop a knee. Your shin, patella and the delicate area just above your knee are all at risk of getting beaten up when you telemark. No matter what brand of knee pads you choose, make sure to get ones that fit under your ski pants and don't slip down. You want your knee pads to fit snugly enough to remain over your knees but not so tight that they impinge on movement.
Step 5
Shop for ski poles that are adjustable. Telemark skiers use pole planting as part of their rhythm when making turns. Alpine ski poles are usually of fixed length, but backcountry ski poles are made to be adjustable and have a locking clip to secure length. Adjustable length is great for packing them in your ski pack and being able to make them different lengths for when you are hiking up and skiing down. The best adjustable ones are the ones that have probes. For the backcountry, this is a two-in-one that can work well when conducting an avalanche rescue.

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.

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