Tele: not just granolas anymore

Posted By: The Ski Channel on February 23, 2011 5:51 pm

By Lorin Paley

Retro, granola, hippy; Telemarkers have acquired a slew of stereotypes over the years. And, it has been a lot of years. Since the 1850′s in fact. So if you are now just discovering the wonderful sport of telemarking in the year 2011 I will save you time by filling you in on about 160 years worth.

If you ask an old alpine for his picture of a telemark skier, nine out of ten times he will go one of two ways: the granola or the old fashioned. The old fashioned or retro skier is more of a look than an attitude. This guy has long skinny skis, leather boots, wool pants tucked into extra large gaiters, often with knee pads strapped on the outside. That stereotype existed until about ten years ago when the first plastic boots came out and is now virtually extinct except during telemark heritage festivals and in deep, unmapped backcountry. The granola head or dirty hippy exists, but to a small extent. In the hey-day of the granola, everyone who tele’d was an earth loving, pot smoking, vegetarian, and made their own granola (hence the name). Although pot culture has become less of a telemark trait and more of a ski bum trait, the hippy culture of telemark has been on the back burner in all aspects except clothing. I, for one admit to owning a pair of hemp Totem Telemark pants. For tele’rs, hippy is our steeze.

Another stereotype that reaches into tele history is that tele’rs only like to earn their turns. Sure ever lighter (and warmer) equipment makes forays into the backcountry much easier than for either slogging alpiners or post holing snowboarders but that doesn’t mean that we only enjoy a turn when it is earned. Telemarkers can rip both inbounds and out.

One stereotype that I am sad isn’t here anymore is that telemarking is a cheaper sport. It may have been in the days of three pins and leather boots, but these days the cost is rapidly catching up to its alpine counterpart. For a good high tech pair of Scarpa T’s, the price is about the same if not higher than a pair of Nordica free ride alpine boots. The skis are exactly the same. The only part of telemark equipment that is still consistently cheaper is the bindings. You would save about $100 by buying a pair of 22 Design AxL (free pivot) tele bindings instead of the Marker Duke backcountry alpine free pivot bindings. On the other hand, the tight knit telemark community often sells old gear much cheaper than market price.

Telemarking doesn’t necessarily consist of knee-to-ski, painfully deep lunges. Most tele’rs save their strength and use a higher stance. This stereotype is completely up to each individual’s style, but whether you make people cringe with your knee to your ski or whether you rock a high tele stance, it is true that we get more face shots. So there you have it: your guide for what to believe, so get out there, drop a knee and splash some snow in your face!


Lorin Paley is a National Telemark A team member. She won 2 silvers and 2 bronzes on the World Cup in 2010 and won two gold medals at the Junior World Championships in 2009. To check in on how this season is going, go to