Dropping a knee: Getting started

Posted By: The Ski Channel on April 23, 2011 1:31 pm

- By Lorin Paley

If you ask a veteran tele’r for tips on how to get started, you may get one of two reactions. Although eager to encourage another tele’r one guy will give so many tips that you struggle just to swallow them. The next guy remembers the difficulty of learning tele without instruction and has decided that the struggle is a birthright for every tele’r. He might provide you with some really useful information like, “just go for it,” or “I hear the snow is great in the bumps today.” Rather than being at the mercy of over and under virtuous locals, I have provided seven snippets from my learning curve that should help make the process a lot smoother.


Preparing for my initiation I did all the right things. I went to a local ski shop, got the beginner’s set up and went out to try my luck.

Before I could even get strapped into my skis though, my luck ran out. The local shop that I went to gave me three pin bindings, and after two days of wrestling with the bindings and tearing gloves, I finally traded for a pair of Hammer Head bindings; slide in the toe and pull up the heal clip. Much easier.

My next blunder came when I decided that I wanted higher performance, stiffer boots to try with my active Hammer Head bindings. As a rookie tele’r, I didn’t know that new tele boot liners need heat molding and the thin footbeds don’t offer adequate support. When the shop gave me new boots to demo, I was excited. Later, on the hill, my feet ached so much I couldn’t wait to get back in the lodge. After that morning, I put in a pair of SuperFeet insoles, which are much more supportive, and asked whether the boot liner could be molded.      

                                                                                                                                                                           Avoid sore feet syndrome.  (sfs)                                                                                                                               

Basic tips

What is the most common tip in Alpine? Get forward! After years of hearing this advice (snowboarders can skip to next sentence), switching to a balanced tele position can be tough. My first tele instructor who happened to also be my alpine racing coach, forgot (whoops!) to tell me to put weight on my back foot. After three days of landing on my face every other turn, I finally figured it out: if you put weight on your back foot, you don’t fall quite as easily on your face.

 During my middle school years, my parents decided that they wanted to be cool. Naturally, they signed up for snowboard lessons. Instead of choosing a week with some nice, soft now, they chose a week when they wouldn’t miss any powder days. After a week of bruises, they decided they were cool enough. If possible start learning on soft conditions. Your legs will feel worked by noon, so keep some muscle balm on hand like Sore No More cream for après ski.

               tight knees = back foot wieght

 Alpine is as easy as leaning your shins against the stiff pair of boots and shifting your weight. Tele is a much more dynamic movement, thus you will work harder on each run. Hydrate as if you were going for a run (I recommend electrolytes like Nuun tablets). Try to stay aware of how far apart your knees are spreading. It will be much easier to maintain weight on your back foot and fatigue less if you have no more than a half-foot spread between your front and back knee. Pretend like you have a rubber band around your knees. You can stretch the rubber band, but don’t snap it. Your knee should never touch your ski, but wear knee pads just in case. Bruised kneecaps are no fun.

 Accelerate your learning

Have you noticed that girls do everything in pairs? Zumba, hikes, work, skate skiing, etc. Other than having a chance to talk, there is another reason for this phenomenon. Hard things are easier with a little motivation. When I first started tele’ing, I shared the experience with my brother. Being a proficient alpiner, sharing my face plants took away the humiliation, and the friendly competition and encouragement helped me learn faster.

 Once I’d been tele’ing for a year, I could easily do groomers and powder, but crud and bumps were leaving me on my face more often than not. Directly under the chairlift, a veteran tele’r was ripping a bump line. “Man,” I thought, “He makes it look so easy. I want to make it look easy.” The next run, I decided I would just make it look easy, and I immediately found my rhythm. Sometimes, watching others is better than any tip.                                                                                    bring a group out!

 So if you are ready to embark into the world of tele, remember:

         -Don’t start with three pin bindings

         -Heat molding boot liners and SuperFeet insoles

         -Wear knee pads

         -Get some weight on the back foot

         -Friendly snow

         -Sore No More muscle cream


         -Tight feet

         -Bring a friend

         -Watch and learn


Happy tele’ing!


- 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 www.lorinpaley.com.