Crash Course: How to Telemark Ski, Part 1 (Ep.125)


  • Geoff McFetridge (4:10)
  • Dan Abrams (36:45)
  • Paul Forward (55:50)
  • Kristin Sinnott (1:05:30)

Baby giraffes? Organic bamboo scissors? Superman? Since we now have to learn how to tele ski and shoot a tele video (we’ll explain in the episode), we’re crowdsourcing a crash course in what we need to know to avoid embarrassing and / or killing ourselves. So here in Part 1, we solicited the best tips and advice from artist and telemarker, Geoff McFetridge; Flylow Gear co-founder and president, Dan Abrams; and Blister reviewers Paul Forward and Kristin Sinnott.

Geoff McFetridge, Dan Abrams, Kristin Sinnott, & Paul Forward discuss on the Blister podcast their recommendations for how to start telemark skiing
Geoff McFetridge droppin' a knee.

40 comments on “Crash Course: How to Telemark Ski, Part 1 (Ep.125)”

  1. I learned to tele Feb/March and honestly after 3 embarassing days, I started doing pretty good. In modern NTN gear you can still pull-off parallel turns when things get dicey anyways. I’m really enjoying the community, and it’s fun to do something new.

  2. There is definitely has a golden opportunity for a music video portion or soundtrack with spoofy music fashioned after a certain famous instructional hip hop dance song. “Teach Me How to Tele.” Blister community it’s time to step up. We need an amateur music producer with no shame and a award winning ski dance choreographer. Time to limber up boys!

  3. I find fixed heel skiing boring and awkward. If I had to fixed heel ski, I would snow board. Telemark skiing is the funnest way to slide on snow.

    • It would be really cool if you did combine this video with some of the crew from Bishop. They are just up the road from you guys over in Edwards.

      • I will definitely be dissapointed if they don’t do the video on NTN gear, because I think they’d be pleasantly surprised to find how active and enjoyable it can be. My first lesson was in February on 75mm gear and I felt very ‘floppy’ and uncoorindated. I went out and bought myself some Crispi EVO NTN boots and Outlaw X bindings and it was so much easier.

  4. I learned to telemark when my kiddos first started learning to ski, and it made the greens/blues fun and challenging for a bit. I also found that the edge control, balance, and emphasis on stance made me a better skier overall once I got back on alpine gear.

    • Tele today is a blend of everything skiing with instability of a free heel. It aint the power but technique that delivers. Decent equipment (manifestly improved skis, plastic boots, intelligent design bindings) matters as I’m skiing better terrain now than in 1973.

      • I was going much too fast and taking big chances. Tele gear (s’loops and tuas) made me a beginner again. Flailing my way down greens and blues was much safer. Then I got Miras with Riva Zs which teach you to stay balanced or else you land on your face. Then I started skiing the La Sals in Utah and I learned all about snow that changes 10 times in a 100 vertical feet. And a lot of other stuff about safe travel and weather. Then my back broke and it took a long time to get back on my skis. (Yay Bishop for step in and brakes without new boots). Im back to going much too fast and taking medium sized chances.

  5. I really appreciate Blister Review’s open-mind to trying telemark skiing. There’s some good advice and comments in here mixed with some misleading ones. A few of the guests in this episode seem like they only tele on occasion, if at all nowadays. Its worth checking out The Freeheel Life Podcast after listening to this one (in particular, episode 11).

    Don’t let anyone tell you not to go low; you can choose your own style out there. Also, give it more than a one day try. To Ryan’s point above, it could take a few days to confidently link turns and get those good vibes.

  6. I just listened to the podcast and it sounds like you got some good advice. I would like to offer my tip, which is don’t fall on your face or your butt, because your not in Alpine boots and your heel is free. Learn quickly to keep your balance. I was in old leather boots without much support. Probably much better gear now???

    I am a life long alpine skier, and cross country skier. I tried tele for two consecutive days at Solitude in Salt Lake for the hell of it. I was “comfortable” by the second day and found it to be tricky at first, but got the hang of it. Start on a green for sure. It will burn your thighs out quickly.

    Once you get the turn, all the advice will make sense. I started to learn by doing a “mini” squat thrust and then putting a little pivot into my forward foot. This is equivalent to an alpine stem cristi. You will quickly get the feel of a locked in tele knee drop turn. Low ride thrusting is unstable, what Paul said is stable and what you will figure out is needed. Have fun.

  7. For me it really comes down to getting as much weight as possible on that uphill ski. Digging that uphill edge in will (1) provide more stopping power (2) offer more control and (3) be WAYYYY less tiring.

    I forget exactly what the drills are called, but start with a lot of side shuffling (without turning) as you traverse across the hill. Then move onto “locked” turns (i.e. stay in a single crouch and make 10 turns).

    Good luck!

  8. I still ski on floppy boots and G3 bindings. It’s like having an old Caddy that turns into a Porsche in the trees.

    • That is a stellar way to put it! I’ve been skiing 22D Axls/Vices for the past 6ish years. The last time I was on some Targas was probably about 5 years ago on some demo skis, and while it took some adjusting on the groomers, they were tons of fun in the bumps and trees.

      I started tele skiing when I was young (and small) and never had any issues with the passive bindings. I remember trying some Black Diamond Stigmas mounted with BD O1s and I was completely unable to flex the boot/binding.

      While the power of modern bindings is certainly nice, I do miss the freedom of the more passive designs. There’s a reason I ski my 22D bindings in the front most passive setting, anything more starts to feel like I have an unruly pogo stick stuck under my foot.

  9. It’s been ~20 years since my “season of trying tele”, but I think the “health food” analogy is pretty spot on. I learned a lot about balance and core strength, but it didn’t provide the same instant adrenaline (sugar?) high that alpine does for me.

    You got some really good advice in there IMO, especially in re: weighting.

    Geoff “sounds tele”. I can’t explain it, but if you hang out around tele-enthusiasts enough you’ll come to recognize it.

  10. If you are on cables, Bluebird Day heel levers are designed to open beers. The range of motion will allow you to go knee to ski but you better have short ski poles. The low ride is for skis with near zero sidecut.

    If you are on NTN, start with the softest springs or you will “paramark” all day. Try to get low. They won’t let you get far anyway.

    • Back when I first became aware of the sport the “true” telemarkers were using 3-pin NNN setups and leather boots, and cables and Terminators were ruining the sport by letting people paramark.

      When I tried it the “true” telemarkers had moved onto minimalist cable setups like the Rainey Superloop and Termintor 2s/3s and similar, and the BD Pitbull was ruining the sport by (you guessed it) letting people paramark.

      I guess some things never change in that sport :-).

    • Maybe for the video you do something like this?

      Search Youtube: “Freeride Skiing at Home – A Ski Movie By Philipp Klein”

  11. I think the confusion of forward vs trailing ski is from not clarify inside and outside. Turns cross the fall line with the outside ski forward during the entire turn, the opposite of alpine where the outside ski is behind.

    Also as to weighting and stance distance, you want to carve both skis which requires fairly equal weight and feet fairly close together to get both skis’ on their edges.

    I think the “health food” analogy is apt because you have to engage both your skis at the same time vs alpine. So it’s more wholistic.

  12. If ‘ski fast take chances’ is the feeling you crave in resort, then drop the poles AND drop the knees. Not recommended for control freaks, just for tons of fun if “loose’ describes your skiing ambition and style. You get to ski fast and take chances, but with tele this is generally a whole lot slower and compatible with family, friends, advancing age, etc.

    • Yup, Did you Alpine race in collage? “Ski Fast and Take Chances” was our motto at Plymouth State.

      • No, I was a noob skier in college. But your school might have raced mine, Bowdoin College.

        Throw down in Starter! Heck yeah!

  13. Telemark is a lifelong journey for me. Some days I feel like I’ve got it and the next I feel I have so much to learn. I feel it’s like the journey to become a Samurai. Perfection is unattainable. Keep learning.

  14. On getting low – I find it’s easier to do on the old “loose” 75mm gear. On that gear I find that getting low, especially on steep-ish terrain, helps with stability. With the new NTN gear and with Bishop Bindings, you don’t need to get as low, cause the power and stability of the binding happens as soon as you lift your heel.

    That said embrace the “getting low” mantra but keep it compact, and you will have awesome style!!!!

  15. Fun discussion. I’ve been at the tele game for 40 seasons and do not suck. You seem to be mixing up for-aft foot distance with high-low body position.
    Do this dry-land progression to help you understand the telemark stance:
    -start in a normal athletic stance (feet about hip-width apart, knees bent, feet flat on floor, weight even between both feet). This is similar to your stance when Alpine skiing, more or less.
    -perform some air squats. Next…
    -keeping your weight even and feet hip-width, move one foot slightly forward and your other foot slightly back. How much for-aft? Try rear foot big toe even with front foot heel for a start. Now…
    -sink into a squat. Allow the heel of the trailing foot to lift off the floor. Maintain equal weight on both feet.
    Hey! You just did a “tele-squat”. Switch your front-back feet. Do some more .
    -note that you are not lifting your heel all spastically crazy tip-toe, but that your back heel lifts some as you squat down. You should feel athletic, balanced and in control.
    -note that you can drop as low as you want, but the for-aft distance doesn’t change much. You can sit your butt on your rear heel, but I prefer to not ski this low.
    Telemark will probably be easier than you expect, but you are learning a new way to slide down the mountain. Expect falls :-)

    • Well as someone who’s never tele’d, it sounds to me like you really don’t know what you’re talking about.

      (Just kidding. I’m going to go practice some tele squats now….)

  16. @F.steindiggity great exercise/practice! That really shows it! Thanks!

    Also you can pivot around both feet to “link” left and right turns.

  17. You can tell an East coast television skier from a Western one by how worn out his pants are at the knees.

  18. allright boyzngirls…

    every day i ski, i learn to tele…

    corn is the PERFECT learning surface.

    you WILL look like a baby giraffe. just not as cute…

    find a 300-500 vert run to yoyo. much better than one long, confidence crushing run, and you can ski with yer pack off. also, will make it easier to shoot video.

    y’all are great alpine skiers. do not be intimidated by us purists. go ahead and parallel on the tele gear. it will save yer asses come crash/not crash time. in fact, practice it a little.

    shorten yer poles a bit. long poles will put you wayyyyy in the back seat. (i am 5’11”, i ski down with my poles at 108cm. but, i do have monkey arms…)

    keep yer feet closer together than you think you should(fore&aft). keep as much weight as you can on the inside(uphill) ski. get that little toe weighted. keep plenty of beer in the car…

    • I second about the shorter poles. Definitely doing this this fall. But even more so, when learning tele just keep the poles out of it by holding them in your hands horizontally. You’ll look dweeby, but you already will. My two tele instructors showed me this and it really helped, the poles were simply getting in my way, because pole plants in tele are harder to coordinate.

      I like that with tele i have turn choices — in tight trees or navigating a field of bumps? I can always parallel. i don’t feel bad about it. Granted, those parallel turns take more effort for me and I find myself in the backseat more than I would with alpine bindings, but oh well. In a wide open space, cruising a long, I’ll use the telemark turn and make it a lot more interesting.

      Alpine skiing is still very influenced by its racing heritage — stiff powerful boots, digging edges into the hill, pounding down, adrenaline. But having a flexible heal makes it more like dancing with the hill than “shredding” it.

      I put binding freedom inserts on a pair of Line Blends, and I can swap back and forth between tele and alpine on the same skis. Can’t wait til I can ski again.

  19. So in regards to making high-angle GS arcs on groomers, the best example I know of is what FIS-level tele racers do. For example see

    The short version is that even the very best tele racers don’t arc as hard as a reasonably competent alpine skier can. It’s a different sport, with different strengths and weaknesses.

  20. A bit of disambiguation guys. Years ago I had a friend who had one bad leg so would do tele one way and parallel the other. We’ve always called that “paramark” so I think we have copyright on the term. It just takes a small stance change from one turn to the next (heel up/heel down) and add unweight if you like. It’s a great technique for lazy run and confuses the hell out of the people watching from the lift.

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