I've been an alpine skier for well over 20 years. I started out skiing in my jeans on our local ski hill in South Dakota. Many wipeouts and bruises later, I graduated to the intermediate runs. There I stayed until the early 2000's when I joined the ski bus, and began to take weekly lessons. Six years and lots of lessons later, I'd progressed enough so that I could ski anywhere on the mountain, in any kind of snow conditions.
|Striking a sexy tele turn|
Then, four years ago, I got a wild hair, and decided I wanted to learn to telemark ski. I'd watched the freeheelers make lovely tele turns down the slopes at my local ski area. They looked so graceful! I was also interested in backcountry skiing and thought I had to learn tele to do this. And, I think I was just looking for another challenge.
|Me and my K2 Schi-Devils - the best tele skis ever!|
Well, I certainly got a challenge! I signed up for a couple of lessons from Shelly at Wy'East Nordic. The day of my first lesson, it rained. Was the lesson cancelled? Of course not! I spent all morning wiping water droplets off my goggles, and trying to drop knee without face-planting into the snow. At lunchtime my jacket and gloves were dripping wet. But I switched to dry gloves and went back out there for the afternoon session. I was hooked!
|Gettin' ready to drop knee|
I spent most of the my first tele-season on the beginner lift at Meadows. After progressing my alpine skiing up to double-black diamond runs, it was a humbling experience to start over again on the bunny slope. But I persisted through the first season, and into the second. The second season I took a series of lessons from a great instructor at Meadows, and progressed so I could ski the blue groomers comfortably.
|Makin' turns on Shooting Star Ridge|
My third tele-season I thought I was ready to try the backcountry. I signed up for a ski mountaineering class. The first class outing opened my eyes to the reality that my tele skiing skills still needed a lot of work. Most of my freeheeling had been on groomed runs. My first tour was off-piste - on the side of Mt. Hood. The snow was heavy with a hard crust on top. The trip uphill wore me out so much I didn't know how I was going to muster the energy to ski back down. Trying to make turns through the hard crusty snow tried my patience to the max. I kept flailing, skidding, and finally crashing. I had a meltdown and uttered a bunch of naughty words I hardly ever use. Needless to say, it was back to the resort to work on my tele-turns.
|Skiing down Apollo - photo by Grant Myrdal Photography|
One of my co-workers is a big-time skier. He and I often compare notes about skiing when we see each other in the hallway, and I give him regular updates on my tele-skiing journey. One day last year, he stopped by my cubicle to tell me about a man he'd ridden the lift with the previous weekend. The two of them were sitting on the chair, shooting the breeze, when a telemark skier swished by. The man turned to my coworker and commented "I used to telemark ski, but my knees can't take it any more. You know, tele skiing is a really beautiful thing. It's like a dance. And there's nothing sexier than a woman telemark skier!"
So my co-worker said teasingly "you are a hot and sexy telemark skier!" This became a running joke between us. Every time after that, when I'd see him in the hall, he'd drop into a telemark stance and say "hey sexy telemark skier!"
|Another great photo by Grant Myrdal|
Of course, all the time spent on my tele-boards, I had never felt even remotely sexy. Out of control, yes. Off balance and wobbly, yes. Dressed in my bulky ski clothes trying to slide down a hill without crashing, sexy was the last thing I felt!
|Perfect turns down Two Bowl|
Then this year, my fourth season tele-ing, something clicked. I started to be able to link all my turns. My left side turns (always my difficult side) became as smooth as my right. I was able to ski all morning and half the afternoon without feeling totally thrashed. My confidence boosted, I ventured into the off-piste and bumped over some moguls. And I started trying to ski the black diamond runs.
Two weeks ago, the tele-gods smiled upon me. I had a most excellent day on the slopes. The turns came easy - smooth as silk. My skis felt like they were extensions of my body. I tried one black run and found I could make telemark turns all the way down. I tried another black diamond. Same thing, even a little bit faster speed. Woo-hoo!
Then I decided to ski down Two Bowl - my nemesis. It's a pretty steep run and every time I've tried to tele ski down it before, I've chickened out and resorted to alpine turns (aka "survival skiing"). I got to the top of the run, and who should be at the bottom, but the resort photographer! Oh no - I have bad luck tele skiing in front of him - I always wipe out!
|Well, maybe I'm a little bit sexy!|
But my friend told me to block him out, lean forward, and concentrate on making good turns. I pushed off from the top of the run. Slowly, I dropped into my stance. My skis slid effortlessly through the snow. Swish! Into another turn. That one felt good and strong. Woosh! Another nice turn. And another. And another. Before I knew it, I was near the bottom of the slope. Yahoo! I'd just skied down Two Bowl using only telemark turns! This was a huge milestone for me. I skidded to a stop, turned to the photographer and said, "I hope you got some good pictures of this."
Then my friend and I skied the rest of the way to the lift. The turns continued to come easy. My ski edges cut through the snow like butter. I got into a great rhythm. My body felt fluid and smooth. It was almost as if I was dancing. I felt strong, graceful, and yes - for the first time - sexy.