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Getting By

Moonrise over Hidden Peak and The Ramp, Chugach Front RangeCan't say too much excitement has happened since I last wrote. We've had more rain in town and some light snow up high. The winds have paid a visit and ravaged the Kenai. Hatcher Pass has done better recently and was in decent form this past weekend. There're still plenty of sharks to be discovered and I've spent every evening tending to my ski's wounds. But at least we're skiing. 

The Front Range finally saw enough snow to make our usual pilgrimage up there fruitful for training and getting turns. Friday was actually quite incredible with Marc and Mat rallying to make the journey. The air was crisp, winds calm and the skies perfectly clear. Six new inches of fresh over chalk made for fun skiing. The perfect light was intoxicating in the way only AK light can be. Mat and I watched the sun rise and set on this day with him digging some pits for his AAC observations and me logging nearly 9K vert along the way. Marc plugged in for 5K and then had to tend to family obligations. Considering this is only 25 minutes from my door, it was just about right.

Mat keeping tabs on the Front Range snow pack for the AAC

The next two days were spent under perfect weather conditions at Hatcher Pass. Aside from one creepy avalanche event on Marmot a couple of days prior, the zone was holding up well with the little snow it had. Mat and I got our share on Saturday and, feeling tired, went out for a more relaxed day with Karol and some friends on tele gear. Yep. That's right. I actually skied with some pinheads. This will be the first time pictures of this nearly extinct breed will be seen in these pages. We all had fun. The usual telemark head plants, misadventures and blown quads were on display. I only leveled a couple of "why?'s" along the way, knowing that it's pretty much futile if they're still doing this silliness in this day and age.

Kyle droppin' that knee!

It's all heels locked for Karol

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Reader Comments (5)

I have always enjoyed your blog but the all-too-familiar poke at telemarkers is a little sad and stale. I ski 80 plus days a year and skate, classic XC, tele and use race-weight AT equipment but vastly prefer tele skiing over all the other modes, but also know and use the advantages of each accordingly. I fully understand why many prefer AT now (from reasons of efficiency to (more often) lack of skill and aging joints). The funny thing for me this post is filled with the typical boring pics of bondage-board skiers who are off balance, leaning to one side, in the back seat, not-relaxed, etc. (with the one exception of awesome pic 7) and then, for a nice change, we get a pic of two happy smiling tele chicas and then pinhead ripping what looks like some challenging conditions. Thanks for inadvertently illustrating that skiing can be fun and beautiful and not always about seeing how much vert you can tally.

January 29, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJay

Well, Jay. It's all about fun and I'm glad you're having it no matter what boards/bindings you have on your feet. But I never tire at poking fun at the ridiculous inefficiency of telemark skiing. The bullshit marketing that gets many people doing it is sadly perverse and then the ignorant suffer as a result. Fortunately, the market is dying and most of the new comers to BC skiing will start out with AT gear, not have to learn a more difficult turn, and, as a result, will have way more fun sooner. And THAT is what it's all about in the first place. Plus, the rest of us will enjoy less bomb craters on our favorite haunts.

This blog has a certain bend when it comes to style so I promote that. I lived through all the tele evangelism back in the day and, just as you're tired of the poking, I'm equally weary of comments like "bondage boarding", etc. and your thinly veiled pride concerning your superior skill and youthful joints simply because your heel is free (yawn). It's the same old shit and as the numbers of knee droppers continues to diminish, encounters where we disagree like this will be far and fewer between.

Not sure how old you are but I started doing it in '78 on edgeless Fischer Europa skis and shitty leather boots. I followed the progression of boots, with bindings sadly lagging, until around 2001 when I finally cut the cord. Haven't looked back. Yes, for me and my ilk, it is about getting more vert because that translates to more skiing. More skiing = more fun. Back seat, off balance, Western rodeo turns all fair game.

Yep, I'm an old, shitty skier with sore knees and a waning aerobic capacity. I'd be a fool to make it any harder than it already is. I need every advantage if I'm going to get my share of the goods while chasing guys who get 80+ days a year.

January 30, 2015 | Registered CommenterBrian

Err, opps, I posted for the first time a few minutes ago regarding insert trickery (two blogs higher) and I mentioned liking inserts to swap from AT and tele so I guess I need to say something too (no you don't, take another sip Doug, move on, maybe some gear for next year has been announced on another site..). Jay sounds like you are a kindred spirit (if you live/ski in the PNW we gotta meet! I used to like nordic too but it has become boring to me the last few years) and I would probably have not thought much about the anti-tele sentiment in the original blog (I read TGR and Wild Snow too, it's cool to hate on tele, proves that you are current and superior) if not for the spirited come back from Brian.

The "why, why, why?" I can relate to because I think the same thing when I see duck-billed tele boots near the summit of Rainier, but I also think the same thing when I see someone with Marker Dukes and heavy-ass boots and skis with two layers of metal near the summit, or when I skied with someone at a Monashee's hut a few weeks ago with short Cho Oyos when it snowed 8-12" every day (I own/love Cho's but I skied tele and 115mm skis that week because it wouldda sucked on my skinny/stiff Cho's.), or when someone is snow boarding east coast ice. But, then, I gotta remember that not everyone has the cash, knowledge, skills and time to have 6-8 different set ups. My wife has one pair of skis and boots (one pair of rock shoes too, crazy!) and thinks I am nuts for all the ski setups/rock shoes I use.

Yay, tele is inefficient, no shit. I have a friend who I used to tour with, he got into to 'bile accessed skiing and now thinks we are all dumb for doing human powered snow stuff. But, Jay's comment about "fun" would have been lost on me except for my last Sunday. I have been skiing AT a lot more than usual this year because it has been such a dry/shitty season (in WA) and I moved here a few years ago and hang with mostly fixed heel people now (and, yes, some stupid arthritis on my big toe has me grabbing the AT stuff more, aging sucks). Then last week, several old ski friends came to visit (I am mid 40s and they are late 40s and early 50s) who still only ski tele period, they all freaking rip, best skiers at the area type. We decided to ski lifts because the BC was rutted ice and opted for south facing, lift served corduroy. We started working a shallow bump line on a blue run. I simply forgot how fun skiing could be! I felt like it feels when you haven't skied powder in a month and then it dumps. The whole shitty season and my related unhappiness simply vanished. If I was on fixed heel, yes, I would have used way less energy but had no where near as much fun.

A few more thoughts and I will move on (beer is empty now). To show how I have a foot in both camps, I posted earlier this year on EYT.com asking if "skimo was the new tele" because I know a few friends who "discovered" race weight AT gear this year and are stoked on the potential (like when my crew "discovered" tele in the late 80s) and I went even lighter (love my Sportiva Spiritfires and Kreuzspitze heels and assumed I would kill it on some huge days this year. No real traction on that thread, my usual dud post, mostly comments about disliking the term "skimo" which was my reaction when that term appeared few years ago. Then a few days ago, I saw a TGR post titled something like "is AT the new tele" and the poster's point was, with all the recalls (boots/bindings) and AT binding breakages lately, AT seems like tele 10-20 years ago. That is funny! C'mon, hilarious! Oh yeah, I also forget about the term "bondage boards" that is funny too, gotta remember to use that one again.

Enough, thanks for the blog and letting me ramble (and ramble, and ramble). Hopefully, this post will explode, you'll get millions of hits, sell tons of adverts, retire and ski every day!

February 7, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterDoug

All good thoughts, Doug. Millions of hits. That's funny. Oh, and no adverts so no pending retirement, either. Guess I missed the boat on that one.

I totally agree with you about the "is AT the new tele?" comment. When I started telemarking in 1978, I did so because it was so hard and challenging. It also got me attention and fed some need in that part of my fragile identity, I guess. Certainly, standard AT is nothing distinctive so I don't agree that all AT is novel. But doing big things on race gear certainly has some similarities to the original tele movement. But that's where the similarities end.

For covering ground in the mountains, there is no advantage to modern telemark gear. It's heavy, complicated in some ways and offers no advantage going up or down, with the exception of the fun factor you mentioned. Race gear, on the other hand, works exceedingly well on the up and pretty good on the down in most conditions. The advantages of, say, doing an FKT on Rainier on race gear are without debate. But I digress...

When I was racing a lot, I trained in the BC on race gear. I could feel the same smug satisfaction lapping powder with the masses that I did doing the same on 3 pins back in the day. Yep, same problem, different drug.

As for "skimo", I hated it when I first heard it, preferring "rando" instead but the term is more internationally recognized so I use it in order to help foster the standard. I'm getting used to it.

February 7, 2015 | Registered CommenterBrian


More thoughts....

The only reason I give telemark skiers shit is that there is a subset of them that wreaks of superiority, as if their ability to get down things dropping the knee makes them better skiers. If that's truly one's belief then I have no time nor respect them. The hate will fly. On the other hand, I completely respect the, "I do it because it's more fun" crowd. I simply have no response or hate for that because fun is what it's all about.

Many might suggest that I'm a weight Nazi and I feel "superior" because of my choices. Not really. I'm absolutely convinced that most people will enjoy themselves dropping weight off their gear no matter what part of the gear ensemble it is. But, as you can see from these posts, my ski selection changes depending upon the task at hand and the style I'm seeking, all of which reinforce the fun quest.

February 7, 2015 | Registered CommenterBrian

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