'

Skiing and Snowboarding

Beginners’ guide to skiing and snowboarding

Living in Utah, you should already know that the winter season is a big deal. If you were like me growing up, I never saw the middle school skiing/snowboarding program, Snow Blitz, appealing as a young tween. Wearing layers upon layers of snow attire and falling down a mountainside didn’t sound fun, and the expense was unattainable — until now. Even though I’m interested now, I must warn you, the falling doesn’t stop. Which leads me to the first of many tips when you begin to learn how to ski or snowboard — get used to falling, but before you start falling, you’ll need the gear for it.

Gear

Buying skiing and snowboarding gear right off the bat can be quite the commitment and can start at $600 and easily reach into the thousands.

Luckily, if you’re a student at the University of Utah, you’ll find the cheapest rentals rates in the state at the Student Life Center. Pro tip: you don’t need to be a student to rent from the university, but you can get 20 percent off the already cheap rates if you bring your UID. You can rent a basic skiing and/or snowboarding package, which includes skis/snowboard, bindings, boots, and poles (if skiing). You can also rent a coat and snow pants. The staff is there to help you get fitted, teach you proper gear technique, and you can store all this information for future reference. While the U would be the cheapest and easiest rental place, there are places all over Utah you can rent gear from like Ski N’ See & ARCS, which offers discount lift passes if you rent from them.

What you’ll need:

  • Beanie
  • Helmet
  • Goggles
  • Gloves
  • Coat
  • Snow pants/overalls
  • Layers
  • Boots
  • Bindings
  • Skis/snowboard
  • A snowy mountain

Lift Passes

Lift passes are the other expensive part of this hobby. As a beginner, no one wants to dish out $400+fon a season pass, but it can be pricey paying by day. Brighton Ski Resort is a great place to begin. If you can handle the cold, single day evening passes at Brighton are your best bet. While single full day passes allow you to ride from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and start at approximately about $82, night passes start at about $47, allowing you to ride from 4-9 p.m.

Though it can get rather cold and dark, night riding is a great time to learn since there are less people around. While a seasonal night pass to Brighton Ski Resort is only $319-$419, a seasonal day pass can range from $599 to $750. The best part of Brighton is the promotional offers it runs during the season. You can always find promotional deals on night riding like “2 for 1” rides or a discounted night pass if you bring canned goods during their food drive. Find the entire list of promotional deals on night riding and lessons on the Brighton webpage.To do it right, you need lessons.

Lesson

Once you have your gear and a pass, it’s time to hit the slopes.

If you don’t have a patient enough friend, adult lessons will help develop your skills. While you have the option between group lessons or private, you will learn skills and techniques to help ride more of the mountain while having fun with other riders. Keep in mind; resorts, like Alta, are for skiers only, so instructors may not know how to teach you how to snowboard. While lessons can range from $50 to $100+, Brighton offers the cheapest skiing/snowboarding lessons starting at $55 for a night lesson. Remember, safety first. I highly suggest not trying to teach yourself how to ski or snowboard as it can be fairly dangerous without proper skills and technique.

Tips

  • Don’t compare yourself to anyone else on the slopes.
  • Helmets are cool; wear one.
  • Skiers, don’t cross your tips.
  • Always keep your knees bent, but not too bent.
  • Wear proper winter clothing. Do not wear cotton (it absorbs and holds water, making you colder).
  • Save money on gas by using your pass as a ticket for public transportation.
  • Snowboarders, there are such things as butt pads.
  • Look for promotional deals.
  • Bandanas/masks make a big difference in keeping warm.
  • Your boots should be snug, but still have enough room for when your feet swell.
  • Have fun, but safety first.

a.duong@wasatchmag.com

148

Read Article

Skipping School for Skiing

Ski run at Alta Ski Resort. Photo by Samira Guirguis.

“There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream/The earth, and every common sight/To me did seem/Appareled in celestial light/The glory and the freshness of a dream.”

These words by William Wordsworth describe the moments I look forward to. Moments when the pull of snow on the mountain tempts me into skiing down runs filled with fresh powder, or moments when I survey the world from the top of a red, rocky cliff I traversed by digging my hands into its cracks and crevices. These moments in nature capture what it truly means to be present, alive, and at the same time, these moments continually force me to fight against the concept of time or obligations like school or work. The need to feel free and to experience living on my own is why I chose to forgo college for the spring semester at the University of Utah and decided to live and work the winter at Alta’s Rustler Lodge in Little Cottonwood Canyon.

Ski communities harbor the nomadic people of our world — the ones who have not paved a steady path for themselves, choosing to live out of cars or tents, working odd jobs in different states in order to embrace nature through skiing or rock climbing. It’s hard not to pass judgment when the entirety of your life can be packed into a beat-up Toyota, but this was the norm for the employees at Rustler Lodge. While some in society might see these people as vagrants, it was difficult for me not to be enamored by their carefree lifestyle and the exciting stories they told in the evenings in the employee dining room. These were the people I would spend every skiing and working moment with for an entire season.

I loved the feeling of my beacon pressed against my side, cheeks rosy from the cold, nose numb. Each trip like a mini expedition filled with risks and careful decisions; a dumb choice could trigger an avalanche, thus ending a person’s life. But working at Rustler Lodge provided more than endless skiing. I got my first steady paycheck and mastered working in the kitchen of a busy resort restaurant. I learned how to live on my own and negotiate the drama created by tight quarters. When the snow melted, signaling the end of the season and work at Alta, everyone began to pack for their next adventure. Some wanted me to come with them. “School isn’t the only way to get an education,” I recall one guy saying who is currently hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.

“The woods are lovely, dark, and deep, / But I have promises to keep/ And miles to go before I sleep,/And miles to go before I sleep,” words from Robert Frost. I loved my winter in the mountains, and as I sit at my computer typing an article for Wasatch Magazine, it is obvious that I chose to return to the apparent normalcy of schedules and deadlines rather than live a carefree lifestyle in nature. I want to be a journalist, which means I will have a goal that requires me to go to school and master certain skills that will enable me to be a successful reporter. In the future, I know I will experience the world by taking the path less traveled, but this doesn’t mean we can’t have a semester off. Or if you’re scared you might get behind in school, you can always take spring off and go back for the summer semester. We live in a state where we have easy access to world class ski areas that offer live-in positions like Rustler Lodge.

Rustler Lodge, Alta Peruvian, Alta’s Goldminer’s Daughter, Snowbird, Solitude, and Deer Valley is a short list of resorts, which offer a range of jobs from working as ski instructors to cooking in busy restaurants. Take advantage of the fact that we have access to these canyons and make the most of it. November is when you should start applying for these jobs, and the fall colors of Little Cottonwood Canyon make the drive to apply.

s.guiguirs@wasatchmag.com

SaveSave

83

Read Article

Bindings—A Ski for all Reasons

How do you pick the right pair of bindings for your skis? There are so many variations of bindings available that it’s difficult to find the right pair just for you. You can listen to vendors describe the intricate details of why their bindings are better than their competitors, but it all boils down to one simple concept –— bindings are used to attach your skis to your boots. With this in mind, there are three categories of ski bindings: alpine, alpine touring, and telemark bindings. With these bindings, it is important to know what type of ski boot you are using, because there is no ski boot that fits all three.

The first step to choosing a new pair of bindings is determining what type of skier you are. If you prefer to ski exclusively in resorts and on groomed trails, then alpine bindings are the right choice for you. These bindings are designed for skiers who are learning how to get down the mountain to Olympic skiers who race down mountains at freeway speeds. These bindings have a release setting based on your skill level and weight. This setting is known as the DIN of your bindings. Generally, the higher the DIN setting, the better or heavier a skier you are.

If you are a more experienced skier who is looking to transition from waiting in long lift lines to making the first tracks down the mountain after a recent storm, then alpine touring (AT) bindings will fit your needs. These bindings are designed to release from the heel and pivot to about the toe to mimic the motion of cross country skis. Alpine touring bindings are used for scaling mountain sides with the ability to transform back into a downhill ski. There are two main types of alpine touring bindings: frame AT and tech AT bindings. Frame AT bindings will work with your normal alpine boots, whereas tech AT bindings need special boots that only work with tech bindings. The main difference between these two types of bindings are the weight savings, tech bindings being much lighter than frame ones. If you are a veteran backcountry skier, the tech boots and bindings are the best way to go. If you are just getting into backcountry skiing and are looking to save a penny or two (or a couple hundred dollars), then frame AT bindings are the best option. Both types of bindings will get you to some of the best, untouched powder available.

If you are the type of person who’s looking for a challenge and wants to look good while doing it, then telemark bindings are the best choice. These bindings allow for a novel type of skiing that mixes downhill and cross country skiing. The toe is connected to the ski, but the heel is free the whole time. This is unlike AT bindings, where the heel is free for the ascent, but then clips in for the descent. You have to change your style of skiing because you are essentially making a lunge motion down the mountain. While elegant to watch, just know that telemark skiers love to work their legs to exhaustion in an already tiring sport. Only telemark boots will work with telemark bindings. The range of motion allowed by the combination of the boot and the binding allows you to make these dynamic maneuvers.

In summary, think about what type of skier you want to be this season before purchasing a new pair of bindings. Look at your boot inventory and decide which bindings will be compatible with them. Once you have made all of these decisions, mount your bindings to your skis. Have a professional set your DIN release setting, then get on the mountain and ski.

p.creveling@wasatchmag.com

33

Read Article

Spring Skiing at Brian Head

It’s that time of year. The snow in the Cottonwoods is slushier, skis are skinnier and costumes are more flamboyant. Spring skiing is in full swing. You don’t want to miss a prime spring skiing weekend, but you really want to camp and see some red rock to get you through the last few weeks of school. Pack up your skis and camping gear and take an overnight trip to Brian Head.

Brian Head Ski and Snowboard Resort is a short three and a half hour drive from campus. Of Utah’s many ski resorts, it has the highest base elevation (9,600 ft.), serving eight chair lifts and 71 runs over two mountains, along with two terrain parks. So why would you trek out to semi-southern Utah to ski slush when there’s plenty right here in the Wasatch? A Brian Head spring staycation is epic for three reasons: cost, camping, and craziness.

Cost:

An adult weekday full-day pass is only $38, a weekend full-day pass $59 — compare that with a $79 day at Brighton, a $83 day at Solitude, and $106 at Snowbird. So whether you drive out Thursday night to ski Friday for $38 or make the trip on a weekend day, rest assured you’re getting all the wild slush of spring skiing at a fraction of the Cottonwoods’ cost.

Camping:

Since Brian Head is more southerly than most ski resorts, surrounding areas are much warmer, much more melted, and therefore conducive to camping. Camp for free overnight before your epic day of skiing without worrying about the logistics and gear required for winter camping in the snow.

Brian Head Resort is only about a 20 minute drive from free camping in Dixie National Forest. There are plenty of trees, and the area is readily accessible to vehicles, so feel free to sleep in a truck bed, sling a hammock between trees, or pitch a tent. Whatever your choice, snuggle in among that scrubby southern Utah shrubbery and red sandy soil you’ve been missing all winter long. Freecampsites.net is a superb resource to consult while selecting your site.

Craziness:

Brian Head closes for the season Sunday, April 16, meaning next weekend will be prime end of season madness. Expect all the skimpy clothing, parking lot partying, and sunny silliness that you love about spring skiing. Additionally, Saturday, April 15 will be the Brian Head Annual Bikini Slalom & Pond Skimming Contest — definitely arrive prepared for epic enjoyment, whether you participate in or watch the festivities.

c.simon@wasatchmag.com

Photo courtesy of Brian Head Ski Resort

258

Read Article

Coping With FOMO

I ran into my buddy at the climbing gym the other day. He was planning a weekend trip to Arizona to kayak, and this was the first I had heard about it. He didn’t even think to invite me, and perhaps with good reason. I had my own plans to canyoneer in Hanksville, Utah with my UExplore class.

Most of the time, I think taking eight outdoor education classes in a single semester was the best decision I made since coming to college. But sometimes, I realize that while I’m practicing rappelling with my classmates, my buddies are out kayaking. While I’m learning quinzee construction in the Uintas, my friends are shredding eight inches of fresh powder at Alta. While I’m topping out on my first ice climb in Ouray, Colorado, my dorm friends are splashing around in the Subway in Zion National Park. Yes, it’s a little ridiculous to regret missing kayaking with your friends when you’re descending a canyon with other friends, but it’s hard to avoid; Utah is jam-packed with opportunities to have wild adventures. And the FOMO — the Fear Of Missing Out — can be all too real. Just look at the steady stream of ski hills and climbing routes inundating any outdoorsy Instagram feed.

Should we, as “outdoorsy millennials,” plunge headfirst into every random outdoor sport that comes our way — even if this means we won’t necessarily become expert or even proficient in any of them? Or should we focus our energy exclusively on one or two of our outdoor passions, sacrificing new and novel opportunities in other venues? There’s really nobody to tell you how to enjoy the outdoors, and moreover, no perfect recipe to balance your professional and academic careers with your outdoor passions. Sometimes, when you enjoy climbing,

mountaineering, canyoneering, skiing, ice climbing, kayaking, hiking and mountain biking, it’s a struggle to live in the moment — to fully appreciate the slope you’re skiing or the slab you’re climbing — because you’re so ensconced in indecision, in fear of missing out on other adventures. And don’t forget that finals are coming up and you’ve got a paper due Monday and you really should be studying. So how do you balance it all?

First of all, still go outside this weekend — even if you have seven papers due Monday. It’ll keep you sane. There’s no “recipe for recreation,” so go out and build your own adventure. Take eight UExplore classes if you want to — or maybe take two — or maybe take none. Let yourself be fully swept away when you’re kayaking and let climbing completely rock your world. Personally, the best means I’ve found to really live in the moment outside is to push myself as hard and as far as I possibly can. I want to be sure I am fully appreciating, exploring, and living in whatever space I find myself. There’s no use thinking the grass is greener or the peaks are higher somewhere else.

c.simon@wasatchmag.com

Photo courtesy of Claire Simon

256

Read Article

Guide to Discount Ski Tickets

Living along the Wasatch during the winter season can feel particularly incapacitating.The typically accessible trails are covered in a thick snowpack, requiring high levels of technicality, resources, and devotion. For most, the only recourse from the inversion and languid indoor blues is adrenaline-pumping immersion in Utah’s trademark “Greatest Snow on Earth” atop a pair of skis or snowboard. Unfortunately, the average student shredder can hardly afford to sustain themselves, let alone expend much-needed cash on absurdly expensive ski passes. Not to worry—we here at Wasatch care about your happiness and strained income, and this week we share with you some screamin’ deals to get you on the slopes without breaking the bank.

The Any-Day Discount Pass Approach—Discount Vouchers in the Valley

If you have the extra money and are compelled to go where you want, when you want, evade full price passes by visiting one of the many savvy outlets. On-campus folks in a rush can stop by the Student Union services desk and purchase tickets at a slight discount (really, only about $5).

Discount tickets can also be found at Lift House, Canyon Sports, REI, Salty Peaks, Sports Authority, Milo Sports, Sid’s Sports, Wasatch Ski Connection, Ski-N-See, Harmon’s grocery stores, Canyon Sports, and AJ Motion Sports.

Pro-tip: Passes tend to be significantly less expensive if bought in bulk—a good option if you intend to ski multiple times, though not enough to justify purchasing a season pass.

Or, if you prefer surfing for discount passes at home, check out these online resources:

  • Liftopia.com
  • Ksl.com
  • Groupon.com
  • Uofuonelove.com
  • freeskiersociety.com

As Good as it Gets: Specialty Promotions and Circumstantial Offers

Browsing many of the options listed above, you may think to yourself, “Wow! Lift tickets are still super expensive!” And you would be right! For those of us with more modest budgets, a couple of our local resorts offer specialty promotions that, if properly seized, can be an astoundingly inexpensive way to hit the slopes:

Powder Mountain:

  • College Days:  $27 – Every Wednesday and Thursday. Must present current student ID.
  • College Night: $15 – Every Thursday night, with student ID.
  • She Shreds Ladies Night: $15 for women every Wednesday night.
  • Family Night: 6 tickets for $65 every Tuesday night. (Your “family” can be brothers from other mothers, and sisters from other misters.)

Brighton:

Unfortunately, Brighton is pretty stringent with standard day passes, though they do offer several awesome deals for night skiing (usually $45 regular rate)!

  • Monday: Family Snow Evening – $99 for a family or group of 4 or less. Includes lift tickets and a 24″ pizza from the Alpine Rose.
  • Wednesday: Buy a combo meal at participating Arctic Circle Restaurants and receive a buy one get one free night skiing voucher.
  • Thursday: Snow Sports School Thursday Night Lessons; Get a two-hour lesson + a night lift ticket for $50.

Best of luck out there, savvy skiers.

D.rees@wasatchmag.com

334

Read Article

Documenta-skis for Every Occasion

Walking between classes, the sky is pure sapphire and the sun is shining. You’ve maxed out your designated skip-school-to-ski days and you’re stuck on campus missing prime opportunities for goggle-tanning, powder-hunting, and groomer-ripping. OK, so you might not be able to throw on your skis and make turns when you finally get home at 5:00, but you can definitely pop some popcorn and turn on one of these epic ski movies– which are almost as good as the real thing.

  • Afterglow

Coming in at a mere 12 minutes, this short film is perfect for getting in a little ski appreciation time on your study break. Featuring deep, feather-light Canadian powder at every turn, this Sweetgrass production is shot entirely at night with the use of eight 4,000-watt multi-colored lights. One segment even lights up the skiers themselves in LED jackets and leg cuffs. The glow-in-the-dark effect of Afterglow makes every face shot and backflip shine that much brighter.

  • G.N.A.R.

G.N.A.R. describes the evolution of the epic ski game, “Gaffney’s Numerical Assessment of Radness.” The G.N.A.R. game began as a chapter in Rob Gaffney’s ski guide to Squaw Valley, Squallywood, and quickly evolved into an entire culture of pranking, peeing, and general mountain madness after its inception by Shane McConkey and his friends. This film combines hard-core lines with wacky shenanigans in a way that is goofy, hilarious, and out of control.

  • Jumbo Wild

If you’re looking for a side of environmental activism to go with your powder shots, Jumbo Wild is for you. Chronicling the struggle to keep British Columbia’s Jumbo Valley from commercial development, this Sweetgrass Productions piece portrays the Jumbo wilderness not only by its sweet pillow lines for skiers, but also by its sacredness to local Native American peoples and its solitary, sheer beauty. Jumbo Wild will give you all the epic footage you’re after while inspiring you to stand up and protect the land you love.

  • Valhalla

If you feel like getting your hippie vibes flowing while getting your ski fix, watch Valhalla. Based around one wandering skier’s discovery of a mystical (fictitious) free-spirit backcountry ski village called Valhalla, this film combines raw, childlike appreciation for snow with a wacky cast of characters and shot after shot of over-your-head powder lines. Highlights for this film include a nude skiing segment and a psychedelic ski-color-firework montage.

  • Paradise Waits

Paradise Waits is a TGR film featuring good old epic powder and aggressively vertical big mountain lines around the world. This film travels during the 2015 winter, from Japanese pillows to guerrilla skiing in the streets of Boston. Keep an eye out for your favorite local skiers including Angle and John Collinson and Sage Cattabriga-Alosa. In addition to its trademark TGR jaw-dropping footage, Paradise Waits offers a look into the quirky goofball personalities of some of your favorite big name skiers.

  • Eddie the Eagle

If you’re thinking you’re in the mood for a “real” movie with charm and Hugh Jackman, go for Eddie the Eagle. Rather than chronicling the powder shots of big-name skiers as do most ski films, this movie is more story-based, telling the tale of British aspiring Olympic ski jumper Eddie Edwards approaching the 1988 Winter Olympics. This film might not give you your powder or park fix, but it will certainly make you laugh and motivate you to get up, follow your dreams, and ski your heart out.

c.simon@wasatchmag.com

314

Read Article

Back to Basics

Back-coun-try ski-ing: (adjective) A. the kind of skiing where you don’t have to keep behind ropes or bounds of the resort; B. the kind of skiing where you don’t have to wait in line for a chair to get up the mountain; C. the kind of skiing where you can get some of the longest powder runs of your life, repeatedly. Most importantly, backcountry skiing is defined by high risk for a high reward. The avalanche control work that keeps resort skiing safe isn’t repeated to the same extent in the backcountry, meaning you need to go in prepared for worst case scenario.

The best way to familiarize yourself with backcountry skiing is to take a class. You’ll learn how to read terrain, understand the basics of snow mechanics, and recognize the warning signs nature gives you. Snow is complex — but it does have characteristic patterns. These classes teach you how to recognize these patterns and know when a given snowpack is stable or not. The Utah Avalanche Center and the University of Utah both offer classes, and workshops take place frequently around the valley.

For gear, renting is your best option when breaking into the sport. There is no need to get top-of-the-line skis with the lightest boot combined with the thinnest touring pants possible: yet. You can find cheap gear online, but the most essential equipment is (hopefully) not for purchase: a touring partner. Although they may cost you a burger or drink to convince them to go with a noob, it’s worth it if they save your life, or vice versa. Other essentials include a beacon, shovel, and a probe. In the event of an avalanche these are your first line of defense for survival. If you get caught in an avalanche, you will appreciate your touring partner being equipped to dig you out. Avalanche airbag backpacks are also becoming a common part of the avalanche safety set. These packs deploy when you pull a lever, helping to keep you toward the surface of the snow.

With the instruction and the gear, you’ll need a place to go. Step one is always to check the avalanche report on the Utah Avalanche Center’s website to see current danger ratings, recent avalanche activity, and what kind of terrain to look out for based on weather patterns. For your first couple times out in the backcountry, seek low angle terrain in Big and Little Cottonwood canyons, such as Grizzly Gulch or Mill D. Once you get there, it never hurts to dig a pit to evaluate the snow. It’s a lot of work, but carving your own line down powder no one has touched all season is worth every step of preparation and uphill skiing.

p.creveling@wasatchmag.com

319

Read Article

Get ready for POW Day

If you’ve ever skied or boarded Big or Little Cottonwood Canyon on a Saturday, you know the frustration of the Disneyland-esque lines up to the resorts: Never-ending, and sometimes longer than the actual time spent having fun.
Protect Our Winters (POW) and Ski Utah have come up with a solution that they call POW Day. On Friday, Jan. 13 (the snowiest day in Utah according to 50 years of data) anyone carpooling with three or more skiers/riders per vehicle or anyone riding a UTA bus to the resort will be rewarded. They can expect priority parking, POW Day beanies from Discrete, and an opportunity to ski or snowboard with a POW athlete such as Caroline Gleich, Forrest Shearer and Brody Leven. The event will take place at Alta, Snowbird, Powder Mountain, and Sundance beginning at 8 a.m. The POW Tent, at the base of each participating ski area, will give out raffle tickets and check in carpoolers and UTA riders. From 2:30 to 4 p.m., there will be a party with giveaways, DJs, and speeches about climate change.
Paul Marshall, spokesperson for Ski Utah, said this event which began last year was created to address problems such as congestion in the canyons and inversion from carbon emissions.
“We’re trying to increase tourism but also protect this pristine product that we have,” he said. “We think taking these kind of steps and helping change habits by incentivizing people will help change their habits for the future.”
Plus, POW and Ski Utah want everyone to know how easy it is to use public transportation, considering everyone with a season pass in the Cottonwoods also has a free UTA pass. UTA has improved their bus service this year, meaning all day service to resorts from Powder Mountain to Sundance.
Also this year, POW Day teamed up with SNOCRU, a snowsports app that connects you to your friends while on the mountain. At the check-in tent, Ski Utah will help check people into the app to see just how many carbon emissions they will have reduced that day.
“This will give us a true number and something we can build off for years to come,” Marshall said.
While they did not track everyone who participated last year, Marshall said all 500 beanies were distributed, and they have doubled that amount this year.

c.webber@wasatchmag.com

Photo courtesy of Ski Utah

348

Read Article

Make Your ‘Mark

When I told people I was learning to telemark ski, I was met with a baffled, “Why?!” Why would I pick a quad-burning, knee-banging, slippery new sport with a learning curve when I could just continue on my merry downhill way?

The first time I slid spread-eagled down a slope, I admit I missed my alpine bindings. And the second time. And the third time. The truth is, for at least my entire first day out on tele gear, I felt like a baby giraffe on roller-skates—awkward, gangly, and confused. However, I was quite possibly the happiest baby giraffe around, because whenever I did drop into a clean turn, it felt absolutely fantastic.

After about three runs, fantastic became fatigue. All the downhill runs in the world cannot prepare you for the burn of well-linked telemark turns. It is possible to parallel telemark, or “paramark,” which means making turns on tele skis without dropping the heel in a full stance. This is a huge help especially when learning to avoid gassing out within your first hour free-heeling. However, even while paramarking, a well-balanced neutral stance is crucial to avoid flying forward and face-planting. If you can navigate a mogul field or drop a cliff with telemark bindings, rest assured you can do it on alpine bindings. It doesn’t take long on a pair of tele skis to realize that this sport will make you strong, well-balanced, and confident both on free-heel and fixed-heel equipment.

Once I was ready to try some softer, off-piste (ungroomed) snow, the fun really began. Frankly, I wasn’t fully committed to the whole telemark thing until I dropped a turn in powder and felt fresh snow hit my face. When you make telemark turns, you are alternating lunges. It seems obvious, but this results in a deeper crouch, bringing you closer to the snow compared to alpine skiing. In powder, this significantly improves your chances of getting those coveted face shots.

Out of powder a lower stance puts you in closer contact with the terrain of a slope; moguls feel bigger, steeps feel steeper. It’s more difficult to blast through features and you’ll likely take longer to get down the mountain. In the backcountry, after spending hours slogging up a slope this more prolonged descent means you’re going to get every last ounce of enjoyment returned from that sweaty climb you made.

Compared to regular alpine downhill bindings and boots, tele gear is light as a feather. The accordion-pleated toe in tele boots also accommodates a much more natural gait while walking. So, when you decide to take off your skis and boot-pack in resort, you’ll be amazed at the newfound ease and speed with which you find those last powder stashes. While alpine touring or randonnee equipment is comparable in weight, it can out-price decent telemark gear by hundreds of dollars. If you’re looking to break into the world of backcountry skiing without breaking the bank, telemarking is definitely worth a try.

After spending winter break getting the hang of telemarking, I’d say I now feel like a puppy on roller-skates instead of a baby giraffe. Alpine skiing is the easy choice, but I can attest there’s an exclusive coolness factor to telemarking. Competing bumper sticker slogans from the 1980’s say it best—“Free the heel, free the mind!” and “Drop knees, not bombs!” are met with “Fix the heel, fix the problem!” But one K2 sticker sums it up: “randonnée: French for can’t tele.”

c.simon@wasatchmag.com

331

Read Article