Nordic skiing is incredibly popular in and around the North Shore of Massachusetts. Alpine skiing is also very popular, taking residents to larger mountains farther north into New England. If there were a Venn diagram to illustrate those who practice Nordic skiing and those who practice alpine skiing, there would be a lot of overlap. Both sports are incredibly accessible in this part of the country.
Let’s consider a different Venn diagram. Put Nordic skiing, with its detached heel, long poles, and lighter skis, in one circle. Then, put Alpine skiing, with its fast pace and terrain, in the other circle. You might not think there’s much overlap—maybe just “two skis” or “two poles.” In reality, there’s an entirely different sport in that overlapping portion. It’s called Telemark skiing.
This type of skiing combines elements of Alpine and Nordic skiing. The skiers’ heels aren’t bound to their skis, which is reminiscent of Nordic skiing. However, this type of skiing is often practiced in alpine terrain; the detached heel allows athletes to ski up, across, and down the mountain. This is an effective, efficient, and fun ski technique, and if you’re already an experienced cross-country skier, your skills will easily transfer. If you’re an experienced Alpine skier, this is a brand new challenge.
Telemark skiing can also serve as a lighter, cheaper backcountry alternative. Practitioners can ski the backcountry with the same boots and skis used on lift-serviced slopes, adding only wax or skins to attach to the ski bases. It allows skiers to access powder without needing to spend hundreds of dollars to utilize a resort. While alpine skiers need special skis, boots, bindings, and skins, Telemarkers just need to add skins or wax. Uphill skiing, backcountry skiing, and “sidecountry skiing” are all increasing in popularity, and Telemark is the perfect way to tackle these trends.
If you’re interested in trying Telemark, there are several resources on the North Shore. The AMC Boston Chapter Ski Committee, for example, hosts friendly gatherings that often include either informal instruction or formal Tele clinics at Mount Wachusett. New England Telemark is an excellent resource for instruction and festivals, and Telemark East is a great online forum for quick tips and questions. If you’re already a ski fan, there’s no reason you shouldn’t try this interesting hybrid.