Old-School Telemarking Rises To New Heights In New Mexico
On a weekend powder day at Taos Ski Valley, some 60 skiers on the hill will be knee-dipping through the fluff on telemarking equipment.
The northern New Mexico resort is among a half-dozen mountains in the Rockies where free-heelers regularly come to ply their trade within the ropes. Tele-skiers like hard-core bumps, steeps, cliffs and tough terrain but, these days, they arrive with hi-tech equipment that resembles the Alpine variety more than ever.
“Since 1992, when floppy boots and three-pin bindings got modernized, it’s been a different sport,” tele-skier Jonah Salloway, who is also events and summer programs coordinator at Taos Ski Valley, told SnoCountry.com. “The skis are basically the same as Alpine with releasable bindings. Most people got into it when they went into the backcountry. It’s lightweight and fairly inexpensive.”
Taos offers a telemarking program with $39 a day equipment rentals, regular two-day camps, tele-ski weeks and Sunday clinics. Popular locals’ clinics also have a telemarking component for five lessons in a week.
“The parallel turn is now approachable for tele-skiers,” Salloway told us. “The skinny skis of the old days are gone, and we like to say, ‘It’s a turn, not a religion.’”
Over the hill at Sipapu Ski & Summer Resort, the ski school has instructors who specialize in teaching telemark techniques. In addition, the resort hosts several telemark-specific races and festivals during the season, including a skin-up, tele-ski down contest.
“There are a lot of tele-skiers in New Mexico,” TSV’s Salloway said, “and many like the idea of the old-school, purist, roots-of-skiing aspect."
Photo: Telemark skier at Taos Ski Valley (TSV/Kevin Rebholtz)