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5 Essential Gear for Telemark Skiing

by John Hewitt Oct 31, 2008
Before leaving telemark tracks along the slopes, make sure you’ve got the right gear.

Telemark Skiing is less popular than downhill or even cross-country skiing, owing in part to the difficulty but also because of its niche status.

That wouldn’t be a problem, except for the fact that it makes the gear a lot more expensive and difficult to rent. If you’re ready to get on the slope, here’s the gear you’ll need to get started in this sport.

1. Boots

Boots. Obvious, right? When you’re telemarking, you need boots that best fit you and give you good performance, both unbound and bound. You will not be a happy skiier if you don’t get the fit right.

Expect to spend at least $500 on new boots, and if you’re buying everything at once, be sure that they work well with your choice of bindings. Brands to look for include Scarpa, Garmont and Crispi.

2. Skis

If you’ve been watching telemarkers from afar for years, you might be surprised to see what the newest skis look like. As time has gone on and materials science has advanced, telemarking skis have grown to resemble downhill ones.

Some have even used alpine skis for telemarking, but it’s not recommended – the style of skiing, even downhill, is very different in terms of weight distribution – you’ll be putting much more weight on your uphill ski with telemarking than in downhill. Expect to pay more than $400 for a pair.

Price: $499.95 | Karhu Spire Telemark Ski

3. Skins / Crampons

Skins and crampons are covers that you place on your telemarking skis to help them climb better. If you’re accustomed to cross-country, you’ll find that it’s far easier to get up hills – and mountains – with a good set of telemarking equipment.

Skins are made out of a synthetic material that helps your skis grip the snow. Crampons help you climb up icy, hard surfaces. Most of these fit the tips and tails of the ski.

Many people who are just getting into the hobby underestimate just how much these important pieces of equipment will cost. Expect to spend $100-200 on a set of skins alone.

4. Bindings

You can’t ski without something to attach your boots with. The type of binding that you run with for telemarking is arguably very important because of the dual-style of stiff and flexible you need to use.

Innovations are continually coming in, with Rottefella’s brand-new NTN binding system being an excellent example. The bindings are also rather pricey, going for $300 and up for new ones.

Before jumping into extreme conditions, be sure to get accustomed to a new set of bindings – it can be a very different experience depending on the style that you purchase.

5. Warm, Breathable Clothing

Any kind of skiing is an intense workout if you push yourself, but telemark skiing is something else entirely. Your goal when picking your clothing is to minimize mass while maximizing flexibility and insulation.

Unlike pure downhill skiing, in which it doesn’t matter so much if you pack on an extra 20 or 30 pounds of clothing, with telemark skiing you have to carry that extra weight uphill.

Layer thin underwear and consider forgoing a heavy outer jacket unless you’re facing extreme cold. As long as you have on a waterproof outer shell, you should be alright.

Community Connection

Looking to try telemark skiing? Check out our first timers’ guide – Free Your Heel, Free Your Mind: A First-Timer’s Guide to Telemark Skiing

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