Telemark Skiing is Dead, Telemark Skiing is not Dead


 

All publicity is good publicity, right? Telemark skiing is admittedly a small sport, even if it is only for the moment. But which direction is it trending -- up or down? Is there a future in which one looks outward from the lift chair or lodge patio and sees mostly telemarkers? Let's take a look at some of the literature.

Telemark Skiing is Dead, aka Death-by-Alpine-Touring

In the winter of 2017, POWDER Magazine published an opinion piece titled "Telemark Skiing is Dead". Ever since then, this article has been popping up at the top of Google search results for "telemark skiing," sliding in at the number two spot just after Wikipedia. It's as if it's telling you, "Don't even bother scrolling." In short, here's why they say telemark skiing is dead:

  • Very little innovation in tele gear
  • Fewer young tele skiers
  • Many high-profile tele skiers have switched to alpine (downhill) or AT gear
  • Current tele gear is flawed
  • "Nobody cares that you tele": Tele is no longer a unique, counter-culture thing to do
  • Sales are going down

In other words, forget about telemarkers. You may as well let spellcheck continue to correct telemarkers in to telemarketers, and don't bother with it.

 

Telemark will Never Die

So, is tele really dead, or is it just in a coma / ghosting / on life support / a retro art that will come back some day? Several months later, Absolute Telemark responded with some insightful points:

  • There have been improvements in bindings (NTN, TTS) -- boots, on the other hand, could use a major upgrade
  • The whole ski industry is becoming pricier, and limited to a select crowd with more disposable income
  • Newcomers are attracted by the unique, smooth flow of telemark turns
  • Telemark brings together passionate people with different mindsets.

While this doesn't exactly add up to an expansive, fast-growing industry, perhaps that is not the right question after all. Even small numbers can mean something. Does the "small" group of telemarkers that are out there deeply care about the sport? Enough to push through the extra work of cobbling different equipment together, watching the best telemarkers switch to other gear, and explaining to your lift chair partner why your heels are unattached (if they even care to ask)?

To that, I think we know the answer.