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Telemark Equipment

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The most critical difference between telemark and Alpine ski equipment lies in the bindings. Where Alpine bindings grip the toe and the heel of the boot, telemark bindings only hold the front of the foot, leaving the heel free to lift. Hence the affectionate term for telemarking - 'freeheeling'.

Most telemark bindings use a cable system like the one shown below, though it is also possible to use the 75mm three-pin Nordic Norm bindings (if you don't mind being called a "pinhead"). Always check that your boots and bindings are compatible before you get up the mountain.
[Photo: Baloo/Webon]

Traditional Cable binding

Because your foot lifts, you can't use a ski brake, so a safety strap attaches the ski to your leg in case the binding releases.

A revolutionary binding, the 'Skyhoy', was available last year for the first time. Despite being more expensive and heavier than other telemark bindings, it has three main advantages. It will release in a fall (unlike traditional cable and three-pin bindings), it is step-in step-out and it has incredible torsional rigidity giving greater control in the turn. The bindings are expected to have much more presence on the market this year than they did for the 1999/2000 season, when they suffered a few teething problems.

[Photo: Black Diamond]

The Skyhoy binding
[Photo: Campbell M Cassidy]

Telemark boots are also different from alpine boots. Not only are they designed to accommodate the cable or other sort of telemark binding used, but they are also much lighter and have a flexible sole to allow free heel movement.

A good boot should be supple longitudinally, but rigid laterally, not permitting the foot to twist to left or right. Boots have non-slip soles and modern boots come up a little above the ankle.


Traditional Telemark skis are soft, with long tips. They are narrower than Alpine skis, but broader than cross country. They may have edges for the whole length of the ski, or just for the part under the foot. Length would be 20-30cm longer than your height.

[Photo: K2]

However, nowadays most telemark skiers use alpine skis, very often choosing extreme carving or free skiing skis and simply mounting telemark bindings on them.

These are normal alpine poles, certainly far shorter than for cross-country, since the position during skiing is lower. Try elbow height minus 5cm.