A Family Adventure

Tyson, Emilie & Isaac

AMC Telemark Clinic

December 15, 2018
Emilie Phillips

“Jump turns down the moguls,” Shannon proscribed. I was enjoying the New Hampshire AMC ski leaders’ class so much that I’d demanded an exercise for this pitch of steep moguls. Loon Mountain generously sponsored our class. This annual clinic is usually called the “Tasse Clinic” because Jim Tasse teaches it. This year he wasn’t available, so the ski committee hired a different PSIA Telemark examiner, Shannon Belt.

Shannon explaining something

The clinic focuses both on personal improvement and teaching skills. It is also the first time many of us leaders have seen each other since April. We worked on our friendly teasing and jokes almost as much as our skiing.

In no particular order, here are some of the things I learned.

Lesson Structure

Shannon didn’t give specific lessons on how to teach, but over the day he made a bunch of comments.

Every lesson, he plans four runs as free skiing without drills.

  • first run of the day to warm up.
  • last run before lunch because people are too distracted to learn more.
  • first run after lunch to warm up again (and in our case deal with equipment issues).
  • last run of the day to prevent injuries from tired people.

I asked how he assembles enough exercises to cover a day. I have trouble filling a three hour cross country ski class. Shannon and Casey, riding the lift with me, suggested rather than filling the class with drills,  I need to give students more time to practice and internalize each exercise.

Shannon emphasized making sure your students are having fun, saying that’s much more important than drilling skills into them.


He also said the instructor needs to show off some. The students look to the instructor to see what they can aspire to. I’d never thought of that before, but it rings true. Whenever I have taken a class, I spend a lot of time watching the instructor to glean what they are doing.

Shannon’s last advice was, whenever you take something away from the students, you have to give something back. Say you are doing monomarks. You have taken away the lead change, so you should give the student easy terrain. That was the calculation Shannon made when we found ourselves at the top of the black diamond mogul run. The moguls and steepness were challenge enough. No use adding a drill on top.

Whirlybird Progression

I wouldn’t try this progression with beginners, but it works on a bunch of skills. The first few exercises need a modest slope.

  • side slips: side slip straight down the hill in a telemark stance. Keeping both hands downhill of your skis works on upper-lower body separation. You’ll need edge control to release the skis at the beginning and to control your speed as you descend. You’ll also need your weight centered. If it isn’t, you will slide forwards or backwards rather than straight down.
  • falling leaf: much the same as the alpine falling leaf, except holding a Telemark pose. This emphasizes dynamic fore aft weight control.
  • handle bar mustache: start like a falling leaf, when you pause at the end of a backward crescent, continue pivoting your ski tips through the fall line. Lead transition into a falling leaf on the other side. This mixes fore-aft control, edge control for the pivot, and the Telemark lead change
  • whirlybirds: skip the falling leaf section of the handlebar mustache and continue the pivot all the way around. Here’s another explanation. Right after Shannon demonstrated, I got it. But then when I tried again later in the day, I couldn’t remember which foot goes forward or when to lead change.

Valerio captured a video of whirlybird attempts.

Fore Aft Weight Continued

When I first learned the Telemark turn, I focused on exercises which moved my center of gravity back. Shannon gave us one such exercise — thumpers. You hold a Telemark pose, while repeatedly picking up the front ski and then thumping it back down on the snow. This exercise is best done on a traverse or a shallow slope.

Tony came back to ski with us

As I have progressed,  my weight has moved too far back. I’m the conservative blue skier who hangs back rather than the black diamond skier who leads boldly with the their body. Surprisingly, all but one of the rest of the group had their weight centered or back too. I wonder if the PSIA curriculum now teaches weight distribution better, or if the new ski leaders are choosing AT instead of Telemark.

Shannon had two exercises to move the center of gravity forward

  • As your pole tip touches the snow for your pole plant, push your hand forward and over. This ensures your arm doesn’t fall back and twist your torso uphill.
  • To correct slouching or excess bend at the hips, pretend to hold a $100 bill between your buttocks while skiing.

Previously I’d been taught the athletic stance meant slightly bending all joints, including rounded shoulders. Shannon emphasized erect posture with straight shoulders. That seemed to work well for me.

More Edge Control

Shannon called the next exercise “skiing like a cowboy”. You ski normal Telemark turns except you spread your feet apart side to side. Maintain a consistent lateral distance between your skis.

The wide stance helps with several things.

  • You have to control the edge angle independently on each foot to maintain consistent separation.
  • You must put equal weight on both feet, or you will topple over sideways.
Margaret resting for a moment

Margaret gave me the next tip. As usual, I edged by leaning instead of angulating. Margaret suggested pushing my hips out to feel the angulation.

We had our last discussion on edge transitions after the jump turns. My previous classes emphasized keeping constant pressure between the ski and the snow. Shannon wasn’t as dogmatic. He said it’s fine to unweight your skis to ease edge transitions. He suggested using the bumps to help pop my skis off the snow rather than choosing flatter routes.


Working with the snow made the last few runs of the day amazingly fun. By holding an upright posture, I used major muscle groups that still seemed fresh mid afternoon. The better posture also eased up on my joints.

The only problem is, not all the muscles I switched to in the afternoon were ready for Mach 10 black diamond moguls. They have been stiff and sore since. I’m still favoring one leg four days out.

All Photos


See also Valerio’s videos of  warming up in the morning and
some unusual early soft bumps.


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Comments (2)

  • The biggest perk of leading trips for the AMC is all the training. I post about the skiing classes, but there are also avalanche safety classes that I aught to take.