A Family Adventure

Tyson, Emilie & Isaac

Skiing in the rain: ski leader Telemark clinic

December 14, 2019
Emilie Phillips

What’s surprising about this weekend, was that everyone showed up. 12 of us AMC-NH ski leaders came out to practice our Telemark turns in the rain. We did spend extra time on indoor discussions.

This trip is part of regular training provided by the NH AMC.

Lunch inside

PSIA (Professional Ski Instructors of America) says instructors should start every class with the skiers code of responsibility. Jim Tasse asked us to remember the code. Even with the help of an acronym, we struggled to figure out all the points.

  • Ski in control. Be able to avoid other people and objects.
  • People ahead of you have the right of way.
  • Always stop where you are visible from above.
  • Whenever starting downhill or merging into a trail, look uphill for traffic.
  • Always use devices to help prevent runaway equipment. (Several folks realized they had forgotten their leashes.)
  • Observe all signs and warnings.
  • Know how to use lifts

Official wording at National Ski Patrol

I proposed the ski committee ought to have a similar list of guidelines for our trips. Maybe something like this

  • group – we ski as a group, no one runs ahead. Wait for everyone at trail junctions. If we run into any problems, we will handle it as a group.
  • control – ski in control so you don’t hurt yourself or anyone else
  • safety – if you have a concern, voice it. Per avalanche protocol if one person vetos, the group doesn’t go
  • 10 essentials
  • leave no trace
  • nourishment – speak up if you need a food/water/layer/pee break. Any of those can become a safety problem if not addressed.
  • risk – the backcountry is inherently risky. Dial your skiing back compared to resort skiing.

Here is someone else’s backcountry skiers code of ethics. And one of our leaders mentioned this quote

Resorts are for offensive skiing, Backcountry for defensive skiing.

I don’t remember who was being quoted.

Next we covered PSIA’s new movement analysis framework. The old one was

  • Balance
  • Edging
  • Rotary
  • Pressure

The new fundamental movements model describes motions as

  • rotational
  • edging
  • fore-aft pressure
  • lateral pressure
  • magnitude of pressure

This new system makes a lot more sense to me. The old system described the goal — you should be balanced. The new system describes how to balance — move your weight forwards and backwards, or side to side. Match that to how you are edging and rotating the skis.

Circle ski

We also discussed an article in the latest 32 Degrees magazine comparing north American Telemark style to European style. The north Americans have a style that works well in all terrain. The European style focuses on racing. Jim Tasse accidentally implied that PSIA-west was more like the Europeans. To correct himself, he listed out every European country present at interski, down to tiny Romania. For the rest of the day we insisted on comparing PSIA-east style to PSIA-Romania style.

Out on the slopes it was wet. Several people wore neoprene shorts on under their ski pants. I wore my neoprene paddling gloves. Tyson wore his paddling gloves and paddling balaclava. The snow was surprisingly icy for how warm it was. The middle third of the trails had been scraped off and the wet snow pushed to the sides. I can ski well enough now that when I wanted to, I could zigzag down the applesauce on the sides. And when I wanted to, I could carve arcs across the ice in the middle.

Jim Tasse set up his usual drill that he runs for classes this big. He calls it the circle ski. Everyone stands on the side of the trail, spaced 5 feet apart. The instructor skis down first demonstrating some technique. Each student in turn follows the instructor down and stops at the edge of the trail 5 feet below the previous student. Eventually the instructor is again at the top, and they can ski down starting another drill. The goal is to do the exercise as directed, and to watch the other skiers and learn teaching skills. Jim suggested we watch people’s edging and lead transition. I have forgotten all the things we did by now, but here are some of my observations

  • people with a snappy lead change have troubles shuffling throughout the turn.
  • some people carve the turns, some people skid the whole turn, some people just skid the end of the turn.
  • people with an early lead change have trouble mono-marking
  • people may ski their alpine turns completely different from their telemark turns.

According to PSIA-east (and Jim), the lead change should be progressive, starting at the top of the turn, feet side-by-side in the middle of the turn, and continuing to a full telemark pose at the bottom of the turn. According to the reputed PSIA-Romania (and Telemark racers everywhere), the lead change should happen early, and the feet should be in a static Telemark pose by the middle of the turn. In either case, the edge transition should happen early in the turn.

This was my first time out on Telemark skis this winter. I seemed to be skiing ok. My feet didn’t relax until the afternoon. The three bits of feedback I got from Jim and my fellow students were

  • feet wider apart side-to-side
  • feet closer together front-to-back
  • more angulation earlier in the turn
Family at the end of the day

An hour before lifts closed, Isaac noticed it wasn’t raining any more and decided to come out skiing with us. We did three runs as a family.

All Photos