How to Do Better Telemark Ski Turns

You've gotten telemark skis and boots. You've learned the basics of the telemark turn, and you can link some turns, too. Now it's time to take it to the next level! This article will guide you through some simple steps to becoming even better at turns. Before you know it, you'll be a master!


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    Have the right equipment. You'll need a good pair of modern telemark skis, cable bindings, and plastic boots. Even if you prefer more traditional gear, such as leather boots and skinny skis, you'll be doing yourself a favor by renting some sidecut skis and supportive plastic boots this time around. You won't regret it!
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    Know the basic telemark turn. This wikiHow is for those who've already had some training in the basic turns and can link at least a few slow turns.
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    Keep your hands in front of you and close together. Too many telemark skiers try to turn with their arms spread out. Having your arms far apart makes it harder to keep your upper body facing the fall line. By keeping your hands close together and in front, as if you're carrying a cafeteria tray, you're encouraged to keep your upper body facing downhill, even as your lower body turns to carve your skis.
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    Have your upper body always face downhill. It allows your body to coil and uncoil--like a spring--as your skis carve the turns and release between the turns. It makes it easier for you to release your skis and bring them around into the next turn.
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    "Gimme the ball!" Your posture and hand placement should feel as if you're crouching down slightly, asking your teammate on a basketball team to throw you the ball: hands out in front, knees bent, agile and loose.
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    Put as much weight as possible on your rear ski (the trailing ski as you're carving a turn). That's right: not your front ski that seems to be doing all the carving, but your rear ski. If you feel as if you're trying to put 80 to 90 percent of your body weight on your rear ski, you're probably in reality putting around 40 to 50 percent of your weight on that ski. It seems counterintuitive, but it works. You will get that rear ski--the one that's always shaky on you, or noodling around, or skidding off on its own--under control, and your turns will quickly improve.
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    Focus on "stepping back" with your trailing ski into a turn, instead of consciously "stepping forward" with your leading ski. This not only helps you control your rear ski, but makes you feel less nervous on steep terrain--you're not lunging forward into a scary void, but tucking your leg safely back into the mountain. The end result is the same: your leading ski will be in front of your trailing ski as you carve your tele turn.
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    Try to feel as if you're pinching a pencil between your ribcage and your hip as you're making your turn. This will help you carve with your lower skis. This will help you get your skis carving better: the top half of your body will be more upright, but your lower half--hip and legs--will be angled to better help you carve your skis.
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    Another good exercise to promote better carving is "big toe, little toe": try to think about pushing down on the big toe of your leading ski and the little toe of the trailing ski as you carve a turn.
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    Try exaggerating your knee bends. Many skiers think they're bending their knees a lot, but in fact they're not: their front leg is stiff. Telemark skiing is kind of like acting--a lot of people think they're overacting when in fact they're stiff and timid. The same goes for skiing: try overacting a little and it'll help you loosen up.
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    Keep your rear (trailing) ski under control. In addition to trying to push down on that rear ski, another exercise that can help is to take an extra glove or hat and pinch it between your legs as you're skiing. This forces you to keep your legs and knees closer together so you don't feel so "strung out."
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    Work on your pole placement. Keep your poles out in front of you, hands together, and pretend as if you're "shifting gears" with a gearshift lever, with a slight tap into the snow, as you allow your body to come up a bit to unweight your skis and shift into your next turn.


  • Don't get discouraged if your prowess deteriorates in unpredictable backcountry snow. That's normal.
  • Do lunges and other exercises to develop your quadricep muscles--they take a beating with telemark turns.
  • If you're in Colorado, join the Colorado Mountain Club and take their wonderful four-day (spread over four weeks) telemark skiing course! Two days at ski areas and two in the backcountry.
  • Practice at ski areas rather than the backcountry--the snow is more predictable, and you can get in lots of turns without exhausting yourself. Then start taking your newfound skills into the backcountry.
  • Take a full day lesson on telemark skiing from a professional instructor. You won't regret it - it'll be the best money you've ever spent.
  • The newer, shorter, and more sidecut telemark skis make turning much easier. Ditto for new, supportive plastic boots.


  • Take precautions for avalanches and bad weather in the backcountry!
  • Never ski alone in the backcountry! Always tell someone where you're going and when you expect to return.

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Categories: Snow Skiing