Free-heelers unite |

Free-heelers unite

Matt Zalaznick
Women's telemark Clinic at Beaver Creek. 35mm

The latest session of the club, known as Tele-Tuesdays, drew 50 free-heeling telemarkers to Beaver Creek Mountain, despite that discipline’s famously spiritual distaste for crowds.

“Everyone I know who tele’s loves it,” Vail telemarker Claire Thacker said Tuesday before the club headed up Beaver Creek Mountain.

Tele-Tuesdays was created by Chris Amoroso of Mountain Quest sports, with assistance from the Coyote Cafe and the Beaver Creek Nordic Center. The first goal of the weekly series is simply to gather sometimes reclusive telemarkers to meet each other and ski together, Amoroso said. The second goal, he added, is to introduce alpine skiers and snowboarders to telemark skiing and give them a little free instruction. Tele-Tuesdays has volunteer instructors to ride with skiers new to the sport – and, perhaps, even a few telemarkers will get a date out of the Tuesday sessions.

Despite Tuesday’s friendly, up-beat gathering, however, beginning telemark skiers, like Vail’s Peter Mango, said they took up the discipline so they could get into the backcountry and away from mobs within the boundaries.

“I’m sick and tired of the cost and being on the mountain with all the crowds,” Mango said. “I want to do something different – to go anywhere I want. It’s the versatility.”

The group gathered at the Coyote Cafe Tuesday morning and then split up based on ability. The beginners went with the volunteer instructors while the more experienced headed toward the steeper slopes of Beaver Creek Mountain.

Jenna Boyd of Edwards was on telemark skis for only her second day.

“So far, I love it,” Boyd said. “There’s a lot more rhythm and flow to it than alpining.”

Jeffery D’Amico, an Eagle-Vail resident who also snowboards, said telemark skiing forces him to enjoy the mountain scenery.

“The main thing (telemark) skiing has done for me is slow me down,” D’Amico said. “I stop during a run and look around. It’s made me appreciate the mountain a little more.”

Watching telemark skiers free-heeling down the mountain inspired D’Amico to try it out, he said.

“I saw it done and I liked how elegant it looked,” D’Amico said. “I wouldn’t say I was immediately hooked, but once I started picking it up I really started enjoying it.”

Vail’s Patrick Willie said he was also drawn to telemark skiing by watching.

“The first time I saw someone telemarking, it was a ski patroller coming down Look Ma on a powder day,” Willie said. “He was just blowing through it and my jaw dropped.”

Willie, who started telemarking last season, said he’s achieved a bit of a spiritual balance starting from scratch.

“I want to be a beginner again –it’s humbling,” Willie said.

McKenna Berlanti of Beaver Creek said she has been alpine skiing since she was 3 years old. Telemark skiing has helped her recapture her childhood, she said.

“I wanted to feel like a kid again – falling down on my ass all day,” Berlanti said.

Tele-Tuesdays is on again Tuesday, when a $1,500 grand-prize telemark package will be awarded in a drawing. Sessions will be held on future Tuesdays based on attendance.

“On alpines, I just hit a plateau,” said Andrew Bickhard of Denver. “This is something different. It’s a new learning curve, which is a lot more fun.”

And powder days are almost more fun on telemark skis, Bickhard said.

“You float just as much,” he said. “Maybe a little more.”

There’s also stronger unity among telemarkers, despite their penchant for going solo, Bickhard said.

“It does seem like a little tighter group,” than alpine skiers and snowboarders, he said.

For some Tele-Tuesday participants, like Vail’s Clifton Macdaniel, skiing with your heels locked into bindings just got old.

“I’ve been alpining all my life,” Macdaniel said. “I wanted something else to do that would open up the backcountry so I could check it out.”

Social clubs aside, telemark skiing is still about solitude, Macdaniel said.

“Telemark skiers like to get away from the crowds and into the backcountry, be on their own and find fresh tracks,” he said.

Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 606, or via e-mail at

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