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New tele mag hits the streets

Bob Berwyn

Editor’s note: Long-time free-heel skier and correspondent Bob Berwyn contributed two articles to the inaugural issue of Telemark Skier.Old-school, granola-crunching telemarkers may be cringing a bit now that their chosen form of skiing has progressed to the point that it has its own magazine. But with the first issue of Telemark Skier on newsstands everywhere, it’s official what was once the esoteric expression of a counter-culture ski vibe has hit the mainstream, complete with slick, glossy full-page ads for gear, resort reviews and plenty of hype.The new mag, published as a one-time special edition, comes from the same folks that bring you Colouir, a backcountry oriented publication that had its grass-roots beginnings in southern California and is now based in Truckee, near Lake Tahoe. Publisher Craig Dostie and editor Matt Samelson, formerly a sports writer with the Summit Daily News, say they are already making plans for two editions of Telemark Skier for next season.Couloir offers some of the most respected and widely read reviews of telemark gear, and has done a great job of covering the evolving discipline. But trying to do justice to the freeheel action now taking place inbounds at ski areas could dilute Couloir’s focus on the backcountry, the subject that has been at the heart and soul of the magazine since it began as a one-page, black-and-white newsletter. So the new publication will try to specifically zero in on the freeheel niche.There’s plenty of discussion out there as to whether telemarking is currently experiencing a shift toward lift-served resort skiing, as opposed to being mainly backcountry activity. But the modern history of freeheeling shows that, since the turn was revived in the late 1970s in Crested Butte and a few other mountain pockets, it’s always been about trying to do it all on one pair of skis. Yes, there are freeheelers jibbing in the terrain parks, but you can be sure that many of them are quick to hit the backcountry access points if the snow is good on the other side of the ropes.Certainly, the level of services and activities at ski areas indicates a growing interest among resort guests. According to the National Ski Areas Association, about 75 percent of the country’s ski areas offer tele lessons, demo days or clinics. Free-heel programs have been well received in places like A-Basin and Vail, where nordic program coordinator Kelly Bradley says the turnout for women’s tele clinics has been incredible in the past couple of years.&quotIt’s a mountain thing,&quot Bradley says. &quotThe shaped tele skis followed along the trend of alpine gear, and with the plastic boots, it’s just so much easier to learn. People who are good alpine skiers and maybe just looking for a new challenge are getting into it.&quotBradley, who has been freeheeling for years, took over Vail’s Nordic school last season. &quotI had a hard time believing you could just jump right into it. I thought you had to use the softer gear to get a feel for it, but with the new boots and skis, people picking it up pretty quickly,&quot she says. &quotI got into one of the new Garmont (tele) boots and it was like, ‘Oh, wow.’ The flex is so much better than just five years ago.&quotThe new magazine won’t focus exclusively on the new school elements, though. Features include a profile of influential freeheelers like Dickie Hall, founder of the North American Telemark Organization, as well as Ben Dolenc, one of the hottest new-schoolers and member of Copper Mountain’s freeride team.There’s also a review of tele-friendly resorts, techniques for nailing tricks in the pipe, telemark gear and discussions on the relative merits of cable versus plate bindings and the future of plastic tele boots.And while it’s more fun to actually go out and ski than just read about it, it’s always nice to have some eye candy while waiting for the next big blizzard. Knowing Couloir’s reputation for including spectacular backcountry scenes, you can be sure that Telemark Skier will also feature some sweet photography.The jury is still out as to whether the world really needs another ski magazine, but in the meantime, head on over to your nearest ski or backcountry shop and check it out for yourself. Information is also available on the Web at http://www.telemarkskier.com.


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