Skiing a telemark carve that can win a race is dancing a fine line. Sometimes, I turn heads because I make defying gravity on skis that don’t clamp your heels down seem natural. The rest of the time is probably when I impose the most lasting impression on passerbys. Most experienced telemark skiers can attest that teleing is just an act of constant recovery. They are convinced that falling is inevitable, and sometimes it is just that. You enter a turn that is doomed from the start, like signing up for a course with a teacher that older siblings have already ruined relations with. Why it is doomed is sometimes obvious. Other times, there is nothing to blame but the mysterious snow snake. No matter the reason, (effects do differ on the season) the feeling is the same.
I put my skis on edge and compress. They come around, then the ultimate catch-22. In between the last transition and this one, my skis have grown a mind of their own. They won’t let go, continuing to turn back up the hill. The mounting G-forces bring me into a deeper lunge. In an effort to stand upright, I put my weight on my front foot. My front ski slows the most miniscule amount under the greater weight and starts the chain reaction. I break at the waist, putting my inside hand down to push myself back up. Without any weight, my back ski takes a bounce and hits my front one – the last straw. Now, my front binding has hinged at the toe and I take a dive into the ground before me, like a kid sliding on my belly over a frozen lake. My inside hand dragging throughout the snow has transitioned to my inside forearm. I arch my back trying (fruitlessly) to keep the snow out of my face. Like trying to sprint in fine Caribbean sand, I plow further down. The sharp bite of cold snow first hits my lips, then I submerge fully, prone, with my skis clamped under my stomach like a skeleton competitor. By the time I untangle myself from my toboggan, snow has packed itself into every crevice: between my goggles and helmet, jacket and pants, chin and well, all down my front.
What happens next is important. Passerbys are bound to jump at the opportunity to be the fist on scene to help a downed ski racer. As I remove snow, (what hasn’t dripped into my boots already) they ask eagerly, “Are you OK? That didn’t look fun!”
“Don’t worry,” I always respond, “I was just demonstrating how to carve the perfect telemark turn on my nose. Maybe next time you can see the perfect carve on skis.”
^some training turns