I often ski alone. I try to grab a 45 minute skin and lap, or 4-5 runs early, late, or between meetings. This week has not been my usual experience, as I was invited to join a group of friends in Park City, Utah, USA for 6 days during the Sundance Film Festival.
So, in these days, there have been a fair amount of group ski time. Since snow is thin, we’ve stuck to lift served, inbounds, which is a terrific way to spend time with friends and form new relationships.
Still, I’ve spent a lot of this ski trip alone, as well. Between arrivals, departures, movies, and the inevitable parties (I managed to attend none), I spent plenty of time, on piste (or off, as the case may be) letting muscles, equipment, snow, and gravity work their particular form of magic, that is, telemark skiing.
I haven’t seen many tele skiers; I’ve been somewhat surprised. In the California Sierra mountains where I live, there are usually a few, sometimes, quite a few of us – I certainly don’t stick out. And, lucky for me, some of my friends are absolutely phenomenal skiers. I get to learn a lot, which I hope gets passed on through these posts?
Monday, I decided to explore Canyons area. It’s been six days, five areas: Brighton (allows uphill travel, so we skinned up), Park City Mountain Resort, Deer Valley. Yesterday, I went to Snowbird.
I was having some fun on a long groomer that’s got a single serious pitch. The snow has warmed up to whipped cream perfection. A bluebird day between 7200 and 9000 feet. And, as usual, I even made a few turns where I felt that glorious combination of edge, snow, and gravity that feels almost weightless.
I was stopping a lot, as my legs don’t often ski all day for 5 days straight. I was definitely feeling some serious muscle fatigue. As I stood mid-run, admiring the sheer, awesome view from the ridge I’d been skiing, another tele skier appeared on the lift above me.
Tele skiers don’t always acknowledge each other. But we typically do. I’d already noticed a certain clannishness of the free heel tribe here in Utah. I suspect that this may be due to our fewer numbers in this region? I haven’t seen very many tele skiers.
Is there a sense of belonging since it takes some tenacity to learn this thing called telemark skiing? I don’t really know. But regularly, an instructor, a patrol, or a lift operator has reached out to me here to make contact. Interesting.
I often respond to fellow and sister practitioners of the art with, “Hey, another member of skiing’s lunatic fringe?” Which is usually received with a sardonic smile, as telemark skiing seems to perhaps have been eclipsed by advances in alpine touring gear. There are not so many learners presently; is tele skiing a dying art? (hope not!)
The skier responded positively to my quip and we we went our separate ways, he up, me down.
A short while later, he caught up with me on the descent. He also wanted to make regular stops; his need mostly from altitude, mine from sore legs!
Within a few runs, we’d breached most of the taboo subjects, certainly religion and politics. If one wants company on the lift, these are dangerous areas, ahem. But, it turns out that my new friend and, I hope, a long term skiing companion, Ting, and I are very resonant in far more ways than telemark skiing.
That kind of resonance, a fascination with the techie aspects of skiing added to his being a truly fine skier with any technique, combined with a mutual pace, and a wonderful, exploratory mind for fine conversation on lift and hill is a rare gift to me. It just doesn’t happen that often. So, despite my screaming legs, I kept skiing; I was having just too much fun! Thanks, Ting, my new friend from Northwest Connecticut. A truly fine day, the memory to be savoured.