Taking skiing to the next level
Location: Pyhä ski resort
The only glimpse into the work of telemark skiing for me previous to this was the rare lunatic you'd sometimes spot in the Austrian alps lunging his way gracefully down the slopes wondering what the hell he was on. Its a bit of a niche sport in the Alps but up here in the nordic countries it's a lot more common to find people telemark skiing. It's actually named after a place in Norway where it was invented. With the use of the 'free heel' I guess the appeal of Telemark skiing used to lie in access, by attaching skins to the bottom of the skis you can travel uphill easily, but nowadays you can get lightweight touring skis that do the same job.
Our instructor for the week was Jani Johansen, a Finnish Telemark Champion. One of those effortless looking skiers who make it look super easy. The first day was spent just getting to grips with the skis, and basic control of them. At this stage in the trip we had done some cross county skiing, traditional style - but this was a different ball game.
Pyhä was a beautiful resort, quite small but its perfect if you're learning something new. By the second day Jani was already taking a few of us off piste into the trees where any confidence we'd gained from the piste quickly dissolved in the form of endless faceplates. The great thing about Finland being so flat is that you don't have to go very high to get stunning views. The days were getting longer and longer each day and the sunset periods were my favourite. The enchanting colours that filled the sky as you lunged majestically down the hill were...well none existent because it was more of a disjointed shuffle. But still the views were awesome.
Once I got a bit of rhythm and flow I could really see the attraction of telemark style. My best trick of the week was learning to do a tele style hockey stop. To be honest some afternoons once the legs were burnt out I would just ski down normally and just doing a large over the top stop tele stop. I was surprised how easy it was to use the tele skis like regular downhill skis. Of course its not as stable but you aren't forced into making a tele turn...so you do have to force yourself at times, especially when it gets a bit steep.
I was just so happy to be on the slopes, this was a place I knew. My original winter happy place. And it felt great to be learning another new winter skill, the tele style should also help with the self supported ski tour we were heading on the week after. Each day after our tele lessons I couldn't resist heading out for some runs on the snowboard. I really enjoyed our time in Phyä, we stayed in Hotel Pyhätunturi, which was right on the slopes, the food was great and the view from the room each morning was beautiful.
Despite being a snowboarder through and through I really enjoyed my week on skis, Its always good to try out new things and it was great to have an instructor who pushed you, and put us in situations where we just had to go for it. If you ever get the chance to give telemark skiing a go - do it! It's good fun, very physical but a great challenge.