Free-Heel Skiing


In alpine turns you vary your weight distribution between skis according to the snow conditions. Often—especially on hard snow—you’re skiing with your weight on one ski at a time. Telemark, however, is almost always a two-ski turn. The following tips focus on the back ski, as it’s the most often neglected.

These exercises will help you weight, control, and arc your back ski. Be patient; take your time. It’s important to think about these things one at a time. They are all exercises to achieve the same end—controlling and using the rear ski—so choose the one that works best for you.

  • Tuck your leg. If you feel as if your telemark stance is too long and spread out, you may not be able to properly weight the back ski. Think of pointing that back knee straight down at the ski; or pinch your buttocks together and your legs will naturally come together into a more “collected” stance.
  • Point your front knee like a headlight, shining it into each new turn.
  • Think “big toe, little toe.” Feel pressure on your edges under the big-toe side of your front foot, and the little-toe side of your back foot.
  • Drop your heel. Think of dropping your back heel closer to the ski, pressing on the ball of your back foot (little-toe side) instead of cranking up on your toes. Keep as much of that back foot on the ski as you can.
  • Relax and bend the ankle of your back leg through the turn. Flex it as much as you can. This will drop your heel and allow you to get more pressure on the ball of that rear foot.
  • Try edging both skis at the same time, emphasizing the uphill edge of the back ski.
  • When initiating a turn, slide your rear foot back rather than your front foot forward. This will keep you centered between your skis rather than too far forward, and will keep your rear ski doing much more of the work. It also helps on very steep slopes, reducing that feeling of diving down the hill and accelerating uncomfortably.
  • Once you are very comfortable with edging both skis at the same time, try initiating your turns with the inside edge of your back ski. Your front ski’s steering and edging should be a reflex action by now; think about your rear ski and starting your turns with the inside edge of that ski. Are you suing both skis? Get the most from them; get your money’s worth. There’s no sense in just using half a pair. Pressure, weight, and arc that back ski for rounder, more controlled turns. You won’t believe the difference.

-- Adapted from Free-Heel Skiing: Telemark and Parallel Techniques, Third Edition by Paul Parker, The Mountaineers Books

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