Selling Telemark: Lift the Heels
AND the Snowsports Industry
BY JIM SHAW
People may have been telemarking for hundreds of years or more, and although the technique began simply as a means to travel over snow, it has evolved into a sport for enthusiasts who mostly want to ski
downhill on lift-accessed runs.
Understanding why telemark skiers telemark – and where telemark skiers might
be “hiding” – might prompt ideas on how
to sell more telemark lessons and boost the
overall health of the snowsports industry.
In my experience, most telemark skiers
do not begin their “in bounds” skiing or
riding career as telemark skiers. They may
come to the ski area from the backcountry
as a way to enjoy more of the downhill
side of the sport. And it’s very likely they
come to telemark skiing from alpine skiing
or possibly snowboarding. If this is true,
then every alpine skier at your resort (and
maybe every snowboarder) could have a
telemark skier lurking within. And these
people already love sliding on snow!
It seems the first step in selling more
tele lessons is having something to sell.
But even before offering the service for
sale, it might be wise to boost the sports
image a bit because, frankly, I don’t think
the idea of telemark skiing ever enters
into the mind of most ski area guests. If I
mention telemark skiing to students while
I’m teaching an alpine lesson, more often
than not I have to explain what telemark
skiing is. For guests who are familiar
with the sport, the question seems to
be, “Do you give telemark lessons?”
Having certified telemark instructors on
the hill – who ski well and present an
impressive image – might be the first step
in developing telemark lesson business.
Good businesses plan, create, and train
for what they want to be in the future.
Beyond having certified telemark instructors
who get the image out there and teach
effective telemark lessons, there would need
to be equipment conveniently available at
a price comparable to that of alpine skiing
or snowboarding gear. The same holds true
for actual telemark lessons. It’s unreasonable
to expect that many people (alpine and
backcountry skiers or snowboarders ) will
take lessons and/or learn to telemark if
everything about the sport is more expensive
than their other already pricey options.
Uncovering the ‘Hidden’ Telemarker
With the barriers removed, telemark skiing could become an attractive option.
Instructors would benefit from finding
out where the potential students might
be hiding, helping those who “already
telemark” find how much better they
could be and making sure the “soon–to-be
telemark” skiers discover their inner
A good place to look for hidden telemark
skiers is at the upper level of lessons already
being taught. Telemark can offer the
opportunity for this group of skiers and
riders to experience entirely new sensations
on snow. After mastering whatever aspect
of skiing or riding they have enjoyed to
this point, telemark offers another way
to experience the mountain other than
bumps, racing, the park, etc. For example,
rather than trying to improve their skiing by
ripping through 12 bumps in a row instead
of just 10, they might try telemark because
it’s more of a novelty than anything else
they could do. In other words, students
might find telemarking more attractive
than becoming more proficient at what
they already do quite well.
Talented telemark skiers — like Intermountain Division’s Ann Schorling — are invaluable
ambassadors for the sport.