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Learning to ski this winter, but can't decide between AT or Tele...

post #1 of 130
Thread Starter 

To preface, I'm 37 years old and I've been snowboarding for almost 20 years and for years have been saying I've been wanting to learn how to ski. I've been on Tele skis ONCE in my life at a resort, but basically just made downhill turns all day, and have been cross country skiing a handful of times. I have been in the backcountry a lot with ice and alpine climbing, but never on skis. 

 

I was almost dead set on an AT set up for it's simplicity and smaller learning curve compared to Tele. Tele has a much larger learning curve, but I think the payoff is int he aesthetics, because at least in my opinion, when you see a competent skier on a Tele set up, it just looks amazing. I've asked experienced friends who ski, friends who are guides, and ski/mountaineering shop workers their opinions, and it seems almost split evenly down the middle. 

 

My intent is for the first season to ski 95% in bounds/at resorts to get down the basics and take some lessons in the beginning, regardless of which type of set up I go with. I am WELL AWARE that skiing in the backcountry brings an entirely different skill set to the equation, and this isn't something that I'd be ready for my first season, and if I decide to Tele, that even ups the ante in the back country. So first season mostly at resorts, hoping to maybe try my hand at a hut trip, and possibly some very chill touring and skinning up super easy stuff, in or out of bounds. 

 

To be honest, I kind of think regular alpine turns are kind of boring, which is why I've always snowboarded. his isn't to criticize anyone, it's just my opinion, some like chocolate, some like vanilla, right? Just personal preference. I'm sure I'd get much better faster at making alpine turns compared to tele turns, but I'm leaning more toward tele because it just looks awesome and I'd love to learn how...

 

So what are your thoughts and opinions? Thanks in advance!

post #2 of 130

It sounds like you've already made your decision in your heart. Listen to your heart.

post #3 of 130
My impression is that most tele skiers started on alpine, but there is a tele couple here whose little kids are on tele skis, so I guess you can skip that step. But you might be taking the harder route of learning. What resources are in your area for lessons?
post #4 of 130
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by sibhusky View Post

My impression is that most tele skiers started on alpine, but there is a tele couple here whose little kids are on tele skis, so I guess you can skip that step. But you might be taking the harder route of learning. What resources are in your area for lessons?

I just don't see how it would help by starting to make alpine turns and then switching to Tele turns. In my mind (and this is just my opinion) it's like saying that if you want to learn how to play the banjo you should start by playing guitar. Doesn't make sense to me. Why not just jump right in and learn to play the banjo?! (BTW, I play both guitar and banjo). 

post #5 of 130

unless your getting a Technical Tele system..... Dynafits go much better uphill then any other tele set up and the At boots walk better as well.....

 

 

I think even the best tele turns looks rather undynmaic next to good apine skiers but then again alot of people do not exploit their equipment to the limits of what it can do either....

post #6 of 130
post #7 of 130

I know a snowboarder who went Tele for your reasons.

 

The learning curve is a bitch, and leg strength is paramount to success in the steep and deep.

 

While it is rewarding to genuflect with every change in direction, the rewards are less sweet and the legs weaker once you get into the double blacks and crud.  

 

If you do have thighs of compressed steel springs, maybe Tele is for you, if not, and you are unable/unwilling to develop those strength skills, tele just makes no sense whatsoever.

 

Sure anyone can make nice tele turns on the groomers and look sleek and stylish, those turns begin to look a lot worse as conditions deteriorate and the pitch gets steeper.

 

Randonee = French for Can't Tele, I learned on Tele gear, and after fifteen years I tried a heel down setup and have not looked back since.

post #8 of 130

Without exception, the best telemark skiers I know and/or have met have strong alpine backgrounds FWIW. In the transition to teley, most will spend some time on every run doing parallel turns to find their fore/aft balance and experiment with what they think a telemark turn should be. Many have trouble initially weighting the rear ski, but figure it out. IME, very few middling intermediate alpine skiers will ever be very strong telemark skiers unless there's a tremendous increase on time on snow. There are just a ton of transferable skills from alpine TO telemark, and alpine is arguably easier for getting started, though I did see a guy who'd been a national level gymnast on telemark gear for his first time on skis ever, and in two days was getting down blues without much trouble, but this was an amazing exception to anything I've ever seen on skis. smile.gif

post #9 of 130
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Buttinski View Post

I know a snowboarder who went Tele for your reasons.

 

The learning curve is a bitch, and leg strength is paramount to success in the steep and deep.

 

While it is rewarding to genuflect with every change in direction, the rewards are less sweet and the legs weaker once you get into the double blacks and crud.  

 

If you do have thighs of compressed steel springs, maybe Tele is for you, if not, and you are unable/unwilling to develop those strength skills, tele just makes no sense whatsoever.

 

Sure anyone can make nice tele turns on the groomers and look sleek and stylish, those turns begin to look a lot worse as conditions deteriorate and the pitch gets steeper.

 

Randonee = French for Can't Tele, I learned on Tele gear, and after fifteen years I tried a heel down setup and have not looked back since.

THis is sort of the theme I do keep hearing I must admit (I used to work at a well-known mountaineering shop in Boulder, CO about 10-12 years ago and I was the only snowboarder there. They usually wouldn't even hire anyone who didn't ski, preferably Tele, and I heard the mantra, "Randonee = French for can't Tele" over and over! Maybe that subconsciously has seeped into my brain even after this many years, to make me think Tele is the way to go. I will admit, even though I do plenty of squats, deadlifts and olympic lifting, my legs are my weakest point. I'm 6'2, 185 and I can snatch bodyweight and overhead squat a bit more, but my back squat and deadlift suck (and major back surgery having a double discectomy and double hemi-laminectomy at L4-L5 & L5-S1 doesn't help either!) So maybe I need to rethink all of this and look into an AT setup a little more...

post #10 of 130
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by markojp View Post

Without exception, the best telemark skiers I know and/or have met have strong alpine backgrounds FWIW. In the transition to teley, most will spend some time on every run doing parallel turns to find their fore/aft balance and experiment with what they think a telemark turn should be. Many have trouble initially weighting the rear ski, but figure it out. IME, very few middling intermediate alpine skiers will ever be very strong telemark skiers unless there's a tremendous increase on time on snow. There are just a ton of transferable skills from alpine TO telemark, and alpine is arguably easier for getting started, though I did see a guy who'd been a national level gymnast on telemark gear for his first time on skis ever, and in two days was getting down blues without much trouble, but this was an amazing exception to anything I've ever seen on skis. smile.gif

So maybe AT is the way to go. I'll have a smaller learning curve, and this could probably equate to less frustration, which would also probably mean more fun, which is the whole point of all of this, right?!

post #11 of 130
What's to keep you from starting with AT and dabbling in Tele as you progress?
post #12 of 130
Quote:
Originally Posted by sbpark View Post

To preface, I'm 37 years old and I've been snowboarding for almost 20 years and for years have been saying I've been wanting to learn how to ski. I've been on Tele skis ONCE in my life at a resort, but basically just made downhill turns all day, and have been cross country skiing a handful of times. I have been in the backcountry a lot with ice and alpine climbing, but never on skis. 

 

I was almost dead set on an AT set up for it's simplicity and smaller learning curve compared to Tele. Tele has a much larger learning curve, but I think the payoff is int he aesthetics, because at least in my opinion, when you see a competent skier on a Tele set up, it just looks amazing. I've asked experienced friends who ski, friends who are guides, and ski/mountaineering shop workers their opinions, and it seems almost split evenly down the middle. 

 

My intent is for the first season to ski 95% in bounds/at resorts to get down the basics and take some lessons in the beginning, regardless of which type of set up I go with. I am WELL AWARE that skiing in the backcountry brings an entirely different skill set to the equation, and this isn't something that I'd be ready for my first season, and if I decide to Tele, that even ups the ante in the back country. So first season mostly at resorts, hoping to maybe try my hand at a hut trip, and possibly some very chill touring and skinning up super easy stuff, in or out of bounds. 

 

To be honest, I kind of think regular alpine turns are kind of boring, which is why I've always snowboarded. his isn't to criticize anyone, it's just my opinion, some like chocolate, some like vanilla, right? Just personal preference. I'm sure I'd get much better faster at making alpine turns compared to tele turns, but I'm leaning more toward tele because it just looks awesome and I'd love to learn how...

 

So what are your thoughts and opinions? Thanks in advance!

 

Yes, the grace of a tele skier who makes smooth turns is amazing.  The most memorable I ever saw was a 40-something fit guy in a gray pin-stripe three-piece suit and fedora doing tele down a bump run, smooth smooth smooth in oh-so-many-ways.  But impressing others is not why we ski, is it? 

 

1.  Tell the community here what it is that you love doing on a snowboard when you're alone and no one is watching.  What keeps exciting you after 20 years on a snowboard?  What's missing that makes you want to change your gear?  Remaining enthusiastic when you're on that learning curve is essential when you're a newb who can't do anything right at first.  Are you on a race board speeding down groomers, or in the park most of the time?  Doing aerials, bumps?  Or are you off-piste exploring backwoods territory???  

 

2.  What bores you when you watch alpine skiers moving down the hill; what important stuff is missing in what you see?  Who are you watching, the terminal intermediate recreational skiers who ski 10-20 days a year, or excellent skiers playing the mountain?  Are you only watching people on groomers?

 

3.  Most important, tele lessons are scarce in some parts.  Here in New England you're not going to be able to rent the gear at the mountain (in most places) to see if you like it, although renting is possible if you go to the right off-mountain shop.  Finding someone to give you lessons can be done but you don't just show up and ask; there may be only one instructor at the mountain and that person might be off that day.  Are you in New England, the Mid-Atlantic, or West Virginia?  The lesson situation might be much much better in your neighborhood.  Are you in Utah?  Have you looked into the logistics of getting tele lessons yet? 

 

4.  How many days on snow do you usually get now?  This matters when a learning curve is being discussed.  Sounds like your ultimate goal is to spend time in the backcountry, skinning up.  How many days per season are you shooting for, after your first season inbounds?

post #13 of 130
I will say that here, most of the videos of the day feature tele skiers. They are decidedly NOT on the groomers.
post #14 of 130
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by LiquidFeet View Post

 

Yes, the grace of a tele skier who makes smooth turns is amazing.  The most memorable I ever saw was a 40-something fit guy in a gray pin-stripe three-piece suit and fedora doing tele down a bump run, smooth smooth smooth in oh-so-many-ways.  But impressing others is not why we ski, is it? 

 

1.  Tell the community here what it is that you love doing on a snowboard when you're alone and no one is watching.  What keeps exciting you after 20 years on a snowboard?  What's missing that makes you want to change your gear?  Remaining enthusiastic when you're on that learning curve is essential when you're a newb who can't do anything right at first.  Are you on a race board speeding down groomers, or in the park most of the time?  Doing aerials, bumps?  Or are you off-piste exploring backwoods territory???  

 

2.  What bores you when you watch alpine skiers moving down the hill; what important stuff is missing in what you see?  Who are you watching, the terminal intermediate recreational skiers who ski 10-20 days a year, or excellent skiers playing the mountain?  Are you only watching people on groomers?

 

3.  Most important, tele lessons are scarce in some parts.  Here in New England you're not going to be able to rent the gear at the mountain (in most places) to see if you like it, although renting is possible if you go to the right off-mountain shop.  Finding someone to give you lessons can be done but you don't just show up and ask; there may be only one instructor at the mountain and that person might be off that day.  Are you in New England, the Mid-Atlantic, or West Virginia?  The lesson situation might be much much better in your neighborhood.  Are you in Utah?  Have you looked into the logistics of getting tele lessons yet? 

 

4.  How many days on snow do you usually get now?  This matters when a learning curve is being discussed.  Sounds like your ultimate goal is to spend time in the backcountry, skinning up.  How many days per season are you shooting for, after your first season inbounds?

First, I'd like to thank you for taking the time to write such a great reply, and you address some great points, and I'll do my best to answer your questions.

 

1. I enjoy snowboarding because it's just fun making turns on a board. I'm no speed demon or park person, I just like being in a nice place and in a visually awesome setting and making fun turns, love powder, and the occasional run through the trees as well. The main reason I want to change gear, and transition from boarding to skiing is versatility and accessibility. I hate crowds, and really want to work toward getting into the backcountry for touring, hut trips and eventually some fun descents. I prefer quality over quantity, meaning that I'd rather spend the day in the back country skinning to get one super fun run in, than spend the day in lift lines at a crowded resort. I personally think split boards are stupid and a big hassle, and don't see the attraction personally. All that work just to have a snowboard in the backcountry, when it's much more practical and efficient on skis. I had been an ice climber and alpine climber for years, and always wanted to learn how to ski to make approaches easier and quicker as well. It just seems like skiing is the more obvious choice over snowboarding if your goal is touring and getting into the backcountry. 

 

2. What bores me with alpine turns? I dunno, I just think snowboard and tele turns are more visually pleasing to my eye is all. Alpine turns seem very stressful and akward, while snoboarding seems more graceful and intuitive (coming from a surfing and skating background), and although tele turns don't seem to be intuitive in my mind, they are still graceful (when done properly). I'm never really impressed by the alpine skier who bombs down the hill making super quick turns, just to see how fast they can get down the hill. That's not my style (but this could also be said for tele skiers and snowboarders I guess!). When the conditions get steep and gnarly I'm impressed by anyone, regardless of what they are on; board, tele, AT or alpine set ups, as long as they do it with style and it looks good. 

 

3. I'm in Colorado, so I'm guessing that it would be a little easier to get tele lessons out here, but obviously not as easy at AT/alpine lessons. 

 

4. I work three days a week (full-time hours, some weekends, which means I have a lot of days off during the week) and have 4 days off a week. I have an Epic pass and plan on getting out as much as I can. I live in Denver, but have places to stay up in Summit County, so that makes things even easier. I am also considering picking up a set of cross country skis just to mix it up on days I want a change or to get a workout early in the morning or to avoid crowds. 

 

Thanks again for the awesome reply!

post #15 of 130
I'll start out by saying that to enjoy learning tele, you really have to want to do the turn because it's a slow and often frustrating process. But chicks definitely dig it. That said, it's a hell of a lot of fun and very rewarding - I think it's more fun than locked-heel, but sometimes the heel-down thing will get you through stuff that'd kick your tele ass. You'll progress faster in tele if you become a competent alpine skier first. markojp's quote below is good stuff.
Quote:
Originally Posted by markojp View Post

Without exception, the best telemark skiers I know and/or have met have strong alpine backgrounds FWIW. In the transition to teley, most will spend some time on every run doing parallel turns to find their fore/aft balance and experiment with what they think a telemark turn should be. Many have trouble initially weighting the rear ski, but figure it out. IME, very few middling intermediate alpine skiers will ever be very strong telemark skiers unless there's a tremendous increase on time on snow. There are just a ton of transferable skills from alpine TO telemark, and alpine is arguably easier for getting started, though I did see a guy who'd been a national level gymnast on telemark gear for his first time on skis ever, and in two days was getting down blues without much trouble, but this was an amazing exception to anything I've ever seen on skis. smile.gif

I'm on tele gear most of the time 'cause it's fun and chicks dig it. and I parallel turn on that when I feel like it, and I have AT gear that I use when I want lighter gear, easier touring, and the security of a fixed-heel.

And just because it's funny, here's a video by someone the went back:
post #16 of 130
Thread Starter 

ANd I just wanted to add what one friend of mine told me, who is a snowboarder who also switched to telemark a few years ago, and he's admittedly not the greatest telemark skier. He said, "I'd rather made crappy telemark turns any day of the week instead of competent alpine turns..."

post #17 of 130
Quote:
Originally Posted by sibhusky View Post

I will say that here, most of the videos of the day feature tele skiers. They are decidedly NOT on the groomers.

 

Interesting point... There's nothing better than a tele turn in smooth, untracked powder... very surfy feeling, and to explain it to a snowboarder, it's like front turns all the time in deep snow. Where I used to live, we had that a lot, so teley gear was very much the 'feel good' go to. Skiing in chopped up crud and bumps at a typical N.A. resort? Not so much, but there are places like Whistler/BC that have so much terrain you can usually find something sometimes especially if touring outside of the area boundary is an option. Last season, I had one day out of about 60-70 that I really really wished I'd had my tele gear on when I was alpining... buttery smooth underneath and let it rip kind of day.

post #18 of 130
There have been many videos I said, where the heck is THAT? Because they're in some little out of bounds but within permit area stash. But, by and large, we don't have many moguls and there's almost always fresh stuff somewhere.

I admit to not seeing many (any?) tele skiers on Black Bear, Marmot, or Mully's, but why would they when they can handle those tight trees better than most?
post #19 of 130

If there isn't much skier traffic and lot's of fresh snow, teley is great! smile.gif

post #20 of 130

I really prefer the term "free heel" to "telemark" - so does Paul Parker, from whom you can learn much more than me: http://www.amazon.com/Free-Heel-Skiing-Techniques-Conditions-Mountaineers/dp/0898867754

 

I really prefer free heel gear to AT (or alpine) gear, because it allows me to make any kind of turn I want.  AT gear is good for parallel turns, period.  In your original post you nailed it: "regular alpine" (ie, parallel) turns are boring.  Tele turns don't just look good (and in my case, they don't!) - they FEEL good.  On free heel gear you can do whatever turns you want: parallel, telemark, "monomark", high stance tele, low stance tele, reversa-mark, switch tele, switch parallel. Or my personal specialty, FOF (flat on face) or FTT (face to tree).  Ii's all pretty much fun, save those last two.

 

You'll encounter far fewer tele-purists who demand 100% tele turns in person than on the interwebs.  And you can ignore them.

 

Newer tele gear really performs well in both parallel and telemark mode.  I'm thinking of NTN in particular and if you're starting from scratch can't think of any reason (except the cost) not to go NTN from the start.  But the 75mm gear is solid too and a lesser investment.

post #21 of 130
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Lee View Post


And just because it's funny, here's a video by someone the went back:

 

"One ice axe to hit snowboarders and a carabiner 'cause it looks cool!" roflmao.gif

post #22 of 130
Quote:
Originally Posted by ts01 View Post

I really prefer the term "free heel" to "telemark" - so does Paul Parker, from whom you can learn much more than me: http://www.amazon.com/Free-Heel-Skiing-Techniques-Conditions-Mountaineers/dp/0898867754

 

I really prefer free heel gear to AT (or alpine) gear, because it allows me to make any kind of turn I want.  AT gear is good for parallel turns, period.  In your original post you nailed it: "regular alpine" (ie, parallel) turns are boring.  Tele turns don't just look good (and in my case, they don't!) - they FEEL good.  On free heel gear you can do whatever turns you want: parallel, telemark, "monomark", high stance tele, low stance tele, reversa-mark, switch tele, switch parallel. Or my personal specialty, FOF (flat on face) or FTT (face to tree).  Ii's all pretty much fun, save those last two.

 

You'll encounter far fewer tele-purists who demand 100% tele turns in person than on the interwebs.  And you can ignore them.

 

Newer tele gear really performs well in both parallel and telemark mode.  I'm thinking of NTN in particular and if you're starting from scratch can't think of any reason (except the cost) not to go NTN from the start.  But the 75mm gear is solid too and a lesser investment.

 

 

I don't know that most of the people in Paul's book care much what you call it, but it seems to matter tremendously to quite a few on the interwebz     :)

post #23 of 130
Quote:
Originally Posted by markojp View Post

If there isn't much skier traffic and lot's of fresh snow, everything is great! smile.gif

FIFY
post #24 of 130

I can't help feeling like this OP is trolling to a certain extent. Somebody who has never been on skis before, but is asking if he should consider AT gear? Seems rather ridiculous, honestly. If you've never skied before, you shouldn't be considering AT at all. By the time you're proficient enough on skis to make use of AT gear, you'll have gone through your first set of gear in any case (a few years at least). If you want to try try tele, that's great. But you're not going to be using tele for skinning to backcountry lines anytime soon either. And frankly, the dig about how alpine skiing just looks boring, seems like he's trying to get a rise out of somebody. 

 

If you really want to access BC lines in the shortest time possible, don't get AT, don't get tele, get a splitboard. 

post #25 of 130
Quote:
Originally Posted by sbpark View Post

ANd I just wanted to add what one friend of mine told me, who is a snowboarder who also switched to telemark a few years ago, and he's admittedly not the greatest telemark skier. He said, "I'd rather made crappy telemark turns any day of the week instead of competent alpine turns..."


Apparently 98% of teleskiers agree!
post #26 of 130
Quote:
Originally Posted by freeski919 View Post

I can't help feeling like this OP is trolling to a certain extent. Somebody who has never been on skis before, but is asking if he should consider AT gear?

I've seen this happen so many times with snowboarders. In fact, tele skiers seem to be the only skiers boarders will talk to in the lift line. Fact.
post #27 of 130

tele skiing is a handicap, watching powder whore production the turns look as if they could never get any pop or redound out of the skis at all and were basically SG turning low angle turns in the fall line.

 

simply put even the best tele skier on my mountain could never match my speed skiing anywhere let alone the sideways energy, and I am far from the best (alpine) skier on this hill......

 

good to great alpiner are not boring to watch.

 

 

we can do things that are physically impossible to do on tele skis.

post #28 of 130
Quote:
Originally Posted by Josh Matta View Post

tele skiing is a handicap....

So is egotism.
post #29 of 130
Quote:
Originally Posted by Josh Matta View Post

tele skiing is a handicap, watching powder whore production the turns look as if they could never get any pop or redound out of the skis at all and were basically SG turning low angle turns in the fall line.

 

simply put even the best tele skier on my mountain could never match my speed skiing anywhere let alone the sideways energy, and I am far from the best (alpine) skier on this hill......

 

good to great alpiner are not boring to watch.

 

 

we can do things that are physically impossible to do on tele skis.

 

very nice video.  

post #30 of 130
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Lee View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by Josh Matta View Post

tele skiing is a handicap....

So is egotism.

Contrast that attitude with my neighbor, Reid:

http://www.skinet.com/skiing/car-sponsorship/2002/01/reid-sabin-freeheeling-speedster
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