No one's given me an answer to this question before so....i thought someone here might answer it for me
AT/Randonee. is the way to go for sure. 100%...
This was not historically the case perhaps; however gear has evolved and there is no question. There is certainly a romance and an "old boys club" appeal to the tele quest but it is not nearly as practical. Tele is way more physically demanding and energy draining. it rakes longer to get good. Pretty amazing rides can be had on tele and you can even catch the gurus doing pretty gnarly freestyle/aerial stuff BUT- the learning curve is bloody awful steep. I can ski way more intense stuff on my AT gear than many Tele skiers who are technically far superior to me. more control more power, and less exhausting.
The newer binding systems (especially the "tech" like dynafit and G3 have been pumping out) are light strong and DIN adjustable(in some models) I have been using the Onyx, they are a little heavier but i can free my heels without stepping out. they are phenomenal for exploring and i have had no issues riding either. if you plan on doing a lot of exploring you can even get boots that can unlock to have rearward flex for cross-country sections. lots of options.
Last winter a buddy of mine, who has only ever Telemark skied, switched with me to try out the AT system. he was overwhelmed by how much easier and how much more power he had.
Getting around the mountains is a dynamic venture, I find that AT is the best fit for ski mountaineering. I will say that if you do pull off a really clean tele turn it feels pretty awesome, and you can try to get street cred for doin shit the hard way.
just my two cents
Maybe I missed it, but where do you slot backcountry / blazing your own trail? I guess it could be any of the above...
I'm thinking of folks who ski on fields, golf courses (fore!), lakes, or just anywhere there is ungroomed trails. They may be hauling a sled, or just exploring. For the folks not living in mountainous regions, there isn't much downhill/turning, so telemark wouldn't apply.