The single best reason to learn to telemark?
“It makes a small mountain a lot bigger,” says Brian McCormick, a ski patroller at Wisp Resort in Maryland. “Wisp has 600 vertical feet, and I ski there two dozen days a year. I needed something to make it more interesting, so I started to telemark.”
Tapping into the telemark turn can transform our tame Appalachian mountains into behemoth peaks waiting to be conquered. Once you learn to telemark, you can do it anywhere given enough snow. Here are three prime telemark locations:
GARRETT COUNTY, MD
Located in the far western corner of Maryland, the mountainous Garrett County takes advantage of the Great Lakes’ Snow Effect, pulling in an average 100 inches of fluffy a year. The county is Maryland’s telemark hub, with acres of backcountry skiing at Savage River State Forest, on-piste action at Wisp Resort, and groomed cross-country and telemark trails at Backbone Ski Farm. Wisp offers private telemark lessons, and Backbone Farm has introductory telemark classes as well as backcountry telemark tours with descents boasting 1,000 vertical feet. backbonefarm.com.
For more information about Wisp Resort, check out http://basecamp.blueridgeoutdoors.com/?p=2562
ELK MOUNTAIN SKI RESORT, PENN.
The telemark scene at Elk Mountain is vibrant and growing, with a regular crew of freeheelers shredding Elk’s 1,000 feet of vertical. Once a year, telemark skiers take over the mountain during Elk’s Telemark Fest (Feb. 28), where you can check out the latest telemark gear, join a clinic, or compete in races. Elkskier.com.
CANAAN VALLEY, W.VA.
The undisputed king of telemark in the Mid-Atlantic, there are more backcountry powder stashes in this corner of West Virginia than anywhere else in the region, and the telemark vibe is strong. Check out Timberline Resort for private on-piste telemark lessons (timberlineresort.com) and a host of group telemark workshops. Their annual Telemark Fest (March 1) features a backcountry race and Nordic hash. For backcountry tours, telemark lessons, and more freeheeling fun than you can handle, head to Whitegrass. Twice a year, Dickie Hall chooses Whitegrass for NATO workshops and adventure tours (Telemark Workshop Jan. 24-25; Telemark Adventure Tour: Feb. 7-8; telemarknato.com).
You want to throw yourself into the freeheel culture head first? Hit Telepalooza, an annual telemark festival at Seven Springs Resort organized by the Appalachian Telemark Association. Beyond the standard clinics, demos, and revelry, Telepalooza features the biggest uphill/downhill race in the Mid-Atlantic. Ski up the mountain, ski down the mountain. First one to finish is king of the freeheelers. 7springs.com.