Telefest! February 01, 2020
On February 1st, I was up at 5am to make an extremely foggy trek to Camelback Mountain to meet up with most (if not all) of the telemark skiers in the area. This was my first Telefest, and being on the mountain with over a hundred other skiers with "funny bindings" was a really cool experience. To get us up the lift, we were herded into the ski school gate which bypassed the wait. Once assembled at the top, we set off as a big group, and I was suddenly skiing in a world where alpine bindings were never invented.
I was pretty happy to be able to keep up with all but the best skiers in the group. Many were either active patrollers, or had worked for resorts in the past. There was lots of fancy NTN gear. There doesn't seem to be anything wrong with my older 75mm bindings, but I'm a little afraid to try the new gear for fear of having to buy it. There was a big rack of demo skis and a van full of boots for anyone to try out (for free!).
While I was doing the group ski, there were beginner, intermediate clinics going on (also free), and a tele skier from Vermont came down to teach a women's clinic. There were a good number of ladies present, including one skier who amazed everyone with her super-low turns.
At around 10:30, we were at the base with everyone saying the word "lurk". Our poles were collected, and we were each handed a 7 foot bamboo pole. In Norway in the 1800's when telemark skiing was being invented, some early skiers used a single long pole instead of two short ones. Apparently, skiing with a lurk is somewhat of a right of passage for tele skiers, so we pushed and poked our way past the puzzled looks of the alpine skiers in line and somehow got on and off the lift with the big poles without hurting anyone.
Skiing with a lurk feels a bit like kayaking. You hold the lurk in front of you similarly to how you wield a paddle, and you dip each tip to initiate turns and not fall on your ass if you catch an edge. Your arms and shoulders are forced into a good downhill facing position, so there's also some value to it as a teaching aid. On flat ground, you pole like you're piloting a Venetian gondola. As if telemark skiers weren't weird enough!
After lunch, Camelback closed off one of the expert trails just for us. A patroller stood at the gap in the fencing and you had to have a free heel to enter! We'd wait until we got a good group assembled, then blast down and reassemble at the bottom of the steep pitch to spectate the others.
Around the time my legs were beginning to complain, the festivities moved to the base area for a raffle. Dozens of gift bags with t-shirts and other gear were given out, followed packs, jackets, goggles, and finally the big prizes: bindings and new skis. I won a gift bag and a nice pair of goggles for Lynn.
Overall, I had an amazing time. It was a super-friendly group, and I now have online connections with several of the guys I skied with. Some of the loudest cheers came for a guy who put on a pair of tele skis for the first time that day, and was cautiously picking his way down the expert trail. I was a little disappointed that the previously announced "skin up the mountain" event was cancelled. I'd modified by skins to fit my resort skis, and was curious how the heavy skis and boots would fare. Given the 40 degree temps, it would have been sweaty business, but perhaps it was for the best that we used the lifts.
If you're into tele, or are tele curious, this is the event for you.