Telemark Culture
January 12-13, 2002

I wish I could blame someone else for running over my pinkie with their skis, twice, but I can't.

In spite of the attempted de-fingering, I had a breakthrough weekend in telemark mode. I went from tentative tele-turns on greens to linked, confident (if still ungraceful), actual telemarking on blues. My parallel also improved dramatically.

There's a kind of snobbery about telemarking. It's undeniably harder than alpine skiing, and snowboarding? Well, there's the bumper sticker: "If it was easy, they'd call it snowboarding." Adherents usually see themselves at the top of the food chain. Even the old dig of being slow hippies is history, as modern tele gear allows one to parallel without sacrifice of performance. Or so I'm told. I'm a duffer, after all.

Pico is the little sister of 800 lb gorilla Killington. It tends to attract locals and those seeking respite from the crowds. It's a nice little mountain. They don't make much snow here, but the coverage was great. The half-foot or so just before we arrived and while we were there made for a cushy time. Not at all mellow at the top, but plenty for the intermediate at the bottom. There's not much for the true beginner, but that's an advantage. Plus, I got a discount lift ticket as part of the TeleFair 2002.

We were me, Scott, Rhianon and Craig. Rhianon was continuing the painful process of learning to snowboard. She began on this road at Thanksgiving with fellow inductees Robyn and Melanie. It was Scott's first time out this season.

Craig is an uber-athlete who doesn't ski well, but has skateboarded. We talked him into trying snowboarding. I say "we," but I mean Scott. Ever since he chided me for recruiting Jogen, I've been loathe to say anything to anyone. It really can be a painful process to learn. As Scott put it then "why would you want to inflict that on a friend?"

I've been good since. I needn't have worried. Craig is the man. He made it to blues on the second day. Cheeky bastard.

Right, where was I? Oh, flailing miserably on two free-heeled planks, on green terrain.

The TeleFair includes demo gear and nearly a whole day of instruction. It's a real bargain. For each of the two daily sessions, you are placed with others of similar ability. I was sui generis, in that I didn't really ski. I was definitely in the beginning/challenged group. I would stay there the whole weekend.

My instructors were a real pair. Brian couldn't walk. He had torn his MCL (median cruciate ligament -- some vital part of the knee you never want to hear from) just 10 days earlier. He was hobbling around, just off crutches. But he could tele fine. I don't understand it, but I witnessed and tried to learn.

Alan was also infirm. He carried his right arm in a plastic strap around his waist. He had injured it in an incident at Mad River Glen (where he's one of the co-op owners). He's a former member of the US Telemark Team and current Master's Mountain Bike Champ. So, one pole and obviously sensitive to falling, he led us down the mountain on the second day.

Things came together slowly. I managed to sort out (somewhat) my weak side problem. I was now almost equally ill adept in both directions! This did, in fact, cheer me up.

I also managed to learn how to flex my right ankle more consistently. Such a basic skill, and for my strong leg too. It really is the little things in life ...

There was a drawing at the conclusion of each day and despite odds of 1 in 2, I didn't win any of the nice gear. (although my hopes were raised when the first couple folks opted for socks and gloves instead of the nice backpack ...)

It seems to be one of my fates to be mistaken for someone interesting in the midst of incompetence. On this occasion, Alan, and his two students (including me) were just off the lift and about to commence the gravity thing when we were called to by a man with a large camera. A TV camera.

A radical dude named Glen Plake was shooting transition material for the Resort Sports Network. His producer wanted us to interact with him. We were the average joes.

Except that Alan is no regular joe. He's Charlotte Moats' father. Charlotte is a huge-time extreme skier, blazing a trail for other women to huck big air and give the boys what for. There was much mutual admiration (and I don't mean that snidely :)

Glen had been in town participating in the Big Air exhibition over at Killington. Today he and his crew came over to Pico to shoot their pieces. Glen, an avid backcountry tourer, couldn't resist the unattended Tele gear and made off with some demo equipment. He fessed up as soon as we allowed that we were part of the fest.

As part of the show, Glen will ask us in turn what the holes in the tips of our skis are for. We somehow know instinctively that this isn't a real test and we should make up bad answers. I get the good idea to answer that my dog ate my homework, but then I remember the cardinal rule of these types of close encounters: don't upstage the talent. So I give a really dumb answer and look disappointed when it is rebuffed.

It was hours later when I realized where I had seen Glen before. It was in the most recent Warren Miller film (Cold Fusion). He had a blue mohawk and was talking from a wooden deck with massive snow in the background. He had just finished some impossible-looking descent with a snowboarder. "If I could go back in time, it would be to just before snowboarding was invented." The crowd I saw Cold Fusion with was skier-heavy and didn't appreciate the subtlety of the remark. If I had remembered this sooner, I would have thanked him.

We always seemed to be giddy at our meals. On our return, Scott ignored his better instincts and ordered a steak at Friendlys. He got revenge by re-arranging it into a tableau too horrible to recount here. Our server arrived, as if on cue ...

"Hey, are you guys ..."

She was stopped mid-thought by the menacing countenance of inedible carrots stuck in extruded potatoes. She backed away slowly.

Brian Mohr is available for individual instruction:

See Alan Moats Bio. His daughter Charlotte is hot on and off the slopes.

Check the legend that is Glen Plake.