The Alpine Ski vs.
Telemark Ski Question
Is it OK to use my old alpine skis for telemark?
The answer in a nutshell is yes, absolutely. This practice is rather frequent for the budget minded telemarkers who are just converting over to the sport. But there are differences, and they’re not all that subtle.
– When trying to decide if an alpine ski will work for telemark, keep this in mind, you’re looking for a rounded, even flex, nothing too snappy or too stiff.
What’s the difference between them?
This question could keep a room full of telemark enthusiasts busy for weeks. In many ways, there were big differences in the past. Telemark skis used to have more side cut than an alpine ski, and had that soft, even flex. They also used to be lighter and thinner so that those leather boots could drive the ski. But as we now see, both Alpine skis and Telemark skis have gotten fatter and increased side cut. In fact, companies like K2, Atomic and Rossignol wouldn’t be in the tele market if they weren’t using the same technology and equipment that they use to make their alpine stuff – namely core construction and molds. The telemark world isn’t yet big enough to make it feasible for the big players to make tele specific molds. With the exception of our local playground here in Crested Butte and places like Mad River Glen, Alpine skiers still dominate the landscape – much as we would like it to be otherwise.
So companies will continue to try and get the most out of their alpine molds and tele skis will continue to be shaped like their alpine counterparts… the K2 Super Stinx will look like the Mod X, the Totally Piste will look like a Patriot G4, Rossignol has gone even further by renaming its tele line T1, T2, T3, and T4 (no relations to Scarpa, of course) to match its alpine line naming conventions. (Note to Rossi telemark marketing department: please, please, please don’t do that to us again. Give us graphics and ski names that match the quality of your skis and don’t look and sound like something that went straight from R&D onto our ski wall.)
Just because they look alike doesn’t mean they ski alike!
All that being said, skis that are shaped alike don’t, by any means, perform alike. Alpine skis are made to flex with the idea that when you turn your putting 90% or more of your weight on your downhill ski to make it flex. In contrast, a telemark ski is designed to flex in a way that complements a tele turn where our weight is distributed much more evenly – like 50/50. This weight distribution allows us to flex the trailing/uphill ski. An alpine ski that is too stiff (or one where the stiffness is all loaded up in the wrong place) won’t allow you flex your uphill ski and will not allow you to make the perfect tele turn we all strive for.
In order to create the “rounder” more even and sometimes softer flex that telemark skiers crave, alpine skis are tweaked via their construction materials. K2 as an example uses Spruce wood cores in their tele skis and Fir wood cores in their alpine line. Some companies lay in one less layer of fiberglass or one less layer of metal.
So, what should you buy?
There’s no doubt, we believe that if you want to make great tele turns you should ski on one of the many great tele specific skis. We think you’ll appreciate the flex and performance of a ski created specifically for the way we ski. Alpine skis will work for most folks, for sure. If you’ve got an old pair and you want to mount ‘em up with a tele-binding and get into the sport, don’t hesitate. If that is what it takes to free your heels, go for it. After you get hooked, start reading the reviews on skitele.com, find the tele specific ski that suits you and come see us at www.telemarkski.com for some “real” stuff.