Telemark actually refers to a type of turn, not a type of skiing, even though its name has become synonymous with the latter. The word “telemark” comes from a county in Norway where Sondre Norheim first invented the turn 150 years ago. Norheim is widely credited with the introduction of both telemark and alpine skiing.
Although there is no formula for making a correct tele turn, there are a few criteria that must be met to actually call a turn a telemark turn. First, and most importantly, the hell of the boot must not be attached to the ski. Hence, the oft used nickname, “free-heel” skiing. Second, the skier must be descending a slope. Yes, it’s obvious but important nonetheless. And finally, the skier must separate the skis, one moving forward and the other moving back, forcing the knees to bend.
Since the nature of the tele turn involves much more bodily movement than the alpine turn, it lends itself to a variety of different styles. Some drop their trailing knee all the way down to the ski, while others only drop a couple of inches. Ultimately, there is no right or wrong way to do a telemark turn.