As a beginning telemarker you can learn the turn on just about any gear that has a free heel. However, there are noticeable advantages to a good tele setup, and if you are serious about learning to tele ski, it might be worth the investment. I’m not saying you should go out and buy $1000 worth of tele gear, I’m simply saying, the cross-country skis with 3-pin bindings and low-cut leather boots you found in your uncles garage might not be the easiest setup to learn on.
Here’s the lowdown on tele gear for the beginner:
The skis are the most import piece of gear for a beginning telemarker. They should either be alpine or telemark skis and should be relatively wide and not too long. Avoid using cross-country skis, as they are too thin and the excessive camber make them very difficult to turn. Alpine and telemark skis are in most cases very similar and both can be used for telemark skiing. The main difference is telemark skis are usually not as stiff as their alpine counterpart.
A new pair of alpine or telemark skis costs between $300 and $800, but a sale will often cut the price to $200. If you don’t have the cash to buy new, check out gear swaps or shops that are selling used rental gear. Another option is ebay. I’ve bought two pairs of skis on ebay, and both turned out to be great deals. It is perfectly reasonable to find a pair of old, shaped alpine skis for under $50.
For the beginner, the binding makes less of a difference than the skis. Any binding that will hold your boot tightly will work.
New bindings will run you anywhere from $100 to $300, but older models will often be listed for under $100. Also, keep in mind that you’ll get a better deal if you can find bindings that are already mounted on skis.
The most import thing to look for in a boot is one that fits you well. Both plastic and leather boots will work for the beginner as long as they fit. If you’re serious about learning to telemark, it might be worth it to invest in a good pair of plastic boots. Once you’re comfortable linking tele turns, a plastic boot will give you much more support and control.
Both new leather and new plastic boots will cost between $200 and $500, however, you can often find a pair of old leather boots for $25.
Renting is probably the best option for the first time telemark skier. It lets you get a feel for the sport without spending a bunch of money on your own telemark setup.