Telemark Lead change – ALC how to ski series – Alpine Phase?
Chapter 5 Alpine Phase in Telemark Lead Change?
What happens as our feet pass each other during the Lead Change
One debate within Telemark is whether or not there is an “Alpine Phase” during the Lead Change action. This would be a moment where the feet/boots are side by side as they pass each other and the person would be standing basically as an Alpine skier would stand. (from the side the boots would be flat to the ski).
I believe that although not “wrong” (I hate that word) as arguably nothing can be wrong, just inefficient or not very effective. However most good freeheelers I’ve skied with and photographed have no Alpine phase, or at least not all the time. Look at the extreme pictures of friends and colleagues of mine, mid LC on the move. As their feet pass each other their heels are way off the ground!
This isn’t something you try to make happen, it is something I’ve just noticed in effective Lead Changes over time and doesn’t have to be so extreme. This assertion was very well received at the 2011 Interski congress in St Anton, Austria where I delivered this idea to the rest of the Telemark world in clinics on the snow.
This is how a tennis player receiving serve can look after moving from the low stance while the server is getting ready to hit the ball, to a more upright stance that may be said to be “on the balls of their feet”. (See Alpine Stance and Balancing and Relating to other Sports).
I’m in white along with, Swiss, USA, Canada, Germany, Norway, Australia, NZ, Finland, Andorra and the rest of the world
The reason this happens may be down to the athlete anticipating and moving in the new direction of travel and the way the boots and bindings are made (Equipment issues) – the bellows of the boot and the connection to the binding create a spring-like action. Depending on the model used (especially when new) you may have to positively weight the heel to keep it down and in contact with the rear plate. If you lift your foot or ski off the snow the heel of the boot and the rear plate part company and tail of the ski hangs down.
Telemarkers that do have an Alpine phase can tend to have a stuttered or two-phased Lead Change (clunk/clunk). This is a small pause where the Lead Change movement has not been continued, either on both or one foot/leg. For a smoother action we need a one phased – a continuous forward movement of the rear foot, a continuous backward movement of the front foot or simultaneous movement (woosh/woosh) of the feet and skis passing each other. This is dependent on which type of lead change we’re using; push, pull or push/pull.
If you can moonwalk or if you watch a good dancer doing this, the heel of the stationary foot that is raised doesn’t go down until the flat one that is being dragged backward actually passes. And as the action is swapped there may be a moment when both heels are light or up.
(Tip) While standing still, choose a ski and slide it back and forth; can you notice, as the front foot is slid back your heel may quite naturally rise almost immediately, within a few centimetres or even millimetres of travel. Also try in reverse, as your foot goes forward it doesn’t naturally go flat immediately; as above it may not be flat until it has gone past the one not moving!
This happens in dancing due to fantastic skills, co-ordination and balancing. In Telemark this may be due to the spring or model of binding you’re using also. (Equipment)
This is very subtle and is an awareness drill or focus; you’re not trying to make it happen just seeing if and where it does. If your feet are flat, this is not wrong just different, there are many very skilful 2 phasers out there as well as very good Telemarkers with an Alpine phase now and again.
Smoother more fluid performers I have seen have light heels and are going with the mountain, with or ahead of the skis, projecting in the direction of travel (for-agonally, a mixture of the words forward and diagonally) so have more flow and flair to their movements with more dynamism. How high the heels are will depend on how committed to the next turn the skier is!
Note this doesn’t have to be because you ARE creating a light or upward LC, the pressure you may be feeling on the balls of your feet could be high.
Balls down/heels up, great for developing trust in the forward support that you CAN have in Telemark.
This pic is different to 2 above; as the Telemarker is deliberately “on the balls” and is staying there and turning!
If your upper body topples forward, Telemark bindings often offer no support whatsoever but if you bend at the knees and allow the hips to go forward or at least not fold at the waist to remain centred, you can over time learn to trust the boots and bindings and you can get a surprising amount of support. Here you’ll be more on the toes than the balls of your feet and relying totally on the equipment’s strength. It can also be painful or uncomfortable, as the bellows and toe-box may feel restrictive and tight due to being so forcefully flexed.
As you become accustomed to the support move until you’re more centred on the balls of your feet using skilful balancing and not just relying on the boots/bindings support.
As in Alpine, find centre consistently and accurately before trying to influence the stance and Lead Changing actions. Focus from front foot to back foot, using 50/50 in most situations then experimenting to be able to use any percentage to suit the situation i.e. more front foot on ice and more back foot in deep powder.
- Try it on one foot (an extension of Pink Panthers), then the other, be careful and choose terrain well
- Once aware and successful, notice if it happens in all the LC drills without trying to achieve it, remember it is a subtle and finesse-full idea
Conclusion, don’t try to make it happen just try to be aware if the heels are light as the feet pass, or that you’re maintaining pressure on the balls of your feet.
It can be hard to notice (invisible input or outcome) at times, even in pictures and video, as the heels could only be a millimetre off the rear plate. It may be a result of going with the momentum and direction you’re ultimately going in, downhill (forward and laterally across where your skis may be going). The opposite would be getting left behind the skis (upward and backwards of where the skis are going). The movements you are using should be continuous and smooth.
Maybe with the focus of light heels we could say that Telemark or freeheel skiing could have a new saying; instead of “free the heel, free the mind”, “free the heels, free the Lead Change”.
6. Tradition v Modernity in Telemark
Telemark, as stated before and in many fantastic books and articles online has its origin in Norway in the early 1800’s, when Sondre Norhiem revolutionised Skiing (it was all free-heel then – as good safety rear bindings didn’t really surface until the 1960’s).
We have hopefully moved on from the cliché or stereotype of Telemarkers wearing woolly jumpers and having to have a beard (men) or wearing full skirts (women)! If you look at old pictures or film, the stance was very long and low and commonly known today, as Norwegian. Many modern practitioners using today’s kit stand taller and shorter. This may be a nod to modern studies in biomechanics along with changes/improvements in equipment or their choice or preference.
The beauty of the sport for me is in the varied styles that you encounter (me in Japanese mode in the old days and 2 students using very different stances) and that are used between the two extremes of Norwegian-Modern. And the fact that YOU can choose how you look and want to look, within reason, unless trying to pass an exam or external forces impact on you.
If your preferred style is long and low, then you are not breaking any rules other than making it Biomechanically harder. As long as your body can cope with the extra stress, which it will have to, and you’re enjoying yourself go for it.
If your style is more modern the only criticism that can be levelled at you is that you’re;
- “not really Telemarking” Telelleling/Paramarking
- “not putting enough effort into it”
- “in for a penalty in an F.I.S. race”
With all the advances in equipment why not take advantage and make it easy on your body sometimes?
What style is best then?
I say develop more than one style (be adaptable), explore the space between the two extremes. This will surely make you a more versatile and inventive Telemarker!? This is a bit like watching Buddy Guy easily and seamlessly impersonate Clapton, Hendrix, Santana or the late BB King when he plays live, while all the time having his own “style” too.
Modern life is rubbish?
Has the development in shaped skis, the NTN binding system and plastic 4 clip boots made Telemark: too easy, too supported or too Alpine than it was on leather boots and 2m+ misery stick skis?
Possibly, however – if we don’t move with the times we would still be on Birch twig or leather bindings and leather lace-up boots! Whatever set-up you use just try to be the most adaptable Telemark skier you can be and remember just Alpine skiing on Tele-kit is great for development of all skills (active and reactive) and balancing.
Conclusion, adopt your own style through experimentation to suit your personal preferences and morphology (build). Don’t become a cardboard cut-out copy of the Lau brothers or Jasmin Taylor just because they are the best or look cool, which of course they are, among many others.
Bumping into Phil Lau in Tignes and GB Telemark’s Jasmin T
Next; similarities between Snow sports to other Sports and Activities, can your other sport or activity help your snowsport learning?