Telemark Lead Change skills and drills – ALC how to ski series

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Telemark Lead Change skills and drills – ALC how to ski series

Chapter 4 Telemark Lead Change skills part 1

Lead Change – Lead Changing

Switching, Swapping, call it what you will.. sliding feet back and forth

When someone sees a Telemark skier for the first time they may think it is either;

  • An alpine skier with a broken binding
  • A really strange style
  • The most impressive or graceful thing they’ve seen on snow

ALC for blog 2

The term Lead Change is used to describe the movements used to transfer from one Telemark stance or shape (left foot forward) through to the other one (right foot forward), balancing or re-balancing, all while the skis are moving or turning.

I believe it was based on walking downhill, hence the name Lead Change (LC).

Ch-ch-ch changes

It has, along with the stance itself, evolved a little in the past, mainly due to advances to equipment: skis, boots and bindings. Other changes are down to the study into biomechanics (or how the body works) giving us more true information into what works effectively, efficiently and why. In the past things were just handed down to instructors from the previous teaching generation and just accepted by the new one, without question. Nowadays there is more science and study to back up what we do and teach.




I have to say though that in my time as a Telemark or “Freeheel” skier I have always been most impressed by the guys who can do it all on what might be considered old fashioned gear: leather boots and two metre skinny skis, without all the benefits of the new modern plastic four clip boots, NTN system and shaped skis (See Equipment issues).

telemark lead change


Me back in the Soldeu, Andorra days of 2m skinnies but plastic Scarpa T2 boots by this time, replacing my leather ones.

These skis would’ve been Tua 205 and almost without shape!






Put simply the LC should use smooth accurate movements from one biomechanically effective Telemark stance or shape to the other without pause or stutter leading to Lead Changing – constant movement. Although called LC, in some situations we can use different focuses to create variations.

Types of LC. There are generally thought to be 3 (that magic number again);

  • Walk, the rear foot is moved or slid along with the ski forward past the old lead foot.
  • Moonwalk, the lead foot is moved or slid along with the ski back past the old rear foot.
  • Simultaneous, a combination, the feet move/slide at the same time and pass each other equally.

These need to be experimented with as none is preferred but as we go through this chapter you’ll see how versatile we need to become. Which foot has the most pressure on it will be a factor as for example; if the front foot has the most weight/pressure on it then it will be easier to move the rear foot forward as you will be using the front foot as the fulcrum or lever point – akin to walking; we stand on one foot so we can move the other (See Drills later).

There are other qualities to these 3 types;

  • Length of stance; short, medium or long
  • Height of stance; tall, medium or small
  • Pressured or un-pressured
  • Speed or tempo of movements; slow, medium or fast
  • Simultaneous/Sequential movements, smooth or stuttered LC (See Alpine Phase)

tall and shortlong

1st image short and tall.                                                                                          2nd image long and low.

The 1st image skier’s shape could evolve into something similar to the 2nd and Vis/versa

BASI switch tele ZermattA skilful and inventive blend of all the above helps create versatile Lead Change.

As in Alpine we move or are balancing and moving in 3 planes, fore/aft, lateral and vertical and the LC action is no different. When blended skilfully these could be said to create a 4th dimension – a rotational LC. All of this has to be mastered whilst the skis are sliding down a slope and while turning. Choice of terrain will be a big factor in the success or failure, so choose wisely.



Affects where the weight is placed and pressure is felt (front foot, back foot or equal). Also the length of the stance and the speed of the LC due to the amount of movement used. Within the realms of LC these could be said to be sliding movements.


lateral oxoAffecting which ski has the most focus or weight/pressure on it along with whether the skis are flat or edged. Also whether the edging happens sequentially or simultaneously (co-ordination) with the fore/aft and vertical.

This will be when turning; the front foot will be tilted onto the big toe or inside edge represented by the black X and the rear foot pressure should be felt on the ball of the foot where the little toe joins represented by the yellow X.


Affects and controls pressure and should match and or be adapted to changing terrain (suspension).

All movements have to be used in harmony to create the 4th dimension of rotational balancing mentioned in Alpine section.

Input or Outcome?

So the Lead Change LC as an outcome depends on the blend or amount of each of these inputs. Lots of vertical movement can make the LC “light”. A more lateral movement might maintain pressure on the skis at the start. There is no right or wrong way, just different ways to suit the terrain or task. Through time and practice you can become more versatile and create different outcomes. The complexity of matching the LC inputs or movements while turning is high and will require skilful, co-ordination, rhythm and timing.

Living, breathing Lead Change LC

The main aim is to make your LC almost alive and become part of your autonomous system; like breathing or your heartbeat, something that just happens requiring no conscious thought process along with turning and reacting to terrain. To achieve this at first it will require positive conscious effort, however, it can be fine-tuned through practice and experimentation to make it versatile in all situations going through the learning phases (See Learning Curves). To create a living LC use the drills that follow.

Tip; patience, take time practicing along with good terrain choice and dedication will be extremely important! and rewarding.

Common Problems

  • The Lead Change action is rushed and is therefore over too soon, causing a dead spot
  • Two phasing, the movements are not synchronised again causing a dead-spot (See alpine phase)
  • Lack of pressure on the back foot, easy to notice as this ski comes off the snow as it goes backwards or bounces up and down off the snow or wobbles
  • Lack of light pressure on the front shin, easy to notice as the tip of the ski may be “light” or off the snow
  • One side is stronger/more adept than the other
  • Stance goes too long or low or not long or low enough (the last 2 may be a style or build issue or lack of balance, co-ordination and or commitment to the Telemark stance –Tele-llel/Para-mark)
  • The terrain chosen is too challenging

A Happy Telemark Stance and Lead Change will be easy to identify: smooth continuous movements, consistent width throughout between feet (no narrowing or widening or ploughing) and calm hands and arms.

Interesting fact; you can alpine on Tele kit but you can’t Tele on alpine kit!

In part 2 are some drills to help you make your Lead Change awesome!!!


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