Randonee (AT) vs Telemarking?

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Randonee (AT) vs Telemarking?

Post by Cope346 » Mon Jul 01, 2019 9:48 am

I have been alpine skiing for a little over ten years and winter hiking for about 4. Seeing pictures of people out skiing in the backcountry seems to be the ultimate in winter travel. The fact that you can move faster and get a bit of a rush here and there seems like my next step in the outdoors. My question is, do people prefer Randonee (AT) or Telemarking? I am thinking with my alpine skiing background that Randonee seems like it would require less of a learning curve, but are there advantages to Telemarking? I do seem to notice that Telemarking gear seems less expensive. Can someone fill me in?

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Re: Randonee (AT) vs Telemarking?

Post by Johnny » Mon Jul 01, 2019 11:42 am

Alpine touring is utterly boring. And easy. Anyone can do it, hence the popularity.

Telemark is pure bliss, the culmination of a lifetime of truth seeking. The living end. But it does require a small learning curve... A learning curve that is growing exponentially more fun every year until your next life... (I can confirm that your hard-learned tele skills will get transfered into your next incarnation here...)

Your choice... ;)
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Re: Randonee (AT) vs Telemarking?

Post by lilcliffy » Mon Jul 01, 2019 12:33 pm

Welcome to our site!

To add to Johnny's excellent post-

I did a fair amount of big-mountain backcountry touring in the 90s in both AT and Telemark setups (I worked in the logging industry in BC and went on wilderness expeditions on my downtime with my close friend and mountain fanatic from Germany).

I am a lifelong Nordic skier- so I will always have that perspective on this matter- I not only don't like having my heel locked down- I hate touring in a boot that doesn't allow a natural foot flex!

I say this because I have known a number of Alpine skiers- my wife included- that are much more tolerant of touring in a boot with an Alpine sole. I have a close friend that occasionally comes backcountry touring with me that is willing to XC ski in his AT boots if we are planning on covering some significant vertical on our tour! (I must admit that is a bit annoying for the rest of us in the group- as he cannot keep up over distance in his AT setup!)

IMO/IME- AT setups excel in two dimensions- UP and DOWN. AT technology is designed to climb up the mountain- and ski back down- not cover distance. Can you XC ski in an AT setup? Sure you can- if you are willing to tolerate not being able to comfortably and effectively stride in a Nordic boot!

Nordic/Telemark setups offer the skier the ability to effectively and efficiently stride- the XC advantages of this cannot be understated! And with some commitment- and most importantly time and practice(!)- one can effectively ski downhill on even the most XC-focused of setups!

The Nordic ski spectrum is incredibly wide- from performance XC track skiing- to downhill-focused Telemark- and everything in between!

(I must admit here that I have effectively skied some big-mountain downhill conditions out west in AT gear that I do not think I would have attempted in my Telemark gear of the day! :shock: Today's most downhill-focused Telemark technology is pretty burly indeed- some of the NTN tech I have tested allows me to pretty much to use full-on Alpine-downhill technique!)

Other than the FUN FACTOR (I agree with Johhny BTW) an important question is what type of backcountry touring you want to do and where.

From a purely practical point of view- my opinion is that Telemark gear quickly outpaces AT when there is significant distance to cover. AND- yes- one can probably put up with XC skiing in an AT boot for a few hours- but on a multi-day trek? MURDER!

As an example of this issue from my past-
I once did a multi-day traverse from west of Valemont BC thru the Columbia Mtns (Cariboo Range) to just east of 100 Mile House with the German friend I mentioned. Despite the fact that the avalanche danger prevented us from skiing any extreme terrain- he convinced me that we would need the AT setups. As it turned out- although we downhill-skied some amazing terrain- we did an incredible amount of XC skiing and the AT boots were MURDEROUS. We would have been much better on our Telemark setups!!!

I see you are in Montreal- where do you plan on touring and on what kind of terrain?
Cross-country AND down-hill skiing in the backcountry.
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Re: Randonee (AT) vs Telemarking?

Post by Andinista » Mon Jul 01, 2019 6:17 pm

I wouldnt trust a telemarker for such answer. Neither an ATer, we both think our sport is the only thing that makes sense. That said, i (telemarker) will try to give an unbiased opinion, wich is not really possible:
On the light and efficient side, AT wins by far. There’s also heavier gear on steroids if its more your style. The offer is broader. And not more expensive.
Tele gear offer is more limited and you don’t really find light weight boots (older perhaps, but not the newer stuff). Today i think its more a market than a technology issue, we seem to be a small market, not enough to have plenty of choices. And the dominant buyer is the piste skier i believe.
Love for telemark comes from the turn, not from the uphill efficiency (and neither for the downhill efficiency). If you don’t feel the need to renew the passion for skiing, don’t look for telemark, you might end up frustrated. If you do, get ready to spend some time learning the turn, and once you love it, the efficiency discussion will not be as relevant anymore.

Edit: i was answering not having in mind XC skiing, i agree with the comment above about long distance trips with such gear. I’m not sure if everybody name it telemark though.

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Re: Randonee (AT) vs Telemarking?

Post by fisheater » Mon Jul 01, 2019 8:09 pm

Johnny and Lilcliffy gave great answers. Lilcliffy has a great manner of analysis and I generally either agree and and have admiration for his well thought out process. In this matter wouldn't consider adding to his post. I am not familiar with Andinista,however I thought he gave a great answer. To his answer, as a former alpine skier that doesn't even own any functional alpine gear any longer, I will add. Google the opening ceremony of the Lilliheimer Olympic opening ceremony. Make sure you watch it up to the point where the Telemarkers ski down the ski jump making turns. If that doesn't give you the Telemark jones, ski AT.

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Re: Randonee (AT) vs Telemarking?

Post by lowangle al » Mon Jul 01, 2019 11:49 pm

If you are in it as much for the hiking (touring) as the downhill you can go with telemark gear and do P turns and you won't have to learn new skills right off the bat.

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Re: Randonee (AT) vs Telemarking?

Post by Andinista » Tue Jul 02, 2019 8:11 am

Or even better, pay a fortune for Crispi boots + Meidjo bindings + its AT heel (no other, it needs to have no lateral resistance). Bindings are on the light side, without sacrificing any downhill performance. And being NTN, you can still use your AT or alpine gear. So you get pretty much all except light boots and XC lightness and efficiency.
I took that road and just inaugurated the gear last Sunday. After some deep introspection, meditation, mindfulness and self brain washing, I accepted that it’s okay to switch to alpine on the icy and steep slopes and then switch back as soon as I’m back to my limits on tele. So I enjoyed the mountain everywhere at its best.
I can confirm that alpine turn on tele is not as strong as on alpine (I always knew, but I could test it on the same slope with same gear now). Not saying that you can’t do parallel turns on tele, you can and it works, the only difference is that with alpine you can get rocket power. Also I can do more extreme carving on the groomers (the reason why I added the AT heels to the package), so plenty of new options for the hardpack.
Some of you are probably thinking I’m a bad or average skier, I’m not, I consider myself a decent advanced tele skier. I’m just messing with some of our taboos here. The traditional answer is that it doesn’t make sense to lock the heels at all, that good skiers have enough with the heels unlocked. It doesn’t for most conditions or styles but it does for others, that’s the truth that most of us don’t dare to tell.
Now with pow, different story, of course.

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Re: Randonee (AT) vs Telemarking?

Post by martin2007 » Tue Jul 02, 2019 10:45 am

Cope346, I see you're from Montreal. Beautiful city, we're here right now enjoying the music. Andinista seems as unbiased as a telemarker can be, and I believe he's right on. About 5 years ago I started tele skiing at resorts, Tremblant first, soon followed by Colorado where I now spend a good part of my winter. My background was XC, especially track skiing, and occasional alpine. I no longer have any alpine gear, and ski mainly backcountry all-purpose winter rec trails and resorts. The joy of tele is in the turn. For me it doesn't get better than tele turns in powder. And most of my turns are on resort slopes. As for the learning curve: there is one. It requires more effort and perseverance in the beginning, but what a payoff in pure skiing pleasure! For a person who can only get out in the mountains the occasional weekend, I'd admit that the prospects for becoming happy and confident on tele gear aren't as good as they'd be on alpine gear. The choice is similar to that in paddle sports. You can hop into a 10-foot plastic kayak and first time out make it go in a straight line with your double-blade. Almost no learning required. That's why the cheap plastic kayak market has boomed. Or you could buy a 15 or 16-foot canoe that will require several outings, some experimentation, some research, or some instruction to get it to follow a straight course. Learning cool stuff usually takes a few outings and some persistence. I paddle both kayaks and canoes, but for pure paddling pleasure on lakes of the Canadian Shield, canoes are hands-down the vessel of choice. Back to skiing (hey, Andinista, are you skiing somewhere south of the equator?): tele is declining in market share and popularity, whereas AT is expanding and innovatiing. Lots of AT folks AT-ing together. Tele, not so much...
Howdy all! Hope everyone's summer is going well so far!

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Re: Randonee (AT) vs Telemarking?

Post by Andinista » Tue Jul 02, 2019 12:34 pm

martin2007 wrote: For me it doesn't get better than tele turns in powder
That would be the short answer to the question, actually...
martin2007 wrote: hey, Andinista, are you skiing somewhere south of the equator?
Yes I am, I live in Chile. Not a good winter start in the central region so far..
Last year started much better:

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Re: Randonee (AT) vs Telemarking?

Post by rongon » Thu Jul 11, 2019 2:30 pm

The answer to the question really revolves around what kind of terrain you want to ski over/across/up/down.

I went on a glacier traverse in the Canadian Rockies on my telemark rig - 3-buckle plastic boots, Voile Vector skis (no fish scales) with skins, Voile Switchback X2 bindings. There was a group of young folks from the Vancouver area tagging along who were all on modern Dynafit AT setups with pretty big skis (bigger, heavier, slightly wider than my Vectors). Most of them weren't terribly good skiers. I would not consider myself a highly skilled skier, but I seemed to be more technically on it than they were.

Much of a glacier traverse is more like XC skiing than skin up/ski down. Each day held 6 to 8 miles of traversing, with lots of long, low-angle stretches, punctuated by the occasional really steep (and fairly long) ascent or descent. The snow was wind-battered, so there was plenty of difficult skiing on wind crusts, along with some dicey skiing on thin snow with plenty of rocks poking out. There was no ice, but not a lot of powder that hadn't been wind-hammered.

The young folks with the AT gear had a much easier time than I did skiing down the steep stuff. They had better control. I could not keep control with alpine turns going down the 40+ degree, wind-crusted steeps. I *had* to make telemark turns to keep my speed in check. I punched through the crust with each turn. The young AT folks skied faster and with less busting into the crust. That could have been from their wider and longer skis, but the power of an alpine setup would definitely help there as well.

On the long flat stretches, they had the advantage of youthful strength and endurance, so they kept a pretty good pace. I was able to keep up only because of my lighter skis and looser touring setup. That was purely because of my being older and not in as good physical shape as them.

Had I brought my heavier/bigger skis (Dynastar Cham 97 HM with AXL bindings), I would have had better control on the steeps, but I'd have paid for it with lots of strain from dragging the weight of those bigger skis and skins across the glaciers. That would have left me with less energy to handle the steep downs, so the heavier gear might not have been enough to keep me in control. Tough call whether I made the right choice bringing a lighter setup. I think it was the right choice.

So, my point? I found that ounce-for-ounce, it certainly looks like you get a lot more power and control from an AT setup. You have to be a really good telemark skier to hang with the AT crowd in alpine terrain. So, if you're looking to ski big mountain backcountry (out West), then I'd say stick with AT and use the ski skills you have, work on your backcountry travel, survival, and avalanche safety skills.

If you're in the Northeast or staying at lower elevations below treeline, then maybe telemark would make more sense. I know tele makes much more sense here in the Adirondacks, Greens and Whites (upstate NY and northern New England). Long, rolling approaches do not seem to go well for those with AT setups. Traveling over rolling terrain for 6 miles before getting to only about 1500 feet of vert is usually considered 'not worth it' by those with AT setups. That's the usual thing for a telemark skier around here.

So the answer to your question really depends on what exactly you want to ski, what terrain, and how much of that terrain will be rolling/up-and-down and flat as compared to higher-angled skin up/ski down.

Sorry that was so long and rambling. It's always difficult to cover everything in this topic. I've tried to explain it so many times...

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