Telemark and backcountry skiing

Christmas 2006 in Cooke City

Julie and I loaded up the XC skis and the dogs and headed for Cooke City to spend Christmas with Jim and Katherine (and her two cats). We feasted on bison steaks, turkey, and lots of goodies and enjoyed watching the dogs and cats learn to survive each other.

Given the thin snowpack in and around Bozeman, Cooke City delivered a nice treat with a solid base of snow, including a nice new white coating. We XC skied a couple of days and enjoyed the quiet ambience and plentiful snow. After two half days skiing the scrape at Bridger Bowl (Dec 22, opening day, and Dec 23) we were more than satisfied.

Link to pictures in the image gallery.

Cooke City

Jim on the move

Cowdog and dogs

Cowdog and dogs

December 16-17

Three skiers (Julie, Hugh, and cowdog) and three dogs (Jack, Mad, and Annie) played in about four inches of fresh snow at Bridger Bowl on Saturday 12/16 and again on Sunday 12/17.  We skied the Fingers Saturday and the Apron Sunday, finding very nice snow both days.  I didn't take any pictures.

The highlights were 2 bull moose, a small slough that took Jack and Maddie for a ride, and the aftermath of 2 small avalanches on the Apron that kept us on our toes. 

The future of telemark ski gear?

This is only the second non-skiing weekend for me since mid-October. There is snow everywhere, but it is thin and has seen a bit too much sun and warmth from a week of high pressure. The excellent early snow from October melted, and we have yet to see a good solid snow to get things rolling. Bridger Bowl is not yet open, and Big Sky only has some modest terrain open. Due to a strong El Nino and other factors, our winter forecast is warmer and drier.

But even without skiing, there is interesting ski news regarding telemark skiing.

If you are a telemark skier, you are used to the current suite of binding/boot options all based on the original 75mm telemark norm. Crispi, Garmont, and Scarpa all make a nice range of plastic telemark books. We have many great bindings now, several with excellent skiing performance and a couple that have reliable release. But telemark still lacks the combination of step-in and release with bomber durabiltiy and great ski performance.

Regardless of gear "limitations," current telemark gear does not seem to be a limiting factor -- telemark skiing has never been more popular with so many great gear options.

The next step in telemark bindings, part 1.  Rottefella has come up with a new telemark binding and boot system, NTN, that gets rid of the duckbill (the front extension of the telemark boot that had the 3 pin holes) and promises improved skiing performance and options for release. This system will hit the market soon. The downside is that you will need new boots to work with this system. Below is a picture of the NTN system from (they have it courtesy of BCA, who will distribute Rottefella bindings in the US).

NTN image from (from BCA)

The next step in telemark bindings, part 2.  Black Diamond has just announced a new telemark binding system that offers all the goodies like step-in, release, and peformance but is backward compatible with current telemark boots (the duckbill lives on). The downside is that nobody outside of Black Diamond has seen or skied this system, and it won't be available until 2008. You can read more about this system via a news item/commentary from

There is plenty of debate about these two telemark binding/boot systems, but the bottom line is that telemark skiing is poised to take a needed step forward in gear. Competition can be very good. As it is, AT (alpine touring) gear has stepped up in recent years with the excellent Dynafit bindings for backcountry use and the wide ranging resort/backcountry bindings from Fritschi and Naxo. For adventure skiing where the emphasis is on flexibility to go and ski what you want, telemark has strong competiton from AT. In fact, I think AT gear is currently the most efficient and practical option for backcountry skiing, esp. with the excellent Dynafit system.  But telemark still has that soulful turn and attractive image.  Regardless of AT, most backcountry skiers I know prefer telemark.  How this all turns out for telemark skiing will depend on the next several years, but this is certainly an interesting time for telemark skiing.  I for one hope the future is very bright for telemark skiing.

Skiing the Third Finger

I had hoped to ski Slushman's today, but I was tired so Brian and I went back to the Fingers and skied the 3rd.  I hadn't skied with Brian for awhile.  Jack and Mad were very happy to see their buddy Charlie.

The snow was much different than the day before.  Worked from skiers and strong winds, we had to look harder to find stashes.  The Third Finger was a nice choice, although our decision to ski out via South Bowl had crusty to rocky moments. 

The upper BB parking access (preseason use only) was jammed with people when we arrived at a little after 1pm, far different from our early morning start the day below.  Be careful driving up and down that road.  A dude in an Outback was cutting the corner and nearly ended up impaled by the 4Runner.


Brian and Charlie

Skiing with dogs

With some modest new snow and a weekend at our disposal, we again played up at Bridger Bowl (scheduled to open Dec 10th). Hugh, Jen, Paola, Steve, Colleen, Julie, cowdog and 5 dogs skinned, trampled, skied, and enjoyed the snow. We also eyed out tomorrow's ski destination...

Skinning up

Dog day


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