Telemark Dreaming

Some of my favorite things about about fall have ended: the campaign ads.

We had an inch or two of snow in our yard last week, and today it was an outstandingly beautiful 70 degree day. Wowzer. All of the sudden we can see the corn field on the other side of the woods on our drive into school – the leaves are down, the turkeys are strutting and the coyotes are yipping after rabbits in the cool nights. Arlo and Willa, our wonderdogs, treed a ginormous porcipine yesterday (treed, thank god: leatherman + 85 pound bundle of neurotic, quill-infested dog + linoleum at 11PM = three wakend children). Porcipines, I think, are awesome creatures. Built for comfort, not speed – until they fly up a tree at mach 8 or eat through your trailer tires in an evening. And they are sooo cute. And what an apt name: porky pine. Pig in a tree? They are still cute.

Molly, my wife, and I directed an outdoor education program at Colgate University for twelve years before coming back to Harbor Springs. A couple days ago, I was asked if I wanted to lead a week-long backcountry ski trip for the program over spring break – anywhere. Molly and I have a wacked set of skills. I estimated, within $65, a six-day 12-passenger van rental out of Salt Lake, remembered the name and number of the university’s travel agent (Delores), and calculated the pounds of pasta and cheese needed for eight people all in about thirty seconds. I lost my wallet (again) for four days last week, but I could have my backcountry ski kit together in under 10 minutes. Hopeless. Sorry, Molly.

I love backcountry skiing and I love telemark skiing. Backcountry skiing, in my mind, is whenever you are off the track. Wax-, traction pattern/fishscales- or climbing skin-aided, you climb up and you ski down. Or you cruise through fields and along streams. Winter can be awesome.

Telemark skiing has been around for AGES and started with the Norse on huge planks of wood with leather straps for bindings. This sounds like my parents reminiscing. It is, simply, going downhill on cross country skiis. It is, technically, a thigh-burning, beautiful, graceful and powerful alternative to alpine skiing and snowboarding. The equipment has advanced at a charmingly slow rate and in the past ten or so years, its popluarity has exploded. Ok, it still might be sparklers on the beach while the fireworks are going off over the harbor, but the sport is growing.

So, I am telemark dreaming. First snow fall, my kids’ ski passes, deep powder, bluebird skies, barking dogs, my warm down coat, barking dogs…Molly!?! Where’s the flashlight?!!?

You can rent telemark gear, sign up for lessons, or just chew the fat about the latest gear at The Outfitter, in Harbor Springs.

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