If a coach’s excitement about a program dictates its success, then the Telluride Ski and Snowboard Club’s new telemark team will be very successful.
Experienced and passionate about telemark skiing, Theron Johnson joins TSSC this year to lead its first youth telemark program. By all accounts, he is diving in headfirst.
One of Johnson’s first contributions has been to stage a fundraiser. He is bringing big mountain telemark skiers Josh Madsen (also the editor of Telemarking Skier magazine) and Alex Paul to the Palm Theatre on Tuesday night, November 15th, for the debut of Loyalty, a ski flick featuring big powder, big air, and big tricks.
The Telluride stop is one of fifty nationwide to, according to the film’s press release, “introduce some of the most profound telemark skiing on the planet and celebrate the revolutionary youth telemark movement. “
Tickets are $10, and proceeds go to benefit TSSC and the Palm Theatre. The film starts at 7:30 pmm and will be accompanied by a silent auction that includes Icelandic Skis, a Go Pro helmet camera, Hammerhead bindings and more.
Johnson, a native of Minnesota and of Norwegian descent, first tried telemark skiing when he was 21. He was bored with alpine skiing, so he took the flimsy three-pin bindings off his Nordic skis and screwed them on to his alpine skis. It may not have been perfect, but the system allowed him to lift his heel – which, apparently, was all it took to get him hooked.
“I never went back,” he said. “It unlocked a whole world to me.”
Now, by starting the telemark program with TSSC, Johnson hopes to help open new worlds to aspiring athletes.
According to TSSC executive director Justin Chandler, adding telemarking to the club is not a new idea; it just didn’t work before, because the timing never seemed right. But with Johnson’s move to town, his extensive telemark experience and his passion to share the sport with youth, variables fell into place to make the program a reality for the upcoming ski season.
“With Theron leading the charge, it all just fit,” Chandler said.
Chandler explained that the telemark program will be different from other, more established programs in its flexibility, and its focus on scheduling training around the athletes. In addition to allowing kids to telemark exclusively, club members who participate in the club’s other disciplines – racing, freestyle, big mountain, park and pipe and snowboarding – can try telemarking on weekends, or on a day off, from their primary discipline.
“It’s going to be good for kids in other disciplines to cross-train, and for kids who didn’t gravitate to the other programs [but] who want to be out there on the mountain with everyone else,” Chandler said.
Helping Johnson are TSSC’s Nordic coach, Lance Waring, and TSSC’s big mountain coach, Tiffan Wanamaker. Both are avid and accomplished telemark skiers.
Currently, Chandler says, there is a “small group” of athletes interested in the program, but Johnson doesn’t seem worried about initial numbers. He believes that once the program begins, kids will become interested.
The allure to telemarking, Johnson believes, lies in its challenge, and also the opportunity it offers to learn something new. His logic: If you do it on tele-skis, it’s a little harder, and you’re the first, which is a whole lot cooler than being on alpine skis.
Even though skiing originated with telemarking, Johnson notes that three-pinners have just recently entered the new school world of skiing.
“The kids who are doing this are going to be legends going forward,” Johnson says. “They’ll be creating the newest ‘old’ sport in the world.”
Like Madsen, Johnson sees a youth movement in the sport, which he credits to improved technology and equipment – better, sturdier, more-specialized skis, boots and bindings -- and to Madsen’s work in the industry to spread the word. Or, in the case of Loyalty, the images.
“Kids can be pioneers in a sport that now has the technology to do everything you can do on alpine,” Johnson says. “I didn’t know kids [on tele skis] were doing stuff in the park, hucking big air, doing big tricks.
Nowhere are the new-school telemarking pioneers more in evidence, Johnson believes, than in Loyalty.
“It’s not just a tele-movie, it’s a skier’s movie,” Johnson says of Loyalty. “It’s sick what these guys are doing in the pipe and park, and in the big mountain shots. And they’re doing it on tele-skis.”
To Johnson, the film echoes what he believes the telemark team will be about: “a way of looking at life, and having a whole lot of fun doing something new.”
For most kids, that’s enough for a successful program.