Tips for Beginners and Folks with Left Turns that Suck

Let’s get something straight: There’s not really a right or wrong way to make a telemark turn. Keep that caveat in mind when you have the urge to scream something about me being a blaspheming jackass while you’re reading this. The turn is a dynamic and fickle mistress that’s adaptable to terrain, conditions and personality. Whether you get wicked low and smell like patchouli oil spilled on the floor of a brothel or you fancy skin suits and precise edge bevels, there’s a unique way the turn will fit your needs. So we’re not going to get too technical here; instead we’ll focus on a few concrete concepts that apply to almost anyone.

If you’re a beginner just finding your way to the enlightened freeheel realm, these tips can help speed up your learning curve without a bunch of PSIA-inspired, brain-busting bull$%!^. Or if you’re a telemark Zoolander with an aversion to going left, these basics will transform you into an ambi-turning legend. Best of all, you only really have to remember two things:

1. A strong telemark stance is all that really matters.

Capable telemark skiing lives and dies in a powerful telemark stance. There’s more than one way to do it, but the key lies in being able to quickly get into your comfortable telemark stance and drive down the fall line. I’m not too dogmatic on what a telemark stance looks like, but there are a few things I think help out a lot.

  • Don’t push your uphill foot too far back behind you. Think about keeping your back foot underneath you so you can sufficiently weight the edge with 50% of your weight. 18-inches between the heel of your front foot and the toe of your back foot will do. Any more than that and it’s easy to get pushed off balance.
  • Stand up straight. Try not to bend at the waist. Keep things in an upright, athletic, compact stance, and keep your hands out in front of you, down the fall line.
  • Get into your telemark stance in one motion. Don’t push your uphill foot back and then drop your front knee. Focus on moving your feet at the same time like a pair of scissors.

A good drill is to traverse a relatively flat groomer and while getting into and out of your telemark stance on one side. Go from the right side of the run to the left while practicing your left turn stance (right foot forward). Go all the way across the run smoothly engaging and releasing from your strong telemark stance. Turn and repeat on the opposite side. Drop your poles so you don’t have anything to cheat with, and just focus on achieving a good solid base in one motion. 

2. Ski the fall line.

Skiing the fall line makes everything a lot easier. Usually when you feel like you’re fighting your turns, you’re doing something to cross up the fall line, and it’s straight up harshing your mellow.

  • Don’t steer with your shoulders. Keep them facing down the fall line. If your shoulders cross your body during a turn, you’ll lose edge control, making it much harder to initiate the next turn.
  • Equally weight both your skis and use them together in driving the turn. Don’t fall victim to the dreaded uphill ski pivot. This is common when your uphill leg gets too far back and you end up behind the turn, pivoting around the uphill ski tip.

Example of Garbage Techinque for Garbage Skiing:


Example of Strong Fall Line $%!^:

There’s your rocket surgery. Keep you stance compact. Get into your stance quickly. Keep your upper body and turns moving down the fall line. Now get out to a demo day, a freeheel clinic or any other event where you can show folks what you’re made of.   


  • David

    Tony – let’s ski together. I couldn’t agree with your post more and am always looking to share turns with fellow free healers. Give me a shout via email if you are ever in the tahoe basin.

    Ski the fall line – so brilliant – so simple

  • John

    One tip that I was given was to rotate your hips forward, like pushing your belt away from you. This helps keep center of gravity between your feet equally weighting both skis as well as keeping the upper body perpendicular with the snow surface, which is just plain good technique no matter what gear is being used.

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