Telemark skiing in Sudndalen, Norway – Part III

Before we went tearing down the mountain, the instructors asked if we had any questions. I was tempted to ask if we had to ski down if we definitely knew which level we should be in, but I didn’t, mainly because I saw no other way down the mountain.

I waited until the only people left were myself and Marit, one of the girls from my cabin. I told her she could go before me, but she declined. I then started skiing down…

…and fell within 30 seconds. I picked myself up and continued going, then I fell again. I got up, skied, fell. Skied, fell. Fell.

(<–This was the slope we skied down. Trust me, it’s a lot steeper in person.)

I was doing far more falling than skiing, and it was quite embarrassing.

My one saving grace during this whole period was Marit. She stayed by me the entire time, making sure I was okay, picking me up after I fell, and giving me tips and encouragement. Even after I told her that she could go on without me, she refused to leave. I probably would have burst into tears had she not been there to help me. I can’t even begin to describe how much it meant to me that she stayed with me at that moment. Later that night she told me that she thought I was really brave for doing what I did, which was also sweet. But brave? I don’t know if I would call myself brave.

After what seemed like hours of agony, I finally reached the bottom, where I met the instructor for level one and Francisco, who was to be my skiing companion for the rest of the weekend. We were the only two in level one, which meant we got a lot of personal instruction. Excellent, because that’s exactly what I need.

We skied over to the children’s hill, which had a much easier ski lift to use. This ski lift was a button lift. When the cable reaches you, you pull it down, just like the T-bar. However, at the end of the cable is a round piece of plastic, which you place between your legs and lean back against.  So much easier to stay on than the T-bar. I had some difficulties when I got off, though. I started sliding backwards a bit, but luckily my ski instructor was there to give me a hand. Literally, he put his hand on my back and gave me a gentle push.

He thought it was funny. I wasn’t so amused at the thought of sliding backwards down the hill.

At first our instructor just had us go down the hill using normal alpine ski turns. We didn’t use our ski poles at all, which is normal when you’re learning how to ski. You don’t really need them for anything, and it’s just other stuff to focus on when you’re trying to learn. Personally I liked skiing without the ski poles. Once we mastered general alpine turns (which didn’t take long), our instructor taught us the Telemark turn–the hallmark of Telemark skiing. The Tele turn is why you need special skills. Basically what you do is put all of your weight onto your outside leg, lift the heel of your inside leg, and move your inside ski back. The change in weight on the skis causes you to turn.

It’s magic, I tell you.

The Tele turn caused me problems at first. I would ended up crossing my skis a lot, which is never good. Eventually I started getting the hang of it, though it was obviously that my righthand turn was far better than my lefthand turn. This isn’t unusual, though; our instructor said that most Telemark skiers have a favorite turn.

At one point I did a perfect Telemark turn, but then I fell over to avoid crashing right into my instructor, who had stopped in the middle of the hill to watch us do our turns. My instructor said, “That was a great turn until I got in your way.” Haha, thanks, but that was definitely my fault.

We practiced Tele turns until lunch, at which point I guzzled water like I had been in the desert for six months. I dressed way too warmly and it caused me to sweat like crazy, dehydrating myself. I don’t know that I’ve ever been so thirsty before. During our lunch break I took off a few layers to help with the sweating problem and also drank a ton of water.

I felt so much better after lunch.

We then took the T-bar lift up the mountain. Luckily there was a guy helping with the lift, so I managed to get on the lift and stay on, though I was hanging on to it for dear life. We rode the lift higher up than we had in the morning which was a little disconcerting. Even though I had a better grasp on skiing than I had the previous morning, I still wasn’t comfortable with steep slopes.

Not to worry, though. Our instructor didn’t have us ski straight down–we just had to ski down with our inside ski placed horizontally to the slope and our outside ski placed vertically down the slope. Basically this was to help us train our muscles to move into the correct position for the Telemark turn. This exercise was really exhausting, and by the end of the day my quads were killing me. I became afraid of falling, not because I was afraid of getting hurt, but because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to get up again.

At 3:30 PM our instructor told us we had an hour of free time to do whatever we liked. I skied down the slope a few more times then called it quits in order to give my quads a rest. My ankles and knees were also hurting by this time. Part of it was undoubtedly due to how many times I had fallen. See, falling wasn’t the problem. Standing up afterwards was. Because downhill ski boots come up so high on your calves, they restrict your movement, and you can’t bend your lower leg at all. You try standing up from the ground while keeping your lower legs completely straight. It’s hard, isn’t it? It hurts even more when you have ski boots on.

Also, when you fall spread-eagle, face down with skis on, it’s incredibly difficult to get up. I fell like that once and just laid in the snow for some minutes, trying to figure out how the hell to stand up again. I tried just moving my skis over but that was painful, so then I was stuck. My ski instructor suggested rolling over, and that worked much better. Still, not the best way to fall, and it also hurts because you do the splits as you’re falling.

Around 5 PM (after some six hours of skiing), we left to go back to the cabins. I took a shower which helped immensely with the muscle pain, then we went to dinner at another cabin. We had tacos, which were so, so good, and another party, which was also pretty low-key. More people came to this party though, including my ski instructor (lol), and Vegard, who walked in dancing.

After that, bed! I slept like a rock.

It was an interesting day. I wasn’t in love with skiing; in fact, there were a lot of times I asked myself why I had decided to do it. I was dehydrated, in pain, struggling to ski, and embarrassing myself left and right. I was really hoping the next day would be better.

Up ahead in part IV… more nice Norwegians, a rude comment, free time, level four Telemark skiers, I fall in love with skiing, and my ski instructor finally falls over!

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2 responses to “Telemark skiing in Sudndalen, Norway – Part III

    • Even though it sounds like it isn’t fun, you should definitely try it! It’s hard at first but it gets much easier, and that’s when it starts becoming fun. Just don’t do six hours of skiing in a day when you’ve never skied before and you’ll be fine 😉 And don’t start off learning how to Telemark ski–do normal alpine skiing first. Thanks for the comment!

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