Randonnee - A French word meaning "can't tele."
-Tom "Tom Cat" Hickok - Professional Ski Instructors of America certified Alpine and Telemark instructor
Last fall, I went into a used gear store in Pagosa Springs and scored tele skis, bindings, boots, and skins for a measly $130. I had tried teleing before but had never quite gotten the hang of it. I bought the setup in hopes of getting out into the backcountry without having to boot pack and post-hole my way up the mountain for a few turns in the fresh.
What I quickly learned after my first outing was that skinning up was the easy part and getting down on tele skis was the hard part. So I started spending as much time on the teles as I could this year. As an expert alpine skier and snowboarder, it was frustrating to have to stick to the blues and blue-blacks for a while to learn how to tele. While I was slowly getting the hang of lunging all day to make turns I still wasn't confident in my ability to handle the type of terrain encountered on a backcountry outing.
My friends at Winter Park Resort suggested a lesson. I hadn't had a ski lesson since I used to ski with a pacifier in my mouth, and I was better at skiing than walking, so I had some premonitions.
I eventually got over my pride and signed up for a MAX4 Tele Daze lesson at Mary Jane.
The word that best sums up what this lesson provided after a day of skiing with one of the best tele skiers I have ever had the opportunity to ski with is: Confidence.
I can now walk and ski with my head high knowing I can handle these tele skis on the terrain I am used to skiing: Steep and deep technical terrain.
With some top-of-the-line instruction from Tom Hickok, a Professional Ski Instructors of America certified instructor, I was able to improve my knee-dipping technique, my style, and increase my ability level, all within a few hours of making laps on Mary Jane.
I am proud to report I can now make tele turns in the powder, bumps, and steeps without eating snow or busting up my knees. It feels great to have my confidence (and cockiness) back after looking like a lost cause on the slopes since the beginning of the season.
Now I can skin up and ski down without looking like a crazy person out there flailing my arms around and staying in an awkward snowplow position while my dog chases me through the powder.
It was also cool to use the FLAIK system, a GPS device used by instructors that tracks all of your movement on the hill so you can see what runs you took throughout the day, how far you skied, how much vertical elevation you covered, and it even shows you how many turns you made on a run.
A week or so after the lesson I spent the day skiing off of the Eagle Wind lift, some of the more difficult terrain open on the mountain, and found myself taking a couple of falls and making some bad turns. I quickly corrected my mistakes by remembering the tips and techniques I received during the lesson and enjoyed the rest of my day without a single fall or tree collision.
So my advice to everyone out there, including you SnowBallers who are in town for the weekend, is it doesn't matter how good you think you are, you can always get better. And a lesson from one of the certified instructors at Winter Park Resort is the best way to improve your skills and ability level.
If you're like me and think you're too cool for (ski) school, suck it up and sign up for a lesson. Who knows, maybe one day you'll be able to keep up with me and ol' Tom Cat Hickok.