As Featured in Fall Line Magazine

» Telemark Technique Tips » How to Telemark Couloirs»September 2014.

There's Nothing like a Steep Couloir to get the Adrenaline Flowing

Couloirs are the ultimate test of a telemark skiers skill, whether full of powder after a fresh snowfall or full of bumps if it hasn’t snowed recently, a narrow corridor and a steep slope are a fantastic combination to challenge not only your technique and nerve but also your tactics.

Couloir skiing is all about maintaining control in tight spaces, if you lose balance or use too much edge then you’ll be catapulted towards rock and if you slam on the brakes every turn then you’ll lose flow.

Flowing down the fall line in a tight steep corridor is a challenge, but once you can achieve it you’ll find couloirs so much fun.

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How to do it - Telemark Technique and Tactics for Skiing Steep Couloirs, Step by Step...

Step 1

Use a Short Telemark Stance

A short stance is great for tight situations, not only can you squeeze through narrow gaps but the short platform allows you to pressure the back foot effectively, helping your speed control and allowing you to make quick snappy turns. Stay balanced laterally, i.e. don't lean up the hill, and try to keep the ball of the back foot in line with your bum. You'll be amazed at how dynamic your telemark turns feel.

Step 2

Maintain Momentum

On any run the first turn is always the hardest because you don’t have momentum, if you lose momentum after each turn, you're making it very hard for yourself. A key tactic is to maintain momentum by releasing the edges before you turn, right at the top of the arc, release the edges and initiate a side slip. This will enable you to maintain flow and pick the best spot and the right speed to initiate your next turn. You choose when and where, rather than the couloir forcing you to turn where you don't want to.

Step 3


Upper and lower body separation is essential for telemarking couloirs, if you let your upper body swing around to face the skis, you’ll more than likely lose lateral balance which will result in a sharp acceleration across the fall-line, in a couloir, this could cause you serious problems.

Separation is key to flowing down the fall line. If your upper body is already focussed down the hill, anticipating where you're going, only the lower body has to turn, therefore you'll use less energy and your turns will link much more effectively. Separation will help you initiate each turn with ease and maintain pressure and edge control on both skis.

Step 4

Edge Change in the Air with a Leg Retraction

An air-borne edge change significantly reduces the risk of catching an edge during your turn which in a couloir, is going to cause you problems. However, big vertical movements use lots of energy, are relatively ponderous and often cause you to lose balance. Instead, try a leg retraction. Suck your legs up underneath you and while in the air, turn the skis to land on your new edges. We're not trying to turn the skis 180 degrees in the air. Be economical with your movements and try to turn the skis only slightly, landing on the new adges and steering the skis across the fall-line as soon as they touch back down.

Step 5

Steer the Skis Without Edging too Much

As you land keep steering the skis across the fall line but release your edges, any excessive edge tilt will take you out of your narrow corridor towards the rock, normally at speed! Let the skis drift down the couloir controlling your speed while losing altitude.

Step 6

Solid Pole Plant

A solid pole plant is absolutely essential when skiing steep tight chutes. Reach downhill while separating your upper and lower body and make a solid pole plant somewhere in line with your feet. The pole plant will help you make your edge change in the air by giving you a point of contact with the ground while your feet are in the air. It will also aid separation by helping you keep your shoulders facing down the fall line.

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