Park City kids telemark together
February 15, 2008
For eighth-grader Grady Tesch it’s the technical components of the sport. "There’s a lot more thinking," he said. "It’s more challenging than just going down a hill."
Seventh-grader Andrew Kanaer likes it because it’s more exercise than regular skiing. "I got bored with alpine," he said.
Labeling herself a non-conformist, eighth-grader Samantha Meyer started because it was something unique for her to do.
"In Park City, everybody’s either a racer or a parkie [person who rides in the terrain park]," she said. "With this, you can invent your own style. You can make it your own more than anything else. You get a lot of respect. Everybody thinks you’re awesome for doing it."
Skiing was not something ninth-grader Alex Butler ever enjoyed. But now she loves being on the mountain. "I’ve found something that I liked, and that I wanted to be good at," she said.
These are Park City kids who’ve developed a passion for telemark skiing. They meet at The Canyons Resort on Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. for Tele Tribe, which claims to be the only kids’ telemarking club in Utah.
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Eighth-grader Quinn Schumacher joined Tele Tribe last year, when the program was just getting started, because his friend Tesch kept asking him to try it. He had never telemarked before. "The group is fun, and I learn a lot from the coaches," he said. "It’s been a great experience."
Tele Tribe’s beginnings
The idea for Tele Tribe began after Mike Sharp, a former Park City resident who helped start many of the telemarking programs in Park City, hosted last year’s Tele Pow Wow, a one-day clinic for telemark skiers of all ages.
"We found a bunch of kids who were interesting in teleskiing," he said. So Sharp, along with Jaimie Atlas and Hank Keil, some fellow telemark veterans he knew, got together and formed a sort of unofficial group of young teleskiers that met on Sundays to ski and work together on their skills.
Keil, who is a certified telemark instructor, said watching the kids improve is the most rewarding aspect of the teaching the group. "I like seeing the rapid progression of skills and the joy that brings the kids," he said. "There’s a couple of kids that have gone from having a hard time making telemark turns to now each turn is very solid."
The group continued casually for its first year. Then Sharp moved out East. Atlas and Keil decided they would not only keep the group going, but that they’d create a more official entity as well. "We just couldn’t let this dissolve," Atlas said.
Keil and Atlas worked with The Canyons, obtaining insurance and orchestrating legal paperwork, to ensure they could host the club at the resort. The Tele Tribe now runs on a punch-pass system where kids pay $30 for each Sunday they go. Participants also have the opportunity to rent skis from White Pine Touring for $15 a day.
Keil said he envisions Tele Tribe becoming a nonprofit. He hopes to be able to obtain season-pass discounts and sponsorships from local companies to help pick up insurance costs for next year.
A mellow atmosphere
Having an outlet like this for kids to have fun and improve themselves in a less competitive atmosphere is something Keil said he felt was really needed in Park City.
"There are a lot of competitive sports in this town," he said. "Kids get caught up in extrinsic desires like pleasing their parents, but with this, they’ve decided that skiing for them is more leisurely. They want to go out and improve themselves, and they’re still pushing themselves, but it’s just not as intense."
"Mellow afternoons," is the way Atlas describes it. On an average day, she said the group has about eight to 10 kids, one to two guest coaches, and herself and Keil. The club usually skis together at the beginning or end of the session, and then splits up based on abilities into a more relaxed group and a more advanced group.
"We don’t want anyone to feel rushed," she said. "They’re all friends and all supportive of each other."
Meyer said she really enjoys the group’s laid-back atmosphere. "It’s nice to ski with your friends and not be as inhibited," she said. "The group’s not really that strict. We can do our own thing, but we get instruction as well."
A balance of coaches
Since Atlas is a more traditional skier, she said it’s nice to have other younger coaches come in and work on things like terrain park skills. "It’s cool for the kids to have fresh faces and energy," she said. "It really balances stuff out."
Guest coach Shawn Raskin, who competes in telemarking, said the kids she works with in Tele Tribe inspire her. "It’s so much fun to be a coach for this program," she said. I’m constantly competing on my own, so it’s really awesome to have a break from trying to push my own limits.
"I get re-inspired by their creative, young minds. They’re so cool. They have endless energy, and they want to try anything."
Whitney Thompson, a friend and fellow telemarker of Atlas’, helps coach as well. "I thought I’d try it because it sounded like a lot of fun," she said. "I came out and had an amazing experience from the kids that were excited to learn to the kids that were rippin’ it up all over the mountain."
The kids’ excitability was also something that inspired Thompson. "Sometimes when you’re having a bad run, you forget how awesome it is to just be out there on the mountain, but kids kind of always have that attitude."
Meyer said her Tele Tribe coaches have become more like friends to her. "It’s not the traditional coach-student relationship," she said.
Butler who started Tele Tribe because her telemarking technique was not very good yet, and there were no other teleskiing groups for kids said she likes skiing with people who make her challenge herself.
And that includes her peers in the group as well as the coaches. "I would never ski some of the stuff we go through if I were by myself," she said.
A new generation of teleskiers
Having these kids involved in telemarking gives Keil hope for the future of telemarking as a sport. "They’re interested. It’s nice when young people have a mentor or someone to look up to who’s actually interested in what they’re doing," he said.
It wasn’t really until last year when kids ages 10, 11 and 12 were able to buy boots, bindings that fit them, Keil continued. He said they used to have to stuff socks in the boots to make them suitable for kids that young.
Sharp added that in the 70’s and 80’s there weren’t a lot of new people entering the sport. "Another generation of skiers is coming up right now."
During the Tele Tribe’s practice on Sunday, Feb. 10, a third-grader and an older woman joined the group for the day. "We’re open to kids interested in telemarking of all ages and abilities," Atlas said.
The group is planning to host a "spring fling" at The Canyons as a way to introduce kids to telemarking and the Tele Tribe. Updates about the "spring fling" and other information about the Tele Tribe can be found at the group’s Web site http://www.pctelemark.org.