Holimont: Celebrating Telemark

Western New York has a strong contingent of telemark skiers. Like the rest of the northeast, each of our ski areas has a passionate group of locals dedicated to making the telemark turn. There is enough of a critical mass to host two telemark festivals, each with their own style and culture.

Holimont Lodge

Every year, Holiday Valley hosts Telestock, organized and operated by The City Garage, the Friday after Presidents day. Telestock is a classic celebration of the telemark culture complete with grilling sausages, beer, free telemark ski and boot demos, and free group instruction for a range of ability levels from first timers to experts.

Regardless of the weather, it’s one of the most fun days of the season. The following Friday, typically the first Friday of March, Holimont hosts a telemark festival of their own. This event is a little smaller, slightly more formal with a catered picnic lunch, and scheduled clinics with certified instructors.

telemark skier
Sunset

Both serve the same purpose with slightly different execution: to provide a celebration of telemark skiing and the communities of each ski area. Most of the attendees are present at each of the events, so it seems like sick days might get a little tight in the fall. This year I was mostly out of commission for Telestock and didn’t put on ski boots, but I got on skis the next week for a bluebird day at Holimont.

This particular Friday, the weather at Holimont was clear and crisp. Mid teens in the morning became low twenties during the afternoon and clouds were at a minimum for the duration of the day. After arriving, I set up at the ski school building where The City Garage was running the demo tent with their demo squad, the esteemed Too Tall Tom and Charlie Rumfola.

telemark demo

After getting set up, all of the event participants gathered around the tent and got organized into a few different groups for clinics ranging from beginners to experts, each group with Holimont’s team of PSIA telemark instructors. The clinic groups had a few different plans, but two of the groups made their way over towards the northernmost area at Holimont and skied off of the Sunset Triple.

The area was perfectly groomed corduroy, smooth, fast, and edgeable with full sun on a northern exposure. As the attendees were doing drills and freeskiing with instruction from Holimont’s telemark instructors, Charlie and I skied the wall-to-wall, highway smooth, groomer that is Sunset. Everyone had smiles on their faces and the skiing was fantastic.

Westmont
Westmont

The group broke for lunch at about noon. Everyone stopped back at Telefest HQ near the ski school to get situated. We all packed a brown bag lunch with a variety of wrap and snack options from Dina’s, the local restaurant that manages the catering at the resort.

Once everyone was set to go, we made our way up the Exhibition Express en route to the leanto shelter on the XC trail along the ridge of the ski area. We could have skated across the top of the ridge from there, an XC ski trail follows the ridge at the top of the resort, but everyone opted to ski the cat-track to lower Sunset for a quick lap on the way to the shelter.

leanto

The shuffle through the woods to the shelter was a great walk with conversations on the earlier part of the day and general pleasantries. The lunches were shuttled in a big backpack by an instructor and everyone was enjoying themselves. The lean-to is a great lunch spot with a few picnic tables and spaces to sit; the woods were covered in snow, dressed in full winter conditions.

We all enjoyed our lunches, some folks drank beers, and we made our way towards Westmont. Westmont is a small cleared pitch on the western boundary of Holimont that is unpatrolled, without a direct lift, and open to skiing. The lean-to is only a few hundred yards from the top of Westmont, so we had a great lap with 4” of fresh snow from the day before on top of a solid, consistent surface.

meadow skipping

At the bottom you have to cross a residential road and you’re right back at the Sunset Triple. This area recently had a range of machine-built mountain bike trails built throughout this summer. They are now doing lift-serviced MTB riding that gained a lot of popularity in the area this past summer. To my knowledge, there are plans to continue to develop this area through this summer and into the future.

For the rest of the afternoon, folks skied in groups with new and old friends. There were people taking advantage of the ski demos, trading skis, and talking shop. Some people started to call it quits to hang out in the sun on the deck and in the south-facing, glass fronted, A-frame that is the ski school building as the day started to wind down. At the end of the day, everyone was enjoying a sunny afternoon in early March celebrating the telemark turn.

7 comments on “Holimont: Celebrating Telemark

  1. Terrific! Having cut my teeth on Stem Christies and Telemark turns 70 plus years ago I enjoy hearing that the tradition is being kept alive. My 25 year old son has started learning the nuances. Great feeling in deep powder.

    I hope that will be an effort to pay homage to the Austrians who in the early days of skiing in New York were deeply involved in teaching the Alrberg Technique of turning. Hannes Schneider and Otto Schneibs were the guys my family was involved with. Otto Schneibs coached the Dartmouth College racing team in the early thirties and was the “professional” instructor at the Carl Schaefer’s ‘Skiland Area’ near North Creek in the mid 1930s. Skiland was an offshoot of the Snow Train Era 1933-1938. The first Snow Train ran March 4, 1934 to North Creek. The first NY rope tow was installed by my Uncle, Carl Schaefer at the North Creek Snow Bowl in 1934 copying the Vermont technology invented at Woodstock, VT.

    My father Vincent J Schaefer led a group of enthusiasts who linked up with skiers in North Creek after the 1932 Olympics to cut trails down and across the Gore Massif for skiing in 1933 onward. Christies and Telemarks were the style with skis and bindings allowing use of the method — balance, rotation, edging, forward movement.

    Your group should develop for new devotees a sense of where their roots came from Schneibs and Schneider were part of the movement we inherited!

  2. Why are they taking cross country ski’s downhill?

    Looks good Jon, maybe I should try this two plank thing again…..

  3. Love the history, Mr Schaefer, many thanks for sharing! I grew up skiing North Creek SB/Gore and Hickory. Thanks to my Dad..discovered tele living in Gunnison (Western State) as free heal blew up in and around Crested Butte/Irwin 1990/91.. now back in New York skiing Gore again.. great history, now knowing telemark turn was alive at the ski bowl almost 90 years ago. Reading your piece hits home! Can’t wait to get to the Ski Bowl transfer this weekend (let it snow!) and pay homage to you, your uncle Carl and father, Vincent. Cheers to the telemark turn!

  4. In another vein homage to Karl Plattner – Hunter and the development of technique in the Catskills – As well as Glen Allard who brought this to the Adaptive community.

  5. Great write up. Also some ski areas rent telemark skis and boots. Usually the telemark rental equipment is in great condition because people do not realize it is available to rent. My son worked in the rental shop at a high rental volume ski mountain, and he said some of the telemark equipment looked like it was never used.

  6. Love the history lesson James. I have read about Otto Shniebs and your uncle in various publications. The history of skiing is absolutely fascinating. When I go to Holiday Valley I love looking at that little history display they have the one of the lodges. I am a pure downhiller and telemark looks way too difficult for me! But, we are all skiers. Hopefully I’ll see you out on one of the hills.

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