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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.