Telemark skiing was developed in Norway's Telemark region, and allowed skiers in free-heel gear to make controlled downhill turns at high speed. It was a bridge between straightforward Nordic skiing and alpine or downhill skiing.
The first telemark turns were made in Nordic gear: leather boots and bindings that held only the boot toes, allowing the heels to lift in the rhythmic kick and glide of cross-country skiing. Skiers make the telemark turn by sliding one ski forward, partially kneeling so that the forward knee is ahead of the forward foot, and the rear knee is almost touching the rear ski, then pushing the forward knee in the direction of the turn. Pushing the forward knee out ahead of the forward foot requires commitment that beginners find hard to make, but unless the knee is ahead of the foot so that body weight is on the front of the ski, the turn will not work.
Instructors suggest that skiers think of their knees as the steering wheel, pointing the forward knee in the direction of the turn.To turn right, skiers push the left ski forward, bend as described, and drive the left knee to the right. To turn left, skiers push the right ski forward, bend as described, and drive the right knee to the left.
Telemark skiing has evolved from the middle of the 19th century to today, as with all skiing. New boots, skis, and bindings make the technique easier and more efficient. Boots are stiffer and give more control; skis are shaped and turn more easily; bindings hold more firmly yet still allow boot heels to lift so skiers can bend and kneel on their skis.
A skillful telemark skier seems to be dancing as he or she makes a rhythmic series of linked turns down a slope.