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Racing for the Rings: Telemark Skiing Looks for Olympic Inclusion

  • Argeline Tan-Bouquet, of France, speeds past a gate during a practice run for the FIS Telemark Cup on Jan. 19, 2018 at Suicide Six Ski Area in Woodstock, Vt. "I love the adrelenine of a race," Tan-Bouquet added after completing practice for the day. (Valley News - Carly Geraci) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Athletes gather at the top of a hill and watch a skier make his way down the course during a practice run for the FIS Telemark Cup on Jan. 19, 2018 at Suicide Six Ski Area in Woodstock, Vt. The event will run from Jan. 20-22, starting at 11 a.m. on all three days. (Valley News - Carly Geraci) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • An athlete makes his way around reipeløkke (the rap) during a practice run for the FIS Telemark Cup on Jan. 19, 2018 at Suicide Six Ski Area in Woodstock, Vt. Telemark skiing combines elements of alpine, ski jumping and Nordic skiing. (Valley News - Carly Geraci) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Switzerland team captain Hans Peter, left, signals to athletes up the course as Canada team captain Stephane Perreault watches during a practice run for the FIS Telemark Cup on Jan. 19, 2018 at Suicide Six Ski Area in Woodstock, Vt. Telemark skiing combines elements of alpine, ski jumping and Nordic skiing. (Valley News - Carly Geraci) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • An athlete races off a ski jump during a practice run for the FIS Telemark Cup on Jan. 19, 2018 at Suicide Six Ski Area in South Pomfret, Vt. The event will run from Jan. 20-22, starting at 11 a.m., on all three days. (Valley News - Carly Geraci) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Friday, January 19, 2018

South Pomfret — Telemark skiing arrived at Suicide Six on Friday for three days of FIS World Cup racing carrying a century-long reputation as a niche sport, one it has had trouble shaking off.

Although endorsed by the International Ski Federation on a global scale, telemark racing — a multi-dimensional timed race that combines aspects of the Nordic, Alpine and jumping disciplines — does not fall under the umbrella of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association. It is instead run by the nonprofit U.S. Telemark Ski Association, which serves as the sport’s governing body and is managed by, according to its website, “enthusiastic volunteers.”

Third-year USTSA president Garrett Long, a part-time Quechee resident, and his close-knit band of athletes and officials, many of whom are professionals or students who compete in telemark events on the side, are looking for ways to bring telemark into the mainstream. A push for inclusion in 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing could do the trick.

“It’s been in the process for a while,” Long said, taking a break from weekend race preparations in The Lodge at Suicide Six on Friday morning.

“I think what we’re fighting against, I’ll say, for inclusion in the Olympics is the number of countries that participate and the depth within those countries that participate, in order to have enough racers to fill out a full start list,” he added. “Futhermore, have enough people competing that the whole pyramid of interested friends, family, others around to be able to aware of it.”

Olympic inclusion could be the kind of boost Long and his telemark compatriots have been waiting for. Telemark has always sat in the shadows behind international darlings like ski jumping, biathalon and — in recent years — skicross, the multi-athlete downhill that resembles NASCAR on skis, full of collisions and carnage.

Ken Gay, USTSA’s representation on the FIS Telemark Committee and a Steamboat Springs, Colo. native, said inclusion is possible on several different fronts, the first being an International Olympic Committee meeting in Greece this May that will determine which sports are added or excluded from the 2022 Games. If that fails, an interested Chinese delegation could add it to its Olympic offerings.

Gay said telemark’s outward appearance has also helped its cause.

“It’s become more formal at the organization level. At the FIS level, it’s better organized, I think,” he added. “The professional piece is what’s changed.”

For Long, who raced Alpine at the U.S. Naval Academy, one of the biggest challenge the USTSA faces is the conflict between its growth and its culture. Telemark prides itself on inclusion; years on the outskirts has created a small, passionate international community that came together on full display at The Lodge at Suicide Six during Friday’s gate training. But telemark’s growth expands its talent pool. The USTSA president hopes there’s a way to do both.

“I think we’re almost as focused on marketing telemark as we are anything else, where we host events and we’re just trying to make it to get enough people, to get enough revenue to pay our insurance and host more events,” Long said. “We’re really just trying to provide good opportunities for everyone who is currently interested in it, but also make it broader as well. …

“If we got included at some level in the Olympics, it’ll be the flip of a switch in terms of — and we’ve seen this in some of the European countries — people who are good but not the best at other disciplines, Nordic or Alpine, will merge over to telemark, taking the skills that they have, tweak them a little bit and be able to become a relatively strong participant.”

Telemark has never been an Olympic offering and, according to Long, was often seen as one step behind the generational spotlight until recently. It doesn’t help that, in a world of sports specialization and single-sport focus, a multifaceted event like telemark may seem out of place.

But World Cup events such as this weekend’s races at Suicide Six and next week’s World Cup stop at Sugarbush Resort have performed the expected task of getting telemark events in front of more people. The two Vermont showcases are telemark’s first in the Green Mountain state in 10 years and the first World Cup stop on U.S. soil since a Steamboat Springs, Colo., event during the 2013-14 season.

“Our goal (at the USTSA) is two-fold: recruit athletes — we need that participation base — and increase viewership,” Gay said. “That’s what the Olympic committee is looking for.”

Sprint competition kicks off today at 11 a.m., with the men’s event followed by the women. The World Cup series men’s point leaders — Switzerland’s Nicolas Michel, Norway’s Trym Nygaard Loeken and Slovakia’s Jure Ales — will all race, as will the top women’s point leaders: Germany’s Johanna Holzmann, Switzerland’s Beatrice Zimmerman and Great Britain’s Jasmin Taylor.

Josh Weinreb can be reached at jweinreb@vnews.com or 603-727-3306.