The one thing that I truly love about all of the sports in which I participate is the sense of community. Whether discussing beta on a boulder or talking about boards on the lift, we are unified over our passion for the sports we play. There is one thing I wonder about, though: is this really community, or is it all just someone ego boosting himself? Is the person giving me beta really trying to help me, or are they trying to tell me that they had already sent the problem? Is the person on the lift with me really interested in my board or just trying to call my attention to theirs?
When I think about community, I am really drawn to telemark skiing, and I am finding myself drawn to it even more as time passes. In many of the sports I participate in, there is more of a sense of competition rather than a sense of community. It seems that in both climbing and snowboarding, people are more often interested in feeding their own ego instead of enjoying the sport and the company of its participants. In fairness, it is much easier to develop a community while telemark skiing because the number of participants is far less than typical alpine skiers or snowboarders. The truly great thing about telemarkers is their sheer delight in seeing another one.
Rarely, if ever, do I pass a fellow telemarker without a nod or a wave. More often than not, they will pull over to the side of the trail for a short but sincere conversation. Often the questions are about how you picked up the sport and where you frequently ski. The thing that differs about these conversations is that they seem genuine. It is a true community where people are interested in you and the sport and would like to know more about you, ski with you, and share your passion with you.
Luke and I went to Mount Wachusett Thursday for a quick skin and ski before work. At the base we encountered three other people on telemark gear preparing for a skin and ski themselves. We discussed skinning and how we prefer to let our legs do the work of the lifts and how it helps us to get more enjoyment out of a relatively small mountain. This made me think of the previous day where Luke and I encountered a guy out for his first day on telemark gear.
He saw us skinning, came over and asked a few simple questions about the gear and about the learning curve, and I think we gave him an honest, approachable, and welcoming introduction to the telemark tribe. This thought was validated when, a few days later, the first time telemarker stopped by the store to tell me about his first day and to tell me how psyched he is on the sport. He then asked a few questions about skins such as how to use them and where to go. I once again gave him honest advice, and told him that I looked forward to seeing him out at Wachusett and as I thought about it, I realized that I really meant it.
My alpine skiing friends tell me that telemarking is inefficient compared to alpine skiing. They argue that they already know how to ski, so there is no sense in learning to telemark. I think I will let them have their skiing, because they are truly missing out on the spirit of telemarking. Telemarking is about being one of the few not the many, about being graceful not fast, and, most of all, it is about the people. I hope this season allows me to welcome more people like the gentleman from earlier in the week to the tribe, because once you get started, it is hard to stop.