Note: No Telemarkers were injured while making this post.
A once prolific species, the Teton Telemarker used to roam the high country in high numbers, leaving their genuflecting tracks all across the range. However, since the introduction of the European Alpine Tourer, the Teton Telemarker’s sustainable future is now in question.
Over the weekend, I got a close up look of an individual from the dying breed with a sighting while skiing in the northern range. It’s heavy and awkward looking boots seemed to slow it down, but it followed my tracks for some time, my guess is for ease of travel. Seemingly not afraid of its predatory species, it lumbered up my bootpack to a peak at the head of a canyon.
Its movement going downhill was quite interesting, as it seemed to kneel down and attempt to hide behind a wall of snow as it descended. With what my guess is a survival tactic, it also did a forward roll to get through some tricky snow, before continuing onward with a more traditional upright stance. At one point, the individual passed me and attempted to run away, but its slow speed kept it from getting too far ahead, and as fatigue set in, it was forced to rest before attempting to put more ground between us.
Wanting to learn more about this prehistoric member of the skier species, I approached it with caution, and after luring it closer with some granola and Odwalla drink I had stashed in my pack for such an occasion, it became more relaxed. I documented the sighting by taking a GPS coordinate and a few photos that I emailed to the Teton Telemark Project when I got home, and they said it was the first sighting they had received this year.
Please keep an eye out for more Telemarker sightings, as I’m sure there are more breeding members of the Teton population out there. Identifying characteristics of their tracks are wide traverses across the fall-line, combined with the occasional bomb hole…usually in crusty snow. Remember to keep your distance until you are sure they are friendly, as their poles and skis tend to fly around around wildly…especially when descending a slope.