Downhill skiing is one of the most popular winter sports, but more and more downhill skiers are getting into telemark skiing, since it allows the skier to be in more control of his or her movements.
What do I mean? Check out this video of a woman telemark skiing. Instead of her boots being attached to her ski bindings permanently as with downhill skiing, you'll see that she has special bindings on her skis so her toes are stabilized, but her heel is free to move up and down. Her boots are made of softer plastic (sometimes leather), so she can flex her foot as well as bend her knees. So when she moves down the mountain, it's very graceful and natural looking, like running.
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Alpine skiing is all about keeping your legs together and speeding down the mountain. Telemarking on the other hand is about moving your lower body, and mastering the technique of the Telemark turn. It's also more difficult than downhill skiing, since it requires a ton of lower body strength and stamina, but it's also the reason more skiers prefer it. You're basically squatting and lunging the entire time, so it's a real thigh and butt burner. If your quads and buns do get tired, you can keep your legs together, and downhill ski until your legs are ready to go back to telemarking.
Some say that it's easier on your knees than Alpine skiing, because it isn't as jarring to your joints, which absorb a lot of the impact of the skis hitting the snow. Plus since your heel is free, and the boots are more flexible than downhill ski boots, if your ski gets twisted or stuck, the boots will be able to flex or release more easily, so you're less likely to injure your knee.
If you've been skiing for a while and want to trying a new snow sport, I definitely recommend trying to telemark. Check out the local ski mountains and gear shops to see if you can rent some skis, boots and poles, and then take a lesson. It may be your new favorite thing to do in the snow.