What is Fake-mark you ask? Read on and you will learn. But first: Platty-mark.
At other mountains you might see the odd telemark skier, but at Plattekill you’re guaranteed to see quite a few of them, often roaming in packs. Over the last four years Plattekill has become the tele Mecca of the Catskills, with gear rentals and lessons that you won’t find elsewhere. I’ve always thought that they look so elegant as they curtsy their way down the hill, so I thought I’d trade in my alpine boots for a day and free my heels. [Ed note: Remember David is British so the idea of a curtsy is in his blood. They have a royal family in the UK…]
I took a lesson with Snowsports’ School Director, Jeff Crane, who has been driving the tele-awakening at Plattekill. Our friend Cay Sophie, comes along too – she has swapped alpine for telemark for the whole season.
At the top of Sundown, Jeff gets me into the correct telemark position and takes my picture. I’m thinking that this is so that I can Photoshop myself onto something steeper later, but the point is so that I could feel the right position without going anywhere. Jeff takes us down Sundown and, with the help of some drills, start to free our heels, at least a little bit. The physics of tele is the same as alpine – face downhill, move across your skis to initiate a turn etc, however alpine skiers often end up doing some sort of halfway version of the stance, or “fake-mark” as Jeff calls it.
Cay Sophie and I head over to North Face where we can practice on something a bit steeper. We are far from expert but as she points out, beginners at telemark probably look much more elegant than beginners at alpine anyway. That’s where we find Matt Charles who runs the telemark Junior Development Program at Plattekill, and has been asked to tryout for the PSIA National Team. THIS IS A VERY BIG DEAL. Only six people from across the ENTIRE U S are asked, and only three are accepted, and this man, he skis, he teles, he teaches at Platty. And he is there working on my stance.
Matt has us jumping into a tele stance after every turn – there’s something about the jump that just makes you sink deeper into it. By the end of the day, I think I’m getting the hang of it. I tell Jeff that I’m not ready to go back to my alpine boots just yet. “Maybe you’ll never go back,” he says, with a glint in his eye.
If you want to try freeing your heels, Friday February 26th is Plattekill’s 4th Annual Telefest. Come and get free demos of the latest gear courtesy of Telemarkdown.com, a free clinic with Matt Charles, a chance to win a set of Black Diamond Traverse poles, and try Laszlo’s famous Hungarian goulash (made with local organic beef from Flaca Vaca farm). Afterwards cool your heels to live music from The Pine Hill Playboys in the Platty Lounge.
- This map. It’s been settling arguments in the bar about length and descent since 1972. It’s beautiful. James Niehues eat your heart out.
- No lift lines. …and even if one does form, it’s so convivial that you’d hardly notice.
- Cheers. You wanna go to a place where everybody knows your name. It’s that “Norm!” moment when your ski buddies shout your name from the chairlift.
- It’s family run. If you don’t bump into Laszlo or Danielle in the lodge, you might see them on the slopes and they’ll be happy to ski with you. And now the next generation of Vajtays is stepping up to help out with snowmaking and snow tubing.
- This guy. Steve Supp – he keeps it real in his Carhartt overalls and thrift store skis (price sticker intact).
- Snow (outside). Plattekill is frequently blessed with the natural stuff, and even when it isn’t, Macker and his team do heroic things with a couple hundred snow guns.
- Snow (inside). The majestic bark creature that watches over the bar. Snow is actually a pretty good skier – look closely and you’ll see Snow favors some pretty old skool 2x4 skis.
- Free Heelers. Plattekill is the only hill where you’ll see more than one tele skier at a time, which is why we’ve coined a collective noun for them. It’s a “curtsy” of teleskiers.
- The Lodge Bar. What’s better after a big day skiing than one of those Polish beers with the funny name that only Laszlo can pronounce? Yeah, one of those please.
- The People. Which is really a thousand more reasons – the familiar faces we see only during ski season. This season has been a long time coming and we’ve been missing them. As someone put it today “whether there’s snow or not it’s good to see everyone again – it’s social”