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Telemark Festival returning for fourth year

Skiers to take to Blackcomb Mountain on March 1

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Shane Landreville has seen the fledgling Whistler Telemark Festival start to carve out its place in the community since its first run.

The festival, which is set to run its fourth edition on Blackcomb Mountain on March 1, was originally for adults before adding a youth option in 2014. Landreville, the BC Telemark president and a World Cup competitor, is encouraged for the sport's future.

"Last year was the first year, and it was all quite well received by the festival participants to have these youth skiers around, so there was good energy all around," he said.

There are some changes in the programming this year as well, as more experienced skiers will be given options as to how they spend their morning before head-to-head racing at the GMC Race Centre in the afternoon.

"As far as the programming of it, it's developed quite slowly," said Landreville. "There's been some modifications and changes from year to year.

"For the intermediate and advanced skiers, we're adding a lesson option or a group-skiing option if people want to go out and ski in a group — more of a guided tour rather than a formal clinic."

Telemark skiing takes elements of alpine and Nordic skiing — the style, also known as freeheeling, allows skiers to more easily dip the back knee to make turns. Landreville said the community is welcoming to those who want to try it out.

"It's very recreational, non-competitive. Just come out, race your new friends, race some of your friends you drove up to the festival with," he said. "Seeing 50 Telemark skiers skiing down the hill at the same time all together, you don't get that on any given day."

Being relatively fit is important, as it is in other types of skiing. Landreville noted "anyone with a foundation of alpine, snowboarding, even cross-country skills will have a basis for learning Telemark."

He added progressions in Telemark skiing technology have made the sport more accessible for newcomers looking to get involved. Bindings are stiffer, releasable (to help prevent knee injuries) and "laterally, more responsive" (to prevent lateral movement of regular bindings). Boots, meanwhile, are similar to alpine boots but are bendable and have a bellow in them.

"For a sport that some ski manufacturers say is dead, there is an incredible amount of research and development in countries other than Canada trying to make it easier for people to get into," he said.

The expected attendance is about 70 people this year, keeping in line with last year's participation levels. As he hopes to dispel perceptions that Telemark is exponentially more challenging than other types of skiing, Landreville explained he expects a fair amount of turnover this time around.

"In particular, this year, I think a lot of people are going to come out and try Telemark," he said. "It's not the best year for skiing, so it's an opportunity to try something new, get out on the slopes, learn Telemark, pick up the sport in a really comfortable environment.

"For people who have some experience with Telemark, it's the opportunity to ski with a group of people, try some racing and hopefully make the trip out to Silver Star and be part of the bigger community."

Landreville explained the Whistler event is the little brother to the Silver Star Spring Loaded Telemark Festival near Vernon. This year's event will take place from March 27 to 29. He explained the Silver Star event typically focuses more on racing while Whistler is more about developing as a skier and riding in groups.

Landreville said there is a possibility the Whistler offering could grow into something beyond a day, but it's not imminent.

"There's a lot of potential for it as well," he said. "It's developed over the last few years, and I think there's still a lot of areas that we can explore based on feedback from participants, so what they want to see, what they want to do."

For more information or to register, visit www.bctelemark.com. Landreville noted the festival is hosting a photo contest, and encourages participants to post their best snaps with the hashtag #WTF2015.

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