Words by Tony Gill // Photos by Quinn Starr

Ty Dayberry showing his lip after an under rotated double cork

The world of telemark skiing — especially in the park — is pretty small. For the last few years, I’ve heard stories about and seen edits of a handful ot telemark shredders out there. I’ve even been in contact with a few of them from time to time, but you don’t often get a group of them to congregate at the same time and place. I‘d recently found a new blog called TelemarkPark (telemarkpark.blogspot.com). The site is an online gathering place where freeheelers can post videos and photographs of their telemark park skiing exploits. The site is run by John Olav Folkestad Førland, and I recognized his name from some of the videos I used to see on Facebook and Youtube. The posts on TelemarkPark are a showcase for the veritable who’s who of telemark park skiing, and a good majority of the major contributors — including John Olav — made their way to Colorado for the event.

(L to R — Alex Paul, Tony Gill, Andreas Sjöbeck, Jeremy Clark, Ty Dayberry, John Olav Folkstad Førland, Kjell Ellefson)

The Teva Winter Mountain Games was the first major telemark big air competition to be held in a couple years, and a substantial cash purse raised the stakes and increased the incentive for people to come to the event. The resulting turnout had freeheelers coming in from near and far. Some came from just down the I-70 corridor while others traveled all the way across the pond. Whatever diverse paths people took to get there, everyone was excited to finally meet the group of passionate park-slaying freeheelers.

Like any good telemark gathering, the Teva Games encompass so much more than just a competition. In a true display of the camaraderie of the freeheel community, a huge contingent of athletes descended on the Breckenridge terrain park to shoot some videos and photographs for a couple of days before the event. Those days in the Park Lane Terrain Park are what I will most remember about my trip to Colorado, and they certainly count among the most fun I have ever had on skis.

(L to R — Christopher Ewart, Erik Nordin & Dylan Garner)

The energy level and positive vibes were through the roof. Every run someone was trying something that they hadn’t before, and each skier’s unique style worked to inspire the whole group. People were trying double corks, new grabs, big tele presses and hopping aboard the occasional train through the jump line. The freeheel crew mobbing through the park was really something to see. Even in a park like the one at Breckenridge — where the level of freestyle skiing is extremely high — the biggest cheers of the day belonged to the telemark posse.

Andreas Sjöbeck getting things dialed in the qualifying round.

The telemark world may have converged on Vail for a competition, but the pinners in attendance fully expected to have a good time too. Between park sessions and parties, a bunch of freeheelers made their way over to the Woodward at Copper training facility for a practice session on the trampolines and ramps. Woodward’s foam pits were a great resource for some last minute tweaking to dial in tricks for the competition. And if there was any pressure from the upcoming event, it didn’t affect the group. The proof was in a late-night karaoke session that took place in Avon on the eve of the comp. There were some memorable performances — most notably a splendid rendition of “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” — but the DJ was overheard saying, “Well folks, let’s hope they ski better than they sing.” A bunch of the competitors finished the evening by cramming in and making fellow athlete Christopher Ewart’s apartment their accommodations for the evening. This would be considered an unlikely act of hospitality and sportsmanship at most other competitive events, but not with this crew.

Kjell Ellefson working things out at Breckenridge pre-Games

When competition day finally arrived, the freeheelers did not disappoint. The crowd, and the anticipation, grew as the sun went down and skiers prepared for the show. The competition was a jam format where skiers got as many hits on the super lippy jump — which just so happened to shoot flames into the air behind the skiers — as they could in the allotted time. The best single jump would determine the winner.

Things started out on a relatively tame note with the skiers trying to land a stock trick to get a solid score. Then things really went off. Andreas Sjöbeck threw down the first double-cork 1080 in a telemark competition. It was huge, taken way down the landing and grabbed throughout; the only flaw was a brief buttcheck on the landing. Jeremy Clark stepped up with a double-rodeo 900 that landed him in 2nd place overall. Ty Dayberry attempted a switch double-cork 1080 that he couldn’t quite stick, but he followed it up with some massive double back flips. Kjell Ellefson stomped a picture perfect switch misty 900, another first in a telemark competition, to end up in third place overall. Dylan Garner abso- lutely killed it throwing enormous rodeos with telemark bow and arrow grabs that he absolutely yarded on. The evening’s biggest cheer went to crowd favorite Christopher Ewart. He stomped a double front flip to take home the crown and $2,500.

It was a pretty amazing experience to be a part of. Getting to know the diverse group of freeheel skiers I have known about for quite some time by skiing and partying with them was extremely rewarding. Any time you get such a good group of skiers and people together, good times are going to flow. The level of skiing was off the charts all week, and it really provided inspiration for people all over to pick up the freeheel freestyle mantle and get after it.

Back at that I-70 rest stop, I got back in the truck. I rang my bell pretty well during the competition, I had a long way left to drive and, like I said, I was out of windshield washer fluid. I was headed back to the real world for a while. But after having the time I just had and meeting the people I met, I decided I could certainly have it a lot worse.

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