Bookends -- The 3rd Stubaier Telemark
Festival & The Xth International La Skieda Telemark Festival
-- One Skier's Tale Of Two Great Festivals
by Bob Mazarei
Fes ti val (fes te vel) n.
2. a celebration, entertainment, or series of performances of
a certain kind, often held periodically (a Bach festival) 3.
Although Ive been dropping the knee
for 18 seasons now, I had, until last season, never attended
a festival celebrating this great sport of ours. And you know
what? I am now a huge fan. Telemark festivals rule! And thus,
Ive got a whole new strategy for coming seasons: in with
a bang and out with a bang.
Lets say that each day of the ski
season was a book on your shelf. Each a special tome of its own,
some thick and substantial, like a War and Peace. Others are
smaller, lighter reading, less weighty, but still a fun read,
like a Tourist Season. And on each end of those: bookends.
The Stubai Telemark Festival would be the
left bookend, a celebration of everything snow; a unicorn-pole,
knee to ski-fest to kick off the new season; hooking up with
old mates, drinking and cavorting with new. And La Skieda at
Livigno would be the right bookend, a hedonistic weeklong raison
du fête the likes Ive never seen, raison d'être
à Italy , partying, just as a matter of principle. Yup,
The 3rd Stubaier Telemark
Friday Nov. 21, 2003
Skiing and merrymaking.
Thats a pretty good description of my philosophy of ski,
my style in a knuss shell, so to speak. So when the opportunity
presented itself to attend the third annual Stubai Telemark Festival,
I marked the date on my calendar having that certain feeling
that yup, this could be interesting.
It would be my first telemark festival,
yes; I was, like a virgin, touched for the very first time.
It had been 16 years since I had last been
to Stubai, located just southwest of the beautiful city of Innsbruck,
Austria; far too long to not have revisited this rugged and charming
part of the Alps. It may have been a hazy 16 years ago but one
thing stayed clear as a pair of Leica binocularshow much
the Austrians love their aprés ski. Partying in the Tirol
isoxymoron asideserious business casting a giant
Weissbier shadow on all other aprés ski scenes in the
Alps. Just my kind of place. Now imagine BT with me. Now imagine
the damage we could do.
With the ShapirosMarko and
Franziskadriving, my only concern was backseat comfort
Subaru style, me gangsta-leaning in back for the eight-hour drive
from Verbier to Innsbruck. The merrymaking started just after
passing Frankies hometown of Zurich at a rest stop roach
coach küchenschabenbus where we gorged hamburgers, schnitzels,
of course, biers.
Damn, I miss those California küchenschabenbuss
and their fine cuisine. (Ok, I just wanted to type that word
Past Bad Ragaz, through Liechtenstein and
the Arlberg tunnel, the fading skyline as wild as I remember
it, we finally passed Innsbruck and pulled into the Sport Center
in Neustift halfway up the Stubaital valley at 7:15into
Right from the beginning I had to admire
the organization of this festival. The three of us went and met
the festival organizers, Richard Schürf and Christian Keller
of telemarkfriends.com. Christian and I knew each other electronically
as we had fired off emails back and forth last year. He was much
taller than his emails suggested. Richard was running around
organizing logistics and Christian was preparing the computer
projector for visual entertainment, thus we didnt bother
them too much.
The banquet room was large and filled with
lots of Germans and Austrians, a surprisingly small contingent
from Italy, as well as representative skiers from other European
countries. Then the food came out plentiful and hot, and telemarkers
being telemarkers were on it like Tahoe locals at a vintage Cadillac
show. Franziska made the brilliant call to hit the salad section
first, thereby avoiding the conga line.
The night was shaping up nicely and got
even better when I heard a Bobalina being called
over my shoulder in that oh so sweet voice. It was, to my unfettered
pleasure, Ingrid Schlott aka the Bavarian Bombshell and Olli
Grau, aka the 1995 Kayak World Champion. (And dont get
any ideas with the Bobalina; that name is reserved for only two,
Ingrid, and Anne Smith). They were tapped to lend a hand for
Patagonia. They are my soft shell and my hard shell.
I went to get a round of heffenweissen,
which was painless because the bier girls seemed to be technique-honed
from an early age in Weissbier School, all charm and efficiency,
and thats when I heard the American voice. Tim was from
Michigan but now living in Frankfurt, and he had rallied solo
to make the festival. I told him to grab his grub and come sit
with us left side. Tim, a neophyte telemarker was so full of
good vibes, humor and stoke that I couldnt help wanting
to ski with this guy. He told us that he had been reading Paul
Parkers book, Free-Heel Skiing and asked us if we knew
the book, whereas I jutted my chin at Marko and said he had taken
about a fifth of the photos in said book, and we toasted the
author himself, cause Paul rules.
After a few guest speakers which included
Marko and Franziskathe latter giving a long discourse in
German over the state of Swiss telemark much to Markos
delightChristian started the visual part of the evening.
As the lights went down we were transported to the Utah desert
for some beautiful sand telemark action courtesy of Telemarktips.com
and, if Im not mistaken, Cesares deft use of camera.
The crowd loved it including the two couples from the states,
now stationed in Germany, who had joined our table. Andrew L,
of where-to-spend-the-season fame, came by to make his presence
knownZermatt it is! Nicely. We had such a laugh, the weissbier
flowing, and I believe I even saw Big Tim turning up on the big
screen as is fitting when speaking of bier. We also had a telemarkfriends.com
film of crazy antics on an overcast day, some speed and carnage
on the skier-cross course, as well as Boness excellent
film on telemark technique. Everyone was pumped to ski after
the visuals. But first, the raging Dorf Pub aka Fat-Leg Central.
Saturday Nov. 22
Marko popped his head in the next morning
and I had the six and a half second not knowing where I was wake-up.
Franziska was in a bad state from a bug she had caught from daughter
Kimberly, and wasnt going anywhere. Marko and I joined
conga line, part zwei, past Neustift heading toward the valley
end. He pointed out where snowboard pioneer Jose Fernandez dangerously
parapented in front of a large waterfall for his lens, thereby
adding to the collection of classic Marko images. He showed me
where he and Franziska first met, he studly action photog, she
young Swiss National Snowboard Team member, making goo-goo eyes
at each other, love at first fright.
Stubai laid out for early
season sweetness. Photo - Mazarei
It was an overcast day with many weekend
people out but Stubais lift system handled it with ease.
Arriving at the mid station we saw telemarkers everywhere, hundreds
of us. The lift lines looked daunting but in reality moved efficiently,
the wait never too long. What I had forgotten from 16 years before
was the terrainit was huge and steep, with couloirs, hanging
glaciers and snowfields. All around were peaks and ridges and
a thousand possibilities. Olli later told me that the wilder
stuff doesnt get skied that often, only a small band of
hard cores and an occasional visiting film crew taking advantage.
The dangerous side was apparent as well. Add Stubai to the other
surrounding Innsbruck ski stations such as Hungerburg, Axamer-Lizum
and Igls and you have yourself an incredible region to have a
ski-off with Ullr.
The conditions, to our delight, were fantastic.
The flat light didnt bother us in the least because the
snow was perfect grippy hardpack.
The pistes up higher were so large that
no one was ever in the way. And the packed snow off piste was
even better. Then we would get in line for the six-person chair
and invariably hook up with other telemarkers.
We met and skied with Italian Mountain
Guide Simone Elmi and his partner Stefano Bordoni. Simone, it
turned out, works and skis with all our Italian cohorts: Luca
Gasparini, Paolo Tassi, Simone Moro etc. His Italian sense of
humor, dry as it was, just kept the whole vibe going.
Marko and I checked out the racers competing
in the four-at-a-time skier-cross, some serious action going
down on the steep course, fun viewing for the entire family.
Then we hit the manufacturers stands set up at the bottom of
the course, next to the perpetually full aquarium-like snow bar.
Scarpa, Garmont, and Crispi were all represented.
We hung with Andy Schimeck from Marmot Europe, talking future
projects. Arc teryx, the North Face, Lowe, and Patagonia were
there, the latter manned deftly by Ingrid and Olli. Andreas Schaefer,
European Manager for G3 showed us their newest line. Black Diamonds
latest was on displayBDs new skis looking especially
sweet. The opportunity to try all this new gear, from skis, bindings,
and boots, to gloves and shells, was open to all, and from what
we saw our telemark brethren were taking full advantage. We met
Frank am Rhyn, Swiss telemark freerider skiing out of the pearl
that is Andermatt, and rep for a small freeride ski company called
Masurao. Those good-looking skis were seeing a lot of action.
Nonkersurf cranking turns.
Photo: lone telemarker
Tassled hats off to all the manufacturers
and representatives, as well as the organizers for making this
key part of the festival run so smoothly. Well done everyone!
(And please excuse me if I forgot to mention anyone).
Olli took a break to show Marko and I a
run he was into but we lost Marko on the way over. After the
runwhich was wildI continued doing solo laps. Then
I saw the stranger below me doing very nice tele turns and as
he was solo as well, I caught up to him. He was built like a
brickhouse, but Ill say bierstube, because he was Austrian.
And he told me in his Ahnold voice that it was his first day
on tele gear. I skied down a bit, then he sweetly skied up to
me and asked, how vas my style? I told him, fantastic
for your first day, wow! I noticed the Austrian Ski Team
jacket he was sporting and he confirmed that he used to be on
the National Team and was now a trainer. Then it all made sense.
Marko deals with depth of field
in his photography, but that phrase can also be used to describe
the Austrian National Ski Teams and their dominating nature.
His first day on tele skis, jeez
well, skiing is just skiing,
(Take any World-class alpine skier and
put her in T1 style boots and alpine skis; after two or three
days you would be hard pressed to keep up. Telemarking is not
hard any moreit used to be. The ease of learning how to
telemarkand this is a good thing, Im not saying it
is badis directly proportional to the height and stability
of plastic boots, and the width and torsional solidity of todays
skis. Physics my friends, physics. I mentioned in another story
how telemark skiers will never achieve the power and stability
of an alpine skier locked down. And this was debated back and
forth on the TelemarkTalk Forum. When I wrote that, I was not
thinking of some mere seconds in a racecourse, or stylin
down Superior, or some comparison of powder-skiing prowess. I
live in Europe.
I was thinking life or death. I wrote that
in the context of Anselm Bauds prolific ski guidebook,
Mont Blanc et Aiguilles Rouges à Ski. The hardest route
that has been free-heeledto my knowledgeis the Mallory
Route N. Face of the Aiguille du Midi, rated TD+, 50-55°/500m
The route consists of 1800 ft. vert of
the diciest terrain imaginable. Anyone who has been on the snow
arête off the Aiguille du Midi will tell you skiing left,
towards Chamonix Valley, seems suicidal. Yet that is the beginning
of the route. Most people would prefer to take up the sport of
base-jumping than to put on skis in such an area. And thats
before you get to the first technical part.
We all know that descents such as these
are condition dependent. Nevertheless, keep in mind that one
of Americas best alpine ski mountaineers fell and died
on Mont Blanc du Taculs Gervasutti couloir, a route rated
TD. Now, keep in mind that the TD+ Mallory is two full levels
below (from TD+ to ED to ED+) what has been alpine skied. It
is one thing to say, oh yeah, I can, or I know someone
who can freeheel anything an alpine skier can. It is another
to actually come here, grab Anselms book, and go at it.
From TD+ to ED+? Prove me wrong, just dont hold me liable
to the story).
Aiguille du Midi with the Mallory Route
down the middle. Photo- from Mont Blanc et Aiguilles Rouges à
Marko and I retired to the restaurant at
the base for the first of many weissbiers that would be sampled
this aprés ski. Later, we could only shake our heads at
the scene in front of the hotel/bar situated in the middle of
the parking lot. It was like Dantes Inferno under the cool
overcast day, sardines cooking to techno, marinating in bier
steins, the girls gyrating trancelike on tables raised up as
if on pyres. Freaking awesome! Ski racing aint the only
thing the Austrians dominate.
Marko decided to chill and take it mellow
Mellow, hah! I freshened up and called
a cab because the Dorf Pub was awaiting and I had many a Fat
Leg to party with.
But, I stopped in a quiet bar to start
the night, everything just perfect. Planting my butt on a barstool
next to a couple of valley locals, I noticed the World Cup being
broadcast live from Park City. I started chatting to the two
next to me trying to get a sense of the people around these parts.
Then Hermann Maier shot out the start gate
California might have the Terminator, but the Austrians
still have the Herminator. It was obvious that, although he didnt
podium, Maier was finding his form. (He finished 7th this day;
but won a Super-G at Lake Louise a week later, and the Beaver
Creek Downhill a week after that
) This guy blows me awaythe
doctors were talking of amputation after his motorcycle accident
two seasons ago.
The conversation bounced from the World
Cup and skiing to nightspots in Neustift and thats when
I heard of the Hully Gully and the girls who danced there. I
stored the info into the for sure later file in the
recess of my cortex. Some would say I deposited it into the Bank
of Bad Habits.
Bidding adieu to Deep Throatwell,
he was my info source, and I never identify my sourcesI
headed to the Dorf walking in just as the merriment was beginning
its upward curve. Chilling at the bar speaking with some Scotsman,
I heard Italian (and felt the slight breeze from all the hand
gestures) being spoken behind me. I turned to check it out and
saw one of my best Italian mates, Grande Tito Bertoni, a doctor
from Corvara. It was a Grande surprise and we hugged warmly as
we had not seen each other since last season. We had been on
ski trips to Russia and Norway together and had a lot to catch
up on. It wasnt gonna happen, however, because the decibel
level went up with each introduction to his eight Italian telemarkers
buddies seated around the table.
And it all spiraled from there
I met nonkersurf, whom Mitch asked me to
look out for, then Andrew L, and then the military guys from
Frankfurt. After the nice drinking session outside the Dorf we
all piled back to the bar and squeezed next to Tim from Michigan
and our Austrian Ski Team bud (I cant, for the life of
me remember his name).
They had been dialoguing for a while by
the looks of it and the Austrian, in an especially jovial mood,
had the weissbiers lined up like Austrians in the top ten.
Brewskis with lone telemarker, Mazarei,
Arno Klein, and our Austrian Bud. Photo: nonkersurf
The music was pumping at this point and
the crowd was rocking in waves pulsating to everyones inner
tele-beat. Nonkersurf was jetlagged having recently come in from
So Cal and was counting on a big ski day the following morning.
Nonk was ready to head home.
But I would have none of that. What would
BT think? There were sober people in Iran, for heavens
sake! It was overboard, I knew it, and it felt good.
Andrew L, nonkersurf, Tim, and our Austrian
bud, you must understand, hit it off very well and I was having
too much fun with these guys not to continue with the merriment.
So nonkersurf had more biers.
I finally scrawled my Ahnold Hancock on
the credit card slip a couple of hours later and we all vowed
to hook up for a ski the next day. And with that, we poured out
But I was not finished, oh no. I had forgotten
the name of the place Deep Throat told me about but remembered
it rhymed. Spotting some youths hanging out I moseyed on over
hoping for directions. I told them I was looking, for the strip
club, uh, called Hooger Booger, or uh, something like that.
They were freaking beside themselves with laughter! Hooger Booger!
The youths never heard something so funnyI had to tell
them that you hear funnier things as you get older. After they
stopped busting a gut, the pimpled one said, You mean Hully
Gully! Yeah, thats it! Way to go, mate.
Directions filed, I took off and found
the place tucked away discreetly. It was a regular disco as far
as I could tell so I sat and had a bier and grooved to 50 Cent.
The dude next to me showed me the door leading into what I was
I entered through the half-round draped
red velvet curtains, not many people, small stage to my right
complete with chrome pole and, my word! What a beautiful blonde!
Bar stool near the stage, boom, thats me. She was getting
it on, performing a variety of tasks with the pole. Another gorgeous
blonde came over asking if I, vanted private lap dance,
darlink trying to work my credit card, get my Vlad Hancock.
I told her, beautiful Russian girl, let me think about
it, as she harumphed away. More girls and more biers, a
pole dance supreme, spinning, handy, the way of trained pros.
Russian girl, Rah! Ukraine, Rah! Doing the wave solo; Latvia,
triple Rah! It was a pleasant way to pass the time, skinny ski
getting fat, giving a whole new meaning to Neustift (which actually
means new church).
Sunday Nov. 23
Franziska recovered sufficiently allowing
her to join the arc-fest that occurred under the overcast sky.
We had a blast banking down the pistes and bounding around the
edges, the snow once again so carvable for such early season
The organizers graciously offered everyone
on the program a sumptuous brunch complete with live music, the
guitarist foot tapping Neil Young in his Terminators. (I wanna
play next festival, Richard!)
The ttips crewnonkersurf, Andrew
L, and Iwere joined by frank and his petite s.o., as well
as lone telemarker; friends joined by the handiness of the world
It then got clear out, as days like this
should, and we all went skiing.
Frank. Ph - lone telemarker
Left: lone telemarker. Ph - Andrew L.
Above: frank, lone telemarker, nonkersurf,
The Xth International La
Skieda Telemark Festival
Sunday Mar. 28, 2004
Ahh, La Skieda! I had been hearing nutziod
stories about this long-running festival for years, tales of
drinking, tele-ing, and debauchery, tales second only to Mötley
Crües best seller and all-around textbook, oops sorry!
I meant confession book, The Dirt.
La Skieda, hosted by the alpine village
of Livigno, Italy is one of the oldest and best-attended telemark
festivals in the world. Two of my most inspiring adventure partners,
Luca Gasparini and John Falkiner, also happen to be the Godfather,
and le Grande Guida, respectively, of this crazy week. The boys
have been twisting my arm for years trying to get me to come
and add to the Skieda chronicles but scheduling conflicts never
allowed me to. I was finally able to squeeze a three-day session
in, knowing that this Skieda, being the Xth anniversary, would
be the most kick-ass yet. I was psyched, to say the least.
Already packed, I said sayonara to work
and was out of Verbier at 7am plenty of cassettes beside me for
the long solo drive to Livigno. Past Zürich I flew, being
drawn, like an obsidian arrowhead on an ancient bead piercing
tough buffalo hide; John Lee Hooker doing it his way, keeping
me company, past Bad Ragaz yet again, stopping to take photos
of magnificent looking peaks on either side of the motorway,
east and up valley until the end of the road and the slopes of
Klosters framed my drivers window. I scored some cold tall-boys
at the kiosk, as one should before driving ones car onto a flatbed
car of a train. Which I did, kicking the seat back to recline,
cracking a Calanda Braü dripping icy condensation, and popping
in Kamakiriad. (Ahh, the joys of roadtrippin).
Past the tunnel and immediately into some
of the most eye-popping peaks imaginable: meters of snow blanketed
high, hanging bowls, couloirs and steep faces; it was a skiers
smorgasbord! Hot damn! I said to myself. How come there are no
tracks (Was the second thing I said to myself)? Then I realized:
I was in Switzerlands only National Park, which meant no
skiing allowed! Ouch! The big mind-eye shutdown from the government.
My essence shot through another tunnel
into the unbeknownst but oft heard of. The anticipation of a
mythical ski-land, a pilgrimage I was meant to do but wasnt
able to; the pilgrimage to be fulfilled
I drove around the lake and Voila! Livigno.
Thunderbolt and lightning
very very frightening
me Galileo Galileo Galileo Galileo
Galileo Figaro Magnifico oh oh oh oh
Lifts rose one after the other to the left
of the long ago sculpted U shaped valley. I scanned my eyes to
the right and caught more of the same. The terrainstretching,
like my college geology textbook glacial valley diagramwas
Im just a poor boy Nobody loves
Hes just a poor boy from a poor family
Spare him his life from this monstrosity
I caught a glimpse looking north up a side
valley and scoped these impossibly steep looking couloirs ribbon-tropping
off the top.
Easy come easy go Will you let me go
No we will not let you go (Let him go)
Bismillah We will not let you go (Let me go) Will not let you
go (Let me go)
Will not let you go
No no no no no no
Then I spied a big main tent surrounded
by a bunch of teepees next to a piste that had to be two football
fields wide, being assailed by dozens of telemarkers. I pulled
into the parking lot.
Oh Mama mia Mama mia Mama
Mia let me go
Beelzebub has a devil put aside for
I had finally made it to La Skieda! Finally
made it to Livigno. Ahh Woo! Rock n Roll! I was psyched.
The first thing I did was search for that
sly little Italian Beelzebub, the King Kahuna himself, Big G
Gasparini. Luca, who has donned many different La Skieda organizing
hats over the years, had the easy job (not!) of coordinating
the manufacturers Freeheel Expo that promised to be the largest
of its kind ever.
Ah, Bob-a you made it! Welcome to
ediXion ten-a, the Grand Poobah said as he eXited the tent.
My paisan, you are welcoming me empty-handed?
Lets party! I retorted.
Yes-a Bob-a. But first a quick tour.
Luca Gasparini. Ph - Mazarei
We started with the Scarpa stand where
the theme was Formula One inspired. The boys had spare parts
a-plenty and tools quick at hand for Scarpa Pit Stops.
If you had a broken buckle, no problem; new spoiler on
your T2s? Easy. Like modern pickle-tub riveters,
the boys were game for any repair or boot mod. Ski in, wham,
bam, thank you San-dro, and ski out. It was great.
Some of the manufacturers standslike
Scarpa, Garmont, and Crispiwere located conveniently on
snow next to the Pemonte lift, while other manufacturers were
set up under the large main tent just off the snow. Entering
the main tent, I gawked at all the latest goodies that were available
Exhibitors included Voilè, Black
Diamond, Scarpa, Garmont, Crispi, G3, Rottefella, 7TM, Burnt
Mountain (maker of Lucas new favorite binding, the cableless,
step-in 3-pin Tele Bulldog), Linkin, Salomon, Karhu, Rossignol,
and K2. Smaller, more specialized ski companies such as Masurao,
Faction, and Indigo Snow were present as well.
Trying all the new gear couldnt have
been easier, everything close at handor foot, I should
Out back of the main tent stood five party
teepees in a half-circle. I grabbed a beer and drank first to
the four elements: fire, earthoops that beer is done, gotta
get anotherair, and water.
Then I had my tele-Vision Quest.
I got on one knee and teled to the
North, which gives us patience and purity (I had to be patient,
indeed to pace myself, for pure festivities).
I teled to the East, which gives
us energy and emotions (I had to conserve myself so I would have
energy to, oh yeah, skiwith no emotional crying in the
I teled to the South, which gives
us discipline and direction (I had to have discipline not to
mix drinks, and which direction to the bathroom...?)
I teled to the West, which gives
us rest and reflection (I reflected on how much rest Im
gonna need after La Skieda).
It was then that I knew I was, in this
space and time, at the center of the telemark universe exactly
over the center of the Earth (no, I didnt have any peyote).
This place is great, Gaspa. Whats
To the right of the teepees stood an abstraction
X meters high, an artists idea that bounced around his cortex
until the electric impulses burnt on an ion grid and manifested
into this giant totem before me, looking for all the world like
the plumage of a fiberglass and p-tex peacock, or a giant spread-for-display
100-bladed multicolored Swiss army knife. (Edward Scissorhands
would have fallen in love). This giant ski totem keeping watch
over the party teepees was nothing less than La Skiedas
homage to Ullr and the father himself, Sondre Norheim.
Lasting a week, La Skieda has been described
as the No. 1 International event for Freeheel skiing; over a
thousand telemarkers from over 40 countries (yeaha lot
of kneepads) participate annually. The main organizersCinzia
Confortola, Rudy Mottini, Poohbah Gasparini, as well as all the
volunteers, must be commended for their efforts and abilities.
It cant be easy to put on the most out of controlI
mean that in a good wayweeklong telemark party in eXistence.
Gaspa left me to fend for myselfbidness
to attend to and all of thatso I ga-gad gear for
a bit longer, smiled and waved to some pretty telemark females
then headed off to find my hotel.
I learned within 15 minutes of arriving
at the Hotel Posta that it was the spiritual aprés-ski
hang out of La Skieda. For one, this is the spot Gary Bigham
plays music most Skiedas. His wacky antics on the bandstand
attract many telemark cognoscenti, other skiing notables, and
most notably of all, Scandinavian women. Festivities at Skieda
week abound with no shortage of places to go, a fact the town
prides itself on. But the Hotel Posta scene was undoubtedly the
vortex of coolness. Maybe it was the unique Italiano merged with
classy Americano ambience I was drawn tomore likely it
was because I was charmed by owner Kathy Martin, a long-time
Livigno ex-patriot originally from Old Town, Maine. Her union
with Livignos Luigi Martinelli spawned La Posta, as well
as their very popular with the girls, handsome son, Domenico.
The internationality of La Posta within the context of La Skieda
is befitting as well: the week is a celebration of cross-pollination,
of regions and countries, style and culture, ideas and feelings.
On one hand, what we do as skiers isnt just about sliding
down a mountain; it is a way to learn about the world as well
as ourselves. On the other hand, that is exactly what it is:
sliding down a mountain in pure pursuit of sensation; sliding
as a way of gaining profound feelings of joy and accomplishment.
Checking into my spacious and cleanly appointed room, I dumped
my bags and popped in to visit Gary for a spell.
Comfortably chilling cross-legged on his
bed like a cherubic sheik tent-bound on an oasis, Gary welcomed
me, and with a gleam in his eye, knowing that I understood, showed
me his new black Gibson Nighthawk. The guitar was given to him,
he explained, by a New York mate of his who often visits Gary
in Chamonix. Originally from Detroit of all places, Gary is a
legendary freestyler from the time of bandanas, facial
hair, Spademans and slow-dog noodles. And being based for
decades in and around the Chamonix Valleyand more recently
under the shadow of the Grands Montets; skiing the terrain of
gods, playing music with his band the Crevassholes, producing
unique ski films and over the top slide shows, Gary is an institution
(If you plan on skiing Chamonix I highly
recommend Vitamin Ski Holidays, meaning, staying with Gary in
his chaletyou wont soon forget it. It is a highly
personal and unique way to experience the area.
Same goes with his slide shows, starring
characters like skiing lambchop, Capt. Powder, and Extreme Cham-Man
whose harness and pack are fully equipped with all the necessary
mountain protection: ice axe-check! ice screws-check! egg whisk-check!
colander-check! Dont miss it if you have a chance because
it is riotous).
Grabbing the Gibson, we made ourselves
downstairs, Gary mentioning something about Dickie Hall.
Dickie Hall! Hes here? That
guy is a legend! Hes one of my heros, I blabbered.
So Gary introduced me to Dickie Hall and
his lovely wife Deb. Dickieno stranger to tele-festivals
himselfis Mr. NATO, a true torch-bearing Hero of Telemark.
I was honored to meet Dickie.
Then I turned to my left and spied Capt.
Powder in all his glory. The Captain is here too!
Bob w/Dickie & Deb Hall
Gary and the Crevassholes started in with
mood music in the comfy lounge bar and I knew, as I gazed off
into the gleaming twilight beyond the band, that I was definitely
in the right place and tonight was certainly the right time.
Ex-British freestyle champion reborn as
the Duchess of Telemark the incomparable Sarah Ferguson, and
I toasted and kissed as Dickie took the stage with my Yamaha
Capt. Powder giving face
shots. Ph: Skieda
He and Gary busted into Under The
Boardwalk, two troubadours of glisse, Bic lighters being
flicked as the crowd swayed to the smooth chords.
Left: Kasha Rigby, Melissa McManus, and
Beth Lockhart. Ph - Mazarei
Right: The lovely Naheed Ahmed and the suave Italian journalist,
Andrea Gobetti. Ph - Mazarei
And just ahead, damsels certainly not in
distress, my old ski mountaineer partner, the beautiful and powerful
Kasha Rigby, and her cohorts in prime: adventure photojournalist,
Melissa McManus, she of the enchanting blue eyes; the dark and
mysterious tele-freerider, Nahid Ahmed; and the feisty and erotic
snow sports photographer, Beth Lockhart. More kisses and toasts
because skiing rules! I had died and gone to heaven hanging with
so many fit specimens with snow on the brain.
There was Scarpas Maso, a true footwear
craftsman and a young 50-something, bobbing his head, enjoying
his wine and chatting with his Italian mates.
Bob and Kasha. Photo: Mazarei
Raconteur Rob Story was hanging out with
ttips own TeleclydeClyde Soles. They happen to be two of
my favorite scribes so I went over and chin-chinned about something
or another. Then Luca Smooveparini showed up with Paulino Tassi.
The Captain and I went and hung with John
Falkiner and his lovely Italian girlfriend, Anna, toasts and
more toasts; then I went up on stage to sit in a song or two
but only got a wailing feedback out the amp. Lord Baden-Powell
must have shifted in his grave at my unpreparedness, as I didnt
have a spare battery to replace the problematic one in my Yamaha.
And so I went back to bouncing around and
partying, more photos and hugs, meeting another ttipper, the
longhaired Seattle teler "HOP," aka Adam U. (but
alas, no Bjarke).
This evening was just that: hop-ping. It
was an evening of greetings, meetings, music, camaraderie and
merrymaking excess that was beyond exceptional.
Left: Gary Bigham wailin'. Ph - Mazarei.
Right: Troubador of Tele, NATO's
Left: John Falkiner and Anna. Rt: Scarpa's
Master artisan, Maso and friends. Ph - Mazarei.
Monday Mar. 29
What could be better, right? Well the same
kind of deal only outside. The next day I picked up my pass and
headed up the Pemonte lift not knowing what to expect. Livignos
set up couldnt have been any different than the other bookend,
Stubai: the latter being an end of the road glacial experience,
more rugged, and generally more alpine-like, and the former being
set in a long U-shaped valley with lifts stretching up from different
bases on both sides, summits generally rounded with large well
maintained pistes and big swaths of heavenly off-piste in between.
The whole Livigno valley, I concluded, was perfect for ski touring.
Ride the lifts, slap on some skins and lose yourself within the
expanse. Or head up one of the side valleys with a picnic, a
partner, and a bottle or three of vino.
I got as high as I could get in this sector,
a great view of St. Moritz over the Swiss border on my left as
I fell into place with all the other telemarkers clipping along
the piste. Stopping next to some Italian telemarkers who happened
to be doing their tele-certification routine, I asked about the
party that was supposed to be happening. Where is it? Ahh,
you speak-a about the Trepallina party. It is a grande party.
You will-a have a great time, the jovial Italian at the
back of the line said as he pointed off the backside. I dove
into the breakable crust off the back, drawing and extending,
plates of adhered snow flying every which way. Down and-a
to the left-a, he shouted after me.
Farther down I spotted different groups
of telemarkers making their way down to Trepallina. I witnessed
the whole of telemark progression: the spectrum of tele-ability
from neophytes headplanting doing close-up snowpack analysis
all the way to blasting big-booted experts. The difficult snow
made for a good show.
Then I spotted the Trepallina Party site
next to some old buildings, many people already gathered and
more arriving by the minute slowly filling the picnic tables
lined up row after row; the outdoor beer bar one of the main
focal centers. The large crew of volunteers started up with the
barbecue. I ran into HOP and Teleclyde and we slid into line
to score some grub. And still more skiers arriving all having
to ski the funky snow to get to Trepallina.
Opting out of sitting at a picnic table
I joined Falkiner to feast Bacchus-like on snow, the food tasty
and hot, the beer nice and cold. The whole party was just one
huge tribal, hedonistic aural and visual extravaganza. Telemarkers
who had climbed up the north side of Trepallina gave a high speed
powder blasting demo down a steep, wide gully while the on-snow
DJ started up with hip-hop beats; freeheel-ers lined up to do
backflips off a jump to an appreciative inebriated crowd while
the beer and wine flowed non-stop; old and new friends cavorting
and wrestling on snow, the sun kissing us adding the final touch
to this Bacchanalian fete.
Later John got up to start organizing skiers
to try and break the record for la Grande Curvathe Big
Turnwhereas skiers link hands and attempt an interlocked
huge tele turn.
Setting up for the World
Record attempt. Guinness required everyone to have a helmet.
Ph - Skieda
The lovely threeKasha, Beth, and
Melissa were bouncing around, drink and photos, music, snow,
and spirit. Then Paul Parker came over to keep me company, stories
told and laughed at, the beers non-stop. Paul and I opted out
of Johns Grande Curva; our butts planted sedately in the
snow, happy just where we were.
Both Paul and I were surprised that John and
Paulino actually got the Grande Curva together. With the cameras
rolling 201 skiers completed a linked tele-turn. It wasnt
perfect but not badthe Aussie-Italian organization somehow
working. We hung out for hours, inverts continuing off the jump
to our left, and extroverts, some natural and some alcohol influenced,
Curtsy on three. Ph -
And yes, I actually got to ski some more
this day. Surprisingly.
Late in the afternoon skiers started drifting
away on the traverse to a bus stop, which was the only way back
to Livigno. Sometime later, on the bus and contouring around
the mountain heading towards Livigno, I kept spotting killer
ski shots through the trees out the right window. Andreas Schaefer
of G3 Europe was sitting a few seats ahead of me and I could
see that he was thinking the same as me: why are we riding the
bus when we could be skiing this beautiful late afternoon back
to town? So Andreas and I asked the driver if he would mind dropping
us off and the driver kindly obliged. We walked back up the road
until we found what we were looking for and stepped into our
The light was still good as we dipped into
the spring snow that covered a stream gully cutting through the
forest. Andreas, on a pair of very cool looking prototype freeride
skis by a first year company named Faction, dropped in tight
behind me as I wound through trees, stones and various other
obstacles that made things interesting. Both our attitudes were
well adjusted from the all day party and that made us, well,
unstoppable. Andreas was dicing the run inspiring me to be tight
and nice, high tele-stances all the way. Finally we came flying
out onto the football field-wide piste just above the teepees
as the sun dipped under the horizon. We high-fived our great
run and promised we would meet later. Andreas was off to the
Posta but I had the spirit of the tribe exerting its pull, drawing
me to the teepees as sure as a dowsing rod to water.
Tuesday Mar. 30
John Falkiners usual role at La Skieda
is to lead tele-touring groups around the tour-tastic area that
is Livigno. He does this every day of La Skieda. My roommate,
Ace Kvale (who had shown up via a convoluted, long route from
La Grave, where he was shooting photos with the inimitable Doug
Coombs) and I got up early for this days tour with John (however
unlikely that sounds after the previous days Vision Quest for
The gathering at the top of the lift grew
minute by minute and I wondered what was up. John had told me
on occasions about the large groups he sometimes led at Skieda.
I had always pictured like twenty skiers or sotwenty being
large in anybodys book. But it was obvious todays
tour would be many more than that. Later, John along with Paolino
and some other guides checked that everyone who passed had working
transceivers. There was a lot of beeping going on, and when I
got to John, I asked how many skiers were on this tour.
Over a hundred, Bob, over a hundred.
The skin line was humongous, a telemark
nation unto itself, Chiefs and chieftains, warriors and tele-squaws,
a nation made up of many nations. Looking up at the next ridge
to be surmounted was like watching an ant procession up a spilt
mound of sugar. The group splintered off here and there, as ants
do, to join up once again further along. I looked over at Paul
Parker and Oliver Steffan and we had to laugh at the ludicrousness
of it all. But it was cool because the snow conditions were stable
and we were out there for a laugh. Hanging back and gaining a
final ridge, Rob Story by my side, (along with many others) we
peeled skins, the sound a cacophony at 48 decibels, like 50 women
getting leg-waxed down at Ginas Beauty Parlor simultaneously.
In ones and twos we skied off into the
crusty snow and down a ridge to a large staging plateau. John
and Paolino knew exactly what they were doing because underneath
us in a bowl that swept left then right was 10 cms of week-old
light powder. In groups, we made our way down the steeper upper
section heading back right where the angle eased. Ace wanted
to get a shot of 80 or so telemarkers decimating the 10cm powder
slope in one fell swoop and got us to stop while he set up. Appearing
over my left shoulder was my main lady of tele, Sarah Ferguson.
Everyone was waiting for Aces signal; Sarah and I were
towards the front of the group. Sarah looked over at me and whispered
sotto voce, well go early. I nodded in agreement.
Ace gave the thumbs up and I took control
yelling at everyone to go on the count of three. I counted: ok
ready, one-twoand Sarah and I took off a step ahead of
everyone else, two geese leading the V, nothing but fresh snow
in front of us as we skied down side by each (as they say in
Im not sorry! Ha! And neither is
Sarah! (Ok, we owe everyone a beer).
The snow stayed powdery for a while longer
then transformed into spring conditions as skiers split apart
working variations to the valley floor. There were a lot of good
vibrations happening this day and it continued through the awesome
lunch Ace, Teleclyde, and I had at a mountain top restaurant.
(I brought Teleclydes book Climbing: Expedition Planning
and he was so kind as to sign it for mevery cool. I have
his Climbing: Training for Peak Performance as well. Both are
excellent books and highly recommended).
It was piste supreme with some forays off
into the trees the rest of the day, wind in the eyes and lots
of smiles. Later I met Kim George and Richard Parrott of UK Tele-Masters
and we arced a few for Sondre and Tonto before retiring to an
outdoor deck to compare thoughts on tele and generally drink
a bunch more beer. We were very thirsty, you see, from all the
hard work we were putting ourselves through.
Party teepees! Hiawatha.
Ph - Skieda
Later, we entered the teepee, the tribe
in full swing, Chiefs and squaws squawking it up, liter shotgun
beer glasses suspended off of tribe members necks, no frustrations
with the initiations, the fire water flowing and the teepee steaming.
It was only 5pm.
The big wonderful tribe arrived some hours
later at the foot of the Mottolino lift. Why? Dinner and another
party, of course, but this time at the top of the lift.
The Austrians got the aprés ski
down pat but let me tell you, the Italians do it with just a
bit more style.
All tickets were sold for this party and
the room was packed. With the brilliant moon shining out the
windows, the band kicked in with some fine rock and roll gems.
The pleasure was all mine as I had as my tablemates the lovely
Beth Lockhart and another gem, the bubbly and humorous Sarah
Clemenson. The room was buzzing with electricity and I dont
need to tell you that the drinks were flowing faster than water
out a beaver's collapsed dam. My pleasure level was like the
Wall Street graphs you see on MSNBC reporting another record
highpeaking, close to breaking all records. The food was
Back down at the base of the Mottolino
lift, we continued, that is to say, we went into another bar.
They were geared up for our arrival, the bar crew obviously seeing
many a La Skieda over the seasons. I met Bones, who was in Europe
to do some filming for his new project, sometime that night.
And later, outside the door to the bar, his young telemark talents
were chucking snowballs at each other as only Americans can,
blasting each other, stoked to be raging in Europe. And as we
have seen in his films, the young daredevils throw rodeos and
such, just as well as they throw snowballs.
Marko, Franziska and I want to thank everyone
involved with the 3rd Stubaital Telemark Festival for putting
on such a great event.
And nonkersurf, lone telemarker, frank
and wife, as well as Andrew L, thanks, mates. It was a blast
skiing with you, lets do it again soon.
I also want to thank everyone involved
with the Xth La Skieda Telemark Festival. As Carly once sang,
Nobody does it better
Cheers to all the great friends, new and
old, that I met at Skieda. Fantastico!
As I have said before, it is the people
we meet that is the most important part of our sport and festivals
such as these are a celebration of this fact. We will be back
next season and I urge everyone in Telemarktips.com-land to make
an effort to come out as well. You will not be sorry.
So there you have it, a tale of two festivals.
Pull into the barrel, one bookendStubai. Get shot out of
the barrel, the other bookendLa Skieda.
This seasons bookends will fall on the
4th Stubaier Telemark Festival
November 19th thru the 21st, 2004
La Skieda XI Telemark Festival
April 9th thru the 17th, 2005
(to email Bob or Gary remove "AT"
and replace with @)
Cover | Site
"Bohemian Rhapsody" lyrics
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by Hal Leonard. Used with permission.