Ski instructor and U.S. Telemark Team racer Tabi Freedman is starting a high-speed, free heeling revolution.
Name: Tabi Freedman Age: 59 Occupation: PSIA Level II Certified Alpine and Telemark Instructor at Mount Snow; Zoning Administrator for the Town of Dover From: Longmeadow, Mass. Lives In: West Dover Primary Sport: Telemark Ski Racing Family: Parents Ned and Debra Freedman, brother Eric and sister Marissa and three Weimaraners.
When Tabi Freedman started instructing at Mount Snow as a junior in high school in 1977 she’d already been competing at the national level in freestyle and ski ballet for 10 years.
“My dad started skiing at Mount Snow in 1954, the first year it opened. When I was a kid he used to drop us off at ski school in the morning so he and my mom could ski hard for the day,” she recalls.
But in 2011, at age 50, Freedman, who has been a PSIA Level II Alpine Instructor for many years, did something most people couldn’t fathom: she ditched her alpine setup and started racing as a telemark skier. And she beat out competitors half her age for a spot on the U.S. Telemark Ski Team.
Telemark ski racing is not an Olympic sport, but it has international popularity and World Cup races draw serious crowds across Europe. Vermont last hosted the World Cup in 2018, when the competition came to Sugarbush and Suicide Six.
Freedman was recruited to the sport by Keith Rodney, a coach for the U.S. Telemark Ski Team and a longtime fellow ski instructor at Mount Snow.
“It was the turn that sparked my interest [in telemark],” she says. “I tell people, it’s just like
dancing downhill.” But in the end it was racing that hooked her. “I was like ‘Oh. You can go really fast?’”
In 2013, she competed in the National Championships in Steamboat Springs, Colo. “I was neck-and-neck with the number one racer at the time in a parallel classic race until I planted a pole in my binding and fell in front of hundreds of cheering people. To say I went over the handlebars would be an understatement,” says Freedman. Nonetheless, when she crossed the finish line, laughing, she was hooked.
The U.S. Telemark Ski Association, the sport’s governing body, recognizes two race formats: classic and sprint classic. In a classic race, skiers race through about 40 gates in a manner similar to alpine skiing, making each turn as a telemark turn. The course includes a 360-degree banked turn, a jump where skiers must cover 25 to 40 meters of distance and a section involving skating.
Since she started racing seriously in 2012, Freedman has consistently placed in the top ten USTSA rankings among American women telemark skiers, regardless of age. She was the eighth-ranked female racer in the country for two years in a row in 2015 and 2016.
Now a member of the U.S. Telemark Masters’ Team, she focuses her attention on building a telemark community at Mount Snow and usually can be found coaching at the annual telemark festival, held again this year at Bromley, Feb. 22-23.
According to Freedman, even alpine skiers can benefit from a day or lesson in freeheel skiing. “Trying telemark will give you a true sense of where your center is,” says Freedman, who has helped integrate telemark drills and skiing into Mount Snow’s junior alpine racing program.
“With alpine skiing, the support of your boot and binding give you a lot of leeway to be out of center,” says Freedman, who teaches a lot of intermediate to advanced alpine skiers who struggle with sitting too far back or too far forward in their stance. “When your heel is free, if you’re not centered, you’re on your face. It teaches tremendous body awareness.”
In Freedman’s 35 years of skiing at Mount Snow, she’s never known it to be a destination for telemark skiers until the last couple of years.
It’s now one of several ski areas (others include Mad River Glen, Bromley Mountain, Bolton Valley, Stowe Killington/Pico Mountains and the Middlebury Snow Bowl) in Vermont where you can take a lesson from a PSIA-certified telemark instructor. “We’ve got our ski school instructors and some of our freestyle and alpine racing coaches telemarking and it’s become visible at Mount Snow,” she says.
Freedman says it’s helped to spread a culture of camaraderie at the resort that has amplified as younger skiers take their telemark skis to Carinthia Parks.
“It’s grown to where we’ve got these seriously athletic young big mountain skiers who are making the sport their own and that’s great to see.”
But, she says, older skiers shouldn’t be discouraged. “People think it’s harder than it is, but if you can ride a bike, you can telemark,” says Freedman. “New equipment has made it so that it’s gentle on your knees. There is none of the twist I associate with alpine skiing that creates soreness. Try telemark, and your thighs will be tired at the end of a long day, but your knees will feel young again.”
You can take a clinic with Tabi Freedman and other instructors at the 35th Annual Kåre Andersen Telemark Festival at Bromley Mountain, Feb. 22-23. Register: bromley.com/event/telefest
Featured Photo: Within two years of winning her first citizen’s telemark ski race at the Kare Andersen Telemark Festival in 2011, Tabi Freedman was racing on the U.S. Telemark Team. Photo courtesy U.S. Telemark Team
This story has been corrected from the original print version, in which Tabi Freedman was incorrectly identified in a photo. This version reflects the corrected version of the story.