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Nordic Skiing is one of two main types of skiing, the other being Alpine Skiing. Nordic skiing differs from Alpine skiing in that the heel of the binding is loose, meaning that at any time the skier can move his heels. The branches of Nordic skiing include Telemark, Cross-Country, Ski Jumping and Biathlon. Travelers may base their entire holiday on skiing, sometimes in search of the perfect powder snow, sometimes simply for the mountain air, most in search of that moment of euphoria that only skiing can provide.
Invented by Sondre Norheim, Telemark was pioneered in Norway and named after the Telemark region where Norheim lived. Using the telemark technique the skier bends the uphill leg until the knee is level with the downhill ankle causing the downhill ski to be in front of the uphill one, this is done while moving across the slope. To make a turn the skier straightens his bent uphill leg and moves it in front of the downhill ski. He then partially bends the down hill leg and swings around until it becomes the uphill leg and he is traveling across the slope in the other direction. To other skiers it looks like the telemarker is lunging whilst skiing alpine style. The balance of the skier is centered at the heel as otherwise he would fall flat on his face. Naturally it is more difficult than alpine skiing and beginners to snow sports should not start with Telemark, but progress on to it.
Telemark is more enjoyable downhill yet it is ideal for covering rolling terrain as it is easy to walk up hills with loose heel. Telemark has a much smoother feel to the turn and has an elegance to it where the skier certainly feels closer to the snow. Skis with Telemark bindings are available across the Alps and of course in Scandinavia. Some 'free-heeled' skiers are comfortable using lifts in Alpine resorts yet others feel that Telemark is about being back to basics and like to ski tour up the mountain using skins. This provides opportunities to ski down untouched snow in a completely natural landscape, however the dangers are greater than on marked pistes. Telemark does not require any different terrain to alpine skiing.
Cross-Country skiing involves either shuffling or skating over tracks on very narrow skis. As with all Nordic skiis the heel is not attached to the ski. This style of skiing is highly energetic as there is no downhill cruising involved, the skier is constantly pushing with their poles and moving their skis across the flat or uphill terrain. Occasionally there is a small downhill section. Cross-Country is in no way similar to Alpine skiing, it is a form of transport in Northern Scandinavia, Russia and rural areas around the Northern Baltic states. Due to the lack of hills in Scandinavia cross-country is a widely practiced sport, the equivalent to jogging in the summer. Larger alpine skiing resorts will most likely have some marked tracks and a rental shop available to the public.
Biathlon is a more competitive sport than either telemark and cross-country, although races are organized for both of the sports. Biathlon involves cross-country skating around a circuit whilst carrying a rifle on your back. At certain intervals the skiier will stop and take aim at targets with the rifle and each miss of the target adds approximately 5 seconds onto the skiiers time. Now obviously this would be rather dull if you were not in a competition, yet you need to practice to stand a chance.
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