Friday, April 7, 2006

Hawaiian Nationals celebrates telemark philosophy

Drop knees, not bombs


A grass skirt provides little cover for this shameless tele-bear at last spring?s Hawaiian Nationals. Photo courtesty

Some people are saying that Ketchum is changing, that what used to be a high-pitched ski-town buzz is now merely a low frequency hum.

All season long, the people at the Sun Valley Telemark Series have been working hard to fight this growing suspicion with their slogan, "Save Ketchum." The series is the kind of thing that many skiers moved to Ketchum for in the first place.

"People can come experience what most ski towns do every weekend," said race director Danny Walton. Walton has been hard at work all year, organizing all-terrain and giant slalom races on Baldy, Soldier Mountain and Dollar Mountain.

The finale of this 26th season of the free-heeled series are the Hawaiian Nationals, which will be held tomorrow, rain or shine, on Warm Springs in Ketchum.

The day holds a non-stop line up of fun and ridiculous activities for telemark skiers and snowboarders alike. (Alpine skiers, with their close-mindedness and locked-down heels, are not welcome.)

The day starts with two runs on the dual giant slalom race course on Lower Hemingway. Following the race, is the rarely seen tandem telemark challenge, daring any pair of free-healers to synchronize their knee drops on one extra long pair of telemark skis.

After the race is the highly anticipated tele-parade from the top of Baldy. The parade is the chance for the ragtag group to truly free their heels and let their minds follow. All race participants gather on top of the mountain in full regalia and descend Warm Springs en masse.

Once everyone wanders off the snow, the San Diego reggae band Mystic Roots will spark the worry-free block party in front of Apples Bar and Grille. Also during the luau street party, the Smith Limo will be parked further up the street providing a full-on rail jam for spectators.

While the Hawaiian Nationals are an annual event, this year organizers have shed their ultra-laid-back telemark stereotype by working hard to organize a well-planned festival. Even Glen Plake (star of countless 80s ski-posters and videos, such as Greg Stump's 1988 "Blizzard of Aahhhs") will be there, bringing his own gonzo dynamic to the day. Plake will be accompanied by a film crew from the Resort Sports Network (RSN) for his show, Reel Thrills.

For those who feel that winter has passed them by without a true ski-town type day, Hawaiian Nationals could be the solution.

Walton is praying for sun and remaining positive. "We are just bringing people together to have a great time after a great season. It's a nice festive community event."

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