At some point I want to compile a review of existing tele skis and what their pros and cons are (and try to make sense of the descriptions in catalogs and such). Stay tuned! This is a topic of present interest and I am continually collecting new information. Perhaps as I learn and organize what I am able to find out, others will benefit.
A very reasonable option for the bank-account limited backcountry skier is to find an old set of alpine boards and put tele bindings on them. It seems that virtually every alpine ski made has at one time been mounted with tele bindings and skied on happily. Some guidelines do apply. A stiff race or GS ski is not the best choice. My inclination is towards softer "all-mountain" skis such as the K2 extreme FX or the Elan MBX-16 (but I am skiing on a pair of K2 extremes which are said to be GS flexed skis with Slalom sidecut (and I believe it!) ).
I favor a wood core ski just because I think such skis are tougher and able to put up with more abuse. As one review of extreme all-mountain skis said, "they are designed to endure reentry after significant air-time". Of course, I learned to telemark on a set of foam core Karhu skis and they survived my thrashing nicely. Foam is lighter, but I am happier to be on wood, in the backcountry I would feel even better. One concern that has been expressed about mounting tele bindings on alpine skis is that the ski have a mounting plate that is solid enough to hold a binding that is perhaps attached by only 3 screws (5 screws if you were wise enough to purchase a Rainey super-loop).
Don't necessarily expect to be able to ski such an arrangement with lightweight leather boots and 3-pin bindings. I do just fine with big leather boots (Asolo extremes) and hefty 3-pin bindings (the black diamond), but I do plan to move to cable bindings soon since everyone tells me it is a good idea. As for plastic tele- boots, everyone is doing it, but I suspect that when I buy plastic boots they will be for alpine bindings (and I'm not ashamed to say it either!).
As one fellow I was talking to just today said, it is more the skier than the ski. He claims he has a good time skiing any ski in any length. There is a lot of truth to this. On the other hand, there are some things to look for in a tele ski. A fairly soft and even flex with tails similar to the shovels is good. Since telemark weighting is more 50/50 whereas alpine skiers tend to ski faster with 95 percent of their weight on the outside foot, this makes a strong case for choosing a softer ski for telemark. It will be pretty hard to press a stiff GS ski into an arc at telemark cruising speeds (tho I don't doubt there are those who will claim they can do it, and as I have said the K2 extreme is popular as a tele ski and it is GS flexed).
My desire is to build and extend this list of skis for telemarking and to augment it with comments both pro and con. You can help! If you are telemarking (or have done so) on something that you either love or hate, tell me about it and your name and comments will appear here. I am just as interested in skis to avoid and why. I expect a deluge of wonderful not very old alpine skis to be appearing as everyone scrambles to start skiing on the new shaped skis. I am eager to benefit from this new market trend, and you can too!
OK, here is a start at a list of alpine skis that have been found suitable for telemarking, much of this is shamelessly taken from the Cactus Climbing Equipment www site:
Here is an additional note from Mark Harris
Thought you might like my view on Asnes Nansen skis for your database.
As you probably know, some people think these are a great compromise for
touring and telemarking, but I found them a bad compromise - they have a soft
enough span that they lost their grip wax quickly, but not soft enough
(and not enough waist) to control downhill. After one tour I was happy to
go back to my Tua Cirques, which are great downhill and not much harder
to tour with.
Feedback? Questions? Drop me a line!
Thought you might like my view on Asnes Nansen skis for your database. As you probably know, some people think these are a great compromise for touring and telemarking, but I found them a bad compromise - they have a soft enough span that they lost their grip wax quickly, but not soft enough (and not enough waist) to control downhill. After one tour I was happy to go back to my Tua Cirques, which are great downhill and not much harder to tour with.