Like downhill waterskiing

Teleboarding is still new enough to draw looks

Bill Povolny has been waiting for the teleboard his whole life.

Bill Povolny has been waiting for the teleboard his whole life.

Photo By David Robert

From the attention Chris Loughner of Reno garners when he hits the slopes, you’d think he was a celebrity. But it’s not Loughner who’s attracting the attention; it’s what’s attached to his feet. He teleboards.

A teleboard, which looks like a water ski, is either 168, 181, or 191 centimeters long.

“People who water-ski have told me they feel like they are water-skiing down the hill. I’ve actually heard that someone used a teleboard to water-ski,” Loughner says.

With an hourglass-like figure, the board is wider at the tip and the tail and has a huge side cut. A teleboarder uses telemark bindings and wears telemark boots. The bindings are mounted, at a slight angle, one in front of the other. To decide on the forward foot, a boarder assays what is more comfortable or what he or she has attempted on a skateboard or scooter.

This new snowrider uses techniques familiar in Alpine skiing, snowboarding, telemarking and water-skiing. An experienced snow skier can learn to teleboard in one or two runs. “It’s just a matter of getting used to the feel,” says Loughner. “The techniques are not a lot different from skiing.”

Teleboarders face forward, unlike snowboarders, and most use ski poles. As in telemark skiing, the heels are free, allowing for more versatility. Whereas the telemarker uses skis, the teleboarder manipulates a board and has the ability to carve like a snowboarder. Yet, like a skier, a teleboarder is able to make both big and small turns. At high speeds, the board has the advantage of being very stable, like a snowboard.

Teleboarding techniques vary by conditions. In deep snow, teleboarders keep their knees together and lean forward. In powder, they distribute their weight equally in the center of the board.

They can absorb bumps with their legs. This is why Craig Dostie, publisher of the Truckee-based Couloir magazine, says, “The teleboard is more of a resort tool.”

When Dostie tried it, he thought the experience was great, but he prefers backcountry snowboarding. “[Teleboarding] will appeal to snowboarders who are bored with boarding.”

Rina Schumer of Reno likes the teleboard because it’s “so carvy” and “ideal in any condition, except for ice. My husband [Bill Povolny] would tell you he’s been waiting for the teleboard his whole life. It’s perfect.”

Loughner agrees that a teleboard performs well in most conditions.

He became interested in teleboarding as an undergraduate at Penn State.

“Skiing there was just not very challenging,” he says. The teleboard allowed him to try something new, and he continues to test the board’s versatility.

When teleboarders meet, they exchange tips. For instance, Jack Jue, a boarder from Sacramento, told Loughner about using approach skis for ascending mountains in the backcountry. Loughner finds carrying the five-pound teleboard up a mountain is not much more demanding than walking the mountain.

In the Sierra, teleboarders are rare birds. Schumer and her husband, who teleboard at Mount Rose, know only a handful of people from the area who practice the sport. Povolny too says that he “gets a lot of attention” on the board, and part of the appeal to him is that “no one else here is doing it.”

During ski season, demonstrations occur almost weekly in New England, which does Reno locals little good. “It’s so common in Vermont, no one would ask what you are doing,” says Loughner, “unless they’re a tourist.”

Those who want to try teleboarding in the Reno area can rent one from Uniboard, (860) 428-5979, the sole provider of teleboards, for a three-week period for $60, including both shipping and an instructional video.

Martin Fey, president of Uniboard, says, “Teleboarding is a niche market. It is currently about where snowboarding was 25 years ago.” The company hopes to sell about 1,000 boards this year.

In 1995, Fey constructed a board that was too long and narrow to hold the conventional snowboard bindings. He mounted two telemark bindings on the board, and the first teleboard was ready for a trial run. He and his brother Erik tried it out in Killington, Vt., and secured a patent on it in 1998.

“If you like trying new things, the teleboard is out there. Give it a try. It’s fun,” says Loughner.

Dostie thinks teleboarding is "not likely to take off;" however, Loughner believes it will grow enough so that, one day when he hits the slopes, his teleboard will no longer be a novelty.