Learning to "shred"

Annie Boucher

Senior Staff and Faculty


Next up in our staff spotlights, Nigel Krumdieck. By way of introduction, Nigel is our mechanic. He hails from Averill Park, NY (just east of Albany) and this summer will be his second on the icefield. Nigel is the younger brother of longtime JIRPer Newt Krumdieck; he came to us last summer to fill a vacancy on the maintenance staff. Much of icefield life was new to Nigel but he jumped into the expedition with great enthusiasm. After a few less coordinated attempts on borrowed skis, including one day when he skied over his own hand, telemark skiing especially grabbed his attention.


Nigel exploring the inside of a crevasse on the Juneau Icefield in 2016 during a rare moment when there was no work to be done on the snow machines. Photo credit: Annie Zaccarin.


Telemark skis, with an unattached heel like cross country skis, allow JIRPers to cover flat, downhill, and uphill terrain on the same set of equipment. Though everyone uses telemark skis, time constraints during JIRP ski training prohibit many first-time skiers from learning the true telemark turn. The telemark turn is easily recognized because it relies on raising the inside heel and dropping the inside knee to bring the skis around. It is somewhat more difficult to master than the more mainstream alpine turn, where the heels are attached.


Matty Miller (student, 2016) skis across flat terrain with the aid of his free heel. Most of the topography on the icefield traverse, out in the middle of the glaciers, is flat. Telemark skis allow us to easily transition between field work out on the glacier and the inevitable climb up to our camps on the nunataks and hills above the ice. Photo credit: Tristan Amaral.


Upon his return to New York and full-time work as a car mechanic, and with winter approaching, Nigel set himself to the task of “shredding” the mountain. He built up quite the quiver of skis between his JIRP contacts, some work on craigslist, and teaching himself to mount ski bindings in the garage. To learn to execute smooth telemark turns, Nigel consulted other JIRPers, a telemark ski book, a couple chairlift companions, and several YouTube videos. Telemark skiing involves weighting the skis properly, timing the forward movement of the outside ski, and getting the hang of keeping the upper body pointed downhill while the lower body twists into the turn. Nigel reports that the key is to get the inside knee “much lower” than one would first guess, as this makes it “practically impossible to not carve”.


Nigel gets his inside, right knee almost as low as possible. His dropped knee is the telltale sign of the telemark turn. Photo credit: Newt Krumdieck.


Thankfully, this winter the northeast had periods of ample snow. After work and on weekends, Nigel has been able to ski frequently in the Berkshires, southern Vermont, and the Catskills. He reports that the very best day of backcountry skiing was during the Valentine’s Day storm when the Berkshires got a couple feet of snow. Nigel’s hard work, natural athleticism, and extensive research have allowed him to get the hang of telemarking relatively quickly. He began learning to telemark ski in December; now, in March, he often skis off trail through the trees and is working on perfecting his 360 on the his telemark trick skis.

While the winter ski season has wrapped up, Nigel has a lot to look forward to. He has his eye on a more aggressive pair of boots for next winter, but in the near future he is excited to head back to the icefield. With his own skis and a better idea of the terrain to be explored on the icefield, Nigel is excited for the 2017 JIRP season to get started. As both new and returning members of the JIRP tribe turn their attention to the approaching traverse, we can all look forward to spending our days shredding the glaciers of Alaska, or at least learning to not ski over our own hands.  


The JIRP staff go for a sunset ski after a full day of safety training and field work at Camp 17. Video credit: Chris Miele.