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Freeheelers United (FHU) is a localy owned and operated not-for-profit ski school committed to promoting the sport of Telemark Skiing by providing high quality instruction by certified CANSI instructors at a reasonable price. FHU also hosts a series of events each year including Demo Days, our Annual TeleFest and CANSI certification courses.Mission
Our Mission is to be the largest provider of high quality Telemark skiing instruction to outdoor enthusiasts in the National Capital Region with reasonably priced courses offered by professionaly trained, certified and highly energetic instructors.
Our vision is to
Have a strong and vibrant Telemark skiing community in the National Capital Region
Host an annual festival that draws skiers from a wide geographic region
Develop a roster of strong vetran Telemark instructors while developing instructors of the future
Have access to a strong and competitive Telemark equipment retail market
Have a series of Telemark Ski races offered in the region
Freeheelers United (FHU) has been around in various forms since 2003. The group started by organizing a one time Telemark Ski Festival at Mont Ste Marie. The festival was a great success for a small grass roots operation.
In 2005 we set up our first web site sponsored by zon.ca. Zon is run by a fellow temark skier and gratefully donated web hosting services for our first couple of season. Zon continues to provide web hosting services at a discounted rate. Since our early days the website has seen many evolutions. in 2012 we launched the newset incarnation of our website at freeheelers.net.
FHU started offering CANSI certified courses in 2005. By working closely with Montain Equipment Co-Op and other retailers in the Ottawa area, FHU was able to develop a network of instructors and a clientelle of students. Mountain Equipment Co-op played a key role in supporting the local telemark community. MEC provided discounted rentals for FHU courses, provided staff for telemark demo ski days at local hills and through a series of community development grants provided the funding required to develop our programs and host our annual ski festivals.
A special thanks also goes out to Kiwi Mike’s and The Cyclery. Kiwi Mike was an avid Telemark skier promoting the sport out of The Cyclery. Kiwi Mike provided many draw priozes over the years including the occasional Telemark ski’s, which everyone was always excited about at our festivals.
Retailers are not the only key players required to have a healthy telemark community. Camp Fortune and Mont Ste. Marie, two local ski hills have supported Freeheelers by allowing us to teach courses at their facilities. It takes a trusting relationship between these operators and FHU to be comfortable enough to grant us permission to devliver our programs on their slopes. By 2007 we had the beginnings of the ecosystem required for the sport of Telemark to continue its growth and popularity trend.
The Canadian Association of Nordic Ski Instructors (CANSI) has provided lots of encouragement to FHU to continue its development. A special thanks goes out to Glenn Lee of Ski Telemark who has been key in helping the development of local instructors for the National Capital Region to become self sufficient. We now have a good selection of Level I instructors and a few Level II instructors to offer courses in the region.
In 2011, Mountain Equipment Co-op in Ottawa discontinue the rental of Telemark skis due to various business reasons including limited space for storage and a general decline in the Canadian market for Telemark Skiing gear. For MEC their focused turned to support the resurgence of the Alpine Touring market which was increasing in popularity out west.
Meanwhile, Kunstadt Sports, a local retailer wanted to test the telemark market and decided to cary a limited telemark rental fleet. According to a telemark equipment manufacturer product representative (product rep), Ottawa was one of the few cities where MEC discontinued Telemark rental but saw little uptake from local retailers. Many other cities saw an increase of 3-4 retailers move into the Telemark market where MEC left. It was promising to see a local retailer start to fill this gap.
During this time, Kiwi Mike, discontinued carying telemark ski gear. We don’t have many details however the Kiwi Mike’s section of The Cyclery’s website is no longer. We wish Mike the best.
In 2012 Kunstadt Sports decided to increase its rental fleet by adding to the previous years inventory. We here at Freeheelers United look forward ot continue working with Kunstadt to increase the use of their rental fleet to support growth of the sport in the future. We also look forward to other retailers exploring the potential in this untapped market.
Related to the development of the Telemark community in Canada, Paul Battle, an avid Telemark Instructor started the website trytelemark.ca in 2012. This is a great resource for anyone wanting to get introduced to the sport of Telemark. Also, for all those Ottawans who travel out west every year for a snowcation this is a great resource to find instructors in the regions you want to ski. Stay up to snuff in the white stuff and check out this site before you go on your next ski trip to track down a local instructor.
It has been roughly 8 years since Freeheelers United has stepped into the local Telemark scene. We are still striving to evolve and contribute where we can. We hope that this history page will continue to evolve for many more seasons. We hope you will join us in making the history of the future of telemark in the region.