By Karen D. Lorentz
Karen Dalury was bit by the “ski bug” at an early age. Born and raised in Springfield, Mass., where she graduated from Cathedral High School in 1973, her dad had taught her to ski when she was 5 years old and the entire family — seven kids and parents — skied in the Berkshires and at the Blanford Ski Area. She also raced during her school years.
Dalury attended college at Holy Cross and then taught skiing at Vail, Colo., for a few years. She returned East and attended UMass, during which time she also taught skiing at Mt. Tom. She married and moved to Vermont when husband Kip attended Vermont Law School.
With their daughter racing, Dalury became a race coach for several years and then got back into teaching skiing, rejoining the Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA) after a 25-year hiatus. Living in Killington where she teaches yoga and Pilates year-round at her studio, she also teaches skiing in winter and paddleboarding in summer.
Q&A with Karen Dalury
Mountain Times: Why did you become a ski instructor?
Karen Dalury: I love being outdoors in a beautiful environment and sharing it with others. And you get paid for it!
MT: How did you get into Telemarking?
KD: The late-90s new ski design allowed Alpine skiers to turn rounder, cleaner and faster. I found myself making just a few turns and reaching Mach 1 on anything that was groomed. Telemarking looked really cool and seemed like a good way to slow down. Everyone doing it seemed to be having a blast. I noticed Tele friends seeking out the freshies on the sides of the trail like we used to in the old days. They would hoot and holler for each other in the bumps, and seemed to love skiing in groups, happily waiting for each other to rest their legs.
Jim Tasse, a yoga student of mine and then an instructor at Killington/Pico, noticed me on the hill (I was so bad how could you not?) and began offering helpful tips. I took a few lessons with him and even though I could not yet put his suggestions into action I saw the light and understood more about how the turn worked. I purchased my own boots and kept at it for the rest of the season. The following year was the breakthrough: My husband and I visited our daughter in Taos and we both brought only Telemark gear. Whoa, steep, yikes, fun!
MT: Did you become PSIA certified in Telemark?
KD: I took clinics and became level 1 and 2 my first year. More clinics and level 3 the following year and progressed to the development team and eventually to examiner status.
MT: Do you still teach Alpine?
KD: I teach Alpine and Telemark. On weekends at Killington I have a Saturday seasonal adult all-day Tele group that’s part of the 4241 Club. On Thursdays at Pico I do a skin and stretch class. We skin up the mountain, Tele down, and afterward we do ski specific yoga. I also do free heel Fridays at Pico.
MT: Any mentors along the way?
A: I learned from some wonderful people, including John Tidd, who was instrumental in PSIA Nordic education, and Mickey Stone, director of Nordic Skiing PSIA-East. They helped me to believe in myself and what I could achieve. Their encouragement helped me go as far as I did. Another notable influencer for me would be would be Mike Miller from Base Camp Outfitters.
MT: What do you personally like about Tele?
KD: I love the challenge of skiing on lighter, less supportive gear. I enjoy practicing dynamic balance with precise timing, and I love the fluid feeling of a good Telemark turn. My feet don’t hurt, there is much less stress overall on my joints, and my back doesn’t hurt. My legs and core are strong. Telemarking makes the easy cruisers just as sweet as the steeps and bumps. In the trees Telemark equipment offers much more versatility and control than Alpine gear with the bonus of being able to virtually pivot the skis in place in tight spots. Being slightly knock kneed, learning to Telemark has taught me efficient use of my inside ski and finally cleaned up an old A-frame habit.
MT: What’s a misconception people have about Tele?
KD: People think it will be hard on the knees, but actually it’s easier on knees due to flexion and extension.
MT: What do you like about instructing?
KD: The best part is teaching anything and seeing students’ faces light up. There is a learning curve and it takes awhile, but with free heel there is versatility which comes in handy in the bumps and trees, and the rewards are great once you learn. I enjoy seeing them continue to improve.
MT: How do you go about teaching?
KD: I generally look at the big picture, figure out what’s working, what isn’t. I start with the snow and feet and work up. I try to make skiing more efficient so students enjoy it more. I also try to instill an ability to sense and feel so they can become their own teachers after the lesson is over. Developing an understanding of the terrain and types of snow is part of that.
MT: The biggest changes or improvements you have seen?
KD: The equipment keeps getting better and better.
MT: Other sports, hobbies, spare time activities?
KD: Pilates, yoga, stand-up paddle boarding.
MT: Any advice or insights you might share?
KD: Take care of your body, honor and respect it. Keep it in shape and healthy.
You can ski without being in great shape, but you’ll be more efficient and have more fun if you are strong and flexible.
After 30-40 years or so in the fitness industry, my fitness routine has changed … rather than intensive exercise, I want to maintain fitness, keep the core strong and joints flexible.
Pilates and yoga are basic things you can do to stay healthy and achieve a full range of motion. Your workout changes as you get older and your skiing changes as you get older, but thanks to ingrained skills your approach gets better.
If you have a young family and are teaching the kids to ski on the greens, it’s a good time to put on Tele gear and ski with the kids.