20-year-old Telemark World Cup squad member, TImoté Gough, looks back on what he’s learned from the 2022/23 season
My name is Timoté Gough, I’m 20 years old and I am in the GB Telemark Team on the World Cup circuit. Firstly, I just want to thank GB Snowsport for giving me the opportunity to share with you, through a brief review of last season, some of my passion for Telemark skiing, and also some of my experiences in competition.
I wanted to tell you a bit about myself, my season and I also wanted to share a bit of how I look at things and also why I am doing this.
For those that don’t already know, Telemark skiing is the original and oldest form of skiing that came from the Telemark region in Norway. The principle difference between alpine skiing and telemark skiing, is that in telemarking the boot heel is not locked down onto the ski and the boot can flex and bend, much like in cross-country skiing. This is where the ‘Free the Heel, Free the Mind’ catchphrase comes from – in that the heel is completely free when you ski telemark.
I grew up and went to school in Chamonix, France. My father is British and my mother is French. I did some alpine skiing and snowboarding when I was little, but I was never really ‘talented’ and I had never done any competition . When I was 13 years old I tried telemark skiing for the first time with my dad. From my first turn on telemark skis I felt something really different – I felt really able to express myself and found a real sensation of freedom and pleasure that I had not had before in alpine skiing or snowboarding.
For me, whether it was at school or in sports and activities, I know it always takes me a bit longer to learn the basics of something new. I know I am a ‘slow learner’, that’s because I do things a little differently. I need to spend more time on the basics, to get them right – and then I have no doubts and I can 100% focus on doing my best and finding my own way – often by following my gut instinct. School is difficult sometimes because you have to fit into a system that does not really adapt to you; I found in sports there was more freedom to find my own way to do things.
I started telemarking every winter and even though I was not as good as the other kids, as most had started much younger than me and were already at a much higher level, I wanted to do it at every opportunity.. At this stage I was skiing sometimes with the local ski club of Les Houches, Club Multiglisse, which is also where the GB Telemark team is based and trains. I started to ski with the GB team, and I really liked the mentality, approach and openness of the GB team spirit.
In France, at 18 years old you have some choices to make. I had just finished my final school exams, and normally this would be the time to go to university, to an apprenticeship, or to work. I decided to take a year out to think about what I really wanted to do, which initially meant working to put money aside for a winter season of telemarking. At the same time, I spoke to Seb, the GB team coach, and had the opportunity to join the GB Telemark Team for that winter in the World Cup. This opportunity with the GB Telemark Team really helped me define what I really wanted to do and next steps for my future.
My first two seasons with Team GB saw a lot of changes for me. I had to work in the summers to pay for my seasons, and everything was new to me. It was hard work, but really good fun and I made really good progress in those first seasons. With telemark competition though, there is always a lot to learn, and it takes many seasons to really start reaching your real potential.
This last season has been my third with the GB Telemark team in the World Cup, and it has been the toughest season for me so far, but also, I think, the most important one.
I completed a summer season of work with Harsch in Switzerland, working in logistics and removals. Harsch was great to work with, and they are also now one of my sponsors for the winter. The GB Telemark team really needs their sponsors so that the team can compete. We have a number of main sponsors without whom the team wouldn’t be able to exist as we currently do. Like Leggett a real estate company that has followed and helped us for several years, or dartbus a bus company who started supporting us last winter. This help is very precious, thank you to them! Even with that help, most of us still have to work to put the funds aside if we want to complete a full season. It was the first season that I managed to be financially self-sufficient but only just, though it was a great feeling and a big thank you to Harsch and all our sponsors because without them it wouldn’t be possible.
Pre-season training was difficult due to a general lack of snow in the Alps. We had to travel quite a bit to find snow, and I found it hard to get into my normal rhythm and find my sensations on the skis. It did not feel like the ‘unlimited’ kilometers of skiing I was used to, or had been expecting and waiting for all summer long.
The first races started, and I was finding it difficult to really ‘tune’ into the races, which can be normal at the start of the season. The races only last for a couple of minutes, and you have to be able to really put everything into a very short space of time. As the season progressed, I settled down, and I had some races where I felt really dialled in, 100% focused, and I felt I could really give my best. Some races, however, were frustrating – I would feel good and ready at the start, but I was not able to give absolutely 100% and just ‘let go’ every time. Even at the time I knew it was not a problem of a course – but it was me, that sometimes I could not always get my 100% into those few minutes.
Some of the courses were more technical and less a ‘flowing’ style that I preferred. My results were mixed, but more importantly for me, my sensations while skiing were very mixed too. I was not always finding that special feeling of magic and flow that I had always enjoyed in the past seasons. On paper it did not look too bad – but for me, this really made me ask myself what I was doing and why I really wanted to do it.
Despite the ups and downs in how I was feeling about my season, I still managed a 4th place in my last Junior World Cup, and 10th & 11th places in the regular World Cup – but I know that I did not reach the full potential of my season this year.
Many people around any type of competition think of medals and winning as being the most important. For me I think more about what it really means to become and be a ‘champion’. To me this is more than just medals or winning a race. Yes, I want to win races. The real question for me though, is how I do that. Winning in Telemark for me is really about mastering yourself and finding a special magic that makes you feel really free, and lets me ski how I want to. It is also true that in telemark skiing there is a wider range of styles and variations in technique that can all work. When I telemark I really feel a need to ski ‘my own way’, which I was struggling to find in the training and races consistently during the whole season.
Before this last season I always had a steady and clear progression. This season has put that into question a bit for me and has made me ask some hard questions of myself. Skiing is fun – but I am also here to progress and to reach my full potential. I know that I will need to change some things before the next season to achieve what I really want.
I know that most of the changes I need are ones that I need to make in myself. This is easier said than done – and just trying harder or training more is not enough. I need to find and keep that special magic and real pleasure in what I do – both in training and competition. I also need to listen to my ‘gut’ feelings and myself more.
Overall telemarking is a real passion for me. It can be difficult to understand or explain logically why – but I know that I feel really ‘in my place’ with the GB Telemark team. I still have a lot to learn and to improve – but that is the whole point of the team, we are all there to push ourselves.
I think that the main changes I need to make in my skiing for next season is to really find and continue to develop my feelings, sensations, and pleasure, and focus less on just results or thinking about pure ‘performance’. I also need to learn to relax and take, or accept, the risk to let myself ‘go’ more when I ski.
Writing this article has really helped me understand many things, and my last season much more. I am already preparing and training for the next season now. I am working again this summer with Harsch to enable me to ski and compete next year – and I am already really looking forward to the next season and what it will bring.