Oscar Tjärnberg is the Captain of the New Swedish Tele Airforce. Well, that's what we call him. Basically, he rips. We had the good fortune to catch up with the Captain at his headquarters in Stockholm. Sweden that is.
Descender: When did you start freeheeling? How'd you get into it?
Oscar Tjärnberg: Well, actually I grew kinda tired of downhill skiing. I sort of stagnated in my evolution and I felt I needed something new. At the time I was working in a sport store at a Swedish ski resort where I could use rental equip for free. What a rush, that's the way skiing is supposed to feel. That was 1992, and I've been on tele's ever since, skiing roughly 150 days a year.
D: What's up with the tele scene in Sweden and Europe? How's the European tele scene different than the States?
Oscar: There are a lot of excellent telemark skiers in Scandinavia, go figure, since this is the home of freeheeling. But I still think we are less than 5 percent of all skiers. Keep in mind that almost everybody skis over here, so it's quite a bunch anyway. Europe, on the other hand, doesn't produce so many telemarkers, there is only a small core of hard hitting skiers in Austria, Switzerland and France. Randonee is, by far, the number one choice.
Oscar: Telemark and skiing in Scandinavia have diverted into two styles. One fast, hard, high jumping, doing snowboard tricks. The other, classic, staying in the grooms, hiking distant powder areas, touring. Both are fun in there own way, but I prefer the previous.
Oscar: How's the European scene different? Aren't all US telemarker pot smoking hobos, more or less? Nah, I don't really know. All the telemarkers in North America that I have met are really good guys, good skiers too. Maybe not that radical, since all they've experienced is powder. Over here we are born on blue ice and take any chance we get to huck off anything that resembles a cliff.
D: What kind of beer do you bring to the party? Who's the band?
Oscar: Beer!!! My favorite. I'd like to gulp a Carlsberg, or Norrlands Guld, or Snake River Lager. Love the Guinness. Hell, I'll drink anything that's yellow with bubbles in it, I'll even drink cheap Miller High Life if that's what they serve. Right now I'd really like to see Eve 6 or Everclear on the stage. I wish you could set that up for me when I come over to the States in the spring. Man, it's been a long time since I went to a good concert.
D: When we come to Sweden can we stay at your place? Will you introduce us to the Swedish tele groupies we hear so much about?
Oscar: Sure you can stay at my place. Nopraw. I share a 225 sq. ft apartment with my girlfriend. Rather tiny but my hospitality is huge. There is no skiing in Stockholm worth the name though, we'll have to go to the alps for that, but you should come here just because of the women. I'll make sure to introduce you around when you get over.
D: Where is skiing taking you? What's next in your skill progression?
Oscar: Right now I'm all about recovering. I got a femur (thigh bone) fracture during a photo session in Chamonix, last spring. Four steel pins and stiff knee, that what you get. The way back is long and hard. I have as a goal to be able to do that back flip in a mute grab position, that the guys in the Canadian Air Force do so nicely, before the winter is over. And I probably will too. Ever heard the expression: If you reach for the stars ...
D: Have you ever heard of Oliver Steffen?
Oscar: Ooh, now that's a laid back fella. He's a rude dude! Actually, no, I have not. Sorry. Who's he? (see Descender interview this issue)
D: We hear those guys that made Free Radicals live in van down by the river. Do you ever visit them? Ever ski with Erik Mossfeldt?
Oscar: They keep changing the address, haven't seen them for a while. I think they've been all busy making the new FR 3. I hear it's gonna be even better than the last one.
Oscar: Erik got in first place in Sweden's biggest ski magazine's ranking list of Sweden's top 30 skiers, the telemark class. I only came in fourth place, so I wouldn't really ski With Erik even if we managed to set up a date. I'd have to ski faster than Erik if we met. No, seriously, even though the Swed top telemarkers are a tight group, both me and Erik have quite busy schedules and have never managed to cross tracks with each other. I will state for a fact though, that I have skied with both Mikael af Ekenstam and Janne Wiklund, who any day in a week skis my ass off, and humbly regard them as my friends. (Mikael won the Scandinavian freeskiing championship, telemark class, in Riksgränsen this year. Janne came in third.)
D: If you could have the ultimate killer day, what would you do?
Oscar: Hmm, win a shit load of money, fall in love, ski my brains out in powder. But not necessarily in that order.
D: Last year was huge in the Northwest. Mt Baker had over 1000 inches. It's supposed to be bigger this year. Any plans to visit?
Oscar: Hell yeah, any hill getting 1000 inches is worth looking into. I'll be over in the States late March and would love to come ride with you guys. Mark your calendars and make some reservations. I take it I'll have the guided tour?
D: Oh yeah, you'll get the tour. Along with some fine Pacific Northwest beer. But you're on your own with those front flips, OK?
D: Did you ask for the SkyHoy binding for Christmas? What would you like to see in tele gear?
Oscar: Can't say that I have. I am a sucker for the Riva Classic binding. No changes have ever made it better than the original one. I heard that the Super Loop should be something worth looking in to, with that lifetime warranty and all, but I like to put trust in the thrust and be able to lock the foot down firmly. It never kicks out unwanted or unexpected either. Simple and reliable. Got to love it. Show me something that works better and I'll change.
Oscar: I only want what we all want. Step in bindings. Super glide, lifetime wax free base. Stiffer, more durable skis, that can take a good mogul run without being all crooked up. True fog free lenses. Avalanche detectors and complimentary ski passes for all telemarkers. Nothing out of the ordinary, pretty basic stuff really.
D: What do you make of the new freeskiing scene?
Oscar: I think it's getting kind of forced up. We've got to keep focused on what it's really about. Skiing. Nothing more, nothing less. These trends and words they come and go. A decade a go it was Freestyle and before that it was Hot Doggers. Now it's freeskiing. If that is skiing limitlessly with a open mind and loose heel, I'm all for that. But isn't that what we've always done? It doesn't really matter how you do it, or what you call it, as long as you have fun out there.
Thanks Oscar. Yes it's true we only ski powder here in the states. The snow is regulated and being the U.S. we only ski the best conditions. Especially in the upper Midwest. The Descender staff could only come up with tickets for the ABBA reunion tour, hopefully Oscar will appreciate that. And about the yellow liquid with bubbles. We produce that around the clock so we'll start saving up.
Erik Mossfeldt is a Swedish tele skier that rips it up in Free Radicals 1 and 2, Swedish ski flicks that are pretty sweet.
And yes we are all pot smoking tele hobos. Keep it quiet.