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First Birkie-1979
Birkie Story Index
Ralph's Bio
My First Time Skiing
Montana Ski Report
The Archives
A listing of posts from previous seasons.

Posts from
the 2012/13 Season:

March 2013
One More Trip to West
Clean Your Skis for the Summer
Birkie Wrap Up

February 2013
Birkie Day
Ready for the Birkie
Birkie Trail Condition
Minocqua Winter Park
All Aboard Amtrak
West Yellowstone 2
West Yellowstone
Homestake Lodge
The Crew at IWI
Grip Waxing for Warm and Wet Snow

January 2013
Rain - Yuck!
Weather Flip Flops
What's the Wax?
Nice Ski at Izaak Walton
New Skis Report

Happy New Year Ski

December 2012
Merry Christmas
Great Clinic
We Are Skiing
Big Snow?

Be sure to check out:
My First Cross Country Ski Trip or It's as Easy as Walking!

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Eagle River Nordic

This site dedicated
to Bert Kleerup,
one heck of a great guy and my good friend!

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Welcome to my Blog (Ralph's Nordic Web) on cross country skiing.
History, Instruction, News, Wax, Skating, Classic, Racing, Backcountry
with a little bias toward the Big Sky Country of Montana
Ralph's Blog
Last Updated: Wed, Mar 13, 2013

Montana Ski Report
Last updated Wednesday March 13, 2013.

Last Post of the Season!
See You Next Fall!

Left: Photo by Jennifer Gruber at the 2009 American Birkebeiner race in Hayward, Wisconsin..

March 13, 2013

It's spring! The calendar doesn't say it's spring yet but the weather is spring like and ski areas are winding down for the season. This will be my last post for the 2012/2013 skiing season. To check out what I'm up to in the warmer months I invite you to visit my Ear Mountain Photography page on Facebook or just go to my Ear Mountain Photography website page. I post some trip reports there on the ChoteauCam. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Eagle River Nordic for hosting Ralph's Blog and letting me share another winter with all of you.

Ralph's Blog will return next fall with more Montana skiing and another trip, this time for number 35, to the Birkie in Wisconsin. In the meantime have a great summer season.

Spring is Sneaking In
Time for One More Trip to West Yellowstone!
Posted March 13, 2013

This past week saw warm temperatures mix with some cold. Out here on the plains it got to the 50s late last week and more of that is forecast for the next few days.

But while it was warm here at home I received reports from West Yellowstone of 8 inches of new snow last Thursday and another 3 inches Friday morning. High temps for the following days were predicted to be in the 30s with lows in the teens.

I suggested to Nancy that we head down to West Yellowstone for one more weekend of good skiing before things get too spring like. Nancy quickly agreed that it would be a good time. We chose wisely!

We arrived Saturday around noon and stopped in the Freeheel and Wheel shop to get our trail passes before heading to the trailhead cabin. As you can see in the photo things looked pretty snow there. The snow was dry and powdery and the temps were around 34 for a high that afternoon. I skied on my new Fischer Carbonlite Classic skis waxed with Swix VF 45 over Swix VR 40. Grip was great. For glide I had waxed our skis with Toko Red and Yellow mixed together. Goof glide, good grip. You can't ask for more.

After our nice day Saturday, temps fell to single digits Saturday night. In fact when I checked the thermometer that is stuck in the snow at the main Rendezvous junction at 9:35 Sunday morning, it said the snow temp was right at 0 F. Cold.

Nancy and I got out skiing by 9:20 am and the air temp was around 12 F. I had the VF 40 on my skis. My skis were a little slow Sunday morning on the cold snow but I did have plenty of grip.

We skied almost three hours then rested for lunch. By that time it had warmed into the low 20s. I put on some VF 45 under my feet and my skis were gliding much better but grip was a little slippery in the sunny places. I did classic ski straight up Hill 191 though. A group at the top gave me a round of applause!

By 2:00 pm temps rose to 37 F and many sunny spots were wet. I added more VF 45 on my skis. They worked fine in the shady places but I had almost no grip where it was wet and sunny. Instead of going to a softer wax I changed to my older classic skis with Rex Purple Power Grip.

That stuff worked real well in all but the wettest of spots. As the afternoon waned the sun got a little lower and shade started to creep onto the trails. So while the air temp was still warm the snow temps dropped some. Almost all the wet spots began to dry and the purple power grip was fantastic.

All in all a great weekend of skiing. We topped off our weekend with a glass of wine in our room at the Gray Wolf Inn and enjoyed a pizza at the Gusher that evening.

We both agreed that it was a very nice way to end our skiing season this year. We look forward to returning next winter.

So, What to Do?
First, Spring Cleaning and Summer Storage
Then Go Out and Play!
March 12, 2013

The winter is almost over. Take a look at the Montana ski report if you don't believe me. Many groomed cross country ski areas are reporting spring conditions. So another winter flew by. Even though there will be more opportunities to ski I will do some spring cleaning and prepare my skis for groomed trails for next year. Here's what I do before putting my skis into storage.

1) End of Season Checkup:

  • I take a good look at the skis and bindings. Look carefully to make sure the ski has not been damaged and the binding is in good shape. If the base is worn or damaged I'll consider having the bases stone ground to return them to tip top shape.

2) Clean the Bases:

  • Skating Skis: I use a soft copper brush to remove dirt and any residual wax. Just run the brush lightly down the length of the base from tip to tail several times, then wipe with a clean lint free cloth like Fiberlene. Second I melt on and iron in a very soft wax like Swix CH8 or Toko System 3 Yellow. I scrape the wax off while it is still hot just after it turns solid.
  • Classic Skis: Do the same thing for the glide zones of classic skis. For the kick zone I remove all old wax with wax remover and let the base dry for at least an hour. This lets all the residual wax remover evaporate. Then I iron in a hard grip wax like Swix Special Green or Toko Green Base Binder.

3) Cover the Base with Wax:

  • Skating Skis: Iron in a soft hydrocarbon wax or base prep. I prefer Toko System 3 Yellow. Put on a thick layer, iron it in and leave it on the base for the summer.
  • Classic Skis: The glide zones of classic skis get the same treatment as a skating ski. For the kick zone I iron in a hard grip wax like Swix Special Green. Use the hardest grip wax in your wax kit. Be sure the entire grip zone is covered.

4) Storage: Skis should be stored in a ski bag or wrapped to keep them from getting coated with dust and dirt. Store them in a location that will not get excessively hot. Your attic is not a good place.

These simple steps will protect the skis and extend their life. If, in step one, you discovered some real damage it's time to start thinking of buying ski futures. Click on the "Contact Us" button at the top of this page. Give Ernie a call, LaNora will know what to do.

Birkie Wrap Up
Posted March 6, 2013

Congrats to all of you skiers that I joined on the trail for another good Birkie.

As you know I skied classic again this year. Last year was a learning experience for me as it was my first classic Birkie after many years skating. I applied what I learned last year to have better grip on my skis. Overall I did a much better job on the trail too.

The Classic wave five group spread out quickly. Skiing and passing was easier this year. There was one little downhill around 15 k, I think, where I was gliding nicely but came to a pretty big group of folks barely moving and blocking the trail. I skied in the powder on their right and discovered the hill dropped down a short straight steep pitch. I couldn't understand why they were all standing there because no one was on the downhill. I let my skis continue to glide around the group and aimed them straight down the hill.

I made up my mind then and there to be more aggressive on the hills. I planned to ski them as I know how to do and not shy away from the steeper, curvy sections of trail.

Steve Bantz and Myself in the finish area.

Most of my race was a pleasant ski outing only a little longer. The bottom of the tracks were firm but the sidewalls gave way easily creating a kind of snaking sort of feeling. Downhills felt silky and smooth and my skis glided nicely allowing me to keep up with or pass many skiers. My grip was good too and I was able to ski up many more hills than I did last year. I never tired of herringboning this year because I did so little of it.

I managed to avoid any crashes but did see a few others who were not so lucky. The worst one was on the second to last downhill. This is after the 77 uphill and following downhill. The trail breaks out into the open, passes a little cabin on the right then goes down with a sharp right turn at the bottom. While I didn't see the guy crash, he must have had a good one. His glasses, hat, poles, gloves and other stuff were scattered all over the turn. I asked if he was all right as I went by and he said yes. But he definitely did the yard sale thing.

As I skied up the last uphill before Wheeler Road I passed a gal who was totally covered in snow. She also said she was ok. I wondered if the two skiers might have met on that turn?

From then on it was double pole and stride. First through a wide aisle between rows of trees, over a bridge, and onto Lake Hayward. The lake seems to go on forever but the time went by quickly. Before I knew it I was making the turn onto Main Street and skiing between huge crowds on the sidewalks on either side of the street.

Waxing Wrap Up:
I definitely improved my grip waxing this year. Last year I used the Toko Nordic Grip waxes with poor success. This ski season, I have focused on the more traditional waxes that I'm very familiar with. I'm sure you've ready some of my comments on Swix Blue Extra and Rode Super Blue. Also this year I relearned about Rex Power Grip.

I put everything I learned into play but also added some new stuff at he last minute.

The forecast for race day was a low around 20 at the start (Blue Extra?) and temperatures reaching 30 by the time I would most likely finish. It's a long 33.5 mile classic ski so I knew I'd need plenty of wax to maintain grip through out the race. Here's how I waxed my skis:

After cleaning them thoroughly and glide waxing the tips and tails withe Toko HF Red over Toko LF Gray, I lightly sanded my kick zone. As a binder I applied a thin layer of Rex Violet Power Grip. Since temperatures late in the race were forecast to be warm I put on three thin layers of Swix VR 45 (Violet). On top of that I warmed in and corked 6 layers of Swix VR40 (Blue Extra).

I got to Telemark long before by scheduled start time. So I was able to go over to the finish area of the Korte trail and test my wax. I liked what I felt. Nice smooth glide and plenty of grip even on the steeper hill. So I made no changes to my skis before starting.

My skis continued to work well until around 35 km. After skiing uphills on soft snow I was getting some ice buildup on my left ski. I tried to ignore this but after a while it got worse. So I stopped, scraped the stuck on snow off my skis and added more Swix VR 40. No more ice! The rest of the race went well.

In retrospect the VR 45 might have been unnecessary. I might even have used Blue Power Grip instead of Violet. I guess the snow didn't warm as much as I expected. If it had gotten warmer, though, I was prepared. All in all I was very pleased with how well my skis gripped and glided throughout most of the race.

34 years of American Birkebeiner Ski Race hardware.

I'm definitely looking forward to another classic ski for my 35th Birkie in 2014.

Birkie Day 2013!
Posted February 26, 2013

Here are some race day photos. I hope you enjoy them. My Birkie featured a wonderful ski with no falls. The fresh snow from Friday turned the forests along the trail into a real winter wonderland.

Telemark Lodge before the start of the race. Many skiers relax in the lodge before the stat and the exterior looks like a giant ski swap.

I'm with Kyle Bantz (center) and Steve Bantz at the start area.

All ready to go. The gold bib signifies that I have skied at least 30 Birkies. The 34 in the upper right corner of my bib indicates I'm skiing my 34th Birkie. The red C indicates I'm skiing classic style. The 15 on my bib tells everyone I'm skiing Classic in the 5th Wave.

A bunch of 5th Wave Classic skiers in the start pen. One 3rd Wave skate skier is hurrying to the front because he's late for his start.

Looking back down Main Street in Hayward from the Finish Line. I'm missing photos of Steve and me at the finish. Hopefully I'll have these soon.

Our traditional brat and beer at Anglers Bar on Main Street.

Post Race refueling at the original Famous Dave's near Hayward.

Ralph's Blog - How it Works

I try to post at least once a week and that is usually on Thursday. But when I'm travelling or some other circumstance gets in the way I may post at other times. Sometimes I'll post more than once a week. Posts for the current month and the last post of the previous month are on this main page. Posts from previous months of the current season are listed in the left column and readers can click on those links to see those posts. Posts from previous years are indexed on the Archives page. I also compile ski reports from various cross country ski areas in Montana. These are shown on the Montana Ski Report page.

I welcome feedback, comments and suggestions. Feel free to email me using the link near the top of the left column.

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Click on the RSS Newsfeed icon to reach the newsfeed page. Bookmark that page or paste the URL into your RSS Reader. You will be notified when Ralph's Blog updates with new information. More information on RSS Newsfeeds can be found HERE!

Note: Sometimes the RSS notification repeats previous articles. I'm not sure why that happens but hopefully I can correct it eventually.