Ralph's Nordic Web Archives
Page 6
Articles on Cross Country Skiing
History, Instruction, News, Wax, Skating, Classic, Racing, Backcountry
Last Updated: Sunday, September 27, 2009 at 10:44:56 AM

This was my last post
of the 2004-2005 winter season.

Spring is coming to the mountains of Montana. While we had a good snow storm last week the white stuff is already mostly melted. The ski season is winding down. Robins, Meadowlarks and bluebirds are frequenting the prairies and loons are on the lake. I hope you all enjoyed Ralph's Nordic Web this past winter. I wish you a great Spring-Summer-Fall!

Some hardy folks will contnue searching for those last powder stashes or doing some crust cruising in Yellowstone National Park. I'm gearing up for the climbing season. If you want to follow my activities during the summer head over to my Ear Mountain Photography web site. I'll resume posting there soon. I hope your winter was as good as mine.

Photos: Top: Skiing below Our Lake above the South Fork of the Teton River near Choteau, Montana. Bottom: I'm descending through fresh snow in April on the our Lake trail.

Spring Montana Ski Report:
There's still snow on the Rendezvous trails in West Yellowstone. They'll keep grooming as long as the snow lasts. Most other groomed ski areas are closed. Backcountry skiing can be found until mid July but you have to walk farther and farther with each passing week and the sun cups get deeper as the season progresses. Spring is a time of unstable weather in Montana so we're all prepared to backcountry ski, hike, climb or do household chores as the weather dictates.

My First Birkie: I skied my first Birkie ages ago in 1979. You can read my story by clicking on the link in the left column of this page. Enjoy!


Spring Cleaning and Summer Storage
Posted March 28, 2005

The winter is almost over. It's time to do some spring cleaning and prepare your skis for next year. Here's what I d before putting my skis into storage until next year.

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 you might 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 Swix Base Prep. 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.

Take some time off from training. Enjoy the summer. Then start thinking of next year. It'll be here before you know it.


Unusual Spring Weekend
Posted March 21, 2005

This has been a most unusual Montana winter. First the snowfall came late (see the posts Search for Snow, Skiing in the Rain and Desperate). Then, when it looked like we were really getting somewhere with respect to snow depths, temps went from -33 F to +60 in 3 days. It remained warm and excruciatingly dry for almost 6 continuous weeks. Good skiing was to be found early in that period but it wasn't easy.

A week before the first day of spring, when thought were beginning to turn to the forthcoming climbing season, winter returned. Here's my story of this weekend.

The Last Time I Fell I Broke My Nose
Friday, we went backcountry skiing at Marias Pass. New powder snow and pretty good skiing. There was no base, just wet snow under fresh powder.

Just after lunch I skied down a short steep drop through the trees. There was a turn at the bottom. Snow about 3 feet deep. I was going pretty fast and made the turn nicely when, for some reason unknown to me, my skis stopped and I kept going head first. My hand with the ski pole went into the snow immediately followed by my head, which struck hand and pole. I broke my nose and the bridge of my glasses cut the side of my nose. Lots of blood from the cut and nosebleed. Patched it up, cleaned my glasses and enjoyed the rest of the ski. I decided not to fall again.


Doesn't the snow look great? Yet I don't look too happy. Dr. Carr had just finished cleaning the blood off my face (although there is a fleck left on my pack strap) and bandaging the cut on my nose. I recovered quickly though and enjoyed the rest of the ski.

The Wreck
Saturday we headed to Izaak Walton Inn for the Spring Skiing Rodeo. Just west of East Glacier a car slid out of its lane and hit a semi head on. The car was completely demolished. There was no sheet metal left. It disintegrated into bits no large than about 6 inches square. Sadly the driver was killed and a passenger was seriously injured. The semi's cab hung off the road and into the edge of a small pond while the trailer blocked the entire road. We returned to East Glacier for a second breakfast then tried to go west again. The police told us it would be another 4 hours before the road was opened. We turned around and headed home.

Lost Powder
Sunday I went backcountry skiing with friends closer to home. The snow was very nice early but temps warmed rapidly to about 40 turning the powder snow wet and heavy. Low clouds with snow flurries and intermittent drizzle as well. Still had a great time until the 4 mile uphill ski to return to the truck.

Skiing the west Fork of the Teton River is a reverse ski. Usually when we backcountry ski the trip starts at a low elevation and we climb higher throughout the day and have a great descent back to the car.

Here, skiing above the North Fork of the Teton River we skied downhill four miles to the West Fork. The trail then ascended gradually along that tributary. A brief downhill brought us back to the unplowed road where a four mile ascent awaited.

At left, I'm skiing up the road with the fog shrouded peaks of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains for a backdrop. Photo by Dr. John Carr.

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Teaching Beginners to Skate
Part Two: A Stacked Frame or High Hips
Posted March 14, 2005

In a previous post (Beginning Skate-1) I highlighted some of the problems encountered by folks who spend most of their time touring on skis. Skiers who have progressed beyond that introduction to skating often have problems maintaining long glides. Being able to balance on a single ski for a long glide continues to be an elusive goal for many skaters. It is a crucial component of skating and is absolutely essential in order to learn the more advanced V-2 and V-2 Alternate techniques.

Take a look at this skier. What do you see?

I see someone who has difficulty balancing on a single ski. I used to refer to the correct posture as "High Hips." This is somewhat confusing and difficult to define, however.

A better description might bring in the concept of a "Stacked Frame." The sequence of photos in this post show progress toward achieving the goal of having the skeletal framework do most of the work in supporting the body.

How would you describe what is needed to improve this skier's technique?

A stacked frame refers to putting your foot under your center of mass so that the skeleton can support the body using the least amount of energy. The skier in red happens to be just standing and watching. In fact she demonstrates a stacked frame as she stands with most of her weight on her left foot. It is a relaxed position where the skeleton and joints support the body with only a minimal amount of assistance from the musculature.

The closer skier above never achieves this goal and must use a great deal of muscular energy to keep from falling off the ski. It's an impossible feat. Without the body in a relaxed "stacked" position the skier quickly falls off the ski to the inside resulting in dramatically reduced glide.

One exercise or drill to improve the skeletal posture when skating is to have the student put her hands on her hips and then use the hand over the gliding ski to push the hip forward. This is more successful when done while just standing before actually putting the skis in motion.

Another trick is to use a vocal phrase to remind the skier about the correct position. I might tell the student to "stand up" after pushing off onto the gliding ski.

Instructors must be careful to not introduce in drills, errors in technique that will be difficult to correct later on.

Another drill would be to have skiers "skate the line." I physically draw a line down the middle of the trail and tell the students to put their feet on the line as push up onto the ski while skating along. This helps them bring their skis more under their body and reduces the side to side distance the body must travel to move from ski to ski.

Instructor Steve Bantz provides a good demo. His body is supported skeletally over his left ski in a relaxed manner. His forward position and good balance results in his skating (right) ski lifting off the snow following the push-off. The right ski can then swing toward the center. Steve will step forward with a strong push-off and easily achieve the same balanced position on his right ski.