Ralph's Nordic Web
Posts from February 2006
Welcome to my Blog on cross country skiing.
History, Instruction, News, Wax, Skating, Classic, Racing, Backcountry
with a bias toward the Big Sky Country of Montana.
Last Updated: Sunday, September 27, 2009 at 10:45:50 AM

For the Most recent posts click on the main link to Ralph's Nordic Web.

Good Friends - Great Snow
Posted February 17, 2006; Wax Info Added February 18, 2006

Steve and Juliane Bantz (below) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin rode the Empire builder to Montana and joined my daughter Jennifer Gruber and me for a week of skiing. We spent that time at West Yellowstone and Lone Mountain Ranch.

Juliane and Steve Bantz pause on the Mountain View trail at Lone Mountain Ranch. Behind them is the summit of Lone Mountain and some of the runs at the Big Sky ski area.

We found wonderful snow and great skiing in both places. Our visit to Lone Mountain Ranch began with a visit to the ski shop where we got our trail passes.

Soon we were skiing the fantastic and well groomed trails. Our travels took us up part of the Ranch Loop (above left) to Carlin's Cruise. This trail helped us gain some easy elevation and reach the beginning of the Little Bavaria trail (above right).

We skied easily up a beautiful forest valley. Cross the creek we could hear the muffled roar of cascading water under the now and ice. Further along we finally reached the Mountain View trail the took us higher up the mountainside for some great views of Lone Mountain and Big Sky.

Our upward journey took about 2 hours. The exhilarating downhill run back to the trailhead took about a fourth of that time. The sun was warm and the air crisp and we spent a lot of time sightseeing. In no time at all we were cruising the final downhill run through the forest.

After lunch we tackled the Andesite trail. A quick downhill run took us under the Big Sky road. We then turned left, descend further and then began a good climb to the top a ridge. Once over the top we cruised through meadows and enjoyed some spectacular downhill runs leading to the Middle Fork trail. A short ski to the tunnel and a gradual climb brought us back to the trailhead for some refreshment.

The rest of our trip was spent on the Rendezvous Trails of West Yellowstone. Hugh piles of snow were all around town. The trailhead warming cabin seemed almost buried. Great cornices of snow hung off the roof. Grooming, as usual, was perfect.

A little snow decorated the trees on Tuesday morning and the temperatures were a little cooler. Our enthusiasm was high though and we began a leisurely classic tour of Deja View (below).

We skied together as a group part of the time and the rest of the time we split up to explore as many of the trails as we could. We managed to hit them all before we had to leave town and head home.

Following our visit to southern Montana's snow country we returned to my home in Choteau and prepared to board Amtrak's Empire Builder for the return ride to the Midwest. The Birkebeiner is only a week away and anticipation mounts. As Steve says, "I'm pumped."


February 12 - 16, 2006
Snow Temp:
-17 to -27 C (Whew! That's cold snow!)
Air Temp: -21 to -3 C or -12 F to +28 F
Grip Wax: I tried Rex Power Grip Blue. The snow temp called for Green but the blue still glided well until th snow temps dropped below -23 C. Then I corked in Toko Carbonline White on top. Again the sow temps indicated Toko Mint would be the wax of choice but the snow was old and had been groomed several times. The White worked very well and provided enough glide with plenty of grip.
Glide Wax: The best glide was with Toko World Loppet Blue with X-Cold powder melted and ironed in.

Two More Skaters
Posted February 11, 2006

This weeks post is a little early. I'm heading down to West Yellowstone for a week of skiing. Steve and Juliane Bantz from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Jen Gruber from Cut Bank, Montana and I plan on visiting the Rendezvous trails in West Yellowstone and the trails at Lone Mountain Ranch and Bohart Ranch. This will be my last skiing opportunity in Montana before I head to Hayward, Wisconsin to ski my 27th American Birkebeiner. I'll be away from the computer for that time but I'll post a report on our trip before we leave Montana and head for the Birkie.

During most of my winter I manage to ski only 2-3 times a week. But as the Birkie approaches I like to immerse myself in skiing on a daily basis. It's also a time to renew old friendships. After all the Birkie is more than a race; it is a celebration of skiing. A time to enjoy the camaraderie of skiing as well as discover how much fun the Birkie course still is.

This week I added two more skaters to the group of skating image sequences that I posted on January 30, 2006 titled Visual Cues for Skating. Go back to that post and see if you can visualize the variety of skiing for your self.

This weekend also sees the start of the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy. NBC and its cable and satellite affiliates USA and MSNBC will be carry coverage of cross country ski races and biathlon events live. Check out your TV listings and program your recorder to pick up the coverage that may be on in the wee early morning hours. The Men's 50 Kilometer race on Saturday February 25th will be overed in the prime time show between 4 PM and 6 PM Eastern time on NBC. This is a great opportunity to see the worlds best skiers in action so don't miss it!

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A Day in the Backcountry
Posted February 6, 2006

There are so many ways to enjoy cross country skiing. I believe sticking to one form limits your abilities and slows the learning process. That is why I classic ski as well as skate. Of course there are times when conditions help decide which type of skiing to enjoy.

Backcountry skiing differs greatly from skiing on groomed trails. The variety of sensations experienced in deep powder snow can add to your ability to ski fast on racing gear when you head back to the groomed trail. More importantly though, putting more variety in your skiing is just plain fun.

During the past few weeks we've had big mountain snows with a few rainy days mixed in. This has resulted in a deep snow pack (5 feet or more) with a firm base. Add another foot of powder on top, temperatures in the 20s and you have a perfect recipe for fun in the backcountry.

Last Friday a small group skied the Autumn Creek trail east from Marias Pass. The trail is mostly forested and out of the wind. It climbs easily, for the most part, and steadily beneath the high peaks at he south end of Glacier National Park. Unfortunately a continuous snowfall prevented us from seeing the grandeur of the mountains. The snow was awesome though and the skiing real nice.

As the trail parallels a high mountain ridge, it crosses numerous stream channels that we call coulees. Some are small and easy to cross while others like in the photo above require a steep descent, crossing the creek and then a tough climb back out. The snow is deep enough now that most of the creeks can be skied right across. The climb out is part of the price paid for the quick descent. Here Terry Sherburne leads Jim Foster and Ronnie Laudati down into one of the many coulees. I merged three photos together to get this composite--we would never ski downhill so close together, well almost never.

Above the trail there are many open slopes where you can work on turns. The new snow fell on a hard base increasing the avalanche danger so we confined our turns to smaller and lower forested slopes. Jim Foster worked on some parallel turns in this image sequence.

I ski very frequently so long skate or classic sessions on groomed terrain do not result in muscle soreness. But when I put on different equipment like Fischer Boundless skis and plastic boots add a backpack with extra clothing and gear, then spend 4-5 hours in deep snow, I development an awareness of a whole new set of muscles. This soreness is good. It means I've had a great time.

For posts from previous months click on the links in the left column.