Near the finish of the "Ice
Rink Birkie" of 2007.

For a list of this year's
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Articles from
March 2007
Cleaning and Storage
Spring Sking 2007
Has Spring Sprung?
A Week Off

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Posts from March 2007

Spring Cleaning and Summer Storage
Posted March 26, 2007

The winter is almost over. There are bluebirds investigating our nest boxes and we saw our first robin on Saturday. Most groomed trail ski areas are closed for the season. This will be my last post of the season. Boy, winter sure went by fast. We had a late start and a seemingly early end. Like the true Cubs fan I am, I'll be waiting with anticipation for next year.

Another warm week has really shrunk the snow cover in the valleys. The snow is melting up high as well but there are still opportunities for backcountry and Telemark skiing. The weather forecast is calling for rain and snow this week, maybe some heavy wet snow. If it snows enough I'll try to get out for one more run.

Even though there might be another opportunity to ski I will begin the process of spring cleaning and prepare my skis 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, he'll know what to do.

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

Spring Skiing with Great Views
Posted March 19, 2007

I enjoyed two days of nice spring skiing this past week. One on the groomed trails at Izaak Walton Inn and the second in the backcountry south of Marias Pass.

Backcountry Skiing near Marias Pass (Saturday)
The sky was clear and temps were already in the 40s when I met Bud and April at the Diner (Two Medicine Grill) in East Glacier. We didn't really have a plan and our vehicles were filled with gear: snowshoes, tele skis, rock skis, etc.

After a few cups of coffee and a pancake or two we decided to ski up Flattop Mountain. We were expecting boiler plate snow with bare spots down low so we tied snow shoes onto our packs and began with rock skis.

At first the snow lived up to expectations. But the warm weather and bright sun soon soften things up. Hopes soared as we began to anticipate some great skiing below the summit of Flattop.

It got warmer and warmer and the now got softer and softer. By the time we approached the summit we were skiing through sticky wet deep mush. It didn't really matter though. The views and camaraderie was perfect!

The ski down was quite challenging as turning was almost impossible in the mush. It was downhill though and all to soon we were back at the pass.

Izaak Walton Inn (Friday)
Mark Ambre called from IWI on Thursday night. Seems a good sized group was arriving on the train Friday morning and he needed a second instructor. "Great!" I told him. Another excuse, which was not really needed, to get out and ski.

The forecast was for snow flurries in the morning and warming in the afternoon. When I arrived at the Inn it was snowing hard. This continued until early afternoon when the snow changed over to rain as it warmed into the 40s.

I met Ean and JR and we planned our outing on the trails. This father son team was a delight to ski with. While they claimed limited cross country skiing ability they had both skied before and were also accomplished downhill skiers. They took to the track skiing easily.

We began with a review of classic style skiing on groomed terrain but within 15 minutes we were heading over to the Telemark Bowl to work on our downhill techniques. I gave them a few pointers as we brushed up on wedges and wedge turns. Then we tried a few Telemark turns.

We completed our morning ski with a tour around the Pileated trail and, just for fun, added some bump skiing off track.

Ean skied over to this lump of snow that has piled up on a tree stump. Looks like almost 3 feet of snow there. We looked at the interesting layers from all of the winter's snow storms.

The fresh new powder continued to decorate the trees and trails as we finished our ski together. We headed back to the inn for some rest and lunch.

After lunch I changed to skating gear. I was surprised, though. I walked back outside expecting fresh falling snow. Instead the snow had changed to rain and in the time I was having lunch most of the morning's new snow had melted. My skis stuck to the very wet snow quite well. I got quite a workout in the afternoon.

There was plenty of snow on the trails though. A little cool weather and some fresh grooming should produce more of that fast and fun spring skiing. I hope it happens.

Has Spring Sprung?
Posted March 12, 2007

I hope not! But you wouldn't know it looking around outside.

This morning a full rainbow appeared on the plains in front of the mountains. It was 61 degrees at 7:00 AM! Winds blew at 69 mph overnight. Swans are on the lake. The ice is going out. Snow is melting. Whether or not the calendar says spring, the weather definitely says spring.

So what to do? I really wanted to get in some great runs before the snow disappeared. One I am especially interested in is the ski from Fielding to Ole Creek and down Ole Creek to Walton. The wet snow and increasing stream flow puts a damper on that idea for now. All of the other accessible areas for backcountry skiing have turned to crud as well. Even grooming at Izaak Walton Inn is impossible when the snow is mush. So unless things cool down and we get some new powder I'll look for other things to occupy my time.

On Saturday, Bud Iszler, Ron Gruber and I decided to climb an unnamed ridge south of Swift Reservoir that we call Hurricane Ridge. It was a little cool in the morning but the sun was shining in a nice blue sky as we headed up the trail leading to a point above Swift Dam. There seemed to be plenty of snow just above the trailhead so we carried snowshoes strapped to our packs.

The snow in the shade was frozen and rock hard. The slope was pretty steep too. This made for some "interesting" route finding as we tried to avoid the most dangerous sections.

Looking north behind Ron and Bud it is apparent how little snow remains on the rocky Mountain Front. Further west though the snow pack remains quite deep and should provide some great spring skiing soon.

Once above the snow, however, it became sadly apparent that there was very little snow on the rest of our route. So we stashed our snowshoes at the base of a tree and continued on without them.

Hurricane Ridge is an escarpment with cliffs on the east side and steep sloping slabs of limestone on the west side. It is typical of many peaks on the Rocky Mountain Front. This day Hurricane Ridge lived up to its name.

A few hours latter as we neared the summit the winds began to increase. I snapped a few photos and we quickly retreated to the lee side of the ridge for our luncheon.

As we descended the winds really picked up forcing us to the ground on a few occasions. Our wind repellent was not working. At one spot I was in the lead and reached a slope in the lee of the ridge. Looking back at Ron and Bud, I saw that they were firmly braced trying to remain upright. I heard a roar and they both went down. I was only about 100 feet from them but I experienced only a little gust. They got up and tried to reach my position but were forced down once more before the wind abated some and they could continue.

The wind kept up all the way down but was not as fierce as it was in that one section. We got our winds legs back for sure. We all would have preferred skiing but at least we got our exercise and enjoyed a day in the mountains.

Warm weather has ended the ski season in some places. I believe that our season has only been paused. The snowpack will either firm up and provide good skiing on the softened surface on warm days or cold and more snow will return the mountains to winter conditions. In past years some of the best backcountry skiing was in April.

I won't put away my skis just yet.

An Unfortunate Week Off
Posted March 7, 2007

Just before returning home from the Birkie I received the sad news that my brother-in-law Gene Wayman had passed away suddenly. He lived in Plymouth, Indiana.

I returned home for two days to catch up on "honey-dews" then headed back to the Midwest for a memorial service to celebrate Gene's wonderful life.

While the reason was unfortunate, it was a very worthwhile trip. I got to see a ton of relatives I had not seen in many years including my sister Claudia's family and two nephews I hadn't seen since the early 80s. My brother Wayne and I also had the chance to catch up on old times as well.

I rode the Empire Builder one more time each way between Shelby, Montana and Chicago, Illinois. The service was on time and the food in the diner terrific. I even enjoyed the conductor's comments on Thursday. As the train was darkened for the evening while we were in Minot, North Dakota the conductor got on the intercom to inform us we were heading into a blizzard and he hoped we'd come out on the other side. Snow fell hard all through the night and next day. At station stops, passengers scurried through deep snow to reach the train. Air flights were cancelled like crazy in Minneapolis and Chicago. Through this big storm the Empire Builder ran on time.

It's now march, the days are getting longer and spring is coming. I look forward to some great spring skiing in the mountains here in Montana. Check back for news on these adventures.