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Posts from October 2007
Bert Kleerup Ill
Posted October 29, 2007

Bert Kleerup, one of my best friends, is seriously ill and will undergo surgery today to remove a malignant growth on his stomach. Bert is already a cancer survivor and knows exactly what the fight will be like. He's a strong individual but anyone in this position needs a great deal of support. I hope you will join me in providing positive thoughts and prayers for his treatment and recovery. If you'd like to send a card or letter of encouragement, Bert's at St. Mary's Hospital, 2251 North Shore Drive, Rhinelander, WI 54501. I'm sure he will appreciate them.

Updated November 1, 2007
Bert's surgery was successful. He will remain hospitalized for another ten days to two weeks and full recovery will take some time. More later.

Bert and LaNora Kleerup founded Eagle River Nordic (which sponsors Ralph's Blog) and the Ski Research Group. They were among the first to guarantee proper ski fit, have a try before you buy capability, provide groomed cross country ski trails in the Midwest and actually conduct research on ski fit, waxes, cardiology rehab using cross country skiing and ski technique.

Bert was extremely instrumental in changing my whole notion of cross country skiing. Prior to meeting Bert I skied on wood skis, mostly thrashing around in forests and parks. Bert and LaNora introduced me to the whole concept of performance skis and skiing. It radically changed the way I skied, the equipment I used and over time brought my skiing to a whole new level.

We also became great friends. I look forward every winter to my visit to the Kleerups and a fill-up on LaNora's famous Minnesota chile and maybe a little of that glug. I'll be visiting again this February and I plan on seeing Bert well on his way to recovery.

While Bert's in the hospital Eagle River Nordic is continuing to do business. Ken Lyon has been working with Bert on ski testing and selection for the past five years. Bert says, "I imparted my wisdom to Ken so I don't have to work so hard!" It's obvious that Ernie will continue to provide the highest quality of ski fitting. LaNora will also be watching the store so I wouldn't hesitate to contact Eagle River Nordic for your skiing needs.

Here's a couple of my favorite shots of Bert. I hope you enjoy them.

LaNora and Bert on the main street in Lillehammer, Norway with some new friends they met there.

Our group in the US Red, White and Blue at the Birkebeiner Ski Stadium during the
1994 Winter Olympic Games at Lillehammer, Norway.

They're Waxed up and Ready
and just need some snow.
Posted October 29, 2007

Nothing gets me in the mood for skiing more than waxing my skis, except maybe watching some other lucky person already on the snow skiing.

I worked on one pair of skis this past week and "got in the mood." Now only is some snow would come....

In checking my best pair of performance skis I noticed some uneven spots on the base. Looks like they are in need of a more serious tuning job. Probably the best thing I could do with these skis is to have the bases stone ground. This process will flatten the bases, impart a new and clean structure and remove any overheated spots that might not hold wax well. There is no handy ski shop that will provide this service near where I live so I have two other options. First I could send them off or I could wait until I'm close to a good ski shop that specializes in tuning cross country skis.

I'm heading to West Yellowstone for the Ski Festival. I believe Boulder Nordic Sports is planning to provide a full service shop at the festival. That might be a good time to get the job done. I'll keep you posted.

My Wax Bench is a Mess!
But my skis are almost ready.
Posted October 22, 2007

Bud April and I had an outing on Friday. April was off from her teaching job and she just couldn't stand staying inside. She said, "I just have to get out!"

I pointed out that the weather was kind of crappy but it didn't matter. We hiked up to Our Lake above the South Fork of the Teton River. Leaving the trailhead a steady drizzle cooled us down and it was quite uncomfortable. As we started walking up hill though we warmed and began to feel better. After gaining about 600 feet of elevation I noticed something--the sound of the rain on my jacket changed to a more quiet hiss. The rain was snow at higher elevations.

We stopped to enjoy the now white woods. I made a snowball, my second of the season. I suggested we build a snowman but there were no takers. So we continued up the trail. Reaching the lake we found the wind howling and the blowing snow stung our faces. It was gorgeous. After taking in the scenery we retreated behind some trees for a luncheon.

We were pretty well soaked from the rain and blowing snow and soon began to cool down. After enjoying the high elevation alpine lake and our snack we began the 3.5 retreat to the trailhead.

Ski Preparation:
Last spring I followed my own advice and coated my skis with a storage wax for the summer. Now it's time to get that off and prepare the skis for the approaching season. If you purchased new skis you should check out this article on Base Preparation from a previous season.

Unfortunately my wax bench is a wreck. It's full of bits and pieces of projects begun and completed (well some not completed) during the summer. So my first step will be to clean out my work area. I'll put away all those summer tools and toys and made sure I have a nice clean area in which to wax your skis.

Once my work bench is ready I'll follow these simple steps which apply to skating skis and the glide zones of classic skis.

  • First set up your waxing bench. If you don't have one just click on the "Shop on Line" link at the top of this page order one from Ernie.
  • Clean the dust and dirt off your skis. If you kept them nicely stored in a ski bag they should be fairly clean. If not then use a rag to wipe them down and make them pretty.
  • Scrape the storage wax off the base with a plastic scraper. Try to get as much off as possible but don't overdo the process.
  • Melt on a layer of soft hydrocarbon wax like Toko System 3 Yellow or Base Prep Grey or Swix CH10 Yellow or Base Prep Glider. Iron the wax until it is all liquid and covers the base of the ski. These waxes melt at a low temperature so don't set your iron too hot! Then allow the wax to cool briefly.
  • Once the wax has cooled to a solid (this should take only a minute or so) scrape off all the wax. This hot wax cleaning is perfect for getting the last of the summer storage wax off your skis and helps remove any dirt that might have accumulated on the base. Scrape carefully to remove all the wax.
  • Brush the skis with a nylon brush to remove the rest of the wax. I follow up the nylon brush with a horse hair or fine nylon brush. These finer brushes get the last of the soft wax off the base.
  • Next select a wax for the conditions you will be skiing in. If you are unsure then choose a soft to mid range wax. Iron in the wax, let the skis cool for at least 30-45 minutes or until the bases are room temperature. Then scrape and brush again.
  • Finally iron in another layer of the predicted wax of the day. If you are not skiing that day or the next leave the last layer on the skis. I usually scrape and brush the evening before skiing.

These steps should result in nice clean bases that are ready for a season of skiing. A few more steps should be done to the kick zone of your classic skis.

  • Remove the grip wax you put on for storage. Use a scraper to get as much off as possible then consider using wax remover. This will get all the dirty wax off the base.
  • Let the wax remover completely dry. This may take more than an hour. If there is any stickiness or a greasy feeling to the kick zone clean them again.
  • Once the kick zones are clean and dry apply a couple of layers of cold wax in the brand of your choice. Put on a thin layer and cork it in. Do this two or three times to provide a good base for the wax of the day when you ski. Any of the warmer waxes should stick well to this base layer and your ski base will remain protected.

Now let's hope the snow comes quickly and we can ski every day until the end of April.

Waiting for Snow!
Posted October 15, 2007

The snow comes and the snowline lowers. The weather turns warm again and the snow line rises. Last week the snow line was lowering; this week it went up again and almost disappeared.

The view from the summit of Mount Wright (8,875 ft.) on Thursday, October 11, 2007.

Each time it snows, enthusiasm builds for skiing. When the snow melts it is hard for me to maintain that level of enthusiasm and thoughts turn back to summer fun. In either case though there is always a desire to get out for some exercise.

Last Thursday (photo above) I hiked up the trail to the summit of Mount Wright on the rocky Mountain Front. I thought it would be a good chance to see some snow. It was, but the snow had a solid ice crust from a rain the evening before. A heavy cloud layer created an interesting ceiling.

Yesterday, Ron, Jen and I took a walk up Elk Mountain in Glacier National Park (above). The morning was cool, around 28 F, but the day warmed into the 60s. We made sure to practise classic poling technique on the trail up. On top we enjoyed fantastic views down the Ole Creek valley where the western larches were in full color.

Both of these activities help maintain a level of fitness for skiing. Since I don't follow a racing schedule I don't train to race. But I do want to be able to ski without a lot of fatigue when the season starts. So I'll keep climbing until the snow gets deep enough to ski.

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The Snow Line
Posted October 8, 2007

In the relatively flat Midwest the weather tends to vary in a north-south pattern. Go north it get colder and south is warmer. In the mountains every thing is dependent on elevation. Generally the higher you go the cooler it is. Same for precipitation.

I've always been fascinated by the prominent snow line that forms in the mountains each fall, winter and spring. Take a look at Ear Mountain as seen from my house last week.

There is a prominent line of demarcation where the heavy snow ends and "brown town" begins. This line forms where the accumulation of snow equals that lost to melting and evaporation. Above the snow line the mountain is white with deep snow; below it is generally wet after a storm but any snow that fell has already disappeared.

Another way to think about the snow line is that it's a battleground between warm and cold. Once the summer warmth has left the countryside the ground at higher elevations cools more than at low elevations. It may be below freezing on the summit of Ear Mountain while on the plains below temperatures may be near 60. This results in a gradation of ground temperature from warm to cold. Snow falls and interacts with the warm ground. The warmer the ground the more snow will melt. And the snow line forms.

Another factor assisting in the formation of the snow line is variation in temperature with altitude. The higher one goes the cooler it usually is. When storms come there is some spot where the precipitation changes from rain to snow. Weather forecasts in mountainous country take this into account by providing the elevation where this phenomena occurs. That way you can guesstimate whether the precipitation at your location will be white or wet.

I live just north of Choteau, Montana at 4,136 feet above sea level. If the forecast calls for heavy snow above 5,000 feet I know I won't have to shovel in the morning but I will be able to head a little higher for some skiing.

The snow line will move up and down throughout the winter. The usual course is for the snow line to start fairly high and creep down the mountainside until even the valleys are covered with snow in the depths of winter. As spring approaches and warmer weather invades the plains the snow line begins to creep up. It gets pretty patchy in June and by the end of July I will no longer see snow out my window.

The Chinook winds along the Rocky Mountain Front have a strong influence on the snow line as well. I'll talk about these sometime later this winter.

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Anticipating Another Great Ski Season
Posted October 1, 2007

They say Montana has four seasons each year. They are July, August, September and Ski Season. There is some truth to that. Dedicated skiers can find something to ski on well into July and can often get back on snow in October. Now it might not be the best skiing possible but as I always say, "Any skiing is better than no skiing!"

It's October already! The leaves have turned golden and are waiting for a good storm to strip them from the trees. We've had three snows in the mountains. I'm starting to get juiced for the next great season: Ski Season.

Last Saturday April, Jen, Ron, Bill and I walked down to the Belly River in Glacier National Park for an outing. The trail drops over 700 feet in the first 2 miles. On our uphill return we practised a little Ski Walking with poles and Bounding Imitation of Cross Country Skiing. This is an excellent way to transition your body into the movements of cross country skiing without the need for snow. After some spirited bounding imitation it became clear I have more "transitioning" to do!

I learned these dryland techniques from Nikolai Anikin quite a few years ago and covered the details in one of the first posts on Ralph's Nordic Web. Click on the links above to visit these posts. When you are finished reviewing those posts use your browser's Back button or click on the Ralph's Nordic Web link in the left column to return here.

I got my first ski gear catalog. This year it was from Eagle River Nordic. And I've begun to think about my skiing goals for the 2007/2008 season. All dedicated skiers, and some more casual skiers, probably set some benchmarks they hope to achieve. It might be improving race technique, skiing a personal best in the Birkie or even winning a race or two. Those of you who are serious ski racers should have set goals long ago because training is not something to begin in October. For many of us though, now is a good time to set some priorities for the coming season. Here's a few of mine:

  • Have a fun time at the 2008 Birkie.
  • Ski the backcountry run from Fielding and down Ole Creek to Walton in Glacier National Park.
  • Work on improving the my skating technique to make it more dynamic.
  • Enjoy the camaraderie of friends.
  • Ski as many Montana locations as possible.
  • Ski ABR in Ironwood, Michigan.
  • Don't over do it the first few times out.
  • Catch up with skiing buddies that I haven't seen since last winter.

These may not all seem like real challenges but the season passes all too quickly and I want to have as much fun skiing as possible. I will achieve some of these goals quite naturally; others will require some work. And that's just fine.

How about sending me your most important skiing goal for this year? I'll publish a list of your goals in a future post.

For now, bring it on. Let's go skiing! For fun, here's a shot of Rocky Mountain west of Choteau, Montana taken early last week on the trail to Headquarters Pass. A little more snow and a guy could carry his skis up there for some fun!

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Summer 2007

“In sport there must be pleasure and satisfaction from practice.
Good psychological energy for the next practice comes from pleasure.’’ Nikolai Anikin.

Nikolai Anikin Seriously Ill
Posted August 12, 2007

Strength Transcends Sport
The story of Nikolai Anikin by Kevin Pates of the Duluth News Tribune
Published Sunday, August 05, 2007.
Unfortunately this article is no longer available.

Posted June 18, 2007

You may have seen this note about Nikolai Anikin by his son posted on but I thought I'd share it here as well.

Nikolai Anikin Sr (Duluth, MN) June 15th update:
Former Russian national ski team coach and Olympic gold medalist Nikolai Anikin Sr. has been diagnosed with colon cancer. A colonoscopy revealed that stomach pains and pressure were caused by colon cancer blocking the intestinal path. Surgery two days later showed the cancer was advanced. The doctor came out of surgery and said there was not much he could do. He estimated three months of life.

This summer is going to be all about my dad. We will do whatever he wants. Antonina, Nikolai Sr. and I (Jr.) plan to spend a lot of time at our dacha 15 miles outside of Duluth. That is where he wants to be. We welcome visitors to hang out, sit around a campfire or whatever. If you would like to visit please call 218-724-5606 or email Send condolences to:
Nikolai Anikin
1619 E. 5th St.
Duluth, MN 55812

Cancer tends to take away appetite and my father has lost significant weight. It has been difficult to get him to eat. So bring something tasty. He and I share our sense of taste and we like sweets.
- Nikolai Anikin Jr

Nikolai presented one of his signature 2 day dry-land clinics at Camp Sagawau near Lemont, Illinois when I was director there. It was truly a life changing experience as far as my ski technique was concerned. Not only did I learn so much about skiing but Nikolai also presented a view of his life in the Soviet Union that I found very interesting. I took more than I could ever imagine from his clinic.

I am deeply saddened to hear of Nikolai's illness. I encourage him to "puuush" hard and fight as best as he can. I think of him often and will keep him in my prayers.