Back to Ralph's Blog

Posts from November 2007

West Yellowstone Ski Festival
Posted November 27, 2007

The Ski Festival at West Yellowstone was a big success thanks to the efforts of a whole bunch of volunteers, Jamie Greene, the Yellowstone Ski Festival Coordinator AND a super big last minute snow dump by Mother Nature. On Monday evening, just 12 hours before the festival was to begin there was no snow on the Rendezvous Trails and only a meager amount on the plateau at the end of a treacherous drive. On Tuesday morning, there was almost a foot of new snow all groomed and ready for hundreds of avid cross country skiers.

I postponed my departure until Tuesday morning and arrived in West Yellowstone around 1 PM. In addition to getting in some early season skiing I participated in a PSIA-Northern Rocky Mountain Division Education Staff training session with PSIA National Nordic Team Coach Scott McGee. During that clinic I learned a bunch of new drills to improve both classic and skate skiing. I'll share some of those in my next post.

In addition to my clinic there were 3-day, 5-day and half-day clinics, biathlon training and races, sprint races and the Super Tour Series kick off race. All in addition to sharing some great snow with skiers and teams from all across the country. Following are some comments along with photos. Send me any questions or comments you may have.

All skiing on the Rendezvous Trails in West Yellowstone begins at the log archway.

OK, touch up the wax job, kick the snow out of your boot and binding, click in and head out for a ski, clinic or ski party!

At the biathlon range there are several small loops where several teams were working on double poling.

Skating is sync can be a good way to visualize others ski technique to improve your own. The first two skiers have their poles angled across their body to help them visualize the change in torso orientation during various stages in the skating technique.

I was skating along with my clinic group when I heard, "Hey, that's Ralph!" I quickly stopped to see who it was. There was Craig (in the lead above) and Gwen who I had not seen in several years. We used to ski together at Alice Creek Ranch back in the day. It was good to see them and how much their skiing had come along. The cross country ski community is relatively small and it seems wherever skiers congregate I run into folks I know. Maybe I'll see them at the Birkie later this winter. That's another place thousands of serious skiers gather.

Most of the major equipment manufacturers where present with demo tents so you could try new stuff before you buy.

At the end of the day, as the sun was setting, a bunch of teams came together for a giant game of Fox and Hounds. It was a real mad house. There were about a hundred skiers going every which way, all laughing and having a great time.

I didn't stay for the sprints or Super Tour races because of my desire to spend Thanksgiving with my family. But those events went off in a spectacular fashion as well. I highly recommend that all of you, no matter what level of skiing , spend some time in West Yellowstone at next years festival. You'll be glad you did.

Return to top of Page.

Bring it On!
Posted November 19, 2007

This morning reminded me of the movie The Christmas Story when Ralphie woke up, looked out his bedroom window at the neighborhood covered with beautiful snow and the tree branches were like lace. All he could say was, "Wowwww!"

That's what it looked like out my window this morning. A gorgeous fluffy snow covered every thing. Periodically I can hear the whispering sound of snow sliding off my metal roof. Looks to be 4-5 inches already and it's still snowing pretty good. Even the little horned larks arrived early looking for some bird seed on our front lawn.

This snow seems to be an east-west band of precipitation falling presently across north central Montana. The band is forecast to sink southward during the day and bring snow to most of the west half of the state before it's done.

As I mentioned in previous posts I am planning to head down to West Yellowstone for the ski festival. I will be participating in a Professional Ski Instructors of America - Northern Rocky Mountain (PSIA-NRM) Division Education Staff training clinic on Wednesday. I'll bring you a full report and some photos later in the week from my first ski of the season.

In the meantime you can check this site during daylight hours to see how the snow stacks up on the Rendezvous Trails in West Yellowstone. As I write this there is no snow - it's definitely brown town! But there is some groomed track on the plateau. AND 4-12 inches of snow are in the forecast. Hopefully by the time I arrive Tuesday afternoon the trails in town will be white and ready. If the trails are white on Wednesday look for me on the web cam around 9:00ish , noonish, 1:30ish and 4:00 ish (Mountain Standard Time) as my group heads out or returns from skiing. I'll try to wave for the camera.

Another good thing is that there will be skiing at home when I return. Looks like plenty of snow in the mountains for some backcountry skiing. I can't wait to get out there. Just like Ralphie!

Have a Happy Thanksgiving! I'll leave that snow dance going for the rest of this week. It seemed to help get the snow started.

An update on Bert: Bert Kleerup suffered a set back last week with an intestinal infection that prevented him from feeding and resulted in weakness and dehydration. Bert has been readmitted to St. Marys Hospital in Rhinelander but has begun to improve again. Keep sending those prayers and well wishes. He still needs them dearly.

Return to top of Page.

Will We Start Skiing this Week?
Posted November 12, 2007

A big storm is in the forecast for the Northern Rockies! One to two feet of snow may fall on the high peaks with 6-12 inches predicted for elevations above 5,000 feet. Now my place is at 4,100 feet so if I have to shovel then it will indeed be a good storm.

With the good we often get some bad. Along with the forecast for snow there is also a High Wind Warning. Sustained winds are predicted to reach 40-60 mph tonight and tomorrow with gusts up to 80 mph possible in favored areas. I always chuckle at using the term "favored" for places that receive extraordinarily high winds. To me that is definitely not something to "favor!"

Six inches of snow in the Teton Canyon west of my house will provide some road skiing. If the snow comes I'll try to get up there to check it out and bring back a photo or two.

Next Monday I hope to travel to West Yellowstone, Montana for the West Yellowstone Ski Festival. As of this writing, though, there is no snow either on the Rendezvous Trails or on the higher plateau above town. Some snow is in the forecast for down there but the push of weather this week seems to favor (there's that word again) the more northern ranges. Without snow, there will still be the ski show and equipment to review and friends to meet but my focus there would really be on skiing. Without the snow I will probably cancel.

Some areas of the Midwest and Northeast got some snow last week and they have done some skiing. Congratulations to all of you who have gotten on the boards already this season. Drop me an email with a report on your early season opportunities and I'll share it here in a future post.

Meanwhile let's all do the snow dance to get this season sliding.

An update on Bert: Bert Kleerup did indeed come home from the hospital last week. He is gaining strength and doing better. Keep sending those prayers and well wishes. He still needs them Full recovery will be a long process.

An Update on Bert Kleerup
Posted November 8, 2007

I received the following message from LaNora Kleerup on Thursday morning.

After a very long 10 days (which seemed like a year according to LaNora), I'm happy to report everything is going well. Bert had the surgery on October 29th, spent two days in ICU, then was moved to Special Care. On Monday November 5th he was moved back to a regular room.  He's still weak, but has been up walking around with the Physical Therapist, sitting up, going to the bathroom without help -- so is doing well. The surgeon said that they got all the cancer that was visible, and the pathology report came back showing the lymph nodes clear.

He's had a complication where he is unable to swallow. They did a fluoroscopic (with barium) evaluation and it seems the voice box is not moving up to let the food or beverages pass, so everything is going into his lungs.  LaNora was really down Tuesday evening, as the technician indicated it might be the result of nerve damage, which would be unrecoverable.  Bert's surgeon, Dr. Jacobson, thought that his swallowing was slightly  improved on Wednesday. In addition a speech therapist worked with him with a number of exercises to improve the tongue and throat muscles. As of now Bert is on the feeding tube 24 hours a day, with no solid food at all. He just chokes and they don't want to take a chance on choking or having it go into his lungs.

The best news is that Bert is coming home Thursday November 8th. He will still need the pump & feeding equipment. The home care will include a nurse on a daily basis for now, the physical therapist and the speech therapist. Bert was getting depressed as he had been in the hospital 17 days already and is more than ready to come home. LaNora learned how to flush the feeding tube and install it, (it really is easy to do) -- so am confident we can manage at home.

It will be good to have him. I think he will gain strength and get stronger faster at home than at the hospital. Hopefully, in a couple of weeks his swallowing will improve enough so that Bert can begin to eat regular food (soft stuff like pudding, mashed potatoes, etc).  Bert and LaNora have a long road to travel -- but at least we have the road to travel!

The compassion and care shown by so many has been a very spiritual, uplifting feeling. It's awesome and astounding -- the amount of caring and concern we've experienced -- very humbling too.  We really felt all the positive thoughts and energy -- an incredible feeling. Thanks for all the positive thoughts & prayers. We really are overwhelmed (in a positive way) with all the compassion and caring. Bert and I thank you all so very much.

Keep us in your prayers and  -- we still need them.

OK, Let's Flip the Switch Please!
Posted November 5, 2007

The best weather forecast for the Rocky Mountain Front in Montana is, "The weather will be like this until it's different."

That may sound a little strange but it's exactly how it seems to be out here on the plains in front of the mountains. Our weather is fairly stable from day to day, sometimes from week to week or even month to month until somehow a switch is thrown and the weather changes dramatically.

Summer arrived around the first week in June. From then until about mid September we experienced hot temps, sunny (or smoky depending on which way the wind blew the forest fire smoke) days and no rain. We went for that entire period with less than 2 tenths of an inch of precipitation.

A switch was thrown in mid September and we quickly transitioned into a cooler and wetter time where periodic pushes of moisture and cold fronts brought rain and snow interspersed with warmer days. This created the snowline that I discussed last month. The snow line went down and up. Right up to the past weekend we had high temperatures in the upper 50s with lows between 35 and 45 F.

Yesterday saw a change; maybe a switch was flipped. From Saturday's high of 57 we dropped to a low of 25 with most of this 32 degree shift happening in about 2 hours on Sunday afternoon. We went from 49 to 31 in about two hours. Then it started to snow. This morning 2-3 inches of powder brought the snowline from the top of the mountains right down to my front door. Yep, I'll have to get out there and shovel.

Here are before and after shots taken from my deck yesterday to today just for comparison.

I hope this is the switch from fall to winter! Just about everyone from the farmers and ranches to the hunters and skiers want to see more snow and fast. Those in agriculture want the moisture, hunters want to track game and you know what us skiers want! The weather around here continues to amaze me!

Will we be skiing next week! Only time will tell. Chack back and find out!

It's only two weeks now until the West Yellowstone Ski Festival. There is no snow there as I write. I'm sincerely hoping that the switch gets thrown real soon and West Yellowstone transitions from fall to winter.

Bert Kleerup Ill

Bert Kleerup, one of my best friends, is seriously ill and will undergo surgery October 29th 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.

November 1, 2007 Update
Bert's surgery was successful. He will remain hospitalized for another ten days to two weeks and full recovery will take some time. There's more about Bert and LaNora Kleerup HERE.