This week brought a significant pattern change to the Northern Rockies. We've had plenty of snow but the temperature has remained quite comfortable for skiing. The warmest ski day prior to this week was 34 F and the coldest around 16 F. Perfect temperatures for enjoying winter.
A push of cold air with snow came last Tuesday and another more significant storm with more snow and even colder air began Saturday. As I write it is -18 F. The sun just peaked over the ridge though and it promises to be a beautiful day.
When it gets this cold though I am reminded of colder times in the past. The first time I ever cross country skied was during a camping trip to Wyoming. Temperatures plummeted to -37 F on two of the nights we spent in the Grand Tetons. To see the whole story go the Archive and visit "My First ski Trip."
I can also remember a time LaNora Kleerup posted a sign on the Eagle river Nordic Ski Center that said, "Ski Trails Closed, It's too darn cold! Come in and party!" It was -24 F that day and Steve and I skied anyway. Then we joined the party!
And then there was the time Bill, Dean and I skied behind my cabin near Alvin, Wisconsin when it was -37 F. It was so cold that day we had trouble starting my car. I had no electricity there either. To get the car running we removed the battery and placed it in a warm water bath in the kitchen sink and heated the engine oil pan with propane torches. Yep, the ole car turned over nicely after that.
A few winters ago John Carr and I headed out to Waldron Creek when it was -30 F. That story is in the Archives under "The Lake of cold Air."
There were quite a few other times when the temps dipped well below zero on ski trips. It never seemed to prevent us from having fun and getting outside to ski. The trick is to be healthy, keep a positive attitude and use your experience to dress properly. That is dress warm but don't over dress so you end up wet with sweat. Get out there, have fun, stay warm and retreat to a warm shelter when necessary.
Traveling on Montana highways was treacherous this past weekend so I cancelled my ski trip to Izaak Walton Inn. Still feeling the need to get outside in the snow I headed a short distance up the Teton Canyon and skied up the Jones Creek Trail. The valley of Jones Creek is a rugged defile that has been ravaged by past floods. The valley floor is wide open but the slopes on the west side of the creek are forested and have plenty of snow. There are also open areas with outstanding views of the line of peaks rising over 3,000 feet above the east side of the valley. Highest of these is an unnamed summit we all refer to a Guthrie Peak. (See photo below). I stopped on a high ridge to enjoy the view and have some lunch.
Shortly after making this photograph the wind came up and the sun dipped behind the ridge. I could feel the cold start sneak under my parka. I turned back and skied off the ridge heading for the warmth of home.
Quick Poling Recovery
Posted January 15, 2008
Folks watching me skate always tell me that I look fluid and relaxed. This sounds good but I've often thought that maybe I'm a little too relaxed.
At the instructors clinic in West Yellowstone last November we focused quite a bit on variation in skating tempo and power application while skating V-1 and V-2 techniques. As a result of what we discussed and experimented with there I've been focusing on a quicker arm recovery during poling.
This was hit home when Jennifer attended some of the Super Tour races at Bohart Ranch near Bozeman earlier this winter. She commented that the faster racers had a quicker poling recovery where the poling motion ended at about the waist. This was followed by a rapid recovery in preparation for the next poling stroke. These faster skiers managed to skate uphill further in a V-2 technique before resorting to the "lower gear" V-1.
Previously I used a long fluid arm swing where I applied power to the poles as my arms swung down and back. After this power phase I let my arms continue to swing or follow through, then relaxed them while they swung back forward in preparation for the next power phase. This follow through resulted in my arms extending well behind my body at the end of the poling motion.
This past weekend we used a continuous shooting camera to record my V-1 technique. The camera shoots 3 frames per second. The image below is a composite of nine images (3 seconds worth) from one uphill run. It isn't always possible at three frames per second to get just those images needed for a good analysis but this sequence comes close.
This sequence shows a more rapid poling recovery. Starting at the bottom of the hill (on the right) I have just planted my poles and am beginning the power phase of poling. The second image shows me at about the halfway point in the pole push. In the third image I'm completing the pole push. So it has taken me two frames or 2/3rds of a second to complete the power phase of poling in V-1. In the very next frame, taken only 1/3rd second later, I'm ready to begin another pole stroke. This rhythm of poling and quicker recovery continues through the entire sequence.
As I mentioned previously I used to let my arms follow through and then extend quite a bit behind my body. During that follow through my arms were relaxed and not really doing anything to push me forward. To complete a recovery in the shorter time demonstrated here was impossible.
Naturally a quicker poling motion requires a quicker skate pushoff in order for both parts of the technique to remain synchronized. This faster tempo results in more time spent under power and less time gliding (relaxing). The more rapid poling recovery (and skate pushoff recovery) allows for a fluid and dynamic uphill technique. I'm going to continue to work on this to smooth it out.
While I've shown the V-1 here I'm also working on a quicker recovery during V-2. One coach mentioned it should look like your hands hit your thighs and bounce back forward for the next stroke. I can already report that this change in technique allows me to V-2 further up each hill than I previously could. I'll try to complete a V-2 photo sequence soon so you can see what I mean.
On Sunday January 13, 2008 two skiers were killed by a massive avalanche on "Fiberglass" Hill, a popular out-of-bounds ski area at the Whitefish (Big) Mountain Resort. David Gogolak, 36 of Whitefish, and Anthony Kollman, 19 of Kalispell, were buried by the avalanche. Snowmobilers reported that they saw at least two more skiers swallowed by the sliding snow but no one is presently reported missing according to the Kalispell Daily Interlake. The avalanche was a big one measuring over 800 feet wide and with a verticle run of 1,100 feet. Large snow cornices still hanging at the top of the slope and unstable snow below were of serious concern for more slides. This and low visibility due to fog resulted in the search for more victims being halted after dark. The search resumed Monday is continuing Tuesday. The avalache debris is more than a probe length deep and it estimated at over 20 feet.
As of Tuesday morning the search continues for the possible other victims. The avalanche danger has been raised to High above 5,500 feet becaue of new snow and wind blown additionl snow falling on unstable surfaces. All backcountry skiers are cautioned to be extremely careful in choosing where and when to ski the backcountry.
The Montana ski community is a tight knit group. All mourn the loss of our members in this tragedy. I extend my condolences to David and Anthony's families.