Posts from January 2009

Cold Snow Glide
Posted January 26, 2009; updated January 29, 2009

January 29, 2009: Skied West Yellowstone today. I arrived just after several inches of cold dry powder blanketed the groomed surface. Temps were falling. It was a great ski in the late afternoon but temps were falling. I waxed with a mixture of Toko LF Moly and LF Blue. Skis seems a little slow. I attributed that to the abundant fresh sharp powder that no one had thought to track up.

After a 90 minute classic ski session last Sunday at the Izaak Walton Inn with temperatures below zero.

January 26, 2009: Seems like a good part of the country has been experiencing some fairly cold conditions. Temps below zero F and cold snow temps to match. With well groomed or skied in packed powder these temps can result in slow glide for skating or classic.

My favorite waxing guru, Steve Bantz, modified some cold snow suggestions from Toko and came up with the following waxing recipe for just this kind of snow.

Snow conditions on the Birkie trail last weekend were packed hard in the center of the trail with corduroy and dusting of powder at the edges. The tracks were firm. He called it, "Dynamite Rode special green tracks!" It was a real pleasure skiing on the trail but there was a big difference between the Birkie trail and the Birkie Classic trail.  The classic trail that was softer corduroy, not as firm under foot as the Birkie trail.  Even so we were still getting good glide on both trails. Here's his suggestion:

Start with a layer of Toko System Three Blue ironed in and brushed thoroughly. This is the non fluoro blue from Toko. After brushing apply a one to one mixture of Toko Low Fluoro (LF) Moly and LF Blue. Iron that in, let the skis cool and brush thoroughly. Finally add a third layer of a one to one mix of Toko System Three Blue and Nordlite. Again iron in, let the skis cool and brush thoroughly.

Remember that for these hard waxes it is necessary to use a little hotter iron temperature. If the wax chips off instead of pealing in thin feathery layers when you are scrapping your iron was probably too cool or you didn't heat the ski bases enough.

Another trick to consider is to let the skis cool to the air temperature outside and just before skiing on them brush the bases one more time with a fine brush. Now if you can just avoid coming back inn looking the way I usually do you'll have it made.

Leslie Thompson-Hall at Ski Fest...
Posted January 22, 2009

Ski Fest this year was a big weekend. I drove over to Izaak Walton Inn on Friday, moved into my room and went out to ski before it got dark. I knew I'd be on my skis for a good part of the weekend. I wanted to get in some good skating before the festivities began.

On Saturday I was scheduled to teach Introductory Classic Lessons at 11:00 AM and 2:00 PM. So while visitors were taking lessons from other instructors, enjoying sleigh rides and trying new equipment I headed out for a free ski on my skate skis. I got a good hour on the trails shortly after breakfast.

For my lessons I skied on an older pair of Fischer RCS Classic skis that I had waxed with the Toko Grip Spray described in the post below. Both morning and afternoon groups were perfect in size and the participants were enthused. I had them practise the basic track techniques and included some work on hills learning to wedge and turn. I repeated the lesson to a new group on Sunday morning. Sunday afternoon I taught an intermediate classic lesson to folks who have skied before.

One of the highlights of this years ski fest was the attendance by Leslie Thompson-Hall. She was on the US Cross country Ski Team and participated in the Olympics at Calgary (1988), Albertville (1992) and Lillehammer (1994). Her Saturday groups were fairly large but a late starting Sunday gave me daughter Jennifer Gruber the chance to ski with Leslie in a small group women only setting.

Only three skiers were in that group until some late comers joined in. Leslie had plenty of time to work individually with each skier and provided specific suggestions for them to improve their skiing. Leslie first skied behind Jennifer, then offered some suggestions and gave Jen time to practise. Leslie then lead so Jen could model the more efficient technique they were trying to achieve. Finally Leslie did another run behind Jen to make sure the changes were coming into play. Jen said it was a most rewarding experience being able to ski with someone of this caliber.

Jen leads Leslie using V-2 Technique.

After lunch her husband Ron joined Leslie for an advanced classic lesson. Both of them now have plenty to add to their skiing technique. I just hope I can keep up with them in the coming weeks.

Jen and Colleen work on their V-2 while Leslie was skiing with Laura.

After lunch her husband Ron joined Leslie for an advanced classic lesson. Both of them now have plenty to add to their skiing technique. I just hope I can keep up with them in the coming weeks.

The weekend went by pretty fast and I did indeed spend a lot of time on snow. I know that because I was pretty tired by the time I got home.

Classic Klister Conditions
Posted January 22, 2009

Since skating hit the scene, now quite a few years ago, I have tended to avoid classic skiing during difficult waxing conditions or when classic skiing required the use of klisters. You remember klisters don't you? It's that gooey sticky stuff that comes in a tube and once released seems to spread on its own to make every sticky.

Last weekend though I was schedule to give introductory and intermediate classic lessons during the Izaak Walton Inn Ski Fest. There was plenty of white stuff to ski on but I hesitate to call it snow. Shortly after the big snow dumps of January 2nd the trails at the inn got a bunch of rain and warm weather. Inversions then trapped cold air in the valley so no more melting occurred but the snow was changed to granular sugar like stuff on top of a firm base that we often see only in spring.

Jesse has been doing a great job grooming the trails but there is no getting around the fact that the snow is very granular and abrasive. Typical cold klister conditions.

In the past I would have opened a tube of klister and spread it on my skis usually getting the stuff all over. This year though I tried something different. I've been carrying around some cans of Toko Grip Spray in my wax box and decided this was the perfect time to give it a try.

I had two varieties. Orange for coarse icy wet snow and Violet for coarse icy snow -1 C to -8 C. Temps were below freezing so I selected the Violet Carbon Klister. After first cleaning my ski of previously applied hard waxes I sprayed on the klister. The spray applied a nice even thin coating, something difficult to do with klister in a tube. When on the snow it both gripped and glided well. I was quite impressed with how easy it was to apply and how well it worked. The abrasive snow did wear it off some but another application before skiing after lunch was easy and fast.

A shot from the Rendezvous Trail Cam in West Yellowstone.
Skiing West Yellowstone and Lone Mountain Ranch
Posted January 15, 2009

From my home it's a five hour drive to Lone Mountain Ranch at Big Sky and another hour or so to West Yellowstone. That doesn't deter me since I used to live in Illinois and often drove to Northern Wisconsin to ski.

Each winter the Professional Ski Instructors of America - Northern Rocky Mountain Division requires that Nordic Education Staff members attend annual training. This was the excuse for heading south.

West Yellowstone is home to the Rendezvous Trails. These trails roll and wind through the forest south of town. It's a short walk from almost any of the motels in town to the trail head shelter.

I really enjoy skiing the Rendezvous Trails because they are designed and groomed well. All trails are wide enough to allow setting the classic track far enough from the edge to have a good solid poling area. At the same time there is plenty of width for skating. But

The trails begin with a short ski to the main Rendezvous Junction. From there are a wide variety of skiing options. Jen and I started by skiing the Rendezvous loop. This trail ascends more than not at first. After a few kilometers there is a fairly long but gentle climb that ends with a steeper section known as the 191 hill.

Jen climbing the 191 Hill in the distance and magically on top in the foreground.

The hill doesn't look all that tough in this photo but the elevation is around 7,000 feet and the easier climb before the hill can be deceiving. Seems like I'm always breathing pretty good when I reach the top.

A quick left at the top of 191 takes you around the Dead Dog trail which concludes with a long series of climbs. After those you return to the Rendezvous loop and are presented with another opportunity to climb the 191 hill.

Once on top though the trail has nice long descending stretches and a bigger drop at the Cabin Hill.

Our Toko LF Grey mixed with LF Red felt silky and smooth underfoot and the skating was enjoyable. After spending the afternoon skiing we returned to our motel for some relaxation and a shower before dinner at Bullwinkles.

On Sunday we skied Lone Mountain Ranch. They generally groom half of their 88 kilometer of trails each morning. Since there had been 4+ inches of new snow the previous night we naturally skied those trails that were freshly groomed.

Lone Mountain Ranch guests stay in trailside cabins nestled in the woods like the one above.

All trails begin at the Chalet and soon there are junctions with trails leading an all directions. Some offer long difficult climbs while others a more casual in nature.

A little over a kilometer from the chalet skiers pass under the Big Sky access road and reach trails like Andescite, Beaver Slide, Tree Farm, West Fork and Antler Ridge.

Andescite is a tough little bugger with several hundred feet of steady climbing. Beavers Slide gives a big thrill with a steep drop and tough left hand corner.

The West Fork trail undulates a little at first but finishes with about 3 kilometers of easy but steady climbing. It's an out and back trail which, at its farthest reaches one of the lifts at the Big Sky ski area. The return trip takes less than half as long. Jen spotted a cow moose (probably Bill's moose) snoozing in a marshy area along the West fork Creek.

As at West Yellowstone the trails at the Ranch are well laid out and groomed very well. We pretty much pooped ourselves out with a day of skiing there that barely scratched the surface of the trail system. Hopefully I'll get to return there again this winter.

Check Out Ski Fest...
Posted January 8, 2009

Each winter the Cross Country Ski Areas Association sponsors Ski Fest. To introduce cross country skiing to those wanting to try this wonderful pass time participating ski areas usually offer free lessons and free or discounted rental and trail passes. Ski Fest is celebrated on different dates and with a variety of activities. Check my Montana Ski Report page at the link in the left column for info on Ski Fest at Montana locations.

Some areas are doing Ski Fest this weekend but I'll be helping with ski lessons at the Izaak Walton Inn when Ski Fest is celebrated there on January 17-18, 2009. Come say hello. Let's go skiing!

Ski Instructor Certification
Posted January 8, 2009

One of the most enjoyable of my winter activities is working Ski Instructor Certification events for the Professional Ski Instructors of America - Northern Rocky Mountain Division (PSIA-NRM). These events give me the opportunity to meet new people, ski new areas and expand my winter experience.

This past week after skiing at Izaak Walton Inn for a while I traveled to the Glacier Outdoor Center in West Glacier, Montana. This was the first time I skied there and I was totally impressed. They rent very nice comfortable cabins, some of which come complete with winter watchpersons.


There trail system is not long but it is groomed very well. I especially like the way the trails were laid out taking advantage of the terrain. They rolled and flowed through the wooded terrain providing very good skiing with plenty of diversity. I spent most of my free time skating and had a blast.

The Level I Certification Event went very well. I worked with six ski instructors on various aspects of classic skiing, skate skiing and teaching. PSIA-NRM as a division of the national PSIA organization require certain standards of ski instructors. This insures that someone taking a ski lesson in one location will get the same quality and style of experience when traveling to another location even in a different part of the country.

The Glacier Outdoor Center instructors were all pretty good skiers. We spent the majority of the first day of the clinic in working on skiing skills to meet the national standard for Level I instructors.

Karston showing his classic technique.

Carl and Marc using different skate techniques.

New to most of them though were the various aspects of how to teach their skills to new skiers. We spent most of the second day on analyzing each others technique using visual cues. These are basic skill sets that enable an instructor to quickly determine what a student needs to work on to improve his/her skiing. More information can be found in the archived article on Visual Cues for Skating.

If you are interested in becoming a certified ski instructor drop me an email and I'll reply with some info.

I also spent some time at Izaak Walton Inn before the rain hit. The snow there was deep and fluffy. All the trees were deeply flocked, just the way I like them in winter. The photo below is of Jen skiing the Starlight trail. Look at all the snow on those trees! Wow!

This weekend Jen and I are venturing down to West Yellowstone and Lone Mountain Ranch. Check in next time to see how we did.

Happy New Year!
Big Snow!
Posted December 31, 2008; Updated January 2, 2009

Update: Another high plains blizzard is dumping heavy snow on the east side of the Northern Rockies on Friday. High winds creating white-out conditions and combined with sub-zero cold are making for dangerous travel. Heavy mountain snow and high winds have resulted in very dangerous backcountry avalanche conditions. Backcountry travel is presently not recommended. There is great skiing but the problem now is getting to it.

Looks like another good snow year for Montana. At least I'll say so good so far. Winter did get a late start but it seems to be making up for lost time.

I've received reports of snow depths over 5 feet in relatively mid elevation terrain around the Flathead Valley. Heck, there appears to be good skiing in Kalispell and that's pretty unusual. Even east of the Continental Divide out on the prairies we've been getting plenty of snow. Last year, a really good year for the mountain snow pack I only shoveled snow around my house two or three times. This year I've been shoveling three to four times a week since the arctic surge hit three weeks ago.

The severe cold has lifted. In its place we are getting plenty of Pacific moisture every couple of days and the snow is piling up.

The only negatives center around travel and stress. Travel on the highways has been difficult and Amtrak has had a hard time getting through as well. Stress on grooming machinery is also high and a few areas have had some equipment breakdowns

All in all though the snow is welcome. Now as soon as I get over this head cold I'll go skiing.