Posts from November 2009

Grizzly Grooming?
Posted November 28, 2009

I was out backcountry skiing on Monday. There was a low overcast and a hint of flurries. Mostly though, it was pretty dark so I left the camera in the truck. I skied up the trail toward Our Lake. The snow wasn't deep but I only scraped a few rocks along the way. There were no fresh tracks on the trail.

After skiing only a short distance the trail turns left and begins an uphill climb. I was now out of sight of the trailhead; there was no wind (unusual for this location) and it was very quiet. The only sound I heard was the swish of my skis through the snow.

Looking ahead I saw tracks on the trail. A bear had come out of the woods and walked up the trail. The tracks were fresh and big. The bear might have passed this way only moments ago or perhaps longer, I couldn't tell.

Bears walk in a manner that leaves two rows of tracks. The bear apparently had been walking casually and the tracks were fairly close together. They kind of reminded me of snow shoe tracks, only smaller.

As I skied over the tracks the skiing got better. The bear had nicely groomed the trail and packed the snow. The problem was I didn't know how long ago the bear had passed this way. Was it just ahead? Or perhaps watching me from the forest? I didn't know.

Most times, when out in bear country, I carry bear pepper spray. But this time the spray was nicely stored in my pack which was back in the truck. Since the skiing got better I decided to keep my eyes and ears open and kept skiing along.

After a half mile or so the bear turned left off the trail. I kept skiing. Son the tracks reemerged from the woods and went up the trail again. Once more the bear left the trail, this time turning right and digging up something from under the snow. After an hour or so I turned back and skied down to the truck. Fortunately there were no fresh bear tracks on top of my ski tracks. It turned out to be a rather peaceful ski. I sure enjoyed the "groomed" trail.

Here in the Northern Rockies and on the Rocky Mountain Front of Montana we have both black bears and grizzly bears. These tracks were probably black bear tracks. This was my second consecutive outing were I skied or hiked with bears close by.

Stone Grinding Update
Posted November 28, 2009

You might recall from an earlier post this season that I planned on getting my good race skis stone ground. I sent them to a place in Winthrop, Washington called Nordic Ultratune. I had skis done there before and knew them to be a good shop.

The skis came back last Wednesday. They looked great. I wondered what the best treatment would be to make sure they would be waxed well for the season. A note with my skis answered my question.

Here are the suggestions for the care of newly stone ground skis. It was nice to note that the skis were ground and then buffed with a special tool, then chemically cleaned. I was told that no further base work was required. But I was encouraged to do some further waxing in addition to the travel wax that was applied to my skis before they were shipped.

First there was a warning to use a good iron designed only for ski waxing and to not have the iron too hot. I follow this advice already so I skipped down to the waxing tips. Here are the suggestions for after scraping off the travel wax that were on my skis:

  • Rub on a layer of wax.
  • Drip more wax over the rubbed on wax and try to iron the wax and not the base.
  • Iron the base in a continuous movement from tip to tail always keeping the iron moving.
  • Iron the base 3 to 5 times, then place the ski aside base up and do the second ski in the same way.
  • Iron each ski three more times, switching back and forth between skis - the idea being to keep the base warm but to not let it heat up too much. It was not necessary to keep the wax molten all the time.
  • After the multiple ironings allow the skis to cool to room temperature, then scrape with a plastic scraper and brush thoroughly with a nylon brush.
  • If the wax being applied is a cool weather wax, allow the skis to cool outside, then brush one more time to remove extruded wax.
  • Do not use a steel scraper or rub the base with Fibertex!
  • And always store skis with a good layer of wax on them.

All of this made sense to me and I'm going to begin the waxing process this afternoon. A cold front with snow is fore cast for early next week and I'm heading down to West Yellowstone and Lone Mountain Ranch to attend PSIA-NRM Nordic Education Staff Training. Perhaps I'll have some skiing pics to share next week.

Keeping Busy
Posted November 19, 2009

Snow is slow in coming to the Northern Rockies this year. Seems like we get some nice white precipitations but that has been followed by warm chinook winds. The only deep snow up north here in Montana is on protected slopes of the high peaks. Areas further south have been more favored though. There is nice backcountry skiing as far north as the Show Down ski area south of Great Falls and there is fair skiing in West Yellowstone. Another push of moisture is expected soon and I'm hoping the northern zones will be favored this time.

I've been able to get out skiing only once so far. That was late last week on the road along the South Fork of the Teton River. Instead of skiing then I've been out hiking. Here's a couple of photos from adventures to Avalanche Lake in Glacier National Park and on Wind Mountain in my back yard.

It looks a little stat at Avalanche Lake. Low clouds rolled over the mountains but they only brought a spit of snow.
The hike was nice. This trail sees tones of visitors in summer but last Sunday there were only a few folks enjoying the view.

Wind Mountain is a nice summit in my backyard. It offers some climbing opportunities, a chance to get some exercise
and fantastic views. This view from near the summit is looking northwest. There is some frosting on the cake but it is still pretty thin.

The Montana ski season is kicking into gear next week with the start of the Yellowstone Ski Festival in West Yellowstone. The trails there have been groomed and skiing is reported to be fairly good. More snow would be nice considering how many folks will be there to enjoy it.

The following week I'm scheduled to attend PSIA Nordic Education Staff training. We'll ski at Lone Mountain Ranch and West Yellowstone. Check back to see how it goes.

Nikolai Anikin Sr.
Posted November 19, 2009

I had the pleasure of meeting Nikolai Anikin way back in 1996 during a fall dryland clinic at Camp Sagawau near Lemont, Illinois. Nikolai put us all through the paces that weekend. During breaks in the program I was asked him about growing up in the Soviet Union and his hopes for cross country skiing in the United States. Here's some of that info reprinted from an article in the Ski Research News published by Eagle River Nordic.

Nikolai grew up in Ishim, a small town in Siberia that is 2,500 kilometers east of Moscow. He started skiing when he was five and thoroughly enjoyed those days when the temperatures were minus 40 or 50 degrees Celsius. School was canceled on those bitter cold days in Siberia but Nikolai’s parents would still allow him to play outside. Imagine the training value of skiing on slow slow snow at minus 50 degrees Celsius—whew! His love for sports, especially cross country skiing, guided his future studies and work. After graduating from the Central Institute of Physical Culture in Moscow in 1954 he became a Master of Sports. He soon qualified for the Soviet national cross country ski team.

Nikolai competed in two Olympic games and two World Cups. He won Olympic gold for the men’s 4 X 10 km relay in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy along with teammates Fiedor Terentiev, Pavel Kolchin and the 1954 world champion Vladimir Kuzin. In 1960, at Squaw Valley, Nikolai won bronze medals in the 30 km and the 4 X 10 km relay. In 1961 at the famous Lahti Games in Finland he finished second to Assar Renlund from Sweden in the 50 km.

There have been many great skiers, but few can readily transfer their knowledge and abilities to help other developing skiers become even greater. Nikolai is one of these. He has a wonderful personality, a keen eye toward technique and a strong knowledge of the skill progressions needed to be a great skier. On top of this he feels equally at home teaching skiers at all ability levels. His goal is to make every skier better. Those that can, should be Olympic champions, others can win local races, and he certainly enjoys helping recreational skiers find ways to enjoy the beauty of winter and the sport of cross country skiing. His enthusiasm for the sport is clear. As our clinic group members improved their performance he beamed with joy.

Nikolai moved from the racing ranks to coaching in 1962. He coached the Soviet team at various levels including Junior Team coach and head coach of the Soviet national team from 1981 to 1986. After 1986 he was the Nordic Program Director for the Soviet Union Ski Federation. When I asked him how he liked that last position he shook his head, "Too many meetings, too many telephone calls, too much sitting at a desk, too many pieces of paper," he said. "I love to ski and I especially love to teach. I belong outdoors with the athletes."

He feels skiing is easy to learn and that cross country skiing would benefit everyone. He is especially willing to help anyone enjoy the sport. Nikolai also feels that while skiing is easy to learn, winning races is very difficult and training is important. He is just as willing to put the effort forward to help good athletes become masters of cross country skiing and reach that winners platform.

In 1989 Nikolai came to the United States as part of a program for education exchange with the United States. A freestyle skiing coach from the United States went to the Soviet Union and Nikolai came here. He was dismayed to learn that the United States does not have a unified school program for physical fitness and that there is no program to certify and license cross country ski coaches. In the Soviet Union physical education was treated just like the other traditional courses of science and math. Students who did not pass the minimum physical fitness requirements or who couldn’t ski 10 km in a certain time were required to spend more time in training. They had to reach certain goals in order to pass to the next grade. The physical fitness programs included training in a wide variety of sports including, of coarse, cross country skiing.
Coaches must be well trained but they must also be able to make a living as a coach. The volunteer method we use in the United States does not allow either to be the case for the majority of coaches. This results in a coach spending less time coaching and learning and consequently a poorer program. Without a nationally organized program of athletics that include cross country skiing in those climates that permit it and without highly trained, motivated licensed and well paid coaches it will be very difficult for the United States to become internationally competitive. Nikolai thinks there will continue to be those few individuals like Bill Koch who rise to the top but they will be few and there will not be regular appearances by Americans on the victory platform of international races. He feels that this could be reversed in time to show great strides for the Salt Lake City Olympics in 2002 but that it will not be easy.

Winning is certainly important but Nikolai firmly believes that the Olympics are not for victories but for participation instead. He feels the same way about other great races like the Birke—to be there and participate is victory in itself. You don’t have to stand on the top step of the winner’s platform. He has decided to remain in this country with his wife Antonina Anikina, a superb coach in her own right, and their children. They helped form the Gitchi Gummi Ski Association and presently live in Duluth, Minnesota where they are training top level athletes as well as providing quality clinic experiences.

Nikolai passed away last week after a long fight with cancer. My condolences go his wife Antonina and his sone Nikolai Jr. The American cross country ski community will miss him.

Nikolai Anikin Sr. Passes Away

Posted November 15, 2009; Updated November 16, 2009

November 16, 2009: An article on Nikolai Anikin appear today in the Duluth News Tribune.

November 15, 2009: I just read the following post on the SkinnySki website:

Sad news that Nikolai Anikin Sr passed away on Saturday morning. Anikin had been diagnosed with cancer over two years ago and was given just a few months to live at the time. His warm personality and extensive skiing knowledge will be greatly missed. Details on memorial service not available yet.

I will always remember the clinics I had with Nikolai. He had a fun and challenging way of teaching skiing. His skill in skiing and teaching will forever live in the American cross country skiing community. His wonderful personality will be missed by us all.

Getting Close
Posted November 13, 2009

I spent the past week or so in Washington DC doing a big carpentry project for my daughter and son-in-law. When I returned the mountains looked pretty white so I decided to check out conditions for skiing.

I usually start my season skiing on one of the Forest Service roads in the mountains. The road up the South Fork of the Teton climbs to almost 6,000 feet before it ends at the Headquarters pass trailhead. The deepest snow most easily reached is near the end of that road. Here's a couple of photos from my exploration on Thursday.

Snow depth near the end of the road were almost 6 inches. There's plenty of rocks so a little more snow is needed for good skiing. But that's why I have ROCK SKIS! I'll be back up there this afternoon with those to give it a go!

The sun was shining and it was sure purdie so I took a walk up the valley above Mill Falls. I found an old trail and enjoyed the valley for about an hour or so.

As the sun began to get lower and shadows crept across the valley I turned around and headed back down toward my pick-up. In summer I might not have known that I had some company on my hike. With the fresh snow though, the black bear tracks were pretty plain. It came onto the trail not far from my truck and followed it up for some distance. Eventually the bear turned around just like I did and headed back downhill. It turned off the trail before I came back past. I never saw the bear but I definitely could tell I was not alone.

Birkie News
Posted November 9, 2009

As most of you know I'm somewhat a fan of the American Birkebeiner ski race in northwest Wisconsin. Having completed 30 Birkies you could say I have Birkie Fever. This winter will be no exception -- I'm looking forward to number 31.

I received several interesting news items from the Birkie office this week and I thought I'd share it with you.

New Bridge in Duffy's Field
If you've skied the Birkie you might remember the rickety bridge with loose planks that lies across a small creek just before you reach Lake Hayward. This bridge has been replaced with a new multipurpose structure. This will definitely improve that part of the race but it will also benefit bicyclists, ATV riders and snowmobilers. The bridge was constructed with assistance from all these users.

Timing Sensor at the Start
The Birkie has used timing chips worn by racers on their left ankle for several years now. These chips permitted fast and accurate timing of racers. Each of us was able to see our results either on the web or in print very soon after finishing the race. Racer times, however, began with the start cannon for that racers wave. If you were late to your wave, caught in a crash right at the start or simply started at the back of the wave you could lose quite a bit of time. Starting this year there will be a start timing sensor 300 yards out from the start line. A racers time will start only when he/she crosses that sensor. This will provide a much greater accuracy in timing and allow those who got caught in traffic or were unlucky to get tangled up near the start a fair time.

Prince Haakon Race Changed
Previously skiers in this untimed 12 km even were allowed to enter the Birkie course 12 km from the finish. Most skiers in this group were out for a good time and skied with friends. Unfortunately their entry onto the Birkie course was at a point where Birkie skiers were often struggling just to reach the finish. Several big uphills resulted in traffic problems. Many of the Haakon skiers were not very proficient skiers. Hence they choose to ski 12 km instead of 50 km! There are several big downhills in the last 12 km of the race course and the mix of tired Birkie skiers and crashed Haakon skiers created more problems.

This year Prince Haakon skiers will start as the last wave of the Birkie. They will ski 7 km on the Birkie course then jump over to the Korteloppet course for a finish run back to Telemark Lodge. The Prince Haakon race will also be timed this year providing more interest to those competitors.

I applaud the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation, their board of directors and Ned Zuelsdorff, Executive Director for all of the hard work they do to make the American Birkiebeiner a great event. For more information on these news items and for other Birkie information see the new Birkie website.