Posts from December 2009
Frosty West Yellowstone!
Posted December 29, 2009

It's been a long time tradition in our family to spend the Christmas to New Year period skiing. Before moving west we would spend the week at our cabin near Alvin, Wisconsin and ski at Eagle River Nordic. This year Ron and Jen joined Nancy and I in West Yellowstone, Montana for two days of skiing on the Rendezvous Trails.

These trails provide fun for any ability. They are perfectly groomed and the skiing is great. If you haven't been cross country skiing in Montana, you haven't been skiing the best of the West!


Left: Jen photographed the train as it left the station.
Right: Jen and Ron in the cool crisp air on the Rendezvous trail.

West Yellowstone can get a little chilly but the sunny days provide plenty of time and warmth to ski. I do suggest bringing some warmer ski clothes, heavier gloves or mittens and a warmer hat. The cooler mornings are great for classical skiing. When the sun warms the dry high elevation air switch to skating gear and lighter clothing.

The trails are gently rolling with plenty of ups and downs. Corners are smooth and the track is always perfect. There is no better place to develop a good rhythm to your skiing.


Clearings along the trail provided plenty of warmth from the sun.

There are plenty of lodging possibilities in town and some pleasant eateries. After skiing we checked into the Brandin Iron, soaked for a while in the hot tub and walked to Bullwinkles for dinner.


Sunday morning was a little cooler. Skiing in the -20 F air created a little frost around the face. Yet by the noon hour it was nicely above zero.

Looking at the photos from West Yellowstone you might think there is plenty of snow. And indeed there was maybe 1-2 feet on the ground. But you can tell from the height of this sign that winter will bring much more.

The Rendezvous Trails are regularly groomed from mid November through early April. The deep snow pack allows for some good May skiing as well and the trails are groomed when conditions permit.

I'm looking forward to more skiing before the holiday period ends. It's time to get into the rhythm of skiing.

Waxing West Yellowstone, December 26-27, 2009
Snow Temp:
+5 F but probably cooler on Sunday morning. The snow was fairly abrasive and very cold groomed powder!
Air Temp: -20 F with warming during the day to +10 F.
Grip Wax: I used Rode Multigrade Special Blue with a little Rode Super Blue on top in the warmer afternoon. Grip was generally solid except in a few very sunny spots.
Glide Wax: Toko Low Fluoro Red and Gray. Glide was a little slow in the very cold of Sunday morning but was good in the afternoon.
Comments: The dry, cold groomed powder was fairly abrasive.

East Glacier Powder
Posted December 29, 2009

April and I skied the East Glacier powder on a clear and cold December morning. A foot of fresh cold powder covered a good base. The trees were frosted with powder piled high. There was no wind -- a very abnormal situation during winter in East Glacier. We skied the Continental Divide Trail heading out of town toward Marias Pass.

The scenery was stunning. Mount Henry, the right most peak in the photo above, was sparkling in the sunlight. While it was a little nippy, maybe right around zero F when we started, we warmed up quickly.


Left: April on the trail just out of East Glacier.
Right: The heavily frosted trees created an quiet that has to be experienced to understand.

We had no particular destination in mind. We stopped often to enjoy the winter wonderland. We snacked when we got hungry and turned around when we got tired. After enjoying a delightful downhill cruise on the trail below Dancing Lady Ridge we headed back to town.

Waxing East Glacier, December 24, 2009
Snow Temp:
Around +5F. The snow was dry, cold powder!
Air Temp: -1 F with warming during the day to +5 F.
Grip Wax: I skied my Fischer Boundless Crown backcountry skis which require no grip wax.
Glide Wax: Toko System 3 Blue.
Comments: The cold fluffy powder was perfect for good glides. Downhills provided that floating on air feeling I really like when backcountry skiing.

Happy Holidays and Good Skiing!
Posted December 21, 2009

As the holidays approach we all get busy sharing the season with friends and family. I wish all of you a Joyous Holiday Season and a Happy New Year.

Jen, Ron and I kicked off the week before Christmas with some skiing at Izaak Walton Inn. There had been several inches of fresh snow and Jesse had groomed it up quite nice. To help us improve our balance on skis (see the next post) Mother Nature threw in some warm air and a little mist and drizzle. The extra moisture softened the snow and created some added excitement.

When fresh snow get wet it get sticky. Our skis would glide well but in some places the added stickiness provided unanticipated balance exercises. We whooped and hollered down while flying down the Highline trail every time we hit one of those wet patches. What fun it was.

We also practised a new balance exercise, skiing with your eyes closed. This wasn't our choice but after lunch some heavy wet snow joined the drizzle. Ron and I wear glasses and those were totally iced and fogged up. Going down hills was a hoot. Jen, without glasses on, tried squinting or just kept here eyes closed except for occasional peeks at what might be ahead in the trail.

Skiing without being able to see forces one to feel through the feet, boot and ski what the snow is like. There is no question this improves the ability to control the skis as they fly down hill. What a great time!

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Balance - One Key to Good Skiing
Posted December 21, 2009

I recently attended annual training for the PSIA-NRM Nordic Education Staff at Lone Mountain Ranch. During one of our on-snow sessions we discussed the importance of balance on a single ski. We all agreed developing better balance is a key to good skiing.


Lone Mountain

Cross country skiing, both skating and classical, involves the ability to stand on one ski. A relaxed stance over that single ski will permit better glide, longer glide, a smoother transfer of body mass from one ski to the other, and a more efficient application of power to propel one forward down the trail. There are a whole bunch of exercises one might do to improve balance.

During this session we focused on a pause in the classical stride just after push-off. This pause resulted in a forward lean and a good body position while requiring the skier to remain balanced on one ski for a much longer time interval that what would occur during normal skiing. Since it was early in the season we all had a few "unbalanced moments" but as we practised for a while our ability to remain over a single gliding ski improved greatly. We did this drill without poles and with poles.


Nordic Education Meeting at Lone Mountain Ranch. Tom, Brenda and Herb working on their diagonal stride.

After several laps on the track we stepped back some and added a quick push-off and quick recovery. We found that the quicker recovery helped provide more momentum down the trail resulting in greater speed with little increase in energy use.

The next day, as I started skiing at West Yellowstone, I practised again the various drills we had discussed during the meeting. I'm one of those individuals who needs to relearn balance at the beginning of each season. Going through the drills of the previous day helped me ski up hill much better and it helped me ski up steeper hills without having to resort to the herringbone. I encourage all of you, no matter what level of skier you are, to add some balance exercises to your skiing, especially early in the season.

My Grip Wax Roots
Posted December 12, 2009

When I first learned to ski it seemed reasonable to want the best performance my skis could provide. This meant the best possible grip and glide. No wax skis had just come on the market and didn't offer much glide. So it was natural for me to choose waxable skis. My first skis were a pair of Bonna 2000. Wood beauties with lignostone edges.

To wax those puppies I bought some Swix waxes and thought I was good to go. A few years later I was in the market for faster skis. That's when I met Bert Kleerup and things changed.

Bert had just completed a bunch of research on the grip and glide of various waxes. He produced a chart comparing snow conditions and how well the various waxes performed. He included Swix waxes of course, but also tested waxes from other companies like Rex, Rode, and Ex-Elite. I don't think there were any Toko waxes back then (1979) but I can't remember for sure.

I went though that chart with a fine tooth comb and bought the best wax for each snow condition. I out grew my wax box and bought a bigger one. Skiing got more complicated. One of my favorite waxes for temps between 15 and 24 with new snow was Rode Super Blue with some Swix Blue Extra on top. There was even one Birkie where I skied the entire 55km on that wax combination.

Then skating hit the scene in the mid 80s and I abandoned the classical technique for a few years. When I came to realize I was missing something in my skiing I took up classical skiing again while still doing plenty of skating. We had a rule then at Eagle River Nordic: classical before noon; skating after noon.

New waxes were released and I moved to the Toko Fluoro line of grip waxes. I replaced these with the Toko Carbon waxes later on. Still Swix Blue extra found itself on my skis fairly frequently.

Rumaging around in a box of old grip waxes I found some of past favorites including Rode Multigrade Special Blue, Rode Super Blue, Swix Blue Extra and Rode Multigrade Special Violet. Some of those tins had only a few more wax jobs in then so I thought I'd use 'em up.

Hey, those old waxes worked pretty good. In fact I liked them much better in the grip department and could feel no decline in glide. So now my wax box has the whole Rode set and some Swix Blue Extra. Back to the beginnings.


Running Rabbit Mountain in Glacier National Park is across the Middlefork of the Flathead River from the Izaak Walton Inn ski trails.

We had a punch of pretty cold weather this week. -26 one night with winds over 50 mph. Made for an interesting drive home from West Yellowstone. But at least the snow is beginning to pile up some. Skiing at Izaak Walton Inn this week was pretty smooth. Mark had done an excellent job grooming about 17 km of trails. Starting today we are in for another round of snow, blowing snow and temps below zero. Should make for more good skiing.

Great West Yellowstone Skiing
Posted December 3, 2009

It's fairly common for me to start my ski season by attending a Nordic Education Staff meeting. Attendance yields my Professional Ski Instructors of America education credit for the year and , more importantly, gives me a chance to ski with other high level instructors and glean new info and ideas into my own bag of tricks. This year the meeting will take place tomorrow at Lone Mountain Ranch at Big Sky.

To take the greatest advantage of the trip I frequently add a day or two of skiing at West Yellowstone. The Rendezvous Trail head is right in town, within walking distance of many motels. I arrived in West just after noon. It was gloriously clear day. The sun shone brightly and not a cloud could be seen.


The Rendezvous Ski Trails start right in town.

My plan was to spend time classical skiing since I've found this the best way to get a good start on the season. The fairly cold weather this day sealed the deal. It was +2 F outside and the snow temp was a couple of degrees warmer. I had waxed my skis with Rode Multigrade Special Blue before leaving home so I didn't make any changes at the trail head.

Some folks can start a ski season in great form. That doesn't happen with me. It takes me several days on snow to regain my balance and some semblance of decent technique. Today was no exception. I skied the connecting trail to the main trail system then headed up the Rendezvous loop.

At the top of Hill 191 I turned left and skied the Dead Dog loop. There have been times when after completing the Dead Dog loop I felt pretty much like a dead dog. But not today. I was able to ski continuously at a pace the I could maintain for long stretches. Just what the doctor ordered.


The trails were not too busy. All told I saw maybe two dozen other skiers This skater passed me on Dead Dog and one other classical skier passed me on Rendezvous and Deja View.

Coming off Dead Dog I reclimbed Hill 191, rested briefly, then completed the Rendezvous loop. Finishing that loop I turned left again and skied my favorite trail, Deja View. I rested briefly one more time about halfway around.


The cool weather created a little frosty look.

The total for the day was a little over 20 km in two and a half hours. Not record breaking pace to be sure but I had a great time. The snow was wonderful with firm smooth tracks. Just the way to start a new season.