Posts from October 2010

Hunting Season is Over, Now we can
Really Get Out and Ski
Posted November 29, 2010

Hunting season is over! It always seems to last forever but it finally ended Sunday evening November 28th. In Montana the rifle season for deer and elk lasts about a month. So the hunters have got their game and soon it'll be my turn.

Most ski areas on public land wait until that season ends before grooming ski trails. This year there is plenty of snow so skiing should be pretty good right from the get go. Right no I'm like a kid on Christmas morning waiting to open the packages (snow) that Santa has brought me. Check back later in the week for some pics.

As each ski season begins, I'm filled with optimism for a good winter. This year is no exception. All the new snow just heightens the anticipation for that first good ski.

In the meantime I've been getting in some upper body training. This wasn't ski specific exercise but it sure made me sore. Since I hurt pretty much all over it must have been good.

This particular form of exercise began last weekend with several days of new snow. Most of the snow fell before Monday but high winds kept moving it onto my walks and driveway. Got everything cleared up nicely on Wednesday. But winds over 50 mph on Thanksgiving Day provided more training.

Friday and Saturday were nice with a little sunshine but today begins another training session. More snow and wind.

Are you getting out on the snow this week? If so I urge you to take it easy. I often head out like a kids with a new toy and my muscles pay the price. This year I plan on taking it easy on the trails, maybe skiing without poles for a while to refresh my technique. As I feel more comfortable on my skis I'll add more power.

Only 89 Days 'til the Birkie!

Winter has Arrived!
Posted November 22, 2010

Montana officially went from fall to winter this week.

Thousands of southbound snow geese filled the sky last week. They rested on our lake at night and fed in the grain fields and prairies during the day. The huge flights each morning and evening were something to see.

All that came to an end on Thursday when a weather front ushered in cold air and plenty of snow. The ground is now white; the lake is frozen; and the geese have moved on to warmer places.

I headed up into the mountains last Thursday for my first ski of the season. The snow was close to a foot deep and the trees were flocked.

Heavy snow fell as I skied up the South Fork Teton Road. Visibility was just about nil. My skis were buried under the powder. A cold wind blew at my back. Frost formed on my beard. Man, was it great!

More snow and colder temperatures came over the weekend. It's been hovering around or slightly below zero since Friday. Colder air and more sow is forecast for later today. After this blast moderates a little the skiing should be great. You can bet I'll be out there. In the meantime enjoy these winter scenes.

Meanwhile I'm finishing my ski preparation. My rock skis are ready to go but with all the snow coming I need to get my better skis waxed up soon.

Only 96 Days 'til the Birkie!

We Could Get Two 'Fer
Posted November 15, 2010

They say Montana has four seasons each year: July, August, September and Ski Season. There is some truth to that. Dedicated skiers can find something to ski on well into July and can often get back on snow in October. Now it might not be the best skiing possible but as I always say, "Any skiing is better than no skiing!"

It's November already! The leaves have fallen from the trees, the ground is frozen, and the mountains are turning white. The weather map this week is very colorful. Pink and blue means snow!

My anticipation for winter is building. Two good snow storms are forecast for this week- a Two-Fer! I'm thinking I'll be skiing by Wednesday. Check back for an update.

In the meantime I better check my skis and get them ready!

Ski Preparation:
Last spring I followed my own advice and coated my skis with a storage wax for the summer. Time to get that off and prepare them for the season. If you purchased new skis you should check out this article on Base Preparation from a previous season.

First I'll get my work bench is ready so I have an organized work area for skis.

Next I'll take stock of my waxing supplies. Usually I check what's in the wax box before putting it away in the spring. I'll purchase anything I know I'll need at the beginning of the next season and can often find good sale prices. But if there is anything in short supply that I know I'll be needing this winter now is the time to stock up.

Once the bench is ready I'll follow these simple steps which apply to skating skis and the glide zones of classic skis.

  • First set up your waxing bench. If you don't have one just click on the "Shop on Line" link at the top of this page order one from Ernie.
  • Clean the dust and dirt off your skis. If you kept them nicely stored in a ski bag they should be fairly clean. If not then use a rag to wipe them down and make them pretty.
  • Scrape the storage wax off the base with a plastic scraper. Try to get as much off as possible but don't overdo the process.
  • Melt on a layer of soft hydrocarbon wax like Toko System 3 Yellow or Base Prep Grey or Swix CH10 Yellow or Base Prep Glider. Iron the wax until it is all liquid and covers the base of the ski. These waxes melt at a low temperature so don't set your iron too hot! Then allow the wax to cool briefly.
  • Once the wax has cooled to a solid (this should take only a minute or so) scrape off all the wax. This hot wax cleaning is perfect for getting the last of the summer storage wax off your skis and helps remove any dirt that might have accumulated on the base. Scrape carefully to remove all the wax.
  • Brush the skis with a nylon brush to remove the rest of the wax. I follow up the nylon brush with a horse hair or fine nylon brush. These finer brushes get the last of the soft wax off the base.
  • Next select a wax for the conditions you will be skiing in. If you are unsure then choose a soft to mid range wax. Iron in the wax, let the skis cool for at least 30-45 minutes or until the bases are room temperature. Then scrape and brush again.
  • Finally iron in another layer of the predicted wax of the day. If you are not skiing that day or the next leave the last layer on the skis. I usually scrape and brush the evening before skiing.

I like to start the ski season using softer waxes. These penetrate the base quicker and form a good foundation for the rest of the season. As colder temps come I will work on hardening bases for better glide in cold abrasive snow. I'll try to cover that topic later in the year.

The steps listed above should result in nice clean bases that are ready for a season of skiing. A few more things should be done to the kick zone of your classic skis.

  • Remove the grip wax you put on for storage. Use a scraper to get as much off as possible then consider using wax remover. This will get all the dirty wax off the base.
  • Let the wax remover completely dry. This may take some time. In fact I'll often let me skis dry over night to make sure all the solvent is out of the base. If there is any stickiness or a greasy feeling to the kick zone they need to be cleaned again.
  • Once the kick zones are clean and dry apply a couple of layers of cold wax in the brand of your choice. Put on a thin layer and cork it in. Do this two or three times to provide a good base for the wax of the day when you ski. Any of the warmer waxes should stick well to this base layer and your ski base will remain protected.

Now let's hope the weather forecast holds true. Let winter begin!

Only 103 Days 'til the Birkie!

Wandering into Winter
Posted November 8, 2010

Fall in Montana provides a great opportunity to wander into winter for the day. Jen and I did just that last Saturday.

The weather at home was warm, the skies were clear and the sky was filled with twinkling stars as I drove north on US Hwy. 89 toward Glacier National Park. I met Jen and we drove to the Frirebrand Pass trailhead.

There was some frozen ground and ice on some puddles but no snow at the trailhead. As the sun rose the frozen ground turned to mud and the footing got a little slippery. Looking up we could see the mountains had a nice covering of new snow.


Left: Grouse along the trail. No snow and even a little green grass here and there.
Right: The snow begins to deepen higher up on the trail. Photos by Jennie Gruber.

As the trail gained elevation we encountered some patches of snow. These became more numerous and finally blanketed the ground completely. Before long we were wading through about 8 inches of fresh white powder.


Definitely looking like winter up here. We thought maybe skis would have been nice but the thought of carrying
them several miles was not pleasant. Photo by Jennie Gruber.

Rounding the ridge the Firebrand Pass trail enters an area often buffeted by wind and this day was no exception. The wind was howling and snow drifts had accumulated in the coulees that the trail crossed. We ended up wallowing through snow drifts 2-3 feet deep. This part of the trail is shaded almost all winter by Calf Robe Mountain so I expect the snow to still be there next May.

The air in the shade was cool and the wind made for a very cold wind chill. As the snow got deeper we realized that we would not make it to the pass. We stopped for a luncheon and put on more clothes. After resting and enjoying the view we headed back down to fall.

Reaching the lower areas we found the temps to be well into the 50s and the extra clothes came back off. The sun was warm and the day complete.

Bohart Ranch Update
Posted November 8, 2010

There is still some skiing at Bohart Ranch near Bozeman but rain and warm temperatures have messed up the snow. Fortunately more snow is forecast for this week.

Only 110 Days 'til the Birkie!


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