Posts from November 2011

Come On Man...
Posted November 29, 2011

After a week of snow and cold the Rocky Mountain Front was treated with a period of Chinook. Bummer. That means warm weather. Temps were in the 50s and 60s during the Thanksgiving weekend. Chinook weather also mean wind. Winds hit 75 mph near Browning. A semi was blown over and Amtrak had to halt the Empire Builder for over an hour for fear of passenger cars blowing off the tracks. Come on man...

My family and I did get out in the snow to cut our Christmas Tree. I've added a couple of pics of that adventure so you can see what mountain conditions were like on Friday.

The North Fork of the Teton River. Snowing lightly with the wind blowing strong. Only got a little stuck turning around.

So it was back to some dryland stuff for me this week. Definitely not as much fun as skiing but I'm sure the snow will come soon. Just check the forecast map and you'll see what I mean. It's on the ski report page.

After an hour or two of hunting for the perfect tree, cutting it down and dragging it back to the rig, we're tying them on for the drive home. Hopefully the road will be snowed shut with the snow that's in the forecast for this week.

I also turned my attention over to my gear. I noticed the handles and straps on my classic poles were worn so I replaced those. I order new boots for Nancy so she'll be ready to ski soon. And I waxed my skis for the first time this season.

I'm expecting to ski some groomed trails this weekend or early next week. I'm anticipating it will not be all that cold. I waxed my glide zones on my classic skis with Toko Low Fluoro Yellow mixed with a little Toko Low Fluoro Red. Same for my skating skis. Hopefully I'm ready to go.

Birkie Thoughts:
I'm definitely planning to ski the Birkie this year. I'm already registered for my 33rd try at the course. This year I've decided to ski classic style. So I'll be spending a little more of my winter on classic skis. My grip waxing for long distances like the Birkie is a little rusty so I'll work on that as well. Look for more posts on grip waxes this year. And it's only 88 days 'til Birkie 2012!

Birkie Registration Now Closed
Posted November 22, 2011

Another big Wow! The American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation reported late Monday that the Birkebeiner and Kortelopet events are now officially closed. The previously announced cap of 9,000 skiers for the Birkie and Kortelopet races has been reached and registration is now closed. Fax registrations are no longer being accepted. Registration forms sent by mail and postmarked Monday, November 21, 2011 or earlier will be accepted.

It is still possible to register for the 2012 Haakon 12K event.

This is the third year that a cap of 9,000 skiers in the Birkebeiner and Kortelopet was placed on this event. Last year the cap was reached on December 18, 2010. November 21, 2011 markes the earliest ever that 9,000 skiers have signed up for this event.

Got My Exercise
Posted November 21, 2011

Wow! The mountains are white and so are the plains! Time to ski!

After a frigid weekend with temps well below zero I planned a ski outing for this morning. Partly sunny skies and warmer temps lured me to the mountains. I decided to try for a 2 hour workout skiing up the Middle Fork of the Teton trail.

Approaching the Cave Mountain Campground I turned left off the Teton Canyon Road onto the narrow lane leading back to the trailhead about 1/2 mile away. Hmm! The snow was pretty deep on the road. The farther in I went the deeper it seemed to get. Soon there were only a few other tire tracks on the road. The road goes uphill and I lost traction.

No problem, I'll back down the road. My rig slid off into the borrow pit. Crap!

I tried rocking and such but all I managed to do was get sideways on the road with my front end in the small ditch on the north side of the lane. Good thing I brought my shovel. I also thought maybe I should take a photo of my rig all stuck in the snow. Nah, folks would rather see the mountains all white instead of a buried vehicle.

This section of the valley has numerous beaver ponds and springs that don't freeze up much.

I shoveled, spun the wheels and shoveled again. My rig seemed to want to turn around and eventually I had my front end kind of pointing back the way I had come. Unfortunately it was still in the ditch with my rear end higher on the center of the lane.

A friend came by and offered to help. Great! But when he tried to back up he too got stuck. So I went back to shoveling while my friend managed to dig his way back onto the lane and back down the road.

Two more shoveling attempts followed by two more fruitless attempts at getting unstuck. I began to lose a little patience.

Even so I knew that if I cleared enough snow from around and under my rig I'd eventually get out, at least that's what the new plan was.

The problem was the temperature. It was warm and the snow packed firmly under my wheels. The packed snow was very slippery and my wheels just spinned.

The snow was firm underneath but powdery on top. Someone else had already made a nice track for me to ski in. The scenery wasn't too bad either. All in all a pretty nice place to ski, eh?.

Digging some more and deeper this time, I was able to dig up some gravel from the road surface. I put that under one wheel. I broke off tree branches for the other three wheels. After another unsuccessful try, and getting more branches, I finally managed to get my rig back on the road headed in the right direction.

This view looks up the valley of the Middle Fork of the Teton River. Somewhere in those dark trees is a big patch of messed up snow where I had gotten stuck. Sure was pretty though once I got out of there.

I drove back to firmer ground, parked, put my skis on and headed out. Phew! I was tired and sweaty already. Instead of 2 hours skiing I spent 1 hour shoveling and 1 hour skiing. Plenty of exercise to wear me out. But that hour on skis made me feel better. Hopefully next time I'll be able to ski longer and shovel less, like not at all.

The Pattern Changed
Posted November 16, 2011

Long time readers have seen me use this term before. In the Northern Rockies where I live, the weather often is the same for long periods of time. In summer weeks of sunny warm and dry weather is punctuated by only a few short rainy spells. In the winter we might have long periods of sunny dry weather or long periods of snowy cold weather. These long periods of stable or unchanging weather are called "weather patterns" by our local meteorologists.

The weather patterns are the result of the jet stream position which guides the storms that move across the mountains. A jet stream to the north usually means warm and sunny conditions on Montana. Move the jet stream to our south and its cold and sometimes snowy. Put that baby right over head and the excitement begins. Keep the jet stream stuck in one positions for a long time and you have a "weather pattern."

Our weather guys also talk about ridges and troughs. Ridges are broad areas of high pressure and resultant lack of precipitation. Today there is ridging over the mountains. No clouds and beautiful blue skies help accentuate the snow covered mountains.

Troughs are broad areas of low pressure bringing lots of precipitation or "precip" as the locals call it. If it's cold enough then it snows, too warm and it rains. I missed the cold trough that brought snow last Friday. I was visiting my daughter, son-in-law and grandson in Washington DC.

Nancy and I left home a week ago. The weather was dry and daytime temps were in the 40s. The forecast was for warmer weather. Didn't happen!

The pattern changed, a trough moved in, temperatures plummeted, and it snowed hard. The weather in DC was in the 70s and the trees were in fall color. When I walked out to my rig parked at the airport last night I was greeted to snow and cold, temps in the teens.

The view from my deck Wednesday morning. More snow is in the forecast in the coming days.

Looking at the weather forecast it seems there is a new pattern in place. Periodic storms will bring snow and these storms will be separated by a day or two of dry sunny, cold weather. Whoopee, skiing has begun.

I should be able to get on snow in the next day or so. Some areas are already grooming but most will wait until the end of hunting season. Probably the best place to ski groomed snow in Montana right now is in West Yellowstone. Their conditions look real good!

Transition Time and Ski Preparation
Posted November 7, 2011

It's transition time. That's the time you start thinking of finishing up your dryland preparation and getting onto real snow. As I was out walking on Sunday I could feel the change. It was 28 F. Light snow fell occasionally. My lungs could feel the cold. Heck my legs felt the cold. How long will the transition take? Only Mother Nature can answer that. I do hope it happens fast!

In this part of Montana, especially in the mountains, I expect to be able to find some skiing before Thanksgiving. Cross country ski areas usually open right after hunting season ends which is the Thanksgiving weekend. And of course the West Yellowstone Ski Festival is Thanksgiving week.

Transitioning to snow means having your skis ready to go. I'll begin getting my skis ready soon. Below is my ski prep comments from one of my earlier posts. Lets hope we get on snow soon and can ski every day through April of 2012. Wouldn't that be just great?

Ski Preparation
Last spring I coated my skis with a storage wax for the summer. Now it's time to get that off and prepare the skis for the approaching season. If you purchased new skis you should check out this article on Base Preparation from a previous season.

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. You just can't beat a good profile wax bench.
  • 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 technique 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.
  • Let the skis cool thoroughly, then 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.

This results in nice clean bases that are ready for 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. Get as much off as possible with a scraper then consider using wax remover. This will get all the dirty wax off the base.
  • Let the wax remover completely dry. This may take more than an hour. If there is any stickiness or a greasy feeling to the kick zone clean them 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.

A Winter Teaser at Our Lake
Posted November 2, 2011

The mountain high country is getting snow but it is still fall in the valleys. But while the weather's nice on the prairies one can get a teaser of winter by hiking to the high country. Last Sunday Gary, April and I headed up the trail to Our Lake. A high wind warning for the mountain front was issued by the National Weather Service so we expected some tough conditions.

There was an inch or so of snow at the trailhead at 5,800 feet. The ground had started to freeze and I thought it won't be long before we can do a little rock skiing. And a winter storm is in the forecast for late this week.

Our Lake lies in the cirque above the waterfall.

The trail to Our Lake gains elevation quickly. The higher we hiked the more snow we encountered. Before long we were almost out of the forest.

Deep blue our Lake is whipped by the wind. We hiked up the rocks to the saddle above the lake.

The higher mountains helped block the wind but once we reached the shore of the lake we were pretty exposed. Looking at the beautiful scenery we were lured into checking out the view from the saddle above the lake.

As we passed the lake the trees gave way to open alpine country. With no trees to block the wind we began to experience the ferociousness of the winter winds, now blowing around 50-60 mph. The cold air and snow exhilarated us and the effort we were expending to hike higher kept us warm.

The view west from the saddle extends all the way to the Continental Divide deep in the Bob Marshall Wilderness.

We crested the saddle. The wind was howling but the scene looks pretty serene in the photo. The farthest mountains in this view form the continental divide. The snow there looks great. We descended a short way back down the slope to get out of the wind and found a perfect place for a winter picnic.

Our picnic spot above the lake.

After enjoying our luncheon we began the hike back down. Before long we were in warmer air and the wind didn't seem so bad either. In no time at all we passed the lake and an hour or so later we were back in the fall season.

I wonder what this scene will look like in two months?