Posts from December 2011

A Different Year
Posted December 28, 2011

Last year at this time we had experienced at least four major snowstorms and the snow was really piling up in the mountains. This year? Not so much!

Instead of snow we have wind. Day after day it seems the weather forecast for the Rocky Mountain Front includes High Wind Warnings or Watches. Today the Warning extends through Thursday evening. The wind makes for warm snow melting temperatures. It's 45 at my home right now.

On top of that the mountain front displayed a beautiful rainbow shortly after sunrise and the mountains were not visible. Normally a rainbow is a pretty thing but in winter, on the front, it simply means rain is falling instead of snow. Maybe further into the mountains and higher up there may be snow. Let's hope.

The map above shows the snowdepth in western Montana on December 28, 2010. Snow was already 75 to 100 inches deep in the Mission Mountains SE of Kalispell and most mountain ranges had at least 40 to 50 inches of snow. Even the valley locations were in the 20 to 30 inch range and snow blanketed much of the plains.

This year presents quite a different picture. 20 to 40 inches of snow is more common in the areas of deepest snowpack. The plains are snowfree and the lower valleys have snowdepths in the single digits. Some of the best ski areas in Montana are lacking good snow cover this holiday season.

The best snow for groomed trails seems to be around West Yellowstone and lone Mountain Ranch at Big Sky. I guess I'll just have to go down there and see for myself.

Another thing you might notice between the two map is the Midwest snow cover looks pretty thin this year compared to last. Tom Skillings on WGN television in Chicago reported this past weekend that in late December of 2010 the Midwest was around 60 % snow covered. This December it is only 8%.

If you are interested in seeing the snow depth for your area as plotted on the national map go to NOAA's Interactive Snow Information website. Once the page loads you can select an area to zoom in on or select the specific date and time you might be interested in.

I'd like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a very

Kicking Out the Kinks
Posted December 21, 2011

It was another fairly stable week along the Rocky Mountain Front and in the Northern Rocky Mountains. Izaak Walton Inn had 4-8 inches of groomed snow on their trails. Just enough on Saturday for their season opening race called the Kick Out the Kinks.

Jen, Ron, Nancy and I planned to enjoy the groomed trails in the morning and take a few photos of the race. This would be our first ski of the season on groomed snow and we were pretty excited about the chance for some good skiing. The forecast for Saturday was a low Friday night of 20 F and a high of 36 F with a chance for some light snow. I prepared my classic skis with Rode Multigrade Special Violet and my skate skis were waxed with Toko System 3 yellow.

Yeah but things don't always work out like the weather guys expect them to. The temps on Friday were warmer than forecast and it never went below freezing on Friday night. When we arrived at the inn to ski on Saturday morning we found the trails freshly groomed and a temperature of 36 F. AND it was drizzling! The snow was a little wet and 32 F.

I definitely wanted to classic ski. After some deep thought I applied Toko's Orange Grip Spray klister over the Rode Special Violet hard wax. Turned out to be a pretty good choice although if I had it to do over again I'd put on two layers for just a little more grip. Grip was OK and my glide almost as good as Jen on her skate skis.

We skied until we got soaked and had a great time. After lunch Ron, Jen and I switched to skate skis, grabbed the camera and headed back out. After skiing a few Ks for fun we headed over to the start line to see the action.

The first race was a 1 K kids race. Several tykes gave the course a go and they all seemed to be having fun. Soon it was time for the 5 and 10 K start.

This was a tough course. The first 2K is a continuous climb of several hundred feet, then some undulating terrain that continues gaining elevation. This is followed by 2 kilometer of downhill, steep at first then easing off. Finally there is another kilometer of undulating terrain that features one tough little climb right before the start/finish line. That was it for the 5K while the 10K racers got to ski it all twice. lucky them!

The pack took off nicely at the start. But naturally there had to be at least one mishap and that occurred right after the photo above. Right as the leaders passed me I heard a gnashing of skis and sawa couple of guys get into a little tangle. I guess that's why it's called crossed country skiing!

In a whoosh the pack was gone, climbing their way up the long grade of Essex Road.

I moved to the 4.5 kilometer location on the course to see how some of the racers fared after the climb and downhill.

The two photos above show the same racer at 4.5K (left) and 9.6K (right). I think he's pacing himself pretty well. He made that last climb fairly easily and headed to the finish. He ended up in the top 10.

Skiers came by in small groups of 2 to 4. Their relative positions didn't seem to change after the first lap. Brenda (above right) finished as the 3rd women in the 10K. She looked pretty strong throughout the race which speaks pretty well for her training.

As the race wound down it began to drizzle once again. Ron and I headed in to warm up and dry off. As we left for home the drizzle turned to light snow. Just enough to make the road a sheet of ice. Lucky us!

The Ski Season is Gearing Up
Posted December 14, 2011

It's been a another fairly stable week along the Rocky Mountain Front and in the Northern Rocky Mountains. A little snow has come but it has not been too cold. Best of all the wind has calmed down. Backcountry skiing is pretty good once you get above 6,000 feet.

Several ski areas are now open for the Season.

Silver Crest near Neihart hosted a Music, Food, Snow and Sun festival last weekend. The skiing was reported to be very nice and the festival atmosphere got the season off to a good start.

Bohart Ranch, Lone Mountain Ranch, Homestake Lodge and the Izaak Walton Inn all report they are open. Conditions are not yet perfect but they are skiing.

West Yellowstone's Rendezvous Trails is reporting marvelous skiing and mid winter conditions.

So I'll be looking forward to seeing you on the trails real soon.

Skiing in a track along the North Fork Teton Road.

This past week I've still been skiing the North Fork Teton Road west of Choteau. Driving to the 6,000 foot level is getting more difficult because we've had a few light snowfalls, just enough to start making the unplowed road too deep to drive. That's a good thing!

The ungroomed snow always presents some interesting technique challenges. I'm looking
forward to skiing some groomed snow soon.

This coming Sunday, December 18, 2011 will feature the first race of the season in northern Montana at the Izaak Walton Inn. The kick Out the Kinks 10K Freestyle race is a chance to clean out the lungs skiing a fairly challenging course for so early in the season. There will be 3, 5, and 10 km skate races for a $10 entry fee and a free 1km kids race. All racers can enjoy the free chili feed after the race. Registration is from 10:30 to noon. Racing begins 1:00 pm. I'm looking forward to seeing you there. Be sure to smile for my camera!

The Scenery is Great!
Posted December 7, 2011

It's been a pretty stable week along the Rocky Mountain Front and in the Northern Rocky Mountains. A little snow has come but it has not been too cold. Best of all the wind has calmed down.

I frequently ski at Izaak Walton Inn but they are reporting only 4-8 inches of snow on the trails with packed powder and hardpack conditions. Not worth the over 2 hour drive to get there. So I've been skiing "up in the canyon."

The Teton River flows out of the mountains near my home. There are two main branches or forks of the Teton, the North Fork and the South Fork. Of course we also have the Middle, West and East Forks of the Teton. I think they ran out of names up there!

The view toward Headquarters Pass from the South fork of the Teton River.

The good snow starts around 5,700 feet. There is a good solid base a few feet deep with nice powder on top. Fortunately I can drive up that far in only about 30 minutes or so. And that's where I'm going as soon as I complete this post.

Three Peaks and the Canyon of the North Fork of the Teton River.

I prefer to ski hard on groomed trails. But this doesn't happen up the Teton. The fantastic Scenery makes for great times though.

Looking up the long valley of the North Fork of the Teton past the West and East Forks of the Teton ; )

I'm just going to have to be satisfied with the view of the mountains as I ski. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Only 80 Days till the Birkie!

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!