Posts from January 2012

A Wild Weather Week!
Posted January 26, 2012

When I made my last post a week ago, Montana was in the throws of a major winter storm. Deep cold of -22 F and heavy snow was pummeling most of the state. Conditions eased some on Friday so I got the road plowed and walks shoveled. And I waxed up my skis.

Izaak Walton got about 2 feet of fresh snow and I planned a great training ski there on Saturday. The forecast was for a high in the 20s and I waxes with some Rode Multigrade Special Violet.

At my home on the Rocky Mountain Front it was 7 F when I went to bed Friday night. When I awoke on Saturday it was 44 F. Hmmm, looks like my was strategy might have to change.

Arriving at the Inn I found it raining pretty hard. Fortunately the groomer had been out the day before when conditions were cooler so the trails were in pretty good shape, if a little soft.

I skied about 20 km in the rain. There were occasional periods of wet snow and masses of snow falling from the trees dumped on me a couple of times but I did have fun. I used my old Karhu Kevlar Plus skis though because the snow was so wet.

Some new snow fell on Saturday night and mountain snow continued to fall most of this week.

On Wednesday the winds came. Gusts in East Glacier were over 80 mph and a school bus was blown off the road. At my house winds only topped out at 62 mph and it was again warm. This is definitely turning into one of the more unusual winters.

But skiing this weekend should be good!

Only 30 days until Birkie 2012! Time to get serious!!!!!

Jennifer Caldwell Remembered
Posted January 26, 2012

The ski community lost a wonderful ambassador and friend. Jennifer Caldwell was the 1983 Women's Birkie Champion. Her ski career is legendary. She went undefeated in the Great American Ski Chase series and won every major marathon she entered two years running. She was also a member of the US Ski Team. In addition to her ski career Jennifer captured a National Canoe Association title. Beyond athletics she was an accomplished musician, choral scholar and volunteer in service to others. She was 53.

Big Snow Dumps Bring Avalanche Warnings
Posted January 19, 2012

For the past several days cold air and very heavy snow has been pounding Montana.

On Thursday January 19, 2012 the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center issued a Backcountry Avalanche Warning for the Lionhead area near West Yellowstone and the mountains around Cooke City. Heavy snowfall, high winds and an extremely weak snowpack are causing unstable conditions. Today the avalanche danger is HIGH on all slopes. Areas of unstable snow exist. Natural and human triggered avalanches are likely. Avalanche terrain including avalanche run out zones should be avoided.

In more northern areas the snowfall is greater. The most recent avalanche report is several days old but the danger then was rated as Considerable above 5,000 feet. I expect with the new heavy snow the Avalanche Danger is increasing.

Only 37 days until Birkie 2012!

Junior Olympic Trials
Posted January 19, 2012

Due to the generally poor snow conditions in many northern Montana areas, Jen, Ron, Nancy and I headed back down to West Yellowstone for the weekend. The trails were well groomed and the skiing was wonderful, as usual.

The Intermountan Division of the Junior National Olympic Team held a qualifier over the weekend. Young racers from across the Rocky Mountains vied for spots on the Junior National Team. There were close to 200 racers skiing in two main events.

Saturday featured Freestyle Sprints. These are exciting short races with small groups of skiers racing head to head in heats. The fastest three skiers in each heat moved up to the next round in an elimination stye event.

Here's a couple of photos from the women's division. Let me tell you these gals can ski and ski fast!

On Sunday the action changed to a Classic race with individual starts. Skiers started at 30 second intervals and skied a 1, 2, 5, or 10 km course depending in their class. Younger skiers skied shorter distances.

The skiers lined up for the start. More than 180 skiers participated in the classic race.

Here's a short video clip of the classic race. The first skier is one of the females double poling from the start. The second part of the video shows a male skiers coming in to the finish.

While it was fun to see these young skiers in action I spent most of my time out skiing. Saturday's temps reached into the upper 20s and my Rode Super Blue barely provided enough grip in the afternoon. My tired body enjoyed the resting time I spent while I added some Rode Special Violet to my skis.

Sunday continued fairly nice and a good fresh coat of Rode Special Violet provided plenty of grip on the freshly groomed trails.

Only 37 days until Birkie 2012!

New Trails at West Yellowstone
Posted January 12, 2012

Visiting West Yellowstone over the New Years Weekend I discovered that numerous improvements have been made to the trail system. These included new easier to understand trail maps at trail junctions and a completely rebuilt biathlon range. The best change of all, though, are the changes to the actual trails.

New trails have been added to the old familiar mix and some formerly one-way trails were widened and made two way. The result of these changes is that there is now a much greater variety of possible loops to ski.

Jeremy's Journey (photo above) takes off from the Rendezvous Trail. It meanders through forest and connects with Dead Dog. From there one can make the Dead Dog Loop or head over to Windy Ridge for a really nice long and challenging ski. Or, once at Dead Dog you can continue onto Doug's Doodle (below) for some really nice downhill cruising on a trails that meanders nicely as it descends. The Doodle connects with Deja View for more interesting options.

Junior National Qualifier
Another benefit of the new trails is that there are now more ski opportunities during race days. This coming weekend the Junior National Qualifier for the Intermountain Division will be held at West Yellowstone. Saturday will feature freestyle sprint races and Sunday there will be a classic race. These races will use the sprint loops and parts of the Deja View trail. Even so there will be plenty of other trails to ski.

The Start/Finish area for these races will be in front of the biathlon range. I urge anyone in the southwest Montana area this weekend to stop by and watch some of our young skiers test their meddle.

A Festival of Skiing
This annual event also takes place this weekend at many ski areas across the country. Sponsored by the Cross Country Ski Areas Association, Ski Fest events usually include discounted trail passes, a chance to demo new ski gear and perhaps pick up a pointer or two from an instructor. Contact your local ski area to see what activities might be taking place near you.

I'm heading back to West Yellowstone this weekend, cause I know the snow there is superb and the grooming is top notch. Look for me on the trails and introduce yourself. Hope to meet you there. And if you're not coming to West Yellowstone this weekend I encourage you to start planning a trip there real soon.

Only 44 days until Birkie 2012!

A New Year at West Yellowstone
Posted January 5, 2012

Last week I talked about how different this winter is. Well that difference kept rolling along. More warm weather and high winds have caused sparking powerlines to start huge grass fires near Browning, Montana. Thousands of acres of grasslands important for feeding cattle have been burned. Some ranches have lost building, barns and their stores of hay for the winter. It's going to be a tough winter up there for sure. My heart goes out to all those suffering losses from those fires.

Because of the lack of local snow, Nancy and I decided to spend the New Years Weekend skiing in West Yellowstone. Upon our arrival it was about 36 degrees and wet snow mixed the rain was falling. The trails were in great shape though and the skiing was quite fast and fun.

Nancy skis on Fischer Superlight No-Wax skis and they performed very well. I corked solid Swix F4 on the glide zones and wiped the liquid F4 on the crown pattern. She had no problems with any snow sticking to her skis and they seemed to glide quite well.

I used my Karhu Kevlar Pluses that I've had since 1983. Those old skis are still in great shape and they perform very well in wet snow. I corked solid Swix F4 on the glide zones and sprayed the hairy grip area with silicone. Again no sticking, good glide and wonderful grip.

As Nancy and I left the trails in the late afternoon and headed for our motel the falling snow turned drier. By the following morning there were several new inches of powder and the West Yellowstone Rendezvous Trails were freshly groomed.

The sky was a brilliant blue as were skied along on one of my favorite trails, Deja View. We just had to stop and take photos every now and then.

The dry powder snow was around 20 F. I used Rode Super Blue on my skis and they worked well the rest of the weekend. I think Rode Super Blue is one of my favorite grip waxes. Whenever I see the can it reminds me of many great skiing days at Eagle River Nordic in Wisconsin. It always grips and glides well when the snow is in the low to mid 20s.

On Saturday afternoon we were joined by daughter Jen and her husband Ron. We pretty much skied until we dropped or it got dark, whichever came first. I think it was the dark that came first but I can't really remember.

After a very nice New Years Eve dinner and a good nights sleep we were ready for another day on the trails. New Years day brought some clouds and light snow. But the skiing continued to be very nice since all trails were groomed fresh over night.

Next time I'll bring you up to date on West Yellowstones changes to the trail system.