For a list of this year's
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Ralph's Blog

Posts from
December 2012:

Merry Christmas
Great Clinic
We Are Skiing
Big Snow?

Posts from December 2012
Merry Christmas
and Happy Ski Year!
Posted December 24, 2012

The snow fell lightly as we skied at Izaak Walton Inn on the eve of Christmas Eve. Patches of blue sky brought light to the valley floor and the densely flock trees help block out all sound except for the swish, swish, swish of our skis on the freshly groomed trail.

It was an interesting weather day. Temps were in the single digits above and below zero east of the Continental Divide. The snow fell hard in East Glacier and the wind was blowing strong. Once over the Continental Divide, the snow let up, blue patched decorated the sky and the temps were around 20 F. It was a perfect Blue Extra Day.


The trailhead at the Izaak Walton Inn.

I waxed my skis with one of my favorite combination waxes learned from Bert Kleerup many years ago. Rub in some nice smooth layers of Swix Blue Extra and finish with some Rode Super Blue. Grip is great and glide is super smooth. For skating, and the glide zones of classic skis, we used a mix of Toko LF Red and LF Molly.


Left: Nancy skiing the lower part of the Pileated trail.
Right: Nancy and I near Essex Creek.

Our goal was to enjoy the beautiful snow, share some family time and finish the day with a late lunch in the inn's dining room. We started with a casual ski on the Pileated loop. Then Nancy suggested we ski the Essex Creek trail because it parallels the creek and the waterfalls there are quite scenic. We quickly discovered though, that the trail was ungroomed. Since Jen and Ron were skating we changed plans and skied up the Towering Pines trail.


Left: Nancy heading up the long hill on the Junction Circle trail.
Right: Jen and Ron on the Essex Creek trail.

The big hills began to take their toll on our energy and the time flew by. Jen and Nancy headed in while Ron and I finished our day with a hard driving 45 minute ski.

The late lunch was delicious. We finished the day with a nice look at Santa Claus coming into Browning, Montana on the top of a big fire truck. All the kids in town there looked pretty excited.

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and hope that you can have as much fun this week on the trails as we had yesterday. I hope to be skiing Homestake Pass, West Yellowstone's Rendezvous Trails and lone Mountain Ranch next weekend. If you're in those areas look for me and say Happy New Year!

Good Snow and Great Leader
for a PSIA-NRM Early Season Clinic
Posted December 17, 2012

Certified ski instructors are required to participate in continuing education events. This helps insure that your ski instructor acquires experience and ability in the latest thinking related to ski technique and instruction. It was my turn to participate in a two day event this past weekend.

The event was held at the Izaak Walton Inn in Essex, Montana. Participating instructors came from Sand Point, Idaho and Missoula, Whitefish, Kalispell and Choteau, Montana. Some were new instructors, a few specialized in cross country ski racing, others had been teaching cross country skiing for a while and one was an accomplished alpine ski instructor taking his first cross country ski instructors clinic. This provided a very interesting and diverse group of individuals who came together to share information on ski teaching and ski technique.

The snow conditions were very good, especially on Saturday. The fresh groomed snow was buried on Sunday with new powder making for challenging grip wax conditions and a little difficulty skating. Nonetheless we all had a great time.


Left: Eric leads the group in a drill designed to provide feedback to students while skating.
Right: I think every instructor has had students like these!

Our clinic leader Brenda started us off with a lesson sequence in classic skiing. She made sure that the new instructors received plenty of information for developing a good teaching plan. She also provided plenty of information to help each one of us improve our ski technique. We focused a little more on ski technique on Saturday and ski instruction of Sunday.


Brenda demonstrating a balance drill for V-2 skating.

Back up the South Fork of the Teton

Earlier last week I skied backcountry several times in the mountains west of my home. The conditions there are steadily improving. New snow seems to come every other day or so and the powder is really nice.

Friday I drove on the windswept Teton Canyon Road, then up the South Fork of the Teton. Driving on the plains in winter can be a little challenging but the reward on the ski trail is worth it.

More snow is in the forecast for Montana so I hope all of you can find a chance to get out and ski during this busy holiday season.

We Are Skiing!
Posted December 11, 2012

The so called big storm I talked about last time fizzled into a wet event that brought more rain than snow. But a surprise came later that week. Mountain areas got more than two feet of snow and the valleys got in the act too. Not quite enough to groom in all locations but there is now plenty of cross country skiing in Montana.

I began my ski season this year like I usually do. I left home Monday where it was 29 degrees and sunny and headed toward the mountains. The wind had scoured most of the snow off the prairies and sent it toward North Dakota. But the mountains were very white and huge billowy clouds hung just west of the Front.

I drove up the South Fork Teton Road as far as the snow would let me. I parked where there were 8-10 inches of good snow. Skiing further up the road the snow steadily deepened and more powder fell from the sky. The only sound was the swish of my skis and the wind. Trees were flocked nicely but mountain vistas were obscured by the falling snow.


Looking across the Teton River at the ridge above Green Gulch.

I reached the end of the road and headed up the Headquarters Pass trail. Now the snow was 16-20 inches deep. There was a firm base down there somewhere because my skis never scraped the big rocks I know are on this trail. The deep powder on top made for some interesting effort but the scenery was worth it.

I skied for another mile and stopped by a little stream for lunch. The water bubbled across the trail adding to the delightful winter scene.

After my rest and lunch, I began the ski back to my car. I've done this same early season ski may times but these were the best conditions in many years. Let's hope the winter continues to bring this kind of joy!

Grooming reports from many areas look very promising for mid December. I'm scheduled to attend a Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA) ski clinic at the Izaak Walton Inn this coming weekend. I'll post a few pics on that even next week. In the meantime follow my lead... Go Ski!

Will a Big Snowfall Start the
Ninth Season of Ralph's Blog?
Posted December 1, 2012

Welcome! Take a look at this morning's weather map! The snow dance is working. This storm should kick off the new season in grand style. Reports are coming in from several locations. Places like Homestake Lodge, Bohart Ranch and West Yellowstone are reporting open. They all expect this storm to improve conditions markedly. Other locations are preparing to open. A couple of more weeks should get thing going nicely.

If you haven't prepared your skis for the winter, it's time to get going. I've cleaned my workbench, put away all the tools I won't be using and turned it into a wax room. Here's what I'll be doing this week.

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.

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