Posts from February 2013

Birkie Day 2013!
Posted February 26, 2013

Here are some race day photos. I hope you enjoy them. My Birkie featured a wonderful ski with no falls. The fresh snow from Friday turned the forests along the trail into a real winter wonderland.

Telemark Lodge before the start of the race. Many skiers relax in the lodge before the stat and the exterior looks like a giant ski swap.

I'm with Kyle Bantz (center) and Steve Bantz at the start area.

All ready to go. The gold bib signifies that I have skied at least 30 Birkies. The 34 in the upper right corner of my bib indicates I'm skiing my 34th Birkie. The red C indicates I'm skiing classic style. The 15 on my bib tells everyone I'm skiing Classic in the 5th Wave.

A bunch of 5th Wave Classic skiers in the start pen. One 3rd Wave skate skier is hurrying to the front because he's late for his start.

Looking back down Main Street in Hayward from the Finish Line. I'm missing photos of Steve and me at the finish. Hopefully I'll have these soon.

Our traditional brat and beer at Anglers Bar on Main Street.

Post Race refueling at the original Famous Dave's near Hayward.

Ready for the Birkie
February 22, 2013

The Birkie is tomorrow. I spent my day today waxing skis and making other final preparations for the race. Hayward received about 6 inches of new snow during the day today. Hopefully the trail groomers are packing the trail. I suspect though that there will be plenty of soft snow on the course.

Temperatures are forecast to be around 20 at the start tomorrow morning. For glide wax on my classic skis and on Kyle and Steve's skating skis we used a base wax of Toko Low Fluoro Gray with a top coat of Toko High Fluoro Red.

For the grip zones the first thing I did was to clean the bases thoroughly. Then a light sanding with 150 grit sandpaper provided a good surface for the grip wax. I applied a thin binder of Rex Power Grip Purple. On top of that I corked on two thin layer of Swix VF 45. Finally I applied about 6 layers of Swix VF 40. I put the harder wax on top of the softer wax because I expected the snow to be cool in the morning and warm up some during the race. I'll check my wax performance just before the start tomorrow and make any adjustments necessary to insure I get good grip. I'll also carry some waxes, a cork and a scraper along with me on the course in case I need to adjust my waxes some more.

Here is Main Street in Hayward on Friday morning. Kind of quiet then. But on Saturday when I hope to be skiing past there to the finish line, I expect the street to be lines with folks watching and cheering on the racers.

Birkie 2013 is Tomorrow Morning!

The Birkie Trail Conditions
February 21, 2013

Steve and I drove to Hayward and checked into the Flatcreek Inn. We had some time so we drove to the location where Hwy 00 crosses the Birkie Trail.

Checking the snow temperature on the trail I found it to be -10 C. I had Toko Blue for glide and selected Swix VR 40 for my grip wax. Then it was off on the trail for a ski.

As you can see from the photo, conditions on the trail were perfect. The recent grooming had firmed up the base and provided a great skating surface. The track was well set and firm. The bright sunny afternoon was like frosting on the cake.

There are several interesting features along the Birkie Classic Trail north of Hwy 00. Coming around one corner we discovered the "Panther in a Pickup."

Only 2 days until Birkie 2013!

Skiing Minocqua Winter Park
February 19, 2013

Upon our arrival Steve and I planned to ski part of the Birkie Trail on Sunday before driving to Eagle River and visiting LaNora Kleerup of Eagle River Nordic. Our train's arrival three hours late put a crimp in our plans. Instead we skipped skiing and headed to Eagle River.

Monday morning we headed to Minocqua Winter Park to ski. The snow there was nice and the trails were well groomed. Some wind on Sunday had brought some leaves and needles into the track but that didn't get in the way of some good skiing.

We picked up our trail passes and headed out for a long ski. Temperatures began to warm, approaching 32 degrees. I was using Swix Blue Extra and getting good kick. But as the day warmed I began to slip on the hills. I decided to try my other pair of skis that were waxed with Rex Power Grip. As I skied away from Steve, who continued on to the River Trail, he yelled something to me about Rex Purple Power Grip. Yup, I thought, that's what I have on my other skis. But I was wrong.

Since we had planned to ski the Birkie trail upon our arrival in Wisconsin I had removed the purple from my skis and rewaxed with Blue Power Grip. I completely forgot that I had done this and assumed that the Purple Power Grip was still on my skis. I changed skis and took off down the hill near the ski center. "Wow," I thought, "these things glide really well!" On reaching the first hill I discovered that the skis gripped very poorly. "Hmm, must be the humidity effecting the glazed track," I thought! So on I skied. The skis were fast but I ended up with sore arms from all the double poling I did since I had so little grip.

After another hour of skiing I met Steve back in the ski center. He asked me how long it took me to apply the Purple Power Grip. A great big light bulb went off in my head. I still had the blue on my skis. That explained the great glide and poor kick. Will I ever Learn? but I did get to spend time working on my double pole technique!

Only 4 days until Birkie 2013!

All Aboard Amtrak
February 16, 2013

Amtrak's Empire Builder arriving in Shelby, Montana. This was to be our home for the ride to Minneapolis, MN.

We jumped on board, settled in to our accommodations and headed to the diner for lunch.

Only 7 days until Birkie 2013!

Last Day at West Yellowstone
February 15, 2013

After skiing 23 miles yesterday under brilliant sunny conditions, we finished our stay at West Yellowstone Rendezvous trails with a more relaxing ski. It was another bright sunny day with perfect temperatures for a ski.

Only 8 days until Birkie 2013!

Skiing the Rendezvous Trails
February 13, 2013

the winds were blowing and it was snowing steadily. Even though the trails had been groomed in the morning, the new snow drifted into the fresh tracks. It really didn't matter though. We still had a great ski.

I decided to try out the iHikeGPS app on my iPhone to track our ski. We skied about 11 miles before lunch and added another 6 miles or so after lunch.

The first image shows Steve skating in the new snow. While he skated I classic skied. The tracks were often drifted over making for some interesting skiing. Steve found his skis fairly slow in the 1-3 inches of new snow. Temperatures were around 25 F.

The middle image shows the elevation changes and distance skied. As you can see the Rendezvous Trails are fairly high in elevation. The last image overlays our route onto a topographic map.

Only 9 days until Birkie 2013!

Homestake Lodge
February 11, 2013

We left Choteau early Monday Morning and drove to Homestake Pass, a little over 3 1/2 hours south. More fresh snow and sunny skies greeted us at the Homestake Lodge ski area.

We headed up the FS234 trail. In the photo above Juliane skis up the long hill with huge granite boulders forming the background.

The top of the long grade provided great views of the surrounding mountains.

Only 11 days until Birkie 2013!

Izaak Walton Inn
February 10, 2013

Several inches of new snow, sunny skies and pleasant temperatures greeted us on our first day of skiing. The trails were well groomed and the skis glided nicely.

Our group skiing the Essex Creek Trail across the bridge over Essex Creek.

After skiing we changed clothes and headed to the Dining Car Restaurant for an early dinner. The food, as usual, was delicious. It was the perfect end to our first skiing day of the trip.

Only 12 days until Birkie 2013!

Getting a Grip on Warm and Wet Snow
Posted February 4, 2013

This week saw the temperature warm quite a bit. It was 36-38 F and snowing while I was skiing on Friday and on Sunday it was right at 32 F.

There was a time that this would be a waxing nightmare. Hard waxes are great when the snow is dry. But as temperatures approach 32 F and things get warm and wet the hard waxes either ice up or don't grip. They also seem to work only in a very narrow range of temperature and snow type. In the past I'd resort to a no wax ski. But not now.

I've discovered two wax types that can provide great grip while not icing up in these conditions. Each has some limitations so keep those in mind when deciding on one of these wonder products.

Start Grip Tape comes in a roll. You clean your grip zone, give it a light sanding, then roll on the tape. If you get it on right it stays there for a long time. Follow the included directions carefully and you'll get maybe 100 km of skiing from one application. It's a one size fits all kind of deal. You put it on an go ski. It will work in all temperatures.

Start Grip Tape is perfect for wet new snow. It also works very well in all the warmer snow temperatures on a groomed trail and provides plenty of grip on cold heavily machine groomed snow. But it ices badly in dry powder. So if its cold and snowing, go back to using your standard hard waxes. Follow this link to see a video of how to Apply Start Grip Tape.

After putting Start Grip Tape on my ski I was concerned that it would be difficult to remove. It wasn't. I used a thin plastic wax scraper to remove most of the tape off the base of the ski. It kind of rolled up like gum. To get the last of the tape off I used Swix Fiberlene and wax remover. It took less time to remove the tape than to put it on.

Rex Power-Grip is another option. There are three flavors. Green, Blue and Violet.

It's a little trickier to apply but once on it stays there for a long time. I skied on Violet Power-Grip for 3 hours on each of two days without touching the base of the ski except to wipe off the snow when I finished skiing. Like the grip tape, you must apply Power-Grip to a warm dry ski. I use a hair drier to warm the base and warm the jello like wax as I daub it into my ski base. Then I use the drier to warm the wax again as I smooth it out with my thumb. Follow this link to see a video of how to Apply Rex Power-Grip. In the video and the first photo below the Power-Grip is being heated with a heat gun. I didn't find it necessary to use that much heat. If you use a heat gun be very careful so as to not damage your ski base or burn your hand.

For those warm wet condition Violet Power-Grip is wonderful. I used in in snow that ranged from almost dry to almost water. The fresh wet falling snow was no problem. I got good grip and good glide on this stuff.

The disadvantage to Power-Grip is that there are three different Power-Grips for three different temperature ranges. Another thing to learn is that you have to vary the thickness of the application based on the trail conditions. Thick wen icy or wet and thinner and shorter when the snow is dry. But if conditions change or you put on one that was too soft you can rub on and cork hard wax right over the top of he Power-Grip.

I removed the Power-Grip from my ski the same way I removed the Grip Tape. The Grip Tape came off a little easier though.

The one problem I did have with the Power-Grip was with dry snow. The valley I skied in was warm down low and the snow was wet. Skiing up the valley though took me into cooler air and drier snow. That dry snow began to stick to the Violet Power-Grip.

You can see what I'm talking about in the photo above. Notice ow there is more snow in the trees up high. It's cooler there and the snow has not melted or fallen off. Down low it was wet!

The forecast for this week is calling for more warm days and cool nights. These waxes will come in handy as I avoid having to mess with the mess of klister!

And now its only 18 days until the Birkie!

Rain - Yuck!
Posted January 29, 2013

Nancy and I drove to Whitefish, Montana to attend a Glacier Mountaineering Society Event. We planned to stop along the way and spend some time skiing at Izaak Walton. As we drove north from Choteau we encountered some drizzle. Not good.

On he west side of the divide the temperature was in the upper 30s. At Izaak Walton Inn it had rained hard in the morning, then snowed some wet sloppy mush. The snow turned back to drizzle. Neither of us wanted to ski in that slop so we continued on west. we figured that we could ski on Sunday while on our way back home.

It was still early so we spent a little time exploring the old Belton Bridge site on the Middlefork of the Flathead River. As you can see from he photo, fog and mist swirled around the mountains and the snow looks wet. Indeed it was.

Unfortunately when driving back the next day it was again warm, maybe 35 degrees, and it was snowing very hard. Driving was tough too. We kept on going and missed another chance to ski.

Sometimes the weather just doesn't cooperate. But this was the first weekend since early December that snow conditions were poor. And this week looks to bring a return to more normal conditions. Snow is falling in the mountains and a cold front has swept across Montana. Look like more Blue Extra conditions later this week.

The Birkie:
As most regular readers know, the highlight of my winter is usually skiing the American Birkebeiner race in northwest Wisconsin. This year is no exception. I'm planning on skiing my 34th consecutive race on February 23, 2013. Snow conditions there have not been that great but some recent storms have started to bring the trail into better condition. Check back each week, and perhaps daily the two weeks before the race. I'll be skiing several Montana and Wisconsin locations.

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