Posts from November 2013

Waiting Game and Watching Snow Geese!
Posted November 26, 2013

Conditions at the Rendezvous trails in West Yellowstone have improve some more. If you're spending all or part of this week at the Yellowstone Ski Festival plan on good ski conditions.

The weather has stabilized in the Northern Rockies. Nights are cool and the days surprisingly warm. I got out skiing locally a couple of times but now its a waiting game.

A weather pattern change is forecast for next Sunday but it's too early for the Weather Service to come up with any details on how much snow might come.

The last two weeks saw the climax of the great snow geese migration along the Rocky Mountain Front. Snow geese nest in the far north and visit my home area in spring and fall.

During the fall the geese move south to Montana and spend daytime hours feeding in harvested grain fields. At night they congregate on the many lakes and ponds along the Front. Eureka Lake is no exception. Daybreak might see a thousand geese on the water. I'm not sure who gives the signal but its common for the whole flock to rise up at once and head off to feed.

The geese have a high pitched cackling sound which is very distinct. When the geese fly by it can be almost deafening.

The geese left last week and the lakes along the Rocky Mountain Front are quiet and frozen. But the geese will herald the coming of spring next April.

My First Tracks and Looking Good in West Yellowstone
Posted November 19, 2013

West Yellowstone Rendezvous Trails Report November 18, 2013: Conditions at the Rendezvous trails in West Yellowstone are currently quite nice, thanks to some significant snowfall(s) this past weekend and subsequent good grooming. All this bodes well for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday week... And the National Weather Service is forecasting more snow for West Yellowstone this week!

In the meantime, back on the home front, I managed to get in some nice workouts skiing the road along the North Fork of the Teton River west of my place.

We have had plenty of snow in the mountains but, as is typical on the Rocky Mountain Front, high wind events have scoured some of the mountain slopes. So when you look at the mountains, you see bare spots and thin snow.

The view above is of Ear Mountain and Metis Ridge. You can see some bare areas and in most places the grass still shows through the snow. The Snow History though has played a nice role is providing some good skiing.

Earlier in the month we had several good snow that were followed by warm weather. This softened and compressed the snow forming a base. More recent powder snows provided the frosting on the cake.

As you can see here the road looks nice and white while some of the mountain slopes up high not so much. Skiing the roads near my home has become and early season tradition for me. Snow is best on the roads and its safer to ski out in the open during the long hunting season.

The road along the North Fork gains elevation steadily. It enters the mountains at 5,000 feet and while the the road was snow packed there were quite a few rocks showing through. By the time I reached 5,700 feet the road was covered to a depth of about 8-10 inches and I could see no more rocks. Since the snow looked nice I parked my rig and skied further up the road.

I skied uphill for an hour reaching 6,250 feet in elevation. The farther I skied the deeper the snow became. After an hour or so of uphill I turned around and headed back down the mountain. The return trip took half as long as I was able to glide much of the way back. I'd probably not bother skiing the road later in the winter. But for now it was GREAT!

Snow Reports are Trickling In
Posted November 11, 2013; Updated November 16, 2013

West Yellowstone Rendezvous Trails Grooming Report November 16, 2013: 9-10 inches of new snow IN TOWN, more out on the trails. Packed Rendezvous, Dead Dog, Deja View, Sprint Loop, Range including the Penalty loop, Drewski, Jerry's and the Doodle. Soft, still snowing, but every thing is at least 14 feeet wide.

Winter is on its way! Much of Montana has received snow this past week. The Northern Rockies seem to be very favored with well over two feet reports in the high country. I've posted the first Montana Ski Report for the season even though the many groomed areas are not open yet. Remember hunting season for big game extends until the end of Thanksgiving weekend and most ski areas wait until hen to open no matter how much snow they have.

The plains of North Central Montana received 4-7 inches of nice powder. The big news is that no wind came with the snow making everything look like a winter wonderland.

The Rocky Mountain Front above 5,000 feet got substantially more more. I'm hoping to check that out tomorrow.

First packing on the Rendezvous trails was done last week with additional grooming this morning.
Photo courtesy of the Rendezvous Ski Trails.

West Yellowstone is gearing up for the West Yellowstone Ski Festival Thanksgiving week. The first reports of grooming came in this week. There's skiing on the South Plateau where the snow is deeper. On the Rendezvous trails in town Doug Edgerton has begun packing and grooming the snow. Reports are that it's a little thin right now but, hey, this in early November. One good dump and they'll be good to go. And the weather forecast looks favorable for next week.

An early morning view of Whitefish Lake from Whitefish Mountain (aka Big Mountain). Skiers typically hike up the mountain
before sunrise to get in first tracks. Photo courtesy of Tim Anderson.

Backcountry and Tele skiers are starting to get some first tracks too. Big Mountain in Whitefish isn't running any lifts yet but intrepid skiers are hiking the mountain in search of powder. Tim Anderson reported over two feet near the summit last week. He managed to find some good spots to ski but he also noted that quite a few skiers and boarders have been busy.

Glacier National Park has been favored with good snow too. Backcountry skiing is beginning to pick up with Marias Pass being a good bet.

So let's all start doing our snow dance and hope for a winter of good snow and friendly camaraderie on the trails.

Transition Time and Ski Preparation
Posted November 1, 2013

It's that time of year when you start thinking of putting away the summer toys and preparing for skiing. I was out shoveling snow last Monday and I could feel the change. It was 16 F and about 6-8 inches of snow had fallen. Flurries were still in the air. I knew this snow wouldn't last but I was also well aware that winter is on its way!

In this part of Montana, especially in and near the mountains, I expect to be able to find some skiing before Thanksgiving. Cross country ski areas usually open right after the end of hunting season which is the Thanksgiving weekend. And of course the West Yellowstone Ski Festival is Thanksgiving week. Oh heck, I've received reports that some folks are already out skiing on the South Plateau above West Yellowstone.

Making a smooth entry in the ski season means having your skis ready to go. I'll begin getting my skis ready soon. Below are 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 2014. 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 "Products" link at the top of this page and start shopping. 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 solidified (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 it 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.

Classic Skis:
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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New Look - Same Ralph
Posted November 1, 2013

Ralph's Blog has a new look for this season. The intent is to match the beautiful new Eagle River Nordic website. Ralph's Blog is a little wider. Photos might be bigger and provide more detail. But I'm the same Ralph!

Like any makeovers though, not everything will go as planned. If you notice something not working, or a broken link let me know. Send a note to me using the Email Ralph link at the top of the left column.

Also the link for Ralph's Blog has changed. But you might already know that if you found this post. Please be sure to tell your friends. I don't want to be lost in the net, so to speak. And be sure to bookmark this page so you can easily find me again.

I'll Be Back Soon!
Updated October 31, 2013
Posted October 9, 2013

It's fall! Ralph's Blog will return soon for another great season. Look for more Montana cross country ski stories including trips to West Yellowstone, Old Faithful (if the government shutdown ends), Izaak Walton Inn and the West Yellowstone Rendezvous race. Of course my winter would not be complete with a trip to Wisconsin for some of LaNora's famous Minnesota chile and a ski in the American Birkebeiner. This will be my 35th Birkie and I'm hoping for a good one.

In the meantime, fall is here. the mountains have some snow and there has already been some skiing in West Yellowstone! Be back soon!

And enjoy the following post from last March.

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