Posts from December 2013

Ridin' Sally to Old Faithful
Posted December 31, 2013

I spent the week after Christmas in southwest Montana with Nancy, Jen and Ron. It was a great time. The trip included two days skiing in West Yellowstone, three days in Yellowstone National Park and two more days skiing in West. Whoopeee!!!

Saturday morning we left our vehicles at the Alpen Guides base in West Yellowstone and caught a snow coach to Old Faithful.

This was not just any snow coach either. An "oldie but goodie" Bombardier Snow Coach named Sally was built in 1956. Our departure from West Yellowstone was delayed by about 30 minutes while a mechanic replaced a brake line on Sally. Jack, our guide for the ride in, said that the brakes aren't needed much, but they would get them working well before we left just in case. Riding the old coach was like sailing a boat over the snow. The coach seem to float this way and that but the ride was pretty smooth.

It's about 30 miles from West to Old Faithful and the coach can easily travel 35 mph. But Jack made plenty of stops so that we could enjoy the scenery and wildlife along the way.

Jack stopped for us to see trumpeter swans, bison and elk. He described the geology and natural history of Yellowstone. He found something new and interesting to see around every corner.

We arrived at the Old Faithful Geyser area just in time to see it erupt. Most of the folks there were day visitors. This would be their only chance to see Old Faithful. We planned on spending that afternoon and the next two days exploring the geyser basin so this view of Old Faithful was the first of about a dozen eruptions that we got to see.

After watching Old Faithful do its magic we were ferried over to the Old Faithful Snow Lodge. This is a special lodge with wonderful accommodations. The atmosphere was great and so was he food.

After checking in we walked across the Firehole River and hikes the short loop around Old Faithful. I'll show you more of the Upper Geyser Basin later this week.

A Merry Christmas Card
Posted December 24, 2013

Skiing in Montana continues to be good. Last Friday I found temperatures at Izaak Walton Inn to be 19 F with a light snow falling. As you can see in my Christmas card from that day, the trees were nicely decorated. The warmer temperatures allowed Essex Creek to flow freely in some areas. The sound of rushing water next to a cross country ski trail is always pleasant.

With the fresh new snow I use Swix VR 40 for grip and it was perfect. My glide wax was whatever was left over on my skis from my previous weekend in West Yellowstone. That was Toko LF Gray I think.

The forest was truly beautiful. It was unfortunate that no one else was out there enjoying the scenery.

The busy Christmas season is upon us and I didn't get out since Friday. But I am looking forward to spending the days between Christmas and New Years down in West Yellowstone and at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge in Yellowstone National Park. Be sure to check back to see how the trip went. And if your down that way and see me on the trail be sure to say hello!

In the meantime I wish everyone a veery Happy Holiday Season! I'll finish this post with my traditional skiers' ornament. Enjoy!

Sand to Silk!
Posted December 17, 2013

The very cold snow of last week made skiing feel like trying to slide on sand. Fortunately the modern glide waxes have come a long way toward improving glide on real cold snow and the skiing was good. This week brought warmer temperatures and a silky feeling to the snow. Unfortunately it got a little too warm in some locations. Drizzle was reported at Izaak Walton Inn on Sunday. In the Flathead Valley things got somewhat slushy.

Nancy and I decided to head down south to West Yellowstone for the weekend. We stopped to shop in Bozeman and arrived at West around 2:00. We made a quick visit to Freeheel and Wheel to get our season trail passes and were on the trails by 2:40.

The snow temperature was around 20 F and the air was humid. Tiny rounded snowflakes fell from the cloudy skies. I had glide waxed our skis with Toko LF Gray. For grip I applied several layers of Swix VR 30 and topped it off with two thin layers of VR 40. I was a little concerned that this might be a little soft but with the moisture in the snow grip was perfect both Saturday and Sunday. The snow had that fast silky feeling to it that every skier loves.

Saturday morning was the first race in this seasons Spam Cup series. It was the Spam Cup Classic. Winners in various age and distance classes are presented with a can of Spam as their trophy. Lest you think it's a little strange, these are not just any cans of Spam. Local kids decorate the trophies and they become highly coveted prizes.

Because of the classic races the groomers put in double classic tracks on many trails. Quite a few folks were still out classic skiing in the late afternoon. The tracks were wonderful. But that is commonplace in West Yellowstone. Nancy and I put in almost two good hours on the trails before heading to our motel for the evening.

We found a new spot for dinner called the Slippery Otter Pub. They have about two dozen Montana microbrews on tap. If you like specialty beer this is the place in West for you. The food was pretty darn good too!

Sunday morning brought a little fog to the trail system and the temperatures were about the same. I touched up my wax a little and we enjoyed another good ski. There was some hoar frost on the tree tops and the sun peaked through for a time to brighten the day. Another good time at West.

Warmed Up to +3 F and skiing is Good!
Posted December 10, 2013

The blizzard came last Monday and Tuesday. Temps plummeted to the -20 to -30 range over most of Montana. Maybe a tad warmer on the west side but not much. I pretty much hunkered down as far as skiing is concerned. I spent some time waxing skis.

This week things are looking better. Well sort of. Yesterday I drove to Izaak Walton Inn Expecting the snow to be good there. I wasn't disappointed in the snow but some of the driving was interesting.

North of Choteau there was 4-6 inches of snow on the plains. 60 mph west winds were driving the snow toward North Dakota. By the end of the day I suspect that most of that snow made it to its final destination.

Driving north I encountered some near whiteout conditions. More challenging though are the drifts that form on bridges and other areas where there are guardrails along the road. Unsuspecting drivers might hit a dense foot high drift while driving too fast. Not good. Fortunately I've been here before and slowed down at all of the known problematic locations.

West of East Glacier the wind let up. The road was snow packed but the very cold snow was not slippery. Arriving at Essex, I found myself just a little tense though. I spent 30 minutes relaxing calmly while I prepared to ski.

The air temp was +3 F. I had glide waxed my classic skis with Toko System 3 Blue. At home for grip I had corked in three layers of Rode Special Green. I added some Swix VR 30 on top just before hitting the trails.

There was no wind and a very light snow was falling. The only folks I saw on the trails were an intrepid couple enjoying a lesson with Mark. I had the entire trail system to myself. Trees were flocked with snow and there appeared to be 2 feet or so in the woods. Nice.

It wasn't quiet though. The cold snow, with a recent history of being well below zero made a loud squeaking sound as I skied. The grooming was pretty good and the tracks nice. I headed down Essex Road to Dickie Road then skied up the long grade on the freshly groomed surface. I warmed up quickly and thoroughly enjoyed the skiing.

Coming down Dickie road involves several kilometers of gliding and double poling. The cold began to penetrate. Fortunately, after returning to Essex road I had to ski uphill for maybe a half K so I warmed up some. A few more laps on Pileated and I was done.

I returned to the Inn, warmed up while changing clothes and prepared for the journey back home.

Gotta Hunker Down This Week!
Posted December 3, 2013

Fall progressed nicely and I managed to get in a few short skis up on the North Fork Teton Road. Then the weather changed to something more akin to spring. 50 degree days with nights below freezing and calm winds lasted for almost two weeks.

Thanksgiving came and the nice weather made it easy to travel to visit relatives and friends. Thanksgiving passed and the warm weather made it easy to find and cut our Christmas tree. We could drive right to our favorite hunting ground. There was no snow there so walking was easy. We found and cut the perfect tree, took it home and decorated it.

After a pleasant holiday weekend then, I hoped to get in some skiing. West Yellowstone reported good conditions and skiing seems to be picking up at the Izaak Walton Inn when I bought my season pass last week. The weekend ended Sunday with another 50 degree sunny and calm day.

Monday changed all my plans though. At 7:45 it was 34 F but by 8:45 it was 20. The howling winds drove huge blinding snowflakes. and the temperature continued to fall. This morning it was 4 and the forecast includes some -20 F mornings later this week. The roads are icy and snowpacked. So the best thing to do is hunker down and wait.

It just isn't a good idea to get caught in a plains blizzard, even with your pants up. Hopefully the weather will moderate enough for a ski outing by Friday. Stay tuned.