Posts from November 2014

Mission Accomplished, Almost...
Posted November 28, 2014

Thanksgiving came is a rush. Seems like yesterday it was summer. Nancy and I enjoyed a traditional turkey dinner with some mighty fine trimmings at Jen and Ron's place in Shelby. Like many Thanksgivings, I ate a little too much.

Today, Friday, the day after Thanksgiving I had a mission. I'm leaving tomorrow for a four day cross country skiing academy in West Yellowstone. My mission was to scours the mountains west of my home to find our Christmas tree, pack my bags and, of course prepare my skis.

It was a warm day (50 F) and windy. The sun was shining at home but the mountains were covered in low clouds. And a rainbow arched over the plains. Not too good. Rainbows in winter mean rain. Oh well off we went. Nancy and I selected but ultimately rejected several trees. After an hour of searching we found the perfect tree. Quick work with the saw and the tree was down. We'll keep the tree trunk soaking in water until I get home from West.

Next big mission was to prepare my skis. I decided to take two pair of classic skis and a pair of skate skis. The forecast temps in West Yellowstone were to be near or below zero at night and in the teens during the day. Hmm! What to use?

I waxed the skate skis and the glide zones of my classic skis with a mix of Toko LF Blue and Toko LF Red. Iron in the wax, let the skis cool, then scrape and brush.

The grip zones on my classic skis got a cored in binder then a layer of VR30. I'll adjust the wax for that perfect grip when I know the ski conditions Sunday morning.

The Almost part comes tomorrow. My mission is to reach West Yellowstone safely. The temperature today at 2:30 PM was 48 but be 4:00 PM it was down to 9. Subzero temps and snow is the forecast for my drive time. Hopefully I will accomplish that last part of the mission. Check back next week to find out.

Buried Buffalo
Posted November 24, 2014

The big weather news this past week was the seven foot deep snowfall near Buffalo NY. Man, that's a lot of snow all at one time. There's no argument about that. But let's take a look at the overall coverage of that snowfall just a few days later.

You can see, while the snow is deep, coverage is rather local. Arctic air blowing across the length of a warm and unfrozen Lake Erie picked up a ton of moisture. As soon as that air rose over the land of western New York state, the air cooled, the moisture condensed and a lake effect snow was the result. Lake effect snowfalls are often restricted in their distribution. But that small amount of surface area coverage is offset by how much snow can actually bury a given location.

Buffalo is noted for its lake effect snow. But the folks living along the south and east shores of Lake Michigan and the southern shore of Lake Superior all can attest to the fantastic amounts of snow that can fall when the wind blows from the north or northwest in winter.

Let's take a look at how the snow near Buffalo compares at the same time to the snow conditions in the Northern Rocky Mountains. The mountains have a much greater impact on the coverage of the snow and its depth. Especially note the lower right corner of the map. That's Yellowstone National Park showing about 2 feet of settled snow.

If you would like to see the map for your area got to the NWS National Snow Analysis website. There you can select the area you want to see along with any date in the recent past. There are a wide variety of map types including snow depth and the equivalent amount of water.

Meanwhile snow clouds are hovering over the mountain and winter weather warnings and advisories are up for Montana again. 4-8 inches are forecast for the plains this week. 1 to 2 feet are possible in the mountains. I'm heading down to West Yellowstone on Saturday for the PSIA XC Academy. My blog might be posted late but I will have skiing photos to show. West received several snow falls this past week and more is forecast. The skiing will be great!

Skiing has Come to Montana!
Posted November 15, 2014

A big push of Arctic air descended upon the United States this week. I suspect most of you reading this are experiencing winter in one form or another. Here in Montana I've received reports from West Yellowstone, the Red Lodge Nordic Center and one backcountry report from the west side of the Northern Rockies.

West Yellowstone reported 8 inches of new snow as of last night with snow continuing to fall. They fired up the big Piston Bully and groomed the Rendezvous Loop and Deja View last evening to a width of 14 feet. A repeat grooming was to be done early this morning. No classic tracks were set yet but the base should firm up for some great early season skiing.

As you can see in the photo below the skiing looks pretty nice under a crisp blue sky with bright sunshine.

Red Lodge reported last Tuesday November 11, 2014 that they have received snow...8+ inches with wind and near zero temperatures. Most every trail was rolled and packed at least once and skiing was actually good for the first snow on warm ground. The parking lot was plowed. They are a little behind in preparing the place but that will be accomplished soon.

Meanwhile the high country on the west side of the Northern Rockies received over 20 inches of new snow as of Friday. Skiers still have to do some hiking to reach the snow. Dedicated backcountry skiers know where the powder piles up first and they'll be heading out this weekend.

Get your gear ready. There's good skiing to be found. The new snow and winter conditions might have caught a few of us unprepared. If you need to prepare your gear for skiing follow the instructions that I posted last November called Transition Time and Ski Preparation. In the meantime grab what gear you have ready and GO SKI!

Getting Ready for Winter
Posted November 8, 2014

A big push of Arctic air is forecast to descent upon the United States this coming week. Snow is in the forecast again. While last week's storm was a fizzle the coming storm might start winter. We'll all know for sure soon.

Whether winter starts this week or not, we know it's coming and we need to prepare. But I actually started preparing for this winter last April. Let me explain.

Ski bases take a lot of abuse over the course of a winter or two. Dirt, gravel and other debris in the snow can scratch a ski base. I'm always pretty cautious where I ski and I try to avoid the rough stuff. But scratches and dings still happen. In examining my skis after the Rendezvous race in West Yellowstone I spotted a few shallow scratches that needed to be fixed.

Another thing to consider is the structure in the ski base. A new ski is structured at the factory. Instead of a perfectly smooth surface, the base of a ski contains tiny grooves. These are not continuous parallel grooves but a complex series of tiny alternating diagonal lines. This is the structure. The purpose of this structure is to minimize friction with the snow surface upon which we glide. Since snow can vary, there is a wide variety of possible structures that can be applied. It can vary from very fine (for cold dry snow) to quite aggressive (for wet snow). My skis came from the factory with a middle of the road structure suitable for a wide variety of colder snow conditions.

Waxing and scraping over two seasons can remove some of the factory applied structure.

Over time this structure can be lost. Waxing and scraping the base and skiing itself can polish a base and remove some of the finer structure. A too hot iron can also damage and seal the base resulting in less wax penetration and a slower ski. I wax my skis more than once a week and over the course of two winters I noticed that the base was getting a little worn.

So last April, I sent my skis to Nordic Ultratune to be stone ground. This involves using a specially designed machine to smooth the base and apply new structure. The stone grinding process removes some base material and that includes any and all glide wax. The freshly ground skis were then carefully waxed before they were returned to me. I can now start this season with skis that look and ski like new.

There's more to do to get ready for winter. That's a given. But I know my skis look great and are ready for that first wax job of the season. I'll cover more winter prep topics in the coming weeks. In the meantime I'm heading outside to do my snow dance.

Welcome Winter
Posted November 1, 2014

It's been a busy spring, summer and fall for sure. Lots of backpacking, climbing, photography and family adventures. But it's time to start thinking about winter.

The National Weather Service is forecasting a pretty good snow storm starting tomorrow. I suspect it will be mostly a slushfest on the plains. But the mountains might get a foot or more. This should set the stage for the coming ski season. First though, we have to get through hunting season. Most ski areas, even if they get plenty of snow will not open until after Thanksgiving. Between now and then I hope to get in some skiing on the unplowed roads in the mountains west of my home.

The West Yellowstone Ski Festival is in November as well. This year it's November 24-29, 2014. I plan on attending a Professional Ski Instructors Cross Country Ski Academy there. Should be some great skiing with ski instructors from all over the United States. So plan on following Ralph's Blog this winter. In the meantime enjoy my Birkie post from last year.

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