Posts from December 2014

Apres Christmas Trip to West Yellowstone
Posted December 31, 2014

Nancy, Jen, Ron and I spent four days after Christmas in West Yellowstone. It was a great time but pictures are better than words.

Friday afternoon Jen and Ron snowshoed down to the Madison River while Nancy and I classic skied. New snow on Saturday flocked the trees and created a winter wonderland.

Sunday was a backcountry day. I skied while everyone else snowshoed. We drive into Yellowstone National Park and explored the lower reaches of the Specimen Creek valley. Flurries and muted sunshine made for a beautiful day.

On Monday we hit the Rendezvous trails again before beginning our drive home.

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Wax Report: Swix VR40 Lasts for Three Days, Maybe More
Posted December 31, 2014

December 26, 27 and 29, 2014 Temp -9 F to +20 F - Cold dry powder and groomed powder at West Yellowstone's Rendezvous Trails.

What a wax. I started with a smooth application of VG35 base binder. I crayoned the binder on, warmed it with a hair dryer and corked it smooth. The binder layer helps the wax of the day adher to the ski. After the binder cooled I crayoned on several thin layers of Swix VR40. The first two layers extended the full length of my wax pocket. The third layer covered the center 2/3rds of the wax pocket and the fourth layer covered only the center 1/3rd of my wax pocket. I carefully corked each layer smooth and made sure there were no lumps.

The snow conditions varied but they remained in the cold dry range. In the coldest temps (-9 F) I could have increased glide by using VR30 but it was my last morning to ski on that trip and I went with what I had. On all three days I had great grip and pretty good glide.

Silky Glide and Great Grip at 32 F
or Swix VR50

Posted December 25, 2014

Izaak Walton Inn - December 23, 2014 Temp 32-34 F - New moist snow freshly groomed. High humidity.

A very interesting ski at Izaak Walton today. I got there about 10 AM. They had received a few inches of new snow with plenty of moisture on top of a firm and damp transformed base. Air temp was 32-33 F or maybe a little above that. There was no precipitation coming down but the air was damp. I finally got to the trailhead around 10:40. I had waxed in the parking lot with Swix VR 45. I skied onto the trail and planned to meet Brenda Winkler, PSIA-NRM examiner, on the Dickey Road trail. They were running the big groomer on that trail and setting fresh track.

The scenery was wonderful. A little bit of blue sky and fresh snow on the trees. The only ski tracks on the newly groomed trail were mine and Brenda's. No wind and warm. Very pleasant.

The snow was very moist but it still had that fresh look -- not powder but not quite wet. After even one or two skiers skied the track the track got glazed. The VR 45 was useless with no grip. It began to look like it was going to be a festival of double poling. But I stopped and added a full length thin layer of VR 50 and then put a second thin layer just under the foot. I corked both layers very smooth. In the glazed track the VR 50 gripped some but was not real good.

I started skiing knowing that I would be gaining a little elevation. I hoped there would be cooler, maybe drier snow, a littler higher. I quickly discovered that the snow was slightly drier in the fresh corduroy and the wax worked very well with really silky glide. I skied the lower Essex Road over to the Dicky trail then started up the Dickie valley. Only one skier was ahead of me and that was Brenda. As soon as I gained a little elevation the glazing in the track disappeared. It still had the moist look but the VR 50 worked super in the track. I skied that wax for 2 1/2 hours and only had a little too much stick in some drier snow. I never touched the base of my skis after I put on the VR 50.

I spent my last 20 minutes on the Essex Creek area where many more skiers had glazed the track. I managed grip even there except for the steeper ups where I had to ski in the center of the trail on the fresh groomed surface. Still I did not have to herringbone.

I was very impressed with the VR 50. As most of you know, waxing when the snow is new and near the freeze/thaw temperature is tricky. Just a slight shift in temperature or moisture can cause the wax to be too sticky or not have enough grip. But today, the VR 50 was perfect.

When I got home I looked up what Swix says about that wax. Swix says it’s designed for moist to dry snow around freezing. Its temperature for new snow is 32-36F. Seems like that was definitely the conditions of the day though not quite up to the max temp. I also noted that Swix has a note in their Hard wax section that says, “All temperatures given on Swix waxes are air temperatures measured in the shade.” Never saw that note before. I guess I should start memorizing the Swix wax charts.

Any way it was a good ski. Only saw Brenda for a short time. She trains and races and is pretty darn quick. A nice classic skier.

A Little Thin but the Glide was Nice
Posted December 21, 2014

The weather this past week was warm. Some days in the upper 50s. Not much like winter. Looking west toward the mountains I could watch the snowpack on the Rock Mountain Front get thinner each day. But as I always say, "Any skiing is better than no skiing!"

So I headed into the mountains for some road skiing. Fortunately we've had plenty of snow previously and the warm temperature created a firm base with softer snow on top. Not too bad. I skied the road along the South Fork of the Teton above Green Gulch. Seems like I frequently park there and the snow further up the valley is better in the early season.

The critters were out and about too. I saw several mule deer, a rough grouse and some elk tracks. No bear tracks though but that's probably a good thing. The snow was thins for sure. Vehicles had driven on the road but the shoulders were good for skiing.

The mountains in back of the Front were socked in and I couldn't see the peaks. A few flakes floated in the air. It was all quiet except for the swish of my skis. And the nice smooth glide of my skis felt good under foot.

This week will be a busy week. Last minute preparations for Christmas followed by a trip to West Yellowstone for skiing on the Rendezvous trails. New snow is falling today in the mountains and the temperatures are forecast to cool some. So I hope to get out a few more times on the Front early this week.

Cross Country Ski Academy - Part Two
Posted December 14, 2014

The Cross Country Ski Academy covered a lot of skiing and teaching topics — way more than I could cover in one post. So here's a little more.

Our afternoon sessions each day focused on our skating technique, our recognition of what good freestyle skiing looks like and the ways people learn to ski. Going along with that last topic is modifying an instructors technique to enhance learning.

At the beginning of each session our group leader would ask us what we wanted to work on during the session. The answers were often fairly diverse but Scott and Dave made a solid effort to meet everyone's needs. During our second skating session, Randy asked about improving technique to enhance uphill V-2 skating. Oh boy, I thought. That will be a workout.

We skied part of the Volunteer Loop which has several steep but short uphill sections. We focused on body position, power and timing to fly up the hills using the V-2 technique. In the early days of skating, no one thought it was an uphill tool. But now you'll see many skiers use this to climb all but the steepest of hills. The advantage of the V-2, as I see it, is that is separates the pole push from the push off the skis. This spreads power application over a longer period of time and allows for a more continuous thrust down the trail — or up the hill in our case.

V-2 is still not the easiest of skills to master. My suggestion is to find a qualified instructor and take a lesson. As you can see from the next photos, instructors are a happy bunch of people who are really excited about skiing.

To wrap up the academy, Scott presented a representation of the answers to a question he posed to us on the first day. That was, "What is your favorite thing about cross country skiing?" and "What was your favorite ski teaching experience?" The answers were condensed into small phrases and a software app called Wordle combined the answers into the chart below. Larger words indicated more responses from the academy group. As you can see ski instructors love winter and all the beautiful aspects of snow in the natural terrain we use to ski. But more importantly ski instructors love teaching and seeing others learn to enjoy our sport.

Cross Country Ski Academy
Posted December 6, 2014

My drive to West Yellowstone was challenging. Snow, heavy at times, and blowing snow made for some tricky road conditions. Fortunately I made it safely.

I joined about a dozen other ski instructors from all over the northwest and one from Alaska for three days of sharing ideas on ski technique, ski teaching, training and other topics. Most of us stayed in a large 8 bedroom cabin only three blocks from the Rendezvous trails. Each morning featured a big hearty group breakfast, a short shot discussion, followed by a walk to the trails.

The first morning featured a waxing discussion and ski preparation right after breakfast. Fortunately for the cabin owners, we used only hard wax. Soon the skis were waxed and we were on our way to the trailhead.

Before skiing we warmed up with some light exercises and balance drills. Scott McGhee and David Lawrence of the PSIA Nordic Team and Brenda Winkler, examiner from PSIA-NRM lead the sessions. Each morning featured classic skiing with the afternoons focused on skating.

Day one was mostly about ski techniques. We focused on improving everyone's skiing ability. At the same time we all managed to have a ton of fun.

It turned out to be an invigorating way to start the new ski season. More next week.