Posts from November 2015

Early Season Classic Ski at West Yellowstone
Posted November 30, 2015

Snow reports for West Yellowstone were promising so a group of 4 headed for the Rendezvous Trails in West Yellowstone. Temps on arrival were in the low teens and the snow was well groomed and dry.

I selected some Swix VR 30 grip wax and corked it in well. After skiing a bit I decided I needed just a little more grip so I added a short pocket of VR 40 under my foot. The skis gripped well so we headed out for a 90 minute first ski of the season on groomed terrain.

Brenda Winkler demonstrated very nice classic form. Notice how symmetrical her skiing is. The photo above shows her after a right leg kick and the photo below is after a left leg kick. Both sides are about equal.

Brenda does a lot of training and preparation for the ski season and her form on the first day of on snow skiing shows how well she skis.

We plan on skiing here three more days. I'll try to post more from our trip on Friday.

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My First Tracks of the Winter!
Posted November 25, 2015

Another Winter Storm Warning was posted for earlier this week promising more good snow. This was followed by cold and dry conditions. I thought that now's definitely time to get out there and enjoy winter. Since it is still hunting season I planned to ski Forest Service roads where the snow would not be groomed. I would use my backcountry skis in those conditions.

First thing I had to do is prepare those skis. I cleaned the base of the skis, ironed in some violet glide wax and let them cool. Then I scraped and brushed them. The kick zone of my backcountry skis have a no-wax pattern. To keep snow from sticking to the grip surface I applied some Swix F-4, let that dry, then buffed it with a clean rag.

I chose to ski on the North Fork Teton Road. The reason was simple. The road penetrates the mountains some distance then begins a long gradual ascent. As I entered the mountains, the snow was quite thin. But as I gained elevation the snow got deeper. Finally at around 5,700 feet I found deep enough snow that I could ski nicely without my skis getting scratched on the gravel road. I left my car along the side of the road and began to ski.

The scenery was beautiful. Snow stuck to the rugged mountain sides and the sky was blue. The air was crisp but the continual uphill skiing created plenty of warmth. I stopped every now and then to marvel at the views.

Eventually I reached the high point at 6,200 feet. The road makes a steady descent from there and I didn’t want to have to ski back up hill so I turned around. The downhill ski back to my car took half the time of my uphill trip. A great first day on snow.

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A Good Time for Ski Preparation
Posted November 16, 2015

I was out shoveling snow last Tuesday and I like the feel of cold air and sunshine on my face. Only 3-4 inches of snow had fallen and most of that drifted into my front yard. I knew this snow wouldn't last but it was sort of a wake up call to prepare for winter.

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 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 skiing on the Rendezvous Trails in West Yellowstone is pretty good, even with the warm weather this past weekend.

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 for Skate and Classic Skis
Last spring I coated my skis with a storage wax for the summer. Now it's time to remove the storage wax 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 be preparing new skis in a few weeks. I'll be preparing new skis in a week ot talken to Ernie (Eagle River Nordic) and LaNora is picking out some beauties for me!

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:

  • 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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There is Cross Country Skiing in Montana!
Posted November 9, 2015

The snowstorm forecast for last week brought heavy wet snow to some locations in Montana. This was followed by much cooler temperatures and more light snow. Another snowfall is in the forecast for this week.

Here’s the November 7th grooming report and photo from West Yellowstone: One to two inches of new snow, clear and cold, 6 F. Trails groomed: Rendezvous, Dead Dog, Biathlon Range, Deja View, most of the Sprint Loops, Volunteer, Jerry's and the Doodle. Trails continue to improve with each new snowfall. Good skis look possible except for the South Plateau road crossing. Wolf tracks and heavily snow laden trees, what more could you ask for?

Brenda Winkler provided this photo. She and Bruce Winkler skied a Forest Service road near Werner Peak on the west side of the Northern Rockies near Whitefish. Man that snow looks nice.

Meanwhile here on the east side of the divide we had a Chinook. Winds blowing across the mountains descend, heat up and rapidly melt the snow. The Blackfeet called these winds “snow eaters!” Temps on Saturday went from the upper 20s to the mid 50s in a few hours. While I did shovel snow on Wednesday, the low elevation east side snow disappeared quickly on Saturday.

When Chinook winds start to blow a characteristic cloud formation called a Chinook Arch forms over the Rocky Mountain Front. It always foretells high winds and warm weather.

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I've Been Waiting and Waiting and Waiting!
Posted November 2, 2015

If you followed my blog last winter you know that snow was thin in Montana. While we had good snow early in the season much of January, February and March really seemed like a prolonged spring. Temps were warm and snow was thin, especially in the Northern Rockies. Unfortunately the dry and warm conditios persisted pretty much through spring, summer and now fall.

The warm and dry conditions were punctuated by a few thunderstorms. But those didn't bring much rain. Instead the many, many lightnng strikes started a whole bunch of fires. Our mountains were filled with smoke and flame from late July through September. October saw some relief but some fires continued to burn that late into fall. A very unusal circumstance caused by the warm and dry conditions.

But a change is in the air. This past weekend saw the first real snow in the mountains. Yes, we had some earlier snows too. Like the Labor Day weekend storm. But those early snows melted away during a fall that seemed more summer like. Check this out:

The National Weather Service is forecasting some colder weather and snow. West Yellowstone might get 6-8 inches while higher terrain might see more than a foot. Unfortunately the bulk of this storm is forecast to pass south of Choteau where I live. But even it does go south, I expect "my" mountains to be at least a little white by the end of the week.

Will I have to break out the snow shovels? I doubt it. But at least this is a start on our winter.

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I'll Be Back Soon!
Posted November 1, 2015

The 12th season of Ralph's Blog will begin shortly. I'll post at least once a week from the first week of November to the end of February. In the meantime, enjoy another look at my February 2015 Birkie experience.

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