Posts from December 2015

Cross Country Skiing Montana Postcard
Posted December 31, 2015

Ski conditions are amazing right now. Trees are flocked with snow and trails are groomed. I'm leqaving in a few minutes to spend the New Years weekend skiing in West Yellowstone with Nancy, Jen and Ron. Before I head out though, I wanted to share a few postcards from this week in Montana. Wish you were here!

Essex Creek along the trails at the Izaak Walton Inn.

Essex Creek at Kendi's Crossing at the Izaak Walton Inn. Photo by Ron Gruber.

Newley groomed Dickie Road trail at the Izaak Walton Inn. Photo from Brenda Winkler.

South Fork Teton Trailhead west of Choteau, Montana.

View along the South Fork Teton River.

Another plus has been the temperatures. Daytime high have been in the teens with lows around 5F. Perfect temps for keeping the powder nice to ski on. Also waxing has been easy. Cork in some Swix VR40 for grip. Add more when it wears thin. Use Toko Red and Blue mixed for great glide. HAPPY NEW YEAR! See you next week from West Yellowstone.

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The Winter Wonderland
Posted December 24, 2015

Ski conditions are amazing right now. A series of moderate storms have come through Montana every couple of days and dumped plenty of powder to ski on. Ski areas have had a tough time keeping up with all the new snow and avalanche danger is Considerable in many high elevation back country areas.

The holiday period has begun. With Christmas coming tomorrow I've been pretty busy. But I managed to get in a good 20 km ski at Izaak Walton yesterday.

The air temp varied from 20F to 30F while I was skiing. The snow temperature was more constant at around 22F. I waxed my Fischer Classic Carbonlites with Swix VR 40, then added a touch of VR45 in the center of the wax pocket. Grip and glide were fantastic. The fresh groomed track felt like a smooth magic carpet under my feet.

The photo above was typical of the scene yesterday at Izaak Walton Inn. The trees are flocked with powder snow and the trails that are groomed are fantastic.

I have several plans for skiing over the holidays. Saturday the family will venture up the Teton Canyon, I'll try to get in another longer ski at Izaak Walton Inn during next week and I plan on skiing at West Yellowstone after New Years Eve. That trailhead view from this morning looks very enticing. Be sure to check back to see how the skiing goes. In the meantime, I'd like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

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Seeing How I Ski...
Posted December 18, 2015

Ski conditions are getting better. You can see that in the depth of snow, the quality of the ski reports and, most importantly, the rapid decrease in the scrapes on rocks while backcountry skiing. This past week I skied along the West Fork of the Teton River a couple of times and made one trip to Izaak Walton Inn in search of groomed trails.

The search for groomed trails was only partly successful. Izaak Walton had plenty of snow but only two trails were groomed and neither of those had set track. No matter, I got in a good 2 1/2 hour ski there on Wednesday.

While skiing at West Yellowstone earlier this month I had the opportunity to photograh a classic skiing seqeunce of myself, Brenda and Bruce. I used my iPhone in burst mode to capture up to 30 images of us skiing. Then, back at home, I used Adobe photoshop to combine some of those photos into one skiing sequence.

In the photo above I'm on a pair of old wooden cross country skis that I borrowed from a friend. They were quite a bit heavier than my Fischer Carbonlite Classic skis and they flattened out more as well. Still those woodies got me down the trail and up the hills.

When I see myself ski I tend to focus on some key reference positions positions for good skiing. In classic technique each arm and leg swings forward and back. The arms pass each other at the same time as the legs. You can see that position in the secod image from the right. At that time my knees are flexed and my center of mass is in front of my ankles. This is a good body position for that moment of technique. Remember though, that is only one instant of a continuous sequence of skiing technique.

Another position to focus on is at pole plant. My arm is flexed with about a 90 degree angle at the elbow, the forward knee is flexed and I like to my center of mass to be over my leading foot. The other hand has released the pole and the arm is in a nice relaxed follow through. Same for the leg. My strong pushoff on the ski results in the trailing ski being unweighted. It usually comes off the snow as a result of the follow through not because I intentionally lift that ski. One other thing to notice is the fairly straight line from my head through my hips and down to my trailing foot.

Look for these reference points in other skiers when you're out on the trails. You'll see lots of variety based on body types, an individual's skiing history and their skiing ability. Following are sequences of Brenda and Bruce.

Finally, here's a photo of the scenery along the South Fork of the Teton River from last Tuesday afternoon. More snow fell Wednesday and it's snowing there now.

I think I'll just have to head out again this afternoon for another ski.

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Here's What I Do When the Snow is Thin...
Posted December 11, 2015

Not a good week for snow on the east side of the divide in the Northern Rockies. Warm, windy weather followed by a day of rain smashed what little snow we had. Then a cold front passed through bringing more wind and cooler temperatures. Fortunately the cold front also brought a few inches of snow to the high country and a dusting at home. April and I decided to take a look in the hopes of finding something to ski on.

We drove to the mountains and headed up the North Fork Teton Road. We went higher than where I skied on Thanksgiving eve. In fact that part of the road was plowed so employees could prepare the Teton Pass downhill ski area for winter. Fortunately the plowing stopped there. Wednesday's rain resulted in a slushy snow that was freezing in the cooler temps. Just enough fresh new snow had fallen to cover the wet stuff and provide a little skiing. Best of all it was snowing!

We parked near the entrance to the ski hill and skied up the road. It was like skiing in a snow globe. Big flakes filled the air dampening all sound. All we heard was the swish of our skis.

The road gains a little more elevation then goes through a gap on the ridge off Mount Lockhart. Once through the gap the road descends steadily to the West Fork Teton River. We started skiing down but the snow quickly thinned. After only about 1/3 mile we started seeing road gravel poking through. Time to turn around.

All to soon we were back at the car. But we were having plenty of fun so we did another lap. I know it wasn't the greatest or most exciting skiing but as I always say, "Any skiing is better than no skiing!"

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Wax for the Snow Temperature and Not the Air!
Posted December 5, 2015

Most cross country ski trailheads, West Yellowstone included, have a thermometer stuck outside someplace. To make the thing easy to read it's often placed at an average eye level. Ok, great we can easily find the temperature of the air.

The problem is we ski on the snow. So the question you should ask when deciding what kick or glide wax to use is how the snow temperature relates to the air temperature. A little idea of the recent weather history might also be helpful.

Hitting the trailhead at West Yellowstone on Thursday, the eye level thermometer read 30F. I met a guy skiing in who said he used a soft yellow wax for grip. Hmmm! I knew that the previous three days where cold. Monday was in the low teens, Tuesday started out -12F and never got above 15F, and Wednesday was just a little warmer with afternoon temps around 20F. I suspected that the warmer air on Thursday would take some time to warm the snow that had been on the ground for over a week in cold conditions. But how to know for sure?

Fortunately West Yellowstone has a second thermometer that is connected to the trailhead sign. That thermometer lays right down in the snow. I picked it up and took a look. Whattya know! While t air was 30F the snow was colder at 20F! No way would a soft Yellow wax be the right wax for grip. I chose Swix VR 40, a blue wax for the colder drier snow. Worked like a charm.

So when selecting a wax be sure to consider the snow temperature and not just the air. Also consider the span of recent cold days to help select the best wax.

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