Posts from January 2016

A January Thaw for Some; Great Skliing for Others
Posted January 28, 2016
23 Days to the Birkie!

The warm weather came with a rush this week. At my home we had several days in the 50s and 60 is possible today. That has really messed up skiing close to home. Even Izaak Walton has gotten mushy with some rain and wet snow.

Fortunately Nancy and I had planned a three day weekend in West Yellowstone. We arrived Saturday to find perfect skiing conditions. Nicely groomed packed powder trails and temps at or just below 30. Here's a look at the In/Out trail.

I managed to ski most of a Birkie during the weekend. It took me 3 days to get it done though. Hopefully I'll be able to ski the entire 56 km Birkie all in one swoop in three weeks.

The weather continued nice on Sunday but Monday saw temps down near 0 F. Still, that's not too bad. I had waxed the glide areas of my skis with a mix of Toko Blue and Red and glide was great. For grip I used Swix VR 45 on Saturday and Sunday but changed to the harder VR40 for the colder snow Monday morning.

Most trails were freshly groomed on Monday. Since it was a Monday ski traffic was minimal. I skied about 15 km and only encountered two other skiers near the trailhead. During most of my ski I was the first one to make tracks on the trail.

With the warm weather at home now I haven't skied since leaving West Yellowstone on Monday. I participated in spinning classes every day to keep some level of fitness. Coming home from spinning on Tuesday I was treated to this sunset. The sky was ablaze with color.

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Another Lesson in Snow History
Posted January 21, 2016

On December 5th I posted Wax for the Snow Temp and Not the Air! In that post I briefly mentioned that it is important to consider the recent history of the snow when selecting the best grip wax. Well, last Saturday at Izaak Walton Inn I experienced how important snow history might be.

I arrived at the Inn to find several inches of fresh powder. The trails had been groomed that morning. The air temperature was in the upper 20s. Normally that would make the selection of a grip wax pretty easy. Swix VR40 with maybe a little VR45 should be the ticket.

Fortunately I had received a trail update from Brenda Winkler from the day before. She was skiing at the Inn in preparation for the Women's Skiing Weekend event that she was leading. Her update told me the temp was around 40 and the trail base was so soft her poles were sinking in the snow two feet to the ground. The colder temperatures and new snow of Friday night fell on top of that warm wet snow. The base had firmed up and the new snow made things look real nice…

But that warm wet snow had a big impact on the fresh snow on top. Instead of being cold and dry the new snow was warmer and it absorbed moisture from the snow underneath. The snow temperature was 32. The wax choice was now quite a bit more difficult.

I can't offer any suggestions for how I might have waxed for those conditions because last fall LaNora of Eagle River Nordic picked out some new Fischer RCS Crown skis for me. These skis have a patterned kick zone to provide grip. I put Swix F4 liquid wax on the grip zone to prevent any snow buildup and went skiing. I skied 20 km on the trails without having to bother with tricky wax conditions. It was a delightful ski.

There are many places and times where snow conditions result in tricky or variable wax conditions. If you regularly experience these conditions consider adding a pair of now wax skis to your quiver. Just make sure they fit well. No wax skis that are too soft will be very slow, too stiff and you'll get no grip. Thanks to LaNora I got the best ski possible and had another fun day on the snow.

You can see from the photos how beautiful it was!

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Sophie Caldwell and Jessie Diggins have World Cup Wins at the Tour De Ski
Posted January 14, 2016

Jessie Diggins from Afton, Minnesota became the second American to win at the Tour de Ski last week. Diggins skied to an historic victory in the women's 5k freestyle individual start, just three days after Sophie Caldwell of Peru, Vermont claimed a win in a classic sprint. It was the first time USA has won two stages in the Tour. The complete story of each race and some video clips are at the links below.

Diggins Wins First Individual World Cup!
Big Tour Win for Caldwell!

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Variety is the Spice of Skiing
Posted January 14, 2016

I think we all have our favorite ski areas. Some ski areas are large enough to provide a wide variety of trail types. But to really enjoy winter I think it's best to widen the experience even further. This past New Years trip is a good example.

Last week I showed the fun Jen and Ron had trying biathlon. On another part of that long weekend we skied the Riverside trail. This trail is groomed down to the Madison River. Beyond that it's a skied in ski and snowshoe trail. The scenery there is spectacular. You might even encounter swans on the river or bison serching for food. We saw neither of these but we did get a good look at a bald eagle cruising along the river.

It was a casual afternoon spent in beautiful country bathed in sunshine. The snow was soft and pwdery. What more could you ask for?.

We spent the morning of our last day snowshoeing and skiing up Fawn Creek in Yellowstone National Park. The trail risies gradually through forest. There are occassioanl openings and nice views of the countryside. Jen, Ron and Nancy snowsoed but I used my wider and shorter backcountry skis on the trail.

The week before heading down to West Yellowstone the whole crew spent part of an afternoon skiing and snowshoeing up and old logging road along Green Gulch west of my home near Choteau, Montana. The snow was a little thin there but the scenery made up for it.

Finally here's two views of the scenery along the Middlefork of the Flathead River in the Flathead National forest of Montana. Izaak Walton Inn grooms a casual fairly level ski trail through the woods along the river so the skiing is easy.

I urge every skier to try new and different locations. And don't forget to put some variety into your ski technique. Groomed trails, backcountry, skiing the deep and steep, downhill skiing and even snowshoeing all require expanding your abilities while providing more fun.

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Ever Try Biathlon?
Posted January 7, 2016

Jen, Ron, Nancy and I spent New Years weekend in West Yellowstone, Montana. We skied the Rendezvous trails, skied down the River trail to the Madison River in Yellowstone National Park and skied and snowshoed up the Fawn Pass trail also in Yellowsotne.

The highlight of the weekend for Jen and Ron was a chance to try biathlon at the shooting range on the Rendezvous trails.

This is an annual event that gives anyone who would like a chance to learn about biathlon. The sport of biathlon stems from the days when Nordic soldiers traveled and fought on skis. Skiing elevates the heart rate while shooting a rifle requires calm nerves and a steady hand. The goal is to ski fast but not so fast that you can't hit the targets when shooting.

Jen is in the prone position on the shooting range. An instructor taught her how to handle the 22 rifle safely, how to aim and shoot at the tiny targets which seem far away in the above photo.

A little closer look at the shooting position is below. In an actual biathlon competition, participants would ski some distance while carrying their rifle. After skiing a loop they would approach the shooting range, remove their ski poles and assume one of several shooting positions, all while still wearing skis. The object is to hit the 5 targets with 5 shots.

A closer look at the targets make them seem quite large. Jen had just completed 5 out of 5 hits on lane 9. Pretty good I'd say!

The next photo of Ron on lane 10 gives a better perspective on how far away the targets are and how small too!

Below is a short video of Jen shooting on her first attempt. She hit 4 out of 5. See if you can pick out which one she missed.

During a competition, the skier is assessed a penalty for every miss. They either have time added to their total or they have to ski a penalty lap. It pays big dividends to ski well, aim carefully and hit every target.

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