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First Birkie-1979
Birkie Story Index
Ralph's Bio
My First Time Skiing
Montana Ski Report
The Archives
A listing of posts
from previous seasons.

Posts from the
2016/17 Season:

January 2017
Wax Pyramid
Happy New Year from West Yellowstone

December 2016
Tracks on the Middlefork Trail
Be Careful What You Wish For
20Km on My Birthday
Views from the PSIA XC Academy

November 2016
My First Ski of the Season
Starting the Big Countdown
Preparing for Winter
Welcome to Year 13! Let's Go!

If you haven't seen these,
check them out:
My First Cross Country Ski Trip
or It's as Easy as Walking!

Thirty-seven Birkies

Certified Instructor

ERNie of
Eagle River Nordic

This site dedicated to
Bert Kleerup,
one heck of a great guy
and my friend!
Welcome to my Cross Country Ski Blog
(aka Ralph's Nordic Web).
History, Instruction, News, Wax, Skating, Classic, Racing, Backcountry
with a little bias toward the Big Sky Country of Montana

Welcome to the 13th Year of
Ralph's Blog!

Last Updated: Tuesday January 3, 2017

Montana Ski Report
Latest report is Thursday January 12, 2017
Winter has taken over Montana!

Left: Early December at the Rendezvous Ski Trails
in West Yellowstone, Montana.

Build a Wax Pyramid for Great Grip!
Posted January 12, 2017

Waxing a classic ski for good grip is not all that difficult. This is especially true in colder conditions. Many skiers rub on a thin layer of wax, cork that in, then go ski. Depending on snow conditions that thin layer of wax may wear off quickly or, because it's too thin, not provide enough grip. One solution is to apply a thicker layer of wax. The thicker layer may, especially if it is not corked smooth, may provide less grip or result in snow sticking to the wax. Here's a good tip to get the best grip from a hard wax job.

I call it the Wax Pyramid.

I prepare the glide zones of my ski by ironing in a good hard glide wax. I prefer Toko glide waxes. They come in four colors: Yellow, Black, Red and Blue. These can be mixed right on the ski base to provide optimal glide. Once my skis are glide waxed, scaped and brushed, I apply the grip wax for the snow conditions. For grip in colder conditions I use the Swix VR hard waxes. When the snow gets warm and approaches 32 F I switch to a no-wax or skin ski. Most of the winter, though, a hard waxed ski will work best.

After selecting the wax to use, I crayon in the wax over the full length of the wax pocket. Then cork it in so it is nice and smooth. No lumps or glumps please! Also, when corking the hard wax it is best to cork from the ends of the wax pocket toward the center. This helps build the pyramid.

I apply a second layer that covers the center two-thirds of the wax pocket. Again cork from the ends of the wax layer toward the center. The third layer is shorter yet and covers only the center one-third of the wax pocket. Cork from the end toward the center. The resulting wax application is thickest where the ski rides highest off the snow yet thins where the ski might be gliding on the snow most of the time. The "Wax Pyramid" provides great grip and the best possible glide.

When the snow is especially abrasive or when I plan on a longer ski session I might apply two layers of hard wax in each zone. The key is to keep each layer thin and smooth. Applying more thin layers is always better than fewer thick layers of hard wax. The complete wax application should not take more than a few minutes and is best done on a warm ski indoors. Be sure to carry a wax or two and a cork in your pocket while skiing just in case you need more grip.

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Happy New Year
from West Yellowstone, Montana!

Posted January 3, 2017

The Rendezvous Trails grooming report looked great and the weather forecast was good. So Nancy, Jen, Ron and I headed down to West Yellowstone to celebrate the New Year. This has become somewhat of a tradition now as this was the third year in a row for an Eat, Sleep and Ski New Year in West Yellowstone.

Check out the snow on the roof of the trailhead building and archway to the trails. There's a lot more snow there now than when I was in West just a few short weeks ago.

Plenty of new snow fell during our trip as well. The trails were well groomed but new snow continued to cover up the tracks.

Fortunately the new snow was very fluffy, aka Montana Powder, so skiing in the powder was a joy.

I did mention "Eat, Sleep and Ski!" We pretty much did just that. Peeking from behind the sign is my New Years Eve dinner entree at the Madison Crossing Lounge. It was a delicious bison filet (medium rare) along with a crab cake topped with a mushroom sauce and served with mashed potatoes and asparagus. Very tasty! The chocolate mousse for desert was pretty special too.

I classic skied each day. Ron and Jen did some skating as well. I worked hard to keep up with Ron and caught this view on part of the Windy Ridge trail.

We got plenty of new powder during our three days skiing. Fortunately the sun manged to pop out now and then to add some drama to the skies.

Here's a video taken near the junction of the Volunteer Trail with the Rendezvous Trail. Turn the volume all the way up! The falling powder hushed all sounds from the woods. If the video doesn't start right away it might need a little time to load.

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Wishing Everyone a Merry Christmas
and Happy Holidays!

Posted December 26, 2016

The Holiday Season is a busy time. Family activities and tasks to complete take up a lot of time. This year was no different. Instead of driving to a ski area and spending half the day behind the wheel I snuck away to the National Forest in my backyard for an afternoon of backcountry skiing. The spur road to the Middlefork Teton trailhead is not plowed in winter and that added some distance to my ski. Didn't matter though because the narrow road had deep snow. There were no ski, snowshoe or other tracks from humans at the trailhead. The familiar sign there remminded me of numerous warm season backpack trips in the wilderness. Now all was quietly burried under a blanket of snow.

Tracks on the Middlefork Trail

The Middlefork Teton trail provides views of Wind Mountain. I've made the climb of the pointy peak many times. The afternoon sun illuminated the summit. Wind the light winds of this day I thought it might be a pleasant climb. Instead I turned and began skiing up the trail.

Before long I encountered some tracks. The three toed close set tracks were easy to identify. These were grouse tracks. Most likely roughed grouse because the tracks were near a grove of aspen trees. Rough grouse like that kind of habitat and nibble on the aspen buds for food.

The second set of tracks had recent snow drifted into them and were harder to identify. I first thought they were moose tracks. I was prooved wrong when I reached the back of the campground. There is a wire fence there and the animal easiy stepped over the bottom wire and under the middle wire. A moose would not do that. So I began to investigate more. Following the tracks up the trail I looked in each one to see if there were any more details that might help identify what made them. Since most were partially filled with drifted snow details were hard to come by. But in one spot I noticed what looked like a paw print with rounded toes. That could mean wolf or cat. There were no claw marks so I eventually decided these were cat tracks. The only cats in this area with feet that big are mountain lions. I continued to follow the tracks to see what the lion was up to. Eventually the tracks veered off down a steep slope toward the creek.

Once the track mystery was solved to my satisfaction I skied along the trail west until I reached a spot with a good view up the valley. It was getting late in the afternoon so after enjoying the view and drinking some water I turned back. I wasn't prepared to spend the night and it was best to get back to the car before dark especially with me sharing the trail with a mountain lion.

Cross country skiing offers many adventures. That's why I enjoy it so much.

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