Sunday, March 25, 2007

This Play is All Work!

On a farewell cruise out the Ellis River Trail today, I skated, because any option would be slow, and skate skis would probably be the easiest to clean afterwards.

At the end of any winter, all the dirt that has landed on the snow seems to float to the surface as the snowpack shrinks. Plant matter, sediment, springtails (also known as snow fleas) and other skiers' wax residue all add to the layer of scum atop the mush.

It was a beautiful day. Morning fog after last night's light snowfall gave way to sunshine and partly cloudy skies. I got out a little too late for the best of the skiing. The first shift got to enjoy the transition from fairly solid track to squishy slush. I found very little trail with a solid bottom to it. But I like the artful dance in search of the firmest of the soft, and the strongest push against a weak platform. I seemed to do a good job, overtaking many other skiers.

As fun as it was, it was continuous work. Sections I'd flown through on Wednesday in a V2 Alternate or even without poles at all I now trudged through in a resolute V1. But I needed the workout. I'm surprised I'm in any kind of shape after my off and on exercise schedule.

Now bike commuting begins. Weather always interferes with the first few days or weeks, but I am ridiculously persistent when there's no money in something.

The shop in Jackson is now closed. We still have to make it disappear so the golf shop that occupies the space most of the year can move in, but the customer service part is over.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Thumb It!

The best klister spreader is the human thumb.

Klisterphobes want to hold the beast at such a distance that they refuse to lay a finger on it. Consequently they deal with far more of a mess than those of us who pet the animal and gain its service gently.

The klister whisperer?

Fact: klister on your skin will be gone within the hour. Klister on a scraper will be there next year. Your skin's natural moisture repels the wax. Your tools do not have this natural remedy. You have to use lots of toxic solvent to achieve even partial cleaning.

Real klisterphobes just use waxless skis. But by doing that they rob themselves of some really excellent skiing. Klister works in certain mid-winter conditions in which a mechanical grip base performs poorly. And in clean slush, klister can give better grip and glide. As always with wax, you can adjust the length to balance grip and glide.

Remember to use the toilet paper method to remove klister after skiing. Simply pat a strip of common, household TP onto the klistered area. You may heat this with a hair dryer or heat gun if you like. Using an ordinary plastic scraper, scrape the toilet paper and klister off the base in one smooth pass. Use base cleaner and a toothbrush to clean off the last residue from base and sidewalls with minimal use of toxic, skin-drying solvent.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Oh, for a helmet cam

After work yesterday I took a fast skate out the Ellis River Trail for an hour of exercise before the drive home. The chill had started to settle, so the track grew harder and faster as I went.

When I can only get out for a short time and can't keep a consistent training schedule, I prefer to put in a steady effort on flat or rolling terrain rather than claw heroically up to a high point and jet down from it again.

It turns into a dance. With the right musical background and very little editing, a video would have conveyed the rhythm and flow quite well to a viewer. Words just don't do it justice.

Maybe I'll have to invest.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Reset Winter

Wednesday the temperature hit 70. The snow turned to slop. You could almost hear it shrivel as brown patches grew like runaway melanoma.

This morning we got up to about 16 inches of snow, topped with sleet and some freezing mist.

Automatically, Jackson will have no trouble operating through next weekend. The director plans to run through the end of the month. That remains to be seen. We could get hosed with hot water and set back to mud before then. But what's on the ground could probably withstand a few napalm runs before next Sunday. And none are in the forecast. Days will go above freezing, but nights drop back below.

South of J-town, the highs sound more hostile to the snowpack.

Today I had a decent time using Start Terva Blue for kick wax. The mist had glazed the surface so I did not have the same loose snow the early skiers had, but it all worked for the most part. The Terva was sticky enough to get a little grip on the glazed areas, but not so sticky that it picked up snow on the soft sections.

Pull the puppy, kick the ball. Pull the puppy, kick the ball.

I did feel like stabbing the bonehead who had stomped postholes with his hiking boots, walking his dog right down the middle of the ski trail, but he'd already done his damage and disappeared by the time I came through. All I could do was look at his handiwork and seethe. Kick the bonehead. Stab the bonehead. Kick the bonehead. Stab the bonehead.

Pet the puppy. It's not his fault.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

March Madness

Yesterday felt like May. February returns tomorrow. Some forecasts call for a foot of snow, while the National Weather Service stubbornly refuses to commit to more than half an inch on either Friday or Saturday.

A foot of snow on top of applesauce won't amount to a vast improvement or prolong the season more than a couple of days. Spring arrives next Tuesday, so the sun gets twelve hours or more to broil the snow from then on. But cloudy, cold weather will stretch things out.

Yesterday, the slush and puddles kept me from going very far after work. The ideal time would have been around 9 or 10 a.m.

The snow stayed slushy overnight as rain showers degraded it further. Trudging in it will be as good at home as it would be here.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

No-wax Expectations

To wax or not to wax? New ski purchasers ask this question all the time.

I'm spoiled, working beside a top-quality trail network all winter. I hate to use no-wax skis on groomed trails when I know how much better the skiing will be with appropriate wax. But sometimes the skating is bad when the waxing for classic is also bad.

When both skating and classic waxing are tough, head for the great ungroomed with your mechanical-grip skis. Smear them liberally with Swix F4 or a similar product, and go to places where you wouldn't expect to stride hard and glide long anyway.

Spring brings the widest range of variable conditions. It also sees the deepest snow cover. In recent years that has not been very deep, but it's as good as we're going to get. So grab the wide boards, whatever that means to your particular ski quiver, and scale back your top speed. It's time to explore, and to visit those private preserves of fun terrain.

Winter Over-compensates

Five degrees outside the lodge. The wind has picked up, whipping the snow squalls across the tundra --er -- golf course.

This morning's low at home was about 4 degrees, compared to 15.7 below zero yesterday. By tomorrow morning it's supposed to dip near 20-below at my house, and perhaps reach minus-30 in the north country.

Not looking forward to anything in particular, I can't get excited about physical conditioning. Incarcerated as the sole proprietor of the retail shop, I have no chance to duck out for a quick lap. By quitting time, the temperature should be headed down faster than a scared submarine. Beside that, I have another night meeting at the town offices before I even get home.

Maybe Friday. The temperature is supposed to bounce back up to the 20s by then, which should feel like tee shirt weather. Then real tee shirt weather moves in for next week, which could bring this whole ski thing to a sloppy, wet halt.

Weather like this drives the lightweights out of New England. Once they realize it isn't all foliage, maple syrup and fun season they usually can't head for Myrtle Beach or Arizona fast enough.

I used to revel in the harshness. Then I let myself get too busy to get out there and grapple with it. The harshness wins when all you can do is throw up walls against it and put on heavier sweaters as your metabolism slows. You have to get up and spar with it. And eat and sleep and all the other details of life.

Maybe I'll drag myself through a token weight workout tonight, just to grasp a pinch of what I used to hold in my fists with an untiring grip.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Pull the Puppy, don't Stab the Puppy

Peter the Great shared a few more techniques from his lessons when I told him how much I'd benefited from his guidance.

"To get them to keep their hands low as they bring the pole forward, I tell them to imagine pulling a reluctant little puppy on a leash. I want them to think more about bringing their hand forward than about jabbing down and pushing back with the pole.

"Pull the puppy, don't stab the puppy, I tell them. Pull the puppy, don't stab the puppy. Pull the puppy, don't stab the puppy," he repeated, as he demonstrated the stride and arm swing in the lodge.

I can just imagine him in the twilight of his life, rocking in a chair in the corner of a room, a blanket around his shoulders, while perplexed attendants wonder why he keeps muttering, "pull the puppy. Don't stab the puppy. PULL the puppy. Don't STAB the puppy. Pull the puppy..."