Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Yo-yoing on a Short String

Snowshoe scouting the terrain park

Mine! All mine! Sort of...

From an earlier year, this shot shows some of the pitch and variety

How are back-country skiers different from passengers on a cruise ship?

The skiers want to get the runs.

In the small, wooded mountains neglected by hard-core gravity addicts, glades and small clearings offer line after line of short runs, and longer courses of slalom between the trees.

Suit the tool to the task. A single-cambered ski with climbing skins works in a place offering long runs in return for the work of climbing. But an area with lots of short runs will have you putting the skins on and taking them off over and over.

Spring snow often means thawed hardpack. Around here, an exploring skier may move through several seasons in the course of a day. Not much will grip the frozen hardpack, but as it softens a patterned non-wax grip zone will provide traction without requiring sticky klister or the process of gluing or buckling skins and removing them again. The waxless ski goes slower down the hill, but allows you to climb and drop at will. Climb angle on some waxless skis, like many models from Trak and Karhu, rivaled skins in some conditions.

Climb strategically. I like to climb through thicker tree and shrub cover that would be hard to descend through so I don't mess up the snow for turning in the more open areas. However, use the climb to scout lines for descent if you can.

It's funny how your perspective changes as soon as you put on skis. Walking on snowshoes through the terrain park in the logged areas behind the house it all looked wide open. When I went back on skis I noticed all the little sapling whips sticking up through the snow. Plenty of open lines remained, as well as strips and patches of the old beech glade that had not been cut, but some of those sunbaked open slopes looked a lot trickier on 200 cm touring skis.

I still like to use traditional skis for a lot of exploring so I don't lose the techniques needed to maneuver them in tight and steep areas. Someone with less regard for personal safety, on sportier skis, could certainly blast through there faster, but if we're going somewhere and the terrain levels out, who's going to be plodding and bitching? Not the guy on the long, skinny skis.

While I was out yesterday, a small, winged insect flew up my nose. This is the bug equivalent of first tracks.

"Yay! First nasal membrane of '08!"

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