Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Holiday Week

Strangely enough, cover has survived on the trails at certain Nordic areas. Surprisingly large numbers of tourists come to frolic and gambol on it. I have a theory about this.

Despite the shaky economy and poor prognosis, people want to believe things will get better. Since ski conditions are good, they're taking this Happy New Year spirit into the winter holidays. Things may go south after the inauguration. People may expect too much too soon and be disappointed. But for now, they're willing to play.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Winter Officially Begins

We live in what's called the "temperate zone" because it sounds nicer than "fickle bitch zone."

After three snowstorms in a week, bringing about two feet of instant coverage, the temperature is supposed to rebound from its current low of 2 degrees to 38 on Christmas Eve, with yet another snowstorm turning mostly to rain. That means dashing through the slush with a roaring snow blower, hurling glop off the driveway before it can set up into horrible ridged concrete with the next temperature plunge.

On the ski trails, the seesaw temperatures will turn the surface from sticky to sloppy to raspy frosted glass and back to sticky. Some form of precipitation could fall on four of the next five days and five of the next six. Even days listing snow show highs above 32, for that hellish watery brew that turns into something different with each skier that passes over it.

Thanks, Father Christmas. What unspeakable act were you performing with Mother Nature to produce this offspring?

Don't tell me.

On the plus side, we have a deep base, unless the next page of the extended forecast shows a jump to the 60s and a deluge. That's happened before.

It's a long way to March.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Conflicting Wisdoms

I was putting grip wax on my classical skis this morning when Peter the Great walked in.

"You're putting it on long," he said. "Real long," he added, as he looked again.

"It's for the new snow," I said. The big storm has begun, with up to 20 inches expected by the end overnight.

"You don't need to wax long for new snow," said Peter. "Just change your technique. If the snow is sticking and clumping, drive your foot forward to scrape it off on each stride."

"What about the unconsolidated snow shearing from itself?"

"Consolidate it yourself. Stomp harder on the track."

I'd learned about waxing long from Grand Master Thom at one of his clinics. I didn't make it up myself or get it from a random stranger. Waxing long has worked for me. But Peter's method sounds like it would work as well.

"I can't stand when people complain about their wax," Peter said. "Just ski through it. Try things."

Make it work.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Strange but true

It IS true

"I was hardly doing anything."

Gazing out the window at what I see so much

More joys of retail

Racers. You gotta love 'em.

The most popular trail

This happens too often

How about a quick squirt of Bactine on your third degree burns while you're at it?

This really hapened

Top-notch staff

Big Time Nordic hires only the best, if they can catch them down on their luck.

Some of our clientele

It's a nightmare!

What's the wax of the day? What?! Noooooo!

Snowshoeing is a sport

Snowshoeing used to be something winter hikers and mountaineers did when they had to. Now it's a sport, done on groomed trails. Those two deep grooves the machine leaves in the snow are like the perfect line to follow so you don't get lost. Why is that skier all pissed off? Sorehead!

The sign says...

We don't need no stinkin' pulk!

Nothing says parental love like pulling your kid in a cheap, department store sled while you stab at his face with carbide pole tips.

We look out for each other here

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Another Slither

Went out for my once-weekly exercise today. The snow cover is thin. The surface is crusty or loose granular.

My skis had great grip in the glide phase and were nice and slippery in the kick. Still, it was good to get out and abuse myself. Eventually I'll get into a regular routine again.

For almost an hour I could forget about everything but getting myself out and back again along the trail.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Annual Reminder

That "free hot wax" on a brand new ski is like giving a single sip of water to someone crawling across the desert.

That quick hot wax for $5 or $10 at Happy Valley Family Ski Resort is like a quick squirt of Bactine on a third degree burn.

In a few strides you'll be dragging that raw surface across the unkind field of ice crystals as if you'd never wasted your money on the token efforts of the Helpful Wax Grunt.

Helpful Wax Grunts pride themselves on how quickly they can get wax onto, and off of, your skis. Their whole economy is based on quick turns. They thrive on YOUR helplessness and waxing phobia.

"Wax my skis once and I glide well for (less than) a day. Teach me to wax and I glide well for a lifetime."

Be a partner with your skis, or at least a good master to them. Feed and water them regularly.

Extruded touring bases with waxless grip patterns often don't benefit a great deal from hot waxing anyway. High density sintered bases used on touring skis don't absorb a lot of wax. Extruded bases with molded grip patterns don't absorb any. If you have something like a Fischer Superlight you might hot wax the glide zones, but all no-wax skis need a smear-on anti-icing compound in the grip zone. High-density and extruded bases can use it on the whole base.

Lower density sintered bases, which you get as you move up in quality on performance skis for skate or classic technique, absorb wax and need it for their health. A token shot once or twice a year won't do it. If you ski a lot, count on freshening up the glide once a week or more.

If you ski hard but have to take days or weeks off, store your skis with wax on them. Iron on a layer of something in the medium temperature range and don't scrape it off. When you get to ski, you can scrape the wax and brush it out. It may be right for the conditions. If not, do a coat of the right wax.

Glide waxing is simple. The process takes a few minutes, but you don't have to tear your hair and twist your brain about it the way you sometimes do with grip wax for classical. Relax and enjoy it. Your skis will thank you and you'll have more fun using them.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Don't let your skis get nasty

A woman just brought me her skis. She claims to love them. You wouldn't know it by the bases. She feared damaging them with a wax iron, so she didn't wax them at all.

They'd been waxed at some point. Whoever had done it had left the usual slob's gobs at the tip. One subtle touch by meticulous waxers is to wax that area for protection and a nicer look, but that includes scraping and brushing it.

The running surfaces of the skis were scraped and oxidized. Oxidized bases look white. Those areas need to be smoothed with a product like Swix Fibertex, a mild abrasive pad that cuts the rough surface away. Otherwise, those areas will lose wax more quickly. In abrasive snow conditions, you lose wax too quickly as it is.

This skier plans to get a quick waxing lesson when the season really starts. For now, I'm doing a restoration wax job with multiple saturating coats to get her started.

Wax early and often, people. It's easy and it protects your investment. If you plan to pay a lackey to do it, prepare to pay what it costs to keep a servant. You'll do better to learn and equip yourself so you can do it at your convenience. It's simple and fun...when it's your own skis.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Skiing, of all things

On Sunday, George and I took tag-outs. He checked out the Homologated Race Course up around the Eagle and Wave neighborhood. I went to the South Hall.

I just love the feelings of sickness, age and decrepitude that have come to mark my early-season forays for the past couple of years. I quit being relentlessly athletic about three years ago. No more obsessive weight training and dutiful use of indoor equipment to bridge the gaps between cycling and skiing, and to maintain upper body muscle in cycling season if I didn't get to paddle a kayak enough to keep it that way. I have more time for creative efforts, but the neglect has caught up with my body.

I mention this just to set the scene.

My car dealt handily with the snowy drive up Green Hill Road. Not so smoothly did I trudge onto the groomed wet snow on some waxless semi-compact skis with my old touring boots.

I switched to Race Classic Salomon boots several years ago as I took up higher-performance skis. My touring boots felt too stiff and heavy on skinny, responsive skis. I started to notice things about boot and binding flexibility that had not mattered to me before. This will happen to anyone who skis long enough. You may not be able to identify what you're feeling, but you'll know there's something, and it will affect your ability to get the most out of your skis.

On Sunday I only noticed that my old boots chewed the crap out of the back of one heel. I needed a newer sock to help me fill the volume around my somewhat narrow heel. Even though I used The Wonderknot, my heel could still shift a little.

I also nursed the secret hope that my sore shoulder would decide it had only been waiting for the beneficial motion of poling to heal itself. I noticed no immediate benefit, but there seems to be some residual effect today. Maybe it will help. The pain seems to stem from muscle tension. Nothing is more relaxing than a good Nordic ski workout.

I need that relaxation in the strange little world I inhabit in the winter.