Monday, March 24, 2014

Granulated grind

March sun combined with resurgent polar temperatures create transient snow conditions that drive classical skiers insane. So much for the idea of using classic skiing to build my fitness base. These are skating conditions until the definitive warmup makes either klister or a non-wax grip pattern work consistently.

Because the temperature has been dropping sharply at night, any areas that thawed because of the strong sun or an overall daytime high that went above freezing turn into chopped chunks, cobblestones and curbs. Don't stay out too late, no matter how good things seem during prime time. "Fast" is fun, but sliding out of control on a bumpy, icy chute will be more of a workout for your whitened knuckles than any other part of your physique.

After some sort of brush with a nor'easter Tuesday into Wednesday the temperatures appear to be on the rise. Could we at last have reached the mooshier phase of spring skiing and the real onset of cycling? It has to happen eventually. Even in the Year of No Summer (1816) the weather during the absent summer was more like a particularly nasty April than an endless winter. And the factors that led to that are not repeated now.  The June blizzard of 1816 would have presented tricky waxing conditions in spite of wintry snow depths. The temperature rose after the storm, it just didn't stay up in good agricultural range.

I'll take my June skiing in a high-elevation ravine, thank you, and enjoy real summer conditions down where we all actually live.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Hunting the Wild Cream Cheese

The Year of the Polar Vortex seems to be grinding glacially toward the inevitable end of winter's reign. March has come in like January. No telling how it will go out. Perhaps like a "normal" March comes in. We're still looking at daytime highs only in the 20s, with nighttime lows in the single digits below or above zero until the end of the week. At that point the forecast shows the days warming to the mid 30s. If this signals a change to genuinely warming temperatures, cream cheese season may be upon us.

When the snow base is beyond firmly frozen, more like sedimentary rock than anything that wafted down from a cloud as mere water, the thawing process softens the top layer each day as the sun gets strong enough, to create a layer like the food cited in the title. It takes an edge and guides a turn with savory sweetness. Each hard-frozen night saves the leftovers for another serving the following day.

In the Great Ungroomed, this process is all that makes skiing possible when the surface would otherwise be boiler plate. On groomed trails the morning granules provided by the tiller give way to this accommodating surface just in time to let the later skiers enjoy a treat after the early chirpers have shoved the granular surface aside in their haste to grab something more like the winter now slipping away.

Cream cheese also allows for ski skating on terrain that was never groomed for it. The firm support under the soft top layer lets skinny racing skis venture well off the trail where terrain and forest cover permit it. Access still depends on a very smooth snow surface, especially if you find yourself shooting some tighter gaps on purpose or accidentally.

At the end of the day, be off the snow before the temperature drops below freezing again! The cream cheese reverts to ice until the sun returns.

Daylight Relocating Time starts this Sunday, moving cream cheese hours later in the day. If you use trails that are regularly groomed this may actually add a full hour (or more) to the skiing day. If you have to wait for softening it merely shifts the usable period. But if you get stuck having to go out after work this will give you a bigger window. And if the temperature returns to mid-winter range you always have your trusty groomers to granulate it for you each morning.