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Tim's Blog About Skiing Stuff

This blog is where I occasionally post entries about Alaskan backcountry cross country skiing news, issues, ideas, gear reviews and other random stuff that doesn't fit the format of my yearly trip report web pages.


Mid November 2014: Post Meltdown, Icy Trail Exercise Options

A few weeks ago we were living the dream.  A mid-fall snowstorm.  Trails in Anchorage came to life.  We were skiing every day.  It was rock skiing, but so what.  It was skiing, and we are skiers.

Then the meltdown hit.  Rock gardens blossomed on the ski trails.  Game over.  Time to return to the exercise rituals of the common folk (those that donít dream about xc skiing every day).  ;-)

So when your local trails turn to ice, what is the best way to get a workout in?  By ďbest wayĒ, I mean an outdoor cardio activity that elevates heart-rate, challenges your strength and increases your fitness.

Primary icy trail exercise options are running, hiking and biking.  Plus, letís throw Nordic blading into the mix.  The best option for you will of course be driven by your preferences and interests.  But here are some of my thoughts about each of these options.

Running and hiking on icy trails is an easy option.  Get a pair of Ice Bug spiked-sole shoes, or stud your own shoes, and you are ready to go.  Forget about any traction device that slips or straps onto your shoes.  They might be good for walking, but not for running.  When running at night they always seem to fall off when you donít realize it.  And then whey you really need them you are surprised they are gone.

Studded running shoes are great for flats, uphills and gentle downhills.  But on steep ice, like which can form on ski trail hills, they arenít that good.  They are OK, but you often have to gingerly go down hills so you donít slip.  And in doing this you spend more time than you may want with your heart rate going low-range.  Hiking on icy trails with studded shoes is the same as running.  Going up - no problem.  Coming down - more potential for problems.

Nordic blading mimics ski skate motions well.  This activity can be a great alternative ski workout when you can't ski.  Nordic blading is great exercise when the skating is good.  When the skating is not good, itís entertainment more than it is training.  To really benefit from training on Nordic blades, you need to be able to skate with abandon and push yourself.  But if you have to worry about thin ice, cracks in the ice or frozen debris on the ice surface Ö you spend too much time navigating and too little time focusing on technique and training level.

Finally we have biking on iced-over trails.  This is a favorite of mine.  During post-meldown, ice periods I do a lot of this.  The key ingredient for this activity is a pair of studded tires for your mountain bike.  Iíve got a pair of Nokia studded tires that work amazingly well.  I also wear my Ice Bugs in case I have to get off the bike.  And I use platform pedals with spikes on them to keep my feet from slipping off (and so I can use my Ice Bugs that don't have pedal cleats).  You donít need, and probably donít want, a fatbike to ride ice trails.

With ice biking, your heart rate can get much higher on hills than with running, as you often have to push hard or you will tip over or spin out.   And you get the downhills over much faster than running, so you are onto the next hill before you know it.  You will find that the bumpy single track trails of the summer smooth out a lot after snow melts into the depressions and refreezes.  The end result are some smooth, fast and fun trails for ice biking.

All three of these activities are good options for post meltdown icy conditions.  But alas, none of these options beat skiing.
 

Studded tires, studded shoes, studded (non-slip) pedals.  Ready to bike the ice.

 

Mid November 2014: A Surprise Link To My Skiing Past

Recently I did some "weeding" of my wife's and my ski rack.  And hidden in a far corner I found a pair of 1977 Lovett racing skis (see picture above).  Surprisingly, these skis were still un-mounted and in the plastic sleeves they came in.  Near-mint condition, 38 year old skis!

Finding these skis triggered a few memories.  Though I donít talk about it much on this web site, because this is a backcountry cross country skiing web site, a long time ago I used to xc ski race a lot.  When I was 19, I was on the United States Ski Team and was sponsored for a season by Lovett skis.  I used Lovett skis on the domestic racing circuit, and for international racing at the Jr. World Championships in Switzerland and at World Cup races in Scandinavia.

Lovett skis were made back then by the Lovett family in Boulder, Colorado.  John Lovett founded the ski company and a number of USST athletes raced on Lovett skis in the mid 70ís, until John sold the company in 1978.  Lovett was likely the first US producer of fiberglass composite xc racing skis.  Hexcel made fiberglass and honeycomb xc racing skis for a year or two near when Lovett started up.  But I'm not sure which company was actually the first US composite Nordic racing ski producer.  K2 made xc racing skis later in the 70ís.  Since the early 80's, no one has made xc racing skis in the United States.

The bottom line about being sponsored by Lovett skis, was that it was a really cool experience.  You got to go to the ski factory and learn how to make skis, you got to be involved in how skis were designed, you met the guys that would be building your skis, and if you had an idea regarding ski design* Ė soon you would be skiing on that idea.  The skis were good, the support was good and heck, the first pair of skis I got from Lovett had serial number ďTK1Ē Ö so how can you not love a ski company that did stuff like that!

Knowing that this was a pair of unique skis I had unearthed, and a rarity because they had never been mounted, I posted a picture of them on the web.  More specifically, I posted a picture on a Facebook group that Stacey Moon of Anchorage started: the Vintage Nordic Skiing Gear Facebook group.  This is a fun group where folks, mostly old-timers like me, post pics of gear from the glory days along with comments.  The 70's and 80's were really interesting times in Nordic skiing history, as there were so many radical changes in ski equipment during that time.  Iíve learned a bunch of cool stuff from the members of this Facebook group.

After I posted the picture of my Lovett skis, Steve Soitsman from Homer posted that my skis showed the nice work related to ďhis neighbor Bill and my neighbor AndreĒ.  I was confused by this comment, so I asked him to explain.  Come to find out, the brother of John Lovett moved to Alaska.  Now Bill Lovett lives in Homer.  Bill worked at the Lovett ski factory back in the 70's.  And Andre Lovett, his son, now ski races at Alaska Pacific University in Anchorage.

I felt a little embarrassed for not knowing this.  I guess I havenít been paying very close attention to local ski racing the past dozen years (as you can probably tell from this web site).

I also thought to myself: ďWhat the heck am I doing with these skis?  These skis are Lovett family heirlooms.  The Lovetts should have these skis, not me.Ē

So, I met up with Andre Lovett and gave him my Lovett skis.  It only took about 15 seconds of talking to Andre before I realized he was a likable guy.  And that he was proud of his familyís ski making history.  Then I remembered, thatís about how long it took me to like the crew at the Lovett family ski factory back in the day.  And they too took great pride in the skis they built.

There are good skis and there are magical skis.  Magical skis are good skis that are made by special people.  Lovetts were magical skis.  And it was fun to have a surprise re-connection to the days I ski raced on these magical skis.

Me, Lovett racing skis and Andre Lovett

* I mentioned that Lovett ski was quick to try out new ideas.  Here is an example.  I had this idea of making a ski with a groove that came down to the start of the wax pocket and then stopped.  Then a stiff wax pocket under the foot would have no groove to increase the waxable surface by 20%.  The ski would then have three grooves from the back of the wax pocket to the tail of the ski.  The extra grooves would help with tracking and reduce surface tension.  I told the Lovett guys about this idea.  They said it sounded good and within 10 days I was racing on such skis (and they worked out well).  How many ski companies these days would listen to a 19 year old kid and make custom skis for him or her like Lovett did?  You are right ... none.  This is just one example of what was special about Lovett.
 

Mid November 2014: Ski Gear From Where You Wouldn't Expect It

When it comes time to buy skis, boots, bindings and poles, I never hesitate to go to Alaska Mountaineering and Hiking.  I don't like paying lots of money for ski gear.  But I realize there is not much in the way of cheap options for higher end ski gear.  I have no problem swiping my card for purchases from AMH, because owner Paul Denkewalter is a wonderful person that has supported xc skiing in Alaska for decades.

However, when it comes to skiing gear accessories, I like to look for products where you don't expect to find them.  The bottom line is price.  For example, I can't see spending 60 dollars for a pair of gloves made in China for 5 dollars.  The same Chinese factories make similar gloves for many other companies that mark up the price of the $5 gloves way less then Swix, Salomon, Fischer, etc.

In past blogs on this site (see below), I have posted where to find sports glasses (light safety glasses) and gloves that can be used for skiing ... at hardware stores in Anchorage, Alaska.  Here are some recent finds of stuff that can be used for skiing that come from non-skiing shops in Anchorage ...

Mechanix "Winter Armor" gloves.  Have been skiing with these gloves for three weeks now.  Really like them.  $21 at O'Reilly's Auto Parts on Northern Lights in Anchorage.  At Lowe's for $28.  "Duck Dynasty" fleece hats (w/ micro fleece liner).  On sale for $11 at Cabela's in Anchorage.  Super comfortable, great shape and fit.

Camo!? For Nordic skiing!?  Hell yeah!  It's about time!  Plus, I will get more respect while skiing snowmobile trails if I am sporting camo!

Anchorage xc ski racer and UAA professor Travis Rector made me aware of a new product called FiberFix.  It's duct tape on steroids ... "100 times stronger than duct tape".  To repair a broken ski pole I'd think this stuff would be good.  Catch is, you need to first dip it in warm water.  So it would be good for repairing a pole at home.  Less so if you were out on the trail.  You can buy FiberFix at Lowe's and Home Depot.

More on Gear

Recently I got a pair of SmartWool skiing socks.  They were OK and would be good for xc ski racing on days it wasnít super cold.  But they donít have anywhere near the cushioning of Thorlo Mountaineering socks, which I have been using for skiing for 25 years now.  Cushioning and warmth are positives for long backcountry trail skiing treks.  Thorlo was way ahead of the field when they first made these socks.  And, in my opinion, no one has caught up yet.  Their thick cushioning also means warmth.  Thickness is warmth.  Here is a place that has deals on Thorlo Mountaineering socks (50% off 2nd pair) AND doesnít charge extra to ship to Alaska - www.gobros.com.

 
Early November 2014: I Will Be Skiing With Jeff On My New Skis This Winter

I got a new pair of skis from AMH to replace my worn-out trail skiing boards.  The first thing I did to these skis when I got home was to put Jeff Dusenbury memorial stickers on them.

Jeff was one of those few people in the world that are genetically programmed to be nice.  Not a fake nice.  Not a nice just when you feel like you should be nice.  But so exuding of a real nice and a genuine decency that it was impossible not to like the guy. 

I really didn't know Jeff that well.  I first met him while mountain bike racing.  But for over ten years I would see him constantly on trails around Anchorage.  And every time we'd meet on a trail, he would always be quicker with a "Hi Tim!" than I would be with a "Hi Jeff!"  That was Jeff.  For me, and I'm sure for many others, the trails of Anchorage will not be the same now that Jeff is gone.

 
Late October 2014: Whoops

In the past I have posted how  to recycle ski wax, see this link.  I have suggested not doing this process inside to avoid fumes from the molten wax.  Instead, I suggested melting the wax scrapings outside.

Well, doing wax melting outside has its risks too.  The uneven heating of a Pyrex measuring cup on a gas grill can cause it to crack and explode.  I recently found this out (see picture above).  Luckily this happened to me when I only had a little bit of wax in the cup.  What a mess.  I had melted wax on this outdoor grill a couple of times before.  But this time there was definitely a surprise in store.  Now I understand how people burn houses down and die from fires that occur in meth labs!  ;-)

Seems like much safer than using a gas grill would be to use an electric hot plate.  And to use it outside.  A hotplate will heat the Pyrex cup less intensely and more evenly.  And the molten wax won't catch on fire, because there is no flame involved.

 

Update: I got a hotplate and finished recycling last year's wax scrapings, in a much safer manner ...

Using a hot plate outdoors, much safer. Tip: If you want a hotplate to melt fax faster, wrap a camp stove wind screen around the container of wax scrapings and put something, like a board, on top to trap the heat.
 
10 October 2014: The Alaska Lost Ski Areas Project - 10 Years Old On 10/10

 

October 10th marks the 10 year point for the Alaska Lost Ski Areas Project web site.  If you haven't visited ALSAP in a while, you can go to www.alsap.org, peruse the update logs and see what has been added since your last visit.

There are now 141 historical skiing sites identified on the ALSAP web site.  I know of 3 more (2 XC, 1 Alpine) that I will be adding when I get the time.

 

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