Tim's Blog About
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.
Stand-Up Paddleboarding - Good XC Skiing Workout?
Good For AK?
The short: Is paddling a stand-up
paddleboard a good xc skiing workout? Yes it is. If
you live in Alaska should you buy one? If you are
passionate about this sport and are willing to deal with cold
water then yes, go get one. If not, then use one when you
travel to places that have warmer water than Alaska. It
will likely be more fun.
The long: Stand-up paddleboarding is the rage these
days. People are doing it everywhere. It's an
easy sport to learn on flat water. And it's a good
workout. The main muscle groups that are utilized are the
same core and upper body muscles that you use in diagonal
striding. It's a good cross-over strength activity for
cross country skiers. When you get comfortable on a SUP
you can rock up on the balls of your feet and really attack the
paddling strokes. So it can resemble hard double-poling
(with one pole).
If you are an
Alaskan xc skier and haven't tried stand-up paddleboarding - you
should consider giving it a try. And in my opinion you
should give it a try someplace where the water is much warmer
than in Alaska. Paddleboarding was made for warm water,
and warm waves. Sure you can layer on neoprene or dry
suits and paddle cold Alaskan waters. But to me that would
be the equivalent of crust skiing in the rain. It's not
meant to be.
The thought of
having a SUP in Alaska has excited me in the past. But
then I remember the time I got a whitewater kayak because I
missed the kayaking I used to do in New England. But
whitewater kayaking in Alaska was miserable compared to the same
sport in warm water. So I sold the whitewater boat.
Seems to me that a stand-up paddleboard purchase would suffer
the same fate.
Then there is the
boredom factor. Safe places around Anchorage to
paddleboard are not plentiful. And as you can probably
tell from this web site - I'm the type that gets bored quickly from skiing at the
same place more than a time or two. So I'm sure paddling
at the same small lakes would get old pretty fast. What
would keep paddleboarding from getting boring at the same place
is waves. Playing with a board on waves is addictive and
the fun never seems to wane. Maybe a good place to paddle
with small waves would be Homer or Yakutat or Kodiak. But
I live in Anchorage.
So for now I'm not
going to be getting a paddleboard. They are cheap to rent
at places where the water is warm. Might as well save SUP'ing for visits to places where this sport is the most fun.
paddleboarding uses core and upper body muscle groups similar to
those used in xc skiing.
more fun when you don't have to worry about falling into 35
degree F water ... like in AK.
|Early Fall 2012:
Yep. Anchorage, Alaska has got wind for sure. I took
this picture recently and I think it makes a statement about the wind
that has been hammering and unraveling Anchorage. Four
windstorms in a row hit Anchorage during mid-September.
The first blow saw thousands of people lose power for up to 5
days. Usually high winds hit Anchorage after the ground
has frozen tree root systems into place and after wind-catching
foliage has dropped. But with trees being vulnerable this
time of year these unseasonably strong winds took down a lot of
trees, and many onto power lines. The highest gust at my
house was 98 mph. Unofficially a gust of 131 was measured
at Glen Alps.
Hmmm, it seems like I've seen this flag
|Late Summer 2012:
How Much Does It Cost To Produce XC Ski Gear?
If you buy your own
ski gear, you are aware of how
much skiing gear costs at the retail level. But how much
does it cost to make skiing equipment?
cost of producing skiing gear is not readily shared by ski
equipment manufacturers with the end customer. This is
understandable. Ski equipment companies are out to get as
much money as the market will bear. They don't exist to
give customers product at cost.
nowadays the production costs of ski gear is a bit more
transparent. Now you can get a good idea of how much it
costs to produce some ski gear. And of course, the
information that sheds light on these production costs can be
found on the web.
Yahoo! Finance article mentions that the Chinese e-commerce
web site alibaba will
likely have a higher total transactions value this coming year
than both amazon and ebay combined. Alibaba is an
e-commerce web site that allows large quantity transactions to
be executed with factories primarily in China.
The ski industry, like most sports industries, out-sources
production of many of it's branded products to China. Some
ski companies these days, like Swix for example, have
transitioned from manufacturing many of their own products to
becoming a "brand" instead, and sub-contracting much of their
product fabrication. Instead of setting up a plant to make
Swix velcro ski holders, it's much easier to contact a firm in
China via alibaba and place an order for a million "SWIX" ski
holders. Companies like the Huazheng Textile Company in
Guangdong, China can apparently churn out big orders of these
ski holders for about 20 cents a piece. And it seems like
they have done these orders for Swix in the past, see
this link. Pay 20 cents a ski holder, retail it
for $2.50 ($5 a pair) ... that's a 1250% mark-up per item.
There's bound to be good profits somewhere along the
distribution chain with that kind of mark-up.
Alibaba searches can unearth
lots of revelations on how much ski company "brands" pay to
obtain their products. Want to get into the roller ski
business? How about roller skis that are similar to Marwe
roller skis, but of course with your own brand name painted on
them? Well, just use alibaba to contact the
Yongkang Rattanlife folks in Zhejiang, China and they can
make you Marwe-like roller skis for $8 to $15 each, if you order
1000 of them. Then take the 30 dollar a pair roller skis
that are shipped to you and see if you can make a profit selling
them for $339 a pair, like Marwes go for.
Give it a try yourself.
Search alibaba for ski
gear, or other sporting gear, and see what it costs to make the
stuff in China. Here are a few other interesting links I
Carbon fiber poles with cork grips and wrap-around straps,
like higher-end Swix, One-Way, Fischer, etc poles.
Cost: $4 to $20 a pole, minimum order 2000 pairs. And this
company can make 200,000 carbon fiber poles a month.
Waxing brushes. Cost: 68 to 73 cents a piece if you
order 3000 of them.
Roto brushes. Cost: $1 to $2 a piece if you order 2000
NNN bindings manufactured with your brand name on them.
I wonder where the
famous Finnish Karhu brand of ski boots are made
these days. Still made in Finland? Or
|I wonder if they
make xc racing skis in China? Yep, looks like
One Way gets their
skis made by Weihai in Shandong, China.
In many industries, like
electronics, business supplies and household goods, use of
low-cost Chinese manufacturing has allowed companies to reduce
prices and increase the size of their market while still
maintaining or increasing their profit margins. Apple is a
good example of this. I can't say that I've seen a
downward trend in xc ski gear prices (though I have certainly
seen a downward trend in quality). Passing on savings in
production costs via lower retail prices would lure more people
to the sport and create more life-time ski industry customers.
On the contrary, it seems that ski equipment production costs
have significantly gone down yet prices have continued to soar
|Late Summer 2012:
Summer On "My" Ski Trails
When do you get to
call your favorite ski trails "your" ski trails? When do
you get to say: "These are my ski trails"? I don't
know the answer to this question. But after skiing in the
lower Susitna River drainage for almost 25 years and not seeing
another skier on these trails (south and west of Flathorn Lake
and Susitna Landing) ... what the heck,
I'll say that these are "my" ski trails.
defining feature of these ski trails, and the lower Susitna
Valley in general, is the Big Susitna River. The Big Su is
a powerful glacial river that is born in the Alaska Range.
It carries so much glacial silt from the mountains to the ocean
that the Native name for the river (Suyit'nu) translates to "sand river".
ski the lower Susitna River valley a lot. Snowmobile
trail skiing in mid-winter, backcountry cruising in late winter,
crust skiing in early spring - these skiing forays usually
involve time on the Big Su.
In the summer I boat the Big
Susitna River frequently. I use a skiff to haul stuff to
my wife's and my cabin. Though
hauling freight by
snowmobile in the winter is usually easier, I'd rather move what I can
in the summer so I don't loose skiing days in the winter.
The Big Susitna is a
beautiful river, in a raw sense. When it's a nice day on
the river, it's a great place to be. But big, powerful and
swift moving glacial rivers in Alaska have their challenges:
constantly changing water levels and channels and bars,
sweepers, floating logs, frigid and murky water and isolation -
if you get in trouble here there usually isn't anyone around to
Here are a few pictures of summer
and winter on "my" ski trails.
Hauling a repaired 4-wheeler down
the Big Su. I like to haul stuff in the summer so I don't
loose skiing days hauling stuff in the winter. I ski this
section of the river in winter.
"Susitna River Monsters!" When
trees fall into the Big Su their roots often drag on the bottom
and the trees head down river trunks first. Strong
currents makes these trees rock up and down on their root
systems. So one minute the tree will be underwater, the
next it will be rearing above water like a sea monster. It
would be really bad to hit one of these head on in a boat while
going full throttle up the Big Su. When these river
monsters freeze in
place in the winter they turn into hazards to snowmobilers at
night or in low light.
Skiing near the mouth of the Big
As if there are not enough boating
hazards in the Big Susitna River ... this was one I had never
seen before. The river had eroded the banks of Bell Island
and exposed an old abandoned gas pipeline (that used to bring
natural gas from Beluga to Anchorage and the Valley). If
the bank continues to erode (and it surely will) and the
pipeline moves further out in the main channel - this will
become a unsuspecting boaters death trap. Especially if
floating logs rip off the buoys (and they surely will).
Skiing on the Big Susitna River.
The Big Susitna can
be a wonderful place in summer or winter. But at any time of the year it can
quickly be a very dangerous place.
|Late Summer 2012:
A Tale of Two Bears And A Skier's Cabin
Two bears meet at a
bar (a sand bar that is). They start talking ...
“Wanna mate?” “Nah, it’s not the season.”
“Wanna eat salmon and cranberries all day?” “Nah, I’m bored of
“Wanna head up the hill and chew the crap out of the stairs on
Tim and Tammy’s cabin?” “Hell yeah! Now that sounds like fun!
Let’s do it!“
|Late Summer 2012:
Nascent Glaciers of Anchorage, The Dawning of a New Ice
When the Municipality of Anchorage removes
snow from city streets much of it is piled up at snow dumps
around town. Thanks to record snowfall - last year was a
big year for snow dumps. The snow dump in south Anchorage,
near O'Malley and C Street, grew to 10 stories high. This
new snow mountain was a feature you couldn't miss when looking
out over Anchorage.
The C Street snow mountain
was cut down by bulldozers during the summer. The city
likely figured if the snow didn't melt it would be a problem if
we had another big snow year this winter.
The mid-town snow dump didn't
get the bulldozer treatment this summer. At least not yet.
As can be seen from the above picture the snow is still piled 2
stories high. There is lots of gravel on top of the snow
to soak up the sun and accelerate melting. But when a
summer doesn't offer much sun, and sets cold temperature records
for July, snow dumps just don't melt fast. This picture
was taken in late August and nights are starting to see low 30's
temperatures. So this snow pile isn't going to melt before
This snow from last year
would now be called firn.
It's the compressed, intermediary step of snow on its way to
become glacier ice. Looks like Anchorage is leading the
way in fighting back against global warming and the recession of
glaciers around the world. Anchorage is doing this by
building new glaciers. It's the dawning of a new ice age, a
man-made ice age. Bring it on!
Is Anchorage Losing Its "Bad Snow Year Ski Loop"?
It looks like Anchorage will likely be loosing a reliable bad snow year
ski loop. The Chugach State Park is going to be building a
new parking lot at Glen Alps. And the new road that will access
this lot will displace part of a ski loop that has been crucial
in getting Anchorage xc skiers on snow in poor snow years.
Over the past 30 plus years
this short loop, that goes from the Glen Alps parking lot to the power
line and back, has allowed the only skiing in Anchorage during
bad snow years. When warm winds melt the Power Line Trail
down to rocks this short loop is often still ski-able because of
its mostly perpendicular layout to the wind direction.
Plus, the vegetation along the trail blocks the wind and offers
some shade for the snow.
Based on the CSP published
plans for this parking lot, see below, it doesn't look like a
contiguous ski loop to the power line and back will be possible.
The new paved or dirt access road to the parking lot will have to be
I can remember a few winters
when the only skiing in the Anchorage Bowl was on this short
loop. During these years temperatures would be in the high
30's down in town, but just dip below freezing at Glen Alps to
allow this loop to tenaciously exist. I think it was 1986
when we skied here for two months - from mid-October to
mid-December. Some years UAA and high school ski teams
would train here daily. I remember once doing a time trial
with UAA on this loop in the 80s. Coaches in Anchorage can
vouch for the fact that they have spent time scraping snow from
the under bushes and shoveling it onto this loop as their skiers
When bad snow years come
along - back-up plan ski loops are precious. If the Glen
Alps bad snow year ski loop is lost, or seriously compromised
... that will be a bummer. But people won't realize
it's a bummer until a really bad snow year comes along.
It's nice to have a local back-up skiing plan as not everyone,
like people in Anchorage with jobs or those that go to high
school, has the time to drive to Hatcher Pass during the week.
Perhaps snowmaking will come to Kincaid before long. This
will help. But snowmaking won't work at Kincaid when it's
in the high 30's above freezing at night down low while it's 32
degrees up at Glen Alps. In some bad snow winters these
are typical temperatures at these two locations.
I've learned that that a fail-proof way to get others, like your
spouse, irked at you is to accidentally kick rocks down on them
as you are climbing ahead while going up a mountain.
Should you dislodge a rock and it starts to accelerate downhill
- it's good to yell "Rock!" to give folks below a chance to get
out of the way.
"Rock! ............. Whoops!
Islands Formed By Landslides
Anchorage, AK "Urban Backcountry XC Skiing" Web Page
For a long time now I have been having fun linking together
urban and backcountry trails in the Anchorage area to make
unique and challenging cross country skiing routes. I'm
sure there are other skiers that would enjoy this variant of xc
skiing, so I made a web page about "Urban Backcountry XC (UBXC)
Skiing". This web page is a collection of UBXC routes I
have done that skiers can reference for ideas in devising their
own local ski treks. This web page has a bunch of route
maps with links to pictures taken while skiing these routes.
AK Urban Backcountry XC Skiing web page
My First Encounter With Humans in PWS!
I've been recreating in
Prince William Sound for a dozen or so years. And during
these last 12 years I had never met or seen other hikers, climbers
or skiers while doing trips. Of course I had met kayakers
and boaters. But after leaving the shore I had met never anyone in the mountains
outside of the group I was with. Never.
So it was a big surprise for
recently come skiing around a rock outcrop high up on Culross
Island and have a encounter with humans. And come to
find out this random encounter was with some unique and very
cool humans! On the mountain were Didier and Sophie
Wattrelot. This French couple calls Tahiti home and they
have a charter
sailboat operation that keeps them cruising Pacific
destinations from Antarctica to Alaska. They have lived, raised
their kids and run their business on their boat the "Sauvage"
for 20 years. While anchored in Culross Bay they decided
to take snowboards to their favorite summer snowboarding spot -
Culross Island. Recently these two had been hiking on Attu
Island in the Aleutians on their way from Japan to Alaska.
They are now sailing back down to Antarctica for expedition
support business. When in Antartica Sophie and Didier like
to snowboard and
Didier and Sophie Wattrelot on
Picture by Didier of Sophie and us.
Low Elevation and Very Cold Lakes
The length that some small lakes in Prince William Sound remain
frozen impresses me. Sure lots of small high-elevation
lakes in Alaska might go for years without a complete thaw-out.
But due to the insulating properties of deep and dense coastal
snow packs - small lakes a mere 500 feet above sea level in the
Sound can remain frozen for most of the year.
An example of such a lake can
be found on the shaded north side of Culross Island. The
picture below and on the left shows the lake still mostly
covered in ice at the end of July. The lake likely won't
be completely ice free until early to mid August. Then
because the water is so cold it will probably start freezing
during cold nights in late September. So on years like
this one, where there was a lot of snow in this area, this lake
will only be ice free for a max two months of this year.
That's remarkable considering the elevation of this lake is
barely 500 feet above sea level and it's within a half mile of
the ocean which offers a thermal buffer and keeps the area from
getting really cold like interior Alaska.
Late July and ice still on most of
The lake's outflow. Cold and
Location of the lake.
The PWS Trusty Backup Plan ... A Kayak
|Early Summer 2012:
I Had Never Seen This Before
Recently my wife and I did the Kincaid Park (Pt. Campbell) to
Fire Island and back low tide mudflats run/hike. While
doing it we met 5 people that were mountain biking the mudflats.
They made it over to Fire Island and back no problem. They
had to push bikes on the mucky parts on either side, but it
looked like they were able to ride 80 percent of the route.
4 of them had fat bikes (w/super-wide tires). One guy had normal (2 inch)
tires, but that didn't seem to be hindering him much. This
was the first time I had ever seen mountain bikers doing the
Fire Island mudflats trek.
More info about the Kincaid to Fire Island mudflats crossing.
ride off the beach at Fire Island. They are heading back
across the mudflats towards Kincaid Park (Pt. Campbell) in the
|Early Summer 2012:
Bears Can Ski!
While skiing Seattle Ridge recently I came across some fresh
brown bear tracks. The bear had been ambling down a snow
slope when apparently he or she decided to switch to skiing
mode. Yes indeed ... bears can ski! ;-)
These photos show
where a bear switched from walking to "skiing" mode.
It looks like the bear skidded down
on his/her knees and dragged the toes of their back feet.
Deep tracks in the snow tell that
the bear was quite large.
|Early Summer 2012:
Summer "Biathlons" You May Not Have Heard Of
|03 June 2012:
Fixing Problematic Swix Ski Pole Strap Tabs
Recently I bought some replacement "biathlon" straps for my Swix
ski poles. For the kind of skiing I do I like traditional
straps the best. Wrap-around straps are great for racing.
But for getting your hands in and out of straps quickly - wrap-arounds
aren't the ticket. I figure biathlon skiers would agree
with me on this.
When you buy these
replacement straps they come with strap tabs that fit Swix ski
pole handles. Well, they fit. But they don't stay
fit for long.
The first time I used these
pole straps and tabs I dropped a ski pole. And the tab
popped off and rolled into loose snow when the ski pole handle
hit the trail. Not good.
The next time I used the
poles I instinctively tapped my boot with the pole handle to
knock snow off my boot sole before stepping into the binding.
When I did this the tab popped off the pole and took off
skittering across the crust snow and disappeared into a clump of
brush. I mean it really disappeared. I rooted around
for 10 minutes trying to find the little black tab in the leaves
and twigs and dirt, but to no avail. I tied a knot
in the tab-less strap and got my crust ski in ... but I had to
stop frequently to re-tie the knot.
Oh well, time to fix a newly
purchased ski product. This is something I seem to have to
do a lot these days. When a product works well in the
first place it seems that ski companies always have to
"improve it" so it doesn't work as well.
To fix these faulty Swix ski
pole tabs was pretty easy. I drilled a small hole in the
top of the tab. And then I screwed in a #4 3/8 inch
stainless steel pan head sheet metal screw. The screw goes through the
plastic above the strap, through the strap and then into the
plastic below the strap.
By putting the screw through
the top of the tap you still allow the strap to be adjusted by
the lower strap. And you don't weaken the wedge by putting
a screw through it. The screw doesn't have any stress from
the pole straps on it, it's basically just used to tether the
tab so it doesn't disappear unexpectedly. This doesn't
completely fix the problem of the tabs coming loose from the
pole handle, but it helps. These little anchor screws can
save a ski trip or workout from being compromised due to a
malfunctioning ski pole.
Buying new Swix ski pole strap
replacements? Then you need to buy some #4 3/8 inch screws
to keep from losing the strap tabs.
|22 May 2012:
Crust Skiing and Mini-Skins In Kodiak
Photos by Patrick Saltonstall
If you want to see what crust skiing is like on Kodiak Island in
Alaska, there is a new web site with snow reports and lots of
photos. Here it is - the
Kodiak Snow Report. The "Skate
skiing at the pass May 2012" thread has accounts by Patrick
Saltonstall of recent crust skiing at Anton Larsen Pass.
For climbing uphill on Kodiak snow Patrick makes "mini-skins"
that he attaches to his skis under the foot section with hockey
tape. At the top of the climb he pulls the mini-skins off
of his skate skis and is ready to skate away.
|31 April 2012:
1975 - The First Fiberglass XC Racing Skis Meet Spring
Skiers have been enjoying
spring skiing for thousands of years. But in 1975 a
paradigm shift occurred for cross country skiers that like to
have fun in the backcountry on the skinniest of skis. The
1974-75 ski season was the year that fiberglass racing skis
replaced wooden skis as the ski of choice of ski racers.
So when spring of 1975 came along cross country skiers around
the world found they had tough and fun skis to spring ski on.
Skiers quickly found out that you could do a lot more
challenging and aggressive skiing on these fast new skis and not
worry about fragile wooden racing skis blowing up.
One could claim that
performance backcountry skiing, the use of cross country racing
skis to ski backcountry, was essentially born in the spring of
1975 thanks to the introduction of fiberglass racing skis.
Skiers around North America and Europe were taking their new
fiberglass racing skis out on the spring crust and corn and
being enlightened as to how much more fun cross country skiing
could be with these new skis.
In the spring of 1975 I was a
part of this cross country skier awakening to a new world.
The above picture, thanks to facebook and Daniel Harvey - a former ski teammate, shows me as a high school senior in Lyndonville,
Vermont in 1975 ... getting after it on the first model of
Fischer RCS racing skis.
My ski team friends and I
spent a lot of time in the spring of 1975 skiing the rolling
cow-pastured hills of the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. It
was fantastic spring skiing in a beautiful setting. But a
favorite spring skiing venue for us was the hilly cemetery next
to our school. We'd have fun ripping slalom turns past the
granite gravestones and catching big air off the terraces in the
above shows the cemetery we used as a skiing terrain park.
And it shows the problem we would encounter if we stepped off
our skis and left them unattended. Soon the ghosts of the
cemetery would grab our skis and poles and give spring skiing a
|27 April 2012:
Loving My "New" Ski Boots
Salomon RS9's in action this spring.
I recently purchased these near mint condition 10+ year old
RS9's on ebay.
Thanks to ebay I'm finally
skiing in the ski boots of my dreams ... once again.
At the turn of the millennium Salomon was making
ski boots that were perfect, in my opinion, for performance
backcountry skiing (i.e. crust skiing and backcountry skate
skiing). The boot was the RS9. I should have bought
5 pair of RS9's back then. Because ever since Salomon made
these perfect boots they have worked hard to make less
comfortable, less durable, less breathable and less perfect
ski boots. I know, because I have bought a lot of crappy
models of Salomon ski boots since the days of the legendary
I can afford any
xc ski boot on the retail rack these days. But I'm not
going to pay a lot of money for uncomfortable boots that fall
apart in a year or two and don't ski as well as boots made 10
years ago. No way. I'll take my money
to ebay and shop for 10 to 12 year old gently used ski boots
that are better made than the ski boots that are produced today.
If Salomon brought back an exact remake of the RS9, then maybe
I'd go back to buying ski boots at the retail shop. But
then again, maybe I wouldn't. Because legendary ski boots
are getting to be like vintage guitars ... nothing beats
|9 April 2012:
Time To Go To Portage ... And Crust Ski With The Ghost
A week ago Shaguyik, a Kodiak
brown (grizzly) bear, broke out of her fenced area at the Alaska
Wildlife Conservation Center at Portage. She hasn't been
seen since. Of note is the fact that popular crust skiing
venues are in close proximity to where she escaped from, like
the Placer Valley, Portage Valley, Twentymile Valley and the
Ingram Creek tidal flats. Shaguyik is an Alaska Native
word for "ghost". So this year might continue to be a
memorable ski season and be book-ended by: 1) skiing with an insomniac
brown bear (at Hillside in Anchorage) in the fall and 2) crust
skiing with an escaped ghost bear in the spring.
More information can be found in this
Anchorage Daily News article.
The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center is a
neat place and I'm sure that the folks that run the center are
distraught about this bear escaping. Hopefully Shaguyik
will survive in the wild.
June 2012 update:
Things did not turn out well for "Shaggy".
|31 March 2012:
Anchorage Driving Laws Will Change This Spring
Certain driving rules that
were not enforced in Anchorage this winter are about to be
reinstated this spring ...
Drivers will be expected to stop at
the funny-shaped red signs that are emerging from the snow
Drivers will be expected to drive on
the right-hand side of the yellow lines that you now see on some
And drivers will be expected to
observe the speed limit signs that will soon be seen on our
|Late March 2012:
"Canyonlands" In Alaska?
I was skiing by this snow
formation on top of a stump and was reminded of Utah Canyonlands
sandstone towers. And when you think about it, the
formation of this "snow tower" and a sandstone tower is similar.
Layers of sediments (snow or sand) accumulate and harden.
The resulting mass becomes isolated when softer mass around it
recedes. Then the remaining tower is shaped by wind
This was the
case with this snow tower. Heavy snows this winter allowed
a large amount of snow to accumulate on this stump. This
spot is close to a windy Big Susitna River channel where strong
winds blow. However the trees near this formation blocked
and directed the wind enough so the tower didn't get blown over.
And instead it got sculpted by localized wind currents ... to
become an ephemeral Susitna Snow Tower.
A Susitna Snow Tower
|Late March 2012:
It's Time To Fortify
Late March is the time that
remote cabin owners in Alaska start fortifying their cabins.
What are they fortifying them against?
Federal agents in black helicopters!? Nope. Bears.
For folks that have off the road system
cabins they often never know when their last winer trip to their
cabin will be. Warm weather in April can quickly turn
trails to slush, cause impassable sections of overflow to
develop and even open river channels. Your winter-mode
trips to your cabin are risky in April. Should your winter
route to your cabin shut down and if you don't have your cabin
fortified against cranky bears coming out of hibernation ...
well, you are taking a chance that bears may have had a raucous
party in your cabin before you return in the summer.
At my wife's and my cabin we board up windows
that bears might be able to access. We have never had a
bear break into our place (knock on logs). But we have
many signs on our cabin from bears mad about not getting in and
resorting to bruin vandalism. See pictures below:
We took old-timers' advice and built
our cabin off the ground so that brown bears couldn't easily
smash through windows and get inside. But we still cover
windows in case they get on the elevated deck.
When brownies can't get up on the
deck they get really, really pissed off. Here you can see
where a bear tore into a railroad tie support under the deck.
Check out the long claw drag mark.
Here is another railroad tie that a
bear munched on. I love bears and think they are cool
animals. But geez, they sure like to trash stuff.
|Mid March 2012:
Welcome To America
Recently I skied
past this old cabin in a remote area of the Western Susitna
Valley. I've heard the same story about the original owner
of this cabin from three different sources, so the story I'm
about to tell likely has some truth to it. Apparently a long
time ago the guy that built this cabin was "dynamite fishing" at
this spot. He was lighting sticks of dynamite and throwing them
into the creek to kill salmon by shock waves, and then scooping
up the fish that he killed. In case you are not aware, this
mode of fishing is illegal.
Anyway, this guy is
lighting sticks of dynamite and throwing them into the water.
But then (surprise, surprise) a stick of dynamite goes off in
his hand and blows off a few of his fingers. So what does he
do? He hires a lawyer and sues Dupont, the maker of the
dynamite, for a "defective fuse". And he wins the case and gets
a big settlement.
Moral of the story: Do something illegal and really dumb-ass,
get hurt bad while doing it and then get a lawyer to help you
sue somebody and end up with a lot of money. Welcome to America.
|12 March 2012:
Watch Out! ... Snow Bomb!
Often when you are out
traveling in the backcountry of South-central, Alaska and you
are in a stand of large, old grown hemlocks you think you are
safe. The likelihood of an avalanche wiping through these
100 plus year old trees seems slim. And it most likely is.
But take a look above you.
With near-record snowfall winters like the
one we've been having a lot of snow can build up in tree limbs
above ground. And hemlock trees that can catch a lot more
snow then spruce or cottonwood trees can get heavily loaded with
snow. The snow in the limbs will harden over time making
it dense and heavy. Eventually melting or winds will
dislodge the snow, and a snow bomb will be released.
On a recent ski trip I came across a section
of trail where snow bombs had been recently triggered by winds.
Large 40-60 pound chunks of snow were sitting on the trail after
a fall from limbs 20 feet or so above. I'm glad I wasn't
standing under these blocks of snow when they let loose.
That would have hurt, or caused injury. Bottom line:
When the wind is blowing be careful where you stand.
PS: I rolled these snow blocks out of the
trail so that no snowmobilers would hit them. Gotta watch
out for other trail users.
Snow bomb debris in the Kenai
|07 March 2012:
Why Some Snowmobile Tracks Are Better For Skiing Than
It used to be that the trails
that snowmobiles left in the snow were all about the same.
Snowmobiles used to have similar tracks with rows of 1/2 inch to
1 inch lugs. Trails made by this type of snowmobile track
skied quite well. But then 10-15 years ago a new form of
was developed for deep snow. These tracks were are called "paddle tracks".
Trails make by paddle tracks are better than no trail at
all, but they definitely don't ski as well as trails made by old
school snowmobile tracks. Here are a couple
of pictures that show the difference between snowmobile tracks
and the trails they make in the snow ...
This picture shows a trail
made by a paddle track. The 2 to 2 1/2 inch floppy lugs on
these tracks fluff up the snow and leave behind an airy mound.
Your skis tend to sink into the mounded snow which cuts down
your glide. When these tracks set-up they ski
better, but they aren't as comfortable skiing as the ones
touring tracks make.
Here is a trail made by a
snowmobile with a touring track. The lugs are not as long and
all the way across the track. The lugs are also more rigid
than a paddle track, so they roll over the snow and compress it
instead of fluff it up. These old school tracks are
definitely better for skiing on.
The above picture shows side
by side trails made by a paddle track (left) and touring track
(right). If you are classic skiing or double poling the
right of this trail is likely your best choice. If you are
skating this trail your technique will depend on the firmness of
the trail. If the paddle track trail is firm you can do
your V1 dominant skate there and glide on the touring track.
If the paddle track is soft, try to skate the touring track with
a tight-V, shortened glide and higher tempo.
|27 February 2012:
Never Blindly Follow Labeled Trail Markers
All over Alaska people that
live in the bush or have remote recreational properties haul
freight in the winter. It is often much cheaper and more
convenient to haul heavy stuff like heating fuel, propane,
building supplies, boats, brush mowers, construction equipment
and living room sofas by snowmobile-pulled sleds over winter
trails, rather than fly, boat or barge it in.
The Susitna Valley likely sees the most
freight hauling of any place in Alaska because it is near big
population centers and many of these folks have remote
properties in the Su Valley.
In cases where folks have a lot of freight to
haul they usually establish a trail first. They usually
pack it out with snowmobiles and then they might even groom it
with a trail drag. And then ... they will mark the trail
with wooden staves. It is especially important to mark
trails on rivers and across open areas. If winds blow the
trail over with drifting snow, markers will allow you to
still find the hard surface that will support your loaded
freight sled. If you go off the trail into unpacked, deep
snow you can tip the load over, get stuck or maybe even get
When it comes to
obtaining wooden staves to mark freight hauling trails, they are
easily available thanks to all of the various races (sled dog,
snowmobile and human powered) that take place in the Su Valley.
Once the races pass the staves are usually left in place.
So locals come by to pick them up and use them. This is a
good thing because the abandoned staves become litter once spring hits and
they drift down rivers or rot into the muskegs. Local
freight haulers will reuse these recycled trail marker staves
year after year.
years I have had a concern about trail markers for the
human-powered Susitna 100 race. Locals and freight haulers
have been picking Su 100 trail markers up after the race for
many years. And now you see them all over the place.
You see them leading from near the Su 100 race trail to areas
far away from the race course. It would be a potentially
bad situation for a Su 100 race competitor to blindly follow "Su
100" markers that took them way off course.
Recently I was skiing a groomed freight
hauling trail on the West Channel of the Big Susitna River.
This trail was 12 to 15 miles from points on the Su 100 course.
And there were "Su 100" trail markers marking it. And
there were "Su 100" trail markers heading all the way to the
Beluga gas fields to the west. And there were "Su 100"
trail markers all along the Big Su trail that lead to this point
from the Su 100 race course. In other words - there are Su
100 trail markers EVERYWHERE in the Lower Susitna Valley these
would be for the Su 100 organizers to start putting the year of
the race on their trail markers. Like: "Su 100
2012". And tell competitors to follow markers that have
the current year on them. Not doing this opens more risk
of competitors ending up at points unknown, and organizers
having no clue what happened to them.
A beautiful, groomed freight hauling
trail on the West Channel of the Big Susitna River. It is
marked by a "Su 100" trail marker, but is many miles from the Su
100 race course.
|20 February 2012:
Skiing To Shaman Blind Nick's Cabin
|19 February 2012:
Double Poling Isn't Just For Skiers Anymore
It was interesting to read
about the tight finish of the Yukon Quest sled dog race ... and
the double poling going on during the final push to the finish
line. Here is an excerpt from
this KTUU article:
"ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Hugh Neff has won the 2012 Yukon Quest
crossing the finish line in Whitehorse at 5:14 a.m. Tuesday and
winning by 26 seconds, the closest finish in race history and
the only time the first two teams have come in less than one
Neff captured victory in the 1,000 mile sled dog race by beating
Allen Moore in a wild sprint to the finish. At one point,
Moore had a 42-minute lead out of Braeburn.
traveling with his head lamp turned off for most of the final
run, caught Moore with about 20 miles to go, but turning his
head lamp back on alerted Moore to his presence, and the two ran
neck and neck for the final miles. Moore
said he double ski-poled his way in, but his efforts
|15 February 2012:
Historical Irony of Lycra/Spandex, Revenge of the Forest
In recent years I've found
myself laughing out loud when I go into Sports Authority or look
at Eastbay (sporting goods) or even Cabelas (hunting gear)
catalogs. I laugh in disbelief at some of the modern
active wear. Why? Because I wore lycra tights when they
first came out in the late 70's. Therefore I am a veteran
on the front lines of the Lycra Wars. And that experience
has given me a historical perspective about sports wear.
Back in the late 70's lycra/spandex/polyester
blend fabrics were first introduced as material for sports wear.
Lycra/spandex tights quickly became popular with runners and
cross country skiers. And before long they became the
choice for ski racing suits. I quickly switched from
old-school fabrics to clothes of these new-age fabrics.
And it was surely not due to fashion. The function of
lycra/spandex was a giant leap back then. Lycra/spandex
offered just the right combination of weather resistance,
support, freedom of movement and comfort. To this day I
still wear some form of lycra/spandex/polyester blend for the
same reasons, almost every day.
But holy crap ... society was
not ready for lycra back in the 70's. Especially in the
primitive tribal regions of Redneckistan (Vermont and New
Hampshire) you're life was at risk should you dare to don lycra.
Homophobic snipes, bottles and cans hurled from passing car
windows and the ever common insult of "Forest Fairy!" were
never-ending. It was crazy.
Basically the propagators of
the 70's lycraphobia could be classified by certain key groups:
hockey players, football players and non-athletic rednecks that
were big into hunting and snowmobiling.
But my oh my how times have
changed. And my oh my how the fervent perpetrators of
lycraphobia all became hypocrites, and they all became ...
forest fairies themselves! Now all of these groups have
lycra/spandex as a part of their wardrobe. This is close
to unbelievable to a person like me that went through
lycraphobia hell back in the day. But it's true.
Here are some pictures of modern day instances of redneck forest
Bauer (hockey gear) now makes "Vapor
Core Compression Pants" with lycra/spandex.
Nike now makes lycra/spandex "Pro
Combat Compression Leggings" for football players.
The Ski Doo snowmobile clothing
website sells "Technical Wear Active Base Layer" pants with
And now even the redneck bible, the
Cabelas catalog, sells lycra/spandex Underarmour "Camo
Coldgear Compression Leggings"
It's funny how the hockey, football,
snowmobiling and hunting gear above are not marketed as
"tights", even though that is what they clearly are. They
are macho-marketed instead as "Combat Leggings" or "Compression
Pants". Ha! The bottom line is that over the last
several decades the redneck crowd gave in to the lycra/spandex
fabrics they once venomously derided, and now they all wear the
stuff. I never envisioned the day would come ... when the
"forest fairies" would get their revenge! Just
The first lycra/spandex ski racing
suits were made by Terinit of Finland. Here I am wearing a
Terinet suit in 1978 (on the way to winning the Waterville (NH)
Marathon, in a snowstorm).
Long Live Lycra and Spandex !!!
|05 February 2012:
Salomon Pilot To Old Profil Retrofit
A favorite binding of mine
for backcountry xc skiing is the old Salomon "Profil Country".
This binding is super tough, torsionally rock solid, easy to
open with heavy gloves on and doesn't weigh much more than
Profil racing bindings.
But the problem with this binding is that its
doesn't work with new Pilot boots, like Pro Combis. Newer
Pilot boots have the under-foot binding rod further back towards
the heel. No worries though - this problem can be easily
remedied. All you need is a Dremel tool with a chainsaw
sharpening bit and some epoxy (I like to use JB Weld epoxy for
projects like this).
First mark on the binding plate where the groove for the
binding rod needs to fit. Next carve out a binding
rod-sized groove with the Dremel tool. To finish things off work some epoxy
into the new hole in the binding plate so that water doesn't get
under the plate.
backcountry ski bindings for use with racing boots are not
something Salomon makes any more. These old bindings fill
this niche well. If you've got a pair of Profil Countrys,
hold on to them. But of course if you don't want to hold
on to them you can always give them to me! ;-)
|01 February 2012:
More Snowmobiling Secrets - Revealed to Skiers
Last year I posted some
snowmobiling secrets that
are usually withheld from xc skiers. So here are a couple
more mysteries that are brought to light ...
Why do some
snowmobilers have LEDs lit up on their helmets?
The LED is the power indicator for heated face shields.
For extreme cold weather some snowmobilers use face shields that
plug into the DC power outlet of the snowmobile. Heating
elements inside of a double layer face shield warm the air between
the shield layers and this prevents frosting.
How can you tell if
snowmobiler is skier-friendly?
The headgear the snowmobiler is wearing might be a clue.
Sno-goers that go fast often wear open faced helmets with
goggles. These types usually refer to xc skiers as "speed
bumps". If there is a mohawk on top of the helmet, like
above, you are in grave danger.
Sensible riders more often seem to wear
full-face helmets, like the one in the upper left with the LED.
These types will likely stop to chat with skiers. The
helmet in the upper right is one from a strange Alaskan tribe of
xc skiing snowmobilers. Note the decal. Catch is -
there are a lot more mohawk madmen out there than these
stride/ride tribe members.
|31 January 2012:
This Cat Is Way Tougher Than You And Me
this winter a guy from Minnesota named Lonnie Dupree tried for
the second time to do a mid-winter ascent of Mt. McKinley.
He ran into some wind and cold, and he turned
He probably would have made the summit if he had Lynxie (see
above) guiding him.
Lynxie's story, based on clues I've put together, is that he was
lost or abandoned last summer. Ever since then he has
lived homeless in our neighborhood. For four to five
months he lived on mice, shrews and whatever he could kill or
scavenge. But most noteworthy is that he lived through the
5 brutal (90-105 mph) windstorms that racked our neighborhood
this winter. He made it through the deepest snowfalls in a
decade. And he made it through three weeks of a
deep-freeze, sub-zero January which apparently set the record for the
coldest January ever in Anchorage, AK.
And he did this all with just the thin fur on his back. No
expedition down jacket or sleeping bag. No tent. No
stove to melt snow for water. This is one tough cat.
If there was a mid-winter race between Lonnie Dupree and this
cat to the top of McKinley, my money would be on Lynxie.
5th windstorm I shoveled three to four feet of drifted snow off
our back porch. Come to find out these snow drifts had
buried Lynxie alive under our back deck, where he had apparently
been living for quite some time, unbeknownst to my wife and me.
When my wife caught him he was very skittish and skinny.
Now he's gaining weight and getting in some well deserved couch
surfing. I never, ever planned on being a cat owner during
my life. Oh well, I'm one now.
Update: When we rescued Lynxie he weighed between
7 and 8 pounds. Now he's up to our vet recommended
Update: In preparation for next years
mid-winter race against Lonnie Dupree up Mt. McKinley we
have Lynxie on an intensive training program. Here
he is doing pull-downs to beef up his lats and biceps.
|26 January 2012:
Skiing By Memory, The First Tour Of Anchorage
The Tour of
Anchorage (TOA) turns 25 years old this year. I skied the first
TOA in 1988 and it was an exciting event because it was the
first “across-town” ski race in Anchorage. Since that first TOA
there have been quite a lot of course changes. Here is a ski by
memory along the trail of the first Tour of Anchorage that will
point out some of the differences between now and 25 years ago
has organized all TOAs from the 2nd one on. But the
first one was organized by Tom Peacock. During the 1987-88 ski
season Tom was the president of the Nordic Ski Club of Anchorage
(I don’t think it was the NSAA then). AND … Tom was the head
groomer. Yes, the ski club was a much, much smaller
organization back then.
being the club president and trail groomer and all-round good
guy, Tom also was a regular participant in club ski races. So
Tom the ski racer was excited about linking together brand new
trail systems, like the Spencer Loop, the Chester Creek Trail
and the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, for a cross-town ski race.
talking to Tom about the course for the first TOA. I was
lobbying him to start at Glen Alps and make it a true
cross-town, from the mountains to the sea race. Tom felt the
descent down to Hillside would have been a bit much for most
people. So he opted to start at Service High School, where
there was good parking and facilities for racers.
As a side
note: A ski race called the Flattop Flyer from Glen Alps to
Service High School sprung up shortly after the first TOA. This
race became wildly popular. The entire mostly-downhill course
was groomed with a Piston Bully, and when Bill Spencer organized
it there was a jump in the course. This event was eventually
shut down due to liability concerns. The fact that a few people
got hurt in this wild race was a factor in this decision.
Back to the
TOA: The first year of the TOA the race started on the west
side of the Service High football field and headed east to the
trail system. This could be done because at the time there was
no fence around the Service track and football field. So there
was much more room for a mass start than there is today.
went east from the Service football field and onto the Hillside
TOA course dropped down to the Abbot Loop parking lot trailhead
because the cutoff above the trailhead was not built yet, The
narrow hill coming up out of the parking log area caused a lot
was the same through the Besh, Spencer Loop and back to the
lighted trail system. One exception is that the first TOA
course went up the first hill on the Spencer Loop instead of
Back on the
lighted loop and before getting to the four corners in The Burn
area the trail took the hard right onto the trail that leads
past Ryan’s Hill Trail and on to the start of what is now called
the Tour of Anchorage Trail. It wasn’t called the TOA trail
back then, it was the Old Homestead Road.
down the Homestead Road hill the course came to the corner just
before the BLM property boundary and the bridge. Here you had
to ski through a narrow gate made of large metal pipes painted
red. You didn’t want to screw up going through this gate, it
When we got
to the right turn that takes you onto the TOA trail we went
straight ahead on the Coyote Trail instead. Why? Because the
TOA Trail had not been built yet.
now overgrown exit off the Coyote Trail the course went out onto
the east side of the BLM landing strip. Here the course went
straight and flat for the whole length of the runway.
At the end
of the runway the course continued north, crossed Campbell Creek
on the dog mushing bridge (the pedestrian bridge wasn’t built
yet) and then followed a dog sled trail a couple of kilometers
north until it intersected another dog sled trail coming from
Baxter road to the east. Taking a left on this dog sled trail
you went west until a hard 90 degree right turn put you on the
current-day TOA trail.
point things were much different 25 years ago. There was no
Martin Luther King Boulevard to go under, no bike trails and no
curved pedestrian bridge to ski over. Instead, the TOA trail
followed a narrow trail past an electric substation straight to
Tudor Road. There is no trail here now, a connector road
between two 4-lane highways runs here instead. At Tudor Road
you had to take your skis off, look for an opening in traffic
and run across.
In a recent
Anchorage Daily News article
P.J. Hill was quoted as saying that traffic marshals helped the
skiers across Tudor Road during early TOAs. That may have been
true during P.J.’s tenure, but for the first year skiers were
definitely on their own. Look left, look right, run like hell.
But because there was exponentially less traffic on Tudor 25
years ago it was really no big deal getting across this highway.
This location is the biggest
difference between the first TOA and current races. In the
first TOA a narrow trail came past an electric substation fence
and stopped at Tudor Road where you would take your skis off and
run across. Now the trail is gone, replaced by this
connector road between 4-lane highways. Traffic lights
exist here today when 25 years ago there was no need for them.
A nearby pedestrian bridge was built over Tudor Road in the
early 90's and that eliminated the need to de-ski and run across
this highway at this location.
On the other side of Tudor we skied across undeveloped property
over to the utility easement on the east side of APU. Now there
is a paved bike trail on this easement which didn’t exist in
remember, the course for the first TOA did not cover any APU
trails. But something that it did differently is that it went
across the Northern Lights pedestrian bridge to Russian Jacks.
At RJ’s it did the bike trail loop around the east of the park
and then crossed the golf course fairways from north to south
and went back to Northern Lights and across the bridge.
Crossing back over the bridge was touchy because racers were
coming the other way on this narrow bridge.
along the Chester Creek bike trail and out the brand new Tony
Knowles Coastal Trail was not much different than today. One
exception is the section of the Coastal Trail at the north end
of the runway. Bluff erosion caused the Coastal Trail to be
re-routed to the south a bit here several years after the first
TOA race passed through here.
first TOA trail got near Kincaid the course was much different
than it is today. The course followed the Coastal Trail until
it was right next to the lowest part of the Lekisch Trail. The
Lekisch Trail was new, so Tom figured it should be showcased in
this new marathon race.
turn-off from the Coastal Trail to the Lekisch Trail Tom put up a
sign. “Keep smiling!” the sign said. And a smiley face was
next to the letters. From this point on skiers had to struggle
up the brutal climb to the top of the Lekisch Loop. From the top
it was a fast, mostly downhill run through the biathlon range,
down to the south culvert of the stadium and on to the finish.
be the only time the TOA incorporated the Lekisch Trail. A death
climb at 48 kms was not popular with a lot of the participants
of the first TOA. I had no idea the race was going to finish
going up the Lekisch Trail. I had a big lead coming to the base
of the Lekisch climb (and would win the first TOA) and when I saw
Tom’s smiley face sign I laughed out loud. I chuckled to myself
often during the long climb, thinking: “Holy crap! There are
going to be some tired puppies at the end of this race!”
at the finish you could feel a sense of excitement amongst the
racers. The excitement wasn’t just about people completing the
course, with the death climb at the end. The excitement was
about being a part of a fun event that was a first, and a
paradigm shift in the local Nordic racing scene … we had just
done the first ski race across Anchorage!
|20 January 2012:
How To Ruin A Ski Boot
When you exercise in cold weather there are
some basic facts you can't avoid when it comes to footwear.
And those facts are that your feet are going to generate heat,
emit water vapor inside of your footwear and if there is no way
for this vapor to escape your feet will get wet.
The harder you exercise, or the colder the
temperatures you exercise in, the more accumulated water vapor
in your footwear becomes a factor. Footwear needs to vent
out some of this moisture or your feet will become soaked and
prone to getting cold or even frostbitten.
But apparently ski boot designers at
Salomon aren't concerned with the reality of skiing in the cold.
They show this with their recent modifications to the Salomon
Pro Combi boot.
Earlier models of the Salomon Pro Combi
had porous material covering much of the boot's front cuff.
This was good. As heated, moisture-laden air rose out of
the boot and around the tongue it reached this material and was
able to vent off. And your feet stayed relatively dry.
The above picture shows the front cuff of a
2009 Pro Combi. The white spot is a headlamp beam shining
up through the porous material. Air can flow freely through
this material, and that is a good thing. Warm and wet air
from your foot can easily escape through this boot cuff.
Now check out this picture
above of a pair of 2010 Pro Combi boots after skiing in sub-zero
temps for several hours. See the ice build-up on the
inside of the tongue? That's because there is no way for
moisture in this boot to escape. And you can see the
reason why. The porous tongue material was replaced with
non-breathable white vinyl. Dumb, dumb, dumb.
I think this is the last pair
of new Salomon boots that I will buy for a long time. I
understand making stuff cheaper, because everyone seems to be
doing this. But usually the cheaper stuff works, it just
doesn't last as long. But in the case of Salomon's new Pro
Combi's they are making boots cheaper and boots that don't work
I seems the best option going
forward is to shop ebay for older ski boots that work. It
would be best to support local vendors and buy new Salomon boots
at their stores. But why buy new-model boots when they
don't work as well as gently-used and better designed
|15 January 2012:
Swix Star XC Jacket Review
short: This jacket fits great, skis great and even looks
great. But it is not a jacket for skiing at cold
long: I got one of these jackets from Santa Claus.
I tried it on and it immediately felt great. Light, well
engineered to move with skiing motions, good reflective accents
for being seen at night. And it had real sleeve cuffs.
My all-time favorite ski jacket is the Craft Stretch-back
jacket, which of course has been discontinued. Newer Craft
jackets now have these funky cuff-less sleeves that are
pathetic. So it was good to see cuffs again.
I was also impressed to see
that nylon mesh lined most of the back and the sleeves.
Nylon mesh is good in that it keeps condensation off of your
shirt so you don't get wet as fast as with soft shell or nylon
After getting a few weeks of
skiing in this jacket, and in particular after a lot of skiing
in sub-zero F. temperatures, I got a better understanding of how
this jacket functioned. Right off I realized an issue with
the collar. Maybe it's a Norwegian thing, but it seems
that Norwegian jackets from the 70s Odlo's through time up to
this one all have high collars. High collars can be good
because you can zip them up and get good neck protection from
But the catch with high
collars is that when they are open they catch condensation from
your breath in cold weather. Often if it's cold and you
are skiing up a valley or a long climb you will open your zipper
to ventilate and keep from getting too hot and sweaty. But
when you do this with high collars that flap over onto your
shoulders you likely don't realize that the collar is
accumulating clumps of frost from your breath. When you
get to the top of the climb you will likely zip up your collar
to get ready for the descent. But when you do this you zip
frost-covered fabric onto the hot skin of your neck and you get
a big surprise. And this unwanted surprise may likely make
you blurt out a naughty word that starts with the letter "F".
I like shorter collars
better, like the ones on Toko and Craft jackets. They stay
more upright next to your neck and don't accumulate frost much
when your jacket zipper is open for ventilation. Yes, the
short collars are not as warm when they are zipped up. But
that is fixed with a neck gaiter/ warmer.
Another issue with this
jacket is the cinch cord. It's too thin and weak, and it
barely works. I think I'll be cutting mine out and putting
in a stronger stretch cord.
OK, now we get to the main
beef I have about this jacket design. And that is the
front panels of the jacket. Bottom line: there are no
nylon mesh panels on the inside of the front panels when there
If you take a look at the
picture above you can see my Swix Star XC jacket after 4 hours of
skiing in temperatures in the 10 to 20 below zero range.
On the inside of the front panel you can see a build-up of ice.
This ice builds up because condensation gets between the two
layers of nylon fabric that make the front panel, and then it
freezes the two pieces of fabric together. And once the
fabric freezes together it is no longer breathable. So it
builds up even more ice. Not a good design. Having
nylon mesh as the inside layer on the front panels would have
fixed this problem.
And maybe I should mention -
when ice forms in the front panels of this jacket it feels
really, really cold. The first time this happened to me my
chest ached from the ice build-up and the skin on my chest
turned bright red. Using my imagination I would surmise
that this jacket is not one that women would want to wear if
they are skiing in cold temperatures.
I really like this jacket,
but now I know its limitations and won't be wearing it when it's
cold. I'll dig out my old Craft Stretch-back jacket for
those days. It's too bad, just a couple of square feet of
nylon mesh fabric on the inside of the front panels and this
jacket would be great.
|20 December 2011:
Rock Skis Need Love Too
Most every year the
unheralded foot soldiers of our personal platoon of ski troops
lead the charge in the war against summer. Being the first
to battle - these heroes slither through dirt and mud, get
wounded by rocks and battered by ice. They are the few,
the proud ... they are our rock skis.
We ask a lot from our rock
skis. So when rock skiing is over is it appropriate to
throw our rock skis, that made sacrifices to give us three extra
weeks of skiing, into to corner? Is it right to forget
about them until you want to abuse them next fall? I think
not. Rock skis are family. And they should be
repaired and waxed before retiring them until the next rock ski
This year my rock skis had
some hard days on the trail. So before waxing them and
storing them, I had to do some delamination repair. Here's
how I do such repair. If you have to do the same type of
repairs, this technique might work for you ...
delamination, behind the heel, that I have to fix. This is
a common rock ski failure point.
Stuff needed: screwdriver, clamps,
wood strips, tape and epoxy. I use two-part, slow curing
epoxy because it is runny and will seep into places you want to
Prying open the "wound" with a screw
driver I pour the epoxy mix into the ski.
Next I tape the edge that is being
repaired. This is so the epoxy won't run out of the ski in
the next step ...
Using wood shims and clamps I
squeeze the ski back together. And then I position the ski
so the epoxy runs towards the repair spot, and let the ski sit
overnight so the epoxy can cure.
|10 December 2011:
It Helps to Know the Temperature Zones of Your Gear
Fairly often you see skiers
on Anchorage ski trails dealing with cold hands.
Wind-milling their arms. Shaking their hands.
Suffering. Usually these skiers cut the suffering and quit
their ski early because of their problems with the cold.
Often the reason for skiers
having problems with cold hands, freezing faces, etc - is not
because of the cold. It's because they didn't bring the
right gear. They probably have the right gear. But
it was likely left at home because: "It wasn't this cold the
last time I skied!"
For skiers to have more fun
skiing, and less agony dealing with the cold, it's good to be
cognizant of what the temperatures are that you will be skiing
in. And to know the temperature zone's of each piece of
gear you own. That way you won't mismatch gear to the
Here's an example of
temperature zones for gloves:
So, if I'm
going to be skiing between Service High School and the Campbell
Creek Science Center and I check the Mesonet and I see that it
is 10 above at Service and 5 below at Campbell Creek - I know
what hand gear to use. I choose the gloves that fit this
temperature range. I use the same temperature range logic
for other gear. And I'm ready to go.
take a while for you to learn what the temperature ranges each
piece of gear you own covers. And you might find that you
have some gaps that need to be filled. Also, be aware that
wind chill and dehydration can alter the ranges that gear is
comfortable in. But once you figure it all out - you will
spend more time having fun skiing, and less time cussing about
what parts of your body are freezing.
Tip: A drink belt doubles well as a
place to carry heavy gloves. Just clip them together and
drape them over the belt. If you want to switch into them,
put your light gloves in your jacket pocket. Sometimes you
might want to start out in heavy gloves, and then switch to
light gloves when your body and hands warm up.
Heavy gloves are warm for skiing in the cold. But they can
be a pain to get in and out of ski straps. So - get in the
habit of never taking your gloves out of the ski straps.
Just pull your hands out and do want you have to barehanded.
Then slide your hands back into the gloves when you are ready to
|05 December 2011:
Time to Upgrade Your Winter Boots?
In Anchorage this year winter has
been giving us some hints: Near record early season
snowfall. Sub-zero temps in early November. 100 mph
Chinook storms leaving deep wet slush. These weather hints tell us
that having a decent pair of winter boots
is a good thing.
As it is near the holiday
season and a gift to someone, or to yourself, may be in order, here
are some thoughts on boots that my wife and I have used over the
years. These thoughts may help you should you decide to
purchase winter boots. The basic criteria I use in
evaluating winter boots are: 1) Are they warm? 2) Can they
be used for multiple activities? 3) Are they easy to get on and
off? 4) Can you drive your car or truck in them?
from upper left:
Neos over boots - Pros: Good for
many activities, easy on easy off, can wear running shoes or xc
ski boots in them (though the same pair of Neos might not fit
both running shoes and ski boots. Cons: Only warm if you
are moving, soles can puncture on sharp rocks.
Neos insulated over boots - Pros:
Same as non-insulated Neos but warmer. Cons: Quite a bit
heavier than non-insulated Neos.
Muck Boots, Arctic Sport - Pros: Easy on and off,
good support, waterproof. Cons: Not made for sub-zero
cold. My wife wears these a lot. She's picky about
winter boots, so if she likes these they must be good!
Sorel Glaciers - Pros: Warm, easy on and off, supportive,
good traction, you can drive while wearing them. Cons: Not
made as well as they used to be when they were made in Canada.
Overall: A basic, great winter boot. I used to spend a lot
of time running next to a dog sled in these boots. And
I've spent many hours driving snowmobiles in these boots.
Cabelas Trans-Alaska boots - Pros: Very warm,
supportive and comfortable, well made. Cons: Too bulky for
driving most vehicles. Getting them on and off is a two
step process: put on inner boot, then slide foot and inner boot
into shell. These were designed specifically for long
distance mushing. And the fact they are hard to get on and
off is good for mushing, as you don't want to step into overflow
and have your boot sucked off your foot. But for normal
activities where you might want to quickly get in and out of
your boots ... these are kind of a pain. Which is too bad,
because otherwise they are great boots.
Sorel Intrepid Explorers - Pros: Warm, easy on and
off, waterproof, can drive in them (just barely). Cons: A
bit expensive. These boots were designed for Yukon Quest
mushers. These are my wife's and my go-to boots these
days. My wife thinks they are great, so that says a lot
Northern Outfitters boots - Pros: Extremely
warm. Cons: Bulky, high centered and not supportive, don't
think about driving in these. These boots are great if you
have to be in extreme cold for a long time and are not
generating much heat - like ice fishing or manning a race
checkpoint. Mushers and snowmobilers sometimes use these
Bata Bunny Boots - Pros: Very warm, waterproof, you can drive in them,
will make you look like a real Alaskan, . Cons:
Heavy, not very supportive, soles will wear down quickly if you
walk on pavement with them. These boots were designed by
the US Army in
the 50's. Their rubber-encapsulated felt design is
brilliant (IMO) and has withstood the test of time. Many
Alaskans still use these boots. You can buy used US made
ones, but the new boots are now made overseas. I carry a
pair stashed in my truck for emergencies.
|01 December 2011:
The Internet and Bush Alaska, Connected While Not Connected
picture shows two people, Mike and Nancy (and Calley their dog),
testing the ice thickness on the Big Susitna River in early
November. They’re checking the ice to see if it is thick enough
for safe travel across the river. Until the ice is safe to
cross they are “trapped” in Bush Alaska, because the
road to civilization is on the other side of the river.
people that live in remote regions of Alaska, two times of the
year can amplify their isolation: freeze-up and break-up.
During late fall and early spring the thinly-iced rivers don’t
allow for travel by snowmobile or boat. And thin ice in the
fall or rotting snow and ice in the spring won’t allow airplanes
to land. During these times there is no way in, and no way
out. So it’s a measure of being a “real” Alaskan to spend
freeze-up or break-up on the side of the river that civilization
challenges and isolation of freeze-up and break-up have been a
part of the lives of Alaskans, and northerners around the world,
for millennia. But only recently has the Internet been a
living in the Bush can be connected to the world wide web, but
at the same time not be able to travel to a store to buy food.
The above picture illustrates this
situation. These two can’t get across the river
and make it to a store. But after this picture that was taken
it was uploaded to the web a few hours later. Cyber-connected,
but not connected to civilization.
unique aspect of this Bush/Internet phenomenon is that people
like these two become Bush-celebrities of sorts. Many people
that want to travel out to remote areas check Bush dwellers'
Facebook and forum postings frequently. As soon as posts
that folks from the Bush made it to town - there is a buzz of excitement.
People then start traveling these tested trails to get to their
remote cabins, to hunt or ice fish, to visit relatives and
friends ... and
even to go xc skiing in cool places. Once word is out that
the Bush trails are in - it's game-on for winter travel in
|26 November 2011:
Memorable Grizzly Bear Years in Alaska This Century
|22 November 2011:
Ryan's Hill Recognition Is Long Overdue At Hillside
deserves recognition at the Hillside Trail System in Anchorage. It’s long overdue.
If you ski
Hillside trails you will see the Moerlein Hill sign. And you
will see the Richter Hill sign. These names are of early ski
families that helped form the Nordic Ski Club of Anchorage. The
kids in these families were excellent xc ski racers. I know
members of these ski clans and they are all good people.
But when I
get together with Anchorage high school ski team alums from the
70’s and 80’s and we are hanging around listening to Bruce
Springsteen’s “Glory Days” and reliving the past - a common
story comes up. And invariably it ALWAYS comes up. It’s a
legend that will likely never be topped.
legend of the people that built our trails, or those who
presided over our ski clubs, or ski coachess, or state or
national champions, or Olympians? Nope. This is all good
stuff. But this is usually “here today – gone tomorrow –
eventually forgotten” stuff.
legend behind a “Ryan’s Hill” sign is one that is not possible
to be forgotten over the generations.
is a legend of a guy crashing and getting a broken ski stuck in his
talk to anyone that skied high school in the 70’s and Steve
Ryan’s crash on the Service Trails that resulted in his buttocks
being impaled by a Norwegian-crafted ski-spear is the common
denominator of all skiing stories.
“Remember so and so? He went on to the Olympics didn’t he?”
can’t remember. Hey! Do you remember the time Steve Ryan
crashed and got a broken ski stuck in his ass?!”
comes to skiing feats, nothing trumps heroically taking one for
the team like Steve did.
So why does
this event reverberate with such clarity in 70’s era ski
racers? Probably it’s due to the fact that many of these skiers
experienced high-speed wooden ski blow-ups and know first hand
the fear involved in these event.
is the sound. CRACK! This is a sound we are genetically
programmed to fear. It’s the sound of branches breaking as an
angry mother mastodon charges towards our camp enraged that we
killed its child for food. It’s the sound of spears breaking as
we battle the Vikings who have come to kill us and steal our
women. It’s the sound of 2nd grade teacher Mrs.
Murphy’s ruler as it hits our head because our penmanship is not
up to par.
is the slow motion acknowledgement of what is happening just
before the pain starts. It’s like when our ancestors where
thrown from a steed on the battlefield and were falling,
seemingly in slow motion, into a sea of spears and swords. Same
thing with breaking a wooden ski at high speed. As you fall you
see in slow motion jagged spears of hickory coming at you, a
vicious shrapnel of birch splinters racing towards you and of
course – the tip of the non-broken ski fast approaching your
lower groin area.
these primeval engrained fears flashed through Mr. Ryans mind
before he skidded to a stop. There must have been chaos once
the reality of the situation set in. Guys on the Service team
must have been screaming: “Coach! Coach! Steve’s got a ski
stuck in his ass!” And then shock and grief must have been
overwhelming to them as they couldn’t control their emotions
and stop laughing. The girls were likely equally distraught:
“Oh my God! I’m not going to the prom with him! I don’t want to be
heckled about going to the prom with the guy that got a ski
stuck in his butt!”
trauma. The pain. The embarrassment. The knowledge that this
epic mishap would live forever in the minds and hearts of
Anchorage high school skiers. A legend that has withstood the
test of time. These are all reasons that Hillside needs a
Ryan’s Hill sign, or maybe the Richter Loop Connector should be
named the Ryan's Hill Trail (see below).
Location of Ryan's Hill. The
dotted line is approximate the route of the "new" Richter Loop
Top of the now overgrown Ryan's Hill. Looking towards
an old, straight cut the hill outruns to. The cut then
heads up a ridge to the NW.
On top of the ridge to the NW,
looking back across the grown-in cut towards Ryan's Hill
Possible old trail cut on the
ridge-top to the NW of Ryan's Hill.
Update: I got
an email that informed me that there used to be a Ryan's Hill
sign. But 25-30 years ago it disappeared. I
confirmed with veteran xc ski racers where Ryan's Hill is (see
above pictures). I went there and checked it out.
The "new" Richter Loop Connector trail cuts right across
the top of Ryan's Hill. Seeing that Ryan's Hill is the
most fabled ski hill in Anchorage, why would you name a trail
something else if it crosses Ryan's Hill? I don't get it.
There already is a Richter Trail. Naming the trail that
crosses Ryan's Hill "the Richter Loop Connector" is demeaning
and disrespectful to legend and history that the Anchorage
Nordic ski community holds sacred. This trail really
should be renamed "The Ryan's Hill Trail". That would be
accurate, appropriate and the historically correct thing to do.
|20 November 2011:
Economics of XC Skiing - Cost Trend of A Constant Commodity
If you tell people in the ski industry that
cross country skiing has gotten prohibitively expensive, you
usually get the standard responses: "Oh, you can't compare
the old days with today." "The equipment, the technology,
has changed for the better ... so sure, it costs more but it's
worth it." "Everything is expensive these days, so cross
country skiing is expensive too."
it's the same old hand-waving and blowing of smoke. No one
in the ski industry seems willing to acknowledge or own up to
how much the cost of xc skiing has increased. No one seems
to want to accept the fact that the high cost of xc skiing has
driven many potential participants away from this sport.
They just want to sell you the latest, greatest and increasingly
expensive products. And not remove their blinders.
It is a
valid point that you can't compare today's skis, boots and poles
to the gear from the 70's. Today's equipment is more
technologically advanced and better than gear of days gone by.
But not all
cross country ski products have undergone radical changes.
Some products have not changed for 50 years. Take for
instance a basic commodity of the xc skiing world - Swix Blue
hard wax. It seems that this wax has not changed much, or
at all, since it was created. I still have tins of Swix
Blue hard wax from the 70's and I can't tell any difference
between this old kick wax and modern day Swix Blue.
can definitely tell the difference in price. This chart
shows what I mean ...
through some old ski catalogs recently (for this
web page) I found a
mail-order catalog from 1972 that sold Swix Blue hard wax for 50
cents a tin. The US Bureau of Labor Consumer Price Index
calculator estimates that 50 cents in 1972 should be $2.71
today (2011). But the MSRP for Swix Blue is 2.67 times
more than that ... it's $9.95 a tin.
OK - I know
that the CPI is not a perfect metric. And I know that Swix
is a foreign company and exchange rates come into play.
But come on ... how can the ski industry say they want to
increase the participation in cross country skiing but at the
same time almost triple the inflation-adjusted cost of a basic ski product that
hasn't changed in decades?
Yes - this
is just a comparison of the cost of a tin of basic wax.
But I will venture to say that the upward trend for this simple
staple is conservative with regards to the cost increases in
other xc ski equipment.
Consumer Price Index is an "affordability index", it indicates
the affordability level for US consumers. If the cost of a
product far exceeds the CPI adjusted cost over time, the product
becomes less affordable to many US consumers.
"Hello! Earth to ski industry ... you
can't grow the sport of xc skiing if you make it so expensive
that fewer and fewer people can afford to be xc skiers."
|17 November 2011:
A Leaner Year Ahead for Groomed Snowmobile Trails In Alaska
Denali Highway groomed trails
Petersville / Curry Ridge Riders
Lower Susitna Drainage Assoc. groomed
For those who like to ski the groomed
snowmobile trail networks in Alaska – it’s going to be a leaner
of Alaska SnowTrac grant program provides a share of snowmobile
registration fees to clubs in Alaska to help groom snowmobile
trails. According to the most recent Alaska Snowrider magazine,
last year a total of about $330,000 was granted to around 12
clubs. This year the total will be around $196,000. So that
means trails will likely be groomed only about two-thirds as
frequently as in previous years.
does this mean to skiers (or bikers) that like to use groomed
an average of around $20,000 granted per club, and with high
fuel costs, there isn’t much money for grooming. Clubs like the
Curry Ridge Riders, the Willow Trail Committee, the Denali
Highway Trail Committee, the Caribou Hills Cabin Hoppers and
others will be tight on money to keep up their amazing trail
systems. So please consider either joining a trails club or two
or sending the respective club a check after you use their
trails. A snowmobile registration cost is $5 per year, so we
are not talking big donations per user here.
out and ski (or snow bike or ski-jor) these trails. The more
user groups that are on these trail systems, the more sway there
will be politically to keep the shoestring operations funded
that give us these great trails. Go give these trails a try for
yourself because you never know what the future holds and how
long these trails will exist.
like to add: When you go skiing on these trails talk to
snowmobilers and trail groomers that you meet. You will find
that there is little difference between snowmobile trail riders
and backcountry trail skiers (or bikers). Each user group is
equally passionate about winter trails and living life large in
Alaska in the winter.
careful. If you talk to the trails people, or travel their
trails, in places like Willow or Petersville or the Caribou
Hills or Lake Louise or on the Denali Highway … you will
probably start really liking these people and their trails a
lot. And you will then start coming up with lots of excuses as
to why you have to leave places like Anchorage and go use their
trails. These SnowTrac trails are addictive! So beware!
the State of Alaska SnowTrac-funded winter trails in the 2010
|05 November 2011:
Skiing Down Memory Lane ... XC Skiing Gear Ads of the 70's
|04 November 2011:
Must-Have for Anchorage XC Skiers In Bear Country?
Seems like some Anchorage xc
skiers are apprehensive about running into
not-yet-in-hibernation bears on Hillside ski trails. A
recent Anchorage Daily News
article talks about bear sightings during the last week.
It seems like a solution to help skiers avoid bear
confrontations was developed centuries ago - "ski trail bells".
Below is an advertisement from a 1970's ski magazine for such
bells. Bears would not be surprised by you when using these
bells because they could hear you jingling, and get off the
trail. Or maybe bears might consider these" skier-for-dinner bells". Ya never know ...
Recent bear, right next to Hillside
xc trails, caught on a ski area security camera. (Photo: Hillside
1970'S magazine ad for ski bells.
Maybe Alaska Mountaineering and Hiking should start carrying
these? Or maybe someone in Alaska should start making
|31 October 2011:
Great Idea, That Didn't Last Long
In the mid 1980's the Kneissl
ski company came out with a unique cross country racing ski.
It was called the "Vario" and it had a dial that could adjust
the camber of the ski. The dial would adjust a
tension band that was anchored to the inside of the ski on
either side of the camber pocket. Tightening the dial
cause the camber to get stiffer, loosening it caused the camber
This was a great idea in that
one pair of skis could literally be "dialed-in" for the weight
of the skier or the for waxing camber was needed for the day.
Also, during races the camber could be adjusted. If your
skis were slipping, you could just reach down and dial down the
camber a bit.
Unfortunately the downfall of
these skis seemed to be their durability. The sections of
the ski where the tension bands were anchored (on either side of
the camber pocket) were prone to breaking. That's too bad.
This technology would have made an economical high school and
citizen racing ski. Skiers wouldn't need multiple pairs of
classic skis and ski shops wouldn't have to carry a variety of
cambers per ski length.
Perhaps advances in
composites and adhesives in the decades since when the Vario
came out could be used to overcome the limitations of the past
... and make this good idea come back to life.
Mid 1980's Kneissl Super Star WM "Vario" skis
- they had dials to vary the ski camber.
Closeup of the Vario dial that was just in front of the
The problem with these skis is that
the internal tension band anchors would fail too often.
|30 October 2011:
I was out training and ran into this guy.
Reminded me of the "Got Milk?" ads.
|Late October 2011:
Back in the wooden skis days you would see this
technique used quite a lot. Prior to the mid 70's ski
racing speeds were slower because the skis were made of wood and
often soft cambered, glide wax
was not yet in use and the racing tracks were usually soft and
bumpy. Just getting across flat sections of trail could
involve brutal classical skiing exertion. As a result the
change-up was used as a "rest stroke" or "gear shifting"
technique move. You would often see skiers throw in
change-ups when they went over bumps, got to the bottom of hills
and switched to climbing gear or when they were just plain
With the advent of faster
fiberglass skis, faster waxes and firmer and faster ski tracks, the change-up went away. The time taken to do the
change-up was not worth the loss in momentum. Higher ski
speeds made it feasible to just hammer all the time.
When I was in high school in
the 70's I remember seeing US Ski Teamer Bob Gray race.
Besides being a tough and fast skier, he had a distinctive
change-up style. The picture in the above 1978 ad shows
his change-up well (click on the picture to make
it bigger and readable). When you saw him do a change-up you would
do a double-take and go: "Wow"! Bob is a nice guy that us
kids looked up to back in the day (along with his peers like
Mike Gallahger, Charlie Kellogg, Dennis Donahue and others of
that era). We kids still look up to Bob and these guys.
A rather obscure form of slowing down on skis
is "pole braking". This method of slowing down involves
taking your hands out of your pole straps, holding your poles
together to your side or between your legs and weighting them.
This will cause your ski pole tip and basket to drag and slow
you down. Of course - you don't want to put too much
weight on your poles or your attempt at "pole braking" might
result in "pole breaking". And as you might be able to
imagine, this technique can turn hazardous if you are a male
skier using the "between the legs" braking method.
This technique was largely
abandoned when ski trails became better groomed. And when
ski poles got lighter, more fragile, more expensive and baskets
turned to breakable plastic - skiers decided it was better to
learn other skiing techniques to slow down.
Growing up I would snicker
and chuckle when I saw people using this technique. "Ha!
What a turkey!" But then when I started skiing narrow
snowmobile trails, especially steep downhills that were too
narrow to snowplow - at night and with a sled pushing you from
behind ... I realized that there was a place for this technique.
But of course, I would first check and make sure there was no one around
to see me using this "turkey technique"!
|Late October 2011:
Off The "Devil's Tongue"
For quite a few years
now I have been using the Salomon Pro Combi boots for
backcountry xc skiing. I like the way these boots
fit and function ... that is - after I modify them.
The problem with these boots, at least for me, is that
the tongues of the boots have a rigid insert that is
pointed near the toe-end. This stiff point cuts
into my toes when I classic ski with them.
And I don't mean rub or chaff, I really mean cut
... as in bloody socks. Yes indeed, these are the
vicious tongues of the devil !! And they must be
attacked, subdued and (partially) destroyed!
I have posted
previously on how I modify the Salomon Pro Combi boot
tongues, here is the
got a new pair of Pro Combi's this year and did the
modification on them. It seemed like the new boots
had more adhesive inside the tongue. So for these
2010 models the process of pulling out the tongue insert
and trimming it was harder than with the 2008 & 2009
boots. I have now done this boot tongue
modification on 4 pairs of Pro-Combis.
The tip of the insert after
it has been pulled out of the Pro Combi tongue, and just
before it is to be cut off.
Devil's tongue tips after
they were cut out of a pair of Pro Combi's. And
ready to be cast to their demise into the infernal
Modern Day Ski Poles Better Than 100 Year Old Ski Poles?
comparison of the 2011 Swix Triax (above) to the 1920
Seppala-pole, once manufactured in Nome, Alaska (below,
Three women skiing
in Nome, Alaska (circa 1920). Photo credit:
Move hands up for skating, down for classic.)
||Same pole can be used for
(Pole can be adjusted on the
fly and used for any technique.)
||Made from renewable
(Bamboo grows fast. A
ski pole can be grown in 2-3 years.)
||Can be used to pole vault
streams or fallen skiers
(But you have to be careful
where you place the poles when you vault fallen
||Poles are designed for
(Pole shafts can be burned
for heat. Seal skin leather in baskets can
be boiled and eaten.)
||Failure proof ski straps
(Pole straps are guaranteed
for life not to fail, because there are no
||Pole is effective when
hitting polar bears or drunken Norwegians on the
(Japanese Ninjas use the same
pole as weapons.)
Norwegians must be really proud of
the Swix Triax pole they developed to retail them in the
US for $400 dollars a pair. But for that price
they fail in comparison in many ways to the poles their
great-great granddads, like Norwegian Leonhard Seppala,
made 100 years ago in Nome, Alaska. Oh well, keep
1970's Vintage XC Ads
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