Sunday, March 30, 2008

Last Grooming of the Season trail pictures 3/28/08

That's a wrap folks. Please come help out with the "clean up" trail work day. We'll pull the fencing down and clean things up. Six-months pregnant Dina and I snowshoed up to the upper meadow and pulled down all of the wands, so that part is done.

Here are some pics of the trail during the last grooming session last Friday evening (3.28/o8). If you didn't go ski, too bad. It was pretty nice.

Just past pt A ----- ---- Groomer's eye view

The coat tree at pt. B...pretty dirty snow here Good snow just a little further up

not's the rock on Dave's Dogleg Good track in the meadow

Kermit and 6' Tidd in the meadow --- -- Looking down the meadow at sunset

Setting track on the way down: with flash............ and without

These are interesting. We had a lot of tree blow-downs this season and had to go up at night and play lumberjack by headlamp. We were lucky to get a lot of new snow right after cutting all of these trees up, but now with the meltdown, you can see the evidence of those long nights of work. This wreaked havoc with my klister!

I like this spot on the trail system. It's where the "new" section rejoins the original trail right near where we have the moonlight parties.

Parting shot: one last look at the meadow. Good crust skiing's pretty much finished now.

Thanks to everyone who has volunteered, donated and supported the club. It works thanks to you!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Grooming/Trail Conditions Report 3/28/08

Get it while the gettin's good. That is the last grooming session of the year. I took some pictures to post, but left my camera bag in the trackster and can't download them. I'm bummed about that, as they're pretty cool.

I got up there just after 5pm and the snow was corn and pretty soft. Some short sections were frozen and not really good, but it mostly groomed out nicely. There's lots of debris in some stretches, so be careful. It's especially bad where the big trees fell and we had to cut them out and all kinds of sawdust and boughs got buried under the's all exposed now.

I just focused on the upper trails and the meadow from point M to the top. The lower trail didn't get any grooming...sorry. It likely has burn out spots anyway. As it was, the session took a long time because it hadn't been groomed in a couple of weeks...too bad, as it would have been nicer if we had stayed on top of it. The 4 people who groom regularly ran out of steam. We need more help...seriously.

You'll need to walk to just before the coat tree at point B. After that, it's continous, but I had to shovel three different spots, so be careful. The worst one is just over the little hill a hundred meters past the coat tree. Other than that, it's actually pretty good skiing in some long stretches.

The trail is groomed for both skating and classic from point B to the top of the meadow, and then down the meadow to the entrance at point M. Be careful on the meadow trail where it enters the little tree sections. It's very uneven and one spot that is exposed to the wind has a very narrow covering.

It was below freezing when I got done, so it was setting up nicely. Should hold up for the morning.


PS -- We will have a NO EXCUSES work day next Saturday, April 5, to pull down all of the fencing and wands, and put away the equipment. Please come up and help if you can. If we have interest, we can do a nice BBQ afterward and enjoy some burgers, brats, beer, etc. It should be fun, actually.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Master's World Cup Blog Report #2

I've been debating whether or not to write a report for this for several reasons, but I
figured those of you who are interested will enjoy, and everyone else can just ignore it.
I thought getting everything arranged so that we could get there and do the event was
difficult, but getting back on track "post-race" has been even more

It's been a tough season. With ski club activities/duties, promoting a race, getting sick
(twice! >=( and preparing for being a parent, well, it's been different. I kept
telling myself that it's worth it and it's about the process, not the end result, and now
that it's pretty much over, I can look back and say it was a lot of fun. Things just
won't be the same next year, nor ever.

The last time this roving championship was in North America was 1998, when it was held at the Olympic ski trails in Lake Placid. This year's event called McCall, Idaho home, specifically at the Ponderosa State Park on the largest of the Payette Lakes just north of McCall. The event has grown in world-wide popularity every year and this year was certainly no exception. Over 1200 athletes from something like 20 different countries, and of ages ranging from the minimum of 30 yrs old to the oldest competitor who was 93 yrs young.

Day 0 - very warm. Cool banners for all of the represented countries

Yep, some 93 yr old guy called Yves Girard from Quebec was there. I think he only skied one 5km event and had to walk with a cane, but he was there -- he made even Sven Wiik look young! The funniest memory I have of this guy was at the very festive closing banquet, where there was a long line for the men's restroom (a lot of old prostates there!), and he just went right to the front and got to be next in line for the urinal. I guess if you are 93 and still competing, no one makes you wait in line for the toilet!

The MWC events were spread out over a week, give or take. The format was that there was a "middle distance" race of 30km, then a "short distance" race of 10km, then a 4x5km (2 x classic; 2 x skate) relay if you were chosen by your country's MWC delegate, then a "long distance" race of 45km. You had to choose which style you wanted to ski each race, either classic or skate...but you couldn't do both. For example, you could ski the 30km as classic, then ski the 10 and 45 as skate, or whatever combination you wanted. The races were on separate days too, with the exception of the 10km, which had the classic races early in the morning, and the skate races in the afternoon.

SWNSC members that made the trip were myself (Clay), Denny Newell, Paul Graham, and Dina Pesenson (who is expecting and didn't race, but tirelessly supported us, cheered, and took photos).

Our first day there, we went for training and it was very warm. It was over 50 degrees and the snow was all wet and heavy. We went for a training classical ski that required serious klister and warm hard wax in a complicated series of applications. It worked well and we thought we had figured out what we needed to for the following day's 30km classical race (Paul, Denny and I had all elected to ski the 30km as classical). Well, the weather did not stay that way and I'll just point you to my post from that day and just say that that was THE most frustrating day of racing I've ever had. I was very strong and energetic, but it was just not to be. I perservered and finished for my own stubborn reasons, but I was not happy about that experience. Still, I ended up 8th place in my division (M-02 for 35-39 men). Many others had similar experiences. The new generation of waxless "Zero" skis or "hairies" were the call for the day.
Denny before the start of the 30km classic day: 34 degrees w/5" of new, goopy, wet snow...not our finest moment.

The agony of defeat. Afterward, Paul and Denny went back and burned their classic skies

That night, I went to pick up Dina in Boise and we drove back late again and got up the next morning to beautiful sunshine and perfect ski conditions. The McCall area has like 6 Nordic areas, so we chose one that looked nearby and with some easy terrain. It was called "Jug Mountain Ranch." We all went out there together and just skied easy and had a great time. Afterward, the golf course clubhouse that doubled as the winter Nordic center was serving a nice breakfast brunch, so we drank a cold beer and ate breakfast! It helped us all forget the bad race from the day before, that's for sure.
Typical trails at Jug Mountain Ranch...not too shabby. Trails at Ponderosa State Park on the lake were not like these. The lake humidity caused the snow to be a lot different than here, where it was drier and more like Rocky Mtn. snow.

With a great day of fun skiing behind us, I had a more positive attitude for Monday's 10km classical race. Denny and Paul had elected to do the rest of the races as skating, so I was alone on having to figure out the waxing in those tricky snow conditions. Denny and Paul had pretty much burned their classic skies in a disgusted drunken stupor as an offering to the Norse god of snow, Ullr.

I was also on a mission to find some honor in these events. I had the feeling that I had no business being there and wanted to disprove that notion. Things were different on race morning. Amazingly, I wasn't at all nervous, had a great warm-up and felt ready to lay down a much better race.

Clay lining up for the start of the 10km classic -- start positions were assignedThe big Russian guy (German Schastlivvy) who just crushed everyone in the classic races is on the far left

It was much colder too, which is great for classical skiing, but I missed the wax a bit as the weather report called for a low of about 10 - 12 degrees F, and it was more like 3 degrees F. Oh well. I didn't go nuts with the waxing and multiple pairs of skis like everyone else. I focused on the race and just having a good time, which I think helped a lot. I'm pretty happy and confident in the FastWax brand of wax. Being one range above or below has never seemed to be a disaster, so it's hard to really "miss" the wax.

The race started off at ballistic pace. The same Russians who destroyed everyone in the 30km were determined to "break" all of us again, but this time more of us stuck with them for a much longer time. It was very aggressive and I held my ground without breaking my poles (a common occurence in mass-start classical races). I am not a great double-poler, and these races really required you to be strong and good at it...even uphill! I would start striding when the guys I was with were still able to double-pole. I felt really out of place, but stuck by it. Eventually, things broke up and I found myself in the second group, which shattered into fragments, as did the first group. We were all onesies and twosies by the end. By the time were on the biggest hill of the course I was so loaded up from the incredible pace that my legs felt like rubber. We strided up so quickly, however, that I can hardly remember it. It was just too much and over the top, I got dropped from the two Italians I was hanging onto by a thread and had to ski alone until I heard three local hotshots from Idaho catching up to me. They all had huge cheering sections and I knew exactly who they were. I was sure they were going to blow past, but they were hurting when they pulled up to me, so I kept the pressure on over the short, steep hills (walls) near the finish. I got over those hills on wobbly legs and the adrenaline of the certain sprint was hitting me and I felt no pain in the last 500 meters. When we rounded the corner out of the woods into the stadium, I could hear Dina cheering for me louder than anyone and I really wanted to impress her. I entered the final sprint lanes behind a big guy who had a good double-pole and had a little ground to make up. I really went nuts in that sprint and the adrenaline got me to the line ahead of those three guys, good enough for 6th in the M-02s. I was so psyched up about that, but first had to keep myself from throwing up from that effort.
Coming into the stadium for the sprint

All amped up on adrenaline going for 6th overall and 2nd American

Clay and Wilhelm Northrop (Idaho) reliving the sprint

OK...this is gonna get long with the way I ramble on and write. I'll post the other bits in subsequent reports. Look for them over the next few weeks.

Last Grooming for this weekend 3/28-3/30

Well, the warm, windy weather has taken over winter (it came "hard and fast" as Ken Kisiel predicted...) and the xc skiing is going quickly. We'll plan on one last grooming session for some clean skiing up to the meadows and the glorious "crust" that sets up every night and is good until about noon or so.

If it looks doable, I'll probably even pull in a classic track for some variety. Bring waxless skis or some good spring corn/aqua klister for your waxable skis.

I'll report on Friday evening for Saturday morning's skiing. Check back...

Sunday, March 16, 2008

2008 Pajarito Pinhead Challenge Race Report

Best. Race. Ever.

Well maybe not ever, but man this thing was one silly fun race. Here is the concept. Start at the ski lodge. Ski all the way up, 1200 feet vertical, to the top of the mountain. Next ski down one of the runs back to the lodge.

Making things a bit more complicated, there are two routes up the hill. One is longer, but smoother and more gradual, one is a straight up the slopes.

The idea is that the skate skiers will take the long way up while the backcountry/at/tele skiers will skin/run up the slope. In theory the skaters would be at a huge advantage up the hill, mitigated by the skinners taking the shortcut and further mitigated by the backcountry/tele/at skiers blasting down the slopes while the skaters nearly die. And damned if it did not work out really well.

The mighty pajarito mountain. Race started behind the jump and went way off the photo to the left, over the top and back down way over off the photo on the right side


For you locals, the race started just above the lodge (~9200ft) at the Pajarito Mountain Ski Area in los alamos and then headed south eastish up the access road all the way up to wrap around the back side of the hill and up and over the tip top (10440ft) and then down Rim Run to I DOn't Care to the jeep road back to the lodge. The shorcut was up Dogpatch.

Lots of the terrain and views are similar to the mountainbike bachelors party I had in October. photos here. With, you know, more snow.

Before we get to the race report formally, I just want to make a few things clear. I have been on skis on at a downhill area exactly once in my life in 1993 in vermont. I used to snowboard alot in Tahoe, but have not done that since 1999-2000. I am competent on skate skis on any downhill I have seen in a Nordic area. Pajarito Mountain is a pretty steep ski area. I have never been above 9400 feet at the downhill area when there was snow. You perhaps may understand why the downhill part caused disquietude for many of the skate skiers, including me.

JohnB all happy on his way to victory. Dig that crazy skate!

click for big

There were something like 15-20 skiers on the start line. About 8 skate skiers and the rest on some sort of backcountry/AT/tele gear. Lets call those other people skinners, even if it was not clear that all of them were actually using skins, but they did go up the shortcut.

To temporally distrub the narritive at this point, I want to add that I was asleep at 7:39am in my bed. I got up shortly thereafter and made it, dressed in my ski gear to sign in at 8:40 at the ski lodge. The race was scheduled for 9am start. Well done me. The morning? cold but clear and blessedly free of the accursed spring NM winds.

Ken K stomps along to second place

click for big

So there we are at the starting line and the race starts a bit late. Fellow SWnordic ski team members John and Ken get a great start and me and three other skaters start in the same area. The course starts with a bit of a downhill and then a sweeping right around some trees up to the climbing access road. Ken and John make it fine, but I follow (someLAwoman) on a bad line and we start skittering asunder on the off camber turn. Tom from Santa Fe makes it fine and I start the climb in fifth.

As we start to climb in earnest I feel pretty good and pass tom and (someLAwoman)and settle in just behind John and Ken who are setting the pace up front. The access road is well groomed but got seriously off camber at every crossing of the downhill runs. What started as a minor annoyance got to be very trying as the race progressed.

Skinner 1 (ericO) skins to third

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As we get a large part of the climb done and head toward the first big righthand switchback I find myself starting to blow up a bit. (someLAwoman) passes me right at the switchback and I see John and Ken up ahead starting to put some serious distance between me and them. As we cut back across the hill I can see that, to my surprise, there are two skinners up the mountain on dogpatch ahead of me and two just below me.
Well done fellers...

(someLAwoman)on her way to fifth overall. sorry I forgot her name...


As the climb continues the suffering sets in. No big story to tell here. I am a bit overcooked. I am pretty sure my weight is the sum of the weights of John, Ken and (someLAwoman) and I am feeling every pound of this. Also it is really hard to recover at 10,000 feet when you are cooked. But I soldier on up across various injustices like icy off camber slopes and steep hills. There are some beautiful vistas from this part of the course, but I can't really remember them. I do remember when I did this climb on my single speed in the fall that there were easy parts of the climb. They do not make themselves obvious on skis. I am alternating between a weak V1 a weak coaches skate and some sort of stumbling herringbone run on some parts. Ouch. But yet I continue.

As we wrap around the back of the mountain I can see (someLAwoman) and two of the skinners up ahead. We finally hit a nice fast section before climbing back up to the top of the mountain. As we hit the last flattish bit I blow by the two skinners and find myself firmly in fourth ahead of all the skinners.

JessicaK is taking photos and cheering us on at this point, and taking photos. thanks Jess. So all photographs from the race are from her...

Me with the smile of terror as I know the descent is near. This is the hypoxic-swing-kick-dog-pee skate technique. No I will not teach you.

click for big

I pick up speed and head down the rim run knowing there is the small matter of getting down the hill. We come to the precipice of dooom at the top of the "I Don'tCare" run. I pause and look down. Maybe I pause for a while trying to plot out my path. It is a green run, but pretty steep. Especially for someone like me. I can see (someLAwoman) snowplowing her way down the slope well below me. As I consider my options, skinner #1 blows by me, without pausing and cuts some huge turns. Welp, I guess it is my turn.

I drop in and find I can mostly control myself by doing quick snowplow turns. Until I get to a pretty steep stretch. I fall on my side as I can't quite control my speed well enough and I skid down the steep bit on my hip. A giant lightbulb turns on! It is much faster and safer for me to glissade down the steep bits on my hip than to try to make huge slow switchbacks. So I snow plow a bit, more straight down the slope now that I have a strategy. When I get out of control, I bail onto my side and head straight down the slope on my hip.

While this is a pretty good strategy for me, it is not fast compared to say, everyone else. Skinner number two blows by me while I am bouncing along the slope on my hip. I get up and try to do better, but am stymied by a last steep bit before making a turn onto the jeep road. I slide down on my ass the last few feet to the turn while skinner number three executes a gigantic tele-turn at high speed onto the jeep road. Whooooosh. And he is gone.

I get on the jeep road and go as fast as my frail nerves let me. As I am scrubbing way too much speed, skinner number 4 blows by me in a full tuck. Dammit. I need to point out that skinner 4 was wearing a big ski helmet. Which must have been brutal going up the hill. Well done!

I go faster, but the damage is done. I finish in eighth, behind 3 skaters and 4 skinners. As near as I can remember the finish order is something like:
1. John Bernardin -skate 33minute
2. Ken Kissiel - skate 37 minutes
3. EricO skinner 39minutes?
4. Toti L skinner 40minutes?
5. (someLAwoman) skate 41 minutes?
6. skinner 3
7. Rob C skinner
8. Me skate 45 minutes
9 skinner 5
10. Santa fe Tom, skate
11. Skinner6
12. Paul G, skate
??? Myriad Skinners
Tied lanternrouge: JoeB and JohnU skinners ~1:15

There were nice little pajarito mountain logo shirts, mugs, and stickers for prizes. I finished 8th overall, but 6th in the competitive mens 30-45 age group. They were nice enough to give me a sticker for my efforts. The race entry was a big zero dollars so that was nice. Note that JohnB won both this race and the Chama Chile Classic this year. I think that means he won the NM cup convincingly. Well done John.

So overall it was pretty cool. The top two skaters won by a clear margin, I think they were always ahead of skinners, but from 3-8, we traded places on the mountain a bit, which was pretty exciting for a race with 15 odd people in it. The course was well designed and the shortcuts were pretty fair for both the skinners and skaters.

Big thanks to the organizers whose names I never caught. I know there are a ton of skinners in santa fe and taos who should come out for this next year. There are a bunch of skaters in town who should dow it as well. Good race. Suprisingly fast, really hard, and very fun. I lost 6 minutes on the downhill to skinner1. I think I probably could cut this down a bit next year and maybe go a bit faster uphill if I practiced that every now and again. We shall see. If there were alot more skiers it would be that much more fun so come out next year.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Grooming/Conditions Report 3/11/08

All of the main trails, including the outer meadow trail, have been regroomed (skate lane only). Conditions looked pretty nice with very little ice or glaze...just a few spots. The classic tracks were fair on the lower road and pretty nice (good condition) from about point B up to the meadow. They were drifted a bit on the downhill meadow trail. They need to be reset sometime this week.

While the snowpack is good on all of the main trails, the front hill continues its slow death and is pretty narrow in a couple of spots. It won't be long before portions of it and the area right at point A are melted down to the ground. It may be necessary to walk up past those points very soon.

More snow is forecast later this weekend...that may keep things going nicely until the end of March. Enjoy.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Grooming update redux 3/7/2008

Just to expand on the last post. I just got back from the trail, skiing until I bonked so hard that my teeth hurt.

DaveW. not only groomed the whole trail but it looks like he groomed every little shortcut that has been open at anypoint this year. The upper meadow is a bit drifty already, the mid meadow trail is still soft and really drifty, fun for going down, crappy for going up. The upper trails are in great shape, well groomed and a bit soft.

Remember though, we are in the part of the year where the trail gets slushy when the sun hits it and freezes solid when the sun goes down. The front hill went from soft to ice rink in the 2 hours I was out there. So be careful, some bits of the upper trail went from groomed to iced as well. I suspect it will still be great tomorrow morning and we will be on our way to ice city tomorrow night. i did not ski the lower road, some evidence of lots of dog traffic already, but it looked pretty good from point A....

Big huge thanks to Dave. Classic track is set as well.

Grooming update, March 7th, 2008

Dave has groomed the entire trail for skating and classic.  He's the man!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Trail conditions, Wednesday, March 5th

Dave W informs me that the trail was groomed on Monday the 3rd and that conditions are great!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Masters World Cup 2008, Race Report 1

From Clay:
...uh, what happened out there? I was just glad the guy with the cane didn't pull me off the race course. Denny said he was pretty sure he heard a gong telling him it was over...somehow they showed pity on us and let us finish.

Ugh, I've never had such a bad day with waxing. It was a literal nightmare. Forecasts had called for a mix of rain/snow at above freezing temps, but it was just a very wet, heavy snow at about 34 degrees. No one knew what to do...except the really elite skiers (most foreigners and some US elites). We started with ironed-in hard waxes going from VR-55 to VR-60, then tested it and it didn't work at all. We went to the VR-70...nothing -- like banana peels. OK, last one in the kit: the VR-75, which is the consistency of crystalized honey, and just as messy. I felt some kick, but if I stepped out of a track into the new soft snow, I was iced up and walking on stilts. What the heck?

Just before my start, I had such a ball of ice on the bottom of my skis and had to run over to the Toko tent for a scraper. The wax guy there (turns out to be THE main guy at Toko, and former US Olympian, Ian Harvey) looks at my skis and says, "'re in for a long hard day with that, man. How long 'til your start?"

I didn't know what he was getting at, but it turns out that they were abrading people's skis into what is called "hairies." Yeah, just get rid of all kick wax and sandpaper the crap out of your kick zone into "hair." It just looked to destructive and was too new and weird to go with 5 minutes before my start...BIG MISTAKE!!!

Well, I'll leave the rest of it for later, but Denny, Paul, and I had a really rough day. Others did too, it appears. I also got pointed off course and did an extra 2km about adding insult to injury. The last time I had to stop and scrape the ball of icy snow off my base, I just had to laugh. It was just to comical. I'm not really laughing so much at the moment, but it will make for some funny stories someday later.

It was warm yesterday...very warm. Today was snowing for the morning, but now the sun is out and it's warming up fast. What a mess, but they have a lot of snow. The place where we ski has the biggest Ponderosa trees in the world. They're huge!

That's all for now. Sorry we don't have better tales of conquest.

Trail report 3-01-08

Hopefully the new snow will make this report irrelevant.

I went up for a late evening snowshoe last night and saw that most of the trail is in pretty good condition.

We are losing the front hill in the middle parts. Lower road is heavily trafficked, but in good shape, lower meadow is torn up pretty good. Upper meadow is in good shape, what I could see of the upper trails looked good. Midmeadow road has been groomed a bit, it is really soft though. Some creative grooming has created some mid meadow loops.

Jess and Ken skating into the sunset last week

There were dog, snowshoer and ped postholes in the soft parts of the lower meadow. This is a good time to do early morning and late evening activities. When it is 60 degrees in town consider postponing your trail activities until the snow firms up.

Like I says I hope we get some snow today to help cover the dirt and the holes.