Rau: Upper crust Nordic skiing in Grand County (column)
March 17, 2017
GRAND NORDIC CORNER
Lance Maggart gave you a good feel for the conditions at the 33rd Annual Snow Mountain Stampede – the highest marathon in the country as well as the only opportunity for Nordic racers to ski 50K of skate style one day and 50k of Classic the next. Most people think a marathon is more than enough, but can you imagine back-to-back marathons! In the extreme conditions we had over the weekend, that was a huge undertaking. Snow Mountain Ranch had a great title for this incredible accomplishment – Ranch Boss – and each finisher of both races received a beautiful 100K belt buckle. Those who finished both 25k races – Ranch Hand — got a 50K belt buckle. Skate race day was sunny and warm and the snow turned to soft mush. Lance stated conditions "forced racers to struggle up the hills and worked their legs and lungs to the breaking point." I couldn't have said it better!
Next day for classic technique remained colder, cloudy and windy so the snow remained glazed and hard until fresh snow that stuck to everything complicated the matter. Klister is great for kick in glazed conditions but literally clumps up with fresh snow on the bottom of your ski. How different can you get? But a handful of people including locals Ben Koenig, Kirk Olson, Theo Loo, Elliot Shaw and Vince Call, completed both races for both the 50K and the 25K. Sure gives me a new appreciation for the term Ironman.
Locals did well and the kids stole the show and took home about half of the honors offered. For instance, the 25K classic was 1, 3 and 4 overall from the high school team. The training programs that we have been tyring to get in this valley are finally happening thanks to dedicated people. Kids have choices according to what they can handle and what their parents can handle. It takes desire, talent, funding, and the right people to coach and inspire. We're finally getting to where our local talented kids don't have to go elsewhere to have the opportunity to make the big league. Please help us keep the momentum going!
When new snow settles in and the sun comes out again for several days in a row, a spring skiing delight called crust skiing happens. Warm sunshine and cold nights produce this incredible phenomenon where a skier can ski on the surface of the snow without breaking through the top layer and ski virtually anywhere. The warm sun melts the snow surface and the layers combine into a tough crust holding up your weight without breaking. The mornings after a cold night are best because the snow crust will soften in the sun and suddenly you are on your face or sinking to your knees. A skier can skate for miles in the open meadows or on golf course fairways in a short amount of time and with comparative ease. The crust will hold up your dog as well! And bring along the sunscreen because you might wind up in your T-shirt and shorts… Great way to celebrate spring!
Grand Nordic has introduced a new website http://www.skigrandnordic.org that offers links to all types of Nordic skiing in Grand County. Jeff Russell noted in his back country comments that the 2017 crust season started in February when a wave of warm daytime temperatures and cold nights started a great crust forming on the heavy January snows. "Open areas that are exposed to the winds," he stated, "unfortunately have a bit of wind-effect irregularity, with only pockets of the creamy-smooth satin that calm conditions can create for sublime glissading over the top of the snowpack."
Jeff continued, "Low elevation areas in the trees may not be as supportive, as the shade often prevents moisture levels from rising enough for the cold to create a sufficiently firm crust to keep skating pole baskets from punching deeply into the snowpack. Wider skis and larger pole baskets have stayed aloft even on north-facing trees past the mid-day sun. With an inch of loose snow on the surface, protected areas at higher elevations are skiing well, though a little 'catchy' if you don't mind your edges." Visit the new website for more of his creative writing.
For great crust skiing, the key is to go early after days of sunshine and a couple of cold nights. And that's the forecast for the next week. Enjoy!