This year the weather gods have conspired to give N.America a double dose of snow and ice, while southern Scandinavia has its season cut short on both ends at lower levels. We have been on the edge of mild, continental and Atlantic air for months, and although this then did result in snow, the mild air is now driving hurricane force storms way up to the arctic circle and Tromsø.
There is a good chance for easter-snow lying like a zombie on the middle high trails, like Kleivvann and Vegårshei, but there is just the same chance they become ice rinks as our local run has become at Bromsmyr.
Conditions last weekend had been very good considering the mild spell and the refreezing over night. It was especially favourable for skating over classic due to the difficulty in waxing and wax lasting. Double poling and use of tracks down hill were pretty much necessitated on harder areas or there where the mid lane had sprouted twigs and gravel had been churned up by the piste-machine.
“Staking”, “pigging”, “poling….some people hate it, others love it especially along Bromsmyrveien where there are several stretches which are probably ideal for double poling for at least classic. My last trip out was about half and half poling and skate technique. In fact I find the my new narrow, straight skating skis are much better for double poling in the tracks than my Fischer PowerWax tour-train skis. This is maybe the pre-tension spring in the arch, or maybe the tracking but most of all the narrow, fast profile.
I am no longer impressed with my classic skis. Very few skiers here use that type of ski, they either opt for steel edged all round “mountain” skis which are a little broader, or for narrower racing skis. Off piste the fischers are too narrow by in large to float over the snow in a reasonably shallow own-driven groove, and lack a steel edge for harder conditions. In the tracks they seem slow as I said. They should have a higher spring that the skaters, and go fast in tracks while double poling, but are notably slower now I have a feeling in comparison.
Last night’s session and conditions despite being very hard and ice in places, were still suitable for practicing “padling” up hill, with me trying to focus on getting the left side to work so I dont end up a lop sided gorilla!
There was just enough grip on some uphills to get the ski’s edge cutting in, other places were more icy but rough enough for the edge to secure itself. In fact because it was so “fast” then I could really feel the benefit of weight transfer and leg extension in “padling” and use the poles in the pole plant to secure myself like ice axes on a climb! Each leg movement and hip swing gave a little more exaggerated travel for me than I had felt in the softer conditions.
That is one thing about skiing – skiing in one difficult condition informs your technique in others, while of course skiing in “silky snow tracks” is the best place to learn in the first place, not on the tracks near the coast here, which are exposed to thaw-re-icing and hundreds of users.
As a holiday learner or with the family, it is really best to learn up in the high mountain resorts and then it is Winter holidays and Easter which are the times when temperatures are a little kinder and snow depth is guaranteed. You are more or less guaranteed silky conditions in some high areas and “blue waxing”.
For my own learning curve I have an indelible grin from this short season. I have come a lot further with skate skis than I imagined I would have done, although it is still frustrating and I no doubt look a little ungainly. I feel pretty confident on my classic skis, with optimal waxing so far, and know that skate skiing is going to help fix my lack of finesse down hill and my need for bail outs and back end hand brake stops!
Also I know a little more about my boundaries and when to exercise caution, reverting to snow plough or one foot out the track plough, or just letting the gas pedal off and taking it easy with rhythm, style and breathing taking my focus. Last night for the first time on skate skis, I did a whole route without falling over at all. I reached “jacobs cafe”, the turning point, and decided to keep it that way. So on the return leg I used one foot, plough breaking with the other foot tracking in the outer tramline. And for the last couple of steep hills, which was hard with a fair bit of gravel, I took off and walked down, discretion being the better part of valour if this it was to be the last tour of the regular season.