Monthly Archives: March 2015

Ski Choice …..2015-16 ?? XC

I will just not say that the season is over this year, there has been a dump this week out of the blue at sea level…..but todays tour on heavy, melting easter snow made me think about new gear.

Today my tour skis came into their own, being wide enough to tackle the soft condition,  and having enough camber to allow me to maintain good glide. Some keen skaters came past us, but took time to disappear for once, and were out just in front of us at the layby on the road.

Very like in any equipment critical sport, xc skiing has some nuances. Like choosing different gear cassettes on bikes ,or sail sizes on boats, you can choose different gears in skis. For me that is just waxing or clistering, perhaps skinning again nect year. But in outset many fanatics have maybe ten core racing/race training skis in classic and four pairs for skating style. The ski collection for the Norsk national team is now a 40ft container, and that is being discussed as too much of an advantage! Andy Musgrave with a third and fifth this week in the country championships here kind of kills that idea!

Skating skis kind of show the way forward for choice of prebend. Because there is no need for a wax-contact kick, the camber is long and hard thus supporting your weight while allowing for edge contact and float from the half of the ski in full contact with the snow. Also at the high end, the tips of skis for soft conditions will lift, giving a bit of forward rocker to prevent the ski tip burrying.  Rocker is the new black in alpine and powder skis right now.

For you and me Mr Miss average fun, family and fitness skier i think owning three skis to get cold, hard, soft condition optimised camber aka prebend. But you do have to get the right camber for your weight for your given choice of recreation – tour, BC, faster-training in tracks.

That then should include an idea of total weight with pack! Also your typical type of snow conditions : hard, icey, wet, new snow fall often. That will help modulate your choice between different lengths of standard mid priced ski, and between then different models and brands.

Higher end skis from the larger, specialist outlets, will be available in different cambers for the same model. We are then up at well over 400€ probably plus bindings, so finding a ski model which happens to be the best combination of camber, width, side-cut (in swing) and ski weight is going to be a reasonable investment in time to find them for a good 100€ less.

The basic rule though is to buy from a shop with a camber measurement machine, and also do the two skis paper test on a very flat floor.  (Look it up on youtube!)

You can thereafter vary waxing, not only by type but also by length of the zone. The clister zone is usually a good 10cm or more shorter and a little forward of the heel line. But you may find a harder wax on the whole zone with a softer wax starting at the clister zone is another way of modulating grip, or say having clister on wax only under the shoe-sole area. These are ways of modulating the grip-glide equation for different conditions which pose the main challenge of temperature, crystal structure and snow base hardness.

Mountain skis pose more  issues now because skis for very soft snow and good down hill BC have less camber and are starting to get double end rocker. There you have a ski which is actually a skin-on uphill, have fun on the way down and maybe just a snow shoe on flatter areas where you would get to kick-glide and double pole on a better cambered ski.

Conversely a ski which is ideal for flat lands, BC touring will be poorer for down hill offpiste ambitions. They  will be longer,  have less inswing and more camber making them harder to turn and giving a springier, less predictable ride downhill.

My skis are just not that right for anything. For BC with a pack, they are far too narrow for the all-up-weight. Today they were much better than most other types of skis on the prepped tracks. But conditions werent tempting many folk out anyway. Like racing bike tyres, i need to thinner and straighter for the vast majority of skiing I do now.

Next winter something new with radonee may open up, given another short season with no snow before mid to late january at low levels. But it is likely to be a pair of skintecs!

Given I dont go mad and start radonee skiing, nxt years skis will be at race- training level, classic xc.

End of season….how many times Æ

Tonight was the last skitur of at least the lowland season. It had to be about the fourth time i have taken a last this year trip! Funny thing is that water freezes at zero degrees and a pile of snow on the ground works like an open topped supermarket freezer.

My grip tape was almost worn off, but just enough remained to render it to an excellent base-binder which it turned out to be. Universal clister in the oven at 50, on the skis and cooled off in time for packing away. It only lasted about 10km today, but that was in part due to my decision to plough brake down all the steepest hills.

Østertjenn was conquered, wet easter,  old snow, and so maybe the big old downhill to Hekketjenn was sof enough for a safe descent?

The descent polished a good deal of clister off as i ploughed down it to avoid any sudden surprises like bare patches or sheet ice, or tramlines which suddenly go wonky, often where fthe machine has stalled a bit or where the waffen SS, skateski, kids have made nasty little points sections Clapham junction would be proud of, only they lead to ditches. ,trees and general derailments. Jump points as they call them on t’railway ,there to derail a runaway train. Indeed…

A spot more clister needed but I could be a bit wiser now than to just slap a pile on. The hill up is steep but you can kick nearly all of it. A judicious dab of clister forward of the toes and a little mid sole and i had traction like a gresley pacific pulling out of King’s Cross. Also good glide on the less steep sections.

All this was a bit of a revelation. Firstly clister on a far shorter length, about 10cm less than hard wax. On top of start grip tape. A couple of strategic inches of clister and i saved the toughest kicking up hill from being a “labbing” walk.

47 this year. Hell’s tits…..but i am still like a kid learning the joy of a new skill.

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Season Take Out , XC skiing 2015

Sitting here watching the 50k’ at the World’s, live from Falun. In a week there, they have had everything thrown at them in terms of weather and resulting snow conditions. A week of highs and lows for the favourites. For me my season amounted to about a week’s worth- 10 tours averaging an hour and a half effective each one.

Half of those tours were on skating skis. This was in outset just a bargain i couldnt miss, and since i have longish carbon poles and combi boots it was just a little temporary dint in my visa card. It could be interpeted as a distraction, trying to reinvent the wheel before perfecting the classic model, or even making it less oval and more rounded! But it has forced me to become more agile on skis, especially with ski -weight commitment, step turning and balance on one ski.

Classic tours have been by in large with excellent waxing and as mentioned grip-tape on friday being most satisfactory in the most difficult, hard, abrasive, variable conditions.

Northug wins on a fantastic sprint! Double pole deluxe. That is one thing which has improved for me this year, and shown me that my tour skis are not much cop. My skate skis are killer for double poling. So skinnier skis for classic too next year.

Gripping Stuff….Tape “wax”

Once again we get a season of really variable conditions, tending on the hard packed base of the groomed tracks. New snowfall onto older, iced tracks. Wet snowfall. Melting. Repisting thesher machines. This makes for frustration amongst sunday day trippers and proffessional xc teams alike, as we have just seen in world champjionships to Falun.

Two problems arise in such thaw-back, freeze, wet new snow conditions. Firstly you just choose the wrong type of kick and glide waxing, or conditions change. This is what happened to the norwegian ski team in Falun this week. It started snowing, onto a transformed, crystaline  base at quite mild air temps. The USA womens team could ski the race of their lives to get both silver and bronze! Secondly the issue is that the wax wears off too quickly.

For the rank amateur, tour skier glide wax is not so important, but plastering on the wrong kick wax for the day can make for either a frustrating, slippy kick or a clumping of snow and reduction of glide from the skis. Most often what I hear in the forrest carpark is the decision to use a “red” or easter wax in conditions which are clearly klister!  People want to survive on white waxes, because clister is messy and really needs to be placed on a ‘base binder’ or at least a nice, hard first coat of green wax. Klister will not sit well on purple  wax and is outright messy and mobile on top of red. But it can be laid onto a quickly scraped off, bare ski to get yourself a five mile tour in for the day.

What solution ?
With an early thaw from runs in the lower lying areas i decided against the expensive solution to waxing. The new, flush fitted integrated kick zone skins. Next year?

This year, the frugal option presented itself. I wandered into a Class Ohlsson store and saw they had, being scandinavia, a little wax and gear section. This just also happened to have a sale on, and i saw Start kick tape there. I had heard of it before, and other companies had tried tape products which are no longer on the market. Here it was though, the survivor. The scotch-tape style package, in fact the whole concept is very 3M baring it being a large enough market for them to bother with.

The start product is rolled on a bare ski, sandpapered and cleaned , and comes with a backing paper like double sided tape.  The backing paper makes the whole thing way less messy than klister or even red wax. You thumb the wax in hard in the middle and then on the edges, through the paper. You can even leave the paper on until you reach the trails, and put it back on for the tour home.

Consistency wise it feels a bit clister like, but with the tackyness and viscosity more like “red” wax. It should be applied to a shorter kickzone, and i recommend this also being short at the heel.  5cm shorter on a typical 60cm marked kick wax zone.

I arrived at Kleivvann to new, wet snow on a hard base, churned by the piste machine at least once. Aggressive crystals. I took the prudent move of letting my skis cool down on snow.

First little kicking hill and I flew up it with good grip, but without that new clister snagging feel. Glide was terrific in the tracks, but a little unpredictable on the mid skating lane.

It survived 10km on varied hard, crusty, soft slushy and outright ice. Infact it looked like it had just rubbed in a bit more. However it had gone a bit mobile behind the heel, so thus i recommend about 4cm short of the heel in abrasive condtions.

It felt just like gettijng a good lillac wax job for -1 or a floruo blue for colder conditions.

Verdict? 9 out of ten. Yes some kicks were slipping, and fthere was some crystal build up. But this was better than universal clister in both cases considering the conditions.