Category Archives: Kross-køntri

Keith’s Tips for Getting Into XC Skiing – Part I

You may have seen the successes of British skiers in the winter olympics on XC skis or have moved to an Alpine or northern area where XC skiing seems a more practical propositions for winter training than cycling or jogging How do you get into Cross Country Skiing?

In this blog we will go through an introduction to setting your first herring bones  down on snow and what skis to buy, aimed at those of you who will have access to prepared ski trails. Learning XC is a good proposition for an alternative week long winter holiday to Alpine downhill if you have are fit and have good balance, and it is a good means of getting really fit in the winter if you live near to prepared tracks. Also of course as the key to success for British competitors, you can train on asfalt with roller skis all year round when snow is not available or too far away for daily trips.

I feel a bit like an old hand now, although far from being expert I actually find myself giving some Norwegians tips on their skating style skiing, and often get into discussions on waxing and the new ‘furry soled’ skin-skis.  As an adult it has been a long journey to become competent on classical kicking skis, and I am still learning skating technique. I can look back and see that I made a lot of basic mistakes by not having good instruction or not listening to what people told me, and most of all not asking questions of experienced skiers.

There are many pitfalls in terms of technique, tuition and of course equipment and those waxing problems. So here are my toptastic tips to help you get a head start and a fast learning curve while enjpoying your skiing to the max.

  1. Decide What Type of Skiing You Are Actually Going to Be Doing

My own journey into skiing sans gondola  came from days spent walking in the Fruin hills between Luss and Garelochhead. Often the highest 150 m of the hill and the long ridge towards Arden were covered in lovely fluffy white stuff, which was a nightmare to trudge through . On a couple of occaisions I saw how someone had managed to glide over all this, leaving their tracks as tell tale to the lifting heel variety of skier! I was mad keen on this idea. Perhaps mountain skiing with randonee skis or ski touring in the more gentle wild country is most for you?

For some reason I decided to learn to go in the tracks on skinnier skis and took a holiday to Geilo via Bergen, underwent some instruction and at a party on the way home, met my Norwegian other half. So living here with XC skiing as a national sport it is fairly straightforward to go and and enjoy both nature and an extremely good cardio-vascular work out while still getting home toute suite for a shower. I dropped the idea of back country, making your own tracks, only now to rekindle the idea.

So if you want to explore wild places then get into that type of back country skiing, and go on courses to do it as it is a challenging form of downhill skiing it has to be said, and there are some things to learn for traversing both valley and moor on ‘BC’ skis. Certainly many keen mountaineers in Scotland use XC skis for winter ‘ski -ins’ to remote areas and to scale the gentler hills of the easter grampians, like Mount Keen, or those suitable in the Perthshire area.

The only real places to find perpared ‘tramline’ tracks and a groomed centre area for skate-skiing style are near Huntly, Braemar and around Aviemore in Scotland. There was earlier discussion on Ben Wyvis plateau being used to both wild and prepared skiing, north of Inverness due to its very high number of snow covered days, but nothing came of it. The ski centres though have allowed XC clubs to come and train on their green slopes and Aanoch Mor actually groomed a skating track on the top plateau for the national team.  I have often met ski mountaineers using chairlifts for access, and I think that many of the low level green runs at like Glen Coe and Aanoch Mor are good for learning ploughing , skating and going up hill! I would however ask before travelling and choose a less busy time for your first go, booking tuition if it is available, or going with some folk from the club you have just joined ! ( Huntly and Avoeimeroe and some other clubs aroudn England too)  Nearer Glasgow Lowther Hills ski club in the southern uplands are getting their act very much together and enjoy up to 100 snow days a year, so may be persuaded to piste top sections for XC skiers if you join up !

Apart from the Back Country and Mountain to Prepared Track “schism” you may call it, there is another division in the prepared tracks which has become such a cultural apartheid almost in some people’s minds, and that is the classic kick style versus skating technique. This is worth taking up as point number two in itself!

 

2. Baby Steps In Learning to XC Ski and NOT to Walk on XC Skis

Now here lies my biggest mistake and how I was kind of mislead into many years of mediocre and often frustrating skiing, with some downright dangerous downhill escapades in faster conditions. XC skiing can be a graceful and fast sport, but not if you think you are going to start by learning to walk on skis. The techniques are really based on a stride onto a glide in essence, where one foot is completely unweighted with the loaded foot providing a long glide.

In assisting this core concept and learning goal, you really have to learn in outset,  without using poles because otherwise like I did for many years, you will use your poles for balance and not learn the fine balance and posture directing weight through the skis that you need to progress beyond clumping around.

Your first day on skis should be with a very baby steps approach to it all, without poles you will feel a little like learning something quite new to the body, controlling slide and balance on one ski, with propulsion alternating between skis. Take that in mind, it is going to be little baby steps, back to play school and if you are a little stiff and untrained, then it is going to be a little uncomfortable.

However you can find you have the knack and get going on a tour, recommended less than 10km to start with, on your first day in those tempting “tramlines”!   On my first day ever I managed 20km which was completely over ambitious and I was left in my hotel the next day aching from all those small muscles which I didnt know I had and a sore back side and thigh from falling in what was very hard conditions.

Your First Hours WITHOUT POLES!

Learning withougt poles is like going back to absolute baby steps. It is going to be slow, awkward and on icier days painful progress. The very fist exercises from an instructor will include:

  • Fishboning up a gentle slope
  • Moving around on skis, changing direction lifting skis
  • Getting up safely and easily when you fall
  • Assuming plough position and skiing in plough down hill
  • the one ski off, scooter drill
  • Skiing parallel down hill in the tracks to a run out stop

Probably the most fruitful of the above will be the one ski scooter drill and skiing in a safe downhill with a self braking run out at the foot. The latter is fairly self explanatory “bend sie knees” look where you want to go, hands out forward (without poles) and weight on the middle of the foot. The Scooter drill is then one ski in the inside tramline track on the course, and use the other foot to stride off the snow and propell yourself on the single ski, practicing balance.

Styles – Learn Both Classic and Skating from the Word GO!

My next point then is for ski schools and instructors as much as for new beginners. Learn the skating style from day one of your skiing! Skating has always been part of the sport, it is just it came as a ‘young upstart’ technique in the 1980s. Your agility on skis will grow exponentially compared to being locked in the tracks or prone to not releasing all the weight from one ski.  You will find out quickly that your outside balance point when you skate out onto one ski, is far further than you imagine, and this will build a great deal of confidence in your skiing.

You can start with scooter technique in the trail and then try it out of the tramlines on a slight downhill. Then try with both skis on, still no poles. pushing off on one with kick backwards and outwards to a glide and stop on the other ski, only then returning the kicking ski to the ground. You can then also try smal step turns on a slight down hill to correct your direction, or on a larger area to turn to face uphill or even in a full circle if you can skate kick round.

When I took up skate skiing, I suddenly got a huge boost to my glide in oridnary classic kicking, and also found it much easier to manoerve in and out the tracks, round un-tramlined corners, and over into full snow plough. It felt like my legs had been made of lead before while now I could glide around obstacles and feel under control at far greater speeds.

Purists will tell you that you need proper skate skis to learn to skate, but that is just not true. Yes it helps to use a shorter pair, which often you will be given anyway as a new beginnner from a school or hire shop, but to start with the only difference is that you should avoid using any grippy kick wax, and if on the usual beginners patterned or mohair skin soled waxless skis, make sure they are ‘glidet’ with slidey wax or spray.

In effect when you are proficient in classic technique you are unloading one ski completely to glide on the other, and in effect ‘parallel’ skating.

So the ideal situation is to go from skis which are a little longer than you are tall, to borrowing skis about your height or upto 5 cm shorter. Then the ski will be easier to skate style with, esepcially when not using poles.  So this brings us onto equipment rather nicely

 

3. Buying the Right Equipment – Candor and Camber!

In general sports shops and some alpine skiing oriented shops, you may not get hold of staff who know enough about XC skiing to sell you the correct skis. Although they dont need to be an aficionado or top competitor, they have to know about not just matching length of ski and budget to the buyer, but also the use the skier will be putting it to, their ability and their weight.

For the typical sporty style of light skiing we have in Scandinavia and the clubs in Scotland tend to practice, then it is the tension in the curve

of the ski which is most important in matching a ski to your weight, ability and the typical conditions you will encounter. The absolute essential of both styles, classic kick- and skate- , is that the ski supports your resting weight on the arch, while being compliant enough for the sole and edge respectively to the styles here, make contact with the snow when you kick or skate off then when they are compressed.

Thus a very stiff, curved ski will hold a proficient skier off the ground while they have to be really quite physical in applying downward/outward force to affect kick/skate respectively. These will be fast skis for experts but even then in very hard icey, or very soft, new snow conditions they will fail to allow the skier to get enough traction. This is why the Norwegina national ski team take a whole containter with hundreds of pairs of skis for their 40 or so atheltes in international championships,.

A soft ski will conversley allow for good adhesion in all conditions, but will not suspend the skiers weight during glide phase, and worse, the wax zone on a kicking ski will brake the ski further and gather ice crystals or be worn off completely over a dozen or so kilometers!

Ski camber and the spring / tension is a function of the length of the ski, the depth and position of the camber ( ie arch ) and the material design of the ski. So for example Fischer offer a ‘short cut’ ski design in their range which has the same spring as a traditionally longer ski. Camber has often been design to have a shallow entry and be a little deeper under the foot, with a steeper exit from the heel towards the back of the ski. Atomic however have an advanced, symmetrical arch design in their top skis, which when combined with carbon fibre side wall elements, make for a stiff ski which when compressed acts like a softer ski during the downwards thrust of the kick phase.

So weight then is important to be candid about, followed by height which is a rough guide in helping the seller, and then how physical you are and how fast you want to go, finally a quick check on where you will be skiing. If for example the lower trails around Aviemore are in mind, then it can be that these are often hard packed and icey, in which case a softer ski will allow for better adhesion.

A good shop or club will have a camber tension machine. This is clamps the ski and then uses a scale to apply the equivalent of skiers weight to the ski via a clamp. You can then see if the ski will be the correct spring for your weight and beginner ability. Also they will mark off the usual average condition ( -4’c about) wax zone front end, with the rear being just before the heel of the boot. There is a ‘shop floor’ alternative whcih oddly enough works best on a light carpet or rug, simulating snow, where you stand on both skis and a sheet of A4 paper is slid forward andbackwards to ensure that you are lifted over the wax zone, or that the patterned fishscale zone is not too much in contact with the snow when you are going to be gliding. It isn’t a bad substitute actually for the machine!

Complications for Later

There are a few more compliating factors. Firstly waxing, and the legnth and type of wax used to achieve grip on a given camber spring in response to the conditions of the snow. Secondly we now have Nordic System NIS adjustable ( and competing) bindings which can be slid back and forth about an inch using a simple tool while you are out.

These complications are a little beyond the scope of this introduction, suffice to say you can correct and adjust for conditions a little bit, but in principle you need a stiffness / spring which is suited to you and your expected, average conditions.

Steel Edges?

Steel edges are a feature of many touring skis and most all mountain (touring) “fjell”  skis, and this is to afford the skier good directional control and braking on icey snow bases. As for prepared tracks, very many Norwegians use these as family tour skis because of the added control over speed they get when goign downhill with their small kids between their legs!

I would only really recommend steel edges for those who either live in an area prone to a lot of thaw back and icing, when they are a boon, or for those who want to use a broader ski for some back country work. A ski up to 45mm will fit in most all ski tracks anyway. The drawbacks are weight and to some extent glide, and they are not good to use around our four legged friends because they can cut paws open very easily when Fido gets tangled up with you. The other plus point is stability on these turing skis and being able to use a heavier soled boot if you are combining with some walking up the hills.

Fischer did actually offer a narrow training ski called ‘steel lights’ but they were not in the catalogue last year infortunetly. These were aimed exactly at skiers encountering icey conditions in otherwise well prepared tracks. Hard, icey conditions can actually be a real joy to ski in because the speed is so much higher, but down hills can be hairy. Very often as mentioned above, you find the track bases are hardened ice while there is enough texutre in the middle lane to snow plough down hill , all be that a little jittery in those conditions.

As mentioned a great many Norwegians use classic madhus or åsnes touring skis in the oridnary tracks, but you do notice when they have them on that they are using a more leisurlely pace and technique!

Waxless Dilema? 

For new beginners it is recommended by all and sundry that you buy a waxless ski. The traditional ‘scaled’ pattern skis gained a bad reputation over time because often beginners bought the cheapest ski and that could mean too little camber spring or a ski which became soft quite quickly. However Atomic and Salamon for example, offer patterned skis through their range, being more popular in North America on better quality skis. Also fishcher offered a top end carbon fibre ski which many a serious amateur had in their arsenal for races where conditions were expected to be very variable.

This type of ski remains an affordable and low threshold ski to getting into skiing. The only drawback with ‘fishscale’ or machined patterned soles is that in order to cover all ranges of grip with one design, the pattern extends into the areas of the gliding areas of the ski, usually by a good 15 cm or so on the front. This causes a lot of friction and if your skis are quite soft spring it can destroy a lot of the glide in ‘stickier’ conditions and hamper the development of good technique. Some people will sand down this front area a couple of centimeters at a time until they get a better compromise between glide and kick, and a good shop may be willing to do this based on using a ski camber measurement machine set for your weight.

Waxed skis however have a very clear place for the beginner and that is if you expect to ski in stable alpine conditions with ground temperatures of -5’c or lower and snow which has not become icey or very hard. Here you can hire or buy a set of nice smooth bottomed skis, asking the shop to prepare the wax which is likely to be ‘blue’. So for example if you are going to learn on a two week holiday to an alpine resort in February then this is a good proposition! You just need to ensure the ski is not too stiff for your ability.

Best of Both World with Furry Bottomes Skis!

A reasonable starter ski in patterned or smooth sole would be about $/€ 200 with bindings mounted and you may get a pair of boots in a package offer for around that figure.  For comparison, racing skis cost around €$ 600 off the shelf excluding boots and bindings!

If you are prepared to spend a little more on skis then you can find that you can solve the issue of wax vs waxless drawbacks with the new ‘skin skis’ such as Atomic Skintec , twin skin, intelligrip etc – all the main manufacturers now offer these skis with a mohair skin glued into a machined out groove in the sole. They are wonderful ! Usually these start at a boots and bindings included package about €350 – 400, and that can be money well spent.

Skin skis are making waves in traditional circles because they cure the problems of varied conditions over the course of a day or over altitude for the popular longer ski runs like the ‘Birkebeiner’ – They offer the amateur who wants to jump out right after work without worrying about waxing correctly, the chance to do just that.

I have a set of Atomic 4000s which are a fancy ski of about €500 and used allegdely by some pro skiers for training.  They are an absolute boon because we live at sea level and have very rapidly changing conditions. They work best of course when the snow has good grip but as long as there is a crystaline pattern in the snow in otherwise ‘clister’ conditions they will grip really well. They also by in large glide nicely without any major comprimise although they can get a little waterlogged in soggy, ‘easter’ conditions.

If you are quite fit and have good balance in outset, and are going to have an instructor/school or a good skier as a friend,  then I can recommend getting a fairly stiff pair of skin skis matched for your weight and then learn to grow into them rather than changing skis later!

What About a Set of Skate Skis?

As I mentioned I recommend learning skate technique as part and parcel of your introduction to XC skiing. How about a pair of skate skis then? Of course you can use waxless or just dewax and glide wax an ordinary set of skis, and borrow longer poles to get a shot at it.

There is real merit in buying these instead of classic when you have few prepared trails or when, as with the Huntly “Clash” snow cover is often little and hardens, or if you are going to have access only to a groomed green runs at an alpine station. Thinner classic skis are quite awkward to use without good ‘tramline’ tracks being available.  In my experience too, the middle flat lane in good ski runs remains useable with some texture and ‘bite’ when the base of the tramlines has become concrete smooth ice.

Another big benefit for UK skiers in choosing this route into the sport is that you can learn to use roller skis, or use your rollerblades from the loft, pretty easily and even London boasts a major specially prepared asfalt course for roller skiiing. Roller blades can roll a little fast but there are alternative wheels which give a better feel. You can use your winter poles with a simples unglueing of the winter ‘bails’ to summer spike-ends.

A word of caution here though. Skate skiing  demands a slightly higher level of fitness as the body is more active in motion and you need to keep up a tempo just to maintain yourself on the course because of the constant zig zagging on the flat and up hill. It also demands or you could say, developes a better sense of balance which is of course the big benefit i point to above.

If your the courses you are going to be skiing are very hilly then you  may want to learn on traditional skis in the tracks first in general, trying skating on flatter sections. This is because classic skis offer a little more stability and far better ability to brake using snow plough due to the longer edges. Given the opposite terrain, for example the Golf Course at Braemar or Kristiansand being your nearest prepared tracks, then you may find a set of skate skis give you much more enjoyment than classic style because you will achieve better speeds for less effort after some practice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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XC Skiing Jim, But Not As We Know It….

Today I had an appointment in a neigbouring town, which meant having a few hours over on a rare sunny afternoon.  Rain had washed most of the snow around the house away, but as we live right near the sea, often things just a little in land are much more like Narnia while we are in a filthy soggy mess.

We are blessed in having an enthusiastic xc ski and skating club who bought a former piste basher complete with rotary cultivator type back equipment, and a GPS with a SIM card! So we can track when they have been out doing their ‘dugnad’ , that’s volunteering in Norsk, and know that even quite icey snow can be turned into something useable, Today though was skiing Jim, but not as we know it.

Partly it was in my own resignation to conditions being less than ideal, or even a non starter due to ice and bare patches. Our little 3.7km run out to Jakobs “Kafe” is rather kissed by the snow gods for most of its legnth, because on the one hand it is in the shadow of a ridge of low hills, while on the other it is mostly devoid of fishboning which means you can get a really good work out and enjoy it more than those “kuperte” courses as they call them, which are typical a ring with lights made in a cheap bit of woodland where it is mostly fishbone-up, tuck down …oh and usually covered in dog shit and often joggers make a point of destroying the tracks. In rural Norway that is not the case, because you are likely to get lynched for such desecration of the national sport, but in the towns, some folk see snow and ice as a hindrance to an amble with the dog and talk about ‘condom clad’ lunatics on skis.

I digress a little to set the scene. Why was this skiing, only different? Usually of a sunny afternoon there are plenty shift workers like nurses, houswives and of course pensioners leaping at the chance to glide on their sports skis or touring planks. Not this afternoon. The car park was what they call ‘klink is’ ,  resembling a skating pond with a frozen river runing down to it where the road is. I surveyed the opening by foot, reccie’ing out the possibility of becoming completely stuck with spinning wheels if I dared drive further in. The ice though, as it often is, was not very slippy because it had a texture of rain and gritty snow on it, and it was resolutely frozen so as to be doing a good impression of permafrost! So there had be no other takers, not for their intelligent 4×4 drivetrains nor their metal studded tyres. “Personne” as the French say, with a melancholy tone of voice.

The start of the tracks were equally uninviting being composed of machine track crocodiles, a glacial mid plateau and fossilised footprints to interupt a plastic sided ski like a pneumatic drill perterbs a walk down the high street. What was left of the ‘spor’ ie the tramlines, was a pale resemblence of their former vee-sided, prestine selves. I can understand why many would glance up the forrest track from their car window, and shake their heads and sigh, looking to abandon skiing or resign themselves to an hour round tour the the next, higher ski tracks at Vegårshei. However I knew well that the end of the road is the nasty lumpy tail of the bobcat, while further in you can usually rely on their being skiing as long as the bobcats clump has 5cm of cover.

It became not a lot like skiing at this point. I elected to walk so that if it was crappy further up too, then I could bail out without the furstration of having to take my skis off again, or rip up the outside edges trying to plough to a halt on the concrete like lower stretch. I was kind of resigned to calling it a day, not annoyed, go home walk the neighbour’s dog, do some pilates, have a cappucino. I had the tail end of a cold anyway.

I sruveyed the tracks a little more. The LHS lies a little more in the shadow, so was deeper and better defined than the right hand. Both sides are driven rediculously far out allowing for a super generous centre lane for skating, quite immodest in its sprawling width across the road. In fact the ski run is pisted a good meter either side of the actual dirt road, which makes this method of pushing classic to the extremes frustrating! I use it a lot and apart from on dark evenings, the large majority of folk are using classic style, with only about one in four skating. When you get good at ‘staking’ double poling, you can find out just how far out to the side they make these tracks as your pole disappears into the bank of snow which has been groomed out over the ditch at the side of the actual road! Also now there is more battling with tree branches and the odd little subsidance where the tram line weight trailer thing starts to fall into this soft fringe.

The road is a little narrower for its first 100m or so, and I didnt think too much about the extremities being soft this time. Everything had a consistency somewhat like a cross between concrete and polystyrene. Soon the tracks became better defined and at least safe to rattle along in using doubtle pole “stah-king’.   I was out in the fresh air, and could always just enjoy the walk if the conditions prove to be intermittantly rubbish, and also I elected to walk down the only fishboning part and back that last 100m I had just come up sans planches.

On the brow of the next little ascent, I clipped on my very best skis, which have lots of spring in them, and poled off. It wasnt long until I remembered than around half my time around the very melty-freezy woods and hills of Kristiansand had been spent on such cement like paving. I had my cold, tail end, so this was going to be nice and easy, concentrate on technique if possible. Poling – down with the pelvis, point the knees forward. Diagonal on slippy stuff – press hard down and transfer weight gingerly with a shorter than usual stride, as if on a steeper hill.

The boys of the wee 5 mph machine had done a pretty good job, because there was texture in the track beds! All be it hard, abrasive, big crystals. It was blue clister material but not actually blank ice. I had friction in the kick! I could concentrate on aforementioned technique! But not for long before I missed a step. MMore concentration and there were no missed steps. Slow, but ‘nail like adhesion’ ” Spikerfeste” as I made my way up hills, and then there was just poling with a chance ffor double poloe with kick every so often, which is probably the technique which demands best adhesion to work as it was a little sketchy today.

The first down hill has a soft run out and it was fun. The track then turned and climbed a little and that was slow, there was suddenly lots of friction, and maybe a little suck. My ‘hairy’ Atomic Skintec 4000s were however really doing the job of the best clister prep I have ever managed. I got a real sense of feel for once on the hard snow, because my skis have such hard arches ( nicely they call it just ‘spenn’ which means both tension and excitement in norwegian!) In double pole there was usually no interference from the mohair skin under my soles. They can though get very ‘sucky’ in wet conditions at easter, but there is apparently some magic spray for them should this be the case.

The thing that wasn’t skiing as I am accustomed to it, wasnt really the jurassic mudflat like trail conditions, but my attitude. I had come out with no intention of doing anything more than getting a little air in my lungs, prepared to bail out or walk with my skis over shoulder. Yet I was enjoying a very laid back ski, with the 7.4 km round route completely to myself . In days gone by this could have been a personal hell as I tried to keep up a pace which the conditions and my fitness would not really allow. Like a steam loco trying to go hard at a banking and only wheel slipping while exhaling great plumes of steam in the process.

On the way back there is a long down hill from Jakobs cafe which is usually a little pussy cat of a ride, but in ice it can soon become a 50kmh rush and then if the tracks are a little skew-wiff, then bam, a ski jumps out and you end up hurt. It is very destroying for sports skis to plough or half plough down this stuff, better to know where you are and go into a tuck a little lower than usual. What would have terrified me ten years ago, brought a grin to my face. I remember doing the Nespebøvarden run and coming down to what I thought was a gathering at a Lean-To where the piste basher had stopped. I was hurteling down the narrow one way track and wondered if I would get past the gang of folk talking . However in fact it  turned out not to be the piste machine, but cars at the car park and I was lucky to have newly learned single ski out ploughing because I could reduce my mighty momentum while keeping tracking in the dark, blinded by the headlights a little as I was.  I stopped just short of the boom and felt rather proud of myself. I had kind of graduated. Applied that ‘experience is the condition you aquire at the exact moment after you most needed it’.

I made a good speed back, less hurry more haste as it seemed and met no oncoming traffic, epseically not those irritating snow is whiter on the wrong (left hand for Norway of course) side of the road. It was almost meditative and serine as I poled along, gliding like a great sail ship running her top sails above the fog. Personne.

Even when I came back to the car, there were no after work Birkebeiners blow torching their clisters. It was for once a very secluded feeling of being at peace with the woods and not at war with the ski tracks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

XC Skin Skis – Furry Business or Gliding Hairily?

I’ve had a couple of seasons now on Atomic Skintec Pro 4000 models, with built in mohair skin in the usual kick wax zone. What’s the verdict then? Should you get a pair of skin skis as a new beginner, occaisional skier or higher up in the sport?

Firstly you should not forget the importance of picking the right pair of skis for your weight, height, fitness level and style of kicking.   Some shops will tend to set you up against height – length being about 25 cm longer than you are high, but that can be hit or miss. Fischer for example, have often produced a shorter ski with a higher camber-tension ie stiffer flex in the mid arch.  You need to go to a good shop, or baring that if you are in a club ask for advice and try other people’s skis who are around your weight and height.  Good independent shops are also now invariably on line, and will be happy to reply and spec’ you up a pair of skis, all be that maybe a bit more expensive than chain stores for the same ski.

You also have to back up a little here when thinking of buying classic skis for the kick style. I see that conditions in Scotland for example are either lightly groomed, thin and often wet snow at lower levels, like the Huntly Club’s “Clash” routes, while using the upper plateaus of ski senteres usually precludes driving up ‘tram lines’ due to other skiers using the area. So do you actually want a pair of skate skis and to learn that style and potentially with use of the Kuzmin scaper, avoid waxing altogether?

Certainly I would recommend learning to ski on skate ski’s first if you are used to skating or want to be a bit sportier than your average beginner who dabbles in “walk-skiing”. Ther reason for this proposition is that learning to lift the weight off one ski completely and forcing yourself to turn where you want to go, will greatly enhance your balance on skis and you ability then on ‘classic kick’ skis. In reality classic skiing in the ‘tram lines’ is really a kind of parallel skate as you will completely unload the kicked ski as you glide on the forward ski!  Rather than the ‘skate’ motion in the foot being outwards, it is downwards and back. It is still more of a squeeze than a kick.

Given that you have access to prepared ski tracks then as an amateur skier, mohair or other skin integrated skis are a very good option for you.  Good waxing takes a lot of time, in reality and it actually begins to cost a lot of money. Also the flourinated kick and glide-waxes do not decay in the environment and their affects on nature are unknown. They are very much better than the standard petroleum waxes incidentally, wearing longer and often designed to cover temperature ranges standard waxes cant tackle, like thorugh zero degree C.

The main issue with a good wax job which you spend maybe an hour or more on, is that it can be completely wrong for the conditions you encounter. As soon as you have laid on too soft a wax, or a clister, and there are colder conditions with new snow, you have to strip down messily in the open, or go and take absolutely all off your skis. Some people then cover their bases with two pairs in the boot, or a little like me, take their skate ski set in the car just in case the tracks are poor. That said if you have a hard green and blue base you can wax out in the field, using the cork, for the conditions as they actually are, or apply clister. Another typical issue for longer ski endurance races or the organised distance runs over terrain are that either the altitude changes the demands on the ski grip, or the weather changes – typically either a thaw, new snow, or a rapid freezing of what was wet snow.

Skin skis then come in all the varieties of usual track skis, from tour oriented medium broad skis, to out and out, high am’ level racing skis.  Apart from the ski design there is only really two variables we see which are of note in my opinon. Fistly the length of the  skin insert and secondly if it is in two stripes or a single broader stripe. The idea behind the former is that it glides better, and Atomic first offered their Skintec with the fancy magnetic shifting system to switch between the two types. The twin versions are supposed to be for colder conditions or fast, transformed snow which has good grip. However there will quite likely be as much if not more resistance in a double skin if it is either longer than, or on a softer ski than for a single mid zone ‘furry bit’. So in principle a heavier skier could benefit from a twin stripe skin, or if you tend to ski in colder conditions you may find a twin helps you glide.

Certainly in soft or wet conditions you can hear that my skis have a skin, single broad type as it is, covering the front of a usual kick wax zone to just around the ball of the foot/ sole area. However in some conditions a good wax job will still pick up some ice crystals and ‘wirr’  until they wear off.  To confuse things slightly, you can also buy most of the marques with an NIS type binding manifold, which allows you to use a little key and move the biding back and forth on the ski to get either more grip , forward setting, or more glide , back wards. This will not really make up for an incorrect flex in your ski, it wil only compensate for different types of snow, or indeed, if the binding plate manifold is not ideally mounted onto the ski. It is then a useful ability for when you need your weight back a little, heel in as you would call it, such that you avoid the ski sucking or being dragged down into the snow, and the opposite being a little forward when you need more traction against say harder clister conditions.

In the very variable conditions we have had this winter, and the porridge like snow of the spring last year, skin skis seem to be ideal. We also have terrible weather forecasting for around zero degrees to plus two Celsius here, which results in either rain, new snow or thawing and sudden freezing as unpredictable factors. Not having to wax, and not having to use clister is a boon, sling your skis in the car away from the salt and grit, and get on with the game.

In my experience though Skintec have three limitations. Firstly very hard packed and icey conditions in the track beds. Here a good ice clister will keep you going for a decent days skiing. However on a poling course, you could just as well use your skin ski for powering around as long as its mohair is suspended above the tracks. Secondly the other end of the extreme, they can struggle to grip in cold, new snow. Thirdly they are subject to a good deal of ‘ suck and sqaut’ in wet, easter like conditions. Here perhaps those new sprays will help, or putting the NIS binding back, or as I do sans adjustment, rocking back on to my heals on the down hills to release the vacuum.

Where they come into their own is in zero-conditions, plus conditions with transformed or new snow, claissical ‘lillac’ conditions down to about -4 and then older tracks in colder temperatures, or very well prepared tracks. My own limitatsion are in style, fitness and there being a little too much stiffness in the arch for some conditions given I like a light, fast ‘kicking’ style. One work around for icier conditions could be to run some clister from just behind the skin to just behind the heel.

I also expect to see permanent skins on mountain touring skis, perhaps with the ability to have a short skin loaded onto the ski infront or behind the embedded version. The materials used in the skins are very like the glue on skins anyway.  Another little advantage of skinskis is that when kicking, they are grippier than an ordinary ski on the middle lane, bar perhaps clister, while in relation to that, they do not pick up snow crystals in the ‘rough’ here where skate-skiers ply, and so can be skated on quite well without usually catching as you often get with an oridany wax job, optimised for the bed of the tracks.

In Norway the tests on ‘TV 2 Hjelper Deg’ and elsewhere refered to noted that Rossignol produce skis with the best combination of grip and glide, whereas fischer are maybe getting towards pro racer level with their highest model. Sales of skinskis now account for over 80% of all langrenn skis sold in the southern half of the country where the weather is most variable. That is astounding, especially when you consider that they were laughed at only three or so years ago. That is kind of testimony to how good they are and on line you will find that common-or-garden skiers are very happy with them, and it is most likely the type who would complain about equipment or recommend top level pro gear, whom patronises the masses who are buying these in bail loads!

No

Finally an overnight freeze and I could try the Atomic Skintecs out for camber tension in double poling conditions, and see how much grip there was in icey tracks.

This week has thrown all that would be unusual for Atomic or any other ski-house, at me. First new, wet snow and rising temperatures then a freeze back. Really conditions the skin was not designed for perhaps, but also conditions which are almost impossible to wax correctly on the ‘right’ skis. In the soft, the snow was too wet for hard wax yet too soft and granular for clisters. In the hard, it was wet enough in places for a ‘red’ or ‘silver’ clister while the harder areas needed blue ice clister. For me a good universal clister job today would have lasted only about 15km, and I racked up about 25km without thinking about more than water breaks.

So we have to seperate out a few things here

1. The Mohair skin
2. The camber tension
3. Conditions
4. Technique and weight of skier.

1. The skin ….. And 2,3,4 also….

Any skin’s grip varies with the length & width of it, the snow base its on and any treatments such as glider or anti-icing.

Mohair skins in full legnth will climb anything, but being about 30 – 40 cm under the camber sole on all these new class of skis means that there is quite a finite amount of grip relative to 2,3 and 4 !

In other words to get to the performance of the skin alone, you have to subtract the other factors, including your own skill or style , which means you either need a comparable pair of non skinned or you compare to your ‘best ever skis and wax job’.

So my personal opinion and summary on using Atomic Skintec is-

1) the skin’s limits are new snow over 1 cm in the tracks; very soft, wet snow; glazed, icey tracks. Here you get bad traction.

2) the skin seems to waterlog in warm conditions, and ball up just a little bit in ‘zero’ conditions.  Sprays or glide Treatments may help. It both looses traction and glide imho when it gets waterloged

3) camber tension – to race or be really satisfied throughout the season, nyou probably want a softer pair and a pair which are quite hard. Atomic SDS gives an edge here.

In the hard conditions i felt the camber was great for double poling, but i had to press pretty hard on anything icey in diagonal to get ashesion. Downhill i could rock back weight onto my heels to get more speed and lose the little skin-noise there was. Hey, i do this with a clister job or in slower conditions on wax skis.

One odd thing which dawned on me after a few days, like a kind of double take, was how far forward on the ski the skin sits- from a mid ( clister ) forward mark back to only around  the ball of the foot I dare say you could clister back to the heel on the bare ski and get some much needed traction on polished – icey uphills !

So my conclusion – it sucks living near the coast if you want to enjoy an easy life of xc skiing !  The correct length and camber skin ski will give any skier less to worry about in well prepared tracks which are firm but not icey. They bust universal clister, but are not as grippy as red or silver clisters and on pure ice, blue clister.

Taking Back the Mountains! 

     Finally some descending for It’s been a very long time for me since I went up a decent mountain, which always comes as a surprise to old pals in Scotland in the wake of my emigration to Norway.  Spoilt for choice I would be! Well having kids and everywhere being a long drive put that in its’ place.  ​

The View Roughly NW from Trongedalsnuten at 1630 odd.

In good ol’ Scotchlandshire we had of course a kind of descending order of mountains to get to the top of and see the view. First and foremost for me, it was the known ones in the west- Ben Lomond, The Cobbler, The Brack and the ones above Loch Goil which you could see looming over the skyline above the Gareloch, and often snow capped half the year it seemed to me as a kid. Our school boasted a mountaineering or rather hill walking club now that I remember, run by a certain Mr. Urqhuart who was still very spritely last time I saw him. That took us to various mountains like Ben Venue and so on, with a badge for those who completed a few walks and proved they could set a map to a compass.​

Start Point/ OBS!! NB!! There is a concrete ford river crossing here, which in flash flood conditions you may not get back over having driven to the car park. The foot bridge is long since fallen to bits

Next in order came the hills we set out to do as scouts. That included a crazy ascent of Ben Lawyers in a blizzard and about minus ten, with Peter ‘Pickle’ Nichol as our determined and fearless mountain leader. He had an aire of confidence about him with a compass in his hand, and got us on and off the summit (and I presume it was the summit) in about 10m visibility for the top 200m.

After this there came doing the big, impressive ones we saw from family tours in the Heelan’s and knew from general modern day folklore. Nevis, Cruachan. Lui. The big lumps beside the cobbler, Narnian and Ime. With a taste of this in your mouth, then it was Munro bagging ahead, with many a tough slog, and many a euphoric summitting very often with the sun already casting long shadows to the east. We werent too good at ‘Alpine Starts’ and to be frank, were rarely at the foot of a hill before 1 pm in summer.

It is really the tour of Ben Nevis with my mate Andy in 1990, post my final exams in that warm June time, which came to mind most on yesterdays tour to Trongedalsnuten. It ended up being a fantastic 10 hour or so trip with plenty of distractions on the way. After camping in the tiny mozzie tent inside the massive family tent he had aquired or borrowed, we awoke in Glen Etive under the old shepheard to then shoot round to the Glen south of Ben Nevis. The one with all the signs at the top saying it is a bad idea to ascend from there due to ice and flash floods. It is about 2000 ft in fact of friction scrambling with the odd waterfall area to clamber around. Near the top of that stretch of ice polished, mossy rock there is a pool at the foot of a small fall, which is deep enough to swim a stroke and a half in, and gives a horizon miniscus over to the mamores ridge, really quite a magic place. Especially when the day is 25’C ! We went further to find a welly and a potnoodle stuffed in rabbit hole near the first of the shoulder summits, pondering on what ‘big yellow’ taxi rescue may have ensued with a broken leg extracted from said unsuitable rubber footwear and in what weather. I think we eat that pot noodle later.

So yesterday was a very similar approach, up a twisting valley with ice scoured sides and the common or garden glacial river bed on the floor, and tracks of Red Dear and Elg to be seen. Gjovdal, one of three or four of the valleys which run westward from the main road from Southland to Telemark in Amli kommune. I had heard of some of the tours here before having slippy, polished rock and fixed ropes. We climbed eagerly and found the ropes were really of minor assistance, good for those of wobbly age, but they eliminated no real danger to life and only minor to limb. We soon had 700 m climb in about an hour and a half, meeting our first snow field before finding the sign post for the circular ring route to and from the summit. I was warned, The top was the other end of the ‘vidde’, a kind of high plateau with a collection of false tops, rifts, escarpments and lochans.​

sign marking the circular route to and from the summit

We had both elected to go for terrain training shoes, which you will see a large majority of Norwegians using on any casual tour and some quite more demanding tours. It seems all that ankle protection stuff is out, and I proved to myself this is true where at least, there aren’t many stone boot traps. My italian cross breed trad’ brown boot, with goretex liner have lasted years now, being used mainly in snowy conditions, but they have endured in part due to a hard compound sole which is dodgey on wet rock. My winter season low leverl Reebok goretex trainers were sure as fire on the steep rock and over all the terrain. Only issue being those snow fields, which went from being flecks here and there to engulfing 90% of the bottom of gulleys and small glens over the ‘vidda’.​

looking towards the reservoir at Fyresdal, with the obvious beach line

We had only about 150 m total ascent left at the sign post, as the crow might like to fly its’ way from stump to trig point….that however was not to be with a couple of major downs and ups, and a long dog leg traverse on the easy side of the escarpment. We chose to go along the ridge line on the cliff tops and I could understand why they had taken leeway with the path. Oh, as you saw from the sign post Noggies are very keen on marking the paths with paint marks and the odd sign at junctions. THis makes some routes more easily accessible, and you here of relatively less mountain rescues of natives than you do of Scots. Winter is forboding, and the last people there who bothered to sign the book had been in March, just two of the, presumbaly on skis or with snow shoes. Those trainers became a bit of a torment!​

The highest point of the big escarpment which runs across the plateau or ‘vidda’

The painted path system has its challenges but also makes routes manageable and repairable which they do as voluntary or sometimes the coonty cooncil will take it on. This was a council initiative, the highest of the 20 peaks they have included in a pamplet you can stamp a la orienteering for a free t shirt and name in a book somewhere. However in such pathcy snow conditions they make it hard to follow a path, and in such already tough terrain, you can guess that the path markers had a good idea of where it should go, from detailed mapping and time to explore the place. So we half used our old instinct, following collecting features like that ridge, and hald followed the path, while also avoiding big snow patches. That became soon impossible and we had a long floor to cross with only one safe route between lochans which looked slushy and dodgey to try and walk over.​

The last two undulations and crests were really bothersome. Had there been any more snow, even a foot, we would have probably had to either turn back or crawl to the top to avoid being stuck in boot traps. Also any loose snow on the descent from the escarpment or old ice would have meant another 1km detour. At best then we were making 1km an hour odd on that side of the ring route, although we were ferreting around like cocker spaniels in the heather , scrub and rocks. We probably covered 6km on what the map showed to be 4, and it took us three and a half hours odd. ​

Finally though, we came to the top of one more crest and the summit revealed itself just 50m ahead and not as I had dreaded, a few hundred meters of snow field in front of us again. Iain, who had done the trip twice before, had forgotten the detail and was equally glad to see the oddly urban looking metal pyramid trig point at the top, with the name and height in laser cut steel plates. Well I suppose it is the highest in the county, and at aboutu 12 ft high, makes it obvious from quite a distance that this is the real summit, and yes, it is as far over the vidda as you care to hope not.

Iain, man Friday for the day, produced an ‘energy drink’ which turned out to be a local brand of pils, and very nice and extra frothy it was too at 929m. I had been lead to believe it was a thousand meter hill, but in fact as you will see, it was quite impressive being the highest top for many miles and having a 360 panorama where you really could not see the impact of humans what so ever. Only the barren steep shores of a reservoir revealed that you were anywhere where people had ever existed.      ​
               

It was kind of Alpine that vista as you can see from the shots above, with the mountains generally topping out around 1200 m in many directions formng a ring on the horizon to the west, north and east. I reckon you could see to the south of Norway’s highest peak in darkest telemark, Guastatoppen (which is a darn site easier to reach, with a 1000m high car park and even a former secret Nato furnicular railway tunnel now in use for tourists).( Update – according to google earth the line of sight just to the east of North has truly only one big lump which is beyond the Seljord valley area, and this is the biggest mountain in the SE of Norway, Gaustatoppen with its’ destinctive ridge being a little compressed from this view point. I would say that there was a bit of atmospheric lensing because it kind of stood out and you could see some features of shadow and snow on it. It stands to reason that if you can see a third of the south of Norway from its top, then you can see the summit itself from a third of the country here if you only get a high or clear enough vantage point)

The way off on the anti clockwise route we chose, was a lot easier for the first three K, The snow was shallow and often firm. Howevver as we neared the lake it became waste deep in places where it was soft enough to refuse to bear our weight. An hour slog ensued not then helped by a multiple crossing of a burn for some reason, I couldnt quite see why ehy had it like this.      ​
           I reckoned that the sting in the tail now would be the steep descent, but oh no, the hard part was a reascent before this over an peak at 872 m and back to the signpost. Hard biting scrub and random snow patches made this a real test of metal. It was 630 by the time we started this final little ascent, having left the summit around two hours before. 

At the sign we needed a break and luckily Iain had a thermos of coffee, somethign I usually avoid on any tours now because it makes me thirsty and a bit grumpy after its lift has worn off. Once earlier in the day, near the highest point of the escarpment, I had felt weary and a little dizzy, I did not want to admit this to Iain, thinking I would rather drop dead here having chosen to persist and prevail towards the top, rather than dropping back. Both times the caffiene and choccie chaser lifted my spirits and concentration and the descent proved more troublesome for Iains five years junior knees and feet than mine, in fact I almost revelled in it. roping up a bit so to speak just for the hell of it and to make quicker progress. Beer sales were gpoing to be shut , as we got back to the car at 8.45, the tour being just over 10 hours long with not too many breaks really, just a lot of zig zagging for the best route and hauling legs out of snow to hinder a more usual 8 hour round trip for trained folk.                  ​
                      So Trongedalsnuten was conquered and I understand why there had only been two other names in the book so far this year, it is best perhaps with snow shoes in April or skis earlier in the year. I was glad for the many hours of yomping aroudn the woods and coastal paths I have put in this spring and look forward to my next Amli top 20 adventure, knowing the toughest of all is behind me now. 

The fixed ropes today were just for fun, friction being good, but the lack of footholds on the polished rock could be a challenge in snow, or especially the typical thunder weather which develops up these valleys due to the sea breeze and humid air coming from the Skagerak

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.

End of XC Ski Season…Early Bath….But Satisfied !!

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.