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Boating Weekend in Fabulous Weather at Randoysund

There she lies, the Melges 24 on which I am the luckiest ‘extra’ crew ever, because its regular crew often cant make events!

TIme goes on and it is now six years since I started with the boys, and a couple of quiet years for me show. I got the initial feeling that I was suffering from dementia because I couldnt remember how things were done. Neither could I pick up new routines or running rigging so quickly,. However at the end of the first day as stand in tactician I was able to follow all the work, pitch in when needed and get my head ‘out of the boat’ a little.

The Melges seemed a daunting task to me, having sailed on rather better ballasted boats and one or two man dinghies. However there in lies the stregnth in sailing the Schmelger, if you can sail a dinghy, and your crew know what they are doing. I remember seeing ‘clapped out toy-boy” struggeling in west highland week’s usualy top of five day, and then disappearing over the horizon on a Croabh feeder. It seemed a twitchy beast which needed dedicated crew, prepared to be ragdolls on the rail strop.

The boat was just far too pricey for the UK market. You can go plaining and have fun without a carbon mast and foils, as the Cork 1720 and Hunter 707 showed, at less than half the price of the Melges 24, But now the second hand price is down, and some people are turning to them as syndicates or thinking of them as what they are – Porsches of the sea. You dont buy an eight seater Porsche to go and do sporty driving with, and you dont really want a cheap but cheaful Mazda do you?

This year is a very special year because the Nationals will be local to our waters in Kristiansand for the first time (I beleive). So places onbord are at a premium since local strategy is a must have and everyone wants a bite of the action. Sickness means though that I am a likely runner as crew, so dont get well soon guys!

A few things had changed in the boat. The hoists are now behind the shrouds, which is where the smart money has been, it just takes some care in feeding it out so on the one hand you dont go fishing, while on the other you dont get the halyard on the leech of the mainsail. As ‘tactician’ I had few jobs, but they kind of evolved to doing the pole out during the hoist, which is cooler than after it is up, and gybing the jib over when it is up in windier conditions.

The Melges is kind of a post-graduate boat. You need to have a ‘bachelors’ of art and science reading sailing, to be able to step into one and get around a course safely. And that goes for the whole crew. It is a lot eaxier to sail than I actually expected but difficult to get 100% right in part due to the very tunable rig, in part the fact that some very good sailors with extreme attention to trimming compete in the boat. It has been the little grand prix boatfor ovber quarter of a century now, filling the place where once Dragons, Solings and Etchells ruled the roost.

At the end of the weekend, my R&R pass having some time on it, we sailed back over the great ‘forth of Kristiansand’ having negotiated Randoy Sund with its fickle winds and rocks. I got to helm the whole way and we did most of it underspunnaker in the NE wind stream, giving us evventually a near perfect reach right over from Dvergsnes south to the town’s guest harbour where the melges fleet are packing in to show the boat off before the nationals. My tacking anlges were ok, but my gybe angles where spot on, it seemed very easy to line up a perpendicular on the waurter as the best time to gybe and go through about 100 degrees today. We dropped spnnaker in the narrow entrance to the harbour to show good form, and sailed onto the pontonn.

I started the weekend feeling like I was slowly loosing my brain cells, and ended it fgelling like an expert helmsnan, so that all in all was a good experience/ Also we had coaching from an English chap, Ed Streeter I think his name is, while th woner chilled out atokimageofu. , on the first day, to help us shaedo. I wsig wd. Dytw as gutg20 knot so it was moreemangu h ownrkethscvo nw d m ghgybing inatilaaa variety of takdoni soudoRado.

training sessions in displacement boats in light to medium airs have seemed a bit pedestrian in the past, when racing was not being used for training. A little unserious as they say here. But in a melges with a good understanding of a kind of course to sail, it is a good sjhake down and time to dwell on mishaps as well as just drill the crew. esrna o quit ero ebfor, whey e us aesora.

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Getting On Your Bike ?

Norman Tebbit is quoted as saying, rather infamously , that the unemployed should get on their bikes. In fact I believe this was a paraphrase from him saying “When there was no work locally, my dad used to get on his bike” to look for work elsewhere. Just how easy is it to ‘get on your bike?’ It is a mantra of many older tories, that the unemployed in the North should just tootle on down to the prosperous south east and get a life there.

 

In the last interview I heard with Tebbit, now being 87 and perhaps out of the media circus for all time, he had mellowed and said the miners had been treated unfairly in terms of the closing of so many pits and economic devastation reaped upon whole communities. He thought there should have been more done for them,  perhaps he meant buying them bicycles so they could pop down the road to look for work? Oh, that north english or central scottish town has also had a pit closure or steel works mothballed…..

As any business leader will know if they have geographically spread locations and markets, you have a fixed investment and cost base in plant in one place where perhaps there isnt a market, so you hope for better communications ie roads these days, such that you can get your goods to market or punters will come for your service. However transport has a cost, which may errode profit margin enough to render it unattractive. Then you have your capital investment potentially making a big loss when it is sold if you close up and relocate.  It can be painful and risky then to relocate because the initial investment may be far higher in moving to an economic hot spot like the South East, and also you may find you cannot recruit the skills you need, or more often, the wages you need to make a high gross margin the investors are looking for to get ROI. Why then should a Tory look any differently upon someone moving job?

In a jobless community or region, you have three choices if you own a house or your family are imbedded in schools, activities and friends. You can daily commute enormous distances and times. You can weekly commute, Or you can move the whole shabang. In the UK, for a while the wise money was on the latter, because if you moved ‘darn sarff’ you got better pay, and despite your mortgage being costly, you also earned very well from the steep value curve of the property market.  However that is a purely financial decision, you leave your community behind for the temple of Mammon.

 

I have really done all three variants, all be the long commute not actually that long and it was in a fully expensed company car so I cannot really complain with that luxury, driving 90 -100 miles a day total. It took less than an hour and a half usually. Weekly commuting I have done, and it just does not add up when you take the costs of the flat, travel and your own ‘bachelor again’ food together with the psychic and emotional stresses involved. The benefit is getting valuable work experience. The same was true of just upping roots and moving, which I have done in fact six times, the last time to totally reduce my mortgage leverage to spend more QT with the family, but lack of work lead me into my first proper weekly commute.

There are a lot of hidden costs within the weekly commute equation. Firstly there is the fact that a single person actually costs more than half that of two people very often, in terms of food and heating (/ electricity) in a flat. Then if you have a car, you may find that the combined daily commute if you have one, and the weekends commute put a very high mileage on your car which brings forward depreciation bgit time, and you loose many thousands in a shorter period of say two years – as goes for long distance commuting, which many folk who live along the main English arterial motorways do.  Then you have the home front, where your absence can result in more running around in the second car, from cold, and perhaps more wasted food as families back home refuse to eat left overs ! You then actually have on the one hand the ability to work over time, or even have two jobs while away, and so earn even more. BUT the converse of that in a fixed salary bullshit job with long hours, as is typical now in the UK and USA, is that you work hard and loose opportunities for extra work, because you are travelling Friday nights when service industry might need you behind the bar.

The biggest single financial pitfall of weekly commuting, is actually not money per se or ‘gross margin’ with all monthly expenses in the picture, it is rather cash-flow-is-king. Twice I have moved or weekly commuted and been wondering why I was always skint at the end of every month, until I had worked over a year ( and towards 18 months I always wanted to move on, the company goes bust, the boss has a niece for the job….etc) is that I was paying all the initial ‘investment’ off. Flat depost, first months rent, moving costs, first months commuting daily costs, first month’s weekly travel, first months’ food for the flat. You can find yourself in a lot of debt having just moved and not passed Go! So you either sit with that debt, or more likely you pay some of it off, or owe family and mates with no interest, but a moral obligation to pay back asap! That negative trough on the cash balance sheet takes a long time to work off, because weekly commuting erodes so much of your monthly gross margin anyway in the months after, and you still have all your home costs to contribute to back on the ranch.

Now you could just say as Norman Tebbit would surely nod to, well that is just a fact of life. However what you could also do is sod all that extra time traveling and use all that initial outlay you have for partial relocation of your body, and put it into running your own business along with all the energy you are likely to put into a new job. Many say that starting a business and being an owner-employee eats up loads of time, and you will be away from your family, BUT you are embarking on that anway in weekly commuting. Also if you think jobs do not include selling, you are kidding yourself on in the modern service world, or the corporate structures or even in trades as an employee. You are going to be doing sales, or selling yourself internally or selling yourself onto the next contractor with the next big contract. Why not sell yourself ?

Ok, well I am pretty terrible I think at this, but in fact I just lack motivation to get over the threshold and am a bit naive when it comes to sussing out who is worth spending time on during a round of knocking on business doors or networking in a sports club. But you dear, younger reader, or dear highly skilled and experienced older reader, you can sod weekly commuting and get either local work or do remote home office, digital commuting as it is called these days.

I sound like a Tory! Well yes if you are Norman Tebbit, but no if you are today’s breed of corporatist Tory who is primarily concerned with a fat pension from helping companies and individuals evade tax, while keeping up a small business friendly front and now of course, collapsing into BritNatz identity politics verging on outright racism, scapegoating and scare mongering.

I’m not talking aboujt the hipster  e-yuppie alone here either, very much at the young person who hasnt really thought about trades, or the older DIY maniac who is a dab hand but with no papers. Very often you can be sub contracted in self employed as a ‘labourer’ and end up picking up enough skills to then be able to take part time education as a plumber, or brickie, or joiner or something specialist in property like ‘framing’ (tømring in Norwegian, building heavy wooden beams and columns for either expensive new houses or refurbished ‘period’ houses) Recruiting is a pain for employers because they often want disposable staff these days, and have come to expect to be able to lay off most of their work force at the end of one project rather than offer any job security. As the population ages, and post Brexit, they may have to change their attitude to this down time, and the state may pick up less of that tab of churn unemployment.

So self employment is a real alternative if you think about it, and are felxible in your local market. I would suggest that Mr Tebbit senior actually toddled off on his bike down the road in the 1920s and depressed 30s and worked on the black for cash in hand, but today you do not need to do that because the employer saves so much in not using a VAT liabel company or sole trader. It is risky and can be shitty getting money out of people, but you can often get a simple, legally binding contract there and then as the deal is signed literally.

Many countries need a bigger business birth rate in areas where there are skills gaps and high pricing, especially the trades. However enterprise and investment companies are run by middle class graduates, who had like Storming Norman, parents who push them to get on and up and out of their blue collar or lower white collar backgrounds. The whole school system too is biased towards university level education, and away from what is the trades. We presume that is what thickos do, and the poles can take the jobs if they want. However these jobs pay a lot better than most graduate start jobs, and with over time can rival many a masters’ degree graduates pay after several years.

In the long run, graduates apparently earn more and move into management, which is partly true, but plumbers start their own firms and employ people themselves and do very, very nicely and work probably a lot less hours than an average corporate middle manager.

 

On this kind of point of burn out, relating to lifestyle, there is something very woeful happening to my late baby boomer compatriots. This is anecdotal, but those outside Law and Medicine are struggeling. There are some with ill health, in fact a surprising number are out of work on health grounds or have down sized their ambitions or jobs. Secondly there is then downsizing by firms, and also a deal of people running out of steam. My generation are becoming over experienced and under qualified. Times now are changing too fast for many to retrain and keep up. Outsourcing cuts the cost of those forty and fifty something technocrats and managers who were in house. Employment becomes more tenuous as companies merge, get bought out or restructure. My generation were also not equipped with the sharp, self centred tools of the modern world, where winning, even if that includes outright cheating, is what matters. Entitlement is something I have had to deal with before with so many mediocre bosses in marketing, but now it reaches into areas including so called liberal establishments like the UN. A young, sharp, egotistist generaion (or two) lie below us now, who are entitled by being highly qualified in modern masters programmes, corporate iternships under their belt, and into the fabric of organisations with a power base made by basically cheating , being greedy and conniving.  They see millenials as their cannon fodder, and want to manage the robotic, algorythmic revolution which perhaps threatens to prove the Luddites finally right, or perhaps will free us from mundanity and the surly checkout girl.

Moving on then for work, also means through life being prepared to change career and being opportunistic when the personal balance sheet of money, family and health is in the picture, with quality of life as the bottom line. We have had our own local version of t’pit closing, with the loss of 180 direct jobs and maybe another 40 contractors etc, and a knock on to local spending and a decline of around 1% in the population, but also a marked shift towards the over fifties with now a drastically falling school roll.

Living out on a wing, or in a pit town isolted up a valley or just surrounded by other former coal towns, does not lend itself to getting on your bike, and you can unfortunetly end up sitting with fixed assets which make it hard to be flexible with moving. So Norman Tebbit spoke of a two wheeled bicycle of course, riding up a two way street, where in fact it doesnt always work out that you can tootle off round the next village or borough and get work, whistling home with a jaunty aire and a jolly whistled tune on your lips.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edinburgh – Twee and Touristy

Edinburgh is becoming one of our favourite desitnations as a family, as in turn before it was my favourite get-a-away city as both child and younger man.

Edinburgh is very different from most any other town in Scotland because it has so many buildings from the 18th century and even before in the old town.  In contrast to Glasgow and its’ managed and manicured grand parks, Edinburgh has mountains in its midst and south boundary. Arthur’s Seat and the Pentlands set a wild back drop for this otherwise most civilised city. On our visit the ‘Seat’  was salt and pepper dusted while the Pentlands were pearly white despite it being well into what should be the great scottish spring.

We arrived via a long journey via Oslo, and I booked a cab. This was the first thing that was cheap as chips. Twenty three quid plus four quid pick-up-parking. Back home in Norway it would be twice that. Also the Norwegian driver would have started the meter most likely when we had arranged to be picked up, and charged us for the international calls and texts to contact us, Norrie our cabbie was a good old sort, with those flat matter of fact stories of Leith and what have you to relate. I relasied I was nearer him in eras we have lived through than I am today’s students. The deltics in town, pubs open late with real ales. The cold wind runing up Leith walk and tearing up George the IV. Memories of lovers and loves that could have been.

Thursday was good weather so we took ourselves up to town via the Leith walk and the edge of Stockbridge, taking then a Dog Leg to the back end of Cannonmills and Bonnington, through the small parcel of George IV park. Edinburgh is a place you can follow your nose, the generally raidal pattern of peripheral arteries leading to either the Royal Mile from the South , Lotian Road / Princes Street from the West, and The new Town from the North and east. We got as far as the Elephant house where Harry Potter was likely first penned, but a chance to tick off a touristy thing was denied me. Instead children wanted to that evil of city holidays, SHOPPING. ooof. Forbidden Planet and so on.

For Returning home to the digs,  we bought a family day ticket from the office on Waverley bridge, a good old fashioned scratch off card, reminiscent of the dozens I had as an itinerant locomotive enthusiast as a teenager. Eight fifty may seem a lot for a local bus, but that is only £2.17 each and it is unlimited for the day within the boundaries. We ended up buying them at least four times!

Friday was a reunion with two old School Pals who are based in Edinburgh and love it very much. I always feel at the end of these that it has been great to meet up, but guilty I ddi not ask much more about their kids or jobs or what ever. We just spend time and reminisce.  We probably did Lidl for malt whisky that day. Not a bad drop, could always be diluted with ‘ginger’ if it was aweful, and I was nervous becasue no more was it Glen Moray, Elgins finest light drinking whisky, but a dark own label Ben Bracken. Hmmm. Not bad at all compared to many of these non aged declared which have peary drops or even coconut esters and what have you which have a sickly taste. Lidl was not as super cheap as I remember it from before, but as with many shoppings, mine came to thirty seven pounds something, for wine , beer, puddings, some food , easter buinnies and that whisky. The drink alone would be 70 quid in Norway!

It seems that thirty-seven-pounds-sixty-four-pence is the average shop in the UK. As soon as the basket goes over half full then cha-ching, two dinners, sweets, Irn Bru and some beer add up to thirty-seven-pounds-sixty-four-pence. Things are no longer that ‘hey wow, gasp!’ cheap in the UK. It pays to shop around and read menus. However our pasta chain meal down at Newhaven Harbour came to about twenty a head for two courses and drinks, plus we bought some extra wine.  Some places were Norwegian prices and some bars were up at a fiver a pint of , admittdely, craft beer.

My UK spending money though was whittered away incredibly quickly.  I had 200 in my old account and 200 cash, and it was nearly all gone with a day to go, only we actually had two days to go. Slip of the finger on the cheap booking calender buttons apparently. Oh joy! But ooh dear, bit skint and wee man with a stinking cold.

It’s The End of The Snow as We Know it ……

While a decided notable proportion of the Noggie population are off to the pearly white painted hills and plateaus, yours truly is packing away his skis for the season. Other plans for easter involving visiting folk, so rather than do a half hearted dash for snow, sun and kvikk-lunsj, it is time for washing off the clister from the familiy’s skies.

Now the snow at sea level is slushy and sticky and you really need to mill the soles with water channels, and for me treat my furry middle bits with special, expensive spray. The bint’s skis need a yard of universal clister, now coloured a horrid silver, and the whole thing becomes more of a palava than a decent training session. The middle lane is like a treadmill of porridge for those who would attempt skate-skiing after 10 am. Qauntity there is though, so we may have skiing for a week or two given a cold snap materialises. Up in the hills at Kleivvann in Gjerstad kommune, there is well over a meter of compacted snow on the trails, with fresh snow when we had rain this week. They are talking about skiing through to mid May up there!

This season has been a little different than all seasons before. I have a certain wry self satisfaction with my skiing. Finally i am keeping ahead of most all the pensioners, and been able to ‘keep the wheels turning’ in my classic kicking style, with a much improved poling with single kick and more stamina for poling alone. I see myslef reaching for longer ski tours of 25 km and more and doubling up some of the tours I currently do most often as social ski’s. The other main difference is in my attitude. I accept my failings and look for points where I may be doing things wrong.

A bit like other sports I have taken up with, XC skiing needs to be deconstructed once in a while, and for me that has meant thinking about silly mistakes and weaknesses, and then using specific exercises to make up for them. One is the wobbly free ski and the uneven landing. Here I have looked at stadning a little more upright while I warm up, and trying to ignore the ‘kick’ backwards, while on the return swing, I try to land with a little more weight on the ball of my foot, rather than it being a little vague over the whole foot, which tends to wegfiht up the outside edge.

In skate-skiing I have then thrown away the poles so to speak a couple of times and now at least I know how weak I really am on my left side, and how I can perhaps improve my overall style. Classic then has alos had the odd minute or two of legs only, or a pole movement with only a kissing touch bails on snow. In skating and in downhill, iI still have to learn not to rush things and thus loose concentration. Better to spill a little speed than to go outside my abilities to focus and react.

So it has come to small things to fix and work on, and the bnig thing is to keep on loosing weight and in turn take longer ski tours on classic, while concentrating on fluidity and intensity in skate style. I can laugh a little at how far back I was those days in Kvamskogen when i first lashed skinny planks on my feet. My impression is that the apprenticship is over and the plan is clearly to focus on mastering skills, speed and distance while enjoying my sport all the more.

Zen and the Art of Skate-Skiing

Skate skiing is by no means as simple as skate skiers make it look!

Having my first season with the correct length of poles, which seem like terribly long implements to spear fish at great depths with, I am discovering that there is a lot of perspiration and panting for me to ‘keep the wheels going round’ and thus sustain forward motion. I have a lot of ‘puste pauser’ , I catch my poles inside my skis, i catch the odd outside edge and get whipped over, and I loose balance and tumble most often after a lapse in concentration while i consider taking one of those ‘puste-pauser’.

After a good deal of effort to learn and what felt like much progress, I realised I am putting too much energy into motion and thus not really skiing efficiently. it was time to deconstruct my skiing,. Firstly, set small goals over stretches of trail. Paddle up a small, steep gradient. Do it again if you stop half way or fall. Double dance down hill on long glides. Single dance to the right instead of my comfortable left. Skate downhill without using poles.

On that last point I decided to really deconstruct my skating and took up with a video I have had in my electricYouTube play later list for many years, and keep coming back to without actually doing much of what my namesake, keith Nicol, advocates. Free skating.

(embedd media later)

That just means without poles, but it is a technique in its own right, which shows how close it is to roller blading and old fashioned ice skating. Skate skis are ahem, inherently slippy. There aint no grip govenor. So getting going up a slight hill, a teensy weensy gradient, is at first daunting. Down hill is the opposite, the ski will glide nicely with only your weight as encouragement. But up hill is the challenge to test your locomotive efficiency in your legs and torso.

I learned traditional XC with poles, and it is a bad thing. Poles become like crutches for the man who has suddenly developed some form of atrophy of the entire motor nervous system. They are used to strike out to recover balance and to push in absence of proper traction down below. Poles seem like your best freind, saving you from the capriciousness of plastic planks which have taken control of all direction and speed from the waist down. I should have dumped the poles.

It seems more intuitive in trad’ to dump the poles and let your legs and feet propell you, thus giving you both a feel for how much pressure to lay downwards, and also a much better attention to balance. Skate skiing seemed not to quite work on the flat and uphill atelast without poles, and now that I can do a 5 minute warm up without poles in ‘kicking skis’ I reckoned there was no need to drop them for the ‘easier’ skating technique.

But finally I decided to follow the Guru, Keith Nicol, and go where I had no dared go before, into a realm of armless naievity, taking once again pure infant steps on the snow. Tentatively at first. The very slight uphill on the first anticlockwise trail section became like a slipper higher slope of Everest to ascend. it was a kind of duck walk on ice, struggeling to hold on as gravity was sudddenly perpendicular to its normal predisposition. Then I turned at the top of said tiresome ascent, and low and behold! I skated like a prince to a snow white, with nice long glides, and a good push off on the right hand side. My left side leg is the obvious weak point in terms of a non existent push off.

Turn and do it again. This time a little hip-paddling uphill when it felt right, and focuis on pushing off with the left. Too far backwards a push, as Keith Nicol adivses, the tip drags. Too bent a leg when trying to get a push off, forgetting to rise up on a near straight leg. Ah the penny drops, it is difficult to do the dobuoble spring thing !!! Leg bent, then straight on the rise, then bent to push off again. A little counter intuitive modulous no less. What happend next, well all day my right side got sronger on the push, and I was cutting perfect flat to edge tracks in the snow on that side. Thanks left for the tips, knew I was doing something right, bye for no!!

Keith Nicol has a cure for that, side to side hopping, which teaches balance , poise and muscle contraction for the push, which has a large side elemetn. At speed, the forces resolve themselves to forward motion vector, whereas if you push too far back, your tip and your body balance are lefta little behind too.

Another couple of token tootles without poles, Then I was strapped onto them again, with a feeling of control gained over the elements. But i perciveered and feathered my poles often. This gave me a new found confidence , as I could rely on poles for immediate propulsion while then going poleless to improve my various bads.

And that was a good focus. On the bads. I have come of an age when I now see that polishing away mistakes and working on weaknesses is like the slow and purposeful turning of a key in a lock. it is no longer the case that failings lead to frustration. Instead I listen to my betters. oft be they younger now, and the Keith Nicol Canadian Guru and understand how to spot my weaknesses and embrace them, rather than leaving them behind while putting focus on self satisfaction in my stronger sides or apparent progression. Like my sailing, the joy is in recognising faults and pondering , then practicinsg and then polishing them out. The road to perfection perhaps has no end, but one thing is for sure, short cuts past the small faults or over what should be the fundamental simplicities of an art, will never take you to your destination. Being watchful of our faults, like a master viewing a child, makes us eventually the master.

Today’s session was finished off with two goals. One to complete a circuit without stopping or falling or pondering in a pause, The other was to paddle up a short hill which is offset, and has defeated me before. I managed both with only minor faults , but knew i was far from perfect.

New Furry Soles Defying the Laws of Waxing

Like many I was sceptical to furry soled skis, the new inbuilt mohair skin style of skis which came on the market in this modern incarnation about 2010, but apparently their origins back in short skin ski adaptations in the days of hickory and pine. I wanted to suck it and see though, so jumped in at a bargain sale ofAtomic skintecs pre owned.

Today I set out with newly replaced skins on my Atomic 4000s. The old ones had become as patchy as the centre rear of my head is for hair, and I was just amazed at how much they had lost when the new set were glued in. We are talking the relative difference of bathroom carpet tiles to shag pile ! Today would be a real test because in theory, skinskis are not good at high altitude style cold snow, and the glide will be reduced by all that friction detractors talk about, No , no, like today’s Birkebeiner run, a good pair of blue wax skis with a soft pre spring in their bow should be ideal.

The only adjustment I made was to move the binding forward, on that other big innovation of the last few years, the NIS sliding system. This in theory gives better grip, while glide can be reduced relative to a middle to back placed binding. You can say though that no propulsion no glide though. So you need traction.

Immediately I noted that double pole with kick was a lot easier despite the cold and slighly loose snow in the tracks. Once again this technique could be taken as a kind of ‘keep the wheels rolling’ easy gear, to kind of scooter along to using all the main muscle groups in light, dealt out packets of energy, strung together in the three elements of propultsion. It used to be a common technique on the flat , but now doubel poling alone has proven more speed/energy effective for the pro level. It is a very powerful technique for the amateuir when they want to hold up a good speed or counter slight uphills on a flat or downhill course. It can be tuned up to the full combination of a dramatic thrust on the one ski, it being slifd forward prioer to the max loading and kick under the hips, with the weight on the poles and draw down with the body core., to the arm proopulsion from the knees or thighs backwards. It can also be a nice, light understated affair which can get you home if you have a slght injury or a loose binding on one ski. Today I found I could apply light pressure and get a nice extra propuision over doubel poleing along the flat.

Drivheia is then a course with a lot of uphill, most of which is luckily diagonal in techniuque applicaiton, with some short stretches of fishbone, and some contouring to get you around obstacles rather than over them. It presents a skier who has a season or two under their belt, with the challenge of a sustained climbing period, plus some exciting downhills with torturous corners and cambered traverses, all be these nicely driven and combed by a machine. My skis performed admirably in the conditions they are accused of not being good in. I could just raise my gate at the middles steep sections and jog a little, while my pace on the flattish contouring was realy good. No whixxing noise downhill neither.

Skating is often dooable on skin skis, witha quick over to paddeling to effect a climb over the top of something boring or with back slip in the tracks. Today though they did grab a little, is suspect a bit of icing going on, but when I took my nail brushg to deice them, they had almost none on tm.

Usually on this route in sub optimal conditins I get a few little back slip injuries or just some straining on the down hills, but today all i had was a crampy foot from a loosely tied boot. This took a lot of the joy of the long downhill section from the top fh hill away from me, but it was the fact I got back and felt l.ike I had done just a light little trou that was testimony to the kins working very well.

Remember to Giggle Whe You Are Learning XC skiing

Me doing a Martin Clunes Impression on Skate Skis, with Bent Poles

Today my old mate had wanted to get out on his new skate skis, and knowing I would have someone who is actually worse than me in this form of the art of XC, i jumped at the chance for a Sunday morning jaunt.

Upon arrival it was clear they hadnt pisted the ‘spor’ and there was a good few centimeters, ahem at least, of every so pretty and light as a feather new snow on the tracks,. The classic diagonal skiers had no great joy though, there being a soft set of tramlines making life hard for them. The feathery snow was delicate as babies’ breath, and the base below was really good for skating in fact.

It aint hard if you do fall, and after hitting submerged lumps or trapping my tips down in hidden depths of this powdery top coat, I did indeed hit the deck. Including getting a pole on the isude of the ski, I fell ove rin fact around every 200m or so. Ploughing our way through the flakes of wonder, was though a lot of fun and it kind of gave a natural breaking to those sometimes rather aggressive skates when you end up gldiing faster and faster off on one leg slightly out of balance due to the unexpected gain of speed. 

It was  a giggle = ,me and my pal Iain have had many silly trips of skis, espceially at night when we ventured out with puny head torches in masses of minus degrees, to bash through woodlands or freeze to death on courses. We have had our mmissions and this was a one of them too, his first 7 k or so on skate skis.
Perhaps because I did drop my shoulders and had a buddy as an excuse for slow progress and a sociable tour, I was able to concentrate on a few of my failings on XC skis.
1. The Right Time to End a Glide

Well this is as mentioned above, sometimes harder to know. The ski can fly off on harder pisted areas, or the waxing can suddenly work better in the shadowy areas, or you can just give a little better thrust and balance at a little too wide an angle from the centre line of travel. Alternatively you can find that your ski brakes up, judders even, or sinks deep and you lose glide.

The main cure here is not in correcting the glide itself, it is in placing the ski down correctly, and as far forwad an angle as poissible. You see that the biatheletes in particular, place their foot down after what looks like a little heistation, with the ski hanging over the ground more or less parallel to the over all direction of travel. So the right time to end a glide with a ski a little forward in driection before your slide off in a skate movement, is kind of obvious to you. It does not surprise you by taking you way off to one side on a big Zig making the returning Zag harder or skew wiff. 

I practiced today a little long glding until the ski actually stopped and a little straight gliding, when you dont really get that weight transfer boost but do get a good movement right forward to start with. Also a little extended glide by poling twice on the same ski glide, which makes for a better feel to the duration of the glide,. 

As then you go a little down hill, the skis make a vee which is more forward, and eventually you may parallel and double pole or make long, biathelete style gl;ides without using the poles, body tucked down, ski going almost straight forward. As the skier moves onto a flatter area or slight uphill, the glide needs more power putting into it from poling and sliding away the ski in the skate motion. Eventually you move over to paddling, and most amateur day skiers do this a little early, and would be better served by double dancing (V2) which makes for less distancelost in side to side movement of paddeling.

2. Paddeling

To me this seemed a little difficult before today. Today I cracked the code, by doing it first really slowly and not forcing the ski too far out with my leg thrust,nor using a lot of poling, Instead I focused on gettin my footdown with a bent ankle and knee, and moving my weight oversidewars on my hips. 

Before today I found paddeling became too rushed, and that takes me back to it being a reserve first gear for the steepest gradients while double dancing serves a more efficient VMG veloocity made good, ie foreward motion towards  goal. Before when I felt the skis wanted to fly off either side when paddling, in fact the snow was fast enough to permit double or even single dancing with just a little more power, and if I did want to use first gear, then I should just cool it, use my body weight and ease of on arm and leg thrusting, like being on a mountain bike and chosing a super low gear to get up a hill while also getting your breath back. 

Paddeling is typified by planting the pole at the same time as the ski, leaning the body into the slope, and using a marked side to side weight transfer across the hips at an oblique angle to the fall=-line of the hill, pretty much 90 degrees it seems to me. 

Paddeling fast takes a lot of concentration, but you can get carried away with it and end up shooting off to one side into the ‘rough’ or over the nicely laid tramlines for the classic skiers. The youtube videos you can look up yourselves, often break it down into head, hand, knee, ankle and then hip movements in that order, because it is the hip which transfers off onto the new ski. 

Hte beauty of it being a low gear is that you can practice it very lightly on slight inclines and then you can use it quite lightly on steeper short sections where the first ski side down is really just an anchoring ski, with the pole helping nail this side down, until you slide off at a better glide angle onto the other ski ie angled a little more away from the fall line than the first ‘Anchored’ ski was. 

Today I just got it together and remembered to pace myself, keep a little cool on the leg rythm and power, and concentrate on getting to the top and suddenly it clicked in place and I flew up the hill, my weight being an advantage for once, being sliung over on my hips on the interchange of skis. 

3. Weight Right Over NOSE KNEE ANKLE

Further to this pointon paddling, you want to use your weight to advantage as they always go on about on Youtube vids on the topic. According to some you wont fall over your outside edge, but of course that edge when overloaded in my experience, can catch a rut and throw you ‘high sider’ to the ground!  

A good rule of thumb is to gety your k’nose ofer your k’nee ., which is bentd like the ankle. You need all your weight on that leg and can then rise up m,oreupright as you glide and thrustoff the skii, then moving all your weifght over to the other ski,. which is placed as near parrallel to the line of attack as possible. This is the big difference between competitive skate skiers and out for a jaunt skiers. Oout for a jaunt skiers make far too big zig zags, and that is in part because they are using too much weight transfer and not enough thrust !

In paddeling, you use your weight to effect a decent zig zag from side to side, in order to counter the resistance of the hill, while remaining in motion. It is ‘holding the wheel in motion’ and very muych like being in a sailing boat, tacking up wind in order to keep motion on, while making some progress to the goal otherwise straight ahead where the wind is blowing from., The  gradient being the resistance not ht ewind in this case of course. 

Some Skiers dont progress in fact from kind of paddelig, placing htie pole at the same time as the ski lands, and using a lot of sideways weight transfer on a well angled ski even on the flat or downhill, rather than getting their weight forward and up on the new gliding ski. They cut big zig zags and look like those dancing dolls you used to buy at fairgrounds, when you pull a string the legs fance out to each side. 

4. Drop Your Shoulders and Giggle

Dont learn to ski on ice with skate skis. I tried to repair one at the weekend and it just sprung open today, having had an earlier ding with the ice of parallel tramline spor. Instead do go out on reasonably soft days, where the ski edge can get a good grip as you skate off each ski, and when you fall, well just giggle, you have L plates on. 

As with all snow sports, hard, icey conditions are not good for learning on,. Your skate skis will jitter and track badly down hill at speed when skiing parallel out of the tramlines, and they wont plough well eigher when compared to a longer classic ski. However in soft conditions, they will feel much more responsive to steering and easier to step turn on, or enter a full snow plough position. In fact you could have a good laughh on the first day out, just fishboning up a steepish hill in soft snow on a pisted trail, and then skiing down, pracitcint skate style in the run out section as you start to slow down. 

Breathing technique is different from classic skiing which seems to come more naturally with both diagonal, double pole and also running Klaebo stylye up hill! I forget to breath in skating, or dont breathe enough until today, when I dropped my shoulders and took smalkl bites at it all. I foudn then that during my paddelign sprints I did, I could get breathing going without having to concentrate on that alone, it was coming of itself finally. 

Skate skiing is more fun that classic in many ways, but like riding a fixie bike, you feel obliged to keep it moving and it is easy to get a pace you cannot aerobically maintain. You oftem see in fact, couples out together where the one is trad and the skate skier skis alongside them, usuaklly taking it a little easier than the classically kicking spouse. 

So drop your shoulders and take it a little easy to start with. One big thing if you are a very experienced classic skier coming to skating, is that your arm, shoulder and chest muscles wont be used to the higher pole position and may get very tired easily. That can be avoided by concentrating on a good thurst from the legs and good use of weight transfer, and in fact of course , you can practice witout poles or with them ‘feathered’ upwards behind you,in order that you break any lactic acid build up in those new wee muscles you never knew you had never trained before. 

Today I had a bag of fun, and managed to sew together a few of the basics of paddeling which I had felt were at odds with each other, like the spark plig not firing until the exhaust valve was open before. I also learned to relax my breathign and take deep breaths, and to use my weight to extend a more forward angled glide.