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.

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I like to Ski

I like skiing and skiing likes me. Me Gusta. Kross Kontri.

I have discovered that my so called training sessions are, well, pretty mediocre while I can count on a social ski being much rewarding in terms of plain enjoyment, and in fact technique development. I said before I seem to drop my shoulders and let myself go at a pace which is lower than my actual fitness level. But perhaps I am showing off when I try techniques, egged on by company, or perhaps I feel safer with someone to scrape me off a pine tree or limp home if I broke both skipoles?

I think in fact that I over concentrate when I set out to train. I try and push myself cardio wise, and then get lost in impatience with technique as I try and hack up ‘bakkeglatt’ ( slippy , wheel slip so to speak) hills or my poles disappear into deep snow ont he soft verges and i face plant during enthusiastic poling.

I have a level then at which I can either focus on technique or alternatively huff and puff. The latter is basically interval training then, while the former is kind of pushing the envelope of technique nice and gently while taking an easier training session. The hope is then that the latter then informs the former and I get a speed benefit.

Over time this is true, Those die hard pensioners with their sports skis and old style upperbody ‘staking’ and slow rythm diagonal, arms slung far ahead of their noses, are now a species I either overtake, or turn and take another round while they scurry homeward, The 60 kg rtacing snakes pole away from me, and usually make a point of accelerating but at least I go as fast as most of the other middle ages skiers and a good few of the new found 20 something skiers who suddenly are back into the sport, having meant it was naff through their teen years.

Skiing skate style across country is the big thing for me. That and, non unrelatedly, the advent of a much better type of waxless ski. In reality, skiing int he tramlines using diagonal technique, the kicking, striding classic style, is actually a kind of skating only completely parallel. The weight is pushed off one ski, not really kicked per se, and then you glide on the other ski with 100% weight helping ‘oil’ your way, on the sheen of water which allows an other wise crystaline phenonemon to melt and permit low friction progress.

This year I have been able to sew together a lot of the small bits of skate technique and built confidence in tackling different manoevres, and most importantly that critical ‘duration of glide’ feeling. I am far from competent in skating, having a left side paddle which is plainly wrong, and a right leg bias in powering off the skate. However it informs my whole experience and gives me more confidenceto free myselfof tramloines and, as I set out to do 15 years ago, take up mountian tour skiing.

The thing is that I appreciate my flaws, and see them as challenges to be overcome, with each little ounce of progress, or successful step turn, or speedy , fluid section of single dance skating, being a little triumph. Had I stuck to only classic I think I would not have developed skills and , like a pal of mine, been back in pensioner stuyle, my body refusing to unload one ski completely of my weight.

This year there has been some good snow, as with much of Northern Europe, which means that we have had little of the old track issues, where the base of the tramlines is always glassy and needs a real dump of snow to cover it up so fresh tracks can be made. So the soft snow has helped because it is more forgiving on a poorly placed ski, easier to ploough down your speed, softer when you fall, and of course it is slower in itself. So this and working only part time now, has been a boon to my skills and probably fitness.

Tours out with the family are often seen as pretty low input -output in terms of training. Folks, back up here, there is win-win. Firstly, pick somewhere with circuits and plenty of down hill. Then the focus can be on fun, and you can let the kids play

on the slopes or sledge as well as xc ski. A circuit means you can take off a bit at speed and know you can lap aroiund and come bCk to the kids. Join them then for the downhills , matching pace with them and egging them on, having races, and showing off a bit to set a role model.

On the subject of fitness, I think a lot of middle aged folk seem to think they can whizz out, and do some new fomr of training which gives maximum output for intense small packets of input. Some natrually high VO2 max people with a light , atheltic body type can get away with interval training and train at a once a week long tour, peaking then at some event such as the 70 km odd Birkebeiner at a longer distance than they have actually done in taining up. For many of us we forget that our youthful fitness was based on many hours of varied training, and we would build up fitness after injury or at the start of a new season. All that blood in the back of the throat, aching muscles and wincing blisters, and sore joints. Now it seems a little uncormforatable to go through this pain barrier. We dont egg on each other for fear we will be calling for the nearest heart-starter. We rationalise away performance as we do at work or with our marital success or abscence of it.

So stop and prioritise skiing and dont comprimise or try and cram in hard sessions, when most bodies need long, low intensity training.Buy a head torch and get out in your local ski runs, after the kids are in bed, all 1km loop of it. It is meditational and totally absorbing , and cheaper than therapists or career burn out.

,ncepercdtt ugmoh coenttoe.

, hdogotu lhbloneco tot nstiff painfgu uceandit, whle

Wonderful 12km of Skiing in Vegarshei

I find more and more that the days I set off to go on a social tour at a light pace end up being the days I am most satisfied with practicing technique and testing some little high intensity nano sprints. Thursday was a day off this week, and the sun threatened to shine, although the combination of -13c and 25 mph winds was always going to be a bit of a challenge when we got up to the exposed moor.

Vegarshei has not been my favourite place, while I have been there quite often because it is other people’s favourite. It provides what you could call a varied tour, but they run it clockwise so the hill climbing is nearly all fishbone. You then have short and few opportunities for diagonal technique (aka kicking) after the stadium is behind you, until the breif 2km round the boggy moor, which so often has defied the piste machine by not freexing deeply enough in recent years. In winter it transforms to a fast section, a ribbon of sensibility on an otherwise ‘rollercoaster’ style route.

A tour at 11am in Norway risks just what I had anticipated, someone wants to start a bonfire and grill hotdogs, and eat oranges and the kitkat copy KwikLunsj. I am not a fan of this with any km to do at all, and the lean to hut is about 2/3rds of the way round with the longest hill of the day being the sting in the tail1500m or so before your reach your terminus.

The steepest hill, where the skate skiers had reverted to ‘labbing’ up in fish bone too.

It had really dawned on me that my skintec skis would fall short of gripping – they are a little balding like me, and lucky for their middle age, a new set of skins is on order. They dont like the cold, loose snow, and the softness of the snowbase does not suit my hard bow tension skis. So I elected to take my older touring skis, which have three season old (applied but little used in this case) Start Grip tape. It gave some grip, but the new snow hadnicely drifted in a kind of micro catastrophe for the nicely lain tramlines. The skis dont track or rather I dont track well on the harder, rilled mid lane, and we all reverted to skating as often as possible to keep a pace on. Infact the conditions were ‘green wax’ with blue picking up too much , and my grip tape being like velcro gathers nasal fluff!

The skating and ski control in corners went very well, and i even did some paddeling ( a much nicer and appropos name for what is V1 Offset in English circles) Also I managed some fast fishboning and concentrated on relaxing my upperr body and arms a bit , an area I often find tires me. Down hill the tramlines were still like going on axminister deep shag pile carpet, with the need to rock back onto heels to keep the skis floating, and that not being very satisfactory in the soft base conditions. It was much more fun to come out of the spor and go downhill in the Frans Klammer style! ploughing worked well, which is good because there are a few really tight spots with very steep drops into corners. This all went satisfactorily. Only the first rollercoaster prove problematicon a fuill stomach , three sausages and some scoff sweeties. Here I strayed into a drift and canned out on my back side. Which disappointed me, but those steep and twisty sections made up for that as I managed to keep control.

It wasnt long, and in time elapsed on skis it was shorter, to get back tot he car. I had set out to have a bit of a plodding, classic diagonal day, and it had ended up being all about skating, feeling of fitness gained this last month or two, and downhill control. Oh and just the fun of dropping shoulders and not getting too seaty on what was a splittingly cold day as soon as you had the fuillbrunt of the wind in your face. Man Friday and Lady Satruday emjoyed it a lot too, and I was ratherjealusof them both having bath tubs at respective homes to sink into, me havbing only a shower cabinet and inch of depth max possible.

Skating Skis and the Mid Life Crisis???

A few years ago in the office I worked in, skate skis for christmas or a winter time birthday had become a running joke for those slightly balding types like me. It was a sure sign of the mid life crisis, the man seeking new, modern challenges and keeping up with fashion.

There is something to be said for this cliche, but the main reason then was the generation a decade or so older me, had their kids earlier and now had finally some leisure time for themselves, so why not take up with the style which has crept into every nook and cranny of the sport of XC skiing?

For me it is indeed a challenge, although I see myself as having had middle age around my mid thirties when I fianlly grew up and started putting family priorities before my own petty yens. I had wanted to try skate skis after a particularly fine day for getting a skate rythm going in the mid field of the ski runs at a place called Kleivvan in Aust Agder. I towed the wee man on his steering sledge using the elastic cored towrope from the car, and it worked very well indeed as loing as I skated and didnt try the more undulating thrust of classic kicking.

Evenutally I struck, but the winter prove quite short, it starting snowing the day I bnought them and it thawing to become Icey some three seasons ago. I got an absolute bargain, but found that the Intrasonic skis I bought had a little odd balance point for my shoe size and despite NIS bindings, could not be adjusted forward. They did well though and I probably needed more on lift and balanceof my own mass than the whipping point of the ski. Eventually I bust the tail of one on ice during a fall i guess one day, or it maybe got stamped on or stabbed at in the ski bag by accident. My new skis are fancy carbon fibre, just got them on monday. i had gone in with my old ski to confirm its death warrant as epxected and ask for any good deals, and although I ended up spending 600 kr more than my budget, I got a pair for half price, ex bindings but with NIS plate on already!!

For me it is a challenge and a good, infact, fantastic way to improve my balance and manoervering on skis. I find the main issue is actually breathing, or rememberingn to breath deeply, and also not rushing it all. Anyway I needed a lot of percieverance to keep going after all the falls and all that start stopping, and wondering if I ever will have the concentration necessary for perfroming what is skiings answer to the ‘fixie’ bicylce! You are locked into a metronomic rocking from side to side, releived only on the steepest downhills by a tuck, or on faster slack down hills by double poling in the tamlines, as desired.

Concentration issues have plagued me down the years, often not seemingly anything more than ‘cannae be arsed’ but with neweven fancier and possibly slidier skis I had some motivation. That and a bad anaerobic back pain I get during classic diagonal, which needs about 20 mins warming up gently before it goes away. Skating is more aerobically demanding, but uses the body in a lighter and kind of more natural way than classic, which requires a bent in the knee while striding and a forward poised stance.

I became aware that I could just go and string things together a bit, and take breaks so as to catch my breath and concentration, and think over what went right and wrong. Now those breaks are getting fewer, and I guess like a fixie in a velodrome, the 5000m was not built in a day.

Rushing things is an issue and then forgetting to breathe, and then losing rythm. Howevver there seems to be a little key in the lock I am turning by just practicing. One issue with concentration is that skis can behave a little unpredictably. One common mistake I made and you see many making, is to cut too wide a vee when on the flat or down hill, and place the ski at too broad an angle to the line of travel. When coupled to a big rock of body weight, this means you end uyp shooting from side to side at high speed, and you can see some folk fighting their own efforts, legs splayed out. The wise money is on centering your ski, and placing it carefully down as you kick off the other ski,. The ski dangles forward in roughly the directioon of travel towards the end of the other skis glide as the push is ready to begin. many folk look like they are paddeling uphill, or proceeding like a chimpanizee raised walking on their legs/

Paddeling is in one way like first gear on a bike, you can sit back and take it easy, but if you ‘get out the saddle’ and put some effort in, you can saw your way up a hill Like nobodies business. It is a technique qhich many go over into at too early a stage in their speed versus gradient, and either end up losing speed and forward momentum or get caught as I have, in a skis which slide far out to one side at a time, and you kind of fight the skis and end up with too much travel in either zig or zag. It is better to double dance until you grind down to a speed where paddelign is snesible, a bit like using first gear on a moving car, you avoid it until you are really slowed up and are gonna stall otherwise.

You dont hgave to be very pure in your technque though. You can change between double dance and single dance, or throw in a quick paddle at times when you have really slowed down on a mdium hill, or even on the flat when you hit soft snow. However you do need to learn what proper dancing is, and not pole in the wrong synchosity to your skating movements in your legs. The poles are launching you off the end of the push away on the old ski and onto the new ski, and when your weight is fuilly on the ski, your arms are about waist level. Quite a few people I asee use a kind of high speed paddling, with the arm trhust coming before the push even., That show you get going on skis often in fact, a ,kind of angled paddle,

Downhill your skis feel much freer and easy to manoevre than the long, softer classic cousins. Step tyrning in partiuclar is much easier and indeed my new skis did behave better than my old Intrasonics Also you can choose to skate a little and practicine feelign how it is to skate with a ver tgtveepte i og,vey longlide phases.

Also you get to feel without using poles to propell you downhill, amd that is ta thing I should do on the flat, leaving my poles

Soi from frustration and a broken ski, to appreciating the learning curve and how I just need to sew a few things together, it becomes a picture from what was a bit of a jigsaw puzzle of small bits right,. much missing.

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. 

A Small Revolution in XC Skis In Scandinavia

In the winter dales and snowy plateaus of Scandinavia, there is a quiet revolution taking place in ski technology for cross country, classic (diagonal kicking skis)                                                                                                                          <&> While many ‘serious’ competitors turn their noses up in disgust, the masses are flocking to skis with furry soles. They are throwing out their wax and clister tubes and throwing their skis in their cars top ski boxes without so much as a single rub with a cork in the ‘grip zone’.    PA   Now however, even the more serious of amateur competitors are buying these skis and winning races. The populairty of the Birkebeiner ski run has meant now that a friday event is run, and two years ago that was won by a man on “Skin” skis.  The ski industry themselves have declared that 70% of sales of new skis in 2017, were of this type, and in the south of Norway, as much as 80% of new sales of classic skis are the skin type.                              It started maybe a very long time ago because there are no patents pending the actual concept of machining out the sole of the ski and sticking in a skin. Indeed a company in Norway called Fantaski AS, offered such a service and would even convert skating skis over to a kind of kombi set up with a velcro like insert.  At0mic were though the first with off the peg skis, with their Skintec, originally launched with an innovative and patented magnetic insert, which can be changed out for twin strips or single, broad strip for less or more grip respectively. Someone should have noted that this was put into a very advanced pair of skis, with a strange looking symmetrical camber, which works in combination with a carbon fibre construction, to make the ski stiff in glide mode, while after a threshold of downward force is applied, the ski shows a softer characteristic during the ‘kick’phase as it is pushed down and back on the snow. This meant the manufacturer was moving away from waxless skis being a beginners ski, to offering something for the more advanced skier, and even letting one of their pro teams train on the ski.   PA                                        As with any innovation, such as electric cars of late, there were detractors who like to focus on the drawbacks and maintain a smug superiority with their established ways of doing things. The issues for the skin insert skis have been namely, cold weather performance and becoming wetted out and ‘sucking’ in wet weather. However we have to look at another driver here. The Nordic countries are experiencing amongst the most rapid effects of accelerated climate change. On the one hand average winter temperatures have risen while on the other there can even be more snow fall in the course of a winter as atlantic and artic weatherfronts cross the area in the abscence of the once so stable ‘Scandinavian High’ which is thought to have typified midwinter conditions for many centuries. Scandinavia like the USA has also experienced the bizarre consequence of rapid artic warming in extreme cold weeks when the splittingly cold air spilling down over continents due to the new instability in the artic winter. So we have in effect far more variable snow types on the ground, more thawback and re-\freezing , more new snow and on average a less cold snow base. This then lends more towards clister and away from the more classic blue cold, waxing over to Lillac and then Red as the season moved towards spring. We encounter more transformed and hard skispor which would have meant clister, with actually many lower level serious skiers having chosen a skibox with clisters for -5 to 6 degrees air temperatures to cope with the abbrasive and low traction conditions.  PA    Skinskis in all but ice, are clister busters! As long as there is a crystaline structure in the base of the ‘tramlines’ then skinskis grip well without picking up crystals in sub zero, and doing as good a job in ‘zero’ conditions as the fancy rubber insert rubbing zero skis which had become part of the armoury of competitive skiers. As conditions get milder and the snow haas a high water content, typical easter time conditions, skinskis require a glider treatment to avoid waterlogging and resulting squat-suck onto the snow base.   PA  Coupled with another innovation in bindings, the skis seem unstoppable! The NIS and comepting systems allow the binding to be repositioined fore or aft of a middle, installed position, sliding between notches on the base binding which is fixed to the ski. Hence a little bad grip can be compensated for with a couple of notches forward, and bad glide at easter time can be overcome a little with the binding and thus weight moved backwards. It seems my original, fixed bindings on the Atomics were quite far forward, as I have struggled with good grip on the standard mid mounting of the new NIS I had installed. Little better on my last run with one notch and about 0.8 cm forward, so now it is going to be a full inch forward for the hard, transformed tramlines we have now.   PA   Environmental and Health Debate.    Health and Enviroment are together for good reason. What goes round, comes round and the extensive use of flourinated hydrocarbons in both grip and glide waxes comes in for criticism. Essentially they are not biodegradable, and there is some suggestion that a keen skiing lady in Norway who had a waxing shed of her own and was otherwise the picture of health, died from cancer resulting from extensive exposure to the fumes when ironing. The residues are to be found for example, accumulated in earthworms along the woodland routes of Oslo for example, and while not as pharmactive as pesticides, flourcarbons will accumulate higher in the food chain once they enter it, and as they are not degraded, it is then a problem which will only get worse and more prominent over time. The issue is that these products are just so much better than normal waxes. They resist emulsification under the stresses of water contact and friction far better than ordinary hydrocarbons, being highly hydrophobic. Thus I found that  when compared to a typical lilac special, Swix VF version would last an entire day out, rather than getting thing and slippy on our typically abrasive south norway, low altitude conditions.  Also a wax will cover a slightly wider temperature range. thus reducing the choice down to just three Flour waxes for most skiers looking for a reduced time in the waxing booth, and a full day out without corking on new  wax. Normal hydrocarbons will be degraded by aeroibic bacteria in the top layers of soil and gravel and cause little issue other than the annoyance of  reapplication for skiers themselves. Skinskis seem to then offer a cure , but of course no wax free ski is actually truly that, they all need glider wax dont they?  PA  Well here we come to an interesting proposition from a former Russian ski athelete living in Sweden, one Mr. Kuzmin. He produces a metal blade scaper which he has shown to work in contrast to traditional techniques. Traditionally there is talk of structure from stone grinding and then ‘rilling’ with a patterned roller. This achieves to purposes in tradititional glide sectoons of the ski. Firsly it presents different first contact areas to the snow. A fine structure with tight over pattern will press the ski on the snow with few air spaces and thus allow for the maximum pressure for that all important partial melt which makes us able to slide on snow. The second function of structure is to give a greater surface area for the adsorption (NB not absorption, UHDPE is not porous) of glide waxes which act to help the ski base either brake crystals to water in cold conditions, viz hard waxes, or to aid water disspation in mild conditions. However as Kuzmin points out, modern ultra high molecular weight (density) polyethylene which ski soles are made from,  is a very slippy material when it is allowed to be polished quite flat. A flourinated glider on the correct structure will give a lower coefficient of friction as they talk about technically, but for the average amateur competitor that is minimal and in any run over 12 /15 km say, so much of the wax is abraded off the ski that the skier is reliant on the structure for effect. Kizmun produced scrapers which actually remove the stone ground textrure and any rilling for cold conditions. For warmer conditions he has produced a wacky looking hair pulling resembling device, which rills in leading channels for water to leave the ski in wetter conditions. Here we get then a truly waxless ski and I look forward to trying this ona  new ski, which I may order unground ! PA Of course a good deal of the ritual of skiing has been the waxing bench, and a good deal of Scandinavian ice breaking chat down the decades has been about how badly or you have waxed and how much hindering your own stupidity or the idiotically incorrect weather forecast has been in your day. It has probably given a pyschgological advantage for competitors to come away from their everyday jobs or other trials of physcial training for semi pros, and go into a virtual meditative hour or so in prepping the day’s skis. For many though, their backs are now turned on the wee shed or basement bench, the wax iron and the cork. I bet that a very good percentage of skinski users dont bother with glider more than once a season, and if Kuzmin ever takes off, then we could see the revolutuon of waxless truly come into effect. 

Wrong Type of Snow!

I think the snow has come and gone, only to come again five times since november. Fluctuating around the magical white button point of zero degrees means not just that it disappears, but allso the snow that is there is not so darn useful! “kram” snow which although ideal for snowballs and those rotund sculpted carrot nosed people, it can be frustrating for XC skiing.
The whole winter has been frustrating in fact. Firstly and foremost I have dammaged my two once so new and perfect skis. Possibly someone has thrown the ski bag around, someone maybe being me, but I managed to delaminate the back of one skate ski from a shock to the top surface, while the screws on my Atomic skintecs in the crucial place, pulled out on one side leaving decrepit, dusty holes. Lucilly the top break is a straight forward exppoxy and clamp job, while the latter could be fixed with a new binding. Fortuitioulsy the NIS system uses a base plate with six screws I beleive, all very different points to the traditional type! Most advantagously again, the NIS bindings can be adjusted with a little key spanner thing, so you can get some more grip or glide as required out of your ‘furry bottomed skis’
Claissci skis fixed, the last two or three runs have been frustrating and made me wonder what I am doing wrong? I even trained up for the season in my usual doldrum November by joining the day memerbership at the local gymn! It seems it is the ‘wrong type of snow’ as British Rail once put it when their new premiere trains out of action. Or rather I get into having the wrong type of ski !

I felt this year should be a plateau year on classic while a progress year on skate skis, and so far that has only proven true because I have bothered to skate on my classic skis! It has been hard work on severaaal days without much of an immediate explatnation apart from the day with glider on the furry bit which turned out to be a massive mistake in asking for it! Washed out with the neighbours spray cleaner, the next day prove to be not much better, but at least I got some good kick with double pole out of the day, in kind of mixed conditions, mostly quite fimr and a little wet. 
Bad workmen complain about their tools, but the best workmen on the ‘Lonmg Tour’ style have about a dozen pairs with them! I have come up against the issues with fast skis – they can be slow as hell in the wrong conditions. My newish atomics have a lot of camber tension which makes them ride well with the mohair inserrt about the snow when gliding. Some days with my firend out before me I can just kick a little with double pole and feel like I am freewheeling along. Then came the new snow and minus seven, and then came the ‘kram’ snow, the snowman rolling perfection which is so rotten for daphne here! 
I found the extremes of my otherwise perfect classic skis. In fact so much so that on all three of my last tours I have gone over to skating with them, all 210 cm of them. Yesterday I had in fact some very, very satisfactory skating on them in quire heavy snow , and able to practice pushing out to the side on the boot to get the best skate. The skis have also been cleaned and glided , also over the mohair ‘skin’ which seems to have been an instant mistake ! They felt like kicking on a ski without any grip wax. 
On the second of three runs on them, I picked up a pensioner behind me, and although he never got past me, it felt like i was being whipped all the way while having a heavy pack holding me back. I turned at the top of the fish bone on the back to the car park, and decided to whip myself again if only to show the pensioner i was made of better stuff than he may have thought. I ended up skating about half of it!
I just have too much camber spring ! Without a good kick you can’t get good glide and in slow, kram conditions or cold and soft new snow, you cant make up for it with double poling as a rank amateur. You need the power of kicking with good grip in both diagonal and ‘keep the wheels rolling’ kick with double pole. Since I am heavy anyway, I dont get the advantage of being held over the snow. There is possibly some other dynamic going on there too, where the pre bend is actually digging in a litte at the front, I dont know.
Waxing for null conditions hasnt been a big issue for me before. Special Lilac flourinated worked well, whille the grip tape from Start was as good as red special or an expensive clister. However my old skis were broader and this helped quite a lot in the glide round zero, as I remember when the tracks were just lain by skidoo when the bases are really pretty soft.
Even the pensioners here go with pretty sporty, race style skis and I found out for the most why, because the narrower skis are by in larger a hell of a lot faster. It used to nbe a mystery why so many old folk had fancy Fischer skis, but now that is obvious. Also the mystery as to so many different pairs of skis per competitor at the top levels in the sport. They need different camber spring for the four different temperature ranges. 

So the question is there then – do I bang my head against the wall with skis which have their limits in soft snow? At easter I have several times taken out my broad jumble-sale waxless, 1979 type models, a fully wooden structure with a fishscale sole bonded on. They are a lot of fun when the snow is otherwise porridgey!  

A good workman will also, as they dont like to say, will choose the right tool for the job and sharpen it for the task ahead. This year could be the bumper long, late season which means the snow can go three ways- icey or at least firm, wet and sloppy or there can be new mild weather snow. Two of those three favour a softer ski but will I invest?