End of Season Ski & Boot Care

Once the last of the season’s snow melts it is time to think about putting your ski equipment away for the summer and making sure it stays in a good enough condition that you can hop straight back on to it next year.

The easiest thing to do would be to take your skis to the nearest ski shop and ask for them to be professionally tuned to get rid of any damaged areas, and then waxed ready for early season conditions. However, to save those all important pennies at the end of a holiday you can do most of this yourself at home by following these easy steps:

Rust check

Firstly you need to have a look at your edges and get rid of any rust that might be forming. It can be easily taken off with a simple rubber or use wire wool for more stubborn patches. It’s important to catch rust early because it can spread if skis are left untreated for months over the summer. This can significantly decrease the lifespan of your skiing equipment making future holidays a pain to get prepared for.

Edge Care

For further care to your edges (and to save time in the shop at the start of your next ski trip) you could buy an edging tool; a small machine that is very good at smoothing out ‘burrs’ in the metal. If these little sharp dents are left they can become more pronounced so it is worthwhile to get rid of them at the end of every season if you can. You would only need to get this done once a year normally, but if you plan on having quite a few adventurous trips then it would worth the investment.

Waxing

This is easier to get done in a shop and doesn’t cost much. If you have your own though then great, slap it on – it doesn’t need to be neat for storage as you can scrape it off to the right amount when you are ready to use them again. You can even just run a candle over the edges and put a piece of wax paper between where the bases touch for protection if you want to get them waxed properly at the start of the next season.

Proper ski storage

This is one of the most important tips which many people get wrong. Even if you don’t bother with any of the above, you should always make sure you store your skis properly in a clean, dry environment where they won’t get knocked about and damaged. The edges can oxidize and go rusty if they get damp and this can actually happen if you keep them in a ski bag, so as tempting as it is to put them away neatly, it is worth standing them up somewhere like the back of a wardrobe. Keep them together with a Velcro strap and it’s also and idea to turn down the release clamps to relieve stress on the cables. This means that the DIN settings will be exactly the same as you had them set before.

Ski Boot care/storage

Ski boots need to be thoroughly aired before they get put away for the summer. You can do this by pulling out the inners and stretching them out on a radiator (or outside if it’s nice weather). Once completely dry put the inners back into the shell and make sure you fasten the buckles up to how you normally wear them. This is really important as it will be difficult to do your boots up the next time you wear them if they are left open for any length of time. It is best to store them in a boot bag if you own one, or at least wrap them up in plastic bags sealed with duct tape.

Although all of this may seem like a lot to consider it is worth protecting your investments. Skiing can be an expensive hobby – so the more care you take of your equipment, the more cash you can spend on having fun on your winter holiday.

 

Best Places in the Western United States for Nordic Skiing

The Western United States is a hub of winter sports activity, but Nordic skiers from around the world travel here to experience perfect conditions, breathtaking views, and rigorous, varied terrain. Each state has its share of beginner, intermediate, and expert Nordic trails, and many areas offer backcountry exploration opportunities. No matter your ability or adventurousness, there’s a trail for you; if you’re heading out west in search of great cross-country skiing, you won’t be disappointed. Below, we have listed the best places in the Western United States to strap on some skis and explore the wilderness.

 

Soldier Hollow

Rated one of four top Nordic resorts in North America, Soldier Hollow is one of the most renowned cross-country destinations in the United States. This was the site of the biathlon and Nordic events during the 2002 Winter Olympics, adding an extra special feeling to the 31 kilometers of classic and skating trail and biathlon range. Located in Midway, Utah ad Wasatch Mountain State Park, the facility offers lessons, clinics, rentals, snowshoe trails, a tubing hill, and a lodge. Visitors can choose from both easy-rolling trails or Olympic-level courses, all of which are immaculately groomed. Though not the only Utah skiing opportunity (didn’t know domain for Utah Ski Authority) , Soldier Hollow is certainly the first place to stop.

 

Sequoia Ski Touring Area

With over 800 miles of trail, Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park is a cross-country skier’s paradise. Located in the heart of Sequoia National Park, this is the perfect place to learn or hone your Nordic skiing skills. More advanced skiers are encouraged to try an overnight Nordic trip; though wilderness permits are required for all overnight trips away from designated campgrounds, this is a unique way to experience one of America’s most beloved forests. Visitors can purchase maps of ski trails online or at any of the visitor centers. Additionally, cross-country skis are available for rent at Wuksachi Lodge. California skiing already has a lot to offer, but there’s nothing like gliding through towering Sequoias.

 

Enchanted Forest Cross Country Ski Area

As New Mexico’s largest full-service cross-country ski area, visitors to Enchanted Forest can experience over thirty kilometers of wide, groomed trails of varying difficulty. There are five dog friendly trails, fifteen kilometers devoted to snowshoes, and terrain for all ability levels. These meandering forest trails are set against the backdrop of stunning mountain vistas, and—though groomed and patrolled—the ski area has a backcountry feel. There are several Yurts to take rests, and this area is located amidst some of the state’s best Alpine skiing—if you’re in the mood to switch it up.

 

Bohart Ranch Cross-Country Ski Center

Just sixteen miles from downtown Bozeman, this ski center is set within the serene and spectacular Bridger Mountain Range. All thirty kilometers of trails are impeccably groomed, and they remain open all winter, weaving through both scenic and secluded sections of the wilderness. The Center offers on-site lessons for skiers of all levels, and clinics are held for more intensive, personalized instruction. This is a great place to experience Nordic skiing if you’re in the area to experience the alpine thrills of Bridger Bowl.

 

Bear Basin

Bear Basin offers a trail system operated by the Payette Lakes Ski Club. With around thirty kilometers of groomed trails, these sinuous paths wind their way through the forest. Perfect for Nordic skiers of all levels, these trails are groomed for both skate and classic skiing. The area also offers after school programs, summer events, and lessons for every ability. Their mission is to provide an affordable, accessible, and sustainable winter recreation facility, and that’s exactly what they’ve done. Idaho may be known for its alpine skiing, but they have plenty of Nordic opportunity.

 

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone is one of America’s most iconic National Parks, and winter visitors love to take advantage of the incredible Nordic skiing opportunities. Cross-country skiing is allowed on all unplowed roads and trails, and there are several ski trails in the Mammoth, Tower, Old Faithful, Northeast, and Canyon areas of the park. Though Yellowstone may not have the frills of a standard ski resort, there are plenty of beginner and intermediate trails perfect for those just starting out.

 

Frisco Nordic Center

One of the Rocky Mountains premier Nordic ski destinations, Frisco is the first place we’d recommend for cross-country skiing in Colorado. The Nordic Center offers 27 kilometers of ski trails and10 kilometers of snowshoe trails. Daily trail passes are $15 for youth and $20 for adults. You can double these prices if you plan on renting skis from the center. Season passes, individual and group lessons, and plenty of events during a season that typically starts sometime in November and is in full swing by the year’s end. Beginner ski hills and tubing are also just steps away…..Find more places and information about skiing in Colorado.

Why Now is the Best (and Worst) Time for Nordic Skiing

With the huge cold front and storm system that rolled through much of the country in October, many places have already experienced their first significant snow. Yet, the resorts aren’t open, limiting the opportunities for alpine and especially piste-skiing. But for skiers who can’t wait to get out there, gliding over the snow on their skis, Nordic skiing is the way to do it.

If you ask us, we’ll tell you that Nordic skiing is the better option overall, anyway. But since there’s no trade-off with the resorts and ski runs still not ready to go, you can eat your cake today and save the rest to have for later.

If you’re also looking for a sense of solitude, it’s kind of a crapshoot. Certainly, you’ll be able to avoid the tourists. But in the most popular and populous ski towns with plenty of locals also looking for the peace and quiet offered by the backcountry in winter, there’s certainly no guarantee that you won’t see others out on the trails. Nonetheless, it’s likely to be less crowded than the heart of winter and ski season.

It’s also hard to trust the weather and temperatures for much longer than a day trip. You need to be ready to go when the early-season snows arrive because it’s often not around for very long, especially in terms of maintaining a reasonable ski surface. Cross-country backpack skiing should wait for more reliable snow cover across the entire landscape and duration of the trip.

Of course, not all Nordic skiing is backcountry skiing, and if you’re still new to this style of skiing, then you might do better to stay closer to the resorts and civilization in general during your first few runs. Finally, if you’re looking for that sense of solitude but you’re not yet comfortable with your Nordic skills, it’s not a bad idea to go snowshoeing this time of year, while you continue to develop these skills. Have fun and be safe out there!

What Alpine Skiers Should Know About Nordic Skiing

Many athletes come to Nordic skiing as an alternative to downhill. Whether they want a day away from the resort or to experience nature in a more intimate, less adrenaline-fueled setting, many new Nordic skiers have some alpine experience. However, those coming down from the mountains are often caught by surprise at the difficult of Nordic skiing. Though the sports are closely related (there’s snow, skis, and poles, after all), alpine skiers shouldn’t pass cross-country touring off as an easy sport. Here are some of the largest differences and challenges one should anticipate when trying Nordic skiing for the first time.

 

  • Equipment stability—Nordic skis are markedly less stable than alpine skis. The latter are heavier, have a wider base, and include metal edges to increase friction when the ski is angled. Nordic skis have none of these features, instead presenting as slender, light, deeply cambered equipment. Additionally, an alpine skier’s center of gravity will be lower because of the weight of the equipment; this is not the case for Nordic skiing.

 

  • Equipment mechanics—Differences in design and construction mean that the mechanics of the equipment are not identical. They may look similar to the uninformed, but different mechanics necessitate different skills. When moving downhill in Nordic skis, for example, skiers must use step turns in order to change direction. Additionally, skidding—a method of stopping—is much more difficult in Nordic skis, as there is no metal edge to cling to the terrain.

 

  • Terrain—Cross-country trails are often narrow, icy, and rutted. Trails are often cupped by both skiers and other recreational enthusiasts (snowmobilers, snowshoers, &c), making skiing on the edges nearly impossible. Additionally, Nordic skiers must follow the contours of a trail, continuing straight even when downhill portions may seem too steep. In contrast, alpine skiers have much more flexibility, and trails are often well maintained by resorts.

 

Alpine and Nordic skiing are challenging in different ways. However, alpine skiers should never turn to cross-country skiing as an easier alternative; the sports have essential differences in equipment and required skill. Overconfidence can lead to accidents, so remember to do your research and practice before heading out.

 

 

The Best Method for Backcountry XC Skiing

When it comes to Nordic skiing, most athletes will tell you about two specific styles. The first, Classic, will allow you to glide easily through snowy landscapes on classic ski trails. You will leave behind to parallel tracks, and the movement is natural and smooth. The second style, Skate, guarantees speed and a killer workout. Skating is a free technique, meaning the trails don’t offer must guidance (as a classic XC trail might). The key to skate skiing is the v-style, where you create speed by pressing the edge of your ski into the snow and pushing hard against it. Most Nordic skiers are familiar with these two styles, but which is best for backcountry?

To tell you the truth, neither is exactly right for backcountry Nordic skiing. That’s why the sport has its own, distinct style! Backcountry style allows you the freedom to explore a range of terrain without difficulty. The style is similar to Classic skiing, but there is a small difference. Backcountry style incorporates a kick and glide phase while keeping the skis parallel. However, in incorporating a slight, skate-like push, you’ll feel more comfortable in deep snow. The style is not meant for speed, but instead designed to address the range of conditions one might experience in the forest. If you find a flat stretch of path, you can utilize the Classic style to glide through. If you encounter steeper and deeper conditions, you can begin to incorporate a Skate-like push to get through even the toughest snowpack.

The key to finding your perfect backcountry method is simple. Adapt. Don’t stick to Classic skiing just because it’s more comfortable. Don’t stick to Skate skiing because you want the speed. Backcountry style is, necessarily, a combination of all popular and useful Nordic ski methods—take the time to figure out what works for you, your skill, and the terrain you’re on.

And one more thing—get yourself some proper equipment. I have a post about choosing good backcountry skis.

Gear List—What to Bring and What to Leave Behind

Backcountry trips are intense regardless of your chosen movement method. They can be especially straining while using Nordic skis—some stretches of terrain will require you to carry the skis and traverse on foot. The high likelihood of this occurrence means you must pack lean and smart. You’ll need everything from emergency gear and avalanche equipment to layers of clothing and a compass.

Below, I have written everything I keep in my “essentials” pack. I add necessary equipment, such as extra food, water, and sleeping supplies, on longer, overnight trips, but every excursion to the backcountry requires these suplies.

  • Skis, boots, poles (obviously)
  • Compass
  • Thermos
  • Water bottle
  • Headlamp
  • Goggles (and/or sunglasses)
  • Small shovel
  • Ski shell
  • Ski scraper
  • Spare gloves
  • Probe
  • Beacon
  • GPS
  • Radio or walkie-talkie
  • Snacks
  • Clothing layers

With strategic placing, you should be able to fit everything into a pack for a day in the woods. Finding jackets and snowpants with easily-accessible pockets is always helpful, especially when storing small and important items like a compass or radio. If you have this equipment, you’re ready for a fun and safe day outside.

Learning the Basics of Backcountry Nordic Skiing

As I’ve established in previous posts, backcountry Nordic skiing differs slightly from other types of XC skiing. In addition to having a separate style and equipment, the form must deal with different terrain. It is therefore essential to know how to address unexpected slopes and turns. You don’t need to hone your technique before heading out, but you should know the basics of how to deal with this type of terrain. Below, I have described the best methods (in my experience) for tackling level ground, uphill climbs, downhill slopes, and turns.

Level ground—Okay, this one is pretty easy. Most Nordic skiing is done on level ground—that’s why it’s called “cross-country.” On level ground, use the classic kick-and-glide. As one foot slides forward, push down with the opposite pole and kick forward with your back foot. Plant the opposite pole in front of you with each stride to retain balance, and work on keeping an even rhythm.

Uphill—If you encounter a steep uphill slope, try switchbacking instead of powering straight up. Never try to climb too steeply; most textured bases start to slip at just 15 degrees. Instead, put weight on your uphill edges to keep from backsliding. If the steep slope is short, utilize the “herringbone” step—with toes pointed out, put our weight on the inside edges and walk up. This should form a backward, downward-facing wedge with your skis, and the weight on your edges will prevent you from backsliding.

Downhill—If you’ve skied downhill on Nordic equipment, you know how necessary it is to have a game plan. Most newbies will assume they can attack a downhill slope as you might with alpine skis. However, the unattached heel means you won’t be able to turn and stop as easily. If you come across a downhill area, lean back slightly to keep your tips from diving under the snow’s surface. Assume an athletic stance with your feet shoulder-width apart. If the slope is very steep, step down while keeping your weight on the uphill edges. You can also “snowplow” as you would with alpine skis.

Turns—On gentle terrain, completely pick up your ski and put it down in the direction you want to go. If you are moving downhill, ease into a snowplow position and put additional weight on the outside ski. Move your skis back into the parallel position as soon as the turn is complete.

Choosing Your Backcountry Nordic Skis

If you’re familiar with Nordic skiing, you’re aware of the differences between Classic and Skate skis. One is longer than the other, one has a greater camber, one is heavier, etc. You may not be aware, however, of the third class of Nordic skis—backcountry. the backcountry Nordic ski style is very original, and the equipment has to be sturdy enough to support you during longer tours in untracked and dense terrain. Therefore, if you’re in the market for a new pair of XC skis, ask your retailer about their selection of backcountry skis.

These skis are wider than usual Nordic skis. This will allow you to float on top of both loose and packed powder, similar to how a snowshoe works. However, the edges comprise the biggest difference. Backcountry ski edges are made of steel, allowing you to have a firm grip on the ground no matter the terrain. The gliding surface is pretty similar to a general ‘no wax’ ski, and you can find equipment with built-in climbing skins. This will look like a fish scale (or similar) pattern on the undersides of the skis and is designed to add traction.

Backcountry Nordic ski boots are also available. They are sturdy, stable, and warm—similar to hiking boots. These boots are designed this way because, in most cases, you’ll have to do quite a bit of walking. Some boots even have integrated gaiters, which will protect you from falling into deep, untracked snow. The sole will attach to the ski through either a toe nip or a metal stick.

Even backcountry Nordic ski poles are different. They are often a bit shorter, which will allow you to be more agile. The baskets are larger than usual to prevent you from falling through untracked terrain. I recommend getting yourself a pair of height-adjustable poles with large baskets—you’ll be equipped for backcountry, Classic, and Skate.

If all of this backcountry-specific information is overwhelming, take a deep breath. If you’re not committed to the backcountry lifestyle, you can rent or lease equipment to test it out. When choosing your weapon(s), be sure to talk to the sales or rental associate at your retailers—they’ll be able to steer you in the right direction.

 

Avalanche Warnings Aren’t Only for Alpine Skiers

Backcountry sports are the most thrilling winter activities imaginable. From snowshoeing and cross-country skiing to alpine skiing and hiking, nothing can match the feeling of adventure and discovery experienced while traveling, literally, off the beaten path. Unsurprisingly, this type of adventure comes with its share of risks. The most common, obvious, and deadly? Avalanches. Yes, you heard that right—Nordic skiing requires a careful study of avalanche warnings.

You might be thinking: I thought avalanches only affected mountains. I thought only downhill skiers needed to worry about them. In fact, an avalanche will destroy everything in its path; it one occurs far enough down the mountain, or if it gains enough speed, it will blow through roads, towns, and valleys. This means your backcountry Nordic skiing—even your trail-specific Nordic skiing—could be at risk.

Take note: I am not advocating for Nordic ski abstinence. In fact, this danger makes the sport even more thrilling. I am, however, advocating for proper education and preparation in case you get caught up on an avalanche while doing some backcountry exploring. Appropriate preparation begins with reading the Avalanche Danger Scale. Before setting off on a backcountry trip—whether you’re planning to just take the day or do a week-long camp—check the Avalanche Danger Scale reporting for your area and date. This tool is used by avalanche forecasters to broadcast the potential for avalanches in a specific area. Avalanche terrain is often defined as a steep slope, but if you see a high avalanche danger reading, avoid that particular area—a steep slope inevitably leads to a soft plateau, and when the snow starts spilling, it won’t matter that you were on flat land.

In addition to reading the daily avalanche forecast, all backcountry explorers—whether you’re doing some alpine skiing, hiking, or Nordic skiing—should have an avalanche pack. No matter your chosen sport, you should always carry a small shovel and an avalanche receiver and probe. If you’re caught up, these tools will allow you to create an air pocket and send out a signal with your exact location. Most importantly, always wear a helmet.

Now, this post is not meant to scare you. It’s not even meant to make you afraid of avalanches. These natural slides occur with enough frequency that they have become a part of backcountry life. I just want you, dear readers and fellow Nordic ski enthusiasts, to be safe, stay prepared, and anticipate danger.

 

Why Cross-Country Skiing is Definitely the Best Kind of Skiing

For some, okay for many, downhill runs and terrain parks are the best—if not the only kind of skiing. For thrills and technical expertise, they can’t be beat. But cross-country skiing has a ton going for it, too. Now, it’s easy to think there are two “camps,” cross-country vs. downhill, but pretty much every instance I can remember with friends and acquaintances, it’s more like a sibling rivalry—or even a lover’s quarrel. Now ski vs. snowboard…that’s a legit kerfuffle.

Me? I love it all, but I do think it’s cross-country skiing that gets my vote for most underrated thing you can do on skis and maybe the most underrated winter sport overall. The thing is, I’ve heard a lot of people talk about how cross-country skiing is a “full-body workout.” Okay, I’m not going dispute that cross-country is an amazing workout experience, but it’s not as though downhill can’t also be intense exercise to go with its thrills and lift rides. I will say, too, that I’ve never really understood the significance of a “full-body workout.” Golf is a full-body workout in the sense that it uses all your muscle groups, while simultaneously engaging your sense of balance. But a round of golf is not comparable to a day in the alpine backcountry on your skis and poles. It’s just an experience unlike any other. The quiet and the not so quiet. The solitude of the wilderness broken by the sight of wildlife, sometimes the terrifying sight of a mountain lion or an agitated moose. The conversation and social aspect of those who are with you on this adventure. The personal challenge of determining what you’re capable of. The initial excitement and novelty of getting dropped off by a snow-cat or heli-skiing. I’m an unabashed Nordic Nerd.

Cross-country skiing, for me, means exploring the western United States in a truly intimate way. There’s Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Utah, Oregon, Washington, and California. There’s also the question of personal safety. The occasional encounter with large alpine fauna notwithstanding, serious downhill skiing can be hazardous to your health. Whether you’re a youth telling your friends to “Watch this!” or you’ve become increasingly susceptible to strains and sprains over the years, you never know when you’re going to get a serious injury. Who follows best practices all the time? All right, fine, I admit the prospect of turning out a knee or seriously throwing out my back could get dicey pretty quickly, but it hasn’t happened yet. I mention it, too, because I’ve been going on more and more overnight backcountry ski trips.

Look, I can do the mountain resort experience with the fine dining and hot tubs in your private room and bar scenes with live music and strong drinks. But I also love roughing it and don’t need every meal to taste like someone sacrificed a piece of their soul to make it. Plus, there’s nothing like getting back to the lodge after a long backcountry ski trip. I guess, it’s kind of like my version of a soft masochism in which the focus isn’t just aimless flagellation so much as the relief that comes after the pain is over. It’s kind of a cure or at least a treatment for the claustrophobia I feel when I’ve been on the same mountain or terrain park for too long. Skiing has always been getting to the next horizon for me, and it’s true literally even more so than figuratively.