Sunday, October 28, 2012


Seemingly eons ago, when I lived in MN, a good winter was measured by if we were skiing by Christmas. Here in Canmore a good winter is when we’re skiing by Halloween! This last week I was on snow 6 days. 3 on Frozen Thunder, a 2km loop utilizing stored snow from last season. The Nordic Centre puts all the guns on a massive dug out hole, then they bring a semi load of sawdust to cover it. They lose about 25-30% of the snow over the summer, but when they bust it out in October it’s enough for some decent skiing. National level skiers from across Canada and as far away as Vermont in the USA have descended upon our "training-central town".

In addition to my 3 days on the Thunder, I stopped 2x at Nakiska ski area on my way home from working in Calgary. They’re making snow like gangbusters, but I stayed off the runs anyway, electing to skimo ski up the access road (where my ski patrol friend told me to go). It’s mostly pretty low angle, but it’s a nice long sustained climb. Day 1 I did my 20x:30 intervals (w/ :30 rest); day 2 was 2 x 20 minutes at zone 4. Both excellent gut buster workouts.

Finally, today I skied three and a half hours at Lake Louise’s Moraine Lk road. It’s a 10km uphill out and back, great for classic nordic skiing especially. Since it’s a road, they don’t need a tonne of snow. When they get a foot of snow, it’s usually enough to at least roll the trail. Waxing was tough with near 100% humidity and new snow around freezing. My Atomic Multi-Grade waxless skis did the trick.

When I look at the peaks around my house being so covered in snow it’s hard to believe I took my new MN friends to the top of one of the tallest (Grotto) just 1.5 weeks ago. Summer’s over and our (now) typical 7 month ski season has commenced.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Some thoughts on Climbing Skins

As an ex-xc ski racer I'm always trying to find a faster skin combination for my skimo skis. I've got about a dozen pair of racing skins. I delight in the fact that unlike ski wax where once you put it on the ski it’s gone for good, skins, though initially expensive, only get faster with each repeated use. Among my collection are several SkiTrab/coltex skins, Amplatz blondies, Pomoca race mohair (race width and full coverage). This summer I purchased 2 new sets. First- Coltex specials (teammate Reiner swears by them for cold weather). I bought the carving ones as they were the only ones I could find. I may keep them "wall to wall" up front, then cut them off just behind the heel. My Pomoca "wall to wall-tip to tail’s" have been awesome. In N. America so many of our races are on steep climbing dh ski areas, where you really aren’t gliding, so you go with the big grip and relax. The other pair I purchased was the new Coltex racing skins. I think they’re the purple-PDG model (named for the race). They claim 20% weight reduction and faster glide....we’ll see.

Yesterday I was talking to my old Atomic rep (I was sponsored back in the day), and he was explaining their new waxless ski. They’ve gone back to 70's technology and put a mohair insert onto an xc race ski. He says that skin company Kohla developed a teflon coated skin hair that is impervious to water. I’ve tried doing some websearch, but haven’t come up with much. It could be a pretty cool (and fast) development though for us in the skimo world.

Pre-Competition Training Phase

I’m now entering into the pre-competition phase of training. This means less hours (slightly), but more intensity. I’m now doing 2 hard quality workouts each week. I stumbled onto French physiologist, Monique Billatt’s research. She came up w/ an interval protocol that increased VO2 max by 6-8% and running time improvement also at the 6-8% level. Her recommendations have found their way into the track running world and cycling world (& maybe now skimo!).

Her workout (for 8 weeks to bring improvement, then continuing) consists of ~20 x :30 sec effort at a 1 mile race pace. Each interval has only :30 sec rest between. Do this for as many as you can before your performance significantly drops...typically around 20.

I find that the first few intervals aren’t that hard, but it doesn’t take long until that :30 rest seems waaaay too short. When I go, I monitor my heart rate. I also count out loud so the quality interval isn’t interrupted in any way by constantly checking the watch.

I also perform them on a long uphill. I was going to Nakiska ski area and running up the access road, but then discovered a great trail at the Canmore Nordic Centre. I go up the World Cup ski trails, then a trail up the ridge leading to Rundle mountain. The further you go up, the steeper it gets.

Last night the last few steps on interval #20 brought me to total exhaustion. I think my last step was the last possible one I could have done. Lactic acid piled up and there was no strength at all in my legs to take me another step further. It might have helped that I did leg strength that morning.

Small victory there too as I accomplished my goal for squats (I do ½ squats). My body weight (150) x 50 x3. There were a couple pauses in there to achieve the goal, but w/ continued work I think I can do the 50 straight. It really feels like a downhill ski run as lactic acid and fatigue really build up. I imagine myself going down a mogul filled skimo race course and try to push through the pain.

Oh, by the way, they’ve fired up the Frozen Thunder ski track at the nordic centre. 2km loop of summer stored snow. It’s been great to be sliding again. I’ve been skiing there on my easy days. Won’t be long ‘til winter is here in full force. I’m ready.