Saturday, 14 January 2017

Local Trail Reports

The following is list of trail reports from local skiers who have been out on the trails.

Goldbar / Capilano Park
"I skied at Capilano today and it is in excellent shape; the best it has been all year with a deep classic track! So, both CL and SK is excellent! The Goldbar trials have been blown in quite a bit, especially the more open and exposed sections near the Pavilion and around the lake. Woodcutters has quite a bit of debris but the larger, blown down branches and twigs have been removed. A track has been set but it is shallow. Retaining Wall and 50th Street has a good track. All of the Goldbar trail has a recently renovated skate lane. As such, skating in all of Goldbar is quite good but be watchful when skiing Woodcutters. 

I didn't ski up Esso Hill but it is renovated as is most of Goldstick. It is suitable for skating as the cover is thin, but has some skied in tracks as well."

As reported by Ulf Kleppe on January 9th 

Blackfoot Recreational Area

"Today at Islet Lake, Blackfoot. Conditions don't get much better than this."

Posted by Julia Keenliside to ENSC Facebook on January 16th:

"We skied today up to Hare. The tracksetter was out working. When we stopped to talk to him, he said he was tracking all the way to Blackfoot staging area, including Winter and Wapiti trails. Conditions were good after they were track set.  The tracksetter was using the Gater with a pull behind track setting sled. He said this unit should be equipped with a GPS tracker in the next week, which means the real time website that shows track setting status should be more up to date. He also said we need quite a bit more snow before Prince Haaken (the piston bully track setter) can be used."

As seen on Facebook on January 9th 

Strathcona Wilderness Centre

"The base is starting to firm up nicely, although with only 6-8 cm to work with, we are still not able to set full depth classic tracks; however, the tracks are setting up nicely, and should remain intact for the most part. Watch for some tree debris and thin spots, particularly on corners and hills."

As reported by Bjorn Taylor on January 9th

Drayton Valley

"Pembina Nordic Ski Club hosted the 4th annual Eagle Point Loppet yesterday (Jan 14). The temperature stayed in the single digits (below zero, that is) making for a very "nice and comfortable" racing conditions! Only 1.5 hours south and east of Edmonton it is worth the drive. They have more snow than we do and have done an excellent job of converting this into very agreeable ski conditions; the grooming has been excellent!

The entire 13km trail network was used in the loppet. From the centrally located chalet the trails extend both east and west. The west trail is very forgiving, well most of it, and is gently undulating, wide enough for both skate and classic, and winds along the top bank of, and overlooking, the North Saskatchewan River. For those who want to have a closer look at the River,  you can choose to dive down the extension loop at the very west end of this trail...but remember, what goes (sharply) down must come up! 

The East loop starts off easy enough, gently down actually, and then drops almost to river level before heading slowly and steadily up. The North East loop is ideal for long steady diagonal striding! And some fun, turny downhills...and then a steady flat, false flat, section before, well, you climb a wall back up to the chalet! 

The trails are fun, challenging, and, depending on what you are looking for, has something for everyone. They have lots of snow, the grooming is excellent and is done often, the entire trail network is suitable for both skate and classic; the drive is well worth it!!"

As reported by Ulf Kleppe on January 15th 

More reports to follow as they become available.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Preliminary Birkie Wax Discussion #1

Preliminary Birkie Wax Discussion #1 

This is our initial post in preparation for the 2017 Canadian Birkie. With nearly five weeks to go until the race, think of this post as containing the principles for cooking up some fast skis. But not necessarily the exact recipe... yet. We will continue to post regular updates that hone in on a final solution as we get closer to the race. 
Heading out for some glide testing. 
Event Information:
Saturday, February 11, 2017
  • Mass start
  • Classic and skate technique options
  • Race website - website
Trail Conditions:
Regular reports as to trail conditions can be found in a couple of places.
Reports from people who have skied the trails say conditions vary considerably depending on where you are. In some cases the tracks are excellent, in some cases the snow is quite thin, and in other cases there is significant debris coverage. Needless to say, more snow would be a big help.
Wax on!
Cold air continues to linger over much of Alberta. There's a bit of a break coming Wednesday. But, it's short-lived. The real warming trend won't start until the weekend (in the Edmonton area). The arctic air gets shoved out this weekend & daytime highs climb back to around or above zero Sat/Sun & next week. The long range forecast doesn't look ideal in Edmonton, but it's almost always colder in Birkie Land.
Initial Glide Thoughts (applies to both classic and skate races):
Base layer - Over the course of a long race like the Birkie, and especially given heavy traffic and debris on the trail, durability of the glide wax is critical. This is most easily accomplished by applying an initial hardening underlayer before your race wax. Iron, scrape, and brush as per normal. 

If no significant additional snow and tracks are old and transformed:
  • Rex RCF Black
  • Rex RCF Pink
  • SkiGo LF Graphite
The graphite waxes from Swix and Toko would not be good options. These are very soft waxes and serve a different purpose.

Race wax - It is too early to make any suggestions with respect to race wax. However, high flouro waxes will always be the superior choice, due to their ability to stay fast over the long term. We have had great success with Holmenkol Speedbase over the years for this reason. 
"I tell you what, its cold"
Classic Wax Considerations:
Base layer - If the kick ends up being klister, obviously you will need a klister binder. If the kick ends up being hard wax, Vauhti Super Base or Vauhti K-base will be the best choices. These base layers have an uncanny ability to improve not only the feeling of the kick in old snow, but ALSO improve the speed. Neat, huh?

Kick wax options -  By far too early to say. At the moment hardwax would be an excellent choice, however that could change with warm temperatures. PowerGrip may also be an option with excellent kick and durability, although likely slower speed.

Skin Skis - Skin skis work in almost all kinds of snow and temperature conditions, from cold and dry to wet klister, on rock hard and icy tracks as well as velvety smooth. Also, having kick (rather than going with no kick wax at all), provides the option to stride on any up hill terrain, thus saving the arms and allowing you to hit the double-pole sections harder.

Double Pole - Are you feeling adventurous? In professional marathon races, such as the Birkie, most athletes are double poling the entire race and going with no kick wax at all. However, unless you have been specifically training for this for many years, or your name is Brian McKeever, we suggest steering clear of this option unless the tracks are icy as luge tracks.  

Grip wax testing.
Other Things to Consider:
Pole straps - Now would be a good time to inspect your pole straps to make sure they aren't any significant frays or tears. There is nothing worse than tearing a strap right at the start or, even worse, half way through the race. 

Bindings - Now would also be a good time to quickly inspect your bindings to ensure that everything appears tight and well in place.

Wax pocket - Ensure you know where you grip zone is and have it clearly marked. Remember that if you are skiing with a pack, you will likely need to shorten your grip zone as the pack has the effect of making you heavier.

Fast Trax Wax Service  - Birkie specific wax service

Fast Trax Wax Clinic - Birkie specific wax clinic

Let the fun begin!
In terms of training for the Birkie and the local ski conditions, we can confirm that the skiing at both Goldbar and SWC is great, we used race skis at Goldbar both this past Saturday and Sunday. 

As of Monday January 9th, we would not have used race skis at Goldbar, but the skiing was still quite good, and news on the trail as of Friday January 13th is that the trails out at Blackfoot have been groomed but are quite wind blown due to Wednesday's cold front moving through.

What Happens Next
We will be posting updates with increasing frequency as conditions change and as we approach the day of the race.