Sunday, March 29, 2009

Dry slotted

Okay, it looked good for a while. But now the models are in pretty good agreement (see above, the 00Z NAM run that just came out) that the Metro area, as so often happens, will be completely skunked. This is not particularly good news for anyone except the Range, which could see a foot to a foot and a half of snow. (An inch of QPF for the Red River Valley won't help anyone, but at least it will fall as snow, letting the river levels decline a bit there.)

In other words, skunked again. (Actually, we usually get skunked in January when it would be nice to get snow; maybe it will be rather dry and the bike trails can start drying out.)

So what does this all mean? It means it's doubtful we'll add to our skiable days here in the Metro—unless the Slaves at Elk River have one more trick up their sleeve (and they have lots of tricks). If you want to ski next weekend, the Range and, say, Maplelag look like decent bets. See you at the Ridge?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

April snow?

We'll begin some snow speculation on this site. I was going to save that for next year, but it turns out we might have some snow this week. Probably enough for a day or two of skiing in Elk River, especially since their trails may have frozen a bit in the cold weather this week so they won't just thaw the snow out from underneath wicked fast.

This has been in the cards for a while, but the models do not do well in the spring, so outside of about 100 hours, they provide sketchy details at best. However, run-to-run continuity has been very good, so it looks pretty good for something this coming week. The MPX AFD is talking about a cooler storm, mostly if not all snow, with 8-15 inches possible. Which is, well, definitely not a bad thing. As in
Now, do the models support this? Well, yes and no.

The guys over at the NWS might be getting a bit carried away, and there is the chance of a dry slot pushing up (per the NAM). For instance, here is the QPF (quantity of precipitation forecast) from the 00z NAM.
Northern and Central Minnesota get walloped, but there is a tight gradient down south here. This has been the thinking of the NAM for several runs, and it's not inconceivable since the storm will be winding up pretty well. This would give great conditions for the Range next week, but probably not enough to groom locally.

The GFS was forecasting more QPF in its last run and a new one is just coming out, let's check it out. Okay, I have to wait a few minutes, it's only out to 54 hours right now, but looks, well, interesting. Lots of forcing in Southwestern Minnesota, and a rain/snow line right around Red Wing, so snow for the Cities. A sub-996 low, too, which should throw a bit of moisture in, too. Now the GFS has a slightly different idea.There's still a comma-head type of look to the precipitation field, but it's in a different area completely. The NAM has the bottom of the half inch QPF going from Prairie du Chien to about Brainerd; the GFS on that same map has this QPF from Nebraska to Wisconsin, and a different bullseye. For now, between the NCEP models, I'm hoping for the GFS, and for it to move a bit east. I can hope, right?

The ECMWF? Well, it's similar. But it will all depend on the track. We probably won't know much more until tomorrow, or Monday. Still, excitement abounds.

One last ski? Giants Ridge

I thought it might be done for the season. Then I saw trail reports reporting good skiing at The Ridge. I put out an email to ski folks, who wanted to share a ride up. I really wasn't fancying driving heaps alone again. John Swain, a retired Colby skier, took the bait, and we headed up in the morning. I'd been running (a couple ten milers, including one down along Minnehaha Creek to the almost-flooded footbridge along the roiling Mississippi) and lifting some this week and was sore, but managed to have a great afternoon of skiing.

My trail report:

Giants Ridge was most definitely worth the drive. We hit clouds by about Rush City and flurries not far past Hinckley, although not much fell at the Ridge. We wound up skiing the Gold (most of it twice), the Bronze and the Silver. It was mostly skating with frozen corduroy, waxing for classic was tricky with variable track conditions.

Gold trail: Excellent with the the exception of the southeasterly section, which has a couple icy spots and is good. Much faster and more fun than last week, but still kicks your butt going up.

Silver: Officially closed, but about an inch of powder over crust. There are a couple thinner spots (most notably on a blind hill right after a "caution sign" but completely skiable, including the Toilet Bowl and The Pit.

Bronze: A fun ride down, with a couple spots where you have to jump little streams and a couple thinner sections down below.

Telemarking the green gravity ski trail: [redacted]

Actually, the downhill at the end was a lot of fun. We had skied up the brutal Gold Trail and meant for it to end our day, but as we went on the gravity ski trail to access the nice green downhill trail we saw a Pisten Bully and two guys on a sled shoveling around the top of a lift. We decided they'd probably yell at us for skiing down the downhill slope, and were about to turn and go screaming down the nordic trails (not a bad situation, of course) when they got on their machines and drove off. Nice! We skied through the woods and hit the trails, getting in some very nice turns, especially on the side of the trail that had been freshly groomed. Will my legs hurt in the morning? Probably.

The rest of the trails, as stated above, were splendid. Waxing in the morning was pretty futile, but once we had the skate boards on we were very happy. We mucked around a bit jumping the little streams that crossed the trail in places and had a blast on the ungroomed Silver Trail, and a nice, tiring day of skiing. And there might be more snow on the horizon!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Boot Cam

This is too cool for school.

I was searching for something a couple weeks ago (I think information about the ski race put on by Maine Huts and Trails but I can't quite remember; MH&T is building a 180-mile long hut-to-hut system connected by groomed ski trails, which is kind of very cool.) and came upon the website of Colin Reuter a skier and biker from the Boston area (where I come from). In any case, I looked around and said to myself, "Hmm, I wonder if he has a race report from the last Great Glen to Bretton Woods race (the race is no longer run, and their website might be kaput), a 50k classic race in New Hampshire and without a doubt the hardest race I've ever skied. He did.

(Why was it the hardest race I've ever skied. Well, several reasons. First, New England had three marathons that year, and two on the same weekend. I lived about and hour from each. So I skied both. This was the second 50k in a weekend. Second, It's a classic race run partially on snowmobile trails. Tracks are not always present. But third, and here's the biggie, it climbs 1600 feet from 31k to 40k. With no tracks. And no breaks. It was bonk-city. I'll probably write about it one of these days.)

I started reading his post and said, "hey wait, this sounds familiar." As it turns out, he beat me by about 10 seconds; we skied the last 10k together. After 100k, there was no way I was sprinting; I was happy enough to finish alive. I was sick for the next week.

In any case, this is not a post about old races or spending five minutes at a feed eating or anything, it's about what this fellow does during races:

Sugarloaf Inferno Boot Cam from colin reuter on Vimeo.

Yeah, he takes video from his flippin' ski boot. For serious. In this case, he took it of a race which I almost skied in '07. New England has a history of "Inferno" races back to the '30s, with the original ones going from the top of Mount Washington to Pinkham Notch, about four miles in as little as six minutes. This one is a bit more, uh, less insane, but still descends a headwall on a downhill slope before a couple hills to the finish. He took a video, from his ski boot, of the whole thing. Definitely worth the watch.

And, for what it's worth, he's done this with his bike seat in Cross races and helmet when mountain biking.

Now, to my credit, when I went skiing in Colorado last June (oh, yessiree) I managed to take a couple videos descending the hills. Not racing, but still sort of fun:

although earlier in the day when it had been fast and wicked icy I'd forgotten my camera. Whoops.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

One last weekend

Friday night I was toying with the idea of a day skiing up north, probably at Sugarbush up on the North Shore. So I sent an email to a friend from college who I knew did something in Ely (dogsledding trips, it turns out), asking if there would be a floor for me to crash on if I showed up. She responded with an enthusiastic yes—I guess not that many people wind up Ely in the middle of the winter—and Saturday morning I set off.

It was sunny and warm in the Cities, and by the time I got to Giants Ridge it was cloudy, but still warm. I found my ticket and made my way to the sane side of the world—the gravity slopes were packed with people—and skied up the Gold Trail. It was how I remembered it from six years ago—the last time I'd skied at Giants Ridge—but much slower. I'd only ever skied 20k at the Ridge in 2003 at the Central collegiate regionals. Due to cold weather we skied two 10ks on one day, Silver skate in the morning and Gold classic in the afternoon. What I remember from the Gold Trail is a long slog up, some rolling downhills and a screaming descent in to the finish. It was the same today, except lacking any of the speed. It was a bit of a slog down some of the hills, let alone up. But it was skiing.

When I returned to the base, I went back out on Silver, which was also slow (and had a bit less coverage). The trail was fine, but slow again. The Toilet Bowl was unexciting as was The Pit. I got a bit of speed up but nothing to write home about. I finished the day with some half-hearted teleturns on the compressed slush on the downhill area. Edges would have helped.

I then made my way up north to Ely. The first five miles were on a curvy, hill, snow-covered dirt road. It was slow, but saved about 15 miles of driving. When I finally found pavement, it was only an hour up to, and through, Ely, and in to the Wintergreen Dogsledding Lodge where a friend from the Mac ski team, Amy, is a guide. I met the dogs, ate some food (yum!) and heard about her trans-Amazon canoe trip . (The next expedition is an inside-passage kayak from Seattle to Skagway, a hike and paddle to the arctic, then a sled dog back to Minnesota, and a paddle out the Great Lakes, perhaps down the Champlain canal and Hudson, to the Atlantic. I'd think they were insane had they not already paddled the Amazon.) In the morning I helped make gingerbread pancakes, saw the cute Husky puppies, and then headed off.

My plan was to go to Sugarbush, which went off without a hitch except that I had forgotten how much of a road Highway 1 is across the Arrowhead. The answer: not much of one. It is curvy and narrow, had a bit of snow left on it, and despite no traffic I had to slow down a bit at times. I cut across to Highway 61 and then north to get to Sugarbush around noon. The trail was groomed, and because of wind off the lake, the skies were cloudy and temperature right below freezing—perfect conditions. I strode again, with the same klister, decent kick and tremendous glide. I was flying.

From my trail reports:

I skied the Picnic Loop and if it is the last ski of the season for me, it will be a good one to go out on. The trail had frozen overnight and with the northeast wind off the lake it was cloudy, so it stayed frozen until about 2:30 when I finished. I'd never skied Sugarbush before and loved the trails, especially the 10k black trail inland on the loop—which was fantastic in rolling maple forests and reminded me of skiing in Vermont (this is definitely a good thing, especially from a caustic East Coaster like myself).

The snow cover was pretty much 100%, with one dirty spot and a couple downed-but-cleared trees. At one point nature called and I stepped off the trail and put my pole in to the ground and there was still 30 inches of snow cover. This isn't the case on the entire trail but this was not a particularly sheltered or northerly-exposed section. The sun tried to come out as I neared the halfway of my ski but struggled to get all the way through, even though views inland (and the drive from Ely) were crystal clear. Thus, the trails stayed mostly frozen, with good striding on klister which came off on the downhills pretty well, meaning there was little cleanup when I finished the loop. Some of the frozen tracks were wicked fast coming down, which was nice after yesterday's slower trek around Giants Ridge. These trails are amazing; I'll see them soon when my hiking on the Superior Trail resumes this spring.

But they do have two and a half feet of base to melt first.

A long slog back to The Cities with a stop in Duluth closed the weekend, and perhaps the snow season. Now it's time to run, lift and roll.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

That was the season that was—SKIING

In our last post, we discussed criteria for rating different winters. This was all based on skiable days, and the quality of the days, and such.

So how did this season stack up, and how does it compare to other seasons? Let's chart this out:

 Skiable DaysRacesDays inMurphy 

* G/E = good/excellent

That seems about right. And if it seems like we've been a bit spoiled this year and last, we have. From 2002-3 to 2006-7, there were a total of 142 "good or excellent" snow days each year. That's an average of less than 30. However, in the last two years, there have been 165 "good or excellent" days, averaging nearly three months, and more than the previous five years combined. That's not too shabby (although snow between Mora and Birkie would have been nice).

But if we want to go a bit further, we can look at each season, day by day. To view a larger version of these charts, click on them. The key is:

* White = a day without local skiing
* Light Blue = a day with fair or poor skiing locally
* Dark Blue = a day with good or excellent skiing locally
(The gray bars are in place on February 29 on non-leap years.)

And for each race, green denotes a full race, yellow a partially-skied race (either on a lake or shortened, although since this concerns mainly snow quality, a race shortened or canceled due to cold is still counted as a full race) and red a canceled race.

To see everything at once, without a lot of scrolling, I've broken the last seven years in to two:

Now, why does this only go for back seven years? Well, that's as far back as Skinnyski's archives go. I'd be glad to build more in to my little database if the information is of high enough quality, but I fear that pre-2002 reports, if they exist, might not exist in a high enough number to be of much use. What with the Internet being a lot less widespread back then. I may build something based on weather and snow depth, but it would be even more rudimentary.

But if we look back over the last seven years, what is the best date for skiing. If you want to have an event on a certain date, and that depends on snow, what is the best day you can pick? The answer is February 9. Out of a total possible 14 points (one awarded for a day having snow, another added if it was "good" or "excellent" conditions), February 9 garners 12. Other than the horrid winter of 2004-5 (the City of Lakes meltdown), it had good or excellent conditions every year. Disregarding condition, are there any days which had skiing every day in the last seven years? Well, actually, yes, several, all in February (mainly because there wasn't snow until February 1, 2003). They are the 3d, 14th, 15th, 21st and the 24th to 27th. Again, we can chart this out, using the same type of key:

What might this tell us? Well, based on a very small data set, there is some sort of skiing 5/7 of the time from January 1 to March 14. As far as good days, January and early February are pretty good, as is late February and March. There's a bit of a lull in between. Of course, this is most assuredly a statistically insignificant sample, but perhaps there are two peaks to winter, and the dreaded January Thaw is not mythical. We'll see how the numbers stack up in to the future.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

That was the winter that was—how to quantify ski conditions

Recently, we explored the weather of the now-seemingly-over winter of 2008-2009. Today, we'll look in to how the skiing went, and how it measures up against recent years. With the weather, it was rather easy. First of all, there are numbers. There's data going back nearly two centuries. So it's not very qualitative. Second of all, some folks have done a lot of work documenting the weather. Ski conditions, on the other hand, are a little harder to quantify. We'll set up the qualifications for different levels of ski season quality (excellent, good, fair, poor) today, and explore the current season, and recent past seasons, later this week.

One way to do this is to count skiable days. But where do you count them, and how? Do you count days you could ski on the Como Glacier (quite a few—it probably still has snow on it)? Or days you could use your best skis at Murphy (not quite as many days, but it is a bit more fun)? And if we are going to rate ski seasons (as I am about to attempt to do), we need to establish some sort of criteria. We'll figure out how to decide whether it is an excellent, good, fair or poor season for skiing. So, what makes a good snow year?

Well, jumping beyond trail conditions at large, we can focus on three trails at three times: The City of Lakes Loppet Course (when it is held), the Mora Vasaloppet course when it is held, and the Birkie. These are entirely subjective: three points in time in three disparate locations. They do, however, account for the three largest long races anywhere near the Twin Cities. In addition, they are the only local (under three hours drive) snow-on-the-street finishes—with cheering crowds lining the course. They occur from late January to late February, generally the peak of most local racing (although there are many fine races earlier on), and when we really want snow on the ground. I'd be hard pressed to call it a "good snow year" if one (or more) of these events is shortened, "laked" or canceled. Plus, they traverse a diverse set of terrain, and they are usually rather indicative of local trail conditions.

Thus, these races will be used to assess ski seasons as follows:
• For a ski season to be excellent, all races must be held in their entirety (with the minor exception that the City of Lakes may be shortened by a couple kilometers since it is the furthest south of any major races and most prone to melting—if a couple k on the front nine are shaved off, it still qualifies).
• For a good snow year, at least two races must be fully held, and the third can not be canceled, it can only be shortened (due to snow, not cold temperatures, which do not represent the snow conditons) or "laked."
• If more than one event is shortened, or one is canceled, a season can be ranked only as high as fair, and
• If all three are shortened, or more than one is canceled, only a poor rating for the season will suffice.

Beyond the races, we begin to analyse snow conditions. When we looked at the year in weather, we looked some at snow depth. But ski conditions are based not only on snow depth, but on the temperature (ice, slush, &c.) and, of course, on grooming. What good is six inches of snow pack if it is topped with an impenetrable layer of glare ice? And what of the differences across the area? Sometimes there's good skiing at Murphy and Lebanon with brown grass at Elm Creek and Elk River. Sometimes Woodland Trails have good conditions and everyone else is on man-made snow. At times the whole Metro is very white, but only some areas have good enough grooming to merit good conditions. Wouldn't it be nice if there were a treasure trove of ski trail observations from across the Twin Cities going back several years?

Of course, I am referring to's "First Hand Trail Reports." Thanks to Bruce and his archiving, we can go back towards the start of the internet and compare conditions across the area each day of the winter—from the first "fast grass" to the last melting slush at Woodland Trails. For the purposes of this analysis, the "Metro" will stretch across the seven county region, and poke in to Sherburne to include the trails in Elk River, which often prolong the local ski season on their own.

Now, how do we count skiable days? Well, based on the reports on Skinnyski, I've devised two levels of skiing. One is "poor to fair." For a day to be counted under this criterion, somewhere in the Metro (other than a lake or manmade snow) needs to be at least somewhat skiable. This can include "fast grass" or crust skiing, but somewhere there must be the ability that day to strap on a pair of rock skis and glide. That is counted as a poor-to-fair day. The other criterion is "good to excellent." For this to be in play, somewhere between Murphy and Elk River needs to be skiable with good skis (excellent or very good) or at least two locations need to be reporting "good" conditions—skiable on at least "B" skis. If these criteria are not met, it is counted as a fair-to-poor day.

Once the days are counted, we can quantify a season:
• An "excellent" season must have at least 100 days of skiing, with at least 75 "good to excellent"
• A "good" season must have at least 75 days of skiing, with at least 50 "good to excellent." If a season has more than 100 days of skiing, only 40 need to be "good to excelent"
• A "fair" season requires at least 50 days of skiing, with at least 35 rated "good to excellent." A season with 20-30 days of "good to excellent" skiing can qualify for fair if it had at least 75 days of skiing overall.
• If a season does not meet any of these criteria, it is rated as a "poor" ski season.

Since this is already quite subjective, I'll throw in a few more criteria:
• For a season to be rated "excellent" there must be at least 20 days of skiing in December, January and February. March skiing is great, but it's not the same when the skiing is after all the races.
• For a season to be rated "good" there must be at least 20 days of skiing in at least two of the months of December, January and February.
• For a season to be rated "excellent," Murphy-Hanrahan, the most notorious of the "needs a lot of snow to open" venues, must be open and "good to excellent" in at least three separate calendar months. For a "good" season, two are required.
• No season may be rated "good" or higher unless there was at least ten days of skiing before January 1. What good is late snow when you are rollerskiing on Christmas?
• No season may be rated as "excellent" when a major race (such as the Bear Chase, the Noque, the Pepsi, the Gov Cup, any major Birkie Trail event, the Minnesota High School Championships, Nationals or JOs, if they are held in the Upper Midwest, &c.) is canceled due to lack of snow. If two are canceled, a season will not be rated "good."

Finally, ski seasons will be rated at a certain level only if all of the criteria for that level are met. Later this week we'll rate this season, and past seasons back to 2002-2003, with some nifty charts as well.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

That was the winter that was—weather

In the space of about 36 hours last week, we went from -4 to 50, and two days later we were close to 70. It melted all the snow this side of Duluth, it seems, and, looking at the weather charts for the next couple weeks to April (have we skied in April? Yeah, but it melts real quick), has pretty much put an end to the ski season. Today, I'll tackle the numbers, later I'll look at the ski season.

So how did it stack up? How does it compare to last year, and previous years. Was it warmer or colder? Was the snow better or worse? How was the skiing and grooming?

Well, there are a lot of ways to answer. First, we can look at the temperatures and snow (skiing will come later). "Meteorological Winter" runs from December to February—for which records are kept. March counts as spring. This coincides rather nicely with local ski season—there are some races in March but the big ones are done and the races are generally up north. Here's how it looks:

MonthAvg. HighAvg. LowMeanMaxMinHi >32Lo <0
Dec.23413.5 (-5.2)41-13612
Jan.16.8-0.28.3 (-4.8)46-22115
Feb.29.112.420.8 (+0.7)47-5134

A few more tidbits: snowfall was about normal (17, 8 and 11 inches) as were below zero temperatures—about 30 for the winter. There were ten days below -10, and two below -20, the first time in five years. We had a month below freezing (December 30-January 30) and almost a calendar month until the temperature skied to 46 on the afternoon of the last day of January. We were running about five degrees colder than normal, February was about average.

The coldest day of the winter was January 15, which actually fell midweek and not during a race—what are the chances. Up north was down near -40; at the airport the high was -6, the low -22, meaning for the day it was 25 degrees below average. A lot of the 'burbs went to -30 or colder. March 11, however, with a high of 8 and a low of -3, was 27 degrees below average. The warmest day, and the only day not to fall below freezing, was during the mid-February, snow-eating meltdown when the high was 47 and low was 35, 23 degrees above normal. That was a bummer—at least it was post-Mora and post-City of Lakes and Birkie was pretty much spared.

Now, on to the meteorological, numerological and chartological fun. A guy called Charles Fisk has a great website chronicling Twin Cities weather back to the '20s. The 1820s. I'm not going to link his whole site—though I could—but he has taken a ton of data and presented it in great charts. For instance, here's the month of January, in temperature.

But then it gets cool. For this winter he has charted snowfall, against the average snowfall. It'll make more sense with a chart:
Okay, that's pretty cool. And he has charts going back to 1884 (for snow), for the year, with snowfall, snow depth, temperature and all else. Here's 2008, for example. And then he has some outrageously awesome charts, like this one, showing average temperature over the whole year, by hour. Uh, amazing? I could spend all day at this site.
No wonder I love early may—60s and dry. If that's not cool enough, he has charts about wind speeds and directions and even thunderstorm probabilities (most frequent just before dawn in July fwiw).

Anyway, what can we deduce from all this information? Well, it was a pretty normal winter. It was a little colder early on, and then normalised some. The snow never got deep, but it's not terribly frequent to have deep snow in the Twin Cities. Look at the average snow depths by day for Minneapolis. The median from Mid-January to Mid-February is about five inches of depth—which is about what we had this winter. And before New Years it is significantly less. So, I got to thinking, when did we build a real "base" of snow? When did we have a good, deep layer of snow on the ground—a foot or more—in January or February. It seems abnormal not to have it, although it is actually an aberration. The last time the snow depth was more than a foot in January or February for more than a couple days was in 2001, a good snow year; and before that 1997. Before that, you have to go back to even years in the early '08s: 1986, 1984 and 1982. Before that were six years from 1969, '70, '71 and '72, 1975 and 1979. Before that, it happened one other time in each the 1960s, 1950s, 1940s, and 1930s. So people remembering the big winters remember a seventeen year period from 1969 to 1986—since the advent of skating there have been two winters with real "base building."

What I mean by base building, is snow maps like (and these are from the Minnesota Climate Working Group at the U, going back to the mid-90s):
That's March 1, 2001. Most of Minnesota had had a foot of snow or more on the ground for a month, and more than 18 inches at the end of the month. I wasn't around, but that looks awesome. The best we mustered this year was mid-January, when most of the state had a foot. Not too shabby.

A couple more data points: A nice article from (PDF) shows that the 1960s to 1980s were higher than average in snowfall but that we actually seem to be getting a bit more snow compared to the first half of the century(see pages six and seven). From Fisk's site, again comes:
(click to enlarge). Again, it shows the heyday of snow in the Twin Cities from about 1970-1985, but also it looks like snowfall has been increasing slightly. Does this mean the snow sticks around more? No, likely not—warming temperatures may preclude that, but they may well cancel each other out.

And, we might well be due for a nice, good winter with a foot and a half of snow on the ground where one warm spell doesn't kill the snow, as they seem to come once a decade or so (save for the '70s and '80s). Of course, we have snow-making now (and Wirth will probably get better at, you know, making enough snow) which helps, too. We paid dearly from 2001 to 2007—we'll explore that soon—but have done rather well this year and last, and hopefully will do better going forwards.

And stay tuned for a rough analysis, using trail reports, of conditions for every day back to 2002 (when Bruce's site started archiving).

(Oh, and take this all with a grain of salt. Despite some weather geekiness, IANAM—I am not a meteorologist.)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Woodland, one last time

Going, going ...

... which describes my ski this morning, and the snow this afternoon. When I hit the trails at 9 it was still mostly powdery (yup, untransformed) with a couple icier sections (climbs up Top o' the World, Peeper, Scouring in particular). As the temperature climbed and I disrobed, it began to slow down. I noticed that it was significantly slower by my third lap, and my fourth (down to shorts) was wicked slow on my cold-base skis.

My good skis with faster bases are sitting in my living room, so I took out my rock skis, which were not necessary but had the requisite "induced structure" from meetings with rocks, sticks and asphalt. They were decidedly faster than the other skis, but that's like saying a Pinto is faster than a bicycle—there were no illusions of speed, just a little less suction-y lurching. With the temperature in the 40s and the snow transformed, my fifth lap was slow but nice, and from Thursday's 0˚ outfit of shorts, long underwear, pants, two shirts and a thick fleece I had subtracted everything but the shorts (and had thinner socks on to boot).

The slaves were out as sawyers in the afternoon (they were skiing earlier on) and will groom what they can tomorrow. My money is on about an 8k loop, losing Stony Rollers, Peeper Hollow and Wash Pond (which is already down a bit) with an icy/wet spot on Scouring Rush Run, but continuity elsewhere, with thin spots on Top o' the World and Scouring. I'd also say it's likely it'll be a short walk to the trails tomorrow from the lot (100m). But they'll work their magic, the low is forecast in the 20s (so ski early) and whenever you can ski on the Ides of March it's not a bad thing.

I can only get to two trails at most, on a good day! Check out all the trail reports at

Thursday, March 12, 2009


Ancient One said to call it as I see it. I say "Excellent, Excellent, Excellent."

If you want one more day of skiing, skip work tomorrow and head up to Elk River. I just had one of my best skis of the year there, not bad for March 12 on a thin cover of snow. It is midwinter conditions with sun until after 7:00—hard to beat.

My first lap was in the late sun, the second was during dusk, and the third was in the dark (I helped one non-lighted fellow find his way back to the parking lot after almost running in to him—that's reason to wear reflective jackets). Most of the way through the third lap I found Babe and Ancient One out on the sleds, going the wrong way with the screens (no, the screens were still behind the sleds, they were just grooming the course backwards).

I'd been thinking about a fourth lap (seriously, at close to 40k I think this was probably the longest after-work ski I've ever had) but their work, and the cold temperatures that should set it up perfectly, put the kibosh on that. I finished the lap, taking a loop through the range for an extra k, and then headed south on the railroad grade. I just didn't want it to end. I V2ed to the turn around, came back, and finally finished, about the same time as the sleds. I thanked them profusely (of course) as they have done a wonderful job this year (as always). They deserve a break, though, and will probably get one come Saturday, but they're still out tonight—and it was down near zero if not below—making the trail superb (and, I know, come summer they're out mowing and cutting, but it's warmer at least).

So go. If not tomorrow, Saturday morning. You'll be sorry if you don't. And, again, thanks to the trail crew for all their hard work!

I can only get to two trails at most, on a good day! Check out all the trail reports at

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

City of Lakes (Bog)

Bog: skied in and decent shape.

It's been quite a while since I've come back from a ski covered in frost, and if it hadn't been light until 8:00 on the horizon I'd have thought I was back in the depths of January. We might not have too long but the skiing is pretty good. The new snow has skied in well and there are a few icy sections but nothing of concern. It should be good tomorrow and Friday morning and beyond that, well, we'll see. Still nice to be skiing in Minneapolis in mid-March!

I can only get to two trails at most, on a good day! Check out all the trail reports at

Sunday, March 8, 2009

City of Lakes (Bog)

Fast, icy, rutted in places, all around fun and scary.

I skied a a loop of the Bog at dusk tonight and I'll second Zach's report for yesterday. There is still full coverage, and most of it has an edge. It's not wicked fast, but scary on some of the icier downhills. There are a couple wet spots too. I only took one loop because it was getting harder in the dark and mist, even with a headlamp.

Oh, and getting to it — there's no parking near the bog (the lot there is icy and sketchy and maybe illegal?). I parked at the beach and skied over—it wasn't too bad although I'd stay on the older climb up to the Parkway crossing, and take car coming down (even I snowplowed!). Still, it's skiing, or some approximation thereof.

I can only get to two trails at most, on a good day! Check out all the trail reports at


All things considered, excellent.

I will never cease to be amazed at how well Elk River holds snow. The golf course there had less snow than Highland did last night when I arrived and my expectations were low, but of course once I crested the hill in to the woods the conditions were pretty much perfect. There were a couple icy sections (the hill right before the Pin especially, as well as some of Wash Pond) and Stony Rollers and The Mitten were closed, but otherwise it was fine skating. I was on it right as it was hardening up but the base looks pretty good, with only a couple thin spots in the usual locations (bottom of Peeper, top of Scouring).

I can only get to two trails at most, on a good day! Check out all the trail reports at

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Crust skiing

Good crust skiing.

Once the sun went down this evening I headed over to Highland for some time on the crust. Now, it wasn't akin to 15k of ungroomed trails with crust I experienced in Maine a couple years ago (superb!) and in a couple places the snow wasn't even continuous, but it was quite good, lots of edge from the sun-dappled snow but very firm—no breakthroughs anywhere. I skied both the 9 and 18 hole courses. The 9 hole has better coverage for the most part, but you have to avoid the previously-groomed, and icier, areas. The 18 hole is larger and where there is snow it is in better shape, but there are a couple sections where you have to walk across the grass on your skis. Considering the skis I was on, this was not an issue. I'll probably go off to test the crust at the T&C tomorrow morning!

I can only get to two trails at most, on a good day! Check out all the trail reports at

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


Still quite good, a few thin/icy spots but great for a ski in March.

The skating at Wirth was great today, and the striding track looked surprisingly good. A few areas which were sheltered were still completely powdery, the others were transformed but not yet icy. The grooming was generally quite good. On the front nine the railroad bridge was thin, as was the bridge over the Parkway. Otherwise, you could use good skis with a ton of caution, but I wouldn't suggest it. It's good rock skiing conditions.

I was able to exact revenge from an event on these trails when I got to pass Caitlin Compton on the trail—as I remarked it was "probably the only time I'd get to [do that] this year." And I may have said it before but I'll say it again—there is nothing like skiing at dusk and coming through the trees with the lights of the Minneapolis skyline shimmering in the background. It's just fantastic.

I can only get to two trails at most, on a good day! Check out all the trail reports at

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Terrace Oaks

Very excellent.

Except for some oak leaves on the windward parts of the track (especially where the SE wind blew off of the freeway or lake) the track at Terrace Oaks was outstanding. Firm, with good easy kick, all powder, fast and fun. The base is solid, too, and skating looked great. Terrace Oaks is in terrific shape, and should be through tomorrow morning, then it's anyone's guess. It is March after all.

I can only get to two trails at most, on a good day! Check out all the trail reports at

Sunday, March 1, 2009


Could be better.

With all this snow, the trails at Bog and Butler were somewhat disappointing. Don't get me wrong, the skiing is great, but … first of all, it would have been very nice if they hadn't inexplicably plowed the road to the flower garden building down to a layer of ice (okay I'm a little bitter after almost biting it on the road). And overall—and perhaps this is due to the lack of a trail connection—the trail was rolled but not groomed so it is pretty soft and not at all corduroyed. It's definitely not bad; for March 1 it is great skiing (especially in the Bog) but I have come to expect better from the pros over at Wirth.

I can only get to two trails at most, on a good day! Check out all the trail reports at