Saturday, January 31, 2009

Battle Creek

A bit too warm for my taste.

With a couple minor exceptions, the base at Battle Creek was in fine shape today (on the 4k — didn't ski back further) as of mid-afternoon. The snow was varying in condition, with plenty of go-go-go-go-STOP sticky sections and some areas in the shade of evergreens which seemed to be untransformed, but with temperatures over 40 I doubt the snow anywhere will stay powdery. Hopefully the grooming crew can scratch it up once it freezes, it will be fast!

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

Friday, January 30, 2009

Wirth Park

Best Loppet ever?

Barring some major catastrophe, that should be the case. The first few k of trail are in tremendous shape. It will be interesting navigating the ski anchor at the top of the start hill, but the snowmaking on the sliding hill makes for solid conditions. Should be fast and fun!

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

Wednesday, January 28, 2009



With warmer temperatures the surface has softened up a bit. Skiing was superb. The new snow won't hurt, either.

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

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Highland golf course

Very good.

Recently groomed, the track is solid and the skate lane is firm but you can get an edge. No ruts, only a couple thinner spots and it's nice when it's not windy (and above 0).

Without a van, I spent a lot of time shuttling the Macalester team there and back, but that's okay, Highland can bore me pretty quickly.

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

Monday, January 26, 2009


Sometimes it's nice that Como has a big machine.

When there's enough snow on the ground, they can take old snow and renovate it to make it quite skiable. The trail was firm but with a good edge and the classic track was beyond solid, but not icy. Very good skiing.

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

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Murphy Hanrahan

Somewhat disappointing.

The coverage at Murphy is fantastic but without a groom for several cold days (it looks like there is half an inch of snow on some of the trail and we haven't had snow in a while) it is very hard packed and rutted in places. The classic tracks are variable and have leaves in them in places. A good groom to renovate the snow would help a lot.

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

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Governor's Cup report

It was cold.

Jakob and I headed up to the Gov Cup, which was already postponed an hour due to cold. I was on the fence between the striding and skate race, but upon discovering bombproof tracks there I decided, aw, hell, I might not have many other options to stride, so I took my skis, with no new wax from the week before, and decided to hit the tracks. The race was pushed back another half hour, and I finally readied to go after a short warm-up, where I skied out and then back, with the last 500m of the race coming uphill in sandpaper in to a thick wind.

It was about -6 when the race finally started, and a couple dozen of us hearty souls headed out along the beautiful, white Mississippi (I don't know if there is a more beautiful start to a race out there). Then it was out through Camp Ripley (yes, an active National Guard base). With the small field, I wound up leading the race from about 2-5k. I will now expound that leading a race is a whole lot of fun. You look ahead and see no skate tracks (the skaters went later and no one went for a long warm up down the trail) or pole plants, and know that you are winning, it's pretty damn cool. I've done it once before, in a race on April Fools Day in Maine, and relinquished the lead when a) my klister dragged—I had found out that it was a classic race about 25 minutes before start and thrown on, uh, something, thin, and then sprayed on 70%-off HelX, so my skis were fast—and b) I decided not to ski across a melted-off wooden bridge, going below and losing a few seconds.

A group of us (the lead pack) stayed together as we headed up in to the range, with several quick, steep and fun hills. The group was at four until about 8k, and then dropped to three, and as I hit the race course around 10k, I lost touch with the guys in front of me. Still, I was in podium position.

These hills were often rather steep, and my strategy of using my longer poles came back once in a while to bite me, when I had to herring bone. Still, it wasn't a major issue at any point. I stayed solidly in third, and once in a while would see the skier behind me, but generally I was all alone. When I passed back to the trail back to the start, I saw many of the skaters coming through, but was otherwise alone; it was kind of fun to take feeds with no competition.

The trail rejoined itself with about 5k to go, with few or any markings, us striders had to go through a couple of cones and use intuition as our guide. Did I mention it was below zero, so brain power was limited? I strided along the road—the track was in rough shape so I use the skated-in track (less sand-papery) and saw my shadow a bit behind me. I poured it on—as much as I could—and the trail again split to the right. Since no one really knows the trails—they are usually closed or far from civilisation (other than Little Falls, which barely counts) I was double-poling like mad without much left in me, and with the bright sun and frozen eyes I could barely see where it led. Finally, when I barely had any gas left in the tank, the trail hit a field and seemed to curve to the right and—oh!—I saw the finish. With no one to beat (I had most of a minute on the guy behind me) I strode in as fast as I could muster, and barely could stand at the finish, mostly due to the cold.

I stood there, helplessly, as the volunteers untied my bib and took off my skis—my hands were not about to do that. I put my skis in a snowbank and went inside to warm up. A few minutes later—and wearing a down parka—I went out to watch the end of the skate race and cool down. I had a nice, easy classic ski along the start trail along the river and contemplated skiing out on to it. It looked solid—it had been below zero most of the past month—but it seemed like a bad idea. I'd podiumed, albeit in a small race, and didn't want the headline to read "third place finisher dies in river."

Jakob and I hoseyed a couple of prizes for our finishes and left before awards. Which really should start earlier. At least he feed was indoors—and warm.


Yes, I raced in a fleece. It was smart.

Do these people look cold? They are.

Friday, January 23, 2009


Decent, but not great.

Como is drifting a bit and what is there is pretty beat up. It looks like they didn't fully corduroy over the machine tracks so there are some rutted portions. Plus, with a little wind it was brutal going in to the wind (but nice and easy going with the breeze).

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

Thursday, January 22, 2009

City of Lakes


The trail has been skied on lots and might could use a groom once it cools down. It seems so warm at 26F but of course the snow is untransformed and in great shape. A couple corners (notably the now-one-way drop back from the Bog to Butler) and a couple sections have a wee bit of dirt but nothing to preclude the use of any ski you want. The classic track looked good but washed out on some hills.

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

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Very excellent.

Whilst my torch needs new batteries, I was able to skate easily the un-lit trails under ambient light. With the warmer temperatures the snow is considerably faster than a lot of recent skiing, but well-packed, firm and solid. The classic track looked good, too. It could probably use another groom and track, as there has been a lot of traffic, especially on the lighted trail.

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

Monday, January 19, 2009

Terrace Oaks


Freshly groomed but a bit soft, especially the classic track. It's probably just because it is warm. They said it was 20 on the radio, but it certainly seemed warmer than that. Great coverage—it's so nice to have spectacular skiing!

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

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Seeley Classic race report

Jakob and I drove up to Wisconsin for the Seeley Classic—biggest solely classic race around, and on the Birkie Trail, too. We made it in to Drummond without issue, having signed up for the race and pretty promptly went to sleep. Waxing had been easy, Start green (or something similar) and toko binder with lots of, uh, whatever on top. With new snow, anything would kick.

With the 10 a.m. start time, we had plenty of time in the morning, and only cut it close because we got three miles out when I realised I'd left my number at the house. Whoops. Back through the four inches of new snow each way, and then to the start—in the new snow—just minutes before the gun, so I managed not to warm up at all. It had just set in to Jakob and me that a 42k classic race is a bit of an undertaking.

The classic trail—the course—is fantastic. I can't stress how well-designed it is as a striding trail, and overall as a ski trail. Amazing. I stuck with the leaders out of the front and soon dropped back to about 15th, but still skiing well. I took the first feed, headed down the hill, and began dry heaving. Bad times. I thought I pulled something and stopped on the side of the trail to stretch some. As I said, bad times. I went pretty quickly from 15th to 45th as I waited to see if I should go back to the feed, knowing I was a ways from the start. Once I was able to go on, I took it easy most of the way to OO, but started feeling better, so I took off.

After the OO crossing, I felt better and started picking up positions. I made up about ten before skiing most of the last 10k from the 34k marker on the Birkie Trail back to OO. A fine race, except for the five minutes stopped by the side of the trail.

After chopping some firewood (after half an hour we were completely beat) we had dinner and then I went for a short, easy night ski to loosen up. In the morning, we went to the North End Cabin and skied to OO, where there was the promise of food from the official opening of the Classic Trail (and a lot of skiers, too), again in new snow. Conditions couldn't have been better. And free chili and hot dogs at OO. And a slow ski back to the Birkie Trailhead—and after 80k of striding, a soothing drive home.

Results, or something approximating them.

My skinnyski trail reports:

Outstanding—some of the best conditions ever.

Four more inches of snow on top of the snow yesterday made for fantastic conditions. There was a bit of breaking trail but the snow was so light and fluffy that it wasn't a major issue. The new classic trail is amazing—so much work went in to it, and kudos to anyone who worked on this great project and to the Birkie Foundation. It's great. We skied from North End Cabin south along the Birkie Trail to OO, snacking on hot dogs and chili and cookies and hot chocolate (thanks!) before lumbering back along the Birkie Trail to North End. All fantastic, can't wait for the Birkie!

Beyond excellent.

There was new snow in the tracks for the Seeley, but the trail has fantastic conditions. Beneath the new snow is a solid skate deck and the tracks are very firm. Kick was easy and with some binder stayed on the whole race. Are we excited about a few more Birkie Trail hours tomorrow? You betcha.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Battle Creek

Cold. I chose to ski in the morning because the evening promised to be even colder (below -10, rather than barely above).

As of this morning it wasn't regroomed since the coating of snow last night, which was very sand-papery. The classic track was mostly skied in, especially in the woods—skiing in the open is a frigid endeavor. The big hills in back, however, are really not that tricky when there is so much friction on the cold snow! (It helps to ski it in daylight, too, it was exceptionally bright this morning. And exceptionally cold.)

With the new snow mucking up the roads (that's what happens when it snows at -4 and salt is useless) I chose wrongly to take 94 and sat in traffic for half an hour. Blast.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Terrace Oaks

Cold, but good.

It's definitely cold and slow, and no one had skated the grooming when I was there (I wonder why, could it be -10 weather?) but the tracks were firm and true and the striding was good. There were no tracks set on some of the steeper hills, but elsewhere it was great. You could probably skate it too, but it's a bit cold to get much in the way of glide.

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

Monday, January 12, 2009


New snow, pretty well packed.

It looked like they may have groomed earlier in the afternoon, but by the time the moon rose over the silvery departing clouds (a pretty magical moment actually) the trail was packed powder. It was pretty slow for skating but had good coverage. The only worrisome areas were the cart path just before the sliding hill descent which seemed to be poking through (but it may have been ice) and the new snow blew off under the bridge.

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

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Murphy Hanrahan

Very good, but could use some more snow.

Murphy was not groomed following Saturday night's snow but was pretty well packed by late afternoon. The only worries were on a couple of the bigger downhills which were scraped down to an icier layer (not glare ice, but more a sleet-snow-ice mixture)—too much snowploughing. Whilst cold, Murphy might be a sheltered refuge for the upcoming cold week.

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

Saturday, January 10, 2009

City of Lakes Loppet

Very good.

I got started skiing on Isles late this afternoon—lots of other folks out enjoying the trail. It was a picture-perfect Minneapolis day with ice skaters and ski skaters together under the skyline. Lovely. I went on to Cedar (a bit icy under the bridges) and Brownie and back to the Chalet, and then skied the whole of the Loppet trail (minus a couple more exposed segments when I got hungry and cold) back to Uptown. It's in fine shape. The classic track is solid most of the way (although missing on some steeper hills as would be expected) and the skate lane looks good too. The snow-making section is firm and fun, although I had to kindly but firmly as a snowboarder to not stand in the middle of the trail back down along the sliding hill (which was seeing quite a bit of sled action). All in all, a great long ski under the full moon. A bit cold, though, across the lakes home.

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

Friday, January 9, 2009

Battle Creek

Still quite excellent.

The big, back hills are getting a little icy in the dark, but otherwise it's in great shape.

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

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Battle Creek


I sound like a broken record, but at least today I was striding. Tracks are solid all the way around, including Ski Games. With the full moon there are the lighted trails (with lights) and the lighted trails (with the moon). Fast, fun and great. More, please!

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

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Battle Creek

All excellent.

With the moon out and a thin cloud cover reflecting the city light down, the whole trail was bright enough to ski at night without a torch. It is all in excellent condition, too, so there's no need to worry about dirt or rocks or sticks and there are only a few leaves. It's a delight!

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

Monday, January 5, 2009

New England Report

I spent a couple days in New England visiting home. The snow wasn't great, but I was able to ski most days. Weston was in good, snowmaking shape, and Jackson was good too. I spent some time running up the trail to Carter Hut, which was snowy but with good traction, and an easy hour run (with ski poles).

I hadn't skied Jackson in a couple years, but it's still quite a bit of fun. The first evening, after visiting the hut, I skied their homologated race course, which is rather challenging. I strode it, and there are some steeper hills, and some fun corners. They put a lot of money in to the course, one wonders if they are angling to host a major race (nationals) in the coming years. The next morning we all skied the East Pasture loop, with its nice 1000 foot climb (something we assuredly don't see in Midwest) and to make it interesting I would ski most of the hills three times as my folks skied them once. I even got carded—er—had my ticket checked, and having left it in my other jacket, didn't have it on me. Whoops. My parents vouched for me, and had theirs. On the way down I took most of the hills at top speed, snowplowing a couple times, and on the last major one almost wiped out, so I skied back to the corner to watch the carnage, and all three came snowplowing through. The striding, however, was excellent.

In the evening, I went and double poled up and down the Ellis River Trail. 8k each way, excellent tracks, an easy gradient. It was a blast. I started out in the light and by the time I was back it was dark and I was shooting along—downhill—on my headlamp. An hour of double poling along a beautiful, gurgling river with mountains. Again, not something you see much in the Midwest. Of course, there's no Birkie Trail in the Midwest, or good skiing near a major city.

Then it was a night hike up to Carter—hitting the notch with 5 degree temperatures and howling winds. I didn't have a hat on, thanks to my Midwestern training.