Lantern Ski

Sojourn at Bev’s Bungalo

Lantern Ski

Sojourn at Bev’s Bungalo

Looking skyward
To where blue hides
Teasing, creating
Its surprise.
Re-affirming, even unseen
Reality waits
To be embraced, accepted
And then released
Offering one a path to peace.

– Julie Briese

(Note: Bev’s Bungalow refers to the trailhead hut.)

Tired Wax Techs

Waxing Irons: Advice from Nordic Norm

Tired Wax Techs

photo credit: D.Koerber RNSC

Waxing Irons: Advice from Nordic Norm

Dear Nordic Norm,

Just when you think you have seen it all, along comes something so bizarre you can’t believe your eyes. While in a ski shop the other day I saw an iron, that’s right, an iron, and the price tag was $175.00. What in the world is going on here?

Signed, Steamed

Dear Hot Under the Old Crinkled Collar,

Just imagine if you would have seen an expensive one. The Swix wax iron is around 300 bucks! Here’s the line on wax irons. Most people that actually wax their skis start by using an old regular iron or one of those small travel irons. Like all simple solutions there is a problem. The temperature variation on a regular iron is relatively wide because clothes really don’t seem to care that much. Ski bases, on the other hand, do. Speciality wax irons have a narrower temperature range so in other words it doesn’t change too much. If the iron gets too hot you can seal the base, which changes the structure and slows the skis down. So, do you run out a buy a wax iron? Well, most likely not. Just make sure your regular iron is on a lower setting and make sure the wax doesn’t smoke (nor should you) and keep the iron moving along the base.

Ski racer

Getting a Grip: Advice from Nordic Norm

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photo credit: D.Koerber RNSC

Getting a Grip: Advice from Nordic Norm

Dear Nordic Norm,
I told my mother that I was going to write to an advice column and she said why don’t you ask him “why, when it just snowed two feet, do all 12-year-olds still insist on wearing running shoes?”. Anyway that’s not my question. What I really want to know is this: I use my fatter older brother’s old waxable skis and they are okay for length, but I still can’t get grip. Any ideas?
Signed, Bootless in Revelstoke

Dear Soggy Feet,

Well, providing you have reasonable weight shift, here is something to think about. When most people buy equipment for kids and to some extent even themselves, they are more concerned about ski length than the stiffness (camber) of the ski. I myself would rather ski on a pair of skis a bit too long for me than a pair that has too much camber. If the ski is too stiff I can’t flatten the ski when it is time to kick. This means that the wax I took so much time to apply is not in contact with the snow right under my foot, at the point when I need it the most. The result is I have no grip and I backslip. You can not ski if you have no grip and you will not have any fun either.

My advice when buying equipment is that everything should fit properly. That means poles are the right length, boots fit, and skis are both the right length and camber. If you want the skis to last two seasons for someone who is growing, then buy the correctly cambered ski for the first season. If they are soft for the second winter that’s okay; they maybe a bit slower but at least you have had grip for two years.

Now if someone is into racing and they are in their mid-teens and they look like they are headed for the BC ski team, then having a soft slow ski may not be an option. If this is the case I suggest that they make a trip to the local ski store and introduce their parents to the staff. They are going to become good friends in the near future. Remember, don’t let your parents leave home without their VISA card.

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Jackrabbit Youth Program Named for Ski Pioneer

Jackrabbit Youth Program Named for Ski Pioneer

Herman Smith-Johannsen, better known as Jackrabbit Johannsen, was born in Norway in 1875. After graduating as an engineer, he immigrated to the US in 1900 and went to work selling mining equipment in remote places around the world. One such location was in northern Quebec where the native Cree nicknamed him “wapoos” (their word for snowshoe hare) for his speed on snow. They had not seen skis before his arrival. Nor had most North Americans. At some point the name wapoos morphed to Jackrabbit.

After the economic collapse of 1929 forced Johannsen out of business, he devoted himself fulltime to the promotion and development of skiing. He oversaw the construction of many trails in Quebec and upstate New York, and even installed North America’s first rope tow near Shawbridge, Quebec. He intended it as a learning device to enable skiers to master downhill technique more quickly. He also built jumps and organized races. However, he is best known for his unflagging promotion of cross country skiing through the 1950s and 1960s, a time when trail skiing had all but disappeared as a winter pastime in North America.

The revival of cross country skiing in North America prompted a flurry of trail development. While I was working on one such project in 1972, Jackrabbit came out to see how we were doing on a trail he had built in the 1930s. He arrived at our camp before we had finished breakfast. His son-in-law supported him by the elbow (he was 97 years old after all) as he spent an hour walking our crude trail. Jackrabbit continued to ski well past his 100th birthday. He passed away in 1987 and is commemorated in the Jackrabbit Ski League, a nation wide program that fosters trail skiing among children.

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Powder Pioneers – Ski Stories from the Canadian Rockies and Columbia Mountains

Powder Pioneers – Ski Stories from the Canadian Rockies and Columbia Mountains

By Chic Scott, Rocky Mountain Books, 240 pages, $29.95

Author Chic Scott is well known for his backcountry skiing guide books and his volume on the history of Canadian mountaineering. Now he has compiled the only book dedicated to the people and stories that outline the development of skiing in the Rocky and Columbia Mountains in all its aspects.

This book goes into detail about the skiing pioneers, who were Scandinavian immigrants who introduced the use of skis, initially for practical purposes, and later for sport. Of particular relevance is the chapter on the ski jumping events on Mount Revelstoke, with vignettes dedicated to local heroes Nels Nelsen, Bob Lymburne, and Isabel Coursier.

The book also includes the how and where the many facets of skiing— cross-county skiing, lift serviced skiing, racing, heli-skiing, ski guiding, avalanche science, mountain rescue, snowboarding, back country lodges— began and grew into what we experience today. These topics are illustrated throughout with many photographs, from the earliest photo of skiing, the Revelstoke Ski Club in 1891, to modern day.

The book’s strength lies with the author’s own area of expertise, long distance backcountry touring. As a member of the small team of skiers who completed the first lengthy icefield traverses from Jasper to Lake Louise and from Mica Creek to Rogers Pass, Scott is eminently qualified to retell these journeys and the ski culture that motivated these epics by people whose accomplishments never made into mainstream media. My favourite is the story of Don Gardener, who in 1991 at the age 45, walked out the door of his Calgary home with his skis and a 10 kilogram pack and arrived at Squamish on the BC coast 28 days later. He travelled solo for 900 kilometres without a tent or stove, sleeping under trees and cooking on twig fires. Now that’s a ski trip!

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Waxing Tips

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photo credit: D.Koerber RNSC

Waxing Tip: Removing the sticky stuff

Here’s a tip for cleaning off the klister you left on your skis last spring. First, heat up the old wax with a heat gun, propane torch, or hair dryer until the wax is almost liquid. Then place a strip of toilet paper on top of the melted wax. Take a scraper and, starting at one end, scrape off the toilet paper in one smooth motion. The wax will come off easily with the paper. Similarly, old glue can be removed from climbing skins by using an old sheet and a clothing iron. First, tear the sheet into strips, lay a strip on the glue side of the skin and use the iron on the strip. This will lift the glue into the strip. Repeat until the glued surface appears clean. It is not necessary to remove all the old glue, just the dirty, lumpy stuff. Newspaper can be substituted for the sheet but it does not work as well.

Wax your waxless skis

The fish-scale pattern beneath your foot on your “waxless” skis eliminates the need for grip wax when skiing. However, the performance of your stride will be enhanced by applying a glide wax to the smooth parts of the base. Wax as you would a downhill ski using an iron to melt wax, or apply a paste wax, a simpler but less durable product. If your skis are icing on the fish-scales, paste wax will help that too. Rough areas on the smooth part of the base are also prone to icing. Scrape the base smooth with a metal cabinet scraper or fine sand paper. Any ski shop can do this for you, or sell you what you need to do the job at home.

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Nature Notes for Mount Macpherson Trails

Nature Notes for Mount Macpherson Trails

We share the Mount Macpherson trails with many other creatures. Keeping an eye on the snow, I almost always see tracks of snowshoe hare, marten, and coyote. I frequently see tracks of moose, squirrel, and once, tracks of a wolverine.

Shrew

The smallest track maker is the shrew, the world’s smallest mammal. I would not be able to discern these tiny tracks other than when I get to watch them run along the trail or over my skis. Shrews are dark grey, about the size of a ping pong ball, with a pointy nose. They spend most of the winter under the snow eating insects, larvae, and seeds.

I often see spiders on the snow. Most insects would freeze solid at temperatures below zero, but these particular spiders have the ability to make a glycol-based antifreeze, like that in your car’s radiator, to replace the water that would normally be found in their cells. However, minus four degrees Celsius is their limit. Before the temperature drops to minus four, the spiders return to beneath the snow pack via the openings created by trees. The insulating nature of snow keeps the temperatures at ground level close to zero.

Due to a bumper cone crop this summer, we are being visited this winter by flocks of tree-seed eating birds, mostly redpolls. There was a record number of these birds this year on the local Christmas Bird Count. Before New Year’s Day some flocks seen along our trails had hundreds of individuals. Most of them have moved on now, but you can still see some places where the remaining birds have fed marked by the litter of tree seeds on the snow. Cedar and birch seeds seem the preferred food.

Black-Capped Chickadee

Not as numerous, but with us every year, are the chickadees, nuthatches, and kinglets, which can be heard chirping in the higher branches. They can often be detected if you wait quietly. If you want to be able to identify what you are hearing, the Friends of Mt. Revelstoke and Glacier sell a CD of local bird sounds.

Red-Breasted Nuthatch

Again during Christmas week, the ravens were busy vocalizing and flying back and forth from somewhere to the south of the trail system. Likely, there is a carcass that they are eating. A common scenario in a heavy snowfall winter such as this one is that a moose may be walking on the highway at night because its easier traveling . It is struck by a vehicle and then limps a distance into the bush where it perishes from the injury, thus providing a bonanza for scavengers; ravens, jays, coyotes, marten, wolverines, weasels, and other smaller creatures.

Macpherson from across the valley

Who was Mount Macpherson named for?

Macpherson from across the valley

Who was Mount Macpherson named for?

Mount Macpherson is named for Sir David Lewis Macpherson (note the spelling). He emigrated from Scotland to Montreal in 1835 when he was 17 years old. He amassed wealth in his family’s shipping business before entering politics. Macpherson was the Minister of the Interior (1883-85) during the peak of construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway. The “interior” at the time meant most of western Canada, as Saskatchewan and Alberta did not yet exist as provinces. His ministry’s lack of understanding of Métis culture and their system of land tenure on the prairies, considered to be the cause of the North West Rebellion of 1885, compelled his resignation from politics.

The yellow groomer

Groomer Brian Abear reports on winter of 2007/08

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photo credit: D.Koerber RNSC

Groomer Brian Abear reports on winter of 2007/08

In the winter of 2007-08 we had 505 cm of snow fall in Revelstoke – the most snow in more than a dozen years. Yet the length of our season was only slightly longer than average at 125 days. Grooming started December 3, 2007, due to lack of snow in November. At season’s end we had logged 204 hours on the groomer and had groomed the trails 48 times. By comparison the 2006-07 season was our longest on record with 155 skiing days and a record grooming of 56 sessions.

There were only a few breakdowns this season. An oil pressure sender malfunctioned in December and a steering potentiometer failed in February. The potentiometer was replaced at no charge by Prinoth. There were two breakdowns as a result of broken welds on the lift frame and track setters. These were both repaired locally. The club has purchased a diagnostic tool that enables us to read the error codes logged by the onboard computer. While this will not fix a particular problem it will tell us exactly what the fault is and enable us to check the appropriate wiring harness or order the correct parts. At season’s end there were no faults recorded.

The new double walled fuel storage tank was a huge improvement. The tank came with an automatic shutoff nozzle. This enabled the drivers to clean and inspect the groomer while the tank was filling without having to stand over the pump. The pump is powered by a connection to the groomer. The 2200 litre storage tank was filled three times during the winter. There is approximately 1100 litres remaining to start next season. Summer maintenance will include oil and fuel filter changes, torque and brake hub oil changes, complete lubrication and inspection. There is an exhaust leak in the elbow leading to the muffler. This pipe will need to be cut out and replaced. There are also some comb elements on the trailing edge of the tiller that need to be replaced.

The following chart provides an annual comparison of season length at Mount Macpherson and snowfall measured in centimetres at Revelstoke.

Year First & Last Track Setting # of Ski Days Snowfall (cm)
2007/08 Dec 3 – April 6 125 505
2006/07 Nov 4 – April 8 155 465
2005/06 Jan 10 – April 1 81 224
2004/05 Nov 25 – Mar 5 100 221
2003/04 Nov 20 – April 3 135 409
2002/03 Dec 28 – Mar 29 91 198
2001/02 Nov 30 – April 9 130 377
2000/01 Nov 26 – April 1 126 299
1999/00 Dec 7 – April 9 124 330
1998/99 Dec 11 – April 4 114 417
1997/98 Dec 20 – Mar 20 90 231
1996/97 Nov 16 – Mar 30 134 584
1995/96 Nov 12 – Mar 31 140 349
1994/95 Nov 20 – Mar 25 125 263
1993/94 Nov 27 – Mar 19 112 291
1992/93 Nov 28 – Mar 19 123 374
1991/92 Nov 29 – Mar 14 106 344
Average: 118 346