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Tagged ‘dynafit‘

Vertfest Mt Bachelor Podium

After skin difficulties and some hard-won lessons at Alpental last week, I was both nervous and excited to get back on snow this weekend for the Subaru Vertfest Mt Bachelor race. The weather was amazing, with blue skies and a light breeze, and around 60 people turned out to race in the recreational and elite divisions.

The course was modified at the last minute to avoid travel to the top of Mt Bachelor, which had yet to open. Rather than climb all the way to the top of the mountain, the elite division instead completed two laps of the second and longer climb before booting the cinder cone and descending to the finish.

Vertfest Bachelor Course and Altitude Profile

Vertfest Bachelor Course and Altitude Profile

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Subaru Vertfest at Alpental

Alpental Vertfest

Dumping snow at Alpental. When it’s a powder day, I prefer to Skimo race.

Yesterday was the first SkiMo race of the season for me. To anyone in Colorado that must seem late, but to those of us thus-far confined to the Pacific Northwest, we’ve only just begun to have a snowpack, let alone to race in it. This is the first race that I’ve done since the Wasatch Powderkeg in 2012, and with such break, I figured there’d be some hiccups. Boy was that right.

The Subaru Vertfest left me feeling proud, if a little battered. The tricky skinning caused silly equipment failures, but I feel reasonably good about my fitness, and even better about fighting through the equipment issues to finish the race.

Stats

Vertfest is the largest SkiMo race in the PNW, with somewhere around 130 racers competing in a variety of categories. The course involves two climbs and two descents through the Alpental Ski area. The recreational division completes only the first climb, while the Race category does both. (Distances and vert below per my GPS measurement). Winning race-category time this year was 1:19:57.

Rec — 3.2 mi, 2640′    Race — 6.0 mi, 4500′

Subaru vertfest Alpental course map

Subaru Vertfest Alpental Course Map

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Mt St Helens Speed Ski

Mt Rainier from Mt St Helens

St Helens crater rim, with Mt Rainier in the distance.

Mt St Helens – Worm Flow winter route – 5500′, 11.3 mi, 3:37:01 car to car.

I’m past whining now. Everywhere in the West (barring BC) is pretty shy of snow. I could keep whining about how this was forecast to be an average season, but that get’s old. Fast.

Most snow conditions, except full-depth facets with a punchy crust, are good for something. Look on the bright side right? What does our snowpack look like right now? A spring snowpack. What’s that good for? Big days in the mountains and corn skiing.

Rather than sit on my petard, I decided to explore Mt St Helens. I’d never been, despite looking at it on the horizon for years, and I was told that it was the place to go for spring skiing.

St Helens is not a technical climb by any stretch of the imagination, so I decided to see what kind of speed I could lay down from the car to the summit and back.  Conditions weren’t ideal but I was happy with how it panned out. Read on →

GoreTex Grand Traverse: Q&A with Team Crested Butte’s Jon Brown

GoreTex Grand Traverse Logo

The GoreTex Grand Traverse (formerly the Elk Mountains Grand Traverse) is the grand-daddy of North American ski traverses.  Departing Crested Butte at midnight, the unsupported course climbs roughly 40 miles past two checkpoints before finishing down Aspen Mountain into the town of Aspen. Because the race takes place on an unmarked and largely unsupported course through the Colorado backcountry, the race is completed as a team of two, and racers are required to carry the equipment necessary to make an emergency 24 hour bivouac.


The night start, huge mileage, variable terrain, and historically varied weather make this a race to be reckoned with. Racers need to keep themselves warm, hydrated, fueled and, well, racing for 8-14 hours. Compared to the Wasatch Powderkeg or other North American SkiMo races, it is logistically complex.

This year will be my first in the race and I, like many first time racers, had a lot of questions. Jon Brown, from Team Crested Butte, was gracious enough to talk training, gear, and strategy with me.

Team Crested Butte

Old school Team Crested Butte at Grandvalira. LtoR: Jon Brown, Jari Kirkland, Brian Wickenhauser & Eric Sullivan

Jon Brown is a member of Team Crested Butte, and he has raced the Grand Traverse 10 out of the last 12 years. He and his partner Brian Smith won the 2006 traverse by a hair, sneaking across the finish line between another pair of racers.

He started nordic skiing in highschool but since discovering SkiMo skis, his nordic kit has been collecting dust in his garage. Jon began his race career as a mountain bike racer after graduating from Western State Colorado University, paying the bills by working as a raft guide, barista, and snowmobile guide. In his 30s he moved to Gunnison where he started a small publishing company and started adventure racing with Team Crested Butte.

TCB has since evolved from an adventure racing team into one of the strongest SkiMo teams in North America. Read on →

Fritschi Vipec 12 Tech Binding – First Impression

The Black Diamond representative was good enough to drive to Seattle for the Northwest Snow and Avalanche Workshop. Among the Black Diamond offerings were their partner-brand offerings from Pieps and Fritschi.

This year, Fritschi is debuting their first tech-compatible binding, the Vipec 12 (previously called the Zenith). I had the opportunity to play around with a binding this afternoon, and though I have some reservations, I’m impressed. As a Dynafit devotee, I won’t be among the first-adopters on a new entry to the tech market, but the Vipec (no not viper) is impressively feature rich.

The Fritschi Vipec toe piece. Molded plastic with metal on the business ends.

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Mounting Dynafits at Home

I’ve skied for around 20 years now. My first pair of skis, Salomon X-Screams, are the sort of ski that’s now being turned into fences and benches in ski towns around the US. Since that pair, I’ve cycled through many pairs, and several different bindings to boot, but I had never performed my own mount.  I knew that I’d have to do it some day– It’s a right of passage for life-long skiers– but I’ve always been too afraid that I was going to screw it up.  Well, when I was given a new pair of skis by my two favorite parents this season, it seemed like it might be time.  You see, I’m no rich man, and I can’t afford another pair of Dynafits right now.  But what I can afford are Quiver Killers, the binding inserts that allow the user to move one pair of bindings between many skis using just a Phillips head screw driver.  They’re cheap, elegant, and increase the strength of the mount without adding significant weight (MFD plates anyone?).  They’re also a labor of love to install on an undrilled ski, and the local shop wanted $110 to do the job.  That sealed the deal– I’d do the mount at home.

(Workspace courtesy of post-futurist retrograde thought-pilot inventor Alex Ragus)

mounting skis at home with dynafit using simple tools

The workspace: Oxyacetylene welder, shopping cart, wheel-truing stand, and fixie handlebars optional.

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