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Tagged ‘skimo‘

Notes From The Elk Mountain Grand Traverse

by Ethan Linck and Peter Innes

Two weeks ago, we had the privilege of lining up to race the 20th annual Elk Mountain Grand Traverse. The “GT,” as it’s commonly known, is a 40 mile point-to-point backcountry ski race from Crested Butte to Aspen. Because of the stunning tableau of mountains en route, the unpredictable weather, and its midnight start, it’s hard to think of a more iconic ski mountaineering event in North America. As both of us have served as winter caretakers at the nearby Rocky Mountain Biological Lab, where daily life provides ample preparation for a long day of low-angle mountain travel at high elevation, the GT is near and dear to our hearts as a celebration of one of Colorado’s more beautiful landscapes.

Gothic Mountain and the East River Valley: home to the Rocky Mountain Biological Lab and yours truly, team Rocky Mountain Ski Lab. Photo (c) Ethan Linck

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SkiMo Race Report: The Father Dyer Postal Route

A century and a half ago, a minister by the name of John Lewis Dyer journeyed over 1000 miles by horse and by foot from Minnesota to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. His mission was to teach the gospel to morally bereft inhabitants of the mining camps popping up across the state. Settling down in a mining town called Bucksin Joe, “Father Dyer,” as he became known, made frequent crossings of 13,100′ Mosquito Pass in order to spread the word of God and deliver mail to various locales. The route was rugged, dangerous, and often snow covered. Dyer became a frontier legend after nearly three decades of tirelessly traveling between camps and preaching.  Today, he is remembered foremost by an eponymous mountain in the Mosquito Range outside of Leadville (Dyer Mountain, 13,800′). Read on →

Skimo Racing Vertfest Alpental 2016: 1st Place

The forecast called for temperatures in the 40s. As the weekend approached, the weatherman started calling for one to two inches of rain. The freezing level was above the mountaintops. Conditions were perfect for skimo racing.

Ok. That’s a lie. As Taylor and I drove to Washington on Saturday and mountain biked in the rain, I thought strongly about bailing from the second Vertfest race at Alpental. Stupid me, I had preregistered for the race, which is for some reason the most expensive ninety minutes of skimo that I know of. I should have known better– when we raced here two years ago, it was also raining.

Still, there are only so many races in the PNW, so we decided to make a classic alpine maneuver and “go have a look”. Perhaps in terrible weather, and with much more attractive races beckoning from the rockies to those with flexible schedules, we might find ourselves the only ones there.

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Vertfest start, with yours truly center-punching it in white suit, orange helmet. (Image stolen shamelessly from Kurt Hicks Überguide).

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Skimo Racing Vertfest Mt Bachelor 2016: 2nd Place

Last weekend, Taylor and I drove to Central Oregon for the second skimo race of the short PNW season. Mt Bachelor hosts the smallest of the Vertfest races, but of the three (others: Brighton and Alpental) it has the most lighthearted vibe and fun atmosphere.

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Aaron, Me, and Tosch, getting ready to warm up under less-than-sunny skies. (Photo: Jesse Hambley)

I raced skimo here two years ago and surprised myself with a third place finish. Coming back this year, now with unflattering speed suit and real race skis, I wanted to win. The week before the race I felt well-trained and strong, but I also went backcountry skiing a bit too much. A couple of long days left my legs feeling a bit flat, and when race day rolled around, skimo psych wasn’t particularly high.

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Sprinting off the front after the start (Photo: Jeff Snyder)

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Free Range Skimo Race: 2nd Place

There aren’t that many skimo races in the Pacific Northwest, in part because the sport is only beginning to take root and in part because local ski resorts (I’m looking at you Mt Bachelor) have not been welcoming of race series. Consequently, if you want to race, you get to drive. Still, after three straight weeks of full-time studying and a cabin fever mental breakdown, driving five hours from Portland for an hour of racing didn’t sound so bad to me.

Last night’s race was hosted by Free Range Equipment at the rootsy Hoodoo Ski Area as part of the Hoodoo Backcountry Fest. I’m not sure what’s backcountry about the backcountry fest, but there were tele slalom comps, fatbike races, and parking lot parties raging when I arrived. Between the beer and the bluegrass it seems like a pretty good time.

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The race was the brainchild of Tosch Roy, friend and founder of Free Range Equipment. He and his indefatigable mother set a course of glowsticks through a closed area of Hoodoo under the afternoon’s rain and remained cheerful as contestants arrived. The rain, thankfully, switched to snow.

Tosch, usually a strong racer, was out with a cold, but still stoked. His new packs (the Big Medicine and Raven) are slick, capable, and minimalist. More on those later.

Tosch, usually a strong racer, was out with a cold, but still stoked. His new packs (the Big Medicine and Raven) are slick, capable, and minimalist. More on those later.

The course was a single 650-vertical-foot drag race along a flat groomer and then up a pair of steep headwalls. Following the transition came a road, a tuck and throttle dark and shadowy groomer, and a well-lit but super-icy-chunky steep face to the lap flag. The race division made four laps for 2700′ in just under four miles. One tricky race rule was the lack of a mandatory transition zone at the base, with skating permitted to the end of the flat groomer (if skating is your thing). Read on →

DIY: Resizing Fixed-Length Ski Poles

I have a quick tech tip for you today. Fixed-length poles are becoming more popular for backcountry skiing because they’re stiffer and generally lighter than adjustable poles. They are, however, not adjustable. If you get too big a size, you’ll find yourself walking around with your hands up like a mummy, feeling like an idiot with cold hands.

When we were in Salt Lake City a few weeks ago, we stopped by Skimo.co to say hi. The store is amazing. If you like skiing lots of vert on light, capable gear, you’ve got to check the place out. When we asked Jason if he would shorten Taylor’s carbon ski poles, he suggested a simple home fix: boil the handles off, cut, reglue. Perfect!

Skimo.co: all of the lightweight european kit that you can't buy anywhere else.

Skimo.co: all of the lightweight european kit that you can’t buy anywhere else.

So, if your poles are too long, or you can find a great deal on longer poles and want to cut them down, I’ve got you covered, step by step. All you need is a big pot of boiling water, a hacksaw, and some glue. Buyer beware: some poles have a tapered shaft, and if cut too short you’ll have a hard time filling the extra space to glue the handle back on. Read on →

Skiing Pahto (Mt Adams)

Route: Suksdorf Ridge

TH: Cold Springs campground. Road to trailhead is unimproved. High clearance and AWD recommended.

Map: Green Trails Maps 367S. Strava track here.

Stats: Approx. 12.5mi and 6700′ vert car to car.

Gear: Entirely non technical, but crampons and ice axe/whippet recommended.


Saturday was a long day for all of us, but we were determined to rally and ski Mt. Adams (hereafter refered to as Pahto) for the first time. Shortly following a “brutal” race at the Yakima 50k, Ethan and Richard drove three hours to meet me in Trout Lake as stars began pricking through the sky.

Pahto towers over Trout Lake as a Guardian of Serenity

The guardian of serenity towers over Trout Lake.

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No Excuses Interview Series: Tosch Roy

The No Excuses Interview Series explores the approaches and personalities of athletes who are inspiring in both the quality and consistency of their achievements. They’re real people doing great things. What they do, you can too, if you want it.

For part three of the no excuses interview series, we’re joined by Tosch Roy, a nordic racer turned skimo mutant at the helm of a svelte technical pack company, Free Range Equipment.

Bio

Forced on to a pair of skis at the age of three, Tosch trained and raced as a nordic skier through high school, at which point, the mountains around Central Oregon proved to be too much of a distraction to a career in cross-country skiing. Tossing aside the skinny skis for something (slightly) wider, the Oregon Cascades became a training ground for his fast and light adventures.

Tosch Roy in his playground-- the Oregon Cascades.

Tosch Roy in his playground– the Oregon Cascades.

After traveling abroad for a year, he decided that “studying” (read: skiing/climbing) at Montana State University would give him the best chance of finishing a college degree. While it was a worthy attempt, Roy dropped out after two years to start his business Free Range Equipment which manufactures ski mountaineering and climbing backpacks in his hometown of Bend, OR. Read on →

Training Cadence for Skimo Racing

What separates fast skimo racers from slow skimo racers? Certainly equipment, technique, transitions, and fueling are all important considerations, but I propose that one simple metric sets fast racers apart from the rest: cadence.

In short, cadence is how many strides a racer takes per minute. It makes no measure of how long those strides might be. Cadence is a measure of pure turnover, and interestingly, one thing in common among all of the fastest racers is a fast cadence.

The fastest world cup skimo racers have a cadence of around 110-115 strides per minute. To make that more intuitive, they stride along to the snare-beats of The Clash’s “Should I Stay Or Should I Go” at 113 bpm.

(If The Clash annoys you too, try some Pretty Lights).

I’ve heard a few theories about why a faster cadence is good for you, but I can’t say that I agree with them. The easiest argument to make is that if I’m taking 10 more steps per minute, then over an hour, I’m 600 steps ahead. The problem is, this assumes that when you change your turnover, your stride length stays the same. It doesn’t; your stride gets shorter. If it stayed the same length, then the advice that I’m giving you now would be equivalent to saying if you just go faster, then you’ll go faster. Duh.

It's all about the stride length.

It’s all about the stride length.

It’s the change in stride length that is the important result of a faster cadence. Whether you shorten your stride and take more steps to maintain the same speed, or if you increase your cadence and have to modify to a shorter stride to avoid exploding, the result is the same: more steps, shorter steps. Read on →

D.I.Y. Skimo Skin Tip Attachments

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Home-made race-style tip fix. Clean and simple.

There are a lot of skin options available these days with retailers like Skimo.co bringing more of the European variety to the USA. Unfortunately, tip attachments on pre-built skins are like cell-phone chargers; they’re unstandardized and are often poorly cross-compatible with other manufacturer’s platforms.

The recent availability of skins sold in bulk (from a roll) makes possible a solution to this problem. You can pick your skin, your width, your length, and put it all together by making your own tip attachment. This is easy, kinda fun in a dorky way, and produces an equal product that is both cheaper and lighter than commercial offerings.

The one caveat here is that we’re making race-style skins, which require a notch in the ski tip for fixation. This style of attachment also doesn’t use a tail-fix, so good skinning technique is required. The advantage of the “tip fix” is that it makes removing the skin from your ski while wearing the ski infinitely easier and faster than traditional fixation methods. The only downside to the system is that the lack of a tail-fix can lead to skin failures in certain conditions, such as breaking trail through steep, loose snow, which leads one to slide backwards slightly with each step.

Still, despite that downside, I’ve converted entirely to skins without a tail-fix. After a short learning curve, they’re just simpler and lighter. An added benefit of using race-style skins is that they are so thin and subsequently light that a backup pair can be carried without being a burden. Black Diamond nylon skins are Hummer H2s compared to these Porsches.

What follows is a step by step pictorial guide to making your own tip fix system at home. This is the second time that I’ve built skins at home, and the process took 25 minutes from start to finish. If this is your first time, allow yourself an hour and measure twice, cut once. Please comment with any questions that you might have. You will need the following equipment, or similar:

  • – Sharp knife
  • – Stout scissors
  • – Sharpie
  • – Scrap piece of paperboard
  • – Some virgin skins
  • – Lighter
  • – Two (2) soda bottle tops
  • – Three (3) feet of 1/4″ elastic cord
  • – Allen wrench or similar metal object
  • – A speedy-stitcher or riveter (see below)

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