Saturday, March 18, 2017

The New [fill in your word choice here] Norm

    Given snow in the Twin Cities is always a possibility throughout April, I’m never quite sure when to (1) put storage wax on my skis and (2) write my post-season recap. Since I haven’t been too motivated over the past couple weeks to seek out marginal snow conditions and my mind is focused on Spring, I’ll at least get the latter of the two started. Besides, I can always write an addendum!

    If I could post in one picture how I feel about my ‘16-’17 ski season and winter it’s this:
This picture also shows that the women's bibs are smaller than the men's bibs.
    After skiing at Giant’s Ridge the weekend after Thanksgiving, we returned to a snowless Twin Cities where it wasn’t even cold enough to make enough snow for the first weekend in December. The second weekend in December we went to the UP where conditions were still “early season.” Then alas, we had one cold, snowy weekend in the Twin Cities before we spent the weekend of Christmas skiing at Maplelag and Bemidji. Then we spent every weekend in January and February skiing on man-made snow except for two. Indeed, only 2 of the 9 races I did this season were on natural snow, for Seeley Hills Classic and the Minnesota Finlandia which corresponded with the only two weekends in January and February I didn’t ski on man-made snow. And that’s how I would describe this picture: those bibs are waiting for their owners to put them on and race like how I’m stuck back at the beginning of January WAITING FOR WINTER TO START. 

With a paucity of snow in the Twin Cities for the 2016-2017 ski season, we found ourselves skiing lap after lap on man-made snow. Despite this, I came up with a few ways to make this more enjoyable. Here’s a few take-aways from the season on how to keep this fun:

  1. Play on skis. Skiing is fun, remember? Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, laps at Elm Creek don’t sound like much fun but here’s a tip: ski a few smaller loops and work on your skid turns heading into these smaller loops. I managed to ski ONLY 4 loops at Elm Creek in an hour by playing on the practice field, doing an extra south and north donut each lap, as well as an extra middle section.
  2. Utilize the practice fields. These are great places to take a break from the crowds, work on cornering, switching tracks, and get in a few more kilometers with different scenery.
  3. Lower your expectations. There was one Sunday in January where literally trail reports from Elm Creek, Hyland, and Wirth all said “don’t ski here today. Conditions are very slushy and terrible. Go somewhere else.” And I’d like to ask, where else??? If you want the best conditions, try to get out early because trail reports noted breaking down conditions by 7 am!
  4. Embrace the conditions. If man-made snow is the new norm, then embrace practicing in the sugar and slush that these highly transformed ice pellets provide. This also allows for ample practice with kick wax including klister!
  5. No need to make plans for skiing with your friends- just show up and like 500 of them will be there.

Despite having some fun while skiing man-made loops, this is really quite pathetic. I began to crave this idea of skiing in the woods on new winding ski trails with snow clinging to the trees. Instead we skied loop after loop on crowded ski trails that thanks to warm temps turned the snow to slush, sand, sugar, mashed potatoes etc- that becomes the fill in your word of choice above.

While out skiing on these man-made loops there were a few quotes that came to my mind. During my last 3 hour ski of the year at Hyland I declared, “I’m sinking,” and literally felt so amongst the heavily transformed ice pellets, like I was in one of those ball pits. Another time I thought conditions to be “comically terrible” as so many people were out enjoying the man-made snow despite its deep slushiness. And while skiing at Wirth in the MIDDLE OF FEBRUARY under 45 degree temperatures in conditions that could best be described as incredibly slow water slush I noted, “I didn’t think conditions would be THIS bad.” Gotta love manufactured snow.

Perhaps my highlight of the season was skiing in two classic sprint relays. I’ve wanted to do a classic sprint relay since Sara Renner and Beckie Scott got the silver medal in that race at the 2006 Olympics but this format isn’t very common, and when it happens, is almost always in the skate technique in citizen racing. But this year Erik and I competed in the Master Blaster Relays and then I competed with my co-worker’s daughter in an Age Gap Relay. Both were so incredibly fun and way better than any skate team sprint I’ve ever done! I guess my classic sprinting is better than my skate sprinting. 
We won the Age Gap Relays for U12. And yes, my kid is taller than me! Photo: Veeti Tandon

   Overall, I felt the end to the season was very anti-climactic. I mean, it seems quite perfect to end the season with a race called the HamsterBeiner but winning by a distance of 5 kilometers in a 30 kilometer race doesn’t make for a terribly satisfying race. Maybe that says it all. 

    I haven’t completely given up yet and am still holding out that we might still have some good skiable snow. We’ve also been tossing around the idea of doing a relay at 24 Hours of Lappe up at Thunder Bay on April Fools Day so if anyone would like to join our relay team, let us know!

Finally, I’ll leave you with 4 of my favorite pictures from this season that will turn that frown on your face into a smile!
Sometimes the best part about pictures are not the people who are supposed to be in them, but the people who aren't! Matt and Sergio sure were photogenic during the inaugural Hamsterbeiner. Photo: Bruce Adelsman
Check out that studmuffin in the window enjoying the downtown finish at the Mora Vasaloppet on a warm February day! Photo: Bruce Adelsman
Erik got me this ice cream cake with a hot pink skier on it for Valentine's Day. It was a perfect gift for both of us- especially because it included Reece's Peanut Butter Cup ice cream! Photo: Erik
 
I love this photo from the City of Lakes Loppet Classic Race of my two former U of M teammates. It shows Matt's impeccable classic striding technique while Craig demonstrates a perfect tuck. Craig's a pretty fast skier, but this really highlights how much faster Matt is! It's also fun that this photo captures someone taking a picture of Craig. Photo: Bruce Adelsman