Vakava Team Photo

Vakava Team Photo
Vakava Racers at the Mora Last Chance Race

Saturday, January 27, 2018

World Masters 2018 Wrap Up

I was pretty stoked when Minneapolis won the bid for World Masters. This is because, although I acknowledge to being biased here, I think the Twin Cities has the best cross-country ski community in the country and this is the perfect event to showcase our Nordic enthusiasm. Our 15 kilometers of machine-made snow in the Twin Cities is unrivaled by any other ski town in the United States!
Racing on the "world stage" in the city where I was born, in a park I skied in as a kid, with the skyline on my bib and in the background! Photo: Galen Murray

Being in the women’s 30-34 year age group, I wasn’t expecting a large entry field. Indeed, there were just 8 of us with only 5 women in the 35-39 year age group. The largest women’s age group was 50-54 with 36 participants and the largest men’s age group was 60-64 with 99 guys. Overall there were 184 women registered compared to 533 men. I’ve previously written about these gender discrepancies.

Skiers could choose to do any of 3 races (and a 4th race if selected for the relay). There were six races to choose from: short, medium, and long distances in both classic and skate techniques. The actual distances were based on sex and age. For example, the medium race for the 30-59 men was 30 km but for women in that same age group only 15 km; however, both men and women in the 60-69 year age classes raced the same distance. Go figure!

My first race was the
15 kilometer classic. The machine-made loop at Wirth is pretty hilly and I knew going in that a hilly classic course is not my strong suit. Despite this I tried to have a positive attitude. It also helped that I had bomber kick in my last few workouts leading up to this race and well, this might be obvious to everyone but me, but having good kick makes skiing up hills easier! I also really struggle on that big climb up the old sledding hill by the old chalet and was glad we were doing 2 x 7.5 km loops as that meant only going up that hill twice!

Seeing as I started racing over two hours after the men, I had limited ability to test my kick wax. There was a small area to test kick and it was on hard icy man-made snow. Per Rex recommendations, I put on some Gold klister. The kicking was OK at 8 am but it was supposed to warm up 5 degrees and be partially sunny prior to my race so I decided to add on some Rex Brown. I really didn’t think icing would be a problem BUT as us skiers know, the Eskimos are spot-on with their 1,000 words for snow and even though we were skiing exclusively on man-made, there were glazed parts of the course and other places where the snow skied like it was cold and new.

The course was groomed really well and they even had those pine tree things where the tracks stopped and started and V-boards everywhere so it was like skiing at one of those fancy World Cup races!
Getting off to a good start in the 15 km classic. Photo: Bruce Adelsman
There weren’t many of us in our 30s and so they combined the 2 age groups which meant hugs all around from Josie:) There were 6 of us total, so obviously the start was not chaotic. I had a reasonable start and wasn’t trailing Kathleen by too much but Alex Jospe and Josie took out the pace quick! I was skiing with Margie and gaining on Kathleen when my skis iced up really bad on the sledding hill climb. I was pretty sure I needed to stop and scrape my skis so I did.

I didn’t know how I was going to scrape my skis but some guy with a foreign accent came up and showed me how to do it (at least better than the scrape with my pole method). Essentially you slide the edge of your other ski perpendicular down the kick zone of the ski you are de-icing. Then the guy said “stay in the tracks.”

I hadn’t quite noticed if the 4th place girl passed me while I stopped to scrape my skis. I kept going but somewhat enjoyed skiing by myself. An older age class of women started just before I was about to begin my second lap so had a bit of additional work to pass these women. I try not to “track” people unless really needed. It just doesn’t make sense when the stakes are so low and it is so easy for me to pass. One old guy “tracked” me on an uphill.

The second time up the sledding hill climb, despite staying in the tracks, I iced again. The tracks here were surprisingly not at all glazed, possibly because this area is always in the shade. I really didn’t want to stop a second time and so once the hill flattened out just gave a few extra kicks on the glazed tracks and the skis de-iced. This made me wonder if my skis would have de-iced on the previous lap without my needing to take them off; it’s incredibly hard to think clearly after climbing 3 big hills in a row and I guess on the plus side I did learn a new technique to de-ice my skis.

On the loop by the machine shed I noted that I was passing by Kathleen at about the same place I did the previous lap so likely we were skiing about the same pace but I lost about a minute de-icing my skis (although maybe I got a bit of breathing reprieve!)

After cheering for the men’s 30 K, when it seemed like forever between seeing the guys, all I can say is racing goes by so much faster! I was also breathing a lot harder than spectating and could feel it in my lungs for the rest of the day and coughed a lot.

I ended up 3 of 4 skiers in my age class so I got a bronze medal. We went to the award ceremony downtown and made it through no less than 24 national anthems! At least they were abbreviated and the medals were pretty sweet!

My 3rd place podium. That's teammate Kathleen in 2nd! Photo: Erik

I also made it in the FasterSkier Recap:

Rules, Schmules, We’re Fools!

As a first born Type A overachiever, I invented and enforced all kinds of rules throughout my childhood for myself, my parents, younger brothers, friends, and family to follow. This abruptly ended when my dad died when I was 22. Life is just too short to sweat the small stuff.

Now, some rules ultimately keep things fun but too many rules become onerous. The World Masters Association (WMA) really really really really really likes their rules. Throughout World Masters I broke quite a few rules and in general didn’t really follow what they wanted us to do (I hung out in the big tent rather than the USA tent, didn’t put my warm-ups in their designated place, etc). They imposed some harsh rules like a 60 second addition to your time for false starting:(-

Technically the race was supposed to start with a RED flag but apparently this could not be procured so all the races started with a WHITE flag. Apparently no one contested this within 30 minutes of the unofficial results being posted in writing through the National Team Director with 100 Swiss Francs so all races stood as official.

Note, when the guy helped me de-ice my skis, this probably counted as “3rd party waxing help” from the WMA rules that should have resulted in disqualification but given no one protested following the protest requirements above, my 3rd place stands.

I kinda forgot about the 83% classic pole height rule until the day before my first race. I thought about measuring my poles but Erik was like, “no, I’m sure they are way under,” so I didn’t bother even though I know my poles tend to be on the long side. Erik raced first and the pole measure device (kinda looked like a ladder they put over your head) wasn’t ready yet so his poles didn’t get measured. But it was ready by the time my race started and guess what, my poles were too long. I think I looked real sad because they said they’d let me through this time but I’d have to cut them down for subsequent races. And I happened to be racing the long classic race.

Now anyone reading this blog knows I’m a double poler and with a race like the Mora Vasaloppet coming up I’m not very excited to cut down my poles. Long poles might work to my detriment on a hilly course like Wirth or the Birkie but I’m also really used to my pole length and didn’t want to cut them down for ONE race. So I spent some time worrying and debating about this, losing some sleep, and ultimately an hour going through our entire pole collection, measuring, re-measuring and deciding what poles to cut down. I could think of a million things I’d rather be doing instead of fussing over this stupid rule in my opinion (I don’t think anyone knows the most ideal pole height for double poling and this is likely to be different on hills versus flats and I don’t know that it’s even been proven that double poling is faster on a hilly course anyway) and quite frankly cleaning the toilet would have been way less stressful and maybe would have gotten done:)

Let me just go on a bit more here- no one is winning any prize money at these races. This is supposed to be fun.

Personally, I like the casual races better- the ones where we decide on the start line how many laps to do or the self-seeded interval start races with a goal of a mass finish and a requirement to eat a donut at every lap. See, some rules are good, literally!
A young volunteer gets ready for the mandatory donut stop at the Black Lake Loppet. Photo: Dave Harrington
A racer at the mandatory donut stop wearing some retro spandex and and a great wig to boot! Photo: Dave Harrington
My brother was pretty stoked to win the traveling trophy at the Black Lake Loppet in 2012 for his lucky 13th place finish! There is a rule though that if you win you have to add something to the trophy! Photo: Dave Harrington

On Sunday it was time for the 15 km Skate race. After the previous day’s blunder with icing up, I was glad to be skating. I also like the Wirth course a lot for skating with big uphills and lots of transitions.

We had 3 age groups start together and still there were only 14 starters. I once again felt like I was on the World Cup as they had volunteers cleaning the snow out of my boots. This wasn’t really necessary since making the transition to the Prolinks. The start was crazy fast. By the end of the double pole zone I was at the back. The first stretch is slightly downhill and so instead of flailing around, I tried to just do some powerful free skating. As we started up the first uphill, I was able to pass a couple women by V-2ing. I got another woman on the new winding meadow section of the Twin Lakes Loop and then another woman caught an edge and fell down so I passed her, too. Heading off the Twin Lakes Loop onto the climbing portion of the course it looked like briefly I was gaining on Kathleen and another girl in my age class but these women quickly got away from me.
Getting off to a terrible start- you can see me waaaaay in the back! Photo: Bruce Adelsman

While the snow on Saturday mostly skied cold and dry, temps stayed above freezing overnight Saturday into Sunday and the snow was getting a bit slushy by my race despite overcast skies. I hadn’t thought about rilling based on Saturday’s conditions but Kathleen recommended it so I headed to the Finn Sisu tent prior to my start for a rilling and second layer of pure fluors (this time some liquid “Ruka” Rex). My skis were truly rocket ships and despite my poor technique on the flats I think I was mostly able to capitalize on this speed.
Capitalizing on my fast skis to V-2 farther up the Catwalk hill than those around me! Photo: Galen Murray

I did curb a bit of speed on a couple 180 corners, mostly by assuming a half tuck. Some people might not call this curbing speed but I do. I think I did throw in one tiny snowplow as well but to be fair there was a bit of traffic on my first big 180 corner.
Leading a "pack" of women from my wave. Photo: Galen Murray

The woman who fell was able to catch and pass me, but by the end of the first lap I caught a woman in the next age class. I skied with both of these women for about 3 km until one definitely passed me and I dropped the other one. I kept trying to ski fast and my skis were so fast it was all just a blur! I ended up 4 of 4 in my age class but skied 10 minutes faster than the previous day. I was really stoked about my time of 41:26 for a 15 km but according to my Garmin the course was a bit short at 13.2 km. (We’ll keep this our little secret and won’t tell the WMA organizers:)
Giving a few extra strokes to really send it on the new left-hander. Photo: Galen Murray
Erik gets really mad when I snowplow. This isn't me. Photo: Galen Murray
ERIK, NOTE, I'M NOT SNOWPLOWING HERE. I'm practicing the B-B-B-Aggressive low and forward pose! Photo: Galen Murray
My 15 km skate finish. Photo: Galen Murray

My last race of the week was the 30 km classic.
Based on the start list and results from earlier in the week, I suspected a podium would be very likely and it looked like I would be well-matched with another woman to fight for first place. There were 3 age groups all starting together which meant starting with Josie and a fast woman from Sweden so I knew the start would be fast as always.

I had a pair of poles cut down to abide with the 83% rule although I talked to Craig who had raced 2 classic races since my poles were checked and he said they never checked his poles so I brought my usual poles to the start. They didn’t have the ladder pole device out so I decided to use my regular poles; however, before the early men’s races they did note that if there was any concern that pole height could me measured at the finish. Erik told me not to worry about that. Besides, I know the race secretary:)

Owing to the big snowstorm we got on Monday, the plan was for 2 x 15 km loops making using of natural snow! This included a road crossing and a bridge crossing and some flatter terrain compared to the machine-made snow.

There were 4 women in my age class at the start. Josie was the only one in the 35-39 age class, and there were 3 women in the 40-44 age class. A couple girls from Alaska in my age class were wearing some fun spandex bottoms they had bought at Mall of America! Josie said we were going to have the most fun of any of the waves out on the course.

The flag went down and we were off. I smiled to myself as Josie, then the fast Swedish chick, and then me were the first 3 as we were each the fastest in our age classes and even though we weren’t really racing each other for a podium spot we were still racing each other in terms of time. I was quickly dropped by Josie and the Swede before the first kilometer. This might be a surprising statement, but I really prefer to be out racing by myself. I’m so much more relaxed when I do this and this might be good because I often spend so much time racing by myself, but might also be bad because then I’m less motivated to ski with a pack which is going to pull me along faster than I go by myself.
Josie and the fast Swedish chick. Photo: Bruce Adelsman
Even though I skied by myself in terms of my wave, there were plenty of other racers and cheerers on course to keep me company. Also, here's some proof of my striding up the the sledding hill. Photo: Bruce Adelsman

I had been working on this blog post throughout the week and all I can say is what happened next provided me the absolute perfect ending to this blog. As I approached the big downhill where there was a left turn at the bottom before the road crossing, some guy in a “coach’s bib” I assumed to be J.D. Downing yelled at me, “go right, go right, course is changed.”

The volunteers were all yelling at me to go right at the bottom of the hill so I did. I wondered if they were going to shoot us over the bridge but the course seemed to be following the machine-made course so I just kept going. I wasn’t quite ready to go up the big sledding hill climb as I was hoping for some flats before this, but then again, I’m never ready to classic up that climb! As I kept going, I started wondering how many laps I was to do. This was supposed to be a 30 km race and if we only did 2 laps we would be considerably short, yet we were supposed to only do 2 laps.

As I skied through the stadium, I hoped someone would tell me how many laps I was supposed to do. I listened to the announcer in the stadium, he announced my name but didn’t say anything about my number of laps. I didn’t see any of the other girls in my age class near me and so I didn’t really care that much how many laps we were now going to do. Starting on my second lap it was a bit difficult to figure out the pacing since I didn’t know if this was 2 of 2 shortened loops or if we would now have to do 3. I thought about asking some of the volunteers I was passing but didn’t know if they would actually know. And I started wondering if no one ever told me if I should just finish at 2 laps??? I was certain of one thing- all rules were now out the window with an on course change and I knew no one would care about my pole length!

Finally, after skiing almost an entire lap, J.D yelled at me, “you are now in a 3 lap race.” OK, that meant 3 really really hilly loops and doing my favorite sledding hill 3 times! Now here I will be totally honest and say that I walked every herring-boning hill but told myself I needed to stride both sledding hills every time. A huge thanks to my teammate Xena, my friend Caitlin in a penguin costume, and Lynne Cecil for their cheering in this section! I managed to stay in the tracks all 3 trips up the sledding hill and was even able to get myself to do a fair bit of stride-gliding instead of just running. This might have been the 3 best times I’ve ever made it up that hill classic skiing. Don’t get me wrong- I still have plenty of room for improvement- but I’m getting better!

Anyway, I was glad once the 3 lap race was clarified. I kept trying to ski hard, cheer for those I was passing and those passing me, albeit everyone got more cheers by me on the “flatter” Twin Lakes part of the loop than in the hilly sections. The snow was definitely much slower than on Sunday. I tucked on the 180 downhills and was almost stopped after stepping through the new deep snow on the corners. I wanted to have a really strong finish and think I accomplished this.

I got my age class victory in my 3rd race of the week!
It was a good day for Vakava with Craig, Bonnie (not pictured), and I all winning our age classes. Erik was 3rd in his. Photo: Eva

So it turns out, a very short train happened to come by and park right where the race course was supposed to cross the tracks. This created quite a mayhem in a couple age categories where some skiers had already made it over the crossing and others had to turn around. You can read more about it here:

Lots of awards were given out to these folks whose race got “derailed” by the train. All I can say is this really drives home the point that this is a RACE FOR FUN- there is no money at stake, no real metal medals, no Olympic spots up for grabs- this is a bunch of old people who are supposed to be having fun. And I thought it added some fun to this whole racing business. If only there had been a mandatory donut stop out on course…
This photo says it all. Maybe we'll see more bibs like this next year:) Photo: Dave Harrington

As racers we are defined by more than the results that are or aren’t on the results page. I’m slowly learning this and these World Masters races have brought me just a little closer to fully embracing this concept.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Seeley Classic 42km , Skratch That, 38km

I raced the shortened Seeley Classic "long" race, even though I couldn't find a picture on SkinnySki to show for it.  It was a frigid morning race start at -9 F.  I just registered for the race two days prior, taking my time to decide if I should race the long or the short one.  Because I thought I needed a boost in my training and because I didn't want my 30km race at World Masters to be my longest race of the season thus far, I went for the longer one. 

I arrived at OO on the late side, as is typical for me.  I didn't have time to test kick wax; luckily my Guru Green was kicking fairly well.  My skis were fast.  I waxed them the night before with Fast Wax LF Teal.  I love this wax for hardening the base.  Unlike other brands, Fast Wax is super easy to apply and remove.  Then I applied a couple more layers for good measure.

This was my longest race of the season so I didn't want to go out too hard.  I was skiing with a great group of women: Kim Rudd, Josie Nelson, and Marit Sonnesyn. For about 28 kilometers we all went back and forth.  I realized I need to work on the downhills, that is where I repeatedly lost time.  Earlier this season I bought a new pair of salomon skis and I'm not able to control them as well as with my older Atomics.  My finish placing was 4th woman overall, 51 seconds behind Marit, 1:23 behind Josie, and well... less than 10 minutes behind Caitlin.  Even though I was one place out of the money, I accomplished my goal of getting in a really solid training race.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Selling My Soul and other Musings

Well, after much debate I did it.

And now I’m a bit more like Erik, who I swear has just about a pair of Salomon boots for every pair of skis he has because none of his boots and bindings are compatible!

So what am I talking about? The plight of the pilot bindings...what else?

Back in high school, 16 years ago, half my life ago, I got my first pair of skate boots and they were pilots- all the rage in the Nordic ski world. It was 2001 afterall and the Olympics were coming to Salt Lake City in a few months. And since then, I’ve been a pilot devotee. I love Salomon boots on my feet (well, not completely, but we’ll say 90% of the time which is bound to happen when spending lots of time in boots) and when I’ve demoed some not-to-be-mentioned other brands, my feet have screamed “get these off me now!”
My old quiver of skate skis, all with old pilot bindings. From left to right: my rock skis  that were my race skis in high school and early college; my race skis (obviously a decade old- the graphics don't lie); my B skis.

But alas, as the demise of the pilots has been foreshadowed over the past couple years and I’m desiring some new skate skis and some new boots, I have really procrastinated (and those of you who know me know I don’t procrastinate much). I was also kind of waiting for those new carbon Salomon skate skis to come out in my tiny 177 cm size. So when Devin at Finn Sisu finally secured me a pair, I had to decide on bindings. My current black beauty ski boots are 9 years old. Being a pilot devotee, I scoured the websites from every store I know in the Midwest and no one had a single pilot boot in my size. I’m sorry to report for all you other pilot devotees out there...pilots are dead:(

So to not delay the inevitable any longer, I got some Prolink bindings and switched one pair of bindings on another pair of skis. Walking out the door with my first non-pilot skate bindings in half my life felt, well, akin to something like selling my soul!
Ecstatic about my new carbon skate skis!!! Photo: Devin
My first ever NNN bindings. I may be smiling on the outside but on the inside I was crying. Photo: Devin

A few weeks later, over the holidays, I was out skiing with my brother.

“Sister, what kind of binding are those?” he asked rhetorically. “Sister, wow, you made the big switch!”

Intervals on the busy Elm Creek hamster loop: It just so happened that my first day on snow this winter I decided to do intervals. Now some might say this is not the best plan, but that week I wasn’t motivated to do my intervals running, bounding, or rollerskiing; I was motivated to do them skiing. I also figured that there is no better way to work on ski speed than by skiing fast, so why not do intervals my first time on snow for the season? I did my intervals skating and tried to work on my balance. It was extra difficult because there were some icy patches on the machine made loop and the donut hill. Since it was a weekend there was also lots of people dodging but I got my intervals done and added to my skills of skiing through traffic.

The next week I did intervals again on the hamster loop. This time I did classic intervals. It was the weekend again and very busy. Unlike the week before, being in the classic tracks it became so much more obvious how I passed a lot of people during my intervals and then these same people passed me back up while I was “resting” and skiing slowly. Normally I don’t do intervals in front of so many other people and I was a bit self-conscious of my uneven pacing even though this was quite intentional. I was wondering if these people were wondering why I would ski so fast, blow up, rest, then ski so fast again. Hopefully they caught on that I was doing intervals and not skiing stupid!
Me skiing at the Nordic Opener at Elm Creek on Dec 9, 2017. It seemed the crowds came in waves and this was a more quiet time. Photo: Bruce Adelsman

Indoor Running: The Minnesota Distance Running Association (MDRA) sponsors the US Bank Stadium run. This is not a race but a chance to do some indoor running during the winter without dealing with cold temps, darkness, or snow and ice. Check out the website:

Erik and I decided to do this one night. It was a good experience and a nice way to see the stadium for only $3! The loop is 0.44 miles. It was fairly cool in the stadium so I didn’t sweat too much. Even though I’m not a very good runner, I was still pleased to be passing many people in the “slow lane.” There is also a ramp on the east side of the stadium that can be used for hill repeats if you are interested. Despite the relatively short loop, I kept myself plenty occupied between people watching, looking at everything in the stadium, and trying to get some glimpses of downtown as I ran by the windows. The only downside is running on concrete. Usually MDRA hosts a few runs per months but this year due to the Super Bowl there are no runs in January. There are some February dates and I’m guessing they will sponsor this again next year!
Erik snapped this photo of my running inside US Bank Stadium. He said it was uber artistic. In case you find it too blurry, that's me running with the football field in the background.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Skiing in the Negatives

This past weekend I found myself in Bemidji, MN (aka Burrrmidji) visiting family with lows in the minus twenties and highs in the minus teens. Despite this, I got out to ski everyday.

First, let me start with a couple things I try NOT to do when it’s -20 °F (or maybe even below zero).

             Intervals. I prefer to do intervals when it is 10 °F or warmer outside as doing intervals in sub-zero temperatures can really make my lungs burn. Towards the end of December we had a string of days with temperatures around zero and when it happened that the day it warmed up to 12 °F it was logistically difficult for me to drive to machine-made trails, I decided to do my intervals running. While I believe it is best to do intervals in the specific sport you are trying to be best at to maximize efficiency, running intervals should still be good for building the VO2 max.
Long skis. I have done some 3 hour skis at temps around "the doughnut." -20 °F is another story. On a long ski, inevitably there is sweat and those temps below zero cause that sweat to freeze which is obviously not good and can zap all that body heat quickly.

This past weekend, since I was also visiting family, I didn’t feel too bad about skiing for less time and spending more time with family. We (my husband, brother, and I) planned to ski for 1.5 hours and one time almost got to two hours. Locals may say the weather isn’t so bad and take pride in living in the ice box, but these are the same people who leave their cars running when going into the grocery store and ice fish in their heated ice houses. Given the very few people you will actually encounter out on the trail, even this short amount of ski time will make you feel pretty hardy for braving the elements for 1.5 hours!

So what to do when it’s -20 °F out in terms of clothing? It’s all about protecting exposed flesh and appropriate layering. I’m not very versed on skiing at temps these cold so most of this advice comes from trial and error. 

It’s important to remember you still sweat when it’s -20 °F, especially if you overdress.

Minimize exposed flesh: My husband and I decided to go for an early morning walk on the lake by my mom’s house. Air temp was -28 °F and with the windchill it was -45 °F. For some dumb reason I didn’t wear my super warm weather hat and only wore a ski hat and one buff. Things were OK when I was walking away from the wind, but when I turned into the wind, I had an instant headache from the cold wind hitting my exposed forehead. It turns out a ski hat leaves a bit too much flesh exposed above the eyebrows. I had never had this problem before. I dug out my warm weather hat for my afternoon ski (during the warmest part of the day) with the ear flaps and was glad to discover it covered my entire forehead down to my eyebrows. 

Getting dressed inside and making sure my warm hat really covered my forehead! Photo: Erik

Head: As mentioned above, I wore my warm weather hat in addition to 2 buffs at -20 ℉. I stacked my buffs together but you could also wear one under your hat and one over your hat. This day had a bit of a wind and so windchill was about -35 ℉. Two days later, there was barely any wind and skiing at -10 ℉ I probably could have gotten by with one buff and a warm ski hat but I didn’t test this. Erik much prefers to wear a balaclava over a buff because he doesn’t care about fashion. He figures the more you look like a bank robber the warmer you will be on the ski trail:) [Actually, Balaclavas are perfectly tailored to cover the human head and neck without excess fabric or uncomfortable tightness, and don't make you look like a wannabe world cup racer.]-your editor ;)

Exposed flesh: After putting on my hat and buffs, I had a bit of exposed flesh left on my cheeks and nose. I prefer to slather on lots of Dermatone. Vaseline works, too, and is probably cheaper. You can also use athletic tape, cut up a buff with nose and mouth holes, or wear a face mask.

Feet: The feet are always hard to keep warm. Keeping the core warm helps, as does starting warm (i.e. try not to sit in a cold car or stand around in the cold before starting). We’ve been using our Yoko boot covers which seem to help and also provide a seal when tucking ski pants under them. When it gets really cold though, feet warmers can be a real “toe” saver. You can either use generic warmers or ones specifically designed for your toes. One day I tried taping these onto my boots and covering them with the boot covers. This didn’t keep my feet warm. The next day I taped the warmers onto my socks and this kept my toes toasty. There are toe warmers that are sleek and designed to go inside the boots (and come with their own stickiness). My classic ski boots have ample room in the toes so the big foot heaters worked well inside my boots but not for Erik.  

Taping warmers onto my ski boots. I then put on my overboots.

Hands: People who design ski gloves, lobsters, and mittens have clearly never skied at -20 °F. OK, I admittedly have cold hands and even in my ski mittens my hands initially get cold until my body warms up. So I decided to try skiing in my super warm mittens. Fortunately these have an extra tightening strap at the wrist that help keep the mittens secure. Also, because my big mittens go a ways up my forearms, my watch stayed under the mittens. Although I couldn’t easily see my watch during my ski, electronic technology doesn’t work very well at -20 ℉ and therefore by doing this I was able to keep my watch working; Erik had his watch exposed to the elements and it froze and stopped working. 

These ski mittens claim to be rated to zero and are most definitely insufficient at minus twenty degree Fahrenheit.

These are more like it for skiing "below the doughnut"!

Core: I tend to get hot skiing and thus dress fairly lightly on my core. From about 10 to 25 ℉ I do well with a layer of long underwear and my Vakava ski jacket. Between 0 and 10 ℉ I might wear the same as above or consider adding another layer if it is particularly windy or if the temperature will be dropping. In the past couple years, I started wearing my ski jacket from high school when temps are in the minus single digits. This jacket is incredibly warm but doesn’t breathe very well so this year I’ve tried layering under my Vakava jacket more. I’ve always read about using a “mid-layer” but often get so hot I skip the mid-layer. Hence I did some more experimenting with mid-layers at -20 °F. I tried wearing a fleece in addition to my usual long underwear and got fairly warm so the next two days I went back to using two wicking long sleeve shirts and this seemed to be just about right. I didn’t have to unzip my jacket at -15 ℉, but I did at -10 ℉. If you tend to be on the cold side, I would highly recommend a fleece mid-layer, maybe even at warmer temps, and if you tend to be on the hot side, don’t wear fleece, not even at -20 ℉! 

Legs: Similar to layering with the core, I take into account my heavier ski pants vs lighter ski pants. I wore my Vakava pants with a layer of long underwear at zero one day and this was barely warm enough but the next day when it was -20 °F for our ski, I wore my old high school ski pants which are warmer (fleece lined) and they felt similar to my other ski pants the day previous.

       Yes, your eyelashes will freeze. I don’t quite know what to do about this. I wore my sunglasses which probably helped some. I suspect goggles would help more. 

Erik with some frozen eyelashes after our sunrise plus double sundogs walk. He didn't use his goggles for this walk.
       The frost from breathing will get everything on your upper body all wet- mostly your hat, buff/balaclava, upper chest, and back. This accumulates in giant white ice forms, especially at -20 ℉.

A frosty Erik after our ski at Bemidji State Park. Erik says: don't forget the jumper cables and be sure to turn on your defrost once back in the car because your warm body will get the windows all foggy.
A selfie after our coldest ski of the weekend. Note all the frost build-up under my chin. Also note I was unzipped exposing my fleece, which subsequently got all frosty, too.
Note I have less frost under my chin on this day as it was 10 plus degrees warmer than the above photo (but still in the negatives). Also, be aware of looking like a woolly mammoth from snotsickles, as in Erik's case. Photo: Leif

So don’t let the cold temps keep you inside. When dressed up proper as above, skiing in the negatives is amazingly pleasant. It is always good to get out in the woods with the snow in the trees sparkling in the sunlight! I had three very amazing skis in the Bemidji area and one walk (with a hibernating black bear sighting!) without getting my core cold.