Friday, 27 February 2015

Steamboat Springs - Telemark Classic

This morning was just beautiful. I felt good. The classic run is long: about 5 gates, jump, maybe 5 more, flat straight section, another 6 or 7, the rap and skating, down a pitch with 20+ gates, downhill then turn uphill for a painful skate up to the finish.

I was loving it. Jumped hard but alpine landed. I guess I'll never know if I made the line, but people said I did in the pre-run. Your legs burn and you breath for all you're worth. Making nice tele turns is hard. Apparently too hard for me. With about 4 turns left on the pitch until it flattened into a few easier turns, I slid out and crashed. I have no idea why. I haven't done that in 200 runs in gates this year.  The rule with the set start intervals today is once you were down, you were out, no hiking back up for a recovery. I guess that's what I get to think about for the drive home. 

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Free Skiing Steamboat Springs

Today I free skied the big resort.  I've always wanted to ski here.  It rectified all that was "wrong" in my world.

It was a bit of a task to find a ticket on the deal we were promised, but it ended up working, which was fortunate as full price day tickets are $127 US here, which after the credit card ding on exchange rates would have been a $160 CDN day... crazy considering my season pass this year was only $40 more.

I started navigating around all the west chairs to get a feel, and the skiing was all a bit laboured.  I went in for a snack (pocket snack, god stuff is expensive here).  Then all of a sudden I found my groove.  I chatted to the guys who were just starting to re-set the start area for tomorrow's race.  They had a junior race of some sort on Vagabond that morning.  He just said go for it, so I ran the course.  It's long, and not super steep, so carrying speed will be key.  But more importantly, unlike Howelsen Hill, there was room galore for self feedback.  Howelsen is short, and the way the race course occupies it, there isn't really even a side run to ski and get your flow.  I realize that now.  Half way in, I was making the best turns I'd made all week.  I stopped for a breather as the elevation was getting me.

I did a whole bunch more runs, it felt great.  Each turn I was working on something, and to be honest I think the sum total of being here, seeing people, racing, then really having a think last night on what I needed to work on... led to the best several hours of telemark skiing I've ever done.  I worked on edging deeper, more angle.  Both right and left turns I could feel the articulated knee of my snow pants brushing the ground.  I could put my hand down and touch it.  I was working on extending down the hill in transition with active hip movement.  It all felt so right.  Late a couple days, but so right.

The trick is to get that onto courses.  Racing well and skiing well are so different.  For next time I know to disappear off to the side of a real run and just get my groove going.

Top looking towards town.

West edge of area looking south.  That ridge run is Vagabond where the race will be, and the top of that knoll is where the gondola and a few of the lifts unload.

So after tiring myself out on the hill, I learned a couple of pertinent things.  I was scheduled into a work conference call tomorrow at 9am.  Secondly, I found out the results of Tuesday's Sprint on the FIS site are better than what I had seen online before (FIS site has me at 24th and the other graphic from the broadcast had me at 29th).  Which then means that I earned enough FIS points (err, reduced my FIS points) such that I have below 150 and am qualified to race the Classic tomorrow!  Step one: find a workaround with my client (whom thankfully understands) and do a detailed email status update to him tonight.  Step two, get those legs as recovered as they can be from my free skiing adventure today!  My mindset is optimistic.  I can ski well, I know that from today... it's just if I can translate that to a race course.  You'd think it'd be easier... but I know it's going to be a long lung and leg burner for sure!

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Steamboat Springs - Parallel Qualifier

Ski racing is hard.  Telemark ski racing is hard.  No part of it can be passed off as easy.  And today felt like it.  I like hard things, but sometimes you get slapped down.  It's not as easy as couch sitting... and today there's not much to write about.  Partially strategy, partially execution.

Yesterday's jump had a long line to make it.  It was perhaps a viable strategy then to skip going for distance, focus on the tele landing, and keep a high line.  Reminder that not making the minimum distance line is a 3 second penalty and not tele landing is one.  So in discussion last night, we got to don't worry about distance, go for the tele landing.

Today's course had a shorter jump and it wasn't a blind landing.  I stuck to the strategy - don't go for it, but try to land and transition to tele instantly.  But in hindsight the right strategy was to huck it and go for a tele landing but at least stick an alpine.  Without that you're out too much time to be relevant essentially.  I thought I did a continuous drop into tele position landing, but must not have as I got dinged for that too.  So the jump all in was a 4 second penalty.  Ouch.

Secondly I was really focused on a high line and not getting low and crappy.  That was fine, but it wasn't a direct enough line, I should have been fighting for a tighter line instead of a  a smoother one.  I thought I carved ok, but it's just not tight, deep, powerful enough.  Ouch two.

Ouch 3 was I got two boot space penalties.  I could live with one as a statistical blip.  I'm mildly surprised at the 2, as I was trying to really think about it.  I have a feeling one was the gate that was just like 3m before the rap. It wasn't a yellow "parallel turn is ok" gate, but given it's entry to the rap maybe I didn't accentuate it enough.  Not sure on the other.  Ouch three.

Live and learn.  In theory mental mistakes are easier to fix, I thought about that after when I watched some guy unstrap a massive high tech knee brace.  My mind needs to be better at the "wait forever then be 100% instantly" aspect of ski racing.

Beauty day on the hill and great atmosphere, just didn't squeeze out a good run.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Steamboat Springs - Telemark Sprint

The part that's logical about being here is that it's the closest FIS race to home... the part that is more challenging is jumping into World Championships as a first FIS outing.  I started the day with 2 ski goals and two general goals.  Skiing: don't crash and eliminate myself from the rest of the event or season with injury, and don't be last.  I achieved both of those.  The non-ski goals were simple as well - learn and make friends/have fun.  Those two are going well!

I've noticed in training at home that my best runs are 3rd, 4th, 5th runs in a course.  You get dialed in, make changes, adapt, learn.  Here I'm in inspection in a melee of other languages and of course not an empty course inspection at all, trying to think about what I need to think about, and trying to remember the course.  By the time I start, I've stood around for a long time, like 90 minutes (I try to do a quality warmup, but still it's different of course than back to back runs), and yes they have people slipping the course in between every few racers, but still when you have no FIS ranking, you're back of the pack, and you ski more ruts.  That's not a complaint, it just is how it is... and you've got to start somewhere.

It feels like each run I've forgot more than I spent learning over the last year.  In some ways it's embarrassing to make mistakes, get so late in turns, etc. when you've spent all year trying to fix it, and everyone has told you that advice before.  I got some good reminders from Rene-Luc over the phone and email that I'll try to remember tomorrow, plus I hopefully will be more relaxed.  It's not surprise that my self devised training program didn't let me come here to win ; )  But it covered enough of the basics not to utterly fail, and by being around other telemark skiers now I see so much more.  I've only skied with one other tele skier up to this weekend, and that was Mike Schragge!

Key takeaways today were it's hard to do the jump without having very specific training for the jump.  I ski jumped, and went further in that than we are required to...  but that's straight, without turns, and without a gate "right after" landing, and the angle you take is just straight vs. picking it yourself after one inspection run.  I need to either practice real jumps a lot more, or just focus on the tele landing and skip trying to go long (I tried to go longer the second run, landed alpine, didn't go long enough, which is then max penalty).  Hmm... but how do I practically get one in a course?  Secondly I need to calm down, get early, and get on my edges more, which will help tighten up my lines.  And there's probably about a dozen other things... but hey, it's a year in the making and essentially a reset to ground zero at the bottom of the world scale all in one.

Results are here.  It's interesting.  From a casual chat on day zero, Birk Larsen was friendly to me.  We've done a lot similar in life - biking, adventuring, originating in the midwest, and (other than his binding issue on run one which I acknowledge), apparently we're similar skiers.  We even swapped Carl Strong common thread stories.  Meeting people in tele world is just fantastic.

Run 1, I'm just after 1 hour 14 minutes on the video.
Run 2, I'm just after 49 minutes on the timer which shows my new friend Birk's run then me after...

I loved today.  I never for a minute doubted wanting to be here.  You don't learn much at home on the couch, that's the easy way.  I think my cobbled together training served well.  I know things I could have done better, but it wasn't a complete fail!  I'm a better skier than I've ever been, and I'd say today's two runs weren't the 1 and 2 I could ever generate, but like for everyone, they're a sample out of the statistical pool I can produce.  I hope to improve that over time, and I don't yet feel plateau'd.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Monday training day

Lee had a lovely breakfast at the Colorado Mountain College again.

Team jacket, Howelsen Hill in background. 

Antoine was much happier with his gear here! Main Steamboat ski area in background.

Course was set higher today and had more ruts since every single team was training today. We practiced gates, the jump, and the rap several times.

A Norwegian getting some air time.  Have to land in a telemark position past the minimum distance line, then of course make that right handed red gate with whatever modicum of grace you can muster.  What isn't shown is how the landing is off camber left, the turn is right, and the landing area basically has a funny snowcat grooming divot then grooming ridge mixed in.
Getting my carve on.  

Air time cometh.

The reipelykkje.  Norwegian for "knot of rope".  Said approximately "rap-oh-lusha".  Or for the rest of us just "the rap".   From there to the finish line it's full throttle skate ski sprint.  Today was just getting comfortable in it.  Yesterday the entrance to the far right was smooth, today it's formed like a jump going in, the the back top half is just mush.  My line has been absorb/skip the entering bump, carve just below where the yellow flag in the picture is, carry whatever speed I can around, and don't be shy about when I can try to turn on the gas with the poles and skating.

Shoutout to privateers everywhere.  Mark McConnell aka Hotsauce you just got it done this year, jumped in with two feet, didn't take no for an answer, didn't shrink into your shoes at the first start line.  Give it your all, learn as you go.

Happy team

Antoine and Frederic's gear is here at 7am!

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Howelsen Intro

I woke up early and went to wash the car and get gas. Morning looking at main Steamboat hill. 

Drove over to look around Howelsen before it opened. 

Statue of a skier remembered whom died too young. 

Working on the "rap" in the morning. 

Quite a bit of new snow. They said it hasn't snowed for weeks. 

Slope where we'll race. 

Fresh lines on skis not exactly made for fresh lines. 

Race check in. 

So how were the first runs?  I was third up the Poma, partly as I offered to carry up gates to make myself useful. That kind of routine and just helping out helps with nerves. It was fresh tracks. Nice new snow. Sorta wish I didn't have racing skis on. First they've had in weeks. I tried to use the snow as knee bend depth checking making sure I could feel it on my down knee. 

We then slipped.  I stood behind the Swiss team for the first jump pre run.  They approach things very systematic and orderly, funny how some stereotypes  hold. They all have matching suits and even just queue up in nice form. I just remind myself that your outfit doesn't mean your arms and legs work better, although it does likely mean you're exposed to more institutionalized guidance. And... When it was my turn... It was fine. I don't mind flying. The nailing it right and hitting a turn perfectly is the art, but just doing it is within my comfort. Some skiers were going pretty wimpy at it. And some were just making art of it. At least I'm calm enough to be sentient in the air and think about it. 

After that it was to the gates for a full run. Snow was grippy. My skis are digging in so much more than the hard pack at Nakiska. It's great. I'm over nerves, mostly. I'm not going to get fired or not be able to feed my family if I fail, so there's really not much to worry about. Failing is sitting at home and not chasing dreams. On top of that the crowd is all very helpful.  I got a good set of tips from the US guys . Telemark people are helpful.  Chatted with the Slovenian girl a bit. There's always things to work on, but I feel comfortable at least now. 

Dinner was fabulous at the Colorado Mountain College with a beautiful view of the hill. Top notch. The funny thing is why the half dozen Norwegian guys weren't sitting with the half dozen Norwegian girls. My Quebec comrades and i observed that as a direct fail, just saying. 

My Québécois roommates are great but are stressed. They arrived travelling light - with backpacks only. After sleeping on the Denver airport floor. No skis at a ski race sucks. At least he has boots. They are on calls with airlines, whom have no idea where the luggage is but they saw it on the Denver tarmac when their flight left. The luxury of driving is I brought a lot. Partly to be honest is because I worried about stuff like this if I flew. I can fill in ski pants, goggles, race skis of approximate fit and very close to the radius he skis,  poles, etc. but we still hope it arrives!  Geez... stressful. 

Road trip to Steamboat

Marvin wanted to come with. 

Packed a lot. But not cause I'm a bad packer I argue. Because a car has lots of space and the optionality of having things  is fun. 


Almost to Great Falls. 

Mid Montana to Colorado weren't so hot on the roads. 

This doesn't seem like a business name set up to draw customers in. 

Lunch stop. 

Backed up from ice. 

Oops. Trucks with dirt on the side pointing the wrong way must have a story to tell. 

I think at least 4 hours today was on ice, snow, or melting on ice which was worst. To be honest it wasn't bad. I like the skill of it and don't freak out. The road signs said stop all non essential travel, but I think not many big rigs have real traction control or anything like gummy winter tires. Even a giant pickup in 4wd isn't as helpful as electronically modulated awd on this stuff. Plus I had weight in the car not an unloaded bed. I made it and overall enjoyed it. 

Steamboat at night. 

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Valentines Land Rover

This came out 2 days before our Family Day drive, or something close to that as I'm not doing the conversion to New Zealand prime time TV ads.  If you look at a Land Rover, or at least one before they got bogged down with the weight of the modern world's electronics, complexity, and shine, and "just see a car", you're seeing it wrong.  They're tools of adventure, that harken back to a more simple time.  What you really need is 4 tires, a little power, the ability to steer, and a desire to go someplace.  Someplace further than the local grocery store. 

Monday, 16 February 2015

Land Rover Defender 90 300 tdi Engine Rebuild

The Defender went in this winter for an engine rebuild.  It wasn't 100% needed, I could have done small maintenance for years.  However, this is an enjoyment vehicle, and I wanted my prime years with it to experience a Defender in fantastic condition.

I took it to the helpful team at TRS Automotive in Calgary.  The list was generally - strip the current engine block, re-machine it, replace with new pistons, new [much wider range] variable turbo, intercooler, new fuel pump, and while we had it all out, throw in a new heavy duty clutch.  Motor & Diesel Engineering was the kit supplier, with their MD Engineering Land Rover 300tdi stage 2 kit as the one installed.

Engine block work and pistons.

Single main belt that was one of the redesign items from the 200 tdi engine to the 300 tdi.

More complete view.

New turbo view 1.

New turbo view 2.


The improvements are not designed to make it a hot rod.  To me that's not really what Defenders are for.  Recall that even a base model Honda Civic has more power.  The torque boost doesn't exactly make the vehicle faster, just more driveable.  The 0-100km/h time would still be well into the teens range, as the vehicle isn't a lightweight, nor is it aerodynamic ; )  The engine outputs are somewhat comparable to a VW Jetta TDI, and as one can imagine, that's a much smaller and more aerodynamic vehicle, yet even those 0-100 times are over 10 seconds.  The variable turbo and other improvements makes the powerband wider, smoother, and just so much more driveable.  It's nice.

So the rejuvenation continues.  This is a hugely material difference and it drives well.  Plus, despite all the "progress", I'm just not into these new ones.


Great last couple weekends of training, we're lucky to have such a good setup so close to home. 

Family Day

Cindy and I spent the day together for Family Day as it should be. She shelved workout class and I shelved skiing. We went Defender driving out in the Sibbald area. Went on the demonstration forest roads, and the long road south to the gun ranges (and all the other associated places people have made into gun ranges). This gave us the opportunity to do some steep snowy old cut roads in the Defender and also down to a river bank. Nothing flusters the Defender. 

Picnic by the game of kids hockey on the shovelled lake in the mountains. 

Home on the slower back roads. 

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Skiing with focus: the pursuit of quality turns over quality snow

Last spring ignited my pursuit of telemark racing, which I knew I wanted to pursue with much more focus into 2014/2015 season.  This meant guidance, equipment, effort and focus.  Cycling has Fred's, skiing has Gorby's.  I wouldn't really have called myself a Gorby, but I was also far from having the experience I needed to reach my goal - skiing at the World Cup stop in Steamboat Springs, Colorado in 2015.

On the learning side, which is most important, I've joined the Alberta Masters.  Great group of positive, helpful, quality skiers and coaches.  They alpine ski and race, however I haven't found it much of an issue getting quality learnings applicable to telemark.  We ski Saturday and Sunday at Nakiska, Monday nights at COP, all with video and coaching both on free skiing and gates.  Eking out improvement is focus on a couple issues at a time, listen, practice, execute.  It's not easy, if it were we'd all be Olympians after a dozen points of feedback, but it's challenging and the progress is fruitful if looked at over time spans greater than run to run.  Being able to ski gates with supportive people 3 days a week is amazing.

I've had to up my game on the equipment side.  I'm rotating between a couple skis and trying to find out what works best in what conditions.  They're all new old stock on ebay type deals, and I've stuck mostly with Fischers as their undrilled plates are easy for mounting NTN bindings to.

I've finally invested in a quality Toko table and Swix clamps that felt the nicest to me.  I tune every time I ski.  I'm doing high performance hard COP and Nakiska snow/ice tuning with quality tools.  Quality tools produce quality results, whether it be quality metal edge files or diamond hones.  Edges are now a pursuit rather than a chore.  It's satisfying.  I have a library of wax that suits many conditions instead of just slapping on what I have.  I know what I'll bring for important races, and although it's expensive, it's not near the cost of bike racing equipment!

I've picked up Lange race boots.  I have very skinny feet, and my feet always swim in my boots.  Not these ones.  I move my feet and my body and skis move, instead of getting lost in translation.  It's like a sports car vs. an SUV.  I got old model year and alpine race skis (slalom and GS) to make more use of the Monday nights at COP in particular.  I'm very happy with the deals accessed on all of these.  Why alpine boots?  Besides a couple days of cross training (heels locked down is weird!), the boots provided another useful set of information - it's the first set I've had that are properly canted, footbedded, etc. to deal with my flat feet and bow legs, which are both things that work directly against good inside edging.  The next challenge is to get my tele boots adapted with the canting information from the alpine fit.  Without long explanation, it's not as easy to accomplish with tele gear.  And I'd prefer to do much of it at the boot rather than shimming bindings, as I have several tele skis, and I don't want to multiply out the work, and I'd prefer not to have L and R skis.  Canted footbeds and shimmed cuffs are the first couple of steps.

Skiing is fast...  I now have Get a FIS speed rated race helmet and mouth guard to ward off concussion as best as possible if crashing, knock on wood I've still never really made head contact with snow in all these years of skiing, but it's both wise and necessary by club and Alpine Canada guidelines.  Further I have new magic underpants... ha ha... they're warm and protective. Get protective underwear for hips and tail ones with soft but instantly hard padding. And a back protector, again, warm and comfy, and makes the snow slides I've had so far a total non event! Skiing regularly at COP nights means clear goggles, an item that had been absent from my equipment list for quite a while, plus I even splurged for a second set for winter commuting at nights.

I've skied 15 times with coaching and video this season. Do it a thousand times and one might feel like progress has been made!  How to turn, how to weight, when to turn, when to initiate, how to initiate, stance, where to look, mental focus are all reviewed each run in my mind vs "just skiing". 

I've had a positive experience from reaching out to Altius Nordic Ski Club to have access to the ski jumps to practice the jump at speed and size, plus in a telemark landing.

I've been hammering away on the XC side.  It's been a mix of technique training from those who are qualified to help, and just brute force intervals.  My painful favourite is below our GS course at COP there's another 100 yards of gentle slope in between the XC area and the lift, which is partially occupied by a magic carpet for people learning.  I start at the bottom, point the skis uphill, and either skate or just double pole uphill.  The looks on the magic carpet riders faces is classic when I go faster and higher than they go... it's all good until especially the double poling ones I go until stomach muscle cramps set it!  Different muscles than cycling intervals but same engine.


Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Telemark World Cup, Steamboat Springs, Colorado

The above little note was published late last night.  It makes me happy, and puts forth the challenge once again of what lies ahead, the World Cup (and World Championships) stop in Steamboat Springs.  For those whom aren't familiar, this is what it looks like!

In that short little blurb is years of effort.  I had done all the constituent sports of telemark racing previously - tele skiing, and a dabble of jumping and XC skiing.  But to pull them into focus, sharpen them to the best I can, has been quite the mission. 

It's also been a lesson in kinship.  There isn't really "telemark school" handy, at least around here - like signing up for a local soccer team or even an alpine ski racing team.  After my first efforts last year in citizen races, I made a hierarchy and road map - the three sports, what critical performance skills/equipment/learnings I needed to accomplish in each, and what resources I could find to help me do so in each respective portion. 

Finding excellence on a ski edge or around a gate itself is a lifetime pursuit.  Same with a the glide and power of skate skiing.  Same again in the air, and all importantly, the reintroduction to ground.

I didn't have a lifetime, let alone three.  So I set out to learn as much as possible in a year.  I never promised myself or anyone else perfection, just doing it the best I can.  Measuring improvement is hard, although it has come as I've seen timed runs drop in duration.  Some days I'd think I should go home and take up knitting.  But over time the cumulative effect of all the millimeters of body angulation, mobility, sight patterns, lines, etc. started to pile up.  I heard some excitement from my coaches in person or on their video comments.  A ski patroller whom waited a second in an empty lift line to strike up a conversation with me said "it really looks like you've got those things figured out".  A couple people on the hill when I'd stop part way to lean on my poles and take a breather would say "I've never seen anyone carve telemark skis like that".  It helps to feel more confident.

But those aren't my effort.  I'd be doing the same turns I've done forever if it wasn't for the help of Mike Shragge, whom I've dubbed Telemark Jedi Master.  From chatting me up on a ski day and luring me into racing, to our afternoon skis together, Mike knows how to slice the sharpest turns around, and knows the mechanics to coax them out of others.  I'm so thankful of that.  Each incremental improvement helps, and once you feel it "nailed" in free skiing, then it's time to execute them with these rutted out icy GS courses with these red and blue poles coming at you way too quick and geez do I really have ~25m between these it feels like I have no room to.... argh!  Not to mention putting my younger lungs to the test on our skate ski lessons that served as technique tuneups to my brute force training!

But you talk to yourself down the course, you learn as you go.  Derek Mortson and Claudio Berto have been dosing me amply in their ski racing knowledge.  They're like yin and yang, and I love it.  Claudio builds from the ground up, Derek is the "hit the target" man.  It's either "turn higher, we want you attacking the line, on the edges" to "get your ass down hill as fast as you fucking can, this is racing, it doesn't always need to be pretty"!

Wesley Savillion and Max Thompson of Altius Nordic Ski Club this year were welcoming, helpful, curious and always supportive from my first "umm, hi, sorry to bug you but wondering if I could talk my way into some ski jump access..." to present! 

It's been such a pleasure to meet, chat with, learn from, and... at least thus far in actually making a first goal, not disappoint these people that have helped out so much!

Sunday, 1 February 2015


I've been meaning to ski at Marmot Basin for years, and a double header gs/slalom race weekend got me up there. I did the gs race Sunday and finished respectably on my tele setup. 

Sunday I free skied and checked in on the slalom guys. I saw a caribou on the hill. 

We left early from Cindy's Jasper strolling to make it home by dinner, with a stop at the ice fields. I have some granola bar snack to a big crow. They are smart animals. And I wouldn't usually feed wildlife, but buddy makes a life up here, and a few easy and healthy calories couldn't hurt too much.