torsdag 23. mars 2017

Utrente Gubber Oppmuntres til å Delta

Med litt grått hår og første tegningene av en god solar-panel for opplading meg selv når eg fyller 60 år, er det nå eller aldri for å komme i form.

Jeg var nokså topptrent som 21 åring, med et hvilende hjerterytme på 36-42, og på sykkel 8 timer minst fra April til Oktober, pluss langtur i de skotske fjellene i blant, pluss litt kampsport, svømming osv. Jeg er ikke noe idrettsmann i utgangspunkt, uten særlig talent og uten kanskje en "VO2 Maks" som er i nærheten av noen som virkelig var trent da.

Nå sliter jeg med norske forhold som middelalders idiot i spandex-bokser. Jeg liker dårlig å løpe. Jeg liker dårlig skiføre som er enten blaut eller isete. Jeg er ikke villig å ta min 'god' eller min trofast terrengsykkel ut på veiene som er saltet eller skogsveier som har tilfeldig isflekker i skyggene, når det er ingen skispor. Jeg prøvde løping is skaugene i fjor, men jeg fikk, som i alle forsøk før i tiden, skader og en dårlig rygg.

"Ærlige Unnskyldninger. Jeg er i for mye
 av et tidsklem for å være føresnobb" 

Ærlige unnskyldninger- jeg er i for mye av et tidsklem til å være en føresnobb. Løsning kan være å flytte på meg til Lillehammer og bo på hytte der oppe ved Sjusjøen. Og så reiser til det mystiske, varme landet som heter Syden, som ikke er i Britiske feriebrosjyre forresten, men som Nordmenn er kjempe glad i å besøke.

Jeg giddet ikke gidder en gidd for å bli med i en treningstudio i fjor, og holdt meg til sykkel tur om vår og sommeren og krysset fingrene når snøen kom i store mengder i seint November. Det ble lite av, og det var ikke ideelt, men gøyal var det i en uke. Silkeføre et par dager! Og her på Sørlandet! Då besøkte jeg Vegårshei og Kleivvann på besøk i Aust Agder og fikk stor skiglede! The Joy of Ski ! Ah! Å! Ø!

Men problemet er at jeg mister formen litt i de månedene mellom sykkel og ski, og sommer svømming som det blir mye av nå i ferskvann, er nesten utbrent når det gjelder gjenværende effekt så snart skistaver finner plass på potene mine. Jeg har ikke god nok form for å komme i form!!

Jeg ser for meg at jeg kan bare løse dette problemet ved å kjøpe rulleski. Eller bli med i en studio med fancy 'turbo' ski maskin som isolerer musklene i et litt kjedelig, fastbundet,intense, svette,  innendørs type tortur foran mange andre, bedre trent og noen skeptiske kjerringer som flirer på sarkastisk måte.


 "...det er mye bedre for kroppen min 
å ikke ha hviledag hver annen dag, 
men i stedet til å trene to - tre dager på rad"

Men det som var godt med sesongen var en liten oppdagelse om treningsform og planer - det er veldig usikkert i disse dagene om vi får snø med brukbar skiføre i mer enn en uke, og hvis jeg må ta oppdrag i "supply chain" konsulent-tjenester et annet sted uten tid for å gå på ski. Altså, når snøen kom i November og jeg var ledig (og fattig!) for oppdrag, var jeg ute og gikk på ski ofte, særlig når jeg så de blå tallene i langtidsvarslet på Yr.no, forsvinner til fordel for syv plussgrader. Pøh!

Men jeg fant ut at jeg nå er jeg blitt gubbete og at jeg ikke er så trent og heller ikke forventer " å pushe" meg selv, å gi bånn gass med det første. Det viser seg at det er mye bedre for kroppen min  å ikke ha hviledag hver annen dag, men å trene to-tre dager på rad. Innenfor de rammene har jeg fått mye større fordel enn å holde meg til å trene tre dager i uken men ta det med ro i og mellom hver trenings tokt/økt.

Hviling er mest viktig etter at man har påført en stor belastning på hjerte, lungene og musklene. Så er det viktig å la immunforsvaret å komme seg fordi det dempes ved de hardeste øktene. Ole Einar Bjørndalen er paranoiker over at han skal bli smittet og bor på egen bo-bil med luftfukterapparat slikt han ikke blir tørr i neseborene og halsen og utsatt for virus.  Kroppen reparerer seg selv, og hjerte pumper langt og høyt en god stund etter de tøffeste eller lengste turene. Men for en gubbe som meg, jeg ikke oppnår slike ved sesongstartet. Jeg vet jeg begynner sakte og jeg vet at det skal være litt vondt, og nå vil jeg unngå så mye av det. Kroppen min er klar for en ny belastning neste dag slikt det lære seg å bli trent igjen.

Det er ikke så rart. Vi egentlig huske ikke når vi folk fleste som har tullete litt med å komme i kjempe form når vi ikke en gang hadde nådde 24 år gammel, at det var vondt og vi fikk skader, og vi måte tøye, og at vi hadde noen større smerter som betydde vi måtte hvile en helg eller glipper en konkurranse. Vi bare glemmer alt om hvor hardt det var, og huske hvor bra det var å være så trent, og hvor raskt vi kunne , hvor langt, hvor lenge, osv osv.

 En eldre kropp (under 75 -80 år) trenger litt mer tid å komme seg i form, og vil aldri oppnå toppformen en 21 eller 33 åring vil avhengig på hvilken idrett de var med i. Folk flest blir letter skadd fordi de ikke har trent hardt i flere år og de trekker for hardt! Det tok meg tre år, tre sesonger å komme i så god form som jeg var på sykkelen, delvis fordi kroppen fortsatt å vokse men også fordi sykkelsport er tøff særlig når du er litt større. Det skulle kanskje ta meg like langt med 8 timers trening per uke for 'å runde merket ' i Birke'n nå. Har jeg tid til slikt tull?

Ok, så treningsøkter to eller tre dager på rad før litt hviling. Selvfølgelig er det variasjon i treningsøkter  Med skitur og på sykkelen er det alltid en del interval-trening, det kommer med fremgangsmåten i seg selv. Men det er å tenke gjennom litt når du skal først ut den første dagen i en to -tre dagers serie.  Å ta kroppen opp til høyt fart litt raskere og vare litt kortere tid, eller å varme opp godt og å tøye seg før enn lengre tur?


Etter min mening skal silkeføre benyttes til lengre tur i langsommere tempo, med mye fokus på teknikk frem for konsentrasjon om intensitet.

Men det er ofteste skiføre som har største betydning for meg i alle fall. Silkeføre og då er det fristende å gå hardt inn på det fordi føret tilgir mye smått i dårlig fraspark og staking. Men då er det nøyaktige tidspunktet å planlege to mil som skal slukes. ( 2 mil forresten, i litt 'pace' er langt for meg, mer om dette snarlig) Langtur med fokus på utholdenhet og teknikk, nyt det gode føret til å føle maks glid og effekt fra fraspark og dobbeltak med fraspark. Konsentrerer deg om pusting og å holde 'hjulane i gong' ved den høye virkningsgraden i spark-stak-glid ligningen at du finner fram til i de første halvtime.

"Jeg Streber å Bli Mosjonist. 
Jeg er Bevegonist!"

Vi har langs kysten ofte skiftende forhold i været og til følge, skiføret.  I år er jeg glad for å ha fått 'pelskledde' "skin" ski, fordi en dag er det blå, så neste dag blir det lilla, så over til rødt og så clister men vent litt, her kommer ny snøfall og ti kuldegrader. Skiene funker jo og ikke blir slit i løpet av en sesong i henhold til en god universal-klister jobb som for meg, på siste ganske trøtte, myke ski, varte kanskje 2 mil maks. Jeg har blogge ganske mye på engelsk om de, men de hjelper. Med så skiftene og ofte dårlige fører (hmm, hvis det er flertall i føre), isete i skyggene og blaut der solen smiler ned hele dagen, det skulle være en hel sesongs eksperiment å bruke mye tid på gode smøring- eller clister- jobb og sammenlikner skiene i en halvtime. Føre har ikke vært bra i snitt, men skiene får feste når det teller. Så lenge det er tekstur og krystaller i sporene så vil skiene finne feste, og en veldig god del glid uten at man ligger merk til pelsen som er i midten som en 'brasiliansk' jobb på yngre damer. Når det er blaut og renner litt vann, så suger de en del grunnet være venusberget på bunnen, og når det var kram snø, var det for mye spenn i dem.

Igjen vil jeg si at jeg ofte har ikke tid  til å trene 8 timer hver uke. Eller jeg gidder ikke nok for å slkive ut tiden med familie og koseblogging osv.....Jeg strebe faktisk å bli mosjonist. Jeg er bevegonist! Jeg beveger meg opp ut av sofaen i blant når føre er greit nok. Jeg finner på lite fysiske aktivitet , ikke nok i allefall, i de saltet, skittne måneder mellom sykkeltur og skitur.

Jeg tok min aller siste skitur i går. Deilig og litt slitsomt i påskeføre med et underlag av is. Motstanden noen steder var stor men det var fordelaktig for å få mer ut av treningsøkten. Korreksjon, hvis jeg får en unnskyldning for å reise til fjells så tar jeg det som siste skitur før neste vinteren kommer i september. Hvis jeg får meg ut i påske då gir jeg litt tips til dem Northug og Nordhaug ;-)

















onsdag 22. mars 2017

Atomic Skintec 4000s - Are skin Skis the Way to Go for Training and Fitness Skiing?

Just to give my own personal skis and experience over a few hundred kilometers on them. To summarise, as before in an earlier blog, the ski's are pretty much as good as the conditions.

 You can't expect to really get the most of a ski with a hard arch tension and a mohair insert which will have some friction and waterlogging effects, on the type of conditions we get here need the coast.


'Last Couple of Day's Conditions. We often get thaw back to this and then new snow in spring. At least it was firm and the slush wasn't too deep today.


Today the conditions were actually not bad because the ice had been churned by the machines not that long ago, and the sun as you see was melting the structure a fair bit to a softer texture. In truth it looked like a far better day for skate skis.

The ski went well today, but it made me think about how much better a good clister job would have done on a slightly softer pair of skis. There is the dilema, you need then more than one pair of skis anyway! 

Today proved though that the skintec works on any condition where there is compacted snow which is still crystaline. Blue through purple to red hard waxes, and purple to silver and of course universal clister to the point when clister will work better on harder surfaces ( but suffer abrasion down to little again after 15 km) 

For list lovers then: Plusses and Minusses: 


+ Works on Wax Conditions with Old and New Laid Tracks
+ Works in the wetter easter snow
+ Really good kick and glide in 'silky' blue and purple with firm track bases.
+ Perhaps in lillac/ blue conditions, you can scale a steeper hill before fishboning comes in
+ Seem to avoid icing while keeping good grip in Zero conditions or mild air on cold tracks too
+ (ski not skin) The arch tension in the ski is good for glide and double pole with kicking
+ Works better than wax it seems in the mid lane out of the tramlines
+ Can skate on them usually because they do not 'snag' on the mid lane and they are high tension


- Doesn't work at all on very icey (where ice clister would be best) or very hard, transformed compacted tracks
- Doesn't work well at all on fine, cold new snow. 
- Gets waterlogged it seems, and looses some traction
- Can suck on downhills when waterlogged 
(ski not skin) The arch tension in the ski is a little hard for soft conditions

They Suck - But Not Often


That would be the biggest issue there above underlined- I noticed these spring days that the skin will suck right down on even a fast down hill when the ski finds a soft spot or the contour fills the arch, and it is like putting the brakes on a bike on. 

Then to release it you have to rock back to your heels and the ski flies off again, which is of course to be expected with a pretention in that arch matching 100-120kg skiers. On a faster section you can forgive this a bit, but not if you were racing or if you then needed to step out of the tram line, or one ski plough brake, because that might knock you off balance with a thump. 

This also shows itself in undulating terratory when it gets wet or porridgey in the tracks- the ski will not glide well, although you dont feel it like brake blocks coming on, it just is there. 

I would guess that the ski skin glider / protector sprays are the way to go. I tried and HFC shoe polish style rub a couple of times, and I think it helped with waterlogging, but also I think I lost a little traction when I needed it most in the shadowy sections where the tracks hadn't started melting.

Ski For Your Weight and Style


Here comes a little of the rub. Atomic have made a training ski which is used by some pros in their team, which has quite probably a very consistent arch tension (spenn) due to carbon being used in the construction. They are a mid to high range ski, depending on your tastes and local shop and prices. However they have made the 208 cm model a monster ski which a 125kg, 2 m high giant could use as skate skis. They have a tension which is just too much for soft conditions, and quite hard work in good conditions, while in the hard conditions it seems it works against itself too, but does allow for a really fast poling ski. 

So what were they thinking of? There are very few competitive skiers over 90kg let alone 100kg, so an advanced, stiff semi racing ski is not going to be ideal for the presumably less fit buyer and actually less trained yours tuly.  Well I did get a pair of these on the tension tester machine, and 208 was correct because the feeler gauge just got to the tip of the skin with some tiny friction the last inch or so. But the thing is that the skin is quite slipply in fact in glide phase because it seems never to pick up ice crystals, it brushes them backwards of course! Also this 4000 version is a built in skin, unlike its immediate predecessor which looks very similar as a ski, which has the magnetic removable insert, with two versions. So they maybe placed the skin too far forward. 

Another guy I met and paced with had the Fischer trainer-tourer skin ski with the thinner, twin skins and a traditional groove. He had poorer glide, yet about the same grip, and he didnt seem overweight. 

Skis vary as do conditions, so I would say have a think about your average conditions and if you have a good old wax pair for softer conditions, or if you want a skin ski for soft conditions and then a hard 'clister' ski for hard conditiions. The longer the insert, and the broader it is, the more it will create possible friction and waterlogging. Get the skis on the test meter and see where the feeler gauge meets fur ! Then do the floor test too for old times sake, both skis with a sheet of A4 paper under. 

I would say buying two pairs of skin skis is going to be a bit of a bad thing to do, a soft and a hard, because then you get into conditions where the skin doesnt work anyway  ie new snow, or ice, or waterlogged when the arch is not that hard in the ski. You are better thinking if you do most of your skiing on high mountain conditions to get a skin ski and then a soft ski for blue waxing through to the spring thaw melting and harder conditions for clistering them up. Some ski areas in the Rockies and Canada, tend to get a large early dump of snow and then the tracks get older and firmer for most of the season. So that would suit the idea above, a harder skinski and a soft, loose day and end of season waxed ski which is softer in arch tension.

I conclude this year, being the sixth not very great season in a row after two seven month -blue and lillac stonkers in 2010-2011, that it is the conditions and not my skis which are the issue!! However I can see that I need a softer pair of skin skis,  and I need to get hold of a pair of clister skis, again not quite as hard as the 4000s because I feel I need a quicker contact with clister - to be able to feel how hard I need to 'paw' or slide on the harder base conditions. 




With shorter seasons, the hard spenn skis are tough to work up to pace on, a bit like a high geared track bike needing more power and technique to be built up over time. 


So picking your ski is a bit of a Science for your own personal art - a soft ski is easy to get up and going, but will limit your speed and development of a powerful kick (perhaps!) Even for a new beginner a soft ski can be a mistake for mountain conditions, especially if they are investing a bit of money in the sport there and then. 

A hard ski - correctly measured for your weight that is, not too hard -  will allow you to grow in style and keep 'the wheel rolling' - for example double pole with or without kick will be much more effective and once good in technique, energy efficient on a hard spenn ski. 

A medium spenn ski is going to be a good allrounder for your style as a fitness skier I would say, because you are most likely concentrating on diagonal style. Also it will help you build up strength for the season, rather than for the ski,  like with mine! When we perhaps see a skin ski in shop like this, we look for approximately right length for your height and then check the arch tension for your weight. I would say take it down 10kg and see how the feeler works, then up 10 kg too. Here you get an idea for the different loadings caused by hard or softer bases, and can see how the ski might suck too much if it is too soft. I say you can allow for some feeler 'rub' on the skins at the front on your own weight, and not be looking to have the skin off the snow completely ie feeler guage all the way forward and into plastic before it finds friction. Mine are about an inch and a half of friction on the scale, perhaps then two to two and a half would be better, but then that would suck more on wet conditions.

lørdag 18. mars 2017

Birkebenrennet - Do-Able for Me ?

Birken run went today in glorious weather with a massive margin on the win for Martin Sundby, surviging even a Skidoo attack on the closing miles! Unfortunetly that was all which I have seen televised today as I was hoping for the type of coverage from the national channel akin to the BBC, which is NRK here.

Seemingly NRK had called the ski run's organisers bluff and not paid for TV rights at all, perhaps I am cynical. Anyway this was the very year I would want to see the course on TV and hear the race reports from different competitors, or participants as many are, on conditions, ski waxing etc.  I have half a mind to train up for it!

The run is 54km which at current appaling fitness level would take me 5 hours odd, at a measly 10km/h,. and that is without thiniking about the weighted rucksack you must carry all the way. The furthest I recall logging in a session has been 22km, on a partiuclarily crisp day when I was a little under clothed and got cramps in my legs. I could have managed 30 km. Also my skis seem a little slow, I was on my fast touring skis, not my atomic training slim n' straight ones. It was only a couple of km longer than my very first day on skis at Geilo, when the instrtuctor said I was a little fool hardy doing the 'round the fjord' 14km after our session first had been up about 6km. I couldnt walk the next day for any distance and the thought of snowboarding which I had planned for the next two days,  sent me back to bed with a hot drink.

Ski choice though is important for getting the most efficeincy out of your efforts of course, as is waxing or having the right conditions if you have 'furry soled' waxless like my Atomic Skintec 4000s. I noted Sundby was going like a train with relatively broad skis, presumably because of the extra weight he had to carry, and perhaps some soft conditions. Oh, breadth, length and arch tension..... how many pairs of skis to think about!!

Ideally then you may want to have a soft pair , possiobly a bit broader for new snow or slushy conditions to encourage float and make kicking adhesion work better. These would then not be skin skis, because these are conditions they do not work in, not all that well. In new snow they grip badly at lower temperatures , typical blue conditions, while in sliush they get waterlogged. They have an advamntage in zero conditions though, which you may experience underway.  Then  you could have your hard pair as skin skis, which would cover any older snow condtions right up to very firm, but not glazed conditions.

An akternative to both wax or skin skis, would be using Start grip tape, with a good application using a hair dryer or wax iron to a very clean, rubbed base. This stuff realluy does what it says on the box, and covers much the same range as skin skis,  but tackling loose and wet snow much better. It is very resistant to wear in normal conditions, and tends to neither pick up too many hard crystals nor hold onto them that long. They have a race version I have not tried, but this would be a good alternative if  you get to try them out on your skis first in a range of conditions, and get the length of application right, which in my experience is longer than clister zone, but shorter at the front and at the sole than a blue wax job. I had one applicatiion last a couple of months in mid winter, doing maybe 200 km in total, before though just two days 15km total took them down to almost bare.

Skinsks have the appeal for runs like Birke'n in that they dont need to be rewaxed as long as there are crystaline conditions and clean tracks without new snow, hard ice or slush. The issue with climbing is that you need a soft wax like purple to get under way and do the major diagonals on the way up (VR 50 VR 55 swix recommended today, on a clister binder with melted in green base known as a pro level endurance job) while the temperature usually drops and snow copnditions become mountain over the top and towards Sjusjoen. Soince there seems to be a good degree of double-poling (staking) once the first ascent is out the way, you could do a 'pocket only' job with lillac wax and hope it is grippy enough yet wears off enough so as not to clog with the colder, harder crystals over the top sections of the course.

Skin skis then today, would have been ideal with a range expected at my start time of almost zero at the start and down to minus 3 to minus six on the highest points. There would be little risk given the tracks were of course run through the night after any last snowfall was expected and done with decent weight onto a good base prepared in forehand. However the wrong arch tension could have made a messy day for you. Skinskis also by in large have a clister zone insert, which ends half way down the sole of the foot. So you could add about three to four inches of wax, or dare I say clister or even grip tape if conditions were to be loose or particularily hard on some portions of the Briken or any other run.

My 4000s are a bit too hard arch tension (spenn) for my current style as soon as the snow base becomes a little soft or gets icey. However it looked like they would have done fine today, and I would have been able to pole effectively much of the slack way down from the highest point witthout hindrance. However I think I could compromise with a little less in order to train up in longer, lighter tours and build my technique a little more, especially in the 'keep the wheel rolling' double pole with kick, which for me suits a softer ski I think. A softer skin ski may be a mistake though, because the skin might drag too much. However what really tires you physically and mentally is back slipping or not getting your effect of double pole kick over the semi fast sections. Staking over flat and softer snow down hill is very tiring, although fast for lighter skiers, it is not as efficient for a big skier like me as double with kick I beleive at least.

So I would be opting for about a 10% less stiff skin ski for the distance as in todays blue/violet, or over to older,cold hard snow and up to zero conditions. For pluss conditions I would opt for a softer pair of clistered skis with a green spray and ironed in wax, and rilling and glider done by a pro at the specialist shop here. For a new snow forecast , or possibility for a lot of wind blown snow, then I would opt for the same softer skis and do a day wax ontop of a good base and blue mid layer. VR seems to work a lot better in terms of durabilituy than no flourinated Blue and Lillac, but beware the temperature ranges are little different than standard wax.

Back to training up. Because we often have soft, new and melting snow here near the coast, I could not see myself doing forty km training sessions on my 4000s 2.08m long planks. I do see skins work well because one day it is blue, the next red, so purple so clister and I would save hours on end stripping and reapplying waxes. My 4000s would then be used for shorter, intense sessions where I practice sustained glide and timing the repowere after each glide phase on each leg optimally. You just cannot be lazy with them, they need a hard press down each time to release that carbon fibre insert.

Training up means about 8  hours a week until two weeks before apparently, when you do one last full lenght run or even 60km and then you scale back to intensity, before a light session three days out, and just stretching and suppleness two days up to it. To come in at 12km an hour, in just under five, then I would need to do that 8 hours a week for about three months, which would require either a good old fashioned winter, or access to a cabin above 500 m. lacking that, a gymn with specialist ski machines would help, or even roller skis of course. We are lucky to have 15 km of fairly gentle cycle lane alongside the route of the main road, with very little fish bone  and only a couple of iffy downhills for yours truly. It really is an option with short sessions with the ratchet on, and longer round tours with skate style for endurance.

Given though very silky conditions on the day with snow just a couple of days old, and a stable temperature profile, ort one which favours skin skis, then I can see i could complete it with a lot less training, and having actually not done the whole distance before. But that would not really give me the satisfaction of peaking out from a good season.

Logistically it is annoying and expensive, but some clubs get packages together win bus and hotel combis to get you there and back., and there are some showers lorried in i believe. A bath tub is what is needed, and a sauna after, so an overnight stop in telemark somewhere on the way home, with poissibility for a morning swim in a heated indoor pool would be the ideal. All in all this is looking at not much change from a bout a thousand pounds, for entry, bus,. hotel and food. For me that would make it once in a life time.

If next season proves to be a good one, with an artic oscillation and the scandinavian high dominating from early winter, then I am determined to trian up for a 42km run, either the Telemarkhelten or one of our own concotion with my offshore mates if that does not match, or it is blown off or too cold. I am then not fussed if it becomes 42km on mountain touring skis, or in nicely laid tracks, as long as it isnt four times round a 10km course.

So I need three things, A softer pair of skis, skin or not, a good winter and a goal of 42 km before I decide to invest time and money in a future birken,. Next year it reaches 80 years old, but for me what ever year I do it will be the right year for me!




































lørdag 11. mars 2017

XC Ski Season 2017 - And Goals for 2018!

Here we are again! Another short season, helped out a little with a dump in late november which gave us some fun for a week or so back then.

Summary of the Winter 2016-17 then:


Conditions:

 Variable, with shallow bases making the whole set up a little firmer than last winter's dump. Ideal test for using skintec 'furry' skis which performed well on almost every day, from new snow, wet easter snow to hard snow.

Fitness: 

I found that I respond much better to going out several days in a row rather than every other day. I could literally feel the tone and condition in my muscles coming on over the course of the first three days I got out at the beginning of February.

For me personally this is a bit of a break through in training philosophy, because before I used to do a hard hour sweat sess', rest day, long easy session day, rest day and avoid going every day.

Double poling and double pole with single kick have been techniques I have worked a little upon, especially the latter, and had pretty good response.

Due to the shallow snow I found that I was getting much better efficiency for all the techniques, with some days when the skin was giving ideal kick-glide pay off, being as if my skis were electrically assisted.

I have varied my training with up to three hour, steady sessions but always with some pushing of my envelope. No sessions have been less than an hour, and I have tried to peak in the shorter sessions after a careful warm up, and attempt a warm down.

My back as usual has been crampy the first few times out, especially with a bum-bag, so I will need to do more pilates and find a new, specific exercise for the classic langrenn stance.

Technique: 


This winter (in the spell in November too) I have been concentrating solely on classic style. This is because I wanted to really test out my new Atomic Skintecs to see if they were the allround training ski I was looking for ( I got them for a bargain 600 kr in VGC!!). They have proven to be as good as the conditions!

The hard 'spenn' ie stiff pre-tension, of the Skintec I have with carbon section in the walls, is challenging for me but I have concentrated a lot on getting the style of pressing with the whole sole of the foot as the hip swings under the body weight. In soft conditions I have had to use a more 'bull pawing' technique with the ball of the foot so as to get the ski in and down to attain grip and this is quite tiring.

Also I have been trying to get the swing forward to work such that the ski lands more parallel and does not clap down. I have exagerrated this a bit and also tried to find glide and fit tempo to glide, with great success. Before I was trying to stick to a tempo and perhaps miss glide opportunities.

This year I failed to concentrate more on balance and manoevrability which lead to me losing my bottle on what may be the last day of the season. As mentioned, skate skiing should be part of my first few hours out of a season to get back that sense of balance and confidence to power off and step turn on one ski.

Double pole with kick has beena  technique I found difficult and I felt outright clumsy using it. Now though I have been able to improve my timing/coordination and sneak the ski forward before kicking and it all seemed a lot more natural this year, with very surprising improvments in speed over 'slack' sections where poling alone is slow and diagonal a little too 'glidey'. This year the shallower snow has no doubt helped my improvement in this technique because I found last year that it was sucking me of energy for little actual propulsion on my newly aquired, stiffer skis. I was either not getting kick or having to dig and brake a little in finding it last season.

If anything this year I am most pleased then, with my improvement in Double Pole with single kick, because it should be an efficient technique in 'keeping the wheel turning'. I found I had really amazing return on investment so to speak when using this, with the profit in speed and maintaining momentum vastly outweighing the input of energy and concentration.

Having said all this I do now see that the racing brigade in the club and especially the sixty somethings, have much better efficiency than me. They are at least 40kg light than me though, and forty years more experienced than me, so I win on moral handicap. I see that my fitness only needs to come on about say 20% to enjoy training runs with the better folk in club, while my technique for the day's conditions needs a bit more work perhaps. If I am serious about trying to keep up with the better guys in their easy to medium sessions, then I had better get a softer pair of skis for softer conditions.

Skis: 


I have been soley using my Atomic Skintec, and found them to be excellent if conditions are not fully 'polished' hard, concrete like, or on the other end of the scale very soft. New snow with a lot of air (kramsnø) presents a problem which may mean I revert to my broader tour skis on such days which float my weight much better.

I havent used my skate skis at all this year for various reasons, having only combi boots and classic poles holding me back a little, but more that there has been gravel or soft conditions in the mid sections of the runs, and the best place for beginners like me in this art, was only opened last week and will be closed later today when the rain sets in unfortunately.

This is a real shame because I am moving job to Østfold where they often have very little snow in winter, and I would like to get into roller skiing in skate style as a form of out of season training. Also as I noted yesterday on what may be my last outing, my balance on hard, rilled suurfaces was really poor so a few sessions out plodding around on skate skis would have helped once again!

I recommend that anyone interested in taking up the sport or doing back country tours, learns first to skate on skis because it will improve you balance and general manoevrability enormously over just sticking to the tram lines and sliding your skis as most new beginners do.

Goals for 2018


Well I suspect I need a big goal, and that would be today's run in fact, the Telemark Helten (Hero of Telemark) in Rauland. This is a 42km race with varied height but is not as extreme as Birk'en and for me a lot more manageable logistics from home.

This will mean training sessions of up to 4 hours, or two three hour sessions in a day, which will mean using winter holiday to get the miles in to the legs while enjpoying varied scenery and good conditions up in the mountains rather than purely relying on the now variable and poor lowland conditions we seem to be getting in south Norway now.

I aim to start the season on skate skis, or perhaps try Skikes or roller skis in the summer even. THis summer I will concentrate on cycling with a comnbination of steady sessions, hill climbing and sprinty interval sessions. I also intend to do some elg hoofing in the autumn up in woodlands, once the salt gets put on the roads. I find my brisk walking helped this year because I pushed it to over 10km once or twice a week, and kept up a good series spurned on by borrowing a neighbours dog. But it isn't quite intense enough. I should be able to join a gymn and work on treadmills and weights, plus pilates.

Over the summer I have to loose some weight !

Equipment next year


I have stretched my combi boots out this year too, despite them being a little worn in places. Jens Stoltenberg has a pair! They help a bit with ankle control on longer down hills and if you of course want to skate a bit, which you can usually do very well on skin skis btw. The boots have a mediocre lining which has given way around my spurred heels, and are patched over with spinnaker tape for now. Next year I need two sets of boots and a set of longer skate poles! So I am in for quite a big hit in terms of cash.

I would like to have a softer pair of skis for softer conditions next year, but there is a company which will machine out sections of the sole and stick in what looks like velcro (and probably is). Otherwise grip tape does a good job until it gets hard in the tracks.

Given my boots survive and I get used equipment then I would be better spending the cash saved on some Cabin tours with pals, to enjoy 'blue wax' conditions and do some longer days slow, steady training.

I will also have to look at cleaning my skins and maybe using a spray on them. I used a roll on glider over them which has seemed to give benefit, if a little loss of grip perhaps, difficult to say in this year's variable conditions.

Given wads of cash, I would like to have another, softer pair of skin skis which would be the alternative for those times i have been slogging away.

torsdag 9. mars 2017

"Your Skis Maybe a Bit Over Excited"? - XC Ski Flex - Arch Tension and Choosing the Right Ski.


Ah the dangers of Google Translate. If you ask it to take the Norwegian  for what a ski's "spenn" means,  Google will give you 'excitement'..... because 'spenn' has a meaning somewhere around 'tense' and is used for excitment as well as the pre-tension in your ski bend!

However getting the right 'spenn' in the skis you choose is a science. As with all good science there are equations and formulas, where you have to input the data and pre-conditions to get a correct or at least appropriate answer out of it. It is all too easy to get things wrong and end up with a pair of skis which are incorrect for your ability, your usual local coniditons or for that Birkebeiner once in a life time ski-run. 

Trend to Stiffer Skis at Elite Level


For those of you who don't follow the sport, there has been a trend over the last five years or so,  where skiers in the classic, kicking style have moved towards a predominant 'double poling' technique  (Staking in Norwegian) with skiers not doing any diagonal kicking at all, and using a 'service' kick wax to comply with the rules. Mandatory 'diagonal' ie kicking sections have now been introduced but on some runs like the Marcialonga it pays to go fast and pole along.

 Skis for this are accordingly harder in their arches - they have higher pre tensioning in their design, such that the skier is held above the snow and glides on the optimal sections with a good contact area. Also there is a degree of return-spring which helps lift the skier up for the next full body compression which thrusts them forward.

In effect these specialist skis are getting quite like skating skis. You can indeed say that classic (when not fishboning up a hill) is actually parallel skating if you are doing it correctly, with the base of the ski providing the resistance rather than the edge when you power outwards and backwards in skating.

However this type of hard, poling ski is just not going to be anywhere near the ideal ski for a new beginner or even the average club competitor. 


The Wrong Skis Gromit!


This trend to harder sprung skis is too much of a good thing in classic, both for the FIS and perhaps for yours truly! It is a myth that for the average fitness skier or club level competitor, a softer ski gives necessarily bad. (try running this through google translate from some aficionados in Oslo) . 

Take me as a perfect example. I wanted a pair of sports skis, or training skis as they are often called, which are thinner and nearly straight along their legnth, and designed therefore only for prepared runs. I would say that my tour skis were neither all that good for 'tram lines' nor for back country, but after some reflection they have their place and certainly if you are carrying weight or have long down hills, then some in swing on the side and a 2.5 inch or so broad ski is of benefit, especially in new snow. I digress, I had noticed as I wrote yesterday, that pensioners were flying past med despite my good efforts, and they just seemed to have more efficiency out of skinny skis. 

Now as it happens Atomic chose to launch a quite advanced training ski, pretty much pro level, with a 'mohair' insert as their Skintec TM waxless solution. They have been out at least four seasons now, and I saw their distinctive orange markings more and more often over time, especially amongst pensioners who choose to have another round of coffee and cake rather than be bent over a pair of skis in the waxing shed. I was more sure about the tension technology in fact than the waxless because it is a carbon supported system which is compliant until you press in the swing and kick, when they in theory then go through to a new phase when they act like a softer ski. ( Read Yesterday's blog for the skin technology verdict).

The skis work really well in a variety of conditions, but and here is the but, they do not like soft base snow. Here it is hard to get a kick because you seem to just keep digging for traction, while also it is hard to double pole well because the narrow skis on my weight plough down into the substrate. I don't feel the skin is to blame at all. I just really hadn't thought about how the average conditions the last three years or so have been down here, near sea level in South Norway.


Factoring in Variables When You Get *Fitted* for New Skis


There is then a rule of thumb here with conditions. So this should be an input to what level of 'excitement' your skis have ( a particle physcisist may be quite happy with the use of 'excitement' in the direct translation for level of pre-tension, flex or arch stiffness as you like to call it) The first inputs to your skis though are as follows.

1) Weight
2) Style - ability-  goal for season
3) Expected average conditions
4) Height

Usually the common-or-garden shop assistant would have sold you a ski using a height scale ten years ago here, but now luckily they have tensioning machines with feeler gauges at hand in most any decent shop or sports' chain-store. My 208cm skis are the same as those I had measured up for three winters ago, when the kind chap in the ski section showed me that at 110 kg I would just be experiencing some friction on the skin. 

However there in lies the myth- you do not really need to be fully suspended above the snow in the kick section. 

A really good kick waxing job will present very little friction - in fact if you look at the bottom of Pro's ski's while they walk to the start line, you will hardly be able to spot the wax. On a standard ski as well, you don't have to stick to the full legnth kick-zone all the way to wax mark (a good shop should put on by using the aforementioned machine!) and you should also remember that clister is at least an inch back from this at the front of the ski and the heel. In softer conditions and new snow, the whole ski will be in contact with the snow, but in gliding or downhill the most pressure will be where you want it, and a good wax or clister job will not pick up any excess crystals, and in fact should shed them during glide.

So you begin to see that this is not a descending order of factors, it is a set of inputs to the equation which will give an appropriate answer, with some small print.

Weight will give you then a guide for the tension of the ski you need, and height will help a shop assistant a little here if they don't have the skis premarked for kg skier weight as quite a few shops do now. This is because wooden core skis, the majority of amateur training skis, vary from ski to ski. They are luckily for us,  first matched as a pair in the factory, but they usually do not mark the ideal weight because it varies with style you see ! 

Style and ability now comes into play. If you are a keen sports skier, used to 'staking' ie double poling, and you have a powerful kick, plus a knowledge of waxing,  then a stiffer ski is appropriate ie the wax zone is measured as being free by the feeler gauge, or by the old fashioned A4 paper sheet on the floor with both feet on the skis. However, if you live in the North of Norway or ski most often at some altitude, then a softer pair will be better for the softer conditions you will encounter. 

Conditional Rule of Thumb Nr 2

Think of where you are going to be skiing and when you do most skiing:  

Do they prepare good tracks with a heavy machine, which would suit a harder 'spenn' in a ski?

 Do you get a lot of new snowfall or do you tend to ski a lot in older, harder tracks after an inital dump of snow each winter? 

This is then the second rule of thumb- for softer expected conditions, a softer ski will be better ande vice-versa. In hard, abrasive conditions, you want to heave your wax zone off the snow and limit the time the ski engages with the hard snow base, while often using clisters. Also you have the opportunity to double pole more which is proven to be more efficient, hence top elite atheletes are doing it more and more as I mentioned above. 

A softer ski will have less of the recommended wax zone off the snow, but there will be so little pressure exerted there onto soft snow bases that it will not slow the ski down. Over the course of a 10km ski run, you getting frustrated with how hard it is to kick down for grip will be far worse, and any back slipping or reversion to fish-bone style early will not be welcomed. 



Soft skis however have a disadvantage in soft, wet conditions, when the ski can suck more because it is all deeper into the substrate, but a nice thin clister job will help, or gliding the skin with glider spray will stop it becoming water logged and 'sucking' - which was quite extreme one day last week for me as the sun worked its way up a good downhill - it felt like being on a bike and slamming the brakes on as the skin entered a suck from being waterlogged! 

Now I put height at the bottom here, where as traditionally it was at the top. It could be that you rather like a bit of skating, or combi skiing under way just for fun, and are happy to pole along at your own sweet pace. Alternatively you may have poor tramlines or none at all, and need to find both grip and glide on beaten down flat snow. Here a higher amount of stiffness would be what to get, but not so high that you would struggle to get kick-grip.

Height has something to say with stability of the ski and balance such that the leverage of your body is matched by the legnth of the ski, but as said above, it is kind of a rough guide. Some manufacturers like fischer, have a 'short cut' design which is really saying you get a bit better spring from a shorter ski than would be traditional. My racing ski fits I have looked at, are all up at the very longest in the range, from 208 to 212 cm (2.08m- 2.11m) long due to my imodest total weight. 

Vary Your Wax Zone with Conditions

Once you understand the relationship between style, ability, weight and conditions, you can think about what length of wax zone will help get the most out of your skis. 

In softer, cold, new snow conditions you can choose to use a very hard base wax on the legnth of the zone, green or white, while then applying the day wax a good few inches back in, and perhaps stopping a couple of inches in from the heel towards the midsole. Go out and do some test kicks once the ski cools that is. You may get away with the day's wax just under the 'pocket' of the ski where there will usually be crystals when ever you care to look.

 A lighter skier can also use a slightly softer wax, so you could use a purple in the middle of the "pyramid" ie under the boot sole,  if you find the traction a little lacking  - even as cold as minus ten in new snow. The same will be true of a harder ski, which you may compensate for with a 'pyramid peak' of softer wax when conditions are soft.

Fluctuating 'zero' conditions are annoying because you get icing on the ski, or suck if water starts to form under the ski. Some skiers use a combination of a flourinated purple on some of the lenght of the foremost half of the kick zone, as far as the toes of the boot/binding area, and then stop here and use a clister under the sole in the 'pocket' which does not reach as far back as the heel. Thus any crystals which do get picked up will created minimal friction in the glide, and you get a good combination of grip as the temperature rises and falls. 

Hard, icey clister conditions entail that a softer ski has a shorter waxed zone, and once again you can test this out before you commit to the journey with an application which is not as far as the heel, and two to three inches short of the usual wax mark at the front half of the ski. A harder spent ski should be marked with a clister mark , which is usually in my brief glances at good skier's skis, about an inch and a half inboard of the usual mark so to speak. 

Slushy, Easter Conditions  The main thing you want to avoid here is suction onto the snow and water mix, so a shorter kick zone and use of a clister once again not as far back as the heel should be employed. There will be plenty of grip most of the time, unless it freezes back or you enter shadowy or higher areas where conditions are usually hard, 

You have a little challenge here in Easter sun slush,  because ideally you need to glide all the rest of the ski to prevent suction, so you will need to clean off glider to lay clister further out if needs be for more grip. You can compensate for a glider free zone by 'rilling' or just scraping up the areas you have not glided where you may want to extend clister, such that the water finds channels to run from and you avoid suction. Use a rough herring bone pattern to affect this under the heel and longer up the 'reserve' kick zone on the toe end. 

Kick Beats Glide on Longer Runs

Excluding the mostly down hill 'Marcialonga' in Italy, most longer ski runs have significant amounts of diagonal classic kicking. Experienced competitors will tell you that good kick is better than extremely good glide. That is rather to say that even a small percentage of back slipping and frustration will slow you more than a little extra friction. Bad glide though, where the kick wax holds crystals or clumps up even, or as above you experience suck in wet conditions, It is then a combination of 'nailed kicking' and good efficient, "profit" in glide from each kick and on faster, non kicking sections which counts. 

There is then a slight bias to allowing for better kick, so for example on the Birkebeinet which rises several hundred meters in its' arduous 54 km course, you will see some people choosing a little too soft a wax for the uphill and having to scrape and apply harder wax once they encounter a lot of crystals being embedded on their kick wax. Some wise old foxes wax with just one layer of soft wax and let it deterioate up hill, thus reaching colder snow and the harder wax beneath takes over!

This is a very good rule of thumb Nr 3 for ski touring from cabin to cabin, or not wanting to bother waxing much while on holiday or a longer day run. You can always lay a softer wax onto a harder one, and clister will sit on blue wax (if not maybe purple) if the sun melts the nice cold snow in the course of the day, or as you come round the ridge to the sunny side!  This is really where skin-skis (felleski) come into their own, as long as conditions don't verge towards 'blue ice clister'.

Limits of Ski Fun in Poorer Conditions

On that last point, ice-clister days, then I do declare that there is no perfect ski for diagonal kicking style. A reasonable ice clister job for me will last around about 10 km before the skis are bare on my older, softer tour skis. You will see people staking in these conditions a lot on the stiffer, sportier skis and you can presume that their blue clister is going to last longer as a kind of reserve for the sections which are between staking and fishboning. However as you see in big competitions, diagonal can be excluded from most all routes! 

A factor then we experience often here along the coast is thaw back and freeze, which has its worst effect of course on the bases of the 'tramlines' such that a wax job based on temperature is useless, and you have to use and take with you universal clister to make the tour possible with any diagonal kicking. 

Now having said this, if I had bought the Atomic training ski without the skin, then I would get some benefit from 'preserving and reserving' a blue clister job which would ride above the icey substrate, and then the ski would whip down in its' fancy carbon fibre mediated implosion, thus propelling me up the slopes. But that would be another pair of skis, which would be hard to use on the soft, easter conditions we seem to get as early as january these days! 

Two Pairs Are The Answer?

Unless you are very lucky or just ski for a short season, or holiday with stable weather and snow conditions, the actual qaulity of the snow is going to vary greatly over the course of a season. I know some of our local boys just use clister on their favourite pair of training skis,  because there is so often old snow from thaw-freeze events. Easter comes, and the sun shines brightly in the mountains, meaning you may want to either get the tour out of the way early on hard wax, or wait until the nice red wax conditions come in later in the morning. 


If you are just planning for a single long tour, then perhaps hiring skis when you get there is the best solution, and paying the shop to do atleast a good base wax and glider job if needs be for where you are going. The pair should then have a medium to soft 'spenn' such that you cover a range of eventualities if there is the chance for vairation in weather and snow base conditions. 

Planning your tour you want to think about how those base conditions will vary: Runs where they use just a skidoo to lay track will be softer in their bases that a piste machine so think of this too, this being even more true where you are likely to just be following other skiers tracks in the snow. Here you want to think about using a broader tour ski, although you do encounter people on sports skis following well defined back country routes.


Ideally though you want to think about two pairs of skis if you are going to do a lot of training over the course of a long season. One pair with hard flex as recommended for good, firm and hard conditions, and a soft pair for new snow, softer prepared bases, "off piste" ie back country,  and easter conditions. 

How About A Third Pair? 

The typical mid life crisis of 2010 it seems, entailed that the man of the house or lady of the clubhouse would invest in skate-ski kit. For those of you not au fait with XC skiing, there was a great 'Schism' caused by a guy called Koch, who gave up on kicking in the tram lines and propelled himself by a skating style. It was forced out to the sidelines as 'freestyle' only to really beocme a very prominent face of the sport when the ski-shooting biathaletes found it an easier style with a rifle on your back. Now it has eaven taken over the World Championship's longest events, the 30 and 50km for women and men respc. 

As mentioned above, skate skis have a very different look in their pre-bend. They are stiffer and the bend is longer. This means the skier is carried a little more a-loft of the snow, and relies on a fairly pronounced side swipe on the inner edge of the pushing ski, as well as a good deal of use of the entire body and arms to propell, rather gracefully, the whole show forward. 

Now I bought a pair, without investing in the proper boots or longer poles which are 'necessary' and have had some great fun learning. More over they have revolutionised my previously stiff mobility our of the tracks, by vastly improving my balance on skis. When refining my diaganol technique I worked out that in fact it is a parallell skate, with all the weight and thus glide pushed on to the leading ski. 

The real advantage of skate skis is perhaps in being able to go out on days when the bottoms of those tram lines have become concrete-like. I find quite often that the centre 'skate' lane on the forrest roads they prepare here, has a good deal more texture or 'bite' in,  that the concrete of the well worn tramlines, so you can get a very nice skate on the go, and then double pole at high speed in the tramlines. 

I would whole heartedly recommend that someone taking up XC skiing for fitness start off with skate skis (or maybe 'combi' skis if there are still any on the market) or in fact given my own instructive feel from about ten sessions on them, any beginner should be given a go at this 'freestyle' before being confined by the tramlines. 








søndag 5. mars 2017

Furry Skis? The verdict on skin-skis (felleski)

Apparently skis with an integrated mohair skins are nothing all that new, and since patents  ran out accordongly some time ago, all the main XC makers now offer 'furry soled skis'. However is this all just a fad?

Historical Beginners Skis

Patterned waxless skis got a bad name because they were mostly the reserve of beginners' products. However Atomic offer quite a few tour good skis with pattern,  for the North American market in particular it seems, and Salomon also have some better skis with rough patterns. Fischer have a near pro level ski (XCS carbon if I remember right) with their own patented pattern, which work quite well in my personal experience, and many an  "Oslo 50" or Birkebeiner competitor has a pair of these in reserve in the car in case conditions are going to vary greatly.

With Waxless patterned skis, by in large you get a longer zone which is patterned than that which is waxed or clistered up, because it has to grip in all conditions. This means they usually make a lot of noise on down hills, which means friction of course in what should be the glide zone. I would recommend grinding off and polishing the front of many of the patterned sections and taking either a short skin or clister with you for the more difficult days, rather than enduring the noise and extra friciton of one-size-fits all.  Also in some conditions the bare plastic will ball up with snow, so in fact they are no totally preparation free, they need to be glided.

Do the new integrated skin-skis make up for the short-comings of the older waxless, patterned skis?

Enter the Flush Furry Ski-:Skintec TM from Atomic.

Furry skis got a far more serious start with Atomic betting on a high end training ski, almost three times the peice of a cheap waxless starter ski. The magnetic system was all verry high tech, but it wasn't long before they glued in a standard, inch across skin on a wider range of training skis. We say training,  but these skis have already been used by many amateurs in Birkebeiner and other races where height and /or snow conditions are likely to change dramatically, making a clister or soft wax lowland wax job a balling mess in the new snow of the hill.


Since their inception, I have been itching to get my hands on a pair, but the investment /percieved risk held me back. Last season I managed to pick up a pair of used 208cm atomic skintecs with glued-in skin. This was a good two birds with oine stone purchase, because they were also my first "straight" sports skis ie minimal side cut and no concession to 'off piste'..... also my first with any carbon fibre in them.

 Pleased ? Yes very much so, but only as pleased as I could be with the conditions !

All Skis Have Their Limits or 'Envelope' of Performance

In truth, getting out in the ski-tracks without worrying is a bit misleading. As with your ordinary, common-or-garden training skis, there are going to be days when the spring (aka flex or spenn) in the ski is too hard - soft conditions render a hard tensioned ski like mine difficult- they become a labour, while ordinary or firm conditions seem to be no problem.

 Then we come to snow type, and here we have limitations of the untreated skin-ski. They don't like fine, new snow, and at the other extreme, very compressed or 'transformed' snow, aka concrete in the tram lines, neither of which are good for traction. Unfortunetly, both of which are typical of our southern Norwegian winter with dumps, wind blown poweder and then also thaw back or long term ing of old snow in cold , dry periods.

However in typical blue' and 'Lillac' conditions, to be found in  higher 'pastures' or better days, ie silky ski runs, then the skis are mile-eaters, with zero prep' (if you have the glider right or have Kuzmin scraped them!) . In slightly softer base snow then you get quite a lot of wirring noise but the friction seems minimal.

 You can easily argue that even a 5 minute,  cabin porch job of blue or purple fluoro' wax could behave just the same without any of the accompanying skin friction. There is the 'rub' then, just to be punny. In good conditions you would expect a simple, good wax job to grip and last.

When you get up to red-wax and clister conditions and into wet snow, the skin works really well until it obviously becomes waterlogged, when a decided suck happens. This required a 'rock' from toe to heel in order to break the suction on an otherwise fast down hill for me last week. In soft, wet conditions with a poor base, my skis are also so hard tensioned in their arch, that the tour becomes a slog in standard, kicking diagonal technique, and unrewardingly slow down hill due to friction and the narrow ski digging in. I've noticed that before, that my tour skis are nicer on softer base while folk were struggling. 

Everyone and their dog under 70 here however,  uses sports skis for "ski jogging' and I see why, like a racing bike with 120 psi tyres versus a shopper, you get a faster run in good conditions. But a wide skis have their time and place.

When you go over to concrete-like tram lines,  then you can forget a hard tension ski with a skin imho. There is no real traction more than a bare friction. Perhaps a softer spenn/flex will make for more press into the substrate crystals, but I am sceptical. However since the skis I have are hard tensioned, then I can double pole and then go over to fish bone, or be surprised with how grippy they are in the "skating" section between tracks. Here you get the first of two centre section surprises.

Firstly - The skin-ski grips well on coarse, crystalised or machine ground snow on the centre lane, where a waxed ski would either not grip well, or pick up crystals. 

Surprise two- this being because the skin usually has no pick up of snow crystals, unlike clister, red or sometimes even purple. The ski skates very, very well. Okay they are too long, and the poles will be too short, but I found all three main techniques worked well with the skis, where as wax skis will tend to judder and catch, or on coarse snow, loose their kick wax faster.

Conclusions - The Pros and Cons

So there are a couple of fringe benefits but what is the main thing? Well we get a lot of variable conditions here and sometimes a forecast of rain and sleet becomes heavy snow in reality. The main plus for me is then not having to strip back a soft wax or clister job. In hard conditions I get only about 12 km out of my best clister job, so i could rather pick a ski run where i can double pole, which is fantastic physical training.

In picking a ski, it is best to have grip for your style and expected snow conditions. So a hard spring (flex) in a ski can make for a lot more back slipping if you are not prepared to learn a more energetic technique innpushing down harder in a racing style.

We get a lot of conditions here in Southern Norway when one day is blue, the next red, then the tracks get old and need mechanical churning, then the crystals stick to your clister, then there is a freeze and new snow comes......Also the ski locations vary from 15m above sea level to 600m within a couple of hours from here, so you can expect to encounter variation day to day, place to place.

My last ski run though showed both the good and the evil of this particular pair of Atomics, with the eastern run to "Østertjenn" better for skins than waxes I believe, and a joy in all techniques, while the western section towards "Hekketjenn" had had sun and mild wind on it, and was just horrid for both the grip from the skin and the hard flex from the ski. That really brought it home to me, how poorer conditions are irritating!

Waxing Issues

So far I really, really enjoy these skis in good conditions and am prepared to try out the various products now available for keeping them waterlogg free, grippy or even clister grippy on the hard stuff, which is my main bug bear to date. No grip on the hard stuff, where an Ice Clister would be working for a while at least.

My next area of experiment is then in using wax and sprays ! This may seem to defy the point of skin skis. However the skis should be cleaned properly and then there are 'zero' conditioons when clogging crystals will be an issue, or wet condions when you get water logging and 'suck'. Swix have a cleaner spray and a prep' "skin glider" for this now.  There is also a spray wax which is for - i believe- new snow and icey conditions, which works a little like a hard wax but is optimised for the hairy substrate.
You can see that the skin does not reach further than half way up the sole of the binding, so you could -I suppose- wax this part on a hard day when the skin does not work or for soft, fine new snow.
Furthermore, on my skis and a couple of other models from the main manufacturers, the skin only comes back as far as the mid-sole. So there is a couple of inches in the "pocket" where i could use, for example, a blue-ice crystal.

Now I had tried "do it all" Start Grip Tape, with great success, but it had the same kind of limitations on hard packed snow, being a bit better on new snow though. However it wore out fairly quickly for the price on hard snow. Also I wanted to change to sportier skis, so I hit those two birds and am very pleased GIVEN good conditions. Crap conditions are just that, and I need a new indoor sport, or to splash out on Skate Ski Poles and boots for my end of sesson bargain skis i got and have toyed around with.


There is now a range of training skis and at least one, more tour oriented and so broader ski ( Salomon) on the market. I dare say there will be some back country skis with even longer fixed on skins, and perhaps the Salomon style slot system for adding a full legnth skin for steeper stuff. After all synthetic skins were first used for back country, and are now big sellers for the Randonee skier market.

Jumble Sale, soft flex , waxless skis, fun for slushy conditions !
I also have a pair of 'shopping' skis from a jumble sale, real 1979 types which are a wooden ski with a P-tex sole, and a classsic, long fish scale waxless pattern, over a 2 inch . These I had to force a tenner into the hand of the church elder for at the end of the jumble sale, he wanted rid off them! In 'old' snow I have a great time toddling around on these, skating and kicking, and relaxing. Not taking it too seriously in end of season slush, or up the pavement to the shops before the council scrape the snow off.

The moral here is think about what your level is, the right lengtrh and pre-tension in the ski for you and your ability or ambitions, and where and when you will be skiing. As a new beginner, if you are just going to do a weeks holiday or the odd weekend or dash out once a week, then a pair of well fitted patterned waxless will save you maybe a hundred quid/euros over a pair of skin skis. If though, you live in the mountains and want to get out often in well made tracks, and do some seruious training then yep, get a pair of skin skis with a kind of medium pre-tension for your weight, and also pay for some lessons with the money you save from buying a wax kit.

At the other end of the scale, as a ski racer, then a skin ski is going to be an extra ski for training. The atomic Skintec are quite a high end training ski with carbon fibre spring elements, at the price of racing skis, and were launched into this market.

 It will take you just about the life time of the ski to save back what you would have spent on grip waxes I dare say, it is more about saving time when conditions are changeable day to day or with altitude over the course of a race or tour.

So it is kind of horses for courses, and the greatest benefit are for those who never want to learn to wax up, or those where conditions are regularily from minus ten to plus three.


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Addenum - 11th March 2017


I am even more pleased with the skis after a week of skiing in what you could call typical easter conditions. Wet snow some days, some new, heavy snow others and finally a few days with 'trasnformed' snow churned and relayed by the machines.

Yesterday was a good example - the skins performed really well in the cold snow of morning , which was churned and firm to hard, but still with a light crystaline surface which gave excellent grip. Fish boning came in a little earlier than with softer snow of course.   As the day went on, the strong spring sunshine softened many areas and the ski continued to perform really well. So in a nutshell you may have gone out waxed on red only to find universal clister conditions prevailed later, thus you see the benefit of the skin.

My complaint about the day, was nothing to do with the skins, but the hard conditions on the pisted mid sections meant that my long, hard flex skis were very unstable in half plough or full plough and I fell really often, bottling out when I saw rocks ahead or streams showing through the tracks! With such good glide on firm snow available, a more 'compliant' soft.

Re-Conclusion!


If you can get a pair of Skin skis which match your height, weight and ability (see next blog!) then I would say for the average fun & fitness skier there is nothing holding you back. As a pair of training skis, it looks like all the top manufacturers are offering models which would please the hardest Oslo 50 'mile eater' amateur and even the odd Pro' could find these handy for training in variable conditions over say rising altitudes.

I look forward to integrated skins being included in a wider range of types of ski, towards the more tour oriented and the out and out race ski. 

tirsdag 31. januar 2017

Wolf Politics Howl Again

Norway is famous for its' wild landscape and to some extent also its wild deer and large carnivores. Not many people from outside will know that the euro-siberian Wolf is present in only tiny numbers relative to the rest of Scandinavia, Russia of course. Even Italy has more wolves than Norway. However those 60-80 resident wolves in Norway have become once again  symbol politics. Town versus country. The elite vs the small farmer. The subsidised meat versus the subsidised predator.

However Wolves are very keen on the domesticated sheep, and given that shepheards with dogs are consigned for economic reasons to the past, Canis Lupus can have a field day with a flock of the docile wooly herbivores. Of course cars, dogs, hypothermia and disease take many more sheep, in the order of many hundred fold. Yet the wolf (and other predators in some areas like the wolverine and even bear) in Norway, to the average sheep farmer anywhere near their terratories or itinerant paths they are the worst of enemies. A shadow of fear upon their livlihoods.

Farmers in the Hedmark region border the largest concentration of wolves. Of course they and many hunters claim that there are far more than the figure of around 74 resident wolves. However this is what the nature conservation authority estimate, and they spend a good deal of time and resources counting known flocks, which have definable terratories, and tracking itinerant lone wolves or pairs who have broken away from other packs outside Norway.

We have even had a wolf claimed to be within ten kilometers of here. Without very fresh tracks or a stool sample, it is very difficult to distinguish from a large dog. However a camera sighting was made in our neighbouring town of a rather sad looking young male, who was no bigger than an German Shepherd. The same wolf was likely to the one shot in the next region, as no futher traces were found. Scary? Not for us or anyone I spoke to, even a farmer. There is quite little sheep farming in our region, being mostly woodland, and beef being more pracitical for the grassland which is available.


Before that again there was a wolf which evaded 70 hunters or more in the next small county inland. THis was in the middle of the week, and three dozen mostly grown men threw down their daily work and went on the hunt. It was shot somewhere else. The hunt is a very big 'æresjakt' as it is both a rare predator and attracts kudos amongst other farmers and their communities.  They really feel threatened even by a single wolf, perhaps, but the pride of getting one as a trophy lies deep in their folklore and would be noted as a mark of respect down generations to come.

Oddly enough I thought, a zoology professor insisted on national Radio that these wolves I mention, were Swedish wolves! I thought that was either some nationalistic idiocy or an attempt to protect the Norwegian population from felling. However their is an evolutionary explanation (God's intelligent design for those of religiously impared). The resident Norwegian wolf-packs can have their ancestory traced back to the end of open wolf culling. There is some DNA from wolves who have wandered in over the border, but the majority seem to have Norwegian passports as it were according to our Prof'. The explanation is that these wolves are the remnants of very shy and elusive packs who kept themselves well away from humans, while the itenerant wolves, needing no visa or passport to cross the endless eastern woodlands that run from the SE to the NE of more or less the entire country, are not so shy of humans.

In Sweden there are a lot more wolves several hundred pack wolves and they kill an average of 300 sheep. This pales into perspective when farmers are claining  over two thousand sheep per year killed in traffic. Norway has maintained, many would argue artificially, its small farmer population as part of national pride and a suposedly self sustaining post war food policy, while Sweden has exposed itself to the wolves of the EU market and CAP,  and abandoned supporting small, "ineffective" farms long ago, leaving the decaying remnants of communities in many of the valleys which just over the border into Hedmark, Oppland and Tronderlag, are still farmed extensively. Norway subsidises lamb production by as much as 40kr per kilogram, with the consumer then having to pay 199 to 299 NOK for most cuts. When it comes to the popular traditional christmas dinner of salt lamb ribs, 'pinnekjøtt', they have to import a sizeable proportion from abroad, especially Sweden.

"How would you like to have a wolf live near you and come and kill your children?" is the perfect example of the emotive argument the farmers' self appointed PR crowd and politicians claim. Attacks on people are rare, even threats are. But about 5 years ago some swedish school kids encountered part of a pack of wolves on their way home from school. The wolves and the kids retreated their own way. How many  drivers retreated their own way and didn't kill the children they did on the road statistics of Norway and Sweden? When a pair of wolves located in Oslo's own national park, Nordmarka, it was a sense of excitement for many, and photographers hacked their way through miles of the most inaccessable pine woods to try and catch some shots. A few sheep were killed, not all were confirmed wolf kill. The Elg hunters were up in arms because there was evidence a couple of elg and calves had been taken. Personally I am much more afraid of traffic, and especially those drop outs who seem to come from the small communities, who do pills and drive old sooked up mercedes or Volvo 240s. One even seemed to play a game of chicken with a bus I was on, driving right for us on our side of the road. I guess there are 60 of them in the whole of Norway the Police keep an eye on. Perhaps we could have a licensed cull?  Or free to shoot policy when one is proven a threat?


Statistics on wolf attacks on flocks of sheep in Norway are a little bit hard to come by. There seems to be deliberate obfuscation to my mind, as to whether there are more or less than someone would like us to know. The farmers do get compensation, but complain about the paperwork and having to get the nature rangers out to test for DNA. However that wasted time taken away from farming, is not actually a reality for the majority, especially of small farmers who have incomes from other sources that their poor prey animals. Also given the opportunity to bash about the woods for a week they will gladly hunt wolves and give up their flocks.

 It is a fact that a wolf, wolverine or bear can kill a flock of 30 sheep in one sitting, and do many of them just for the hell of it. However a single loose dog can kill almost as many. Who is kidding who about wolf attacks and how many sheep really get killed? Or how many are our seemingly tame Canus Domesticus, which cause several severe maulings to family members every year, and go loose on sheep if they get the chance. The dog is far closer to its recent ancestor the wolf than many would like to know, with packs of dogs posing a lethal danger to humans in Bucharest for example. Sheep have been  bread to be softies. From the point of view of 'factoids', sound-bites and fancy answers which contradict reality, the farmer's lobby are more keen on propaganda than the nature ranger service or the green party of course. Like the climate debate, the authorities and the greens present real research, but in a democracy those are open to challenge and contradiction from 'sources' of confidence, which it seems are largely a body of anecdotal attitude comong from farmers.




More sinister though than any debate about threatened livelihoods, are some of those farmers with jobs off shore or their own building firms. These gentleman farmers make only a fraction of their income from lamb meat, but need to keep it up to get their subsidy which maintains the point of having a farm at all! THe farm pays for itself, with the meat being part of that hobby economy. They are more interested in a glory hunt, and having free reign to kill any itinerant wolves, anywhere they care to drive to. They are the ones off out all week with a rifle and a pick up truck, not tending their flocks when a wolf felling license is given for a 'Swedish' lupus. Not all gentleman farmers and not all sheep farmers are against wolves. Here it gets very sinister because if they speak out in the media or local society, they recieve death threats.

It becomes obvious if you follow with the anger and rhetoric the wolf is not a symbol of fear, it is a symbol of power for farmers and hard pressed rural communities. Small farmers who have not diversified or become collectives, are really struggling especially with the policies of efficiency the conservative coalitions sprung upon them without much forewarning in any of the two main parties' manifesto. Larger farms are better in a land so geographically spread out, and those farms who invest in scale get the best support. They want to have a complete cull of wolves, but the politicians on their side know that is unlikely but they may achieve a felling of half the national population of wolves as a result.

Help is on the way for the wolf in terms of facts perhaps, as a programme of radio collaring specimens from the Hedmark and Oppland areas is rapidly being set in place. This will give more answers about their intrusion, and maybe catch some 'red handed' . But  which will be disputed anecdotally again, and they who shout, cry boo-hoo or bully hardest in the media, in the face of scientific evidence,  these days have an uncanny habit of winning.