lørdag 25. januar 2014

Your Cross Country Ski Holiday in Norway,,, part iv planning the tours

So when you get here, how much will you accomplish? How long will your tours be ? What legnth of tour should you build up to? What will be safe terrain and weather for you?

In the last blogg i presented some expectatijon management  based on your previous experience, level of cardiovascular and stamina fitness and the amount of specific training exercises you have done in the  months running up to your holiday. Now we look further into the way you may structure your week or fortnight in terms of instruction, pratice, rest and longer tours.

The first day i would of course definetly recommend at least two hour of instruction, and it is most cost effective to do this as a group or join a course you book a good few weeks in advance, or months if it is peak season with the oslo or bergen winter holiday or at easter. On top of two hours i recommend just an hour max practice and a short tour near your cabin. Hopefully your cabin will have a suana so you can help your wee sore muscles you never knew you had.

Stretch your calves, ham strings, shoulders, arms and quadraceps gently at first holdong for fifteen seconds after you are warm. Then do more intensive strethcing of these holding for ten seconds. Take on and release the stretch gently. Your crotch and lower back are the next to stretch very, very gently because these are the areas where you use muscles not usually so strenously engaged in other activities. Do these all on the floor with no body weight on the two areas. You can stretch a little harder later in the week while standing, after a breif warm up and at warm down time. A gentle stretch after an evening sauna with a drop of beverage in you will also help.

If you are out at the resort for 10-12 days then plan in 3 rest days , probably your third day being the first rest day as you will be feeling a bit tender. If you are combining a week downhill with a week xc then i recommend doing it that way round with a recovery day in between. Your other rest days should be after the longest tour or most intensive teaching and training.

If you are just there for five days and you have trained up a good deal specifically on top of good fitness, then your rest day can be a very light day where you have a low intensity, wear warmer layers and split exercise up with lunch or even do afternoon and try a floodlight evening tour after a relaxing morning. Focus on technique in small packets and maybe a short sight seeing tour on skis, maybe using a bus or chair lift to higher areas with a couple of km to a cafe for example.

Planning your ambitions

Instruction will be an hour to two a day, depending on what you book or the course offered. Some are a whole day intensive course for new beginners which will suit the sporty type.

Your ambitions for tours alone should be in the framework of covering about 5km per hour and sticking to green runs. Many xc ski areas have adopted the green-blue-red-black run on their maps and plan to stick to green and blue. The other runs usually have demanding downhills, are not always prepared very well or take you to significant risk of exposure to the weather and ease of losing your way.

The first two days should be no more than 4 hours exercise split by lunch, including instruction. A rest day on day 3 or just instruction or playing about is recommended. Day 4 maybe you are competent to take off on your own, but remember the instructors will help you get the most efficiency and therefore fun and distance out of your technique. If you are ther 5 days then make day 4 your longer tour day with a mountain cafe, a neighb ouring village or a very scenic green-blue route your goal.

For a whole day out relative to your fitness then: planning 3-4 km per hour for the less fit, six to seven for the more trained and 7 to 10 per hour for those who have followed a specific training routine in Blighty and have a good aptitude.

Subsequent to this day take a rest or technique -fun day to relax while keeping your muscles active and your brain hard wiring the techniques and balance in particular.

You may want to put in a more intensive day with instruction on diagonal stride, poling and fish bone , with an morning of interval traiing around this. The afternoon after a good break at the cabin can be then ideally a shortish, circular route of 2 to 4 km flattish or undulating. Train on medium intensity with a focus on the powerful side of tghe techniques. Do more round if you feel fit, and remember to do a warm down round at low inten.sity and stretch a little when you finish and then more at the cabin when you have warm and relaxed mucscles in the evening.

A long slow trainin.g day could follow this if you feel good. Choose once again a circular route of say 6 to 10km and go round really easy, concentrating on technique. Hopefully conditions at a high valley resort like Geilo or Hemsedal will enable a good glide on the skis meaning you can have a gentle inten.sity while making progress at your own pace. A circular route will make your timing accurate, you can choose to do more rounds if you feel up to it, you can leave your rucksack on the route. Also you learn the routes little challenges: the steepest little hills, the turns on hills, where it is easy to pole along, where you go best diagonal and the transition in and out of herring boning up hill.

Longer Day Tours

I would say that the first three or four days of activity should be on green runs near your cabin or hotel. You can then ask for advice on longer tours which include mountain cafe or a tour to another village with a warm cafe.

Some of the runs marked as not for new beginners are actually tame if the weather is permitting ie no wind, soft conditions, no precijpitajion and temperatures not colder than minus ten.

Plan to split your longer tours with a 45 minute to hour main lunch break eating asap you stop and keeping warm. If there are no cafes on a really nice route then you will need to take a ruck sack with warmer clothes , thermos and food so you will need to practice bearing weight the day before to see if you can ski safely and comfortably with 10 to 15 kilos on your back!


For sporty types who take to the technique then you could plan a 30 km tour with an average speed of max 6 km per hour depending on the terrain. Split with lunch this will be then 6 -7 hours out, a whole day which means getting going a 9am in february.

It is important to note that southern Norway has a fluctuating weather pattern influenced of course by the cold scandinivian high pressure system, the artic northely frontal systems but also the same mild atlantic jet stream driven weather blighty gets. So things can get suddenly wettish, rarely rain though over 500m in winter, but then freeze very hard as the skies clear and overnight. At easter the sun will melt snow to slush, which will then freeze hard as concrete late afternoon into the evevning.

This all makes downhill much more treacherous for the new beginner and the best technique i recommend is to use a one leg plough break on icey descents with a tramrail track present. This will ease your speed while holding you on piste, and ask your instructor to teach you this on a really steep hill. On those descents which lose the tracks and go over to full plough, when icey you need a very wide stance with your edges in hard as you can. Be warey and stop while you can to assess what happens to the tracks because a green or blue run can be treachourous when icey.

Luckily in the major resorts on the main green and blue routes they use a piste basher tractor with a snow churner towed behind which makes a heavy corned structure in the snow and allows for new, deep tram lines to be ploughed in at the back of the machine. However some downhills get hard as rock so you want to assess the route and consider a parallel ski, with a wide alpine stance in a good low tuck to whizz down and then break on the easier section. Altenatively there is no shame in walking down as long as you are completely out of the way of other skiers.

Green and blue runs are however most often planned out kindly with families and pensioners in mind as well as you the newbie. So the steepest descents are often planned with a run off or lead to another uphill on the often undulating valley floor

Up and Down day tours

There are some day tours great for new beginners which are up a hillside or a raised valley. Kvamskogen near Bergen, has a classic family tour which is an hour or two up and downhill in plough most of the way down. Your fish scale non waxing hire skis will be ideal for this as you can usually use diagonal kick style or walk parallell on sections which need herring bone climbs with waxed skis. Also the pattern does help brake a fair bit in plough.

If you are an alpine skier or take to plough easily, then in soft conditions you will no doubt be able to tackle a red section which may have some 45' slopes, thus you can open up a longer route up the hillside with a shorter run down affer the cafe tour.

Respect the Mountains

A few years ago a british father and son died from exposure on Hardangarvidde. They were xc skiing on mountain skis between tour association cabins and had a schedule which proved over ambitious for the conditions. Norwegian ski tourists they met in a cabin strongly advised they waited out the storm weather.

On any tour you plan outside the valley floor, take local advice, stick to marked tracks suitable for your ability, take a map and compass, and plan ways to shorten your route by descending on suitable short cuts, returning safely the way you came or having a known option on timetabled public transport at a point on your route. Most of all pay attention to the weather forecast and turn back early sooner rather than later if the wind gets up, visibility goes down or the temperature drops.

You can however have some fantastic skiing on sun filled slopes and plateus over 1000m, with fantastic scenery,  silky snow which is easy to make progress on and control speed and stop on downhill. Just take a ruck sack with extra clothes and a map and some energy drinks or food. Some are accessible by skilift. Others by resort bus or even as with Kikut above Geilo, by ordinary sevice bus. Many also have a safe, one way only , twisiting descent route back to the valley which could make for a really fun experience for those more competent in downhill, step turning and plough.

Refreshments on tour lunch

I would avoid having a beer at lunch, the pils here is strongish, ice cold and very gassy so maybe a warm wine gløgg but really stick to warm soft drinkies if out on tour. Tea is a weak blend here, so bring your own tea bags and buy a cup of hat water with milk and sugar. Hot chocolate is always on offer at mountanin cafes, washing down waffles and usually buns. All that and cold banans make me a bit sick. Soup is sometimes on the menu, or sometimes you can get a "buljong" sachet at the tea stand which is like chicken bovril and really puts back the salt in you. Blackcurrents are solbær here and the powedered instant drink is usually very tasty in warm water as an alternative to cocoa. Coffee is always available and invariably strong and stewed, not to be recommended while on tour and sometimes there ijs no bloody milk to. be had just powder. A "buljong" followed by a weak tea or solbaer toddy with an iced bun is.my idea of a good lunch while touring. A small, pricey sandwhich is an option for the longest day with soup if they have it. Prices are btw usually cheaper than the alps but still alarming for brits and the cups and portions reflect the profit margin necessary for seasonal opening!

Snacks on tour

As i mentioned you should have a small ruck sack with insulated drink bottles or better yet buy a bum bag here in Norway with insulated drinking intgerated. Use squash, which are all very good here, with a picnh of salt in it, or an energy sports drink.

Bananas despite their nutritional benefits, are no good, they freeze and get squashed. Good for breccie or in a cafe.

Sports bars of the flapjack type are good. Mars bars etc get hard in the ruck sack, or melt in your inside pocket and can give you a bad stomach or sugar cramp.

Last day

It can be well worth booking an instructor for an hour on the last day. Warm up and practice before your lesson and then try out the tips and corrections the rest of the day. As above i would say choose a circular route , but this time you may feel competent enough for a steeper route or a longer circuit. Focus on technique, varying your intensity before having a final warm down run which is longer in duration up to an hour or.more and feels relaxing. Feel free to break your bank account with a beer or two at a resort cafe which is walking distance to your cabin or chairlift down to your valley. I would say walk home carrying your skis after a beer or two.

Remember if the skis are hired when they need to be delivered before the shop closes, check that out, it can often be quite late if they hire slalom skis out too in resorts with floodlight pistes.

fredag 24. januar 2014

Your Cross Country Skiing Holiday In Norway Part III, Expectations

As a new beginner > When you do get to your holiday, given that you have trained semi specifically and not on roller skis, then dont be very ambitious with the amount you do. On the first day your lesson may be 2 hours with an instructor and I would say that you should just do some gentle warm downs on flat surfaces, light strides on the skis as jogging is to running, although you can of course play about on a little down hill by fish boning up and tucking down in the tracks for half an hour or so.

Plan to build up to a goal which is in line with the usual duration of what your find to be a fairly strenous hill walk, bike ride or cross country run.

The striding technique for classic XC skiing with the thrusting kicks and long gate is so very specific to 'langrenn' that you risk getting in particular crotch, knee or lower back injuries if you over do things. Discuss with your instructor after a couple of lessons on what they would recommend for your level of learning / natural ability you have picked up so far, combined with your usual physical endurance condition.

Your goal setting for the holiday should focus on learning the techniques and enjoying short tours around the area.

The main techniques I recommend you spend most time on>

1) Classic kicking with and without poles
2) fish bone up hilling
3) Braking downhill using plough, or using one foot in track one in plough which is very effective in reducing speed if not actually stopping and keeps you tracking in the right direction even in icey conditions
4) tuck position for down hill
5) poling / propulsion with the sticks alone
6) step turning and skating style

On the latter point the divergence in the two styles of on track skiing is more political than a realistic schism in the sport. You can skate on any skis really and you will see many a fixed heel alpine skier skating off the chairs or out the cafe in the alps. It was an innovative US skier Robert Koch, who caused the furore and also proved that skating on more gently undulating courses is actually faster than kicking. Skating had always been used in the step-turn and at for example hill tops where there was an interchange from fishbone to down hill with perhaps no tracks to follow. The technique is actually easy to learn if you area watch once learn what is going on person and you have a good instructor,. I would sa that learning skating early on will help you>

1) manoerve around people and between tram-lines, and take turns much better
2) enhance your ability to offload one ski completey while minimising its contatc with the snow
3) very much expand your enjoyment of your holiday
4\) inform your down hill skiiing and also if you want to take up ski mountaineering or back coutnry tours outside any laid tracks on wider BC skis.
5) mean that you can train on roller blades at home with poles.

Your Cross Country Skiing Holiday in Norway .....Part II , training up

As a new beginner or someone who has maybe just dabbled with XC skis or mountain touring skis, it will pay big dividends if you do some physical training before you come over for your week or twos skiing. 

XC skiing is not for the inactive, and is far more aerobic than downhill. Its intensity is around that of light to medium mountain biking or light fell-running. The use of the arms though increases the calorie burn about 20% and adds a lot to the demands placed on a brit more used to the arms being less important for sport. Swimmers will have a big advantage here and also in respect of their core muscles in the abdominal belt.

In general I would recommend that you get into some good shape with about 4 to 5 hours erobic training a week if you are a bit ambitious about skiing and the tours you will take, while if you want to enjoyt learning the technique while not wanting to do tours of more than 10km when on holiday then about 2 hours a week running, cycling or swimming in any   combination to a level of reasonable intenisty will prepare you enough to help you to enjoy your holiday all the more.

There are some specialist summer exercises and of course there are roller skis. Look up 'Elg Hufing' on y outube or 'summer training for xc skiing' for the very specific exercises if you are pretty serious about it. I would recommend digging out your roller blades and buying some walking poles which are adjustable and light wieght with hand straps which velcro round you like a half glove. I picked up some here for fifteen quid new actually. You will then just add the poles to give extra propulsion in the way ski-shooters do and there are many videos explaining this.

Roller blading is the closest activity to xc skiing in the summer in the uk and has the huge training advantage in teaching you to completely lift the weight of the trailing leg and transfer it to the new leg with a bent knee. With the classic kicking style, you will also transfer all your weight to the propelled front leg when you are doing it most efficiently as you should be taught. The trailing leg is off loaded and consiiously you reduce the contact with the snow until your foot is reaching out for the next stride. 

There is indeed one place at least which offers however the real deal in summer and winter time / roller skis of both types in the summer and some forms of snow based training up in Huntly an hour north of Aberdeen at the Huntly Nordic Ski Centre so you could gert into roller blading and then get some training with poles there, and try the kicking style roller skis which have a ratchet mechanism to create the 'tug' from the springing kick.

An important point I should have made earlier is that the principle of the tram line based parallel kicking skiiing is that it is much more about striding and a long gaped run than it is about walking. Walking alone will not prepare your legs and especially your crotch and knees for the long strides / langrenn as the sport is called here / which thrust your weight forward to one foot with a wider angle between your legs than ordinary running.

Walking at 6km an hour, a ,military marching pace, and especially with poles, will be good preparation for your cardiovascular supply to arms, legs and core of the body. If you intend to be a little serious about your holiday and build up to a 20 to 30 km day, then you should be combining a few hours a week conditioning and technique training *more below on that* with walks which get longer in duration. This is tough in the UK as the season for XC beings  in the darkest, wettest days, but I have had some great hillwalks or low country path marches at weekends, using most of the day. 

Some specific exercises are going to be squats with use of swinging arms too, press ups, sit ups, back 'cobras, high cadence / low pressure rowing machine work and the cylical training machines in gyms they call xc machines but they do not actually simulate it very well in technique, they do involve using your arms.

Stregnth training is about three areas> knees in terms of lifts and holding bent under pressure< thighs, for a springing stride > core training for which pillates is ideal and some breast stoke if you are a swimmer.

The key though is to do some striding with bent knees, like a stride with a lunge > The easiest way of thinking about this is imagine you are in the arctic and have to get across an area of broken ice blocks before the distance between them is too large to jump. You want to stride from one to the next and to be most efficient you do not want to stop on both feet, as you land with your one foot you want to stride off onto the next. The stride will be a gap about half as long again as your usual running span, so probably two to three foot legnths longer. Train up by leaping from  one leg only and landing with both legs, and then using the opposite leg. Then move up to striding from one to the next with a slight pause when you land forward on the leading foot, and finally move up to a constant striding motion. Use your arms with palms out reached like spades, taking them long forward on the opposite side to the leg being thrusted forward as in any running or walking, but exaggerate the motion. Don't take your hands higher than shoulder height. 

Striding at an exaggerated leap is not something you can keep up for very long, but it will be very very good physical and pre-ski technique because it thrusts the foot forward while it is unloaded completely and needs to be propelled long forward before the weight is unloaded from the other foot. You can however keep up striding to a certain percentage of your maximum you get to in the short bursts, by employing poles where you then assist your body in releasing some weight onto the arms. That is then into @elg hufing@ as they call it here, summer training for langrenn.

This is a really key type of exercise > when striding you will probably be able to string 10 to 20 together without walking poles. Vary then the distance you spring and vary how bent your knees are from the spring to the landing. You can do this indoors while carrying small weights at your side or weights belts to increase stregnth in  your legs but employing your arms will help you learn the full body balance. You will also notiice that you employ your core muscles. You can vary then how far forward you incline your body and then do some leap and holds when you stop on the landing foot and freeze your motion with body bent forward and other leg trailing. 

In terms of running and hill walking , you can combine this striding into part of your tour. Up hill it will increase your stregnth in your leg muscles and conditioning for the knee most, while down hill it will help a lot with your sense of balance for XC skiing. In both cases we are condsidering a reasonable slope you are going to get a safe and reasonably long stride on without slipping and hurting yourself. 

If you are in an alpine ski club or there is a local one, find out if they do conditioning training because the work for your knees and core will pay dividends for XC skiing, where the down hill technique in the tuck is very similar in its basic to down hill, as is ploughing to a beginners slalom and braking course. 

Youtube and some of the north american XC web sites are full of good videos on summer and off snow training as well as the actual movements on skis and how they differ from both running and walking. 

When you do get to your holiday, given that you have trained semi specifically and not on roller skis, then dont be very ambitious with the amount you do. On the first day your lesson may be 2 hours with an instructor and I would say that you should just do some gentle warm downs on flat surfaces, light strides on the skis as jogging is to running, although you can of course play about on a little down hill by fish boning up and tucking down in the tracks for half an hour or so.

Plan to build up to a goal which is in line with the usual duration of what your find to be a fairly strenous hill walk, bike ride or cross country run.

The striding technique for classic XC skiing with the thrusting kicks and long gate is so very specific to 'langrenn' that you risk getting in particular crotch, knee or lower back injuries if you over do things. Discuss with your instructor after a couple of lessons on what they would recommend for your level of learning / natural ability you have picked up so far, combined with your usual physical endurance condition.

torsdag 23. januar 2014

Your Cross Country Ski Holiday in Norway.... Prt I

XC skiing or 'Langrenn' as they call it here, is what brought me originally to Norway becuase in the UK there is quite limited access to the sport. As a kid I loved watching biathalon, ski/shooting, and the gliding way the skier's used, making it look both challenging and elegant.

Although there are two or three clubs in Scotland and there used to be two schools, in Braemar and Huntly which I have not checked to see are open still, the amount of prepared ski tracks or levelled forrest roads is minimal, whereas in the three proper scandinavian lands, many a small town boasts 15km of tracks prepared for 'both style arts' / kicking in tram-line tracks, and skating style as used in biathalon and a good deal of them also have a little circuit of 2 km or more with floodlighting. The last six winters in southern norway have been snow rich and with seasons of upto seven months within an hour of the coastal towns, there has been rekindled interest in 'langrenn' as the national participation sport.

Mohammed Must Come to the Mountain

So you have maybe chosen to give it a go, and you should then really think about booking a holiday and there used to be Nilsen package deals to Geilo and Hemsedal, two of south/central Norway's biggest resorts. You can string your own cheap flight set up via Rygge  or Gardemoen or Bergen with direct flights from Stanstead or Gatwick. It is a bit of a hassle, but you could make that part of your hol. Geilo is well served by train on the Oslo-Bergen mainline, while Hemsedal has many busses from Oslo or train stations along the Geilo train route like Gol. Travelling with friends and booking a chalet a little off season (enquire when the scandinavian winter holidays are

There are many other smaller ski centres around Hardangerviddas skirting valleys but these are much harder to get to in reality without a local host to drive you there perhaps. In january-mid marrch you could be lucky and be able to ski around the Oslo area and book an instructor from either Tryvannski center or for example learn2ski.no may have courses in english. Oslos north moors and woods, Nordmarka have very extensive and well groomed tracks using summer time forrest roads. Bergen has a wet winter but an hour inland there is the Kvamskogen skicenter which has a range of tracks and some longer high valley tours which are prepared.

For the more adventurous there is the ski centre at Stryn four or five hours north of Bergen which has spectacular scenery.

What to Bring and Wear ?

you will be able to hire xc skis of all types at the major ski centres, although boots, skis and poles for a beginner can be had for under 200 quid in the local sports shops. Ski hire is cheaper than the alps, with instruction being about the same for one to one but probably cheaper if you can book onto a course taught in english.  If you by skis you can put a note up on a local super market notice board offering them for sale , take away the cost of your hire and if you dont scratch or bend anything then you will be quids in if you are lucky. Id take them home to use on the few snowy days you get at home, or for plodding around on the moors and the more gentle highland tops or tracks, more on that later.

Bring wine and spirits duty free if you can carry them, or just put them in your main luggage from the offy back home. A sly half bottle of good malt or brandy may come in handy as a bribe or present while in Norway. Spirits are at least half the price again as in blighty often double so dear. Wine is not much dearer, and in fact the state wine shops have a good range of bottles for a tenner which would be about six to eight squid in the UK. Beer is double the price but it is mostly 4.5% pils so actually not that much more from the offy, but in the ski resorts in pubs and restuarants it can be six quid for 400ml which is well short of a pint.

take a large and a small thermos, although these can be had cheap in supermarkets in Norway, and take a thermally insulated half liter or larger drinking bottle. You may want to invest in an insulated drinking reservoir bum bag you can buy here from 15 to 35 quid as they are darn good for cycling or hill running - walking in the UK in winter. A head torch is useful if you travel when the days are shorter, and is useful at night around the chalet anyway. A thermometer, and a foam bum mat for sitting down on, kneeling on or standing on actually that is a bit of a must.

Not forgetting the tiles> you want to take a big winter bunnet for general moving around the resort and standing getting taught or when you stop. Then you want a kinvd of double layer fleece or merino wool bunnet and then you want a few " buffs" to use as bands, throat scarves and semi balaclavas. For  a really cold forecast or journey in january, early february then a merino wool balaclava or good runnning balaclava is a worthy investment but will be too warm in less than 5 or six  degrees of frost. Sports sunglasses preferably with interchangeable lenses from sun to orange or yellow orr purple high contrast lenses from good quality sun lenses are a wise thing to take. Sports sun glasses with no metal and maybe ones you may not lose sleep over if you break them or lose them in a snow drift are just as good.

Finally cheddar cheese and good tea bags are a good bet on the provisions side.

Clothes> I made the usual new beginner mistake of wearing basically down hill and hill walking clothes. Even a goretex waterproof or Triple Point jacket is generally not breathable enough for cross country skiing at any level of proper effort in the prepared runs you will be starting in.  This is presumed for all below ie you will not be doing ski mountaineering or wilder back country stuff, but be at a ski center within easy reach of your chalet or a warm cafe, and you will not venture out on skis in below -15 or an effective wind chill to about -20  from say -8c.

For  getting about in the resort you want to have good  winter walking boots or 'alpine loafers' like moon boots, and I recommend a general hill walking set of clothes with either a  shell outer with layers including a thick wool jumper,  or down jacket and uinsulated ski trousers

To cover what you must erm, cover yourself with > the absolute must is a base layer of wool and you will need a two to three changes if the chalet has no washing machine. Make sure they are long enough to cover outstreched arms and the small of your back when you stride forward (a theme for checking all your clothes to take with you!!) I use the slightly thicker merino wool which is great for - 6c downwards and very nice to wear inside, while also it does not get smelly usually and is comfy to wear all day and all night in fact. Lighter damart style wool or high wool mix are a good thing for milder temperatures - at easterr you can find yourself skiing in air of 12'c.

I actually use synthetic materials for shorter tours and milder days of -2c and above because they then wick well and are quick to hand wash and dry. Wool stays warm when wet, but holds more water. however I find merino wool is perfect for colder days and very much more comfortable than any synthetic I have tried, XC skiing is about as effort intensive as mountain biking or gentle fjell running/jogging in the summer but uses the whole body more like in swimming so you generate far more heat for that intensity. You then have the issue of getting rid of that and what to do when you stop for a rest or instruction lecture.

The principle above base layer is then further layering and for your hours of instruction, or warming up or down, or just messing about a bit, then you want a final outer high insulation shell. I recommend buffalo pertex with fleece lining as being perfect for warming up in and especially for standing around in, outside your other layers. If you are a sweaty pig like me then it is an ideal system because you can open and close down the flaps. Bibbed trousers with braces and the standard top are great. Alternatively a skiing or snowboarding shell which has built in down or layered insulation. These both save you having to put on an extra insulating layer and have trousers with long side zips to allow you to plunge your booted legs into. Water proofing is not so important because you will see no rain and you want to have a rest day in wet snow! A good light bubble down jacket is a good option, but maybe keep that for the very coldest days and use it as a resort jacket as you will get a bit sweaty and it  will start to smell and be hard to wash on holiday. They are very good for posing around in or whipping on over your pertex layer but I prefer buffalo system for warming up and slapping overr sweaty clothes and it can be hand washed and dries in a warm room or over a water tank quickly.

Investing in synthetic or merino wool sports underpants *and bras ladies* is a worthy thing as cotton kegs will be nasty when wet as the dusk approaches and temperatures plummet. The same is true of socks, god damn your cotton socks, bring wool and synthetic in various thicknesses from thin wool to thick synthetic in order to match the size and insutlation properties of the boots you hire or buy.

The layers inbetween are then your active layer combination for training on the tracks. You dont need to use specialist xc skiing stuff. The first layer outside your underwear should be either a light acryllic lycra type set up, or a slightly fancier highly breathable double or triple layer winter jogging set. Ron Hill tights are fine, get the standard thicker ones and make sure they cover the small of your back and that you can stride comfortably in them as far as you can *more on that later in training for your holiday* You may want to get a set of braces to hold these pants up or see if there are a bibbed alternative in the running shops. Cycling longs without the inserted padded crotch and wihtout a seam in the middle are also ideal if they fit, especially if bibbed or with braces. I actually still use Lidl running tights on milder days or when I am out doing very hard interval training for under 45 minutes down to minus  ten. They are a great fit.  Your intermediate top should be more of a wicking synthetic material or you may get a special wool with an open weave like I have which is very comfy when it is colder *under minus ten* and holds warmth when saturated with sweat and condensation from sweat and damp, cold air. On milder days you can dispense with this top and use just your heavier wool underwear top.

Over this you want a simple pertex jacket with a mesh lining, a running or cycling one with a longer back on it and long arms, probably meaning going up a size from your running one or checking your cycling one allows for full swining of the arms. Simple pertex types are ideal,  for anything down to minus ten with even a good wind chill> and can be had at Lidl on their offers for under 25 quid or in runing emporia, doon/the/barras , what have you. A better qaulity top with a harder wind cheating front and integrated light fleece on the chest and lower back is a good investment as it can be used for respective sports back in blighty. Cycling stuff has the big advantage of pockets in the back, although dont do a tour-de-France with bananas there as they will be mushed ice cubes within an hour.

Over trouser in pertex or light goretex type materral with braces are a good option but once again you must be able to stride in them really leaping forward and swinging your arms, and they should not chafe on the ankles or inner thighs. For the general speeds and less adventourous tours down hill you will take *should take* as a new beginner you probably dont need these but if you suffer from the cold then a shell trouser with a simple mesh or not inside is a good idea/

Rule of thumb for Temperature
I am a big bloke and sweat even when in some kind of good conditions, so I often just use ?lidl running tights or my special skiing three layer fancy tights now, a merino wool mid weight next to skin top and a pertex running jacket, and I take another larger pertex jacket for pauses or if the wind gets up.  This rolls up in a bum bag or a small ruck sack. A spare pair of gloves and maybe a small sports towel and that it is it for up to four hours tour or a whole day messing about, with my buffalo kit near by.

As a new beginner you should avoid skiing in under minus fifteen although light efforts can be no problem. In my experience, the wind chill is not linear, and when you get to about minus nine with wind over ten knots *five meters per second in scando speak* then it gets notably very much colder, and minus 15 with say 15 knots wind is intolerable. Luckily that is a rare combination due to the scandinavian stillness of high pressure on the one hand, and the snow bearing, midler fronts from the atlantic on the other.

I have skied around in -23C with no wind, but your nose freezes up and your eye lashes freeze together. A thermometer is a useful bit of kit, especially if you can measure the snow temperature on the ground - more on that later, but that would impress an instructor and locals would be asking your advice on technical waxing! Often the weather forecasters seem to quote maximum temperatures or have bad estimates and this is important as I say, to choice of clothing for the day if it ducks down.

Essentially this is all you need as main clothing, along with good, longish gloves which have a form of grip on the palms/ winter cycling gloves are pretty much Ideal although I find them a bit warm and use specialist gloves which are a bit extortionate for what you gett. Pertex overmitts are a good idea as are an extra pair of nice warm gloves  if you get wet fingers *top tip* change gloves as soon as you feel they are damp, and put the damp ones under your arms outside your wool layer and try to dry them a while, or in your inside pockets if you are on the move.

So when you stop you should have your top insulated shell like the buffalo to sling on. Often No'ggies *norwegians* dont take anything more than a bum bag because in the main resorts there are often mountain cafes to hop into and the noggies keep on going for ages. For a tour to one of these huts which may be a couple of hours round trip for a noggie you will maybe be using the morning to get up and half the afternoon to get down, especially if you do this at the end of a week of instruction. I was crazy enough to do two hours instruction at Geilo, first time ever on skis, on hard conditions, and then go round the lake *Geilo Fjord* as they try to call it, which was 15km and it put me out for the rest of the weeks furthere xc and snowboarding. More on all that later. Taking a ruck sack is fine but you should learn the techniques without a ruck sack on. A small narrow camelback style one is very good for a single extra fleece jumper or buffalo top, but the drinking systems need an insulated tube, and you are better taking them out altogether and taking your small thermos with warm squash or tea in it *not coffee or hot chocolate, the will make you feel sick and dehydrate you often !  these small mid back ruck sacks are ideal for strapping on all your days stuff and dumping at the side, while a bum bag which fits firmly on the waist without dropping onto the hips can carry your drink and spare gloves or pertex jacket number two for moving around.

It is very unlikely your stuff will get nicked in norway as soon as you venture in along ski tracks. There are often lean/to bivouac type resting stations which are ideal to dump your stuff at if you know you can find your way back to them for shorter tours, or circular ones.

Under instruction you want to warm up with all your kit on and then strip down.

 I would recommend the following temperature guide with some referance to damp air and windchill

'easter conditions' - over freezing from 10 am to 5pm. Sun shine. Thin wool socks, ron hill tights, light wool long top, pertex running jacket, spare fleece or running jacket for stops on longer tours, take an insulated foam sitting mat with you. Watch out for forecasts of sleet or even the odd rain shower even over 800m and you may need your waterproof jacket & trousers packed with you.

Mild snowy conditions, damp and windy> down to minus 6

wool underwear top and legs, ron hills. If you feel the cold or the snow is wet, then an outer trouser in pertex or goretex and a fleece or light wool midlayer. An extra ptex or your buffalo style top for stops or worsening weather, and if the forecast is for sleet then a waterproof set. I use a buff and take a spare couple of them / one to replace the sweaty one and the other to use as a second layer or a scarf or balaclava if it feels colder or on the way back to the chalet or car.

Colder, stiller conditions minus 5 to minus 12.

Here it depends most on your level of activity and how much you sweat, as well as the duration of the tour or training *see later* Here you want wool underwear top to toe
and your running tights over, warming up in all your outer insulated shell. as it gets colder then you want to be near your warm stuff and you want to have a sports towel handy to wipe sweat away before it freezes.  Be really careful that you hands are dry and warm, and that your ears are coverred and not getting numb. Also check before you go out that you will have no gaps to bare skin at your ankles, waist, wrists and neck when striding along.

wear your warmer hat, and take your warmest hat for pauses. Also take extra gloves and thicker spare socks with you.

If the wind gets up at -9 to -15 then you need to have a wind cheating shell over legs and body, and an extra hat. For those of you who are racing snakes and feel the cold while never really sweating, then we are talking about using your outer  insulated shell or buffalo stuff on top of yor mid layer. For me it means putting on my spare, outer pertex jacket and warmer gloves and hats and reducting my intensity so I dont sweat too much or create too much of my own wind chill * ie breaking down hill>. You can use buffs as a base layer for your head and a face scarf at this point of course.

In windless conditions you can move around with a light to jogging work rate pretty comfortably in buffalo gear or with say a bubble jacket and slalom trousers on down to -20c Here your toes, ears and of course fingers are all at risk of frost damage and that can creep on without you noticing. Avoid sweating if you can , this is the great thing with the buffalo flap system for example. Secondly check all your skin is covered, regularily and that you can feel your extremities. Dust off snow immediately and after a fall, remove any snow from your clothes / it can be worth whipping the outerr layers off to dust it all out before it melts. Check you can move your toes and that you have a sensation of touch and temperature in them and your fingers. As soon as they go numb or you get sharp pains, then check to see if they are too cold. you may need warmer socks and gloves or over gloves. check again that your socks, boots and  gloves are bone  dry as any moisture will freeze and sap warmth from you. At minus tweny plan maybe a 50 minute lesson including only light movement and then maybe a tour which takes you nearerr your warm chalet or cafe and avoid being out for more than four hours in the whole day if you can, and avoid any waits in the cold for busses or lifts to get to youur accomodation.

Dry everything thoroughly remembering your boots too in the chalet over night and check before you go to bed on progress with your boots in particular. I have some supposedly fancy gloves with an alpine leather subsitute grip but by god they hold the water and I need to keep them drying all the time they arre not in use and they will be used as drvigin and shoppinhgh gloves very soon!  It is best to have some good quality winter resort boots like Sorels or some moon boots with good grips as XC ski boots are plastic soled and can be slippy and wick warmth away directly to the ground when walkiing on them.

tirsdag 7. januar 2014

XC Ski Season for me in 2014

Well the writing as I blogged last is on the wall for this year an d the season is going to be short and mild probably with a lot of wet snow and icing. Steel edges beckon.A set of vikafjells from Aasnes appeal at 990 kr on offer, less than half price but realistically it is a bad investment and I really want steel lights from Fischer next year.

What goals for this year then,./<>??? Well it is all coloured by last years big year for me when I actaully discovered how bad I was at some basic things yet also but behind me masses of experience in control and technique and a wadding huge amount of confidence and determination to improve and get into training skis rather than my hlaf training, half tour Fischer Power Wax planks.

I managed to get around a heck of a lot of bone hard courses last year, especially drivsnesheia (Naespobovarden) when it had a big thaw back and froze of course in the next round of arctic air. I did a regular 4 to 5 hours a week as soon as conditions were okay in mid january right through to easter when i took the clister off and packed it all away, super satisfied and a bit thinner and a lot fitter.

This year things are going to be short and sweet then with more tours further a field .  Located two new 600m high areas with driven tracks within a couple of hours. Hopefully we can gett some cheap way of doing the winter holiday or have a new decent job to start just after that.

Anyway goals>

1)  longer tours straight away> I need to be building up to four hour motion in tours such that I get my real effect on my body which needs sustained base training.

2( shorter warm up high intensity blasts. When conditions are right and I have even just an hour to drive up the local ski track, ski and get home> peaking my intervals with real blood in the back of the throat in the new one minute three times 'switch' to increase VO2 max

3) step turning> the pros make it look hard because they are doing it way on the edge of what can be done on very narrow and light , straight skis. Some amateur videos reveal a more powerful, condifent approach which is actually a skating technique and the USA youtube exerts usually refer to both styles when presenting the essential technique. I can skate and I can do simple step turns but I need to be able to do the powerful kind on the flat to get past other skiers and of course on the downhills where plowing is either slow or for my weight a little ineffective.

4) Weight transfer in the kick> this still needs some work. I was kicking too early , unloading the leg pretty much on or even before the kick. This partly explains why I got lapped by most norwegians my age! I was getting a good work out anyway but messing up bigtime in terms of efficiency. I will maybe need to go back a step and do shorter strides and less pronounced kicks. I will need now to youtube for half an hour !!

5) be more determined to stay upright and to get through those turns. I still have a tendency to get heavy in the leg and freeze up in terms of weight transfer down hill.  I need to loosen up and practice >

a) heeling into corners in the tracks. Braking before. Half plow in the corner

b) more confidence in plow in harder conditions

c) step turning as above

d) stopping worrying. it is usually a soft landing and I can afford new skipoles

e) warm up technique mentally/ take a four hour tour to include some backwards and forwards on tracks which are ideal for repeating the above, not just AB or a given set of kilometers.

The last point in five ee,  is just like @bingo@ because that is where I need to be at!!! I need to stop thundering on before I have mapped into my mind a couple of basics on easy stretches and corners

I should think that this year I will get my 40km tour done somewhere with Iain my mate - it may be that this is just seven times round our local run.

One aside for those of you planning on visiting Norway to XC ski is that the southern end south of Telemark is typified by real roller coaster runs and mountain summit tours (several of our local runs include a small mountain top/hill summitt with tracks graciously driven over them !! )  because there are not the high plateaus and valley space is all used up by arable farmers or is below a the 'good snow line'.  This is great fun for kids but it is challenging for a learner or for someone more serious who is looking at putting serious miles in their legs on a Norwegian stint. I recommend heading inland to Vinje in Telemark, the Geilo and Hemsedal area or given good conditions there are some excellent runs in Nordmarka and the other woods around Oslo, with a choice of taking the train for a classic 40-55km tour back to the outskirts of the city 10 mins then on the tram to your hotel or friends house down town!

For fitness training purposes you really want long undulating runs where you can diagonal kick on the downhills and are on the one had fish boning little and tucking and gliding little of the time, but these are a bit difficult to come by in the South to say it mildly. Most of the prepared runs and nearly all the floodlight courses in the whole of southland are little roller coaster runs with some being purely herring bone and glide which as I say is fun for kids but pretty rubbish for training other than cardio intervals and just as it is, up and down technique.  Our local club run tracks up a little forrest road which is perfect and even has parking laybys near its start. It is undulating but has a couple of long drag, kicking up hills with only minor herring bone on the second hill,  which you can avoid in a decent session by turning at the top of said summit to repeat the 3km or so each way until a final descent is made which is a blast actaully, short and scary enough for me at the bend.

Next year will be a time for tours to the high chaparal with its rolling silkefoere as they call it- silky snow conditions. This year will be using time effectively and not getting round a course for the sake of getting round and all sweaty, but as a training for the mind and neural connections as much as for the body. As always it will be training for the soul though.

Winter That NeVer Was...a most Un Norwegian Winter

We have had no less than seven winters in Oslo and Southland where XC skiing was a mere wander out the door, blue wax for the most and then wonderful mountain experiences on hills nearby decked with the fantastic white stuff. Okay you did get some nasty thawbacks with freezing but last year even we got a top up of snow in time for the very late and coolish easter. But not his year. Even inland Hamar, south of its little sister of Olympic 1994 fame, had its first grey christmas in 32 years. Wet. windy and relatively mild being around 10 degrees higher on average I reckon compared to the preceeding 5 years.

Frustration noj doubt abounds as people in the east and south east get a feel for what a Bergen winter is typically like, with skitours demanding at least an hour and a half in the car and then being blowy messsy affairs.

We can ski as close as that right now, but effectively using 4 hours for a couple of on skis is not worth it with the weather being  cloudy and windy.

Global warming has probably caused ironically enough the last five very hard winters in the south and mid norway, with a week arctic vortex allowing high pressure areas to spill down across the moderate climes and probably shutting down the nasty north atlantic gradient. This year there was more sea ice in the arctic and the opposite happened with an unusually wild vortex powering the jet stream storms over the atlantic and also eventually spilling down in a great bow of cold misery over the mid west and eastern states of the USA.

This time  last year I remember walking to work in -13C in the dark, walking to my job in a drilling company and meeting the electric car users in the garage as they plugged in to recharge due to the cold weather making it marginal for 90 km round tour or not with the heater actually on- the irony of 99% of our contracts being oil and gas, just one or two in geothermal, wasd a bit lost on me then.