mandag 7. april 2014

Finally End of The The End Of the Cross Country Ski Season for Me

Finally there is no contiguous snow within a couple of hours drive from the house, and with a resounding negative reply about going up to the high mountains, like Blefjell or Raulandsgrend.

It is a bit irritating that the general use of the Norsk word 'Fjell' does not allow for a distinction between a great thrusting , snow capped, cliff sided two thousand meterer and a little moss covered stoney bump out in the back of the garden. Indeed even the ground under the house in a relatively flat area, if at an angle and composed largely of rock is refered to by the same word. Vis So you dug down and found mountain side ?
'Hoyfjell' doesnt fill the gap very well, usually referred though in XC ski circles in the winter/easter as being anything over about 700, or especially a thousand. It covers though a multitude of terrain- peaks, bealachs, arrets, raised valleys, escarpments, various angles and forms of mountain side and of the greatest misnomer where it is a plateau in fact, although they do have names for that especially Vidde. We would say of course, in the Highlands or up in the mountains not on the high mountain. I find 'fjell' both a beloved pet name and also this annoying cover all term, used for those green bumps in the Derby/Yorskshire as Fells. Anyway, until summer the high fells will not be a-visited by yours truly and enterage.

A strange ski season which was actually not all that strange. The core of it was as
nearly always from the first week in january to the second week in march. Usually snow before this time is a bit fickle and prone to melt/freeze cycles as the last of the mild atlantic fronts get through in December. The one strange thing about this season was the lack of frozen ground ('tele' taelae if I spell it right) which usually aids retention of snow. This year it just chucked it down for several weeks on end and the ground was insulated of course by all this white froth like a blanket.  However it persisted about at least 300m on shady forrest roads by virtue of its sheer amount and the freexing cycles at night. No ground frost meant that the snow also was refreshing itself, as it just had a crust on top and did not become the usual hard iice layer which I see now is caused by compression of traffic and any thaw backs, whgic is most usual for low to mid level south Norway.

Ice is a learning thing again for me. Basically I have learned that icey conditions are not worth the snow they are printed on as far as my ski skills go. I am taken from being a competent skier, down to being a laughable immigrant new beginner, like a dog on a frozen lake. Truth told I am heavy and clumsy, and I just dont get along with hard and icey conditions any more than I do with snobs, racists and people who put 'university of life' on their FB profiles.

My poor diplomatic relations with water in its contiguous solid phase condition, were shown by sharp contrast on my last ski tour a week and a half ago. There I found my new favourite down hill, icey in the shadowy parts previous trip,  but now soft easter snow all the way but with a firm base making for rapid enough progress and lots of feel. I skied in a series of tucks, turboed with some poling,  and polishged off with neat step turns round all the bends and some skating on the small uphill bits. Ice no thank you!

My main two learning points then for this season have been to practice in good conditions and drive further to get them. The next being more fundamental actually- get used to freeing up one leg and placing 100% weight on one leg.

The latter has really transformed my skiing this year, with more combined progress in eight weeks of skiing than in the last 8 years.

My final pointer is in terms of fitness and programming your brain to new things is that ideally you want to do sessions of two to three hours, beggining with light intensity tours with short breaks every half hour. Focusing on technique and a sustainable rythmn. This kind of goes hand in hand of course, however you need to gas off a bit and get into a kind of meditative feel, which is AKA zoning.

For classic technique bench-marking was difficult this year because there was a
a confusing variability in conditions and generally soft poling sides leading to the odd face plant when poling hard but luckily no splinters of carbon this year! However, obver time I could feel my technique getting better in terms of>

1) Glide - got better showing a more efficient thrust and weight transfer and correct waxing / clister or using waxless on poorer days.
2) Rythmn / this was a bit of an after thought because the conditions varied from day to day and underway on the same trail!  However I did see that I had too fast a rythmn often and was not using the glide enough, or rushing the kick off or not using the vertical bobbing or not throwing the hip in enough . Watching a few old foxes on skis I realised I was not skiing efficiently because I was rushing the rythmn and being broken on my own wheel.
3) Thrust. I prefer to say thrust or stride than kick now that I have learned more about it and the feel of it. I still have not mastered this, it is one part of the whole rythmnic thing, like a more complex version of cycling with double linked cranks, or trying to swim butterfly.
4) most of all getting weight over onto one leg and freeing the other one up while still having a high degree of control over it. This applies to down hill more than touring, in fact you can tour all your life with some weight on your trailing ski if you always go with a pack of more than 6kg.

This last point is the very reason that kids and adults alike should be taught both styles - classic and skating - from the start and possibly use short waxless skis to achieve this in the first good number of hours. I see the opportunity for new combi skis using skintec or other things like titanium tensioning such that new beginners can learn in this way without needing two sets of skis, while the compromise in equipment is outwieghed by the advantage in learning curve.

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