Saturday, January 17, 2009

They all go up...

When I went to bed last night, I thought skiing conditions today would be so sucky that I'd have to wait until Sunday when it was warmer. When I got up this morning, they were talking winter storm tonight and Sunday, so if I wanted to be sure I would get a ski in at all this weekend, it would have to be today. It was -22F at Waterville. I read it hit -50F somewhere in Maine. I waited until the temp got above 0F before heading off to Northfield Mountain instead.

32.3km, 1050m climbing, 2.4hrs

Northfield ties Waterville Valley in fun factor (if hills are your gig). I'd go there a lot more often, maybe even buy a season pass if the snow was more reliable. That is one advantage the Whites have vs. the Berkshires. The Whites tend to get snow earlier and keep it longer.

I hinted at performing an experiment a couple posts ago. I broke out the Toko Moly base prep and Start Green waxes. I spent a good deal of time waxing my best pair of skis, Atomic RS11's. I've heard the Start Green is hard to work with, but I took extra care to melt it in good and used a sharp scraper after cooling. I had no chatter or chipping issues. I then used my new Toko soft copper brush to leave as little structure in the base as possible. The bases were a thing of beauty, as long as you were heading for some very cold snow.

Side view of Tooleybush Turnpike in foreground

You may recall I speculated these racing skis may be too stiff for me, at least that was the excuse I was grasping at for slipping back a few places relative to my nemesis group at Weston last Tuesday. I did a table top test between my racing RS11's and my training RS11's. I cannot compress the race skis nearly as far as my training skis. They are identical model numbers but visually have different grinds and apparently flexes. I recall buying "stiff" versions for my race skis. The training skis I bought used and have no idea what they are, but now I assume "soft" flex. Referring to Atomic sizing charts, a 192cm stiff ski is way too much ski for me, generally for those that weigh over 180 lbs. I weigh 165. What this means is all of my weight is distributed only on the front and rear tips of the stiff skis, where it is more uniformly distributed on my training skis. Argh! I paid good money for those. At the time I wasn't that concerned with racing, and I figured I always skied with a Camelbak with 8 lbs of water and other crap in it anyway, so I needed the stiffer version. To make matters worse, I'm pretty sure the grind is "warm." Not exactly what I want when most of my skiing is in frigid conditions.

Looking down from top of Reservoir Rd

So I started my Northfield ski around 1pm. The parking lot was full and people were still coming in. There were highschool teams there too. Up on the mountain, it was not crowded at all. I went up Reservoir Rd first, an 800ft vertical ball buster with no warmup. It doesn't get as steep as Tripoli Rd at Waterville, but it keeps going and going. Coming down I got the most excruciating icecream headache. I saw some of the highschool girls there not even wearing hats. I figured surely I'm tougher than they are. I chose not to wear a balaclava, just a hat. I bet the kids didn't cruise 25mph for 10 minutes in single digit temps though. First my jugulars went numb, then the sides of my face, then the brain. Tough but dumb.

There are many tasty climbs here. In fact, all of the trails here go up. Unless, of course, you do laps on the field out by the road. I did Tooleybrush Turnpike next. This has some insanely steep pitches in it, at least 20%, maybe 30% grade in the section called The Chutes. Sandpaper snow made this a real slug fest. My skis weren't quite as slow as I expected, but slow enough that maintaining skate glide on these steep pitches took considerable focus. I wondered if my skis just needed good wax after all. I came back down Reservoir Road again for some more brain freeze action. In just two climbs, I contemplated not even doing a third. With this dry snow, it was so much work. I went there to do at least three, so 10th Mountain trail was next. This goes up the other side of the ski area, starting under powerlines. When the trail cuts into the woods, more painful pitches are in order. After summitting Northfield Mountain a third time, I was a cooked crispy critter.

The powerline section of 10th Mountain trail with some embedded punches

I hadn't finished my experiment yet. I also brought my training RS11's with old wax on. I skied them three times I believe since waxing, and I think I used warm flouro. They should be slow as mud, right? I did laps around the field first with my race skis, then the training skis. I was dismayed. The training skis had much better glide than my pristine race skis I spent 45 minutes waxing. How can this be? Plus the training skis felt so much more stable V2'ing. The bottoms are all chewed up and were white-ish looking, yet they were faster. Had I started on those, I bet I would have had enough left in me to do four climbs today. The grooming was even very firmly packed, yet these stiff skis were still so much slower. They were slower at Weston in warm wet conditions, and now slower in cold dry conditions. Both times the surface was similarly firm. I raced these at Rangeley last year in mashed potatoes. I suspect that is about the biggest mismatch I could have used.

So now what? I plan to do the Lake Placid Loppet. If I don't break new skis in soon, I will use my beat up training skis for it. I will look into Atomic World Cup skis, available up to 190cm length, but get the soft flex version. I'm not going to pay $500+ for them though. Perhaps there are still some RS11's out there cheap. I really like my training skis. I used to have some Fischer RCS's, but they had a different side cut and I could never feel stable on those things. I bought some RS10's back then, loved them, then upgraded to higher performance RS11's. My training RS11's were a recent acquisition, bought used with a few dings in them already for a really great price. My thinking was I would like to train on exactly the same ski I race on, but I've learned not all RS11's are built equal. I may seek out the advice of the good folks at Waterville valley on Sunday if we're not snowed in. And I'll try not to write another dissertation for my next post.


Mookie said...

There is a solution. Go back to Fat Doug and your race RS11's will be perfect.

Luke S said...

Put on a few pounds in the upper body, you won't be under-flexing your skis, and you'll be able to really pull yourself up those climbs with your arms.

I own two pairs of Atomic World Cups, both 2 seasons old. Both pairs are slightly soft for me now, but the factory grind on the pair I bought new made them some of the fastest skis I've seen in fresh packed powder conditions. This season I bought a lightly used pair to be "cold" skis, and put a warm grind on the other pair. I think they are some of the best skis out there, but often underrated. Everyone seems to have a love affair with Fischer, which I understand, because my RCS classic are the 2nd best pair of skis I've ever owned.

Alex said...

Unfortunately, if you are not planning on gaining 15 pounds or so, your best bet is to sell the super-stiff RS11s and find another pair that is flexed correctly. At this rate, I'd say use the old ones for the Lake Placid Loppet, dings and scratches don't slow you down nearly as much as incorrectly flexed skis. Bummer about that.

One way to reliably test glide wax is to wax one ski with one wax, and the other ski of the pair with a different wax. Then go ski on them, switching skis from foot to foot occasionally, and decide which one feels more "free" on the uphills.

Toko moly is a good wax, but it has the temperature range of toko red, so if you are going to use it under start green as a race wax, mix some start green into it to harden it up. Its rarely used as a top coat, unless you're actually referring to jetstream moly (a pure fluorocarbon).

Ryan Amirault said...

Did you ever race the Northfield Power Circuit mtn bike race? That used to be one of my favorite races in that neck of the woods. Not sure if they still run it.

Hill Junkie said...

Never done that race. Haven't heard of it actually. I raced off-road from 1999 through 2005, nearly all EFTA races plus Mt Snow nationals a couple times. I'll be hitting some dirt this year though, guaranteed.