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Archive for December, 2012

Yipee! We’re Grooming and Skiing.

Saturday, December 29th, 2012

My sliver of hope paid off this past few days as it snowed about 6″-8″ and didn’t warm up or rain afterwards. This was the upside. The less upside was the panic of procrastination (masked publicly as superstition) of building a roller frame.

The 30 minute roller frame after completing the first pass at the trails. We’ll see how long it lasts but for now it got the season started.

There isn’t a pile of steel available for welding up a roller frame and the idea of racing the 50 miles north to the steel supply was bordering on ridiculous. Plus, the $75 in gas to make the trip is better off spent on fueling the sled. Fortunately, the cheap Yankee in me has kept a pile of 3″ PVC pipe stashed behind the barn “just in case…” Scaring up a single 90 and two 45s and thawing the glue inside the house and the roller frame began taking shape. Eventually a steel frame needs to be welded and the PVC was going to get me through the moment and most likely result in another tree contact disaster but the forecast called for 10″-14″ and not packing in 6″ lifts makes for soft and hollow trails. A piece of 3/4″ poly-pro webbing and steel ring for a hitch and load limiter and the 12/13 grooming season was underway.

So far the frame has worked despite being bounced off a few trees. The webbing did its job as a load limiter and failed several times. Each failure rendered the “hitch” a bit shorter and tying knots was a chore. Before heading out to groom the spare webbing was taken out of my pocket and left on the kitchen table figuring the frame would succumb to rapid deceleration against a tree and suffer catastrophic failure. I didn’t truly expect the webbing to fail first and do its job.

I finished the roller passes of all 10k well after the sun went down. The rolling didn’t take too long I just began as the disc of the sun was perched at the horizon planning to roll half the trails. Everything was working and the Cheshire Cat grin clouded my thinking and the entire system was rolled.

I took this with the drag attached since I rolled it in the dark. I was advised to make the bridge wide and I made it as wide as I had materials on hand. Should have gathered more. There is a foot on either side of the sled and it looks barely enough.

The bridge was actually rolled; the new sections of trail cut two summers ago (some post has photos of us pulling rocks) were rolled with the intent of being able to ski them and not make a run dodging sticks and other low snow trail crap fearing puncture wounds and just too high stump impacts as I made last season.

The roller wasn’t very free of frost and ice adhered grass and dirt from sitting for a year so a lot of snow grabbed on and the rolled trails were packed and very lumpy. The next morning the drag was pulled to level the humps and move the snow around a bit more to help make it solid and flat. It worked well to level everything and managed to snag every stick and lump of hoar frosted soil. There is barely enough snow to groom and ski.

An hour after beginning, the first groom of the season was complete and time to set first tracks. The plan was for me to have the virgin go at the trails but I was beaten to the ski by my kids. They were excited to ski and dug out their skis, boots, poles and whatever else they could find and went skiing without me. I was both bummed and thrilled with an overriding sense of pride with my children’s independence.

Found these upon my return home.

We managed to ski almost all of the trails and ran into a few neighbors who after hearing the sled, grabbed their skis and went out to get the season started.

Why is taking a photo of a skier in a well balanced position so difficult? Here we were messing around on the super wide (15′) racetrack in the field across from the house. This 350 meter loop is a great place for skier cross and simple terrain to cruise.

Tracks on the bridge. Having this connector trail is a huge improvement to the trails from both a skiing and grooming perspective. There is much better flow to everything.

Having the bridge has reduced the number of skunk stripes needed to connect the sections of trails. The road crew is pretty good about stopping the sand to accommodate the skiing as long as they are reminded. The stripes are still layed down but without the sand they are easier to build.

Actually grooming the trails points out all of the saplings and areas where summer maintenance could have been better. This past summer I was excessively apathetic and didn’t get out enough to put the trails in good shape for skiing. The next few ski events will be carrying a set of loppers to trim back branches and remove what should have been cut during the off season.

I’ve also come to realize trails should be cut much wider than originally believed. If during the build a tree location gives pause about the stay/go aspect just cut it. Mow a bit wider too. Walking and operating a rig almost fifteen feet long requiring wider radius turns are different and in time I will be able to walk and see the trails as I do from the sled. For now I’ll tag the larger trees and stuff for removal next summer. For now I’ll just groom and enjoy myself.

Darkest Day of the Year

Tuesday, December 25th, 2012

December 21. Traditionally the day with the shortest possible amount of daylight. Once again, this year didn’t disappoint and the day was short just as predicted.

The winter has been dark, from a psychological perspective, and its time for things to become brighter. Snow, or the lack of it has again been the story for the start of Vermont’s cross country ski season.

In the last post, superstition was the main theme. The fear of being prepared too early kept Snow Miser from dumping a lot of snow. Apparently, his brother, Heat Miser, was pissed and didn’t give old Snowey a chance to do his stuff.

By mistake the chosen word was superstition and it should have been apathy. Last winter stole the fun right out of grooming. We had plenty of snow but it was usually followed by warm temps and rain. This season it was difficult to get excited with great fears of another disappointing ski season lurking around.

One of many waiting to be removed. I’m hopeful getting the trails in good nik will invite the Snow Miser to grace us with his talents.

Maybe the extra three minutes of daylight perked me up today and a feeling of hope germinated and began to grow. Stepping outside to the woodpile with hopes of reigniting the last few glowing embers in the woodstove back into a roaring fire to heat the house, my deck was covered in a light but measurable amount of snow. There was no precipitation forecast and the snow found a way to squeak in anyway. I was excited.

Wanting to get a bit of exercise in the waning hour of daylight, Nathan and I decided to walk the trails and check for any downed limbs, brush, and remember where the fallen trees are. We had a blast walking on hoar frosted and heaved trails. There is a decent amount of water in the ground and the cold temps were drawing the water molecules into towers pushing up soil, leaves and forest floor detritus.

Nate is enthusiastic about keeping the trails clear of fallen limbs. Not as much fun as riding the snowmachine when it comes to maintenance.

Fortunately this rootstock is right off the trail and did not take part of the ski surface with it when it pulled up. The 10 year old is for scale.

It has been at least a month or two since I’ve been around the length of the trails and I was amazed to see how good they look. The neighbors have cut the tall grasses, ferns and ragweed from the trails. I usually refer to the trails as community ski trails to avoid the conceit of saying they are mine. They are not but since most of the maintenance is undertaken by myself there is a sense of ownership. Having the neighbors head out and clear the trails was awesome and the term community is now more than a bit of cloaked misdirection to hide behind.

What a great surprise to find part of the trail cut short ready for snow. This section will be skiable with a few inches of cover.

The season’s firewood cutting finished off the remaining two-stroke fuel so I headed to the local store with a big gas can. A gallon of mix will keep the saw running long after the trails are cleared and the extra fuel is for the sled. Yes, I am hopeful enough to buy fuel in anticipation of getting the snowmachine going. My enthusiasm was overblown enough to drop an email to a guy on Craigslist selling a BistenBully PB150 with an 8 foot width and plow. Why I believed I had a spare 30 grand for a toy is beyond me but it was nice to be excited about the prospect of grooming this season.

Have a joyous holiday season and let’s keep hoping for snow.