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SKI TECH: Snowy Boots?

Cross Country Skiing is a sport that is made up of many details. This is one of the things I love about it. You as a skier need to make a number of things happen to have a good race (fitness, have the right ski, the right wax, etc, etc) not to mention that having snow and grooming is critical...

One of those funny little details that you tend to forget about during the off season but are quickly reminded of once your back on snow, is how snow can pack into your boot sole and prevent easy binding entry. Particularly in warm or wet snow, this can be a challenge and honestly a hassle!

Ben removing snow from the bottom of his boots after the recent snow storm.

Following are a few helpful hints to ensure easy binding entry and remove snow pack from your boot sole:
  • Firmly tap your toe tips on your opposite heel just before trying to click into your binding. This usually removes enough snow to get into your binding without issue
  • Use your ski pole tip to clean out snow from your boot sole, this will ensure all of the snow is removed from the binding interface of your boot.
  • An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of treating the symptoms... You can almost eliminate snow from sticking to the binding interface of your ski boot by carefully applying a liquid silicon to the groove that lines up with your binding. Be careful to not get silicon all over the boot sole, only in the groove (you don' want you ski boots to be slippery). This is a trick that is used extensively in Australia, where slushy conditions are the norm for the entire winter. Do this, and you'll spend less time digging snow out of the sole of your boots!

SKI TECH: Paste Wax makes your life easier!

Various paste wax products have been on the market now for years. Back in the day, they were minimally effective but have gradually gotten better and better (funny how innovation works, eh?).

Paste Wax is not a replacement for hot wax, rather a supplement to use between hot waxing sessions. As an example, I typically wax my skis for weekend races but don't have time to hot wax during the week (I'm busy with life). So, I usually simply will apply a quick layer of paste wax in the parking lot of the ski trail; 2 minutes and I'm set to go.

A few examples of Paste/Liquid Waxes on the market

While I don't consider a paste wax job to be a race quality job, it will generally run as well as (or often better) most other people's skis. Additionally, paste wax is very durable, but dependant on the condition of the skis it's applied to. I'm often able to get in up to a 40k ski on a paste wax job.

The latest iteration of paste waxes is made by a local ski wax company that is rapidly working toward establishing dominance in the US Nordic market: Fast Wax. A few short years ago, Fast Wax introduced a "Slick Pro". Slick Pro is a temperature specific high performance paste wax. This was the very first temperature specific paste wax product on the market, and still the only one.

Now, to fully disclose myself, I do work in the ski industry for distributor Q-Active. Fast Wax is one of the vendors we distribute for and I recently was helping them out at the West Yellowstone Ski Festival. At their On Snow Demo Booth, we waxed hundreds of skiers skis with the appropriate Slick Pro. Every single skier came back by saying their skis felt great, were way faster, that they felt "free'er" on the climbs, that they were out gliding their friends, etc. Paste definitely is for real!

So, how does it work and how do you apply it? It takes about 2 minutes to do a pair of skis and is summarized in a few simple steps:
  1. Clean the ski base with a soft metal brush (horsehair will also do). Take several brush strokes to remove any oxidation (white/gray areas from the ski base).
  2. Apply a thin layer of Paste Wax to the glide zone of a ski.
  3. Polish in the Paste with a Fast Wax Speed Block or similar tool. Vigorously polishing in the paste will generate a bit of heat, allowing the wax to adhere to the ski base.
  4. Lightly brush the ski base with a polishing or horsehair brush. This removes any paste residue from the ski base and will ensure your skis are fast the moment they hit the snow.
TIP: On waxless classic skis, you should apply the paste to the fish scale zone as well (this keeps wet snow from sticking to the grip zone and keeps it clean). Paste wax should help you to consistently have fast skis with minimal fuss!

How To Schedule Blog Posts for the Future

Hello Everyone! We've had a couple guest writers lately for CyclovaXC so I thought I'd do another post about general blogging knowledge, that way I can just refer to this post in the future rather than keep explaining it over and over again (God that's smart, you'd think I'd get PAID by somebody to do something at some point in my life!). For the record, I've done one article like this entitled How to Use Picassa to Display your Photos in a Slideshow on your Webpage (check it out if you have a blog, it's awesome and there are a lot of pictures).

Posting in the future is easy. From the "New Post" option, simply select the "Post Options" button (I've circled it in red...ignore the "s400" I also circled, that applies to another article). When you click "Post Options" you get the following menu:From here all you have to do is change the date and time in the section I have circled in red, and then click "Publish Post."

Pretty easy huh?

Here at CyclovaXC we've been trying to put up a post every day (which is harder than it sounds). Perhaps in the future we'll be putting up one or two, but for now it's just one. Just for the sake of convenience, we always set our publish time for 6:00 AM, that way it appears on Facebok (our articles automatically post to Facebook...to the fan page and various personal pages but annoyingly NOT the group page...grrrr...if you know how to do that please advise).

So, to recap, if you ask to be invited to our web page as a guest writer, before you publish your article, pick a date that doesn't yet have an article scheduled for publication, and publish your article on that date at 6:00 AM (make sure you change it to "AM" or your article will only be posted for 12 hours and only half as many people will read it).

If you want to be a regular contributor for CyclovaXC, send me an email (cyclovaxc at gmail.com). Essentially all we want is a couple good pictures and a couple paragraphs of text (please don't publish blatant ads for your business or service or I'll delete them...however you can mention your business or service at the end, I have no problem with that). We can't pay anything, but if I catch up with you I'd be happy to buy you coffee or something (at least it's not nothing).


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Ski Area Profile: William O'Brien State Park

your reward for reaching the "top of the world" at William O'Brien is this view

If you’re looking for a venue for your next over-distance workout or just a new place to ski look no further than William O'Brien State Park. With it’s constantly changing scenery and terrain it’s the perfect place to spend a long winter afternoon. I say long because once you start skiing there you won’t want to stop. I've been the victim of this trap many times...just ask my wife. One hour quickly turns to two, then three, and pretty soon it's dark and you're late for dinner.

O’Brien will keep your mind and body engaged no matter what kind of workout you're looking for. It boasts everything from marshes to rolling meadows and oak savanna. The park offers rolling hills, long sustained climbs, and winding flats.

trails winding through the marsh early in the outer loop

The park staff at O’Brien is committed to consistent grooming. If it snows, they'll be out and these people know what they're doing. They seem to be able to work magic with whatever Ma Nature throws (or doesn't throw!) at them. I swear they have secret snow guns hidden in the forest. You can usually ski there early in the season and they seem to be able to hold the snow longer than a lot of places.

classic tracks stretch out through the woods

One full outer loop of the park measures about 12.5 K while many spurs and cut through allow you to customize your workouts. I'm going to go out on a limb here and hopefully cause a little controversy...or at least a healthy discussion. The trails at William O'Brien are the closest thing to the Birkie trail we have in the Twin Cities area. If you are going to ski down Main Street in Hayward in February, you should train at O'Brien.

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Where to Stay for the Sisu Ski Fest

One of our most distinguished teammembers, Dennis Kotcon (and I'll get into why he's distinguished soon....and I still don't know how to pronounce his last name...is there a "z" sound in there Dennis?), just sent me this link about the Sisu Ski Fest up in Ironwood. Apparently on the 8th and 9th of January they're doing a 42K skate and classic, a 21K, and a 10-16K taste 'n tour (that sounds interesting). This is exactly the type of event we need to know about, so thanks for sending that in Dennis!

He also sent the following information about inexpensive lodging, which is even better:

If anyone is interested my inlaws have an apartment for rent near downtown Ironwood that they will rent by the night. It's semi-furnished, but they will work out whatever you need to be comfortable. It's 2-3 bedrooms, with kitchen and bath, and best of all, only 2 blocks from the finish of the new SISU ski marathon in Ironwood. If you're planning on doing the Stormy Kromer on Jan. 2 and 3, or the Sisu race on the 9th and want some digs, drop me a line or call me at 715-528-5472. Or you can contact them directly: Gene and Barb Henning, 906-932-0168 for details. I think they're talking $30/night/person.

Sounds great! I hope somebody takes him up on this!

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Ski Area Profile: Elm Creek Park Reserve

If you've skied in the Twin Cities area over the past few years, the it most likely was at Elm Creek Park Reserve.

Having lived in the Twin Cities now since 2004 (over 5 years), most of my serious workouts have been at Elm Creek. Elm Creek boasts the best and most consistently world class snow conditions in the Twin Cities. Having skied all over the world at many famous venues, it is safe to say that Elm Creek is a gem for us locals to appreciate!

A rare late night "quiet time ski" at Elm Creek, after the masses left for the night! Gorgeous!

To start with, any ski area with 2 (yes 2) Pisten Bully groomers means business! On top of that, 8 of the newest snow guns in the country don't hurt. On top of that, a massive new chalet building complete with a cafeteria, huge fireplace, and dining/hang out area that seats over 130 people doesn't hurt. Oh, did I mention they have nice ski trails?

The beautiful and huge new Chalet at Elm Creek is luxurious by XC Skier standards.

While Elm Creek may be best known for it's 2.5K man made snow/lighted loop (every inch of that trail is burned into my memory from countless laps), the rest of the trail is truly beautiful and has much to offer. This 2.5K man made snow/lighted loop features a great variety of terrain, suitable for any skier, yet challenging enough for any athlete to get in a great workout.

In total, Elm Creek grooms 18K of trail. There is a huge variety of scenery and terrain from one end of the park to the other, yours to discover. As a bonus during the non-snow months, their network of beautiful blacktop bike trails are perfect for cycling, running, or rollerskiing.

As part of the Three Rivers Park System, your Three Rivers Ski Pass will get you skiing at Elm Creek. This Season Pass is currently only $50 (and $25 for each additional household member) or $4 for a day pass. All in all, amazing value!

After thousands of skis passing over the snow, at the end of the day, the Pisten Bully groomed snow is still in near perfect condition!

Check it out, Elm Creek is a world class venue right in the Twin Cities Metro Area!

Merry Christmas Sports Fans!

You see? That's how YOUR Christmas tree should look. Surrounded by CyclovaXC gear. From the first day of our initial design people said our colors looked too Christmassy. Well, that was the whole point! Because Christmas is awesome!

So, I suppose as you all sit around your blinking tree sipping on your egg nog and watching football, you can reflect and give thanks for all the wonderful things in your life. Wonderful things like about another 6 feet of snow that's been snowing since last night. Wonderful things like this web page that tells you what to think and believe so you don't have to waste any energy deciding for yourself. Wonderful things like the CyclovaXC ski suit.

Enjoy that egg nog people, because race season is about to start, right after the CyclovaXC new year's day party (more details to follow)!

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Fischer Skis

You know, everybody gets kind of territorial about their skis and it really doesn't make any sense. Rossignol people get all fired up about Rossignols, Madshus people get all fired up about Madshus, and Fischer people get all fired up about Fischers. It actually gets to the point where people kind of base their identity on the brand of skis they use.

I remember when a friend of mine down in Australia switched over to Atomics. That was back in the days when Atomic had those super light pink skis. They were great skis, except for the fact that everybody who owned a pair broke them. Seriously, you didn't have to do much to break those skis, my friend just leaned hard on his one time and it splintered the cap up around the tip. Those were early in the days of cap technology, but I tell you, the image of those pink skis got pretty firmly burned into my brain.

I've skiied on Fischers and Madshus myself, and although I don't have any complaints about the Madshus, I can't say that I've ever had a spectacular race on them. Of course, my appreciation for Madshus is kind of tempered by the fact that my fastest pair of skis was a pair of Fischers (not the pair pictured above).

I bought my best pair of skis in Canada (back when a Canadian dollar was worth less than an American dollar) and the guy at the ski shop had some extra special soft wax that he sold me to use to prep the bases. Also, I got the stiffest pair in the shop, and those skis ended up being super fast on hardpacked conditions. Plus they were SOLID and I didn't have to worry about busting them with an awkward fall. If the conditions were right to use my Fischers, I knew I was going to have a good race.

The next year I bought the Fischers pictured above hoping to carry on the triumphant tradition...but those suckers just never moved quite as good as the previous pair, thus they've been relegated to my early season quiver.

Still, at this point, nothing in my quiver is any good since they're all flexed for a guy who weighs about 165...You know what...I think I'll wait until I'm down about 30 pounds before I even unwrap that old pair of fast Fischers. It'll be extra motivation.

So good luck all of you out there on your Kneissls or your Germinas or your Trak skis! I'm sure you identify with your brand, so stay loyal (and keep them in business...competition is GOOD)! And maybe if you're good, there will even be a new pair of whatever you ski on waiting for you under the tree!

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The Fabulous Skiing Lodge at Tower Ridge

When I went to college in Eau Claire back in the late 90s, I used to ski all the time out at Tower Ridge. That was back in the days when I was fit and I would be the first to pull into the parking lot and the last to pull out. Other cars would come and go (I'd see them as I came through on my laps) but mine would always be sitting there. And as darkness slowly crept in, and I finally gave up and unclasped my boots from my frozen binders, I'd walk back to my vehicle and hope that the darn thing would start. Knowing that if it didn't start, I was probably going to freeze to death since I was too exhausted to build a fire.

Ok, that's probably a little extreme...or maybe not...but the better news is that now there is a magnificent ski lodge at tower ridge. As you can see from the above photo, this place is SWEET! I've stayed in HOTELS that weren't as nice as this place. Heck! I've stayed in APARTMENTS that weren't that nice.

It's got everything you need! It's heated, it's got picnic tables! It's got bathrooms! And it closes at 10 PM, so I ASSUME that somebody comes around to shut off the lights and lock the door...so if your car doesn't start, you can just wait and get help from that guy!

Man, if this lodge had existed back when I was going to school....

But you see, this is exactly the type of thing that more little communities need! Let's face it, XC Skiing isn't nearly as big as it needs to be or should be. We've got to CONVERT people, and beautiful lodges like this make all the difference.

So if you're in the Eau Claire area and you want to meet the people responsible for the tower ridge lodge, you can probably find them here at the Eau Claire Ski Striders! We'll keep you posted if they're doing any races...I'd like to get a T-Shirt with that logo on it (I think I have one somewhere...but I need ANOTHER one)!

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An Interview with Peru's First Winter Olympian

Peruvian cross-country skiier Roberto Carcelen trains on roller-skis at the foot of Sacsayhuaman (Cusco, Peru). Roberto will be the first Peruvian to compete at the winter Olympics.

I came across Roberto Carcelen's story on the internet and it just seemed too good to be true. There was the image of a man rollerskiing in front of the magnificent ruins of Sacsayhuman in Cusco, Peru. If you've ever been to Cusco, you know that the combination of the altitude and the mild climate make it an ideal location for training. However, the thought of rollerskiing there hadn't even occurred to me (and I've thought of rollerskiing in a lot of places...even throughout the streets of Lima).

Having just moved from Peru back to the US (mainly so I could cross-country ski again) I couldn't wait to contact Roberto and ask him about his experiences. So I dug up his email and sent him an interview which he was only too happy to complete. I know that I, for one, will have one more thing to look for at the Vancouver opening ceremonies (the Peruvian flag)! Without further ado, here's my conversation with Roberto Carcelen:

How many other Peruvians are participating in 2010s winter Olympics? Although interest is always high in Peru on the summer Olympics, I don't believe they have even broadcast the winter Olympics in the past, perhaps you will give them reason to do so this year.

So, far i'm the only one who has met the qualification criteria and therefore got a spot in the Olympics. As a matter of fact, I'm the first Peruvian ever to qualify for the Winter Olympics.

Yeah, i don't remember watching the Winter Olympics on TV while living in Peru. I hope the fact that Peru is going to the Winter Olympics would attract more people's interest in knowing more about winter sports.

What is your athletic background and how did you get involved with cross-country skiing?

I grew up surfing, lots of surfing and running too. But surfing was my main thing and I did pretty well at national surfing contests (back in the 90's)

How similiar is the fitness level of cross-country skiing to running, and how well did you make the transition from one to the other?

As you know, the fitness needed for Cross Country Skiing can't be compared to other sports, since, the amount to muscle and oxygen levels used for xc skiing is way greater than, running and the gap is even bigger if you compare it to cycling. Surfing is pretty close though.

I understand that you took it upon yourself to meet the FIS qualifications to get into the Olympics even though you would have been allowed to compete even without meeting them. What was required and why was meeting that standard important to you?

Actually, there is a qualification criteria requirement in order to be in the Olympics, (the NY Times got it wrong there). In fact, it took me a while to meet all requirements. The FIS has 2 requirements: achieve an average of FIS points out of 5 races under 300 points and you have to have raced at the 2009 XC SKi World's in the Czech Republic

What was your first experience in a ski race like? How did it feel to be competing against people in a sport that was new to you, against people who had done it for years?

I kind of picked the sport up pretty quick, my first races were local, regional level I finished 4th overall on my first race and then top 10 in several other Northwest races, I won 2 of them (30km skate) but the story is way different once you hit the major leagues like in the last world's or the Nor Ams, very tough but a great full speed learning system.

3 years is a short amount of time to perfect your technique, where would you say your technique is at by comparrison to skiers from Norway, or Sweeden (countries where XC-skiing is as popular as futbol is in Peru)?

My technique has improved 300% compared to a year ago and still tons of room for improving to be at nordic country levels. I think surfing really helped or gave a base for balance.

What are your expectations for the Olympics?

My goal is to achieve 120 points or under to start some of the World Cup events. Since, The Olympics has zero penalty, it might be a good option. My main goal is to have Peru skiing hard at the Olympics.

Who waxes, stonegrinds and otherwise prepares your skis?

I'm bringing help, some staff to help me with waxing, but my stone grind ski quiver is divided between Nordic Ultratune and Boulder Nordic Sports

What is the role of your coach?

My coach, has been really helping me out to reach the final goal that was getting the under 300 points in. Also, he helped to set a good race pace for me. I'm working with 2 great local athletes to improve technique and fitness. Vesa Suomalainen and Kent Murdoch.

I understand you are involved with www.incarunners.com. Can you tell a little bit more about what that is and how it relates to your training?

I learned of the Chasquis first time I went to the Andes. They were endurance messenger runners from the Inca Empire, they had the role of posting and delivering goods to the Inca royalty running on the Inca Trail system. I got inspired by the ideal of these old Peruvians and the fact the the Inca Trail system is still there, to offer all inclusive running tours on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. I ran all those trails several times, they are amazing, best altitude training while visiting the main tourist attractions.

With events like the Lima Media Marathon and the Addidas Marathon, Lima is becoming a city with a lot of superb running events, what are your feelings on that?

I think is great that Peruvians are getting involved in more active events, that's a good sign of a healthy city. I'm bringing a big running event to Lima and a big cause. In conjuction with Al Gore's Live Earth's non profit, i have the rights to set The Dow Live Earth Run for Water Lima, on April 18, 2010 is a series of 6km run/walks (the average distance women and children walk everyday to secure water) taking place over the course of 24 hours in 192 countries, featuring concerts and water education activities to ignite a massive global movement to help solve the water crisis. Please join us, more details to come...

Good luck in Vancouver, you've already made Peru proud!

For those of you who are intersted in learning more about Roberto, you can check out his blog here!

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15 Minutes in the Snow

Lately it's been beautifully warm. Anything over 20 degrees is pretty much perfect skiing weather (as long as there's no wind). But a couple days ago I went out for a ski on a day in the 10s. Now, even the 10s aren't bad, and back in the old days we'd regularly do races below zero.

Looking back on that, it was utter craziness because first of all your skis don't glide when it's below zero (so what's the point?) and second of all you can do irrepairable damage to your lungs (so I've heard)...not to mention other exposed regions of your person (it can be sad to see a grown man crying in a frigid parking lot after a ski race...but we've all seen that guy...and been him on occasion).

So, now in my wiser old age, I pretty much think races on the negative side of zero are simply out of the question (prepaid entry fee be damned). Because even on a relatively warm day, something in the teens for example, it can feel COLD. And no matter what you wear, it's going to be cold that first fifteen minutes. Those are the minutes you just have to push through...it's how long it takes for the furnace to kick in and start blowing warm air through your rapidly icing limbs. But once fifteen minutes hits, something magical happens! You're suddenly warm enough to whip off your gloves and start taking photos. Suddenly the day is bright, the skis are moving fast, and it's a great day to be alive.

Pretty crazy how quickly your perspective can change isn't it?

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