Friday, January 25, 2013

Brian Gregg Testimonial

Gear West:  The best ski selection and fit in the US
Seven years of great support with Salomon Skis means that I have an incredible quiver of skis.  In many aspects of life I live simply in a one bedroom one bath home with my wife and dog.  To be honest though, I don't mess around when it comes to my skis.  I have about twenty pairs of skis for various conditions.  I continuously test new skis against my fleet in hopes of finding an even better pair.  The faster skis you currently have, the more challenging it become to find something even faster.

 Would you trust one of you main competitors to select your skis for you? Perhaps not, but what if he was a good old fashioned honest Midwesterner with a  proven track record.   In 2010 I qualified for my first European World Cups and enjoyed the benefits of receiving skis directly from Salomon World Cup staff.  These skis are fantastic and I race these skis often.  However, my fastest pair of skis are a pair that Gear West's Director of Race Services, Matt Liebsch selected.  

The flex boards at Gear West work best, but in a pinch a counter at the condo in West Yellowstone can do just fine.  

Gear West has the largest ski inventory in North America.  This large selection means that not only are the practically guaranteed to have a ski in your size, they have several.  This means that in addition to a properly fit ski you can compare the quality of several of the same flex.  I am not sure exactly how he does it, but once again Matt selected one of my best pair of skis from the Gear West inventory.  

Thanks Matt, looking forward to another battle at this year's American Birkebeiner.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Loppet Foundation - the folks behind the luminaries

by Ingrid Remak

Loppet skiers/ski camp/Minne-Loppet kids (photo cred - Loppet Foundation):  Kids are enjoying skiing for the first time in the Loppet Foundation's youth programs.
Luminary and kid (photo cred - F/go)
Taking a peak through the enchanting forms,
the Luminary Loppet is a magical night for
all ages to enjoy.

Luminaries are not made, they are hatched. Over the last seven years, Lake of the Isles
has seen the lifecycle of over 8,000 luminaries frozen into existence for the Park Nicollet Luminary Loppet - the largest event of the City of Lakes Loppet Cross Country Ski Festival weekend.  The Luminary Loppet draws over 6,000 participants annually - who weave their way along a candlelit path of over 1,500 luminaries.  

“It is a magical event,” said Leslie Foreman who has skied the event numerous times with her family.  “I absolutely love it.”

While the City of Lakes Loppet has become emblematic of Minnesota winters, few participants know the snowy force behind the mellow glow.  Behind the scenes of this iconic event are an incredible group of volunteers - and the Loppet Foundation, a small non-profit advocating for year round outdoor activity in Minneapolis - especially among inner-city youth.  

The Foundation has played a big role in the growth of skiing and the promotion of outdoor activity generally in Minneapolis.  For instance, the Foundation has worked with the Minneapolis Park  & Recreation Board to bring skiing to the Chain of Lakes - with a groomed trail all the way from Uptown to the Chalet in Theodore Wirth Park.  The Foundation was also instrumental in bringing snowmaking to Wirth Park, so that there is a place to ski even when we have an Iowa winter . . .

Every year the Loppet Foundation outfits Minneapolis Public Schools elementary schools with equipment, coaching and grooming.  Kids learn to ski and about concepts like nutrition and fitness through an eight-week program.  At the end of the program the Foundation buses the students to the Minne-Loppet, a free kids event held during Festival weekend.  Each year over 500 students learn to ski through the Minne-Loppet programs.  Most of these students hail from North Minneapolis, and most come from disadvantaged backgrounds.  

The Foundation provides many other opportunities for both adults and youth to experience outdoor activity throughout the year.  For instance, the Foundation runs two middle school Ski and Bike teams, providing equipment, coaching and transportation with the hope that this year-round program can change the trajectory of lives.  The Foundation runs Trips for Kids, through which the Foundation maintains a fleet of mountain bikes and provides opportunities for inner-city youth to try off-road bicycling at Wirth Park.  The Foundation also runs summer and winter Adventure Camps, a Loppet Mentors program, and Run Ski and Tri-Clubs for adults who are interested in developing outdoor skills.  

“The middle school teams are a place where we can begin to dive deeper into the world of racing, and provide other exciting experiences surrounding these sports,” said Anwatin Ski Team coach Allie Rykken.  “The kids love the training trips up north, and also camping in the summer...  We have pasta parties, epic bike trips...  They learn that adventures can lie around every corner.”

The Foundation is currently expanding its breadth of programming to include adaptive athletes, as well as Loppet Mentors, a program that pairs kids on the middle school teams with active adults in the Loppet community.  The hope is that these one-on-one experiences will empower youth to pursue outdoor adventure for the rest of their lives.  

While “Nordic” in its roots, the Loppet Foundation’s youth programs reflect the diversity seen in Minneapolis today.  Because there is no word for skiing in the Hmong language, Hmong students in the program have created their own expression: “Jei-snow” which literally means “riding snow”.  

Other students are paving the way for their families:  “I want my mom to try skiing,” said Bryce Holte to his mother Hope as they talked about the family day their coach organized.  “I only want snow, for HIM!” his mother replied laughing.

Many people tend to think that the Foundation is a subsidiary of the City or that the City subsidizes the Foundation, but the Foundation is a completely independent non-profit entity.  While the Foundation works with the City and the Park Board, the Foundation supports itself through memberships, grants, donations and event registrations.  For instance, the Foundation pays the Park Board for a permit to use Lake of the Isles for the Luminary Loppet.  The Foundation then invests heavily to make the Luminary Loppet a great community event, with hopes that people will register for and enjoy the event - which allows the Foundation to continue providing the event and all of the services the Foundation provides to youth and to the broader community.

The Luminary Loppet is a mere five kilometers, but the Loppet Foundation will prepare the course for thousands of skiers.  Recreational, competitive, new and old, solitary and social folks will come together for a shared night on the snow.  When you register for the 2013 Luminary Loppet, know that you are a part of setting the tracks for many great skis ahead - both for yourself and the community.

For more information or to register, visit

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Wax Kits for Each Wave

Matching the strategies from this article on wax strategies for marathon ski racing we create Wax Kits relating to the your starting wave

Wax Strategies for Each Wave

Waxing for marathon racing forces a skier to make trade-offs between cost and performance. To simplify waxing for marathon racing I put together three strategies based on the wave you are starting in. These strategies are: Wave Five, Waves Three and Four and Elite, Waves One and Two. While I am specifically talking about glide wax strategies, these approaches can be applied to skate skis or the glide areas of classic skis.

A Wax Kit for Your Wave Click here

Wax Kit for Wave 5
I am suggesting practical and affordable ways for you Wave Five racers to get more speed out of your skis, and hopefully, more enjoyment out of your races.

The only real differences between Wave One and Wave Five waxing strategies are the number of skis you own and the cost of the wax. If you are a Wave Five skier you, likely, have just one pair of race skis - the rest, how you prep your skis and apply wax, is the same.

Start with a clean, porous base
If your ski bases have distorted or discolored areas the bases may be burned (burned bases look a bit like teflon). A hot iron, or an iron stopping too long in one place, can burn your ski bases. Burning seals the base material which makes it more difficult for wax to bond.
Additionally, cold waxes can seal your race base. The hard plastic green glide wax you may be using repeatedly during cold weather will coat your ski base with plastic.

Stone grinding will remove the sealed areas and make them porous and receptive to waxes again.  If you have one pair of race skis a good universal grind will give you flat skis and a structure that will serve you for most race conditions.

Note on Scraping and Brushing
Whether you are using high or low fluoro waxes be sure to scrape between each layer of wax with a sharp plastic scraper then brush thoroughly with a nylon brush (I use a nylon roto brush). After nylon brushing I d
o some hand bronze brush work (Swix T01580 Course Bronze Brush) to open the structure. Excessive metal brushing can remove too much wax from the base.

Hardening off the base
Before race waxes are applied you should iron on two layers of Blue (Swix CH6) or Green (Swix CH4). This will “harden off the base” and will allow your race wax to last much longer, run better and pick up less dirt.

Selecting wax according to snow type and weather forecast
When selecting a race wax you should take into account the abrasiveness of the snow along with temperature
and humidity - if you are skiing on icy, abrasive or cold new snow,  you should go with a colder harder wax. If are skiing on new mid-temp snow  you can choose a wax closer to the temperature suggested on the wax package. We have often seen even elite-level racers choose waxes based on temperature alone and not consider snow type. This is a mistake that can slow you down considerably. For example, on a 28 degrees F day the manufacturer’s generic instructions will suggest LF7. However, the icy snow will cause drag because the hard snow crystals grab the soft wax and slow the skis. A harder wax such as LF6 will resist the abrasive snow and your skis will be faster.

Wax for the low temp of your race window.
If the forecast shows your start time at 10 degrees F and and your finish time at 30 degrees F, you should  go with the Rex LFG Blue which has a range of 10-21 F. This is the right choice because the snow temperature rises much slower than the air. At the end of your race the air temperature may be 30 degrees F but the snow will still be much colder. Another important reason to wax for the low temp is colder waxes resist abrasions and last longer. As a rule of thumb, waxes work best at the top end of their temperature range.

Apply your race wax
A couple days before your race, using the wax selection hints above, apply three coats of your selected wax. Iron on, scrape with a plastic scraper, brush thoroughly with a nylon brush and, if you wish, one pass with a bronze brush.

Wave Five Wax Kit
For Wave Five skiers (and Waves 6, 7, 8) three good waxes for your wax box will be the Swix LF8, Rex LFG or RCF Blue, Start LF08. I selected these waxes because they cover nearly every temperature and a low-fluoro wax will nearly always outperform a non-fluoro wax.

Wax Kit for Waves 3 + 4
If you are a Wave Three or Four skier you are a good skier and take the sport seriously. I put together strategies and a wax kit with higher fluoro waxes designed to get a bit more speed out of your skis.

Get your skis ready
First, if you have 2-3 pair of race skis, know your skis and grinds and how they perform in specific conditions. You should have one pair that runs better in warm conditions and one for cold.  For a big race like the Birkie there are a bunch of skiers breaking up the snow ahead of you and soft snow skis frequently work best for skiers who are not toward the very front of the pack. Be sure to “harden off”  your skis with a couple layers hard wax like Swix CH4 before applying race wax.

Base Race Wax
Base LF/low fluoro wax helps bond high fluoro waxes with the ski base. Flouros will not bond with polyethylene (ski base material) and fluoro content should increase with each layer. I recommend Start BWLF because it has a high fluoro content and is hard enough to bond with the ski base.

Race Wax
Your last layer should be a high-fluoro wax. High-fluoro waxes make your skis fast. They repel moisture, reduce friction and do not pick up as much dirt as low-fluoro waxes. I suggest Swix HF 6 + HF 8 because they have a high fluoro content for the price and these two will cover most conditions.

Wave Three - Four Wax Kit
A wax kit for Wave Three - Four skiers should contain Swix HF 6 and HF 8 along with Start BWLF; waxes which cover the vast majority of conditions and get a racer the most fluoros and speed for the money.

Wax Kit for Elite and Waves 1 + 2
Get your skis ready
Just as I tell Wave Three racers, know your skis and grinds and select two pair of skis to prep for the race. Harden off your skis with two coats of hard wax like Swix CH6 or Swix CH4

Base Race Wax
Apply one or two layers of a low fluoro base wax like Start BWFL will help high fluoro layers bond with the polyethylene ski base.

High Fluoro
Swix HF waxes are great picks - they have a high fluoro content for the money and have a great track record for delivering

Pure Fluoro Top Coat--powder
To make your skis repel water even more and go even faster, use a pure fluoro top coat. Swix FC100 Is one the best all around pure fluoros. It has been around for years and is still used by World Cup racers. Powder flouros like FC100 lasts a long time and work at the top performance for over 50 km. If you use flouros from a block you will notice diminished  performance around 25km.

May not always need Pure Fluoros
the right HF wax and If snow is clean and humidity low a Wave One or Wave Two Skiers can have very fast skis without a pure fluoro top-coat. Within the HF Temp ranges I have had some great races with straight HF Waxes.

Wave One/Elite Wax Kit
A marathon kit for a racer looking for top-flight performance should contain Start BWLF, Swix HF6 and HF8, and Swix HF100 fluoro powder. This will ensure the fastest skis possible and covers nearly all conditions.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Gear West Flex Bench

This is the Gear West Ski & Run Flex Tester. It is a one of a kind tester that allows us to make sure you have a perfect fitting ski. It also is a great tool for you if you have multiple pairs of skis and want to know which pair of skis would be better in soft snow conditions vs. hard snow conditions.