Ice Skiing

One type of skiing we have to deal with in the Upper Midwest, especially those of us too far downwind of Lake Superior is icy conditions or that of skiing on hard pack.

I get the notion that even when we do get fresh and abundant snow the purists would turn their noses up and tell us that is not powder snow. Seems to me some have stated that if you can pack a fistful of the stuff into a snowball it isn’t “powder”.

I can understand at least to a certain extent.

Where I normally ski is at the east and perhaps southern edge of what we refer to as the Lake Superior Snow Belt (LSSB). This micro-climate produces bountiful snow for snow sports enthusiasts in the UP and the northern part of Wisconsin. Ski Brule, Indianhead, Mt. Bohemia, The Porcupine Mountains, Blackjack, Whitecap, and Big Powderhorn all benefit from this weather pattern. In addition snowmobilers and cross-country skiers benefit from that snow action.

However, when most skiers talk of powder they talk of the snow created by climatic forces at play in mountain environments. The snow we get is lake effect coming off of Lake Superior whereas the powder of Utah is far from the water and coming from air masses where most of the water has already been squeezed out of it. Remember back to your science class: moist air coming from the Pacific Ocean rises up the western edge of the mountains and the air cools as it rises causing rain and when things get cool enough then we have snow. As the air continues to rise up and over the mountains it cools further but is running out of moisture so whatever snow that starts to fall on top of and on the Eastern edges of those mountains is bound to be dry.

Like vertical, there is nothing we can do to change that and we must accept it. I do not mind as I have never skied on what may be considered true powder, but instead I have skied in the snow dumps of the LSSB-machine and early on in my skiing days I did not much care for that. I found it harder to turn and since we usually arrived late I found the snow to be cut up and formed into bumps by the early-birds. However, as I have advanced in skiing I have come to relish such opportunities. Groomed runs are fine and I don’t mind ripping down them but I like the bumps too.

Ice is a condition we run into frequently. Especially on the days we have those snow-dumps. The usual pattern is the center of the run is scraped clear of pow down to the substrate which is ice. Why does this happen? Novice skiers and snowboarders skidding down the center instead of carving. They push the pow out of the center with only the hard ice able to resist those numerous scraping edges. However, I just ski the sides where the powder remains and is all cut up, with myself hitting that ice only when I decide to cross over to the other side of the trail. I am not skidding but on edge so I zoom right over it.

Once though I was at a ski resort where the entire hill was pretty much glare ice and that was a long time ago, did not have fun with that. However, we went in for lunch and a pitcher and when we got out, enough snow had fallen (that LSSB machine again) that were then skiing on fresh snow. Patches of ice are acceptable, ice rinks are not.

Good Stuff!

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