Saturday, May 28, 2011

2010/2011 Season Recap

Well, summer finally did arrive in the Colorado high country... I put my skis away yesterday to make room for summer toys in the garage. A recap of our wonderful 2010/2011 Skijor Season is below...
Our best "action shot" from the 2010/2011 season!
2010/2011 Season Recap:
2010/2011 Season Awards:
  • Lead Dog Award: Max - for his superb listening skills and ability to get the 3 of us out of "any situation" and power us over/through/around any obstacle. We never could have surpassed 400 miles without Max's leadership!
  • Court Jester Award: Zorro - a friend summarizing my skijoring blog to someone, "you have to read it, the stories are great, the pictures are beautiful and every once in a while you die laughing at something Zorro 'the court jester' did on an outing!" Zorro is our super pulling "wheel dog" but he is also our court jester wildcard on any outing :-)
  • Lunatic Award: Brad - "lunatic" (or some close synonym) is one of the first 3 words I get from people when I tell them I skijor at speeds upwards of 30 MPH while attached to 2 Siberian Huskies.
You are probably wondering, "is that it until the 2011/2012 season?" Ha - not a chance - stay tuned to witness & read about our summer 2011 skijor conditioning efforts!

Peace, Love & Snow - Brad, Max & Zorro...

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Breaking Trail ... In LATE MAY!!!!!

Starting out from the French Gulch winter trailhead.
Look closely - both of Zorro's back legs in the air,
Max putting it all into his shoulders. Siberian Power!!
We don't often go out skijoring 2 days in a row. It is a "preserve the human" decision as Max & Zorro would go every day if it was their vote.

But, it is late May (the season has to end soon) yet we got a blast of snow Thu through Sat. We were out skijoring on Fri... Saturday morning Max & Zorro convinced me to hit the trails again, "What are you saving it for? You can rest in June!" they both exclaimed.

What a treat - we were breaking trail in 6-9 inches of untouched snow for about 1/2 of our route in French Gulch. Breaking trail through 6-9 inches in late May - I must be joking, you think... See the pictures below!

In addition to breaking trail, we modified our typical "French Gulch route" and did some skijoring exploring as we followed French Creek past the last meadow in the gulch and up into the forest. We usually turnaround at the edge of the last meadow in the gulch. We were having too much fun today - knowing the season really must end soon - we extended our route by skijoring alongside the creek, weaving in & out of trees until we found a narrow clearing to take a break before heading back down.

Vital Stats: 7.5 miles; 2h total time; 1h 40m moving time; 4.5 MPH moving average; 15 MPH top speed; 850 feet of elevation gain (and loss).

Why such a "slow" moving average? Wet, sticky, slow spring snow. Temperatures were in the 32-36 degree range - so, even though it was snowing, it was a very wet & heavy snow. Breaking trail in wet, heavy snow + skiing in wet, sticky snow = lots of energy exerted for only modest speed...
No tracks, fresh snow - breaking trail in about 6 inches of heavy spring
snow in the mid areas of French Gulch.
Continuing up into the thick trees past the last open meadow in the gulch.
Breaking trail in about 9 inches of heavy spring snow with an occasional
dip into 12+ inches of snow to power through!
A look back at our path. We followed French Creek through the thick trees below
until we came upon this narrow opening in the trees to take a break before
launching ourselves back downhill.
Taking a "break" before turning around to head back down. Max & Zorro are
clearly recharged and ready for more. "Either we start skijoring again or we'll
start a wrestling match right here in the forest!"

Friday, May 20, 2011

Still Snowing ... Still Going!!!

We just finished our hot dog treats that we always
share at the high point of our outings.
"YUM, <smack>, <lick>!" says Max!!!
Live from the 2010/2011 Winter that never ended in Breckenridge CO...

Just when it looked like summer was going to take hold and stick - back comes a blast of winter. It started snowing again Thu afternoon/night, so Max, Zorro & I hit the slopes for another skijoring outing Friday morning!

Our Goal: to once again Skijor the Breckenridge Ski Resort. Since the ski resort does such a wonderful job of packing and preserving snowpack during the season, there is a pretty significant base still covering the mountain. We figured some fresh snow and the deep base would make for a great outing...

The Reality: apparently someone at the ski resort got the bright idea that it might actually be summer sometime this year in the Colorado high country. As a result, they have been plowing "forest service roads" across the mountain to open up paths for biking/hiking. They have also been running deep groomers over the more popular summer hiking/biking trails to break up the snow base and try to get it to melt quicker. The impact to our skijoring outing: (1) the forest service roads left 4-6 foot deep cuts across some of our intended path (see picture below); (2) the deep groomed terrain left slick & FAST conditions for my Siberian pals to launch me down with reckless abandon ;-)

All in, a very fun outing but probably our last tour of the ski resort this season - too much carving up the terrain in hopes that summer will really arrive sometime in June...

Vital Stats: 6.2 miles; 90m total time; 65m moving time (25m non-moving due to a few breaks and navigating hazards); 5.7 MPH moving average; 17 MPH top speed; 1500 feet of elevation gain (and then loss) - WOW!
Our path on the Breckenridge Ski Resort - highlighted in magenta (click to enlarge):
(1) skijor straight up the Four O'Clock ski run to Vista Haus.
(2) skijor down/across the Columbine "connector run" to Claimjumper.
(3) skijor down Claimjumper, sweeping left & right across the run, to the base of Peak 8.
A look back at our path up the Four O'Clock ski run.
The run leveled out nicely in the portion shown, note that it looks
like the run "drops off a cliff" at the far end - it was a very steep
section that Max & Zorro powered us up!
Taking our "high point break" at Vista Haus.
Max & Zorro's thoughts on our break at Vista Haus, "Why are we stopped,
the trail looks GREAT this way!!!"
Zorro cooling his nose with some fresh snow.
A forest service road cut across the Claimjumper ski run.
To the left is the ski run, we had to scale down this 6 foot drop off to get
across the service road and continue down Claimjumper. We encountered
3 of these nasty roads cut across our path - each providing a 4-6 foot solid
drop off we had to negotiate (on skis!) to continue the path down!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

We're Back!!!!!

Approaching the end of our run at the French Gulch
winter trailhead. Note the large puddle just behind
me to the left - there was NO snow on this trail just
yesterday! Today had a nice cover of new snow; but a
very wet & sticky snow. Max & Zorro, with happy husky
faces, doing their best to power me through this sticky
snow to the "finish line".
On Friday I declared our 2010/2011 Skijoring Season was over unless Mother Nature wanted to offer a helping hand...

"Mother Nature - you ROCK!" we say that with our deepest appreciation - Brad, Max & Zorro.

Saturday/Sunday/Monday had us in short sleeves and shorts. Tuesday was partly cloudy, so short sleeves and jeans. Late Tuesday and into Wednesday, Mother Nature answered Max & Zorro's prayers and started dumping a May snowstorm upon us!

Wednesday morning found the 4 of us (Max, Zorro, Mother Nature & I) hitting the trails for a mid-May skijoring treat! It continued to snow during our entire outing, often hard enough to bring visibility down to a few hundred feet. The snow was a heavy, wet & sticky "spring snow" - making the outing extra exhilarating - but no complaints here. We encountered no other people or tracks on our outing - breaking trail in 2 to 6 inches of fresh, heavy powder for 9 miles! Needless to say, Max & Zorro are happily napping now and I am happily on the couch resting my burning legs!

The Route: Sally Barber winter trailhead off Sally Barber Rd; skijor up to Sally Barber Mine and then sprint down to French Gulch; hang a right onto French Gulch and cruise up the gulch to the edge of the last open meadow in the gulch; take a short break; then sprint down the gulch to the French Gulch winter trailhead.

Vital Stats: 8.8 miles; 2h 5m total time; 1h 45m moving time; 5.0 MPH moving average; 16 MPH top speed. Only a 5 MPH moving average? you ask - did I mention the conditions: heavy, wet & sticky snow gripping the skis and breaking trail in up to 6 inches of this heavy white stuff...
Cruising up the lower sections of French Gulch.
No tracks + fresh snow + falling snow = Siberian Heaven.
Tilt the camera up from the last shot. Snowing so hard that the trees down
the center of the picture almost look hazed or fogged over.
A look back at the path we skijored through the last open meadow in French Gulch.
That's not fog or low clouds making the picture hazy - that's falling snow. Woo!
Another shot capturing the snow falling around us in French Gulch.
Taking a break at the edge of the last meadow in French Gulch OR digging to
china at the edge of the last meadow in French Gulch - depends who you ask ;-)

Friday, May 6, 2011

400 miles, 26 MPH - the end???

Surpassed 400 miles skijoring for the season today!
Recorded our top speed of the season - 26 MPH!
Last outing of the season? Probably :-(

Doing my "olympic victory pose" as we finish the day back at the French Gulch trailhead.
I knew we surpassed 400 miles and I knew we hit incredible top speeds.
It's hard to see the olympic victory pose in the right shot, but I am doing it as
Max & Zorro power us to the "finish line" (click to enlarge, but still a dark pic).
Our Route: start at French Gulch winter trailhead and skijor up the gulch all the way to the end of the last open meadow in the gulch; take a short break; sprint back down the gulch to the French Gulch winter trailhead.

The Conditions: started out icy at the lower portions of the trail; transitioned to icy packed powder in the upper portions; degraded to melting slush returning to the lower portions. French Gulch will not be 100% skiable by the end of today - there are growing sections of mud/puddles that will span the trail by the end of the day. To continue skijoring past today we are going to need some serious help from Mother Nature or we are going to have to start hiking (carrying skis) from the trailheads until the conditions become skiable - boo hiss!

The Fun: this is most likely our last outing of the season... We did not want the day to end... The solution: (1) Victory Lap - instead of skijoring straight up the last meadow (as we usually do), we swung out to the right and hugged the trees on the edge of the meadow. High fiving the trees as we did this "victory lap" up the meadow. That still was not enough... (2) Slalom Lap - instead of skijoring straight down the last meadow on the return route, we did wide, sweeping left/right slaloms down the meadow (skijor to the right, "left turn", skijor across the meadow to the left, "right turn" - repeat 5-6 times). We turned that last meadow into 2x the distance it normally entails, before connecting back with the base trail and sprinting back to the trailhead - fun, Fun, FUN!

Vital Stats: 6.9 miles; 70m total time; 58m moving time; 7.1 MPH moving average; 26 MPH top speed; 700 feet of elevation gain (and loss).
Skijoring in the upper sections of French Gulch. Icy, packed powder but
still very skiable (especially compared to the lower sections).
A look back at the last open meadow in French Gulch.
We skijored up the left side of this picture, hugging the trees, on the way out.
We slalomed back & forth across the meadow on the way back.
Anything to extend the fun!
Taking a break at the edge of the last meadow in French Gulch.
Human's definition of "break" - rest, take some pictures, relax.
Siberian's definition of "break" - how deep do you think we can dig into the snow before
the slow human wants to start going again?
Max & Zorro in unison (from the last picture), "Hey, your hole looks better than my hole!"
Max & Zorro in unison, "Rotate, switch to the 'better' hole."
Back at the French Gulch trailhead, Max & Zorro looking over the
deteriorating conditions... "Please don't let the season end!"

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Another Siberian Convert ... Lost...

Cruising up Boreas Pass Rd - small layer of fresh
snow (1-2 inches) and fox tracks to guide us ;-)
Today's Skijoring Highlight: 50th day on the trail this season!!!

Today's Siberian Comical Moment: As we were skijoring up Boreas Pass Rd, a pair of snowshoers were on the trail in front of us. Max & Zorro view anything in front of them as an object to catch and overtake. People, dogs, birds, rabbits - you name it, they view it as a target and kick into overdrive to catch the object in front. As we were passing the snowshoe couple, they said the usual comment we get on the trails, "Wow - that's almost not fair how those two are powering you up the trail! We need some huskies!" For a brief moment, another Siberian convert gained...

As we passed the couple Max said, "Target caught and passed, now what?" In an answer to "what", Max moved slightly off the trail into deeper powder, dipped his head into the powder and flicked some snow up in the air (some hitting Zorro). Zorro reacted with his usual comment, "You talking to me?!??" Zorro then proceeded to jump on Max. Max returned the favor by flattening Zorro in the middle of the trail.

The couple came running up to us yelling, "Oh my god, do you need help?" It must have been quite the sight for them to see a Siberian Wrestle Match breakout in the middle of the trail. I responded, "No, they are just playing, it's not as bad as it looks" - and I then proceeded to untangle my wrestling pair and re-explain the object of skijoring to them. On watching this episode, one of the snowshoers said, "Wow - maybe YOU have it harder and it's not fair that you have to deal with them!" Sigh, another Siberian convert lost...

The Route: start at the Boreas winter trailhead and skijor up Boreas Pass Rd for 4.9 miles; take a short break and then skijor back down Boreas Pass Rd - returning to the winter trailhead.

Vital Stats: 9.8 miles; 2h 10m total time; 1h 50m moving time; 5.3 MPH moving average; 15 MPH top speed; 900 feet of elevation gain (and loss). Not a particularly fast outing; but given the rising temperatures, I did not want to push Max & Zorro too hard and risk losing their enthusiasm - so I let them set a pace comfortable to them.
Another shot of Max & Zorro cruising up Boreas.
Notice the fox tracks on the trail in front of us - nothing like
fresh fox tracks to give the Siberian Engine a little extra boost!
Another view of the path up Boreas and that interesting set of fox tracks
sharing the trail with us. It's just us huskies Mr. Fox, you can come out
on the trail (hehehe).
A look back at our tracks coming up Boreas Pass Rd.
Note the blue in the sky - after almost constant snow the last 2 weeks
of April, it appears that Spring has finally decided to make an appearance
in the Colorado High Country...
Did I mention "Spring arrived" today. Max & Zorro were convinced this was the hottest
day in history! Nothing like making Siberian snow angels to cool yourself off!
Love the last shot of Max (upper right) - just finished his snow angel and is smacking
his lips with his tongue - YUM, very tasty snow.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Equipment Failure...

Cruising down the French Gulch trail, approaching
the winter trailhead after 8 miles of skijoring fun!
Top Speed Skijoring today: somewhere WELL over 20 MPH, but we don't know how fast :-(

I have a 13 year old GPS that we use to track our elevations and speeds when skijoring. This old GPS often "loses" us in heavily wooded areas and other remote parts of the backcountry. When looking at the GPS info after an outing, it will have no data for these areas - according to the GPS we disappeared for a while and then reappeared.

The bummer of today's skijoring outing: we were sprinting at incredible speeds in the heavily wooded upper areas of French Gulch. As we were flying, I thought to myself, "This is the FASTEST I have ever seen Max & Zorro in front of me. We have to be breaking our all time speed record!" When we finished our outing, I was disappointed to learn the GPS had lost us in this section of French Gulch and had no data. Instead, it tracked us at 20 MPH in the lower (less wooded) section of French Gulch. There is *no question* we were going significantly faster in the lost section of French Gulch than the lower area. Given that our top recorded speed of the season is 24 MPH, I am convinced we were doing somewhere in the 27-30 MPH range today. This upper section of French Gulch has many dips in the trail - I felt like I was catching air flying down and then up some of these dips. All we can report is "Top Speed somewhere well over 20 MPH, but we do not know how fast." Darned GPS equipment failure... Oh well, we still had an incredibly fun time!

The Route: Sally Barber winter trailhead off Sally Barber Rd; skijor up to Sally Barber Mine and then sprint down to French Gulch; hang a right onto French Gulch and cruise up the gulch until the last private cabin in the gulch; take a short break; then sprint down the gulch to the French Gulch winter trailhead.

Vital Stats: 8 miles; 94m total time; 82m moving time; 5.9 MPH moving average; (somewhere well over) 20 MPH top speed; 1,300 feet of elevation gain (& loss). This is a pretty steep route (1300 feet up in 4 miles), so that is an impressive 5.9 MPH moving average.
Skijoring up the Sally Barber Mine trail - 2-4 inches of fresh, fun powder.
Another shot of us skijoring up Sally Barber Mine trail.
Shoulder to Shoulder Siberian Skijoring Engine!
Taking a break at our turnaround point in French Gulch.
A look back at our fresh tracks.
Notice how heavily wooded the trail is in this area - it was not far
back down from here that Max & Zorro were going faster than I have
ever seen - but the GPS lost us :-(
Max making a serious snow angel as he cools himself off.
Hey Max - where's your head????
Done skijoring at the French Gulch winter trailhead.
Max & Zorro patiently and intensely waiting for me to hand out the
hotdogs they get as a skijoring reward at the end of every outing.