Thursday Evening Birkie Update

I wish I had pulled out my phone and gotten a picture of the lightning when that front came through at the Birkie Ridge Trailhead around 4PM today. For a minute there it looked like Armageddon! But, as it happens, I didn’t manage to get any pictures at all today. So this update is unadorned.

We ran skis for athletes this afternoon, as well as casting a pretty broad net in testing underlayers, paraffins, and powders. Here’s what we know:

The warm-up is happening, on schedule. When we started testing around 1PM the colder skis for our athletes were running best. But that changed rapidly as the snow got greasier. After the rain came through it was clearly going really wet, but the change had been dramatic prior to that.

The weather forecast seems to have stabilized around the idea of more rain tomorrow, with things clearing out overnight prior to the race and temps dipping back toward freezing (but not quite getting there) around race start time or a little before. Grooming is sure to bring some cold snow up to the surface, but more specifics will depend entirely on how deeply they till, and what they find down there. It doesn’t look as though there will be enough rain to saturate the snowpack, so the big question is whether there is sufficient crystallinity in the snowpack to allow the trail to set-up without a freeze anytime between now and the race. Even though the snow was packing today, I’m still favoring a scenario where things sugar-up for all but the top skiers.

Tomorrow we’ll see how much warming and transformation the snowpack undergoes. Today we found surface snow temps of right about 0C, with the snow about four inches down only down to about -3C. We’ll check that profile again tomorrow. Also – that’s right along route 63 – not up on the Birkie trail where the snow in the woods is much, much colder.

Today’s results:

Underlayer testing was interesting. We ran eight different underlayers (all under a Vauhti Blue/Violet HF blend). The clear winner was Toko LF Moly, with Ski*Go LF Graphite also running quite well. The Rex RCF graphite that has been good for us back East was not good, and neither was the 10F hardener, or any of the other stuff that we tried. As of now I have high confidence in the Toko LF Moly, and we’ll run some confirmation testing tomorrow for underlayers.

Race Paraffins yielded a very clear preference for Star products, with the new prototype VF4 running extremely well, along with the older VA4. Swix HF8 was running close enough to be a very viable race option. Of the Vauhti products, we saw our best results from the HF pink, which was comparable to the HF8, but not quite as good. The UF Pink was very comparable to HF Pink in running speed, but didn’t have good climbing feeling. We’ll run some more testing tomorrow on paraffins, but we’re satisfied that the range of stuff that we had winning on the snow was good in today’s conditions.

Both underlayers and paraffins were run in paired glide-outs, which gives us really good “hard” data. For powders we ran single-ski applications of 16 different products today, in order to cast a wide net  and gather a lot of preliminary information. We had a bunch of Vauhti product in the test, and the one stand-out was LDR, which stood out as being quite bad. That’s a fairly big surprise to me, since I skied on that on Tumbleson’s skis yesterday afternoon and they felt fantastic. But boy, was it bad on our test ski today. We will almost certainly re-run that tomorrow, but as of now I’d say that it’s not looking promising. The 15.1 and 9.1 both felt much better. But the winning Vauhti stuff was a “15.1 plus” mix that I made. 15.1 is a mix of two other products, and I made a warmer version for today’s test. That beat both the normal 15.1 and the 9.1 head to head, and was one of our final three “winners”

The best feeling powder was the Goldmaker Plus. We’ve put the Goldmaker “Zero” powder on race skis once this year with good results, but otherwise it hasn’t been in the mix often. Goldmaker is a project that Lars Svensson – our Tazzari contact in Sweden has been working on. We’ve had it in a lot of tests this year, and when it’s good, it’s really good.

The other “winner” for the day was a prototype Red Creek powder that showed up in a plastic bag – you might have seen it in our joke facebook post with the scale and the $100 bill… It was really good.

For tomorrow we will pursue confirmation testing of underlayers, but I don’t anticipate big changes there. We will add some new paraffins to the mix and see what we find there. The Red Creek silver felt awfully good on some athlete skis today. That’ll be in the test, along with some other stuff. We’ll run a much more controlled (paired glide-out) powder test, using today’s results to refine our selection of test products.

Friday Schedule:

Birkie Ridge Trailhead Testing 8:30 (or so) until noon.

Waxing at Cresthill Resort in the afternoon. Email or drop by if you have questions or need something. The cell phone doesn’t ring here, so don’t bother calling!


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