Sunday, February 13, 2011

Spring Seems in the Air

Last week, I had been keeping a worried eye on the weather forecast. True, morning temps from Monday through Friday had been -18 C to -24 C, but for the weekend and the coming week, a major change had been announced. Temperatures up to 10 C and with that a major thaw, ending the near perfect skiing conditions.

I did my best to get some more skiing in. Mellie and I braved the cold on Tuesday afternoon. The week until Friday was too busy to squeeze in another session but we were out at Highland Golf course on Friday at around 16:30. The temperature had climbed from -19 C at 7:00 to +1 C when we started. The snow was perfect and we had a good two laps.

We were out there again on Saturday morning at 8:00. The temperature was still above freezing and like the evening before, conditions were near perfect for our three laps and we clocked close to our fastest pace for a practice run in spite of a couple of tangles and a fall due to a dog with spring fever.

I was glad to have been out that early for the remainder of Saturday saw a strong thaw. I cannot say that I did not enjoy the warm temps but I regretted the melt.

When James requested a ride to Afton Alps ski area I embraced the opportunity to get another ski in, certainly the last one before another shift in the weather, at the state park next door.
All uphill from here, NE corner of Afton State Park 
Afton State Park is classic only and has an extensive trail system. One of the challenges is that the park consists of a plateau delimited by the deep St. Croix Valley on its eastern flank and divided into a northern and a southern section by Trout Creek valley. The descents into these valleys are quite steep, fortunately the trails are wide and allow for breaking. From the trail head near the visitor center I descended into the valley of Trout Creek and skied north as far as I could along the St. Croix. Before the steep climb at the northern edge of the park, I applied some Swix Violet Extra, which provided the necessary kick.

I love the landscape at Afton SP, the ravines leading to river and creek valleys and the open prairies on top. I enjoyed the sun out in the open though I noticed that the snow conditions were deteriorating rapidly. Dark litter such as bark, scat and even leaves had started to sink into the snow. The difference in glide between shade and sun started to be very noticeable, there was hardly any glide left in sunny spots. At one point I fell head first into trail-side powder when I emerged from shade to sun on a downhill stretch and my skis stopped dead.

I returned to the St. Croix Valley via a long forestry road that challenged my snowplowing muscles. Here, I was glad for the slower snow. The steep climb back to the parking lot rounded out this challenging 14 km outing, likely the last one for a while. I will have to look for my running shoes if I plan outdoor exercise in the near future.

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