2021-22: Ski The Keweenaw

 

Boundary Road Chassell Churning Rapids Copper Harbor Eagle Harbor

End of The Road Keweenaw Mountain Lodge Maasto Hiihto Michigan Tech Swedetown

2020-21, da missing edition

Similar to most events/projects that began in a pre-pandemic era, Ski The Keweenaw too had a break during 2020-21 winter after its maiden edition in 2019-20 winter. Unlike other events, it wasn’t COVID-19 but very poor planning on my part was the primary and the only cause for its absence. Thoughts of doing it in 2021-22 re-surfaced while skiing with Steph in late December (2021). Once thoughts showed signs of leaving the cozy confines of my head, I contemplated on changing the project name to Ski da Keweenaw (or SKeweenaw). In the end, I decided to stick with the previously plagiarized name – Ski The Keweenaw (from a well-organized trail running festival held in July, Run The Keweenaw). It had worked well before and I figured it’d work well now.

I am very fortunate to live in an area that has a handful top-class nordic trail systems within a short driving distance. Since the 2019-20 edition, a couple more trail systems have come on the scene. Thanks to respective parent institutions/individuals, our trails (Boundary Road, Chassell, Copper Harbor, Churning Rapids, Eagle Harbor, End of The Road, Keweenaw Mountain Lodge, Maasto Hiihto, Michigan Tech and Swedetown) are meticulously groomed to produce magical conditions day after day. Even better, the groomers just as meticulously document their efforts in KeweenawTrails.com to make the groomers’ handiwork accessible to locals and visitors alike.

Some of these trail systems are exclusively for classic style (Chassell, Copper Harbor, Churning Rapids, Eagle Harbor and Maasto Hiihto). Others (Boundary Road, End of The Road, Keweenaw Mountain Lodge, Michigan Tech and Swedetown) accommodate skate style with classic-only portions (Tolkien Trails at Michigan Tech, and maybe the Horseshoe Harbor loop of End of The Road). With my feet somewhat wet from skate skiing and hands a little dirtier from kick/grip waxing, I had additional tools in my arsenal for this edition. If I managed to correctly design the trail traversing order to align with what they accommodate (classic or skate) and improved my double poling AND if all went according to the plan (weather, grooming and time off from work), then completing the 2021-22 edition seemed doable in a 6-8 days window.

Owing to fatigue that lasted longer than usual after the first set of outings (#01 through #04 below), prevailing colder than usual temperatures and other previously scheduled commitments that needed my attention, I got to change this project’s timeline from the original 6-8 days period to 6-8 weeks. I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the flexible working schedule from my boss as well as a bounty of style, form and technique lessons from my family of friends, coaches and mentors. This project wouldn’t have seen fruition without them!

If short of time, the table below provides a quick and collective summary (distance, time, elevation, etc.) of this project. If interested in the details, then please read on – the outings are listed chronologically. Additional metrics about each outing can be accessed in Strava – activity title provides the link.

Outings
Listed chronologically
Distance in km, time in hh:mm:ss, average pace in min/km and elevation gain in meters (rounded to the nearest integer)
# Date and Time System Distance Time Avg Pace Elevation Gain
01 2022-01-15 @ 11:04 Chassell 9.42 1:00:04 6:22 203
02 2022-01-15 @ 12:23 Boundary Road 4.46 0:42:34 9:32 61
03 2022-01-15 @ 15:39 Keweenaw Mountain Lodge 9.53 1:17:43 8:09 193
04 2022-01-15 @ 17:12 Copper Harbor 8.45 1:02:45 7:25 39
05 2022-01-28 @ 08:51 Swedetown 29.53 3:31:22 7:09 443
06 2022-01-31 @ 09:25 Michigan Tech 35.71 4:08:18 6:57 735
07 2022-02-19 @ 12:41 Churning Rapids 11.51 1:24:25 7:20 208
08 2022-03-14 @ 13:48 Eagle Harbor 15.81 2:20:10 8:51 202
09 2022-03-15 @ 10:42 Maasto Hiihto 22.33 3:01:23 8:07 306
10 2022-03-20 @ 08:37 Swedetown 28.61 2:05:15 4:22 379
11 2022-03-25 @ 10:05 Swedetown 28.71 2:21:37 4:55 389
12 2022-03-26 @ 14:21 End Of The Road 21.19 4:07:24 11:40 534
13 2022-04-02 @ 07:26 Michigan Tech 30.33 2:53:50 5:43 622
  Total 255.59 29:56:50 7:01 4314

 

#01: 2022-01-15 – Chassell

Ski preparation
Ski Salomon S/Race Skin 196 Medium Blue
Glide Toko Performance SP Black, Toko Performance SP Blue, 2x Toko High Performance SP Blue applied, scraped and brushed on 2022-01-06
Structure Toko Blue
Grip Start Skin Grip on 2022-01-06. Prolink binding was set to 0
Weather conditions
Start 11:04, 12/12 F, 2 mph WSW, 75% humidity, Overcast clouds
Middle 11:34, 13/6 F, 4 mph W, 71% humidity, Overcast clouds
End 12:04, 15/15 F, 2 mph WSW, 70% humidity, Overcast clouds
Air quality 52, PM2.5

When SeƱor Tervo provided a 12+ hour advanced notification that these trails would be groomed, it sounded like the ideal place to start the 2021-22 edition of Ski The Keweenaw. My friend, Steph, graciously agreed to come along and explore these trails with me. We stopped a handful of times for photos as well as to appreciate the silence. The setting was so serene that it was hard to wipe the grateful smiles off our faces. Steph’s description of the trail system and the outing – an undulating magic carpet ride – captured more than what I could have come up with on my own!

 

#02: 2021-01-15 – Boundary Road

Ski preparation
Ski Salomon S/Race Skin 196 Medium Blue
Glide Toko Performance SP Black, Toko Performance SP Blue, 2x Toko High Performance SP Blue applied, scraped and brushed on 2022-01-06
Structure Toko Blue
Grip Start Skin Grip on 2022-01-06. Prolink binding was set to 0
Weather conditions
Start 12:23, 15/10 F, 3 mph SSE, 68% humidity, Overcast clouds
Middle 12:44, 16/10 F, 4 mph WSW, 65% humidity, Overcast clouds
End 13:06, 16/11 F, 3 mph SSE, 66% humidity, Overcast clouds
Air quality 28, O3

This has been a new addition to the trail systems from 2021-22 winter and I had been here once before. The trails were/are under development and as such, a portion of it needed/needs to be walked without skis. Steph and I took a detour on our way home from Chassell (#01) and skied the 4-ish km trails (no classic tracks yet; groomers had been working on it). Had I planned it well, this could have been an outing on skate skis.

 

#03: 2021-01-15 – Keweenaw Mountain Lodge

Ski preparation
Ski Salomon S/Race Skin 196 Medium Blue
Glide Toko Performance SP Black, Toko Performance SP Blue, 2x Toko High Performance SP Blue applied, scraped and brushed on 2022-01-06
Structure Toko Blue
Grip Start Skin Grip on 2022-01-06. Prolink binding was set to 0
Weather conditions
Start 15:39, 16/6 F, 7 mph SW, 67% humidity, Overcast clouds
Middle 16:18, 16/6 F, 7 mph SW, 67% humidity, Overcast clouds
End 16:57, 13/1 F, 10 mph SW, 77% humidity, Overcast clouds
Air quality NA, NA

After a quick lunch break upon completing the Chassell and Boundary Road trails, Steph and I called an audible and headed north to Copper Harbor. A brief chat with Chris ensued and was followed by signing the waivers in Outdoor Adventure Center of the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge. Plenty of sunshine, pleasant weather and varying shades of oranges and yellows as the Sun set behind the trees added to the backcountry-isque experience. My not so great navigation skills had us cut over from one named trail to the other. Fortunately, I was able to make the same mistake on purpose again – a rare case of two wrongs making a right – and cover all their trails.

 

#04: 2021-01-15 – Copper Harbor

Ski preparation
Ski Salomon S/Race Skin 196 Medium Blue
Glide Toko Performance SP Black, Toko Performance SP Blue, 2x Toko High Performance SP Blue applied, scraped and brushed on 2022-01-06
Structure Toko Blue
Grip Start Skin Grip on 2022-01-06. Prolink binding was set to 0
Weather conditions
Start 17:12, 14/2 F, 10 mph SW, 77% humidity, Overcast clouds
Middle 17:43, 14/14 F, 0 mph N, 73% humidity, Overcast clouds
End 18:15, 13/13 F, 0 mph N, 73% humidity, Overcast clouds
Air quality NA, NA

KeweenawTrails.com report for this trail system on this day included some bonus distance – courtesy of Dan. Steph and I saw no reason why we couldn’t ski another 10-ish kilometers after completing the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge (#03). Combination of excellent grooming and well set tracks made the outing go by fast. Though the Sun might have been behind the Brockway Mountain range, there was still plenty of ambient light. Clear skies were lit up with various colors customary of a glorious sunset. Then the moonlit trails made the final few kilometers borderline transcendent. Even if we couldn’t see the tracks, we were brought safely back to the trailhead as long as we kept striding. Christmas/Winter lights in the park was quite the spectacle!

 

#05: 2022-02-19 – Churning Rapids

Ski preparation
Ski Salomon S/Race Skin 196 Medium Blue
Glide Swix Pure SP Marathon applied and polished on 2022-02-18
Structure None
Grip Swix Skin Cleaner and Toko High Performance LP Blue on 2022-02-11. Prolink binding was set to -2
Weather conditions
Start 12:41, 11/-1 F, 16 mph W, 77% humidity, Overcast clouds
Middle 13:23, 11/-1 F, 15 mph WNW, 78% humidity, Overcast clouds
End 14:05, 11/-2 F, 20 mph WSW, 79% humidity, Overcast clouds
Air quality NA, NA

Good fortune was on my side as Steph made another trip up north and we got to ski mostly in fresh tracks. Sunshine and winds played a bit of hide and seek but overall the scene was very serene and peaceful. We took turns leading each other between marked/numbered intersections along the trail system. Watching Steph ski with an effortless grace on certifiably older skis and not enough kick wax was a reinforcement of a lesson MikeY had frequently shared with me before: the most important equipment isn’t the ski OR what’s between the ski and the snow but what’s on top of the skis.

 

#06: 2022-03-14 – Eagle Harbor

Ski preparation
Ski Salomon S/Race Skin 196 Medium Blue
Glide Vauhti Pure One Cold Liquid Glide (Blue) applied on 2022-03-03 and polished with a dedicated brush on 2022-03-04
Structure None
Grip Swix Skin Cleaner and Toko High Performance LP Blue on 2022-02-11. Prolink binding was set to -1
Weather conditions
Start 13:48, 27/18 F, 9 mph WNW, 73% humidity, Overcast clouds
Middle 15:00, 30/21 F, 9 mph WNW, 71% humidity, Overcast clouds
End 16:12, 29/21 F, 9 mph WNW, 71% humidity, Broken clouds
Air quality 38, O3

Without being aware of any published reports, my outings in this system have relied very heavily on thoughts and prayers. I had seen some evidence of grooming by the Great Sand Bay trailhead many weeks ago, and my friend, Danielle, posted photos from her family outing not too long ago. Steph came up to participate in the 2022 Great Bear Chase and graciously agreed to explore these with me. As if someone had heard our prayers, trails (with some modifications since my last time here due to easement issues) had been groomed only a day or two ago. There was also lot more snow compared to my last time and trails held up really well for our outing. After a series of cold, snowy and windy days, it was really nice to ski under the warmth of blue skies and sunshine. 

 

#07: 2022-03-15 – Maasto Hiihto

Ski preparation
Ski Salomon S/Race Skin 196 Medium Blue
Glide Equal parts of Toko BP LP Blue and Toko BP LP Red applied and polished with a dedicated brush on 2022-03-15
Structure None
Grip Swix Skin Cleaner and Toko High Performance LP Blue on 2022-02-11. Prolink binding was set to 0 (from -1 after the first 0.50 km)
Weather conditions
Start 10:42, 31/25 F, 7 mph S, 58% humidity, Overcast clouds
Middle 12:13, 34/29 F, 7 mph SSW, 51% humidity, Clear sky
End 13:44, 44/38 F, 9 mph S, 39% humidity, Clear sky
Air quality 37, O3

Apart from an expanded/extended Churning Rapids outing 75 or so days ago, this was my first conscious and purposeful outing in the Maasto Hiihto trail system this winter. Groomers had done a pretty remarkable job and the tracks held their shape throughout our outing. Steph and I had some challenges with the grip/kick zone in our skis, and gliding took some effort even on descents. The trails were very pretty and it was nice to ski under the warmth of blue skies and sunshine for the second day in a row. Watching Steph climb the Tomasi Drive without any kick and then put on a double poling clinic rest of the way even when not at her best was a re-reinforcement of the lesson from MikeY (please see outing #05 above).

 

#08: 2022-03-20 – Swedetown

Ski preparation
Ski Fischer Speed Max Skate Plus 186 Cold
Glide Vauhti Pure One Base LP applied and polished with a dedicated brush on 2022-03-24. Vauhti Pure One Mid Liquid Glide applied on 2022-03-24 and polished with a dedicated brush on 2022-03-25
Structure Toko Red
Weather conditions
Start 10:05, 32/22 F, 13 mph WNW, 64% humidity, Clear sky
Middle 11:16, 37/29 F, 13 mph WNW, 60% humidity, Clear sky
End 12:27, 37/29 F, 11 mph W, 60% humidity, Clear sky
Air quality 49, PM2.5

My first attempt here with Steph on skate skis a day after completing #01 – #04 had ended up unsuccessful due to a bonk. After about a 2-week break for health and weather reasons, I felt energetic/normal enough to attempt it again – a successful solo second attempt on waxable classics (in late January). A successful solo third attempt on skate skis was completed (in mid-March) – as a long-ish outing to put together collective form and technique tips I had picked up from MikeY, TomW and Steph. When Steph came up north, I opted to do this outing once more on skate skis in heavenly Spring-like conditions. I was also formally introduced to the glory of crust skiing along the way and opting to push through a bonk over the final few kilometers (only because I had adult supervision) was a good experience!

 

#09: 2022-03-27 – End of The Road

Ski preparation
Ski Salomon S/Race Skin 196 Medium Blue (switched to Rossignol Evo Classic while ascending East Bluff)
Glide Toko NF SP Blue applied, stripped and brushed on 2022-03-19. Vauhti Pure One Mid Liquid Glide (Violet) applied on 2022-03-19 and polished with a dedicated brush on 2022-03-20. Vauhti Pure Pro Base LP and Vauhti Pure Pro LDR Liquid Glide applied on 2022-03-20 and polished with a dedicated brush on 2022-03-21
Structure Toko Yellow
Grip Toko Skin Cleaner on 2022-03-15 and Toko Eco Skin Grip on 2022-03-19. Prolink binding was set to -0
Weather conditions
Start 14:21, 18/5 F, 25 mph N, 73% humidity, Overcast clouds
Middle 16:25, 18/6 F, 26 mph NNE, 68% humidity, Overcast clouds
End 18:28, 23/11 F, 30 mph NNW, 75% humidity, Overcast clouds
Air quality 32, O3

My only outing here was during the 2019-20 Ski The Keweenaw. Having missed an opportunity in each of the past three months, I was quite resigned to the fact that I wouldn’t get to explore these trails this winter. A timely message from Casey renewed my hope amidst Spring-like conditions in our region: though the trails wouldn’t be groomed again, that all land including and surrounding these trails were public, and that I could explore them on my own with caution. With an abundance of frozen and refrozen ruts almost all along the way, Steph and I needed a lot of caution to complete this Type II fun adventure on a cold and blustery day. A few minutes of sublime crust skiing as well as sights and sounds of Lake Superior from various vantage points added elements of Type I fun. Without practices of gratitude and Steph’s presence, there was a really good chance I’d have turned around before reaching the East Bluff peak, and this edition would have had an asterisk instead of an exclamation point!

 

#10: 2022-04-02 – Michigan Tech

Ski preparation
Ski Fischer Speed Max Skate Plus 186 Cold
Glide Vauhti Pure Pro Base LP applied and polished with a dedicated brush on 2022-04-01. Vauhti Pure Pro LDR Liquid Glide applied on 2022-04-01 and polished with a dedicated brush on 2022-04-02
Structure Toko Yellow
Weather conditions
Start 07:26, 33/27 F, 7 mph SSW, 90% humidity, Overcast clouds
Middle 08:52, 33/33 F, 2 mph SSW, 94% humidity, Overcast clouds
End 10:19, 36/33 F, 5 mph S, 91% humidity, Mist
Air quality 64, PM2.5

My first solo successful attempt on waxable classics (the longest such outing until then) was shortly after Michigan Tech hosted the 2022 CCSA Invitational and Great Lakes Division CXC Cup. The wax tech didn’t get the kick wax right a week ago and as such, the second attempt on waxables with Steph had to be cut short after only 3.50-ish km. Third attempt with Steph, helped me check off two bucket list items: skate ski the entirety of Michigan Tech Trails (sans the Tolkien Trails section) and double pole almost the entirety of Tolkien Trails (thanks to TomW) – neither of which I thought was within my reach until 2022-23 winter.

 

Summary

The project didn’t necessarily unfold as I had planned (as far as the timeline was concerned) but it turned out better than I had imagined – optimized (i.e., maximize) for fun, joy and healthy conversations. This being a very personal project, I had the flexibility to (re)define its scope as and when necessary – such as modifying the projected/intended timeline from 6-8 days to 6-8 weeks OR redoing past solo outings … when weather/trail conditions improved and more so when good company came along.

90% of the outings in the 2019-20 edition were done solo. This time around, I was/am grateful for having company for all outings – including the drive thereto/from – which ensured I wasn’t having those aforementioned conversations with myself. It might be a cool and worthwhile academic endeavor to optimize the traversing order within each trail system AND in turn, optimize (i.e., minimize) the time, distance and/or elevation gain. One could even add the task of minimizing the overall traveling time and distance to/from each outing. Doing all this might even be fun in its own way. But for now …

Carpe Skiem!

 


Thanks be to

the rejections and opportunities life has brought my way, event folks (organizers, sponsors, volunteers, timers, law enforcement officials, photographers, fellow participants and spectators), and the family of good friends in and outside of my community for all the unexpected, undeserved and unrewarded acts of kindness and constant encouragement as well as offerings of constructive criticism to improve myself as a human and an athlete. I am eternally grateful to all those who let me train with them, who shared their invaluable experiences with me, who helped keep my mind, body and soul in good health, who helped me stay the course during the training cycle, who continued to teach me the value of work-life balance, and who cheered me on from home or along the course.

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