Sunday, December 11, 2016

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Finding Snow!

Ozzie the Viking and the snowy wonderland.
It's happening, people -- snow on Amabilis and at the cabin!  Our adventurous Wednesday guys have been finding powder and reporting multiple inches of snow falling at Cabin Creek.  Rune says that the Forest Service is going to close the road on Saturday, which will give Nick a chance to get his machines up there and make us something delicious to ski on -- go get some for yourself!  And don't forget: Nick will be posting reports on snow and grooming conditions on the Kongsberger website and also via the link over there on the left.


Frank. Snow. Sunshine.
And people who were able to go a little farther afield also found gorgeous wintry conditions at Silver Star over Thanksgiving: not quite enough snow to groom the lower trails, but plenty for the upper trails.    It was a long long weekend of smiling faces and delicious food and great conversations and as much skiing as your body could handle, a chance to remind the ski muscles that roller skiing is fun, but real skiing is life!

Master chef Peter.

One day of sunshine, and the rest was snow snow snow.  And more snow.

And more snow.

Winter is back, people -- see you on the trails!  I'll be the one with the big dopey smile on my face.

Friday, November 18, 2016

First Tracks!

People, your friends are skiing already!  Washington Pass, on the way to Mazama, has been blasted with snow and people are skiing on it.  Winter is coming!  I heard that Sam and others have been grooming a little 2k loop -- not much, but enough to put on skis and do real skiing, not that pavement rolling thing.  For us lowlanders, our turn is coming, but until it does, enjoy these wish-I-were-there photos from Max and Robin.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Trail Work Party

Wow, it could not possibly have been a more gorgeous fall day to be in the mountains, breathing the cold clean air, eyes soaking up the dark pines and golden maples and bright blue skies, spiffing up the trails for winter.  Today was trail work day at Cabin Creek, and 21 Kongsberger regulars showed up, saws and loppers and pick axes in hand, to beat the summer's growth back into submission and clear the way for Nick to do his magic this winter.  We put in a solid morning's worth of work on Amabilis, then headed back to the cabin for lunch and time to catch up with good friends we hadn't seen this summer, hearing stories and comparing notes and making plans.  It could not have been a better day, and if you were hoping to come but soccer/gymnastics/swimming/laundry/shopping/Saturday got in the way, never fear -- Jim will be there tomorrow to lead another trail work party for anyone who can make it.  The mountains are spectacular this fall; go get yourself some before winter comes back!

Saw sisters!
Trail Chief Glen, looking for something to chop

Messiest spider web ever!

Oh, hello, Mount Rainier!
Poisonous?  Or edible?
Jim winning the battle with the ditch
Susie contemplates a really big lopping job
After lunch, Bert, age 90, heads out for a mountain bike ride.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Party for the Ski Community!

Two of my favorite things: a party, and a chance to hang out and support junior skiers!  Here are all the details you need to know.  What a great way to kick off what's going to be a terrific ski season!

 Food, drinks, prizes and the official start of winter!

Join the National Nordic Foundation and Momentum Northwest for our first annual Winter Kickoff Party! A good time for a great cause, bringing the cross country skiing community together to celebrate the coming season. Food and drinks included with entry, and many great prizes are to be had. This is an opportunity to see old friends, meet new ones and support two great causes.

Mt. Baker Community Club (Seattle)
2811 Mt Rainier Dr. S 
Seattle, WA 98144

In advance: Over 21: $25, under 21: $15
Day of event: Over 21: $35, under 21: $15
Momentum Northwest was founded in early 2014 through a need for a comprehensive, inclusive, year-round Nordic ski program in the greater Seattle area. 

With an emphasis on junior skier development, Momentum Northwest provides critical, experience-based coaching and technique development, while also creating an exciting and fun competitive racing program that fosters individual accountability, goal-setting, and personal betterment through

About the National Nordic Foundation:
The National Nordic Foundation (NNF) is the leading grassroots Nordic sport development organization in the country. The NNF serves the skiing community by centralizing energy and funding towards a common purpose. 

By matching our collective donations with funding opportunities, we amplify our giving community, engage skiers at every level and establish a pathway to athletic success.
Event Contact: 

Monday, October 3, 2016

What I Am Talking About ...

Last spring the Norsk speakers in the club were passing around a book written in Norwegian that purported to measure and quantify all the various reasons why we love to ski.  I was jealous of being left out of the conversation, because there aren't many things I'd rather talk about than skiing, so I begged Per to write a book report describing the concepts, and he generously did, and here it is.  It would be super fun to compare notes on how we each rank the five measurements.  Feel free to leave a comment at the end of this blog post, or maybe we can talk about it at the next KSC meeting or trail work party.  It's a grand subject to wrap your brain around, especially now that the days are cooler and wetter and the nights are longer and winter is finally finally coming back.

Book Report

Hva Jeg Snakker om Når Jeg Snakker om Langrenn
(What I am Talking About When I Talk About Cross Country Skiing)

Author: Thorkild Gundersen
Published by: Gyldendal, Oslo, Norway 2015

I found this book last January at one of the book shops at Gardermoen Airport in Oslo.  I was immediately interested.  I picked it up and read it on my return flight to Seattle.  I thought that the contents of the book would be of interest to my ski friends at Kongsberger Ski Club and made a 15-minute presentation of the main ideas from the book at the end-of-season meeting of the club in April.  It seemed to stir some interest and, since the book is not likely to be translated and published in this country, I promised to produce a ”book report” so that others can also participate in the self-analysis among those of us who are nuts about cross country skiing.

We recognize a kindred spirit in the first sentences of the book.  “I love cross country skiing. I mean I really love cross country skiing ….. When ski conditions are good I need to get out: I want lots of skiing; I want it often; and I want to ski far”.

He opens with a description of that near perfect day of skiing and you are nearing the end of a long and enjoyable workout. You have sunshine, great snow, fast wax, good conditioning, and effective technique, and for a short while you enjoy complete happiness.  Those moments can not be ordered up; they just happen.  Gundersen wonders what there is that produces such bliss.  He grants that such moments can occur for anyone in the middle of a favorite activity.  There is quite a body of writing in Sports Psychology that deals with similar reactions.  Concepts such as ”Flow” and ”Peak Experience” are common themes in this field.  Simply put, ”Flow” is the feeling well trained and proficient athletes sometimes experience when they are working hard, they are fast, and they are doing something difficult, yet it feels relatively easy.  An example would be what we know as the Runner’s High.  Peak Experience is that rare occasion, maybe once a year, when the hard and fast performance seems like play, and yet it is the absolute best you are capable of.

So the questions that Gundersen raises in this book are:  What is there about cross country skiing that can elavate our enjoyment to such ridiculous heights?  Why is it so important to us?  Which elements of the ski experience release such an enormous feeling of well being?

With that the author identifies five possible factors.

1.     Could it be the PHYSICAL?  Is it simply the feeing of being in good shape?  When you have skied for several hours and you are feeling strong and you realize that even when you are way beyond 40, 50 ,60, or even 70, you are strong and healthy, and age  doesn’t matter, since you ski as well and easily as you did when you were 26, maybe even better!  You simply like to be physically active, and skiing is what you enjoy.

2.     Perhaps it is BEING OUT IN NATURE.  You realize that ski trails can be incredibly beautiful.  You left the city under gray clouds and drizzle and now you are in sun, new snow and gorgeous terrain.  It is uplifting to be there and appreciate the trees, the mountains, the well-groomed trails, and the quiet.

3.     Could it be the ESTHETIC aspects of skiing?  This deals with the fact that skiing is somewhat difficult, yet you have mastered it.  Many skiers who love the sport have skied most of their lives, and the coordination of movements are nearly automatic and beautifully coordinated.  You don’t have to think about the details of efficient technique, they are already incorporated into your body.  So this means that the joy you get from skiing may come from the satisfaction from mastering the distinctive movements of the sport and, in a way, you can express yourself in how you ski.

4.     Maybe it is THE COMPETITION that is the main motivation and the greatest source of enjoyment.  Athletes who train hard are often participants in races.  For some the upcoming races during the winter are the reason for training in the off-season.  Why else would you go out on a rainy day in October to roller-ski on a pavement that is littered with wet leaves?  Skiers have goals that can be attained in competitions.  “ I want to ski the XC leg of the Ski to Sea Relay in under 30 minutes.”  I want to get into Wave 3 in the American Birkebeiner.”  “I want to beat Jim, Bob, Sue, or Linda in the Gunnar Hagen 30k race this season.”

5.     Finally, could it be something EXISTENTIAL about why I like skiing?  Here you find that nothing soothes your soul better that a long, quiet, two-hour ski trip.  You appreciate being away from the daily routine.  You can think, plan, and summarize the recent days in your mind and you arrive back at the car feeling much better than when you started.  The ski time gave you serenity, peace, and mental balance.  Some have suggested that they like the person they become when they get away and ski.

Gundersen spent the winter two years ago skiing and talking to well known skiers about their motivations to ski.  It is clear that no one gave only one source of motivation, since we can all see ourselves in any of these factors.  During his rounds and interviews he carried with him five index cards with one motivation on each card, and he asked people to put them in order of importance.

Some Results:
Petter Northug
1.     Competition
2.     The physical
3.     The esthetic
4.     Nature
5.     The existential

Vegard Ulvang
1.     The existential
2.     The physical
3.     Nature
4.     The esthetic
5.     Competition

Anders Aukland
1.     The physical
2.     Nature
3.     The esthetic
4.     The existential
5.     Competition

Ragnhild Amlie (A serious citizen racer from Oslo, in her 30s, mother of three pre-school children who has qualified to start in the Elite Women’s wave in both the Norwegian Birkebeiner and Holmenkollmarsjen.  She is no slouch.)
1.     The existential
2.     Nature and the physical (tied)
3.     The esthetics
4.     Competition

The majority of the book deals with Gundersen’s ski experiences during that winter in Oslo, the frustrations of no snow until after Christmas, mediocre race results, lots of training sessions squeezed into a couple of weeks mid-winter and some of the long tour races in February and March.

The author reveals the depths of his passion for skiing in interesting connections.  It seems clear that, if there is early season skiing in the woods around Oslo with groomed tracks, nothing else matters to him.  He will miss some work, not attend his daughter’s junior hockey game, be late for appointments, and miss dinner with his family.

His passion is also revealed in another way.  He describes a near love affair with a small pond in the woods near his home where he likes to ski.  He describes a visit there in early March, under perfect conditions, on a Thursday morning.  The lake was still solidly frozen and there was a hard crust on the snow and a 2 cm layer of new powder on top.  The sun was bright and the temperatures were right below freezing.  He hurried to his “secret lover” the lake called Nordskogtjernet, and spent a delirious hour skating back and forth on the crust, with no ambition other than to enjoy himself, with no training goals, no intervals to push through, and no distance requirements to be met.  He could think of nothing more important to do except to dance around on the lake without rhyme or reason.  To him that was poetry in motion.  At the end of the session he bowed and thanked the lake for the dance.  Then he went to work.

Gundersen comes across as a seriously dedicated skier, who trains hard and competes intensely, is passionately in love with one sport, and has also found endless rewards in it.

Per Johnsen

PS.  It might be fun to conduct a short survey among Kongsberger members and see how we differ.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Summer Adventure: Mountain Biking the Desert

Have you ever wondered what the Iron Horse trail looks like once you get past Easton?  I sure have, so I was happy to get a report from Elizabeth about her and Jim's mountain biking adventure on the other side of the pass.  All the details are below; thanks for sharing, Elizabeth!

Mountain bikes on the John Wayne Trail: Renslow to Beverly

On Sunday, July 24, Jim and I explored the John Wayne Trail from east of Kittitas to near the Columbia River. This section of the John Wayne Trail runs through the Yakima Training Center. People are permitted to use the trail, but they must stay on it and not wander into the military reservation. For those concerned about the proximity of the Training Center, the artillery impact area is well south of the John Wayne Trail, so there’s no need to worry.

This railroad grade was built in the early 1900s. Thousands of cubic yards of rock and sand were moved to dig out the cuts and tunnel and to fill in the ravines for a level surface. The remains of electric power stanchions used to power the trains are still evident along the route.

We started the ride at 8:00 a.m. from a trailhead about 10 miles east of Ellensburg, near the intersection of Boylston Road and Stevens Road. There’s a parking lot equipped with a vault toilet but no source of water. West of this point is the Renslow trestle—currently closed—that passes over Interstate 90. There are ways around the trestle, but the Stevens Road trailhead is a practical starting point for this leg of the John Wayne Trail.

From the parking lot, we rode up a gravel road past a “no vehicles permitted” sign to reach the trail. From this point to the entrance of the Boylston tunnel, a distance of approximately four miles, the trail was soft, which would make excellent going for horses, but more difficult for our mountain bikes. It was also a gentle uphill—easy if the trail were firm, but challenging in the deep sand. As we neared the west portal of the tunnel, we saw that the approach was marred by many rocks and boulders fallen from the surrounding basalt formation. These caused me some anxiety as I looked up at the rocks still beetling above, wondering when the next one would fall. I was glad to enter the tunnel, which seemed safer than the trail just outside.

The tunnel was cool but not cold, and water trickled down on us from only one place. It’s 2000 feet long, so a good light is necessary, especially near the middle of the tunnel, where we encountered rocks again. Not wanting to be there when another rock fell, we scooted through the rocky area as quickly as possible and found the trail clear again near the tunnel’s east portal. After exiting the tunnel, however, basalt rocks again littered the trail. Next we encountered a wet area—the only water we saw on or near the trail that day—that fostered growth of a stand of willows. We dismounted and pushed our bikes through the thicket, and walked through wet sand and mud.

From the tunnel, the trail meanders through hilly, dry country. It alternately crosses ravines on elevated fills and cuts through hills containing bones of basalt. Otherwise, the trail is smooth and bare, trending gradually downhill, with vistas that go for miles. The trail is firmer than west of the tunnel, but there are places where soft, coarse sand made the going difficult again. Riders should watch for these places—the sand is grayer than the surrounding landscape, so it’s easy to spot. We had the trail entirely to ourselves: not another soul was riding it that day. West of the Boylston tunnel we saw tracks of horses and two sets of bicycle tire tracks. East of the tunnel, the hoof prints disappeared but the tire tracks continued all the way to where we left the trail.

The basalt cuts were both a gift and a menace. They offered a chance for a close look at columnar basalt, and among the solid, dense basalt formations were deposits of browner, crumbly rock that hosted nodules of what we think is chert in hues of white, caramel, green, and yellow. Bits of the chert rock—some the size of my thumb, some the size of my head—lay on the trail, and we could see nodules still embedded in the deposits. 

But everywhere through these areas, rocks and boulders littered the trail, and near the Cheviot waypoint I had a run-in with one of them. I failed to adequately dodge one and went down hard on the sharp rocks, cutting my right knee and shin in multiple places and raising a big contusion.

Though my enjoyment of the ride was compromised, we continued on because we couldn’t leave the trail; we were about halfway along the route, and we had arranged for Jim’s dad to pick us up at the end. We walked the bikes through the basalt cuts to avoid any further falls. I enjoyed the long views and the stark barrenness of the place. We saw little wildlife: a few birds that flew past too quickly for us to identify and a single mammal, a squirrel of some kind, inside the east end of the Boylston tunnel and making haste for its burrow. Perhaps the heat and the sun had driven the wildlife to shelter.

Just past the Doris waypoint, we had a view of the Wanapum Dam. Even the sight of water offered relief after hours of scorched landscape. 

Past the Huntzinger Road, the trail continues a short distance to the river in even poorer shape than the 25 miles we had just ridden.The Beverly trestle across the river is closed. So at that point, Jim called his dad to come collect us, and we pedaled on the Huntzinger Road toward Vantage. We met him just as Vantage came into view, and pulled off to load the bikes onto the car.

I would like to recommend this ride to others because of the harsh beauty of the hills and ravines, but I hesitate to do so because of the condition of the trail. If the rocks could be cleared and the soft areas made firmer, I would recommend it, but not in 90-degree heat. Save it for spring or fall. Washington State Parks Department has devoted a web page to plans for the John Wayne Trail here: It may be valuable for us to add our voices in support of the trail completion and offer some volunteer hours for maintenance. There’s also a citizen group trying to raise awareness and money to help protect the trail. Here’s their website: