We welcome any blogs, stories and photos from fellow skikers and are happy to publish or link them here and on our facebook page.
Skiking is great fun and it is always interesting to read the skiking stories of others. Local skiker Esther has written a blog of one of her skike outings and you can read it here.
We welcome any blogs, stories and photos from fellow skikers and are happy to publish or link them here and on our facebook page.
We recently heard from Nola Payne following her recent skiing holiday in Europe. She writes:
After an invitation to try skiking last September, I thought why not! A nervous beginning then an hour on the trails at Westerfolds and by the time I'd arrived home had decided I needed a pair. Training on them proved invaluable when I headed to France in Jan with fellow skikers Chris and Peter. Waxing skis and packing down jackets etc seemed ridiculous during the first week of the heat wave but before long we were in the village of Bessans, a x-c skiers dream in the Haute Maurienne Vanoise region of the Rhone Alpes in south eastern France.
I discovered the village 2 years ago when I spent a week spring skiing in each of 4 different x-c areas in France. Returned last year for 2 weeks with fellow skiker Paul Waller and his wife Sue who also loved it, then again this year for 4 weeks which was still too short. Travelled for the first time without a car but once in the village there's no need, everything is within walking distance. We flew to Lyon, arrived in the evening and stayed in a hotel at the airport then the next day an adventure via three buses all well coordinated by the local company eventually delivering us to the village centre though in future will catch the TGV from Lyon airport to the town of Modane at the end of the valley then just one bus to the village.
Bessans is a traditional French village with around 300 inhabitants, surrounded by 133 km's of mainly undulating x-c ski trails with one small beginners downhill slope, it's set in a narrow valley at 1740m surrounded by 3000m peaks and glaciers, so can always guarantee good snow. The scenery is spectacular and rugged, frozen waterfalls everywhere and the ice climbers often come out at the weekend. If you're lucky you'll see Chamois roaming on the slopes. It's home to the Marathon de Bessans, the French Euroloppet ski race held in early January each year.
The attraction isn't just the skiing but life in the village where cows, sheep, goats etc spend the winter in barns along the main street and in basements under houses. The village dogs placidly roam the streets not at all bothered about visitors. Most of the businesses are run by villagers whose families have lived there for generations. There are groomed walking trails, just as popular as the ski trails, some people wear snow shoes but most just boots and Nordic walking poles. This year a fascinating exhibition was held in the Mayor's office telling the story of the the invasions by the Italians and Germans during the 2nd world war, the Germans burned three quarters of the houses, those that survived are still standing and date back to the 1700's.
During our first week there was much excitement in the village, a stage of 'La Grande Odyssee' was held one afternoon near the Nordic centre, it's part of the 5 day festival of dog sled races held along the valley. About 16 teams each with 8 to 12 dogs, they race about 70 km's each day. There were thousands watching, on both sides of the starting area, then everyone raced across the snow as they came past again and headed along the valley to the village of Bonneval sur Arc which is right at the start of the Col de L'Iseran of Tour de France fame. It was a bit like the Tour, people hardly left space for the dogs and mushers to get past, many of them didn't seem to be in a great rush though and and high fived all the kids along the way. Lots of hot choc and vin chaud was provided for everyone.
Most days/evenings there are events you can attend ranging from the 'Welcome' every Sunday, a short talk about the events for the week followed by generous tastings of 'chocolat verte' - hot chocolate with Chartreuse and the local cheese Beaufort to visits to a home to see the their animals wintering in the basement, waxing info sessions and an introduction to Biathlon both traditional and laser. Some of the villagers speak a little English and we get by with our small amount of French as everyone is very friendly and welcoming. The xmas decorations stay up for months so it's always looks pretty walking around the village in the evenings, shops are open till 7 as they all close for lunch.
During our stay the temperatures ranged from -16 to 4 and everything in between. We only had 2 windy days, the second quite extreme with wind blown snow on the trails and when it started to ease by early afternoon, the groomers came out for the first time in daylight and groomed everywhere back to it's usual perfection. The trails are never crowded even though you see skate marks along them, so you often feel like they've been groomed just for you.
I'm told the village is just as popular in summer for walking, mountaineering and cycling. There are trails for roller skiing and blading, so good for skiking too though I'm not sure how extensive they are. The Biathlon range is used year round including summer competitions.
Bessans is a very special place and well worth a visit.
As a result of Nola's and Paul and Sue Waller's enthusiasm for Bessans, skikers Peter O'Brien, Christine Roberts, Michelle Armstrong and James, Freya and Finlay Clark also visited Bessans this year. We have also recently met Benoit from France who is living in Melbourne and came skiking with us. Benoit told us " I would love to be from Bessans but I am not, that is fortunately my favourite holiday place in the world and I love to be there."
At the start of February 2013 Skike Australia was approached via our website by James Hamilton who enquired about skikes. James along with other Wenona girls school (in Sydney) parents Richard Logan, Ben Stoner and Anne Hemmings had decided that they would in conjunction with the school, establish a cross country ski team for the school. They formed a training squad, met with us in Sydney and purchased skike equipment and they sought and employed a coach. The result was that Wenona qualified 7 girls from an 8 girl team to the 2013 National Interschool Cross Country skiing Championships. The team was comprised of girls from years 6 to 10. For some 2013 was their first season trying XC skiing. In the Nationals their best result was the Division 3 relay which came a close 4th. When we asked James this week he told us that:
"We trained once a week last year using skikes on a large netball court complex with surrounding bike trails. This allowed younger children to get comfortable on the skikes on a flat area for technique training before venturing onto gentle paths. Most children do not use rollerskis as they are still growing and their parents are reticent to buy expensive XC ski boots at this stage. The skikes are less likely to stop on a stick or stone as well due to their pump up tires. We have just started dry land training again in 2014 with 9 girls so far. D’Arcy Baxter is coaching the girls with parent back up. The Sunday dry land training is a 1.5 hour mix of hill bounding, some exercises, some running and skiking. Some of the girls are also doing road running with the schools cross country group as well. The aim is to keep training fun and inclusive. All the girls do other school sports. We hope to progress some of the girls to train with skikes on a 2 km traffic free track with some hills in a few months."
The Wenona team also achieved another success recently with Lara Hamilton being announced as the winner of an Australian Sports Commission scholarship. The following article is about that announcement http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/newslocal/north-shore/lara-hamilton-scores-asc-grant/story-fngr8ih3-1226836707675
Congratulations to Lara, the Wenona XC ski team girls and the support provided by the coaches, parents, family and school. We are really pleased to see your initial successes and look forward to observing as you continue to progress.
Written by Kevin Tory
6 November 2013
The first person to Skike up Mt Donna Buang has been described by a few as crazy. Everyone else describes him as completely insane. To preserve his anonymity in this message we will just call him Jon Spring. A little over a year ago Jon (master skier, 35+) took up XC-ski racing. Still very much a beginner he bought a pair of Skikes at season’s end (after declaring several times that “you will never ever get me on a pair of those”) and pointed them up Mt. Donna Buang.
For those who don’t know, this mountain is one of the tougher mountains regularly climbed by a growing number of mountain climbing cyclists. It is listed on http://theclimbingcyclist.com/ as a 1069 m climb over a distance of 16.8 km. It’s hard work on a bike, and it’s even harder work on Skikes. It is especially hard work on Skikes when you have beginner technique.
Against all the odds Jon made it to the summit in 2 hours 16 minutes cheered on by numerous cyclists amazed by his persistence and the obvious effort required. His photo even appeared in a popular cycling blog beamed around the country. A colleague of mine, a keen cyclist, spotted the photo and asked if it was me. With a tinge of jealousy I had to say no. Once upon a time I was the only Skiker “in the village”. I knew then that I had to conquer that mountain.
It was months later before I had the opportunity. By then Jon had been climbing Donna regularly with a born-again skier, who had recently returned to the fold after seeing the light following a chance meeting with the Skike evangelists. (To protect their privacy we will just call them Ken Orr and Len Budge respectively.) Also by then the mountain alone was not a big enough challenge. Rumour has it that Ken and Jon had been adding a warm-up of 10 or perhaps even 20 km on the Warburton rail trail before they tackled the mountain. That’s 10 or 20 km of gravel, none of that smooth, fast bitumen the elite train on.
I met Jon at his place in darkness one early Sunday morning, where I was greeted by a big smile and an overly enthusiastic handshake for that time of morning. It was a 70 minute drive to Warburton where we were to meet Ken. During that drive I was to learn just how insane my companion was. Our discussion turned to skiing and near-death experiences. In the interests of brevity, I’ll just say that Jon has had more than nine lives, many more, and that he is alive today only due to an incredible will to live, dumb luck and extraordinary fitness. I also learned that Jon’s technique had improved such that his fastest ascent time was a touch under two hours, despite only once weekly training.
We met Ken in Warburton at the car park above the football oval, where after a quick pit stop, we began the drive to the summit to drop off Ken’s car, which would bring us back down again after the climb. Fortunately the amazing tales of Jon’s adventures distracted me from the endless winds and bends, but nothing could distract me from the steepness of the final 2 km. This mountain has a cruel kicker at the end.
Fortunately for me both Ken and Jon were feeling tired after exhausting weeks at work, and I was on the contrary feeling quite fresh after a light week. (Ken, a grand master skier, 55+, spends his working week doing good, old-fashioned, honest labouring. That week had been particularly heavy, including moving by hand 30 cubic m of wood chips on the Friday.)
We began skiking at the start of the Mt Donna Buang road and soon settled in to an easy but steady pace, chatting as we went. The angst, tensions and stresses of the previous working week unravelled with each stride, and with the awareness of the beautiful rainforest surrounding us growing, the topic soon turned to the joys of skiking. Before I knew it we’d reached Cement Creek
about 7 km gone, with some of the nastiest hills conquered. Here we took a left turn. A few more km up the road we passed a couple of great lookouts over the Yarra Valley. This section was relatively easy. Great for just settling in to a good rhythm until we reached the Spring at 10-mile turntable with 3 km to go. Here a stop for a drink is a good idea. The water is as pure as it gets. You might need to wait your turn as people from all over Melbourne fill up trailer loads of water
containers. Regardless, the pause is well worth it as the kicker is not far away.
Painted on the roads as you ascend are km-to-go markers. Soon after the 2 km-to-go marker the kicker begins. It gradually steepens and the pace slows. The 1 km-to-go marker takes forever to appear. Then in an act of cruelty, someone has painted a 500 m to go marker, when surely the finish was just around the corner, this is followed by more markers at 100 m intervals that serve as silent well-wishers urging you on. This finish is the base of the observation tower, where bemused tourists stare with a mixture of concern (is that gasping heaving snotty mess about to kark it) and perhaps respect. Some congratulate you. Others try and engage in conversation, while you gasp for breath. All have a tale to tell about these loonies who skied up the mountain.
Feeling inspired? Come and join us on one of our climbs*. You can choose the full distance or perhaps start at Cement creek, and do just the last 10 km. Another alternative for those wanting to ease into it, is to start at Cement creek and finish at the Spring. This takes in the less steep parts of the climb, but is still a worthwhile challenging 7 km.
After the climb we usually meet for an early lunch in one of the wonderful riverside cafes in Warburton. Inside by the fire if it’s cold and wet, whilst outside on the balcony if it’s warm and sunny. It’s a great way to unwind and debrief. If you are lucky you may even get to hear about one of Jon’s incredible adventures. See pictures from our latest “skike up Donna” here on the Gallery page and scroll down to find this and other event photo sets.
A few important facts:
We received an email from fellow skiker Jonathan Spring following his experience “tearing up the road” with his skikes last Sunday at Lake Mountain.
“I skiked from Marysville to Lake Mountain on Sunday afternoon and experienced a very soft road. There was a car rally in morning from the ticket office up to the top of the mountain and so the road had lots of liquid bitumen on its surface. I stopped at the timber yard about 2km from the top as my wheels had bitumen and stones stuck to them and rubbing against the frame.
I started cleaning my skikes last night and there are sharp stones embedded in 2 - 5 mm of bitumen and also stuck between the back wheels and the frame. I used a screw driver to chip away at the thick pieces and tonight I will be taking the wheels off to clean them properly and get to all sections of the frame. Turpentine was a good solvent to get the bitumen off my shoes and it didn't seem to damage the rubber.
I intend to use Turpentine to clean the wheels after I have already removed the thicker sections of bitumen. Unfortunately the bitumen has remained quite soft and sticky rather than hardening as I had expected.”
We think that turps, eucalyptus oil or a citrus based degreaser, liberal amounts of elbow grease and some old rags would probably be the way to do the job safely. Allowing the bitumen to go hard and using a screwdriver or a metal scraper may mark the powdercoat finish or score the wheels. Other commercially available products such as Tar & Bug Off may also work. Do not use things like acetone or WD-40 as they may work but will also attack rubber.
Other comments both helpful and humorous have also been received:
Kerosene would probably work, similar to turpentine. Its a thinner for the bitumen sprayed onto the road for sealing. It slowly evaporates and the bitumen hardens up, but on hot days the bitumen gets very tacky if there has not been much time for the kero to evaporate, as seems was the case.
Of course, you can just "wear" the bitumen off the tyres. It might be a bit slow and bumpy at first... :-)
Have you ever needed to clean bitumen, an incrustation of filth, or any other crud from your skikes? If so, what did you use? Add a comment to this blog and help another fellow skiker.
Len - Well known in the Australian XC skiing community as a competitor, coach, race organiser and instructor who is also passionate about skikes.