Skin Skis – Opinion

There sure is a lot of hullabolu about the new skin skis and I am wondering are they an improvement over the old nowax pattern skis, and if they are, – why are they better. Or are they just another fad like the short skating skis, palm grips of poles etc. I sure would like to hear from other skiers, how they like them and why?


A: The skin ski makes a faster and quieter racing waxless ski than a cut pattern. But a waxed ski beats a skin ski most days. Skin skis are great for marathon classic races where the snow will change a lot throughout the day. Skin skis makes it easier to go out and classic in any condition without having to take any time to wax. For those of us who like waxing, – waxing rules.

Andy at SkiPost

Experiencing HALO Neuroscience Through a Coach’s Eye

By Eliska Albrigtsen, CXC Team Head Coach (former World Cup competitor and 2011 NCAA champion)

When I joined the CXC Skiing coaches’ team this spring, I was very excited about all the different exercise tools the Center of Excellence in Madison has to offer to athletes and their coaches. Having a background in human physiology and biomechanics, most of these “toys” were well known to me, however, there was one exception that attracted me, HALO Sport.


Eliska Albrigtsen (CXC Center of Excellence)

HALO Sport
is a headphones like device that improves your performance by enhancing neuroplasticity of your brain via transcranial stimulation. Uh, what a heavy sentence! Although it sounds very complicated, the setup is actually quite simple. Do you remember the time, when you were much younger and learning was so easy? That was thanks to your neuroplasticity. Neurons – the strings running through your body, sending information back and forth between your brain and body parts – were somewhat fresher and therefore more plastic, more moldable to support your body and brain in mastering new skills. As our movement patterns solidify with age, our brains tend to become solid, less plastic, as well. This is the point where HALO Sport comes into action with its gentle electrical stimulus to our heads. As I mentioned above, HALO looks like headphones, not earbuds, but a nice big pair of headphones with a big arch going from one ear to the other. When I also tell you that that is where the motor cortex, the center of the brain that processes movement, is located, it should begin to make sense.

HALO uses the arch to plant three 1.5 by 2 inches plates containing 24 soft spikes each that stimulate your motor cortex by sending very gentle electrical vibrations through your cranium, the part of the skull that encloses your brain. This stimulation amplifies the natural amount of electrical impulses in the motor cortex and therefore enhances the plasticity of the brain.


Nichole Bathe (2017 U23 World Championships Team members) training with Halo at the CXC Center of Excellence.


When I learned about this process, my next step as a curious coach was obvious. I had to try this! At that moment, I was working with British National Ski Team athlete Nichole Bathe, who, due to her tendency for straight leg positioning, which is common in women athletes, developed a negative habit of skiing with “stiff legs.” This habit hindered her ability to lean forward to bring her hips over her toes, in all ski techniques. My decision was brisk and we scheduled Nichole’s HALO Sport sessions over the next two weeks.

HALO Sport is powered through their app that runs for 20 minutes and allows you to increase and decrease the electrical stimulus according to your comfort. The twenty minute period is the only time required to wear the headphones to obtain the stimulation, and it is also the most sensitive period for motor changes. However, the brain is powered by these twenty minutes for another hour after you take the headphones off. Therefore, I planned Nichole’s workout to start with 20 minutes of technique skills, in a controlled environment, with mirrors for a feedback, followed by her classic or skate rollerskiing session, to support her effort to improve her technique with freshly acquired skills from the twenty minutes of drills. We started with simple balancing exercises, such as a one legged stand in classic and skate style, and in just two days I could see and Nichole could feel the progress. Instead of a shaky quadriceps being in a new uncomfortable position, there was a confident calm muscle knowing exactly where to be placed. Nichole herself had to admit that it suddenly became quite effortless. We did not waste any time and added a new challenge into Nichole’s routine, a quick body mass transfer into a gliding position onto one leg. Soon enough, three days later, the task was simple to accomplish. I went on and challenged her to perform the drills on an uneven surface by standing on a half-cylinder that rocks side to side, similarly as Nordic skis do. In the next three days, Nichole mastered that challenge as well.

I have to admit that it was a great mental satisfaction for her as an athlete. Being able to accomplish a task that your coach keeps repeating throughout your whole ski career in just a couple of days feels pretty amazing. Towards the end of our fourteen day HALO Sport period, we really went for it and made Nichole perform all the balancing exercises also standing on rollerskis. Those of you who have tried to stand on the less comfortable sisters of Nordic skis, can maybe imagine how challenging it is to stand on one leg only, in perfect gliding position, while motionless. It does require pristine style that is accomplished only through supreme balance, muscle memory, and strength. While following these drills with an hour of rollerskiing, Nichole was able to increase her explosiveness as well, leaving her with a year’s worth of work accomplished in just two weeks.


Jed Downs (Birkie skier and CXC Masters Team members) working on technique before rollerski workout.


No athlete is perfect and we all need to keep improving every minute of our lives. But does it have to take that long to master a single skill? If you count yourself among one of those athletes who keeps hearing the same thing from your coach over and over, get your hands on a pair of HALO Sport. As a coach, I was pleased with saving my efforts as well as impressed with my athlete’s progress. I want to wish Nichole good luck with her season and thank her for being a subject in my trial with HALO Sport.

I hope this got you interested, if not in trying HALO, then at least in always trying to improve yourself or support others to do the same. Repetition and hard training do bring the fruit. The variable that remains is your time.

To train with CXC contact us at or for more information about clinic and camps visit

How to Have Fast Skis this Season

Have skis to choose from that will be fast in general given the conditions. Have skis that are well suited for cold conditions (according to their flex) with a “cold’ structure, skis that have a flex better for wetter conditions with a “wet” structure etc. This seems very basic, but isn’t the practice so often. Many people have multiple pair of the same. Have more options for your most common conditions.

Don’t ski on your good skis in rocky conditions. Yes, it could be that all you have is rocky conditions and then you need to make a choice, but often if you avoid using your good skis a week here and there, your good skis will not only be good this year, but for years to come.

Wax. Keep things simple. So often people “go for it” but only in one respect forgetting that having fast skis involves a combination of factors. Basically the speed of your skis will be determined by the factor(s) that is slowing your skis down the most being addressed or neutralized. Getting an A+ on a few things but ignoring a basic factor can clearly result in poor skis. Examples of factors for glide include ski flex, base structure, how the base of the ski has been prepared previous to adding race layers – black waxes, hardening layers, etc, ski preparation technique (using a burred scraper, not enough iron heat, too much iron heat, over scraping and under brushing, etc), wax application technique especially with top coats, and of course ski wax selection. For kick, it is mostly the same but also thickness of wax (especially compared to camber height), layers, smoothness of wax, sanding, if base layer was heated in or not, if a foundation was built (sometimes need a “medium” hardness wax between binder and a softer wax), if a cushion or cover was used, and of course wax selection.


Usually hard packed, often times in the form of hardened squeaky corduroy until it is skied in. The key words are “cold” and “slow”. For me, this is a specialty condition. In these conditions, having a whole lot of contact with the base on the snow is key. Of course the base needs to have a smooth cold finish on it and it needs to be hardened with cold glide waxes (and mixing in XCold Powder is surely important in cold slow conditions). A key variable though is long contact zones in the tip and tail with the snow. This will give the skis a very good “breakaway speed” yielding slippery skis at slow speeds such as climbing and great acceleration. In such cold slow snow, addressing breakaway speed is the primary concern. Generally speaking, to achieve such long contact zones in the tip and tail, the skis need to be softer than normal as well as be a ski with a lower camber (and soft tips and tails). These skis will not perform well in other conditions, but are superb in these specific cold slow conditions.

(Even up to freezing and firm conditions) The conditions might look just like the “cold slow snow” conditions, but perhaps temperatures warmed and/or the course got skied-in. In any case, the key here is that the skiing is no longer especially slow, but more normal but still cold. In these conditions, a traditional cold ski is the ticket. A traditional cold ski such as the Rossignol S1 has longer contact zones and a low camber but it is still more lively than the ski mentioned above. It will have a faster high end speed and handle better. For most people, this is their all around “cold” skis and are especially good in firm conditions.

(with firm conditions) – these conditions are generally pretty fast and the snow is pretty hard. There is more free moisture in the snow of course than when it is much colder. The all around type skis such as a Rossignol S2 with a universal or fine universal grind depending on where you live (how arid or humid it is in general) have a flex that is good in almost all conditions in this temperature range. These skis have a camber and contact zones that are middle of the road. For most of the ski world, these are the most commonly skis used.

In some conditions, a different type of ski is absolutely awesome. These conditions include a few inches of powder on top of a packed base (loose snow over packed), conditions where there is dirt and non transformed snow, and certain types of new falling/fallen snow. I have found that in conditions where there is 2-6 inches of new falling or fallen snow (all types basically) over a firm base, having a much stiffer ski (but in the “all around” or Rossignol S2 mold) is superb. The additional stiffness prevents suckiness especially in the form of a high speed drag and in general the skis feel much more “free” than with a traditional all around or cold ski. Additionally, these same stiffer skis are the ticket when the contact between the base and the snow needs to be minimized such as if very slow snow is falling (usually in the form of graupel snow which looks like styrofoam balls, falls around freezing, and can be extremely slow) or if there is a lot of dirt and well as powder/non transformed snow. Powder or non transformed snow is very sensitive to dirt on the base of the ski. Minimizing the contact of the base with the dirt reduces this braking effect greatly. It is the same with the graupel snow – if you reduce the contact of the ski base with this very slow snow which can feel like skiing on velcro, you reduce the braking effect of that snow on the skis. Where I ski, it is pretty common to get a few inches to a lot of snow on top of a packed base that doesn’t get groomed for a while. This is also very common in bigger point to point races such as the Birkie and Boulder Mountain Tour for example where they can only groom so much when it is snowing and then they just leave it. This is a “luxury” pair of skis for some, but for me, it is one of my core skis that I am grateful to have. Basically what I have is a very stiff pair of S2s that I use in these common (powder over hard pack) or problematic (graupel or dirt/powder mix) conditions. In more normal packed snow conditions, these skis are unstable (hard to ski on even) and not great.

Generally speaking, when conditions are very wet, you want to minimize the contact of the base on the snow. These skis have a higher camber that is also stiffer such as the S3 from Rossignol. These skis can be finicky. Small disparities in flex and where the skis have contact on the snow can result in big differences in handling and performance of the skis. Much of the time when conditions are very wet, there is also dirt on the snow. These skis are generally excellent in very wet snow and very dirty snow (wet dirty snow!). A great pair of these skis beats anything else in their condition (regardless of waxing nuances). They generally have a linear structure which is a good pattern if concerned about dirt and which also performs decently all around in different types of wet snow especially if the skis fit well (less contact). Basically these are moisture management skis and are usually clear based. While some people use these skis in other conditions, the design is such that they are at their best in very wet snow (where free moisture/water in the snow is the major obstacle to overcome in achieving fast skis) and they can perform poorly in other conditions especially more arid hardpack conditions. On the elite level, skiers usually have options within this category with the main difference being the base structure (new wet snow versus transformed snow versus very dirty transformed snow). In general though, a medium linear structure on these skis is universally quite good assuming the skis are a good fit. They need to be stiff. If too soft, these skis are a disaster in speed and handling.


The above graphic from Rossignol illustrates some of the differences in camber height and glide surface contact that I have been referring to.


For classic skis, so much more depends on the qualities of the skier. For example in past years, two of the athletes who I enjoyed waxing for the most were John Bauer and Karin Camenisch. Both of these skiers had the technique and fitness to ski stiffer skis. There were some races where I was able to select an especially stiff ski for them and wax shorter and thicker. We did this for example in races where we wanted to emphasize fast glide (snow was a bit sticky/grabby on the kick wax) but there were also some steep extended hills (example, think Hermod’s Hill at Soldier Hollow) where trying to do a running herringbone the whole way up would yield too much time and having “good kick” with a traditional ski wouldn’t glide fast enough on the extended gradual downhills. Other racers without their techique and fitness simply were not able to ski such skis and thus had less chance for the victory on these particular types of days.

My point is that what you are able to ski on and benefit from in classic skiing depends on much on your technique and fitness levels (compared to skating). The best all around classic skiers in the world ski on very stiff skis – why not as they are also the fastest and hold their kick wax better.

The classic ski recommendations include powder track skis like a Rossignol C1 which for a great many would be there all around skis. Many also call these “coaches skis” as they are so easy to kick. What is being given up though is glide and kick wax durability. These skis basically have a camber that closes easily and leaves little residual camber (the bases almost touch when you push them together). They are easy to ski and provide solid kick with little effort.

Hard track skis such as a Rossignol C2 are all around classic skis that don’t close as easily as powder track skis and have a little more residual camber. These are your all around skis.

Klister skis such as a Rossignol C3 are even more difficult to close and have substantially more residual camber. This leaves enough room under the skis for klister to be there without it icing or being worn off quickly. Also having this additional room under the skis yields faster skis in all conditions but especially wetter conditions.

Generally speaking powder skis also have more glide surface contact with the snow, hard track are middle of the road, and klister skis are more oriented for wetter conditions and have less contact. Similar to with skating skis, sometimes using a klister ski in dirty hard track conditions is a good option if the greatest concern is keeping the kick wax and gliding surface clean.

Some skis have a longer wax pocket than others. For most of us, this isn’t such a concern (getting too far from the basics), but in some conditions where the snow is breaking or shearing, having a longer wax pocket can keep the snow from breaking on itself (or shearing) and yield substantially better kick. This is often the case when there is new fallen dry snow on top of a hard track. The layer of dry snow often shears or breaks where the new and old snow come together causing the ski to slip. Increasing the contact area of the kick zone (not by simply waxing longer but by waxing longer on skis with a longer camber) addresses this issue and results in far better skis. Using a stickier wax in these conditions doesn’t affect much except to slow the skis down. Of course also very important is a skier’s ability to “kick” with finesse rather than just powering (and slipping) around the track.

In mashed potato type conditions (soft and deep), many people elect to use powder skis. This is often a mistake as a softer camber can result in the ski hyperextending yielding poor contact of the kick wax on the snow. A stiffer ski in these same conditions acts to trap and “cup” the snow providing a more solid platform to kick off (and for the wax to grip).

Bottom line is that in classic, far more than with skate, the skiers’ ability affects what skis can be used effectively.

Hopefully these observations will help you make wise choices going into the new season and you’ll have the great experiences that you have been hoping for!

by Ian Harvey, eBlast Series

Living the Dream: Summer-Skiing Jacket Review

The skier on the left showing the importance of reading these reviews: your goal in life is to not be “that guy”. (All photos: FBD)


The Setup

A few weeks ago, I provided cosmic enlightenment on where you should be right now and hopefully you were able to heed this very sage advice and have since logged copious k’s. Since unlike the rest of you losers, I work for a living, so I couldn’t just sit around Bend skiing, eating pancakes and riding sick mountain bike trails, oh no, even before I left Bend, I was back “on the clock,” tirelessly slaving away for you, the loyal reader. Well, sort of.

Since no one loves you like we do at FasterSkier, we are committed to not only giving you the latest and greatest beta on where you should be, but I’m now about to drop some wisdom on your lean, wirey, nordic asses on what you should be wearing, rocking, rubbing, and rolling on these big adventures.

Since I regularly drive my editors and senior management here at FS crazy with my disparaging comments on goods and services that I find to be inferior even if they are advertisers (in all fairness, my comments still get printed, but it drives everyone nuts), the “powers that be” retaliate by sending every possible wacko, crackpot product my way. I am therefore forced to interact with these half-baked, nut-job ideas on a far-too-regular basis.

While the scope of coverage of this latest review may seem a little staid and commonplace, I can assure you that I have waded through terabits of emails from start-ups hawking foldable shoes, mittens with built in lights, lights with built in mittens, kittens with mittens, smell-proof underwear, miracle vitamins, and all sorts of other really strange products for guys who may be having a little trouble “gettin’ the old Evinrude crankin’,” if you know what I mean. So don’t think for one second that we’re not looking at all kinds of crazy stuff, we are, we just have the common sense and good judgment to pick products that you’re actually going to use, even if a jacket review isn’t nearly as titillating as reviewing “male enhancement” products.

With that out of the way, let’s dive right in. For starters, it may sound crazy making jacket recommendations in June, but remember, this is a skiing publication, so it is our fervent hope that you have been able to get out skiing. And before everyone out there in the sweltering Midwest gets all huffy, not only did I recently give you the ins and outs of how to find snow in Bend in excruciating detail, but if you somehow manage to goof this up, have no fear, as the “snow window” is still open. If you really want to go big, venture up the the “Last Frontier” and mix it up with the big boys (and girls) at APU’s awesome Masters’ camp July 6-9. If your mom won’t let you fly all the way up to AK, my good buddy Matt Liebsch (or “Leaper,” as he likes to be called) also has an epic masters’ camp on Haig Glacier in August, so no excuses, snow is out there, you just need to go get it. How this is relevant in this context is that you’re not just going to want one of the jackets we tested, you’re going to NEED one of these jackets, hopefully sooner as opposed to later, as what better way to train for skiing than, uh, skiing?

The Reviews

Since the unpredictable conditions at our test site at Mount Bachelor have been well documented, we’re going to present the results from coldest to warmest, as nothing makes you ponder the purchase of a new jacket like a ripping, 60 mph wind and whiteout conditions.

Arc’teryx Beta SL Hybrid Jacket

Arc’teryx Beta SL Hybrid Jacket (men’s)

For pre-, post- or even intra-ski, the Arc’teryx Beta SL Hybrid Jacket was the clear favorite of the entire test team for very wet, cold, nasty conditions. It offers the most warmth, wind protection and probably the largest comfort range of any of the jackets tested.

Dave Cieslowski wearing the Arc’teryx Beta SL Hybrid Jacket

In my previous three-week stay in Bend in May, and believe it or not, even in this trip that I am just finishing, we experienced conditions ranging from 20 degrees, blower snow and a howling 50-70 mph wind at Mt. Bachelor to fairly regular 35-55 degree afternoons down in town-ish. I say “ish,” as we were staying a few miles outside of town up toward Mt. Bachelor, (where all of the cool kids stay)…

Now where was I? Oh yes, jackets….. The Arc’teryx was my garment of choice on several backcountry outings, cold runs and apres-paddling/surfing (yes, they have surfing in Bend). This jacket came through with flying colors in every test and in every sport. To add a little firepower and diversity to this review, I recruited some of the young bucks on the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club for some additional perspective, and this was the top pick of all of the testers on the nasty days.

Said one tester, “If I could only have one jacket, this would be it, for sure.” Most agreed that it is usually too warm for nordic skiing in most conditions, but it is exceptional in every other regard. I wore it into town on a few rainy nights as well and it does a great job of being cool and stylish without crossing the line into looking like you could be departing for an Everest summit bid at any moment. The only slight dings I’m going to give it is that it is the most spendy of any coat in the test (at $399). It also doesn’t pack nearly as compactly as the others, in particular the Patagonia, but more on that in a bit. If you’re venturing out in very bad weather though, this is your jam, hands down.

Salomon Bonatti Pro WP Jacket

Salomon Bonatti Pro WP Jacket (men’s)

One step up the temperature scale is the Salomon Bonatti Pro WP Jacket.

Definitely lighter and more packable than the Arc’teryx, this piece is marketed as a trail runner, but we all found its performance to be quite good on the skis and mountain bike as well. Yes, yes, it’s a big no-no to ride the trail in the rain and no one is a bigger supporter of that rule than the FBD, but since the weather in Bend changes faster than a Kardashian’s train of thought (and trust me, I am using the word ‘thought’ VERY loosely), you are crazy if you venture out for a ride longer than an hour without backup. Since this isn’t my first day on the radio, I had said jacket with me on an afternoon cruiser to Phil’s and she proved to be worth her weight in gold, as naturally, the 45-degree cloudy day turned to 38 and rainy at the farthest possible point from our condo. You’ll only need to get caught in one of these storms and you’d be willing to pay some dude on the side of the road a thousand bucks for one of these jackets for the ride home.

One of my particularly favorite features is the hood. This design is one of the best that I’ve ever seen, as it fits snugly, but not too tight. You can move your head around and it moves with you without feeling constrictive. The importance of this cannot be underrated.

The overall fit is a bit more snug than the other coats, partially due to the cut and I’m guessing partially due to the traditional difference in European sizing. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though, in particular for cycling, as nothing is worse than donning a jacket and then being forced to do your best kitesurfer imitation as you battle your way home in a storm.

As you might expect, it folds down to a size slightly smaller than the Arc’teryx, yet slightly bigger than the Patagonia.




Don’t let the size fool you though, as it is still quite waterproof, as clearly illustrated here:

Patagonia Airshed Pullover

Patagonia Airshed Pullover (women’s)

Last, but most certainly not least, in a wonderful offering from Patagonia, the Airshed Pullover. If you are in the minimalist camp, or simply are not buying in to my “never summer” philosophy, this jacket is for you. The lightest and most compressible of the group, yet this bad boy still offers amazingly good wind protection for both running and riding, in particular for a garment that will fold smaller than an apple.

What makes this jacket a real winner is it is what I’m calling my “Beckham Jacket.” A few years back, David Beckham was caught having an affair with his young, attractive, sultry assistant. In the court testimony, she disclosed that she always wore very sexy underwear to work, “Just in case,” (a strategy that eventually paid off, both literally and figuratively). The point here is that this is your “Just in case,” jacket. It folds down the smallest of any garment tested, while still offering a lot of protection from Mother Nature’s scorn (she’s particularly upset at us Americans right now, for obvious reasons).

Photo: FBD

Matt Briggs wearing the Patagonia Airshed Pullover jacket.

This is also the jacket that is going to give you the most bang for the buck (insert your own David Beckham joke here) in the late spring/early summer months, as the test team found the others too warm for temps over 60 degrees, but this coat kept my entire crew comfortable in conditions ranging from 55 to 70 degrees. Throw this sucker in your jersey pocket, hydration pack or drink belt, and you’ll be covered (see what I did there?) for just about any contingency. It doesn’t have a hood, which is both a plus and a minus, depending on whether or not you want a hood. As you have come to expect from a perfectionist like me, this baby also got the “hose test,” because if you ski with me, you just need to accept the fact that you are going to be sprayed by a hose. Possibly several times. I have issues.

Bonus Round

Patagonia Nano-Air Light Hybrid

Patagonia Nano-Air Light Hybrid (women’s)

Changing gears a bit (though not as much as you might think), the fine folks in Venture, Calif., also sent their latest iteration of the very popular Nano series for testing, the Nano-Air Light Hybrid. One big reason this jacket even made this review is that it shares the same outer layer at the Airshed, so I thought it would be interesting to add this coat to the mix, even though it is obviously a very different type of garment. The second reason it made the cut is I tested its big brother on Eagle Glacier in Alaska last year, and one of the “OG” pieces in our base-layer test two years ago, and since this entire line has always tested well, I thought it’d be interesting to throw this latest offering into the mix. Yes, this is light insulation, as opposed to wind-and-water protection, but I wanted to cover all of the light to mid-weight outwear bases. If you are confused by any of this, there is nothing more I can do for you: please stop reading immediately go monitor your Great Dane’s “Thousand Yard Stare” before he eats another box of light bulbs.

Pat Flores wearing the Patagonia Nano-Air Light Hybrid jacket.

So, with all of those disclaimers duly noted, I love this jacket. There was simply no better option than this coat after a ski. While the trails at Mt. Bachelor are amazing, the parking lot can be windy as hell, so having this waiting for me in the car was a godsend. Unless you chill very easily, I probably wouldn’t nordic ski in it, but this is a perfect insulation layer for an alpine rip, after a cold surf sesh or just looking good at the dog park. This is particularly important, as the conduct of your aforementioned Great Dane has probably earned you a lot of enemies, so looking good is the least you can do.

Speaking of surfing, since I’m overworked and underpaid, or is it overpaid and underworked (I always get these two mixed up), I had to take a break from all of this skiing and hit Mexico for a little surfing. I realize that this is a bit of a non sequitur, as this is a ski publication, not a surfing one, but since I know at least two other very good skiers who are also good surfers (Andy Newell and Josh Smullin, though it pains me greatly to admit the latter) and by my calculations since I have approximately 5 readers, this represents a solid 40% of my audience, so I’m going to throw in a surfing clothing recommendation — a rash guard, the Patagonia Men’s RØ Long-Sleeved Top. As you might guess, I’ve paddled and surfed in every conceivable size, shape and color rash guard and this is one is my favorites. Unlike Smullin, who has little, skinny, bird arms, the FBD is a big, powerful man, so the flexibility and movement offered in this top allowed me to drop in on more people than usual in my top secret surf spot. Sorry people, I have waves to catch and “Dropsie” (as Smullin insists on calling me) is a bad, bad man.

Fast Big Dropsie wearing the Patagonia RØ Long-Sleeved Top in Cabo.

A few other cool pieces of gear that are heavy in the FBD rotation these days: Petzl offered up their latest-and-greatest headlamp a few months ago, the Petzl REACTIK+ and I’ve been super impressed. If you’re a fan of dawn patrol (or Dong Patrol, as it is known in Steamboat, for reasons that I’d rather not go into), you know that a good headlamp is mandatory. Since I lost my mind years ago, the thought of getting up at 5 a.m. to get the freshest waves or powder seems like not just a good idea, but in fact a great idea. However, in order to do this and not lose all of your gear in the parking lot, you need to have your act together, as even the normally patient FBD gets a little antsy when some rookie can’t find his skins at sunrise while everyone else is standing at the trailhead ready to roll. So organize you gear the night before, get your lazy ass out of bed on time, and bring a headlamp — a good one. And this latest Petzl one is one of the best. It has all kinds of crazy customizable features that are super easy to use thanks to an app you can install on your phone or you can go “old skool” and just turn it on and off like a normal person. Since I am a lonely, lonely man, I have no qualms about spending 30 minutes customizing my headlamp power settings, but that’s me — your mileage may vary.

Whew. We covered a lot of ground on this one. You’re welcome.


Fast Big Dog is a paradoxically gregarious yet reclusive, self-absorbed mystic and world traveler. In addition to his calling to right the wrongs in the ski fashion and gear world, he also brings his style, wit and devilish charm to the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club as the Nordic High Performance Director and Worldwide Director of Morale and Awesomeness. Savor these articles while you can, as his Great Dane puppy may burn down his house at any moment, possibly making this his last transmission.


Bliz Cycling and Nordic Sunglasses

Q: What is the difference between Bliz Cycling and Nordic sunglasses?

A: The key Bliz cycling glass are the Velo XT and Velo XT small face. Cycling is considered by Bliz a High speed sport where you want most to all wind going around the lens and face. So the Velo XT wraps the face completely and tightly and also the top brow of the frame sits high on the face so you do not see it when you are deep in the drops.

The Force (for larger faces) and Rapid (for smaller faces) are the key Nordic sunglasses. Cross country skiing and (running) are considered by Bliz to be medium speed sports where you want a bit of ventilation between the lens and the eyes to eliminate fogging and reduce face heat. So these frames are positioned slightly farther off the face than the Velo XT with lens shapes that allow a bit of face ventilation.

All of the Bliz Glasses have adjustable nose pieces and temple arms so you can micro adjust the position for your ideal fit and ventilation. You can wear the Velo in Nordic, they will just not be as fog free at the Rapid and Force even when positioned close to the face. You can wear the Rapid and Force for cycling, they might not be as wind free even when positioned closer to the face.

Check out more at


Longer vs. Regular Length Classic Poles and Double Poling

Q: I’ve seen that classic seems to be going to poling entire races. I wonder if it’s worth using longer poles in classic races where poling may not be the best approach (hills at 8000 feet…)

A: It is typical to use longer poles (about skate-pole height) for courses where double-poling is primary. On courses where striding is more prevalent, it is best to stay with regular length classic poles. Note that in races that are being scored for points, there is a height restriction for classic poles to be 83% of body height, but if you are not participating in races that are regulated-this requirement would be a non-issue.

Here is an article talking about pole height that you may be interested in:

Karmen M. Whitham
CXC Development Coach

Study Looks At Different Pole Lengths For Double Poling

Norwegian Professor Thomas Losnegard recently published a study comparing different pole lengths for double poling.

Nine athletes were subjected to two 1000 m tests at a 2.5% incline on a roller ski treadmill, one with poles that were 84% of body height, the other with poles that were 88% of body height. With the longer poles, the subjects consumed less oxygen, however the difference translated to only about 1%, which, according to Losnegard, one could not see or feel.

In comparing this study with two other studies which looked at different length poles on varying terrain (as opposed to just a gradual uphill, which was the case in Losnegard’s study), the general consensus is that slightly longer poles are best for double poling at low to medium speeds (i.e. on uphills and slower flats), while the shorter poles are better on faster flats and downhills.


Original post: