It is hard to say whether March came in like a lion or a lamb this year. Moderate temperatures, partly cloudy skies with some wind that brought in light flurries with little accumulation heralded the beginning of the month. Perhaps this would be the predictor of a moderate exit from the month if, as the saying goes, a wintry lion-like start predicts a springy lamb-like ending to the month. There doesn’t seem to be much credence to this saying, but it does provide hope that warmth is returning soon to our tiny towns in the mountains.
We have begun to see more of the sun, with increasingly frequent blindingly bright bluebird days and no new snow to shovel. The flat light of this past deep winter seemed to be more prevalent than usual, and now a sunny day can bring spirit-lifting relief as we emerge out from under the gray blanket of winter skies. Of course, those gray skies and flat light brought the fresh snow that is so welcome under our skis. The mood-elevating sun, on the other hand, enhances the snow’s transformation (aka, age) by putting it through a more regular freeze-thaw cycle, turning powder into corn, granular snow, or in some cases, such as on well travelled, sun-exposed trails, a surface layer of ice.
This has for some, been the time of year to let the waxable classic skis rest and spend more time perfecting the skating technique, because waxing for classical skiing becomes more difficult. Back east, in what seems like a lifetime ago, we would sometimes refer to this time of year as klister season, and instead of giving in, we worked on perfecting our waxing techniques to get the best kick and glide imaginable.
While most skiers who are used to Colorado powder disdain icy or granular conditions, those of us who grew up on them recall just how fast and how far you can glide on old, transformed snow. The usual grip waxes that are used all winter do not grip icy snow very well, and they rub off comparatively quickly. The solution to this problem has been to use klister wax – a sticky, gooey liquid resembling honey in its consistency and in how it sticks all over anything that comes anywhere near it. Properly applied, a thin layer of klister provides the right amount of grip on the ice along with what can be the most incredible glide, because after all, we are gliding on ice, or ice crystals that have much less friction than powder.
Properly applying klister without making a complete mess of it can be a tricky endeavor, which gets easier with experience. A trick to applying klister gracefully is to place the klister tube open end up (but with the cap on to be sure!), in a cup of hot water for 3-5 minutes. This allows the goo to flow more readily so that it can be spread easily in a very thin, even layer with the plastic “paddle” that comes with it. Be ready, holding the tube over the ski’s wax pocket when you first pop the cap off, as it will start to run immediately.
If there is fresh snow over parts or all of the old snow, you would want to add steps of cooling your klister-covered skis outside, and then crayoning a hard wax over the klister so that it doesn’t stick too firmly to the new snow and trip you up. If the klister is a bit sticky, you would want to avoid standing still on it, and instead, even when standing in one place, keep your skis moving forward and back to break any ice crystals out of the wax before they cause your wax to “ice up”. Klister skiing is becoming a lost art form, as waxless skis have dominated the majority of the XC market, and skating has been an easier alternative. If you enjoy the classic style of performance skiing, it can be one of the most enjoyable ways to get out on snow.