Twin Citians are reveling in the record-setting March temperatures in the metro area. Up here in the far north we are also experiencing some warmer days, but unlike other parts of Minnesota, we have a serious base of deep snow. We’ve seen a little snow melt, especially off our roofs and roads, but as of 5 PM on Tuesday we still have a solid 12 inches of compacted base on the ski trails, with far more than that in the woods.
If you’re coming up to ski in the next few days, you should prepare for spring skiing conditions. Spring skiing is the best, but the sun is powerful at this time of year so even on a chilly day there will be freezing and thawing. Plan ahead for the varying conditions.
Early morning: The skate lanes and classic tracks will be frozen hard; perhaps the tracks will be icy if they have thawed the day before and refrozen overnight. These conditions are great for fast skating with minimal edge control on hills. Grip tape or waxless skis are your best choice for early morning skiing in these hard tracks.
Mid morning: The sun is softening up the tracks and the skate lanes are still firm. This is the best skiing of the day. When skiing through shade and sun your skis will glide differently; be careful on the hills! If it’s chilly but sunny, these conditions can last most of the day.
Late afternoon: As things warm up the snow will start to lose its structure, and you’ll sink in. Because of the released moisture, your kick will be compromised, and skating will get harder due to “suction”. Waxless skis are the best choice for these conditions.
Then, if it drops below freezing at night, the cycle repeats.
The trails are being groomed differently for these conditions. We plan to continue grooming for as long as possible. Later in the month we usually open some ski trails to snowshoeing, but we’re not ready for that yet. Our actual snowshoe trails, though, seem fairly unaffected by the temperatures and offer a great additional option if there are any afternoons that seem too warm to ski.
Our musher, Erik Simula, is still taking trips out and should be able to continue for quite a while longer. Like skiing, however, on very sunny days the dog sled trips go better in the morning; the dogs have to work very hard to pull groups through wetter snow. If you’re planning a dog sled trip in March, earlier appointments are the best choice.
For those of you in the rest of Minnesota, your spring has probably truly started. Up here, however, we know that the next blizzard could still come at any moment. We will be extremely surprised if our winter is actually winding down now.