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March 2011

posted Mar 2, 2011, 3:42 PM by Hans Hill   [ updated Mar 2, 2011, 3:48 PM by Dave Musgrave ]

Black Toes

I’ve always had a hard time with boots.  It should not come as a surprise, though, having two different height arches, wide forefoot and narrow heels; my feet are like the Michael Phelps of the swimming world, a freak of nature.  Unlike MP, my misshapen feet give no advantage, only wasted time searching for boots/ shoes that fit and, oh yeah, pain.  As was demonstrated this last weekend…

Continuing with the winter’s theme of cycling between melting conditions and sub-zero temps that produce hoar frost in inches per day, this particular weekend brought the latter.  Nevertheless, we were blessed with a few inches of snow and I felt it my duty to explore the backcountry with my newly purchased alpine touring boots.

Without going into too much detail, these boots have a heat moldable liners that allows one to utilize a specialty oven to heat the liners to a consistency of mashed potatoes in a panty hoses and as the liner cools one is left with a boot interior that is matched to the shape of one’s foot.  So me being the cheap guy I am, I chose to make this a DIY project at home, instead of utilizing the services of a local shop.  The looks from my wife as I attempted to slip my boot liners in to the oven undetected (attempt failed) were priceless.  After the liners were thoroughly cooked I placed them in my boots and briefly thought how I would explain third degree burns on just my feet.  I dismissed my concerns and placed my feet in the boots and stood on a 2x4 to properly seat my heels.  After 15 minutes I felt convinced that I had succeeded, removed my boots and rewarded myself with a hoppy beverage.

The following morning brought the cold temps, but I was not to be persuaded in testing out my freshly molded boots.  When we arrived at the parking area before the ski, I began dressing and finally slipped on the boots.  Fifteen minutes later a few of my toes had gone numb.  I blew it off and promised to get dressed at home instead of in the parking lot when it is below-zero, instead of recognizing that I may have botched the mold and the boots were too tight in the toe area.  The skiing was really good, the sun periodically appeared and my feet didn’t hurt (duh, they’re numb)!  At about 4:30 we retired to the car and decided to find a place for dinner on the way home.  About a half hour in to the return trip, feeling began to return to my toes, and it wasn’t a good thing.  Pain!!!  I pulled of my socks to reveal my two big toes, purple, blue and bright red in areas.

The proceeding days found me hobbling around like a penguin.  Professional advice suggested that no permanent damage was done, but some amount of numbness may remain for weeks/months.  So in an attempt to make my drivel have some purpose, here are a few tips to make your feet a bit happier:

·         Buy boots/footware locally.  Not only are you helping support local business, the ability to try on, walk in, ski in, boots is priceless. Make sure to take your typical ski socks with you.

·         Consider an aftermarket or custom orthotic/foot bed.  The stock ones are designed for an average user, few us match this criteria.

·         While there is some truth to “breaking in” boots, too much pain/numbness will lead to irreparable damage.

·         If you find your toes (or fingers) going cold while you wait for your ski buddies to catch up (usually not the case for me) swing your appendages to centrifugally propel blood to the restricting vessels in your toes/fingers.  While this isn’t a long term fix for being cold, it is enough to keep frost nip at bay while you’re waiting.

·         Lastly, thicker socks are not always the solution for warm feet.  Too thick of a sock will cause restriction in circulation to the feet resulting in frost nip/bite or worse. 


Hatcher Pass Nordic Ski Area – Really!

As mentioned in last month’s article the Hatcher Pass Nordic Ski Area has traction.  The MSSC is working with the Mat-Su Borough to come to an agreement to assist in the trail construction.  In anticipation of the forthcoming agreement, over a dozen MSSC members snowshoed the proposed trails and flagged off the anticipated clearing limits for the trails.  Proof of concept; while the majority of the valley is suffering from lack of snow coverage due to winds, the proposed trails are flush with snow, requiring snowshoes for passage.  This is going to be a great ski area!

Don’t fret, there will be plenty of opportunities to assist in the construction of the trails.  Keep watching the website for updates and if you’re on the email list, watch your inbox.

Serenity Falls Hut Trip, March 12-13

I can only count a handful  of cabins/huts that can be skied to in one day in AK.  That number drops quickly if you’re looking for groomed trails.  If this is starting to interest you, let me sweeten the deal.  Imagine if you didn’t have to carry all your overnight gear and food.  The Serenity Falls trip is a 13km ski one-way, along Eklutna Lake.  The trail will be groomed and a snowmachine will haul your gear to the hut for the night.  There are a few slots left for this trip, so email matsuski@gmail.com if interested.


Race to the Outhouse #2, April 2

Last race of the season!  On Saturday, April 2 the Archangel Road trail will host the second in the series, Race to the Outhouse.  There will be both skate and classic division in the 8km race.  Check with the MSSC website for times and updates.


Willow Ho!

Willow Carnival Sven Erickson 17 km race held Sunday February 5th was well attended by Mat Su Ski Club members.  The trails were wider and smoother than ever, thanks to our trail host Steve Charles (yes the piano tuner Steve!) and his cohorts.  Considering they groom 80 miles of multi use trails and temperatures on race day at 10 below, skiers were made to feel most welcome.  Greg Walaszek led the pack taking FIRST PLACE overall.  Gene Backus stayed on course the entire race this year but was beat by Karen Hopp due to her perfect wax that day.   Next year’s Willow Carnival ski may be a point to point from Nancy Lake to the Community Center – sounds like a great tour.  Many thanks to our northern neighbors in Willow.