The Thaw is Coming

Unfortunately it seems that Winter is slipping away here in the UP. I for one am quite disappointed by this year’s Winter conditions; it started far too late, never really hit all that hard and is leaving all too quickly. The mountain bike trails were all dry dirt until the middle of December and the constant freeze-thaw temperatures never really allowed for a good xc ski or fatbike base to form. Regardless, we made the most of what we had skiing when possible and linking up ridable sections of fatbike trail.

Now the thaw is coming which means that for the most part the trails should be avoided so as to not totally wreck them before the Summer months. The rivers are all cresting below flood stages and the lakes are still largely covered with ice. Not to worry though, the dirt side roads are totally ridable and rad as ever!

IMG_5655

I am still trying to find a decent route of all dirt around the new house so I did some dirt ‘sploring yesterday. Most of the dirt roads around the house are seasonal roads that are impassable just past the last house. That being said, I was able to get a feel for the terrain. After looking at some maps I think that I will be able to string more miles together once the large snow piles are gone. Next year I will make it a point to start riding those sections early in the winter in hopes of being able to ride them during the rest of the season.

IMG_5657

My pale legs definitely appreciated the sunshine and it felt great to ride without gloves. While my trip was not anything like what I used to enjoy in Ann Arbor I think that my rides will only get better. The ability to set out and grind on the long-abandoned logging roads is pretty cool.

It’s always sad to see Winter leave us but all that means is that it’s time to change up the toys. Get out there and make the most with what you’ve got available.

-j

Advertisements

Marquette Backcountry Ski


A few years before moving to Marquette I saw an ad for the Marquette backcountry ski. It seemed perfect for my abilities; I’m not a great downhill/backcountry skier but I love getting out there and having fun in fresh snow.

They were billed as part snowshoe and part ski. As a person who appreciates versatility in his outdoor gear this really appealed to me. But alas, at the time I lived in the mostly flat southeast Michigan area and really had no area with recurring elevation changes, so I never bought them.

Then came the move to Marquette. A friend of a friend heard that I was moving and offered me a set for a sweet deal. As a fellow southeastern Michigander he saw that the skis would be much happier in a hillier place. I gladly picked them up and took them north.

 

The Setup:

Originally, in the interest of being economical, I took the skis as they were. The previous owner had a set of Volle 75mm 3-pin bindings on them. I’m pretty sure that he was rocking some sort of Tele book in them but I wasn’t really willing to take the plunge and pick up a $3-500 set of boots; remember, I’m not a great downhiller. Instead of purchasing a whole boot/binding setup I rocked new pair of old school 3-pin xc boots. (In hindsight this was a terrible idea). The rubber tongues shifted side to side and the ankles of the boot provided little to no support. These factors lead to unsteadiness and a general feeling of being out of control in most situations.

At the end of last season I put the skis up and pledged to find a solution; something stiffer without breaking the bank. I researched and weighed the options vs the costs. Ultimately I came to the conclusion that these are going to be my knocking around skis. If I want to skin up a real mountain and huck myself off things I will step up and get a different set of skis. With that mindset, I settled on a Rossignol BC 10 paired with a Rotefella NNN-BC binding.

The Result:

I can honestly say that I love these skis now. The change in binding took them from a novelty to a necessity in my book. The switch to NNN-BC brought on an entirely different feel underfoot that can be summed up with one word, confidence. The descents are now much more predictable thanks to stiffer connection between boot and ski and the fact that I am no longer afraid of my heel shifting off the ski. The change in the boot/binding situation really transformed these skis. The BC 10s are also a very warm alternative to traditional NNN ski boots. While the NNN-BC may not be as nice as a good 3-pin/tele-style boot, I think that dollar for dollar it is a solid alternative.

IMG_1431

Where Can These Skis Take Me?

Really anywhere. If we are track-skiing I will still bring my traditional xc skis but in almost every other situation the MQT Backcountry ski fits the bill. I have taken them on multiple trips in the Sugarloaf, Hogback, Harlow Lake areas and they take to that rolling terrain perfectly. It’s fulfilling to march up the hills and confidently traverse the backsides with ease. I have even used them a few times to trek to some winter steelhead spots.

IMG_5159

As you will see in the rest of my blog I have always been interested in the “out your backdoor” movement. I prefer a year’s worth of mini adventures close to home to one big trip per year. The MQT BC Ski perfectly embraces and embodies this idea perfectly. They can help turn a hundred feet of gradual vertical drop into an exciting run. The best part: that hill and many others just like it are probably within 10 miles of your house. No lift ticket or pass needed. In short they specialize in turning mole hills into mountains.

IMG_5209

They have essentially eliminated my need for snowshoes. The only time time I will opt for snowshoes is if the trail is icy in any way, shape, or form. The lack of metal edges on these skis makes them dangerous on ice. But a little common sense goes a long way.

When this set gets too scuffed up I will definitely be picking up a new pair.

-J