Thursday, January 21, 2010

Ellis River/Hall Trail Loop

A regular winter fitness test for myself is to ski the Ellis River to High water Trail to Hall Trail loop at Jackson Ski touring. Normally I do it every few weeks and like to see improvement over the winter in how fast I can do it and how well I can climb. Today was my first time doing it this winter.

This loop is about 25 kilometers. I have done it both ways, but prefer counter-clockwise. That way I do the easy Ellis River Trail first as a warm up and then get to the hard stuff. Also, skiing the Hall Trail in this direction makes me do my steep climbing on the wide straight trail and my steep descent on the winding narrower trails. Because it takes so much control to make the curves on this downhill, I have to use a lot of strength and can't just take a break and relax like I do when skiing the other direction.

The Hall Trail has 1110 feet of climb along its length. I love the climbing. As soon as Hall leaves the Rocky Branch parking lot to start the return trip, it starts climbing. I start the climb by skiing hard in the tracks, eventually have to step out of the tracks into the softer snow for better grip, next have to resort to a running herringbone, and before I get to the first plateau, I end up slowing to a fast walking herringbone. All the while I am huffing and puffing and seeing stars. What's not to love?

From there to the top of Popple Mountain, there is plenty more climbing, but the stretches of climb are interrupted every so often with a short flat or even slightly downhill stretch allowing me to catch my breath. Once the top of Popple is reached there is often some ungroomed snow to make your way through. Today it had been groomed at one point and only had about 4 inches of fresh powder on top. Easy going!

Then comes the fun! Skiing down the mountain is a blast! Sometimes it's icy and scary. Today it was just scary. With about 8 KM or so to go, there is a long sweet slight downhill that is perfect for staying in the tracks in a tuck, and just riding gently down the trail. This goes on for quite a while, but gets ever so gradually steeper and steeper making me ski ever so gradually faster and faster. At some point, I have to jump out of the tracks before I get going to fast and loose control. You can't really slow yourself down in the tracks. Today, I pushed the envelope a little too far. by the time I tried to get out of the tracks I was really flying. I got my first ski out of the track OK, but something went wrong when I tried to lift my second ski out. I went into a crazy tumble. The thought that went through my mind as I tumbled was, "I think this is what they mean when they say falling ass over tea kettle." I came to a stop with no harm done, other than a lost earring and a tiny little laceration on my ear from having it yanked out. Oh, and a slightly sore right knee.

Unfortunately, the only person I saw on Hall came skiing up in the opposite direction immediately after that fall, while I was still covered with snow and trying to pull myself back together. "Took a tumble?" he asked. Without thinking I said, "no one saw it, so it never happened." He liked that.

I checked my watch when I got back to the parking lot and saw that I had classic skied the loop in 2 hours and 42 minutes. Not a bad start for the year. I've set the bar high if I am going to improve a little each time out this year! The big goal is to get up that entire first climb on Hall without slowing to a walk!


  1. Nice job, Laurel! That sounds really epic! Man, I want to check out Jackson Ski now. I doubt I could do that loop on skate skis yet, but checked out their trail map and looks like a fun place to explore.

  2. Your blog makes me feel like I am not pushing hard enough with my winter training........I look at my results for each week and feel kind of lazy. I think I need a kick in the butt!
    To my defense, I do work 12 hours a day....but is that really a good excuse?

  3. Jamie, You'd love Jackson. You could easily skate Ellis River out and back. When I do that I always bear right at any intersection that will bring me back to Ellis River (Riverbank on the way out and Winniweta Falls on the way back) and Ellis River itself has some variations on the "back" from the "out" so it doesn't feel like an out and back.

    Pathfinder, I really relax about "training" in the winter and just do what's fun. This usually puts me in really good shape to start concentrating on my running again in the Spring. Sometimes I feel a little guilty because I'm out hiking or snowshoeing or skiing instead of running, but it's what works for me.

    When I was first divorced I used to work 12 hour shifts at the hospiatl and then had a second job on my days off from there. So I understand about having a hard time fitting the training in. I was happy to get a 15 or 20 mile week in then. Do what you can. The days will be getting longer in a few months and it'll be easier to get some running in after your long work day!