09 February 2007

The Moulton Journal: purple haze

Yes, it was a Jimi Hendrix experience this morning. An inch of snow fell overnight and the temperature hovered around 30 deg F. Off and on, new snow fell softly to the ground through air so quiet that you could hear the flakes' gentle hiss. The exercise-opiates were surging this morning.

Two loops around the north trails--one alone with RTD, and then one with Lori & Kelpie.

Wow. After several days of not skiing, I was getting grumpy. In town, even on the hill in Walkerville, no more than a dusting of snow accumulated overnight. But I trusted to faith, knowing the ability of The Moulton to pull snow like a magnet from the dry culdesac of the west slope of the Great Divide that is Butte.

Swix Purple fills a small niche in the ecosystem of kick wax. Blue Extra seems to work tolerably well most days even as the temperature approaches freezing. But when it's that warm (but freezing or below) with new snow, it's Purple time.

I discovered another virtue of Purple this morning. It provided great grip and I could walk up even the steepest hill on Yankee Boy, yet released with a simple kick as I went back to gliding once I crested the top; this I knew. What I did not know was Purple's weird braking effect: as I began a descent the skis were virtually frictionless. However, as my speed reached a fast pace I could feel a gentle but distinct deceleration--which I appreciated given that the runs are very icy under that new snow. My hypothesis: as the speed of the ski accelerates to some critical point, it generates enough heat to cause a transition in the snow. The warmer, transitioned snow sticks to the Purple and brakes the ski.

Probably this is one of those micro-bits of practical knowledge that occurs only a few times in the life of a recreational skier, like those rare moments on the river when you find just the right drift/dry fly combination and you can trigger trout to strike at will.

But that is what embedded knowledge of nature is all about-- appreciating the unique and varied nuances of our world. As the great Enlightenment-era biologist Buffon said, "There are no species, only individuals." Like snowflakes or stepping into rivers, each occurs only once.

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