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This guy clearly prefers classic. He's skiing the wrong direction, but don't tell Bruce.



Approximately 1 billion years ago, when I first started cross country skiing, there was only one way to ski: classic. Only it wasn't known as classic because that's all there was. You inserted your floppy Fabiano boots into your three-pin bindings, pushed down the wire bail and off you went. I was new to cross country skiing and Seeley Lake, as were the people I was skiing with, and our skiing obsession took up most of our focus in the winter. Seeley was strictly a logging town in those long-lost days and snowmobiling along with ice fishing were the only recognized forms of winter recreation, which meant we were definitely community outliers as we flailed around on the logging roads and floundered through the woods.


Our technique was improving through trial and error when in the early 80's someone came up with the bright idea of having a marathon ski race and OSCR was born. In order to be even somewhat competitive in OSCR we were forced to add to our arsenals of Epoke's and Truckers and Europa 99's with lighter, dedicated track skis, and upgrade our fashion selections to include wool knickers with knee socks. We had a rudimentary cross country trail system by that point, but it was never groomed, so if we wanted to train we were left with no option but to set our own ski track, either on the ski trails or a logging road. So, that's what we did. Only, to be honest, it was more like recreational skiing than training, and there was absolutely no science behind it. Adding to the lack of science was no small quantity of mind-altering substances consumed during these "training sessions". Keep in mind, though, that the OSCR aid stations were fully stocked with schnapps and bourbon, as well as hot chocolate, so our training strategies were firmly in keeping with the traditions of the times.


About the second or third OSCR, there was talk of a new technique called "skating", which sounded intriguing, but apparently controversial, and lo and behold along about the fourth OSCR some of the lead racers started trashing the classic track doing something they called "marathon skating". I wasn't convinced it was a good idea until the following year's OSCR when I got into a dog fight with Vince Meng, a dentist from Missoula. We were neck and neck with both of us skiing pure classic until we'd come to a long, gradual downhill or a flat, at which point Vince would angle his left ski out of the track and start pushing with that ski plus double poling, while gliding on his right ski. At that time, the race ran from Two Creeks Ranch in Ovando over the back roads to Seeley Lake. There were a lot of those extended, gently sloped, uphills and downhills. He'd slowly pull away from me until we reached the next climb where I would work my ass off to reel him back in. About the time I'd get back on his wheel here would come another slight downhill and he'd start inching away all over again. I couldn't keep that up forever and he started slowly pulling away, in the end putting a couple of minutes on me.


I was just smart enough to be converted, but right about that time, things changed all over again when racers started full-on skating with both skis, forget about the classic track. That meant in addition to pulling Jim Jaimes' homemade track setter to set a track, we had to drag a bed spring to satisfy the hotshots who were purely skating the race. That worked great for the first year, but the next year, I think it was like 1987 (I'm counting on Lynn to correct the record), when the grooming was done on Friday, only to have it snow 6" over night. This was the first time the race course had been set over Rice Ridge, which meant those poor bastards who were pure skaters were both climbing and breaking 6" of trail, alllll the way to the top. The smart guys worked together and skated in each other's tracks as much as possible, but there was a guy from Whitefish who had become accustomed to winning a lot of races, and there was no way he wasn't going to be the lead dog all the way to the finish. The predictable result of that misguided effort was by the time he reached the top, he was toast, and as each skier reached the summit they were treated to the sight of him hunched miserably over the warming fire, back to the trail, with a hot drink cupped in his hands.


I wasn't confident enough in my skating abilities to count on skating the entire race and had hedged my bet by putting kick wax under my foot. There was still no distinction between skating and classic skis which meant the flex and camber would still be fine for skiing classic. Talk about pure luck. Another skier and I were the first classic skiers and we took turns breaking trail for one another. We were passing a lot of struggling, dejected skate skiers as we steadily climbed to the top. Wade Cebulski was running the summit aid station and when we pulled in he confided, "you know, you're the first two I've seen who didn't look like they were about to puke." I didn't come close to winning that day, but I wasn't having fantasies of death freeing me from my agony, either.


There was no denying that skating was taking over and by the early 90's OSCR had turned into a pure skate event. Which is kind of too bad, because the first races attracted a lot of casual skiers who just wanted to test themselves by skiing 50 kilometers on whatever equipment they had in the garage. Of course, that meant a substantial number of skiers were taking 6-7 hours to complete the course, but it also made it an event more in keeping with the time honored Norwegian concept of "citizens race". In any case, it reached the point where at the race start Lynn would say, "if you take over five hours to finish, I can't guarantee there'll be any one at the finish line to greet you."


Skating long ago took over as the preferred technique in citizens races, but classic is growing again in popularity. I think I'll take a dive into that in my next post.


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Oh. Wrong Bruce.


It's the dawn of a new era for the Seeley Lake Nordic Ski Club. Last spring I made up my mind that 12+ years of masquerading as club president was more than adequate. I say "masquerading" because the way we've become accustomed to doing things here in Seeley is slightly out of the norm for most organizations.


aBest I can remember, it was 2010 and I received an email from Lynn informing me that he had been club president long enough and it was my turn. If I agreed to be president he promised that he would tell me what I needed to do and Karen Pratt would do all the work. That is pretty much a direct quote. And it was pretty much bullshit. I proved once again that I am a born sucker and stupidly went along with him.


So, I'm suddenly club president, no election, no board meeting, no nothing. Tag, you're it. A good analogy would be the way a third world country operates. The buddy system. Next thing I know, I'm buried to my neck in the federal bureaucracy and pulling my hair out trying to decipher how to get the club registered to be eligible to receive largesse in the form of grants from the federal government. Register with Dunn and Bradstreet, get a cage code, a unique ID number, proof of this, proof of that, the usual bureaucratic BS. Lynn flat-out lied. I should've known i was gonna get hosed, but, like I said, I was a sucker.


But generally, for the most part, being president hasn't been too bad, especially early on. The first rule (which Lynn and I decided on) was the fewer meetings, the better. We'd usually have a meeting in the fall just prior to ski season with whoever was interested, and occasionally grudgingly have one in the spring. If an important decision needed to be made I'd get an email from Lynn asking my opinion, I'd say fine, whatever you think, and we'd roll with it. Or he would contact Dave Spence, who was treasurer at the time, and ask him about making a big expenditure, Dave would tell him yeah, we have the money, and I'd never know a thing about it. I'd literally walk into the grooming shed and there would be a brand new, shiny SkiDoo sitting there. Board meetings? Board meetings were for losers and people with nothing better to do.


In any event, in 2022 I had a couple of major eye-opening events, one of which was wrecking my bike and seeing my whole summer flushed down the toilet and the other was my wife having an epic battle with cancer (which she survived with flying colors). I came to the realization that it was time to jettison anything that I wasn't 100% enthusiastic about, and even though I love the ski club, being president was now low on my list of priorities. It was time to bail.


I told Lynn my decision, he said fine, and at our spring meeting I abruptly announced to the club my resignation. Additionally, I suggested that it was time for Bruce Rieman to be president. Now this totally pissed Bruce off as evidenced by the daggers his eyes were flinging across the room in my direction. He'd been blindsided and was none too pleased.



Actual photo of a blindsided Bruce at the moment of my resignation.



As soon as the meeting was over, I got the hell out of there, because, coward that I am, I didn't want to have the hard conversation with Bruce that I knew needed to happen. But, being more or less mature, responsible adults, we discussed it later and worked it out, though he still wasn't interested in being president.


Imagine my surprise when a couple of months later I get a phone call from Bruce informing me that he'd been kicking it around and decided that he'd be willing to serve as president for a couple of years.


Bruce and his wife, Karen, have been hard-core club members for years now. Bruce is a stickler for detail, sweats the small stuff, is too intelligent for his own good, and when he grooms you know it will be immaculate. All of these traits, and more, convinced me that he would make an exceptional president. The reality, though, is that even with this awareness I haven't been prepared for how seriously he takes the job.


We now have committees. These committees have meetings. We have a board. The board has meetings. Nothing happens without board approval. We have a budget. A budget for God's sake! Before we either had the money or we didn't. And the club by-laws are constantly being quoted. We have by-laws? Who knew? What the hell is going on around here?


There is no question that there is a new sheriff in town.


Bruce asked me a few weeks ago if I would be willing to serve as an ad hoc board member. I agreed but then learned that I wouldn't just automatically get to be a board member. No, first the board has to vote on it. Well, of course they do. What was I thinking?


I was telling my daughter, who is active in some community efforts in the Flathead, about this recent new direction of the ski club.


"And we even have BOARD MEETINGS!"


"Yeah, so?"


"We've never had board meetings."


A look of disbelief. "Jeez, Dad, how did you ever get anything done?"


"Well, I don't know. It's Seeley Lake. We got stuff done. Come on, we're just a bunch of rednecks that like to ski."


"Wow. Nice, Dad. Very impressive."


An unforeseen consequence of my resignation is that Lynn followed my example and resigned as vice president. The old cabal has been absolutely shattered and a completely new regime has taken charge. We now worship at the altar of process, follow the rules and pay attention to detail. It boggles the mind.


Like it or not, Bruce is dragging the Seeley Lake Nordic Ski Club out of the dark ages and into the 21st century. And really, as long as the skiing is good, that is fine by me.






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Not your ordinary canine. Wolf scat adjacent to the ski trails.


Nothing like a little plus sized fecal matter to get the ski season off to a rolling start. Me and Rocket came across this healthy specimen last week on West Morrell about 100' off the ski trails. There is a consistent abundance of fresh wolf sign both there and on the Auggie cutoff but I haven't been fortunate enough to spot a live one, yet. They're out there, though, and it's only a matter of time before some poor, unsuspecting shuffler becomes an unwilling part of the food chain. Thank you for your sacrifice! We appreciate you!


Seeley has been imminently skiable for a couple of weeks now and our grooming routine has been motoring along, but the parking lot hasn't been more than half full at any given time. Which is a mixed bag, because while it's nice to have the trails all to ourselves, it's also gratifying to see the grooming efforts being appreciated by the Missoula masses. All the trails are in prime condition, but this afternoon (Sunday) there were only seven vehicles in the lot when I left at 2:00. With the cold weather in the forecast I don't expect that to change drastically until after Christmas, so if you want some solitary skiing now is the time to grab it.


****************************************************************************************************************************


So I composed the above two paragraphs three days ago, gritting my teeth the entire time because for some mysterious reason, when I typed a letter I had to wait 5 to 10 seconds before the little beggar would appear on my monitor. Which was like this: keystroke..............................................................................................................................................letter appears. So I tried entering an entire sentence and waaaaiiiit..........................................................................

.....................................................................................................and magically the entire sentence would suddenly appear complete with misspellings and words that needed editing. Yes, I do edit what i write, as difficult to believe as that may be. Anyway, I notified the person who administers the site for us and naturally she ignored me for three days and is still ignoring me, which hurts me, but today I went back on the Wix site where we produce our website and dang, it works the way it's supposed to. I dunno, I spent my entire professional life mired in the world of lumber production, I don't know nothin' about no computers. All I know is now it works, and I can pound out a seamless stream of endless drivel without interruption, which is what God intended for me. Just like He intended for that hapless shuffler mentioned above to be devoured by a bloodthirsty pack of remorseless wolves.


OK, now for some real news or more accurately the possibility of news. All you long time OSCR aficionados are well aware of the number one rule of OSCR: expect the unexpected. Our plan for the 2023 version (or iteration, the word du jour) was to ski the traditional Rice Ridge route since there was so much whining, pissing, moaning, rending of garments and shedding of tears over the two-loop course. However! we learned a couple of weeks ago that there is a state timber sale that is taking place on the race route that may throw a proverbial wrench into the works. Well, heck. We're told that it's only a 30 acre sale and they should be out of there well before the 4th Saturday in January. The hope is we can count on that, but anyone who has been involved with the timber industry or government land agencies knows that the best laid plans often go astray. Breakdowns, bad weather, poor follow-through, you know the possibilities. Anyway, hope for the best, plan for the worst, which in this case most likely means a return to the two-loop course, unless someone else has a better idea that I'm not in the loop on. And if you truly despise the two-loop course, ski the 25k one loop, which is actually a pretty fun ski.


All right, the drivel has an end after all. Merry Christmas, y'all, and God bless us, every one.








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