The Snoqualmie Loppet: a 30-kilometer challenge for youth skiers

The Snoqualmie Loppet is a fun ski that typically takes place with non-organized friends on the last Sunday in January (e.g. Jan 29, 2017).  It is a 30-km nordic (classic or skate ski) tour that romps through almost all of the Snoqualmie Pass Nordic Areas, including: Summit Nordic Mount Catherine Loop; Iron Horse Trail; Troll Haegen Forest Loop; and Cabin Creek Viking Loop.  Here’s a fun video overview of the vicinity from a Best of the Northwest” page about nordic trails in the Snoqualmie Pass area.

Give it a try!  If the weather is right, you’ll enjoy great skiing and scenery, and if you start around 9 a.m. you might meet some like minded skiers.  Faster Skiers will complete in about 3-4 hours.  Slower skiers perhaps 5-6 hours.  It depends on your gear, your technique, your wax, the weather, grooming conditions, and your physical ability.  You can also do any of the sections if you are not up to full loppet (yet).

Distance: 32 kilometers total distance (21.5 miles)
Elevation Gain 1309′
Elevation Loss 2549′

If you happen upon one of the many folks who ski this loppet, you could set up some car pools so that you can shuttle efficiently back to the start.  And if you do that, you might consider parking most cars at the big lot at Crystal Springs SnoPark, and just 1-2 at the more-limited Cabin Creek SnoPark.  (Remember you’ll need a SnoPark permit to park in either of those lots.  Another hidden cost is a lift ticket from Summit to access the top of the Mount Catherine loop.)

In any case, be safe and have fun!  Below are some verbal, visual, mapped, and GPS-friendly descriptions of the route.

Verbal description

1. Take the Summit East, East Peak chairlift to the top and the upper trails.
2. Ski around Mount Catherine counter clockwise.  First descend via “Snow Train” and “Outer Loop” to Grand Junction, then proceed along “Ripsaw” down and up to Windy Pass, and finally descend “Cold Creek” all the way back to Hyak Lodge (Old Milwaukee Lodge).  Refer to the Summit Nordic trail map below if you are new to the Mount Catherine loop.
3. Descend via parking lot and a short block on residential street to the Iron Horse trail and the long fast 10 km to the Stampede Pass Road.
4. Turn left on the Stampede Pass Road, and after a couple hundred meters enter the Erling Strodahl trail system. Ski the Forest Loop. You can visit the Troll Hagen Cabin if you need water or restroom.
5. Exit Erling Strodahl system, turn right, and ski toward I-90 on a short groomed stretch until you connect with the Stampede Pass Road (i.e. – pavement or snowplowed main access road to Crystal Springs SnoPark)
6. Walk the road (watching out for vehicles), or sometimes you can ski on the right side above the berm. On your right look for the Yakima River Trail (after the Yakima River bridge, but before I90).  Ski on the Yakima River trail to the Cabin Creek parking lot, or if it’s not groomed you can walk across the I-90 bridge and thru the DOT yard to join the Cabin Creek trail system.
7. Enter the Cabin Creek Trail system.
8. Ski the Viking course and then merge on to the Berg course to the end!

Google map of the route

Other handy maps

  • An overview of the route from Best of the Northwest that shows that overall the Snoqualmie Loppet is a downhill affair…
  • Mount Catherine loop

  • Ehrling Strodahl and Cabin Creek

 

GPS file for the route

coming soon…

 

Photos from the route

Skating on the Iron Horse trail

You may see dogs near the junction of Stampede Pass Road and the Iron Horse Trail

Chatting loppet-style near Gold Creek

Random references:

This WTA post has waypoints for locations that will help you find the connector trail and Nordic Pass trail should you ever want to vary this loppet so as to avoid the purchase of a lift ticket…

 

2017 introduction to biathlon from the WBA (Washington Biathlon Association)

Cora getting ready to line up her next shot in a chilly crosswind.

Each winter the WBA (Washington Biathlon Association) organizes a 2-day wintertime introduction to biathlon clinic at the Steven’s Pass Nordic Center.  This event is open to all ages but is normally limited to ~20 participants.  This year, however, there was so much demand that the Association was able to double enrollment by having one group learn about shooting the first day and skate-skiing the second day (normally the order is reversed).  Since our kids have sufficient skating experience from the JNP (Junior Nordic Program), we only participated in the shooting clinic this year.

The Center rents full skate ski package at a reduced rate for biathlon clinic participants! ($28/day — a $17 savings )

After renting skis for Liam and a very efficient check-in organized by Bryn Black (WBA Treasurer), Bob Valor taught us about biathlon with an emphasis on safety and best practices at the range.  After an hour of information, including a couple short videos, we completed our safety training and were given certification cards.  Then we packed some extra clothes (having been warned of the exceptionally frigid temps) jumped on our skis and skated up to the range.  It’s about 3 km and mostly uphill, so you get a good warm-up!  Cora and I were the last to make it there, but thankfully she was still in good spirits and jumped right into the shooting instruction.  I brought Liam’s rifle, but it turned out the Association was able to provide enough Anschutz biathlon rifles for both kids, as well as the ~15-18 other students lined up at the range. (Plus, it was really just too busy and cold to put his rifle together and zero it.  Thankfully, the volunteers had not only set up the range for us, but also zeroed all the Association’s rifles!)

Cora was assigned to Grete in lane 10, but Dave in lane 9 gave Cora some tips at the same time he kept Liam busy with both shooting and increasingly tough skiing challenges.  Both volunteer instructors were great, both in the way they kept the kids active and motivated, and just for being cheerful and fun on a sub-freezing day without being able to be active enough to stay warm.  It was indeed bitter cold, but as long as you kept moving and occasionally stood in front of the propane heater, there wasn’t too much suffering.  The first hour or so included instruction about how to: load a magazine with 5 bullets; insert and remove the magazine; get in a good prone position with the rifle on a supporting block; find your natural point of aim; knock down some white dots; and re-set your targets.

There was a brief break where some folks grabbed a bite to eat (normally it would have been a full lunch break, but folks were too cold to sit still).  We chewed some chocolate while we walked out with Bryn for a quick orientation to how the targets work.  By poking through the holes, we felt how much impulse it takes to knock a target down.  We also saw up close the difference in diameters of the prone (11.5 cm) and standing (4.5 cm) target.  By grabbing the pull line right next to the target, we got a feel for how a little tension resets the targets, while increased tension switches between target sizes.

Then there were two fun races (no score was kept) where Cora and Liam zoomed around a short course between two rounds of prone shooting.  Both seemed way into it and really focused when shooting.  Cora managed to shoot clean a couple times and Liam was consistently knocking down 3-5, despite feeling a little frustrated.

I re-loaded a bunch of magazines and tried to make sure the kids stayed warm enough.  I did take Liam up on his invitation to shoot a round prone and a round standing.  It was great having contacts instead of glasses (which fogged up badly when I tried a race 2 winters ago) but I think my right eye was still a bit blurry.  Re-learning how to hook in the stabilizer strap will help, I think, because shooting standing in the gusting wind it was tricky to keep the sight aligned long enough to squeeze the trigger.

In the end, we all packed up the range and headed back to the Nordic Center about 1.5 hours early.  Liam zoomed ahead while Cora and I stopped occasionally to throw snowballs and whack snow off the tree limbs.  It was delightful to enter the toasty center, re-hydrate, and try some of their fairly-healthy food options, including a baked potato, vegetable soup, and self serve hot cocoa, cider, and coffee.

 

Kid- and dog-friendly skiing in the Pacific Northwest

Since there are so few places to actually practice biathlon and to keep the cross-training process super-fun and positive for youth, here’s a guide to places in Washington State (and the Pacific Northwest vicinity) where you can hone your skate/skiing abilities — either on a trail or tour that’s fun for kids and/or in a system that allows dogs (e.g. for skijooring).

Google map

Interstate 90

Crystal Springs (dog-friendly)

  • Central Cascades Winter Recreation Council page on Crystal Springs
  • Nice topo map here —
  • http://www.outdoorproject.com/adventures/washington/cross-country-skiing/crystal-springs-sno-park-trails
  • Erling Stordahl is not dog-friendly, but has some fun loops for kids — both flat and pretty steep.
    • http://www.outdoorproject.com/adventures/washington/cross-country-skiing/erling-stordahl-ski-trails
  • Dog Power Trail 100  is located on the southwest side of the Sno-Park.  Separate parking is available for mushers and for non-motorized users who do not object to sharing the trail with dogs.  This trail is approximately 1 mile long and terminates at Lost Lake Road, where users can access the Iron Horse Trail.  NOTE:  ALL DOGS MUST BE ON A GANGLINE or LEASH.  There are no exceptions!  If a team is needs to pass or is coming head on, rein your dog in and mover to the side of the trail and restrain your dog(s).  This is NOT and OFF-LEASH area.  Please also note that a Special Grooming Sticker is needed in addition to your Sno-Park Pass to use this area and trail.

Connect Dog Trail to John Wayne, then go southeast past Stampede Pass Road until you can access the dog sled trail system below Meany Cabin.  Lots of fun loops in there!

Crystal Springs trail map (PDF)

Cabin Creek (no dogs)

Great conditions and varied trails for kids.  Kongsberger Ski Club maintains the trails.

Field guide from Outdoor Project (great “Adventure Description” with maps upon free registration)

 

 

Highway 2

Steven’s Pass

  • Skyline Lake trail from new downhill parking lot.  Not groomed, but dog-friendly.
  • Nordic Center (no dogs, but great skating and classic up valley, plus the WBA biathlon range)

Plain (no dogs?)

Ski Plain overview (lots of links to trail conditions and PDF maps, etc)

Chiwawa Sno Park – See & Ski (dogs ok after noon)

See Ski Plain link above for PDF map & conditions… or this nice overview of See N Ski trail.

Photos taken February, 2016:

Lake Wenatchee north and south (no dogs)

http://www.justgetout.net/ClientFiles/8ecf9e69-8f8f-419d-91d8-10c7ca9cbcbb/Lake%20Wenatchee%20North.pdf

Nason Ridge (no dogs?)

http://www.justgetout.net/ClientFiles/8ecf9e69-8f8f-419d-91d8-10c7ca9cbcbb/Nason%20Ridge.pdf

Leavenworth (26 km total; 3 km dog-friendly)

Leavenworth Winter Sports Club
PO Box 573
Leavenworth, WA
509-548-5477
www.skileavenworth.com
3km dog trails

https://skileavenworth.com/activities/nordic

Dog friendly trail —

https://skileavenworth.com/locations/waterfront-park

Waterfront Trail Map

 

Further away

Mazama/Winthrop

Methow Valley Sport Trails Association, www.mvsta.com, a nonprofit group that wove the network of trails on private and public land.

Nordic overnight adventure, ski from hut to hut along groomed trails at the Methow’s Rendezvous Huts. Bring your sleeping bag and food for stays in the bare-bones but cozy ski-in cabins. www.rendezvoushuts.com/

Methow Trails
309 Riverside Ave
Winthrop, WA
509-996-3287
www.methowtrails.org
40km dog trails

Handy, helpful links:

 

Other sites to explore

https://skileavenworth.com/activities/ski-jump

49 Degrees North Nordic Center
PO Box 166
Chewelah, WA (north of Spokane)
509 935-6649
www.ski49n.com
34km dog trails

An affordable North American rifle for youth biathletes?

The challenge:

Here’s a challenge for you.  Define the best path to an affordable (<$500), accurate (<1 m.o.a. out of the box) rifle that would make it easy for the many excellent young cross-country skiers in the United States to become competitive biathletes.  As a bonus, ensure the rifle and accessories are manufactured in North America!

The long-term goal of this challenge is to lead the U.S. down a path towards an Olympic medal in biathlon.  A shorter-term goal is to find a way for the fast young skiiers based in the greater Seattle Metropolitan area (and trained up through the Junior Nordic Program and Snoqualmie Nordic Club) to pose some sort of challenge to the Mazama Valley youth biathletes in the next 5-10 years!

Let the comments begin!  Any expert members of the Washington Biathlon Association want to chime in?

Solutions:

#1) Savage Mark II FVT ($380)

The big advantage of this bolt-action .22 is that it is has peep sights and high accuracy out of the box.  Since kids less than 14 years old only shoot prone and don’t carry their rifles in WBA races, this rifle just needs a case and a sling to be youth-race ready!  Snow covers, harness, extra magazines, blinders, and other accessories can be acquired later, perhaps as the biathalete nears their 14th birthday.  If you want to convert it to a biathlon rifle suitable for being carried and shot standing, you can buy a stock and/or snow sight covers from Eastern Sierra Armory which also offers the Savage Mark II as a biathlon rifle (for ~$1300) using the barrel/action/trigger on their custom biathlon stocks.

The Mark II is know for its sub-1 m.o.a. accuracy out of the box.  Here are some FVT accuracy data taken with various ammunition types acquired by Sergey of Precise Shooter (based in Queen Anne neighborhood of Seattle).

3($20) for race magazines

#2) Summit T3 ($600-800 used-new, w/o sights)

Attractive biathlon-style action, trigger, and magazine release built on the Ruger 10/22 rifle by Primary Weapon Systems (based in Idaho, USA).  Can’t really build up from a 10/22 starter rifle because Ruger only offers semi-automatic. Receiver seems discontinued in 2017…

#3) Browning T-bolt ($600-800)

Fast, innovative straight-pull action, but sticker price is too high…

#4) Eastern Sierra Armory G3C?

A great American effort to build a complete competitive biathlon rifle, but for youth they are unfortunately in the same price range as Ishmazt.

#5) Marlin 2000 biathlon rifle? (defunct? used?)