LINKing Turns: Tales from the shuttle, real backcountry in MN and toxic XC ski wax

Midwest Ski Journal likes to highlight a few pieces of skiing internet worth your time in LINKing Turns. Find the best, most important, least important and otherwise links here each week. 

This week we read a sensational shuttle story, find Minnesota’s true backcountry skiers and look at nordic skiing’s addiction to toxic wax.

TURN 1: This Shuttle Ride to Jackson Hole Was Wilder Than the Skiing (Scott Yorko/Powder Magazine)

Scott Yorko’s story of a strange, eccentric van ride from Salt Lake City, Utah to Jackson, Wyoming was an absolute delight.

I’ve found some of the best pieces of writing when it comes to the skiing world focus on things other than the skiing itself. In fact, I’ve found that permeating the writing on this very site.

Yorko, in excruciating and hilarious detail, recounts this 5-hour van ride with a driver straight out of central casting.

We burned rubber through flat country as the driver, who grew up ranching, flowed in and out of his life story and explained to me how cattle are raised. “It’s so dry out here,” he said. “That’s why my friend painted my nails to keep them from cracking.” He continued to weave historical context into the passing landscape that slowly gave way to the beckoning snow-capped Tetons.

Scott Yorko/Powder Magazine

The ending, which I won’t spoil here, had me laughing out, too.

This is a truly great piece of writing in what sounds like an unforgettable adventure to Jackson.

TURN 2: Backcountry downhill skiing in Minnesota? You betcha. (John Meyers/Forum News Service)

This headline really got my attention, because I saw it just minutes after I wrote about my own experience in the Midwest backcountry, albeit down here in the Twin Cities area.

What Meyers outlines in this well-reported piece, however, sounds a lot more like backcountry skiing to me.

Essentially, Superior Highland Backcountry is a group promoting actual backcountry touring in the somewhat mountainous arrowhead region of Northeast Minnesota.

Home to the famed Lutsen Mountains, the area is ripe for more alpine skiing and gets good enough snow to do it during the winter months.

Check out Forum’s story for more details. I sure hope this catches on. They’ve certainly added one more person to their email list.

TURN 3: Nordic Skiing Has an Addiction to Toxic Wax (Bill Donahue/Outside Magazine)

*GASP!* Nordic, you say? Skiing without gravity? But why?

Yes, I’m writing quickly about nordic skiing simply because the Cross Country Skiing World Championships are coming to Minneapolis’ Theo Wirth Park this March.

The crux of this feature story, brilliantly explained by Bill Donahue, is that fluorinated glide wax, used on the bottom of racers’ skis, is contaminating snowpacks everywhere.

Luckily, it appears the sport’s governing bodies and leading brands are aware of the issue and are taking steps to combat it, but you’d have to imagine it’s a problem here in the nordic-crazed Upper Midwest.

Fluoro wax has been a staple of cross-country racing since the late 1980s. Still, Swix’s rollout of a new fluoro seems oddly timed. The EPA has found PFAS to cause liver and kidney damage as well as cancer and tumors in lab animals. 

Bill Donahue/Outside Magazine

Yikes…not great. Hope the cross country industry clamps down on this soon.

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