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Category Archives: Contributed

March 21, 2017 9:44 pm

Unseasonably Warm Winter Gets Icy Reception From Maine Snowmobilers

In many parts of the country, homeowners are grateful for this more mild winter. After all, moderate weather is typically good news for areas of your home that might otherwise be damaged by wind, ice, and snow. While you should still have roof inspections performed once or twice a year, you likely won’t need to spend a lot on upkeep. But in the state of Maine, snowmobilers are not so thrilled with the higher temperatures that keep ruining their recreational plans.

February and March are historically solid snowmobiling months in Maine, and there is no shortage of trails for outdoor enthusiasts to explore. In the Forks, they were overjoyed when February storms sprinkled fresh powder on the ground. But subsequently, temperatures rose and rain started to fall, thus causing both ice and bare spots on trails.

Russel Walters, president of an area trail destination called Northern Outdoors, noted, “There was such a lot of water that it completely eroded the trail underneath it … You wouldn’t want to hit that with your snowmobile.”

The phenomenon isn’t restricted to just one area, either. Over the last few weeks alone, the state experienced 10 to 20 inches of snow melt.

“We thought we were all set for a great season all through March,” said Walters. “And then Mother Nature dealt us a bit of a cruel blow.”

Walters is doing his part to combat the unfavorable conditions. He warns guests to reduce their speed and be especially cautious around water and through the woods. Walters has also made sure to cover his bases with trail groomers, who try to stay on top of ice formation and spread snow out over the trails.

In many parts of the world, snow isn’t falling as readily as it once did, and the increasing temperatures guarantee that it won’t stay around for nearly as long. A recent study conducted in the Swiss Alps predicts that snow may mostly disappear from the popular ski destination by the year 2100. But while winter sports aficionados may be frustrated, others may secretly be glad about not having to suffer through an endless snowy season.

February 24, 2017 9:57 pm

In the Alps and In the States, Flakes Are Snow-where To Be Found

Colorado Mountains VistaIt may still be February, but around the world, rising temperatures are already making it seem like spring has officially arrived. While some people are jumping for joy, others are not so thrilled. Chief among the latter group are the world’s skiers, snowmobilers, snowboarders, and snow lodge owners (not to mention all of the world’s downhearted climate scientists).

The unseasonal conditions are putting a real damper on countless winter recreation plans. The Swiss Alps are a historic ski destination, but this December was the driest one on record in more than 150 years. In fact, it was the third Christmas in a row that saw very little fresh powder, and new research suggests that, if climate trends continue, the Alps could lose as much as 70% of their snow cover by the century’s end.

Not only is there less snow on the Alps, but the snow season seems to be getting shorter, too. Rising temperatures could cause the ski season to start up to a month later than it currently does.

Regions like the Alps depend on wintertime tourism, so the lack of snow could have a huge impact on the local economy. To compensate for the lack of snowfall, many ski resorts, including ones throughout the U.S., have to use artificial snow.

While making snow isn’t cheap, the cost of staying closed during peak season is far more painful. By not using artificial snow, stateside ski resorts can potentially lose thousands to millions of dollars.

Man-made snow may not be precisely like the real thing, but it’s still a highly refined process — a real art, for some. It’s possible to create almost any type of snow, from light and fluffy to wet and heavy.

The main difference between the artificial flakes and the ones that fall from the sky is their size. Artificial snow is made by snow guns that shoot water molecules 10 to 20 feet up in the air; the molecules then freeze instantly and create snow. These molecules are tiny due to several components. Anyone who has worked in manufacturing may be familiar with compressed air systems, as 70% of all manufacturers use them. These snow guns do too, along with a ton of water pressure and teeny valve openings. The droplets that come out of the guns are thin, like mist. If you were to have bigger droplets, the process would form ice, rather than snow.

While artificial snow may address more immediate issues for both winter sports enthusiasts and those who operate ski lodges, it doesn’t solve the underlying problem of rising global temperatures. Climate scientists warn that unless humans reduce their emissions, and soon, snow seasons will likely become shorter still. Total reliance on artificial snow is not an option, either financially or ecologically.

While research shows that saving the Alps is entirely possible by mitigating climate change, the question remains whether people will act quickly enough — or at all — to stop ski towns from going extinct.

February 20, 2017 5:15 pm

Maine to Host 27th U.S. National Toboggan National Championships

tobogganDuring February, people in Camden, Maine focus a lot on the snow. They aren’t just focusing on shoveling their driveways, driving safely, or staying warm, however, they are preparing for a 440-foot drop down a wooden chute.

The United States National Toboggan Championships have taken place in Camden, Maine every year since 1991.

“The sudden drop, the excessive speed. It’s the most exciting eight seconds of your life,” said James Tyler, a professional toboggan racer who has competed in the Camden event for 17 years. “It’s maybe scary at first, but after that, you want to do it again.”

Toboggans can be made of a variety of different woods, similar to Amish furniture, which is crafted using five types of wood, including oak, walnut, maple, cherry, and hickory. These long and narrow sleds need to be strong enough to withstand the weight of a full-grown tobogganer and make it down the 440-foot chute at speeds of 40 miles per hour.

According to NECN, more than 400 teams compete in the event and thousands of spectators come to witness.

There are roughly 4,850 in the Camden area, and at least 5,000 people are expected to attend the 27th annual toboggan event.

According to KNOX, a little more danger is associated with these high-speed, high-altitude drops. Louis Bettcher reported on his first time on one of these toboggans at the Camden Snow Bowl.

“Keep your hands in, and keep your elbows in,” said Jim, an experienced tobogganer. “You don’t want to touch the side of the chute as you’re going down, it can burn a hole in your jacket. Just let the sled do what it wants.”

One of the best parts of the Snow Bowl is that anyone can compete, although they have to be extremely careful, and it’s a nice mix of professionals who take it very seriously and rookies who are just there to have fun.

February 14, 2017 1:11 pm

Safety First: How You Should be Warming Up for Winter Sports (And Why it Matters)

Skiing Snowboarder Skier Winter Sports WinterNo matter the weather or the sport, warming up is an essential part of working out. However, it’s important to warm up properly so you don’t risk seriously injuring yourself during your actual workout. The point of warming up is, as the name suggests, to warm up and loosen your muscles before you get into intense exercise.

Increasing muscle temperature helps prevent injury and improve overall flexibility and mobility during exercise. While many people believe that static stretches and a quick five-minute jog might be a sufficient warm-up, winter exercise is much more demanding of your body.

According to a recent study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning, your five-minute cardio warm-up is essentially the same as not warming up at all. Even if you’re sprinting to the point where you break a sweat, fast and intense isn’t the way to go when you’re warming up your body.

The study discovered that a high-intensity, 15-minute warm-up actually decreased performance while working out. On the other hand, a low-intensity warm-up of the same length helped improve performance throughout a workout. As the old adage goes, slow and steady wins the race.

Researchers working on the study prescribed a total of four different warm-ups to groups of test subjects and assigned a fifth group no warm-up at all. Overall, the only two warm-ups that showed any results were those longer than 10 minutes. When combined with low-intensity, this warm-up allows the body to reach a higher temperature without any excessive fatigue.

The most important aspect of warming up is to take your time. Even after you’ve warmed up properly, give your body time to adjust to the intensity of your workout to avoid injury. The human body has anywhere from two to four million sweat glands working as a cooling system, so you don’t have to worry about overheating as you increase the intensity of your exercise.


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