EMPO Times Winter 1998

A Very Early Winter

I don't know about you, but I've already heard every possible weather prediction for this winter. They range from very snowy (the La Nina effect) to bone dry (La Nina again), and from very cold (the woolly bear caterpillars) to mild (the caterpillars' cousins). But the one I'm counting on is Olavi's. He has said, no, he has decreed that "There will be snow on December 6th!" At least there will be at his wonderful facility: Lapland Lake Cross Country Ski Center, in Benson. If you've ever been there, you know it's a great place, and you know better than to disbelieve Olavi's decrees. Lapland Lake has an enviable record of long ski seasons, right through this string of lousy winters we've been having. It is situated West enough to get some "lake effect" snow, but high enough in the Adirondacks to retain it through warm periods. Eric Hamilton has just finished a new map of the area, and with Lapland's 30 kilometers of winding trails, a fine event should be on tap.

This is the earliest ever start to a Ski-O season that I'm aware of, which is why this edition of the EMPO TIMES is being rushed out to you. Time to mark your calendars (both 1998 and 1999) and get those skis cleaned up and ready. You don't have skis? This year we're really ready for you. Both of EMPO's Ski-O meets take place at full service XC Ski Centers. You can rent gear there, and discover a new way to enjoy winter. We will have novice courses at both events, so even if you are just beginning to ski you can still complete a course. And once you've finished, both facilities have nice restaurants, where you can fill-up as well as warm-up before heading for home. Or stay, since both offer lodging as well.

I've been saying "both" but have so far only named the first venue. Our second offering will come at the end of January (the 30th) at Garnet Hill Cross Country Ski Center, in North River. Garnet was the site of US Ski-O Championships and Empire State Games Ski-O, which EMPO put on a couple of years ago. If you were there, you'll remember that every flake of snow was long gone from anywhere else that weekend; but when you drove up to Garnet Hill's elevation there was an amazing amount of it. Except for some icy spots near the lodge, the skiing was great, and we can look forward to that again. This meet will be a little lower key than the Ski-O Champs were, so again, even if you've never tried it before, come on out.

Ski-Orienteering in New York State involves more than just EMPO, of course. Our upstate neighbors also put on events, all of which go to prepare and qualify entrants to the Empire State Games. A points list is tabulated, posted on EMPO's web site, and available at each meet so you can see how you're doing with everyone involved across the state. The CNYO and AOK events are not too far from EMPO-land, so check them out too. Our schedule page lists all the ESG qualifiers across upstate (as of this writing; another might be added).

The schedule page also lists one more item of note: CNYO's "Snowgaine." This is a two-day event, so it involves a greater investment of time, but it really is a lot of fun. As with most O-related events, you can take it as competitively or non-competitively as you like. And if you've never been to the winter wonderland of Tug Hill, this year's edition of the Snowgaine will be a great opportunity to experience it. And you don't even have to ski at all, since snowshoes might prove to be the best gear for this tour. It costs a bit more than a Ski-O, but food is included. All you need is a partner and a sense of adventure.

A Look Ahead: 1999 Scholastic Teams Championship

Our next door "O" neighbors, Central New York Orienteering (CNYO) are hosting the 1999 US Intercollegiate Championships next Spring, and along with that are hosting a newly revised format for the Scholastic Championships. Teams from a school district comprised of from 3 to 5 boys and/or girls, grade 12 and below, can compete for their school against other school teams from around the country. In order to expand the competitors beyond the kids who regularly attend orienteering "A" Meets, which would make it difficult for many schools to field teams, the rules will permit runners with little orienteering experience to run easier courses than their ages would normally allow. With these rules, it should be possible to put together several teams from schools in EMPO-land. Shenendehowa should have no problem, and we think we can create one here in Berne. Scout groups usually go to the same school, so they should be a fine nucleus for a school team. This area is one of the nation's hottest for high school cross-country runners, so EMPO should be in good shape for this. If you've been thinking about how to promote orienteering in your school, here's a perfect goal for you. Start planning and recruiting now.

The Meet is being held just south of Cortland on April 24th & 25th. For more details check the CNYO web site (see the schedule page for URL), or talk to Phil or Sue Hawkes-Teeter in our area, or the CNYO Meet Director Eric Smith (607) 347-4844.

We'll cover this in the Spring newsletter too, but lining up interested kids early will help. And we'll try to schedule an EMPO meet before that weekend next Spring to give local first-time junior orienteers some taste of real orienteering before this championship event. Let's see how many teams we can send!

'O' Suit Follow-up

Well, the photo that was supposed to have made it into the last issue went up on the web site. By now you should have had a chance to see a Tryson or an H-T wearing one, but here's a shot of Marty H-T in his EMPO Suit this Summer starting out on the first leg of the Rocky Mtn. Relay (he's the runner furthest to the right). Two notes not previously mentioned are: you can ask for things like pockets where you want them; and wash gently in COLD water always, as the Blue kinda runs.

EMPO Juniors Shine Out West

This Summer EMPO's Trysons and Hawkes-Teeters took the 1000-Day Challenge, and trekked out to Wyoming for yet another fun week of orienteering and touring. This year's edition of the EMPO Relay Team had its greatest success ever, led by Marty and Greg (the adults brought us back to the pack). And while Janet Tryson again did very well, in general the kids (Marty, Greg and Rob) led the way all week, each one medaling in the Night-O, and finishing in the money in their age class for the whole week. Here they are, in victory T-shirts and medals, with friends the Strats from Quantico Orienteering Club, winners in: M-14 (Marty), M-12 (Andy Strat), M-16 (Greg), F-10 (Karen Strat), and M-10 (Rob).

Meet Roundup

Glen's Club Champs Run: Get 'em All!

Things I could've done better:

  1. Visited 30 before 29 to avoid crossing the steep slope with thick vegetation along the bike path twice.
  2. Visited 14 before 13 to avoid climbing up the steep hill to get over the spur and then coming right back over to head to 12.
  3. Control 18. I should've saved this one until I was heading back in to finish, but instead climbed up from 17 only to punch in box 16. When I discovered much later (after visiting 5 and checking my card to be sure I had gotten them all) that I didn't have a punch for 18, I decided to revisit it since it was on my way in and I still had time.

Things I probably did right:

  1. Stayed mostly on trails to simplify navigation so I could keep moving fast.
  2. Took the time to be sure I had copied all of the controls (correctly).
  3. Didn't make a decision to skip any controls too early (I considered not doing 23, but figured that committed me to not getting them all only about 15 minutes into the race).
  4. Set the courses for the 1996 EMPO Champs on this map so I was familiar with much of the terrain, including some of the unmapped trails.

The most challenging control was number 8 with a faded bag hung in vegetation near the edge of the map in an area which required navigating by contours. I had no problem, but definitely slowed down to be careful. I had a small problem with 20 since there is an unmapped trail on the spur to the west of the control. Fortunately I discovered my error before plunging into the abyss at the end of the spur. Number 1 posed some challenge because I visited it late in the race so was mentally fatigued and starting to worry about the time. The control was off the trail through some thick vegetation. I found it all right but coming out followed some unmapped (deer?) trails so I was momentarily unsure of where I was. I recovered when I hit the main trail but knew I really had to work to stay focused.

Overall, Bill did a nice job of making a challenging course using a small area with lots of trails. Some new (and some old) Champions were crowned; including the Groups, almost 85 people came out, and it all made for a fine conclusion to the season.

-- Glen Tryson

Order of Controls:
19-21-29-30-28-27-26-25-24-23-20-16-17-18-15-13-14-12-11-10-9-8-7-1-2-3-4-5-6-18 (again)-22-Finish (~ 6 km straight line distance ) Time: 57:26 (incl. 3:20 copying course).

Orienteering Basics

Ski-O Route Choice

Ski-Orienteering is orienteering. This may seem obvious to you, or it may seem crazy. Here in Upstate New York there are many, myself included, who actually started orienteering on skis and only later moved to the running-through-the-woods version. (I won't call it "Foot-O" because so many people, mostly non-skiers, object to that term. And since your feet are also involved in Ski-O, while connected to your skis, I think they have a point.) Regardless, what makes Ski-O a true form of "O" is the essential ingredient of route choice.

Ski-O courses are set such that the controls are along trails, much as they are for White courses during the non-ski seasons. But there are some critical factors, which need to be taken into account on a Ski-O course, that few White course runners would consider. First there is elevation change. While the "going over vs. going around" choice is a classic orienteering decision, in Ski-O it is exaggerated because the difference between skiing uphill and on the flat is much greater than the difference when running. Plus, even the downhills can be problem when skiing, because the speed you develop can require extremely fast decisions and very technically difficult turns. There are few things more frustrating than realizing you have missed a turn you needed to make and must climb back up several hundred meters.

Secondly, there are track differences, the effects of which are heightened by equipment choices. There is no doubt that once you have mastered the technique, Skating is a faster way to ski than Classic. Skating is not always viable option, depending upon the snow and track conditions, but even where you can skate much of the course, a good course setter will throw in some narrow tracks and bushwhack options, which will be impossible to skate. So, do you go around on the wide track, skating all the way; wind through on the narrow track, double poling if you're using skate skis; or break new trail bushwhacking as straight as you can to the flag?

Through trial and error, and keeping some logs, I've developed a rough guide for making these choices, for myself. Factors which may throw these calculations off include: snow depth, crust support, undulation of terrain, your relative prowess in skating or classic, the alignment of the stars, wax, streams to cross. Over a short distance (less than .5k) skating has a 150% advantage over double poling along a narrow track. Thus, if it's 300 meters to skate to the control, and 100m to double pole, then pole away. But if it's 250m to skate, and 200m to pole, then skate around. The longer the distance, the greater the advantage to skating.

Even tougher is the choice of when to bushwhack. Skating skis simply aren't made for it, and even classic skis can get hopelessly bogged down in deep snow. Here my rough guide is that skating has a 300% advantage, and it's often even more when there is any undergrowth showing through the snow (as with icebergs, 67% of the danger is below the surface). Nonetheless, bushwhacks often look tempting, and succeeding with them can be the difference allowing you to outpace someone who is faster pure skier than you are. So look for them, but look carefully. And the shorter and flatter they are, the more viable they are. For uphill bushwhacks, you frequently want to just take your skis off and carry them, so you have to factor in some time to get them back on again. And beware of streams. I once took my skis off to cross a small stream, and then couldn't get the ice out of the binding slots in my boots for ten minutes. Think ahead!

So, while Ski-O may seem "simple" to the run-only types, it too is a complex route choice decision process. Plus it's usually done at higher speed, and it's definitely done at much closer to (my) exhaustion point. Remember Platt's dictum: if it's too easy, you're not running (or skiing) fast enough!