Crust Cruising: A euphoric phenomena allowing Nordic skate skiers to travel over large open areas. Determined solely by Mother Nature.
Periodically throughout the spring, ideal crust cruising conditions present themselves. To the experienced skier, it is an addiction. The uninitiated question the daybreak departure, but soon are enlightened. Follow these rules and hope to find yourself at the right place, at the right time.
- Locate suitable terrain. Look for wide open areas with lots of sun exposure. Around West Yellowstone, Montana popular crust cruising spots include Hebgen Lake, Big Horn Pass, Fawn Pass, and the meadows near the Rendezvous Ski Trails.
- Wait for a window of perfect weather. Warm spring days with little to no snowfall are a great start. It needs to be warm enough to slightly melt the top layer of snow. The thermometer must drop below freezing overnight. Get up early and be rewarded. Skate skiers can literally ski anywhere by staying on top of the hard crust that has formed. After spending a season confined to groomed trails, skiers will soar across the surface in all directions. Keep your eyes open for once in a lifetime views of wildlife and tracks. Look for birds, bears, otters, wolves, coyotes, bison, Sandhill cranes, and trumpeter swans that show off in the spring.
- Know when to quit. The caveat of crust cruising is the end time. Get off the snow before it softens up, or post-hole all the way home.
Crust cruising is almost impossible to predict. Watch the weather, consult your favorite Nordic shop, and get a good night’s sleep. One perfect morning sailing over hills and flying through miles of terrain will keep the storage wax away.
For the latest on crust cruising conditions around West Yellowstone, call the folks at Freeheel and Wheel, 406-646-7744.