Lisa Martin is based at 53U,Â Ferndale Airfield,Â Bigfork, Montana.
Winter flying, on snow skis (pic at Spotted Bear USFS airstrip in northwest Montana)! A few inches of new snow on top of a good crust makes it easy and is a real life application for soft field landing techniques. The earth is beautiful, washed white as snow, and the air is good!
Not so great when there is liquid water lurking under a fresh coat of snow on the taxiway. Can you say, â€œSuper cooled water puddleâ€? Instant heavy coat of ice all over the wheels and skis, including the bottom of the skis which creates a lot of drag on take-off and then requires many passes down the runway to rub much of the ice off before a landing.
Deeper powder snow (picture at Schafer Meadow USFS airstrip), requires numerous passes down the airstrip letting progressively more weight onto the skis as the snow packs, so that the airplane doesnâ€™t get stuck in the deep snow. Itâ€™s much better for the engine to make these passes at flying speed with airflow than to have to taxi up and down on the ground at full power with no cooling air.
Sometimes pilots underestimate the number of passes needed to pack the snow and then have to pack the runway the hard way, with snowshoes (picture at Meadow Creek USFS airstrip in northwest Montana), at least far enough to get up on the step.
Aluminum skis with no plastic bottoms? Donâ€™t stop. You will be instantly frozen to the ground. Wax helps, for a few landings.
Critters are easier to spot when you can see tracks in fresh snow (picture, wolf pack). Iâ€™m afraid our snow skiing is about done for this year. Itâ€™s turning to the mucky season of transitional melt, but the cold will return again next year.
Happy winter flying!