c.hammock Author Chris is a second-year Film and Media Arts major from Missoula, Montana working on a minor in Documentary Studies. He makes videos focused around the stories of people and adventure, writing and taking pictures on the side. Like many of us here he enjoys skiing, mountain biking, and hiking, among other activities, and exploring new places through these outlets.

9 Tips for the Perfect Adventure Crew

Whether it’s on the first ascent of an isolated mountain or on a chill car camping excursion for the weekend, the people around you can make or break a trip. You can’t change much about the core personalities of you or your friends, but there are a few things you can all agree to smooth out the wrinkles of any trip. 

Those with formal outdoor education (I’m looking at you, PRT Department and NOLS) have probably seen these tips before, but for us casual campers, here are the tricks to have a more relaxed outing with friends:

1. Help out

Contribute to the tasks that need to be accomplished. Pitch in ideas planning, help a driver navigate, build the fire, cook, clean up, set up the tent, etc. Everyone appreciates each other and things go smoothly when people help out.

2. Pick people with similar ability levels and goals

Scrambling up Class 4 mountains might be a typical day for some hikers while those behind them are texting their families their final wishes. Varying abilities can add some flavor to a trip, it’s true, but being on par in fitness/adventure level helps everyone get the most out of the trip.

3. Communicate openly about everyone’s comfort levels and what they want to accomplish

It’s alright if someone is new to what you’re doing. The adventure of trying something new is part of the fun. Make sure everyone is in the same boat and in the know regarding the goals of the trip and how the weak link(s) will be supported. If one person wants to ice climb and another wants to just sleep in a cabin but neither bring it up, there will likely be problems.

4. Let everyone know if you have something that might hold you back like an injury, fear, etc.

On a similar note, if you have something that could prevent the group from accomplishing the goal of the trip, let everyone know so it can be accommodated and prepared for as early as possible. If you have some irrational fear of tent stakes, for example, that might be good to share.

5. Don’t complain about the weather, or other obvious situations

This isn’t original, but I like it. When it’s raining or the drive is really long, it’s no secret to the rest. There’s no reason to be a downer and complain about it. Just embrace it, it’s part of the fun. Talk about something else. Complaining isn’t fun, man.

6. Don’t forget your gear, and if you do, keep it to yourself

There’s no reason to stress other people out about gear that you lost or forgot if you don’t have to tell them. It’s best to avoid making yourself look silly and unprepared if it’s something simple like forgotten toothpaste.

7. Be in shape

Being the slowest in the group isn’t fun for you or anyone else. Know your physical abilities and set expectations to meet them. Don’t be that person repeating, “Man, I’m out of shape” along the trail.

8. Enjoy yourself and try to maintain some sense of optimism and happiness

When things go south, it’s OK to be stressed and bring problems up to the group. If everyone keeps their heads up with a positive attitude, it goes a long way to keep the group motivated together working toward your end goal.

9. Play nice

In the outdoor community, most of us are pretty decent people connected by our common love of the outdoors. When you are on a week-long river trip, you can’t really escape anyone you get in a tiff with. Address issues as they come, but don’t ruin everyone’s trip by being a rude know-it-all. If you get frustrated, take a breath of the fresh air and realize where you are.


Photo by Chris Hammock


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Paragliding with Braedin Butler, a Family Tradition

Some say they’re adrenaline junkies, and some say they’re idiots asking for death. To us, they are adventure seekers living the dream. We took a look into the niche world of paragliding through a firsthand account of the sport from Braedin Butler, an aerospace engineering student at Utah State University and avid paraglider. He says most people miss the point of paragliding.

“The first thought of people who aren’t too familiar with the sport is ‘Oh that’s so dangerous, you’re crazy,’ but it all comes back to the fact that it’s just as safe as you play it. Be smart about it. If you play it safe, it’s safe, just like driving a car.” On first glance, it may seem like reckless recreation but in reality it’s a way to soar with hawks, bond with friends and family, and experience a view unlike any other.

Butler got into the sport at 15 years old, after a three-generation family tradition of dads teaching their sons how to paraglide. He lives the adventure sport lifestyle skiing and mountain biking in the wasatch, but the sky is his favorite outdoor playground. He loves kiteboarding, kite skiing, and a unique sport called kite buggying that involves using a kite and a large trike getting up to speeds of 50 miles per hour on wide open spaces like the Salt Flats. To top it off, Butler is also a cross country track athlete at Utah State, but he says paragliding is probably his favorite of them all.

His favorite place to fly is a zone near Centerville, Utah by the Great Salt Lake. “Especially at sunset,” he says. “It’s the best time to fly.” There, he was enamored by the sport. “Paragliding is just beautiful; that’s the reason I love it so much. When you are in the air and everything is silent, you get a bird’s-eye view of everything and you just feel so free.”

“[I love] when you’re in the air next to another pilot flying … my dad and I would fly wingtip to wingtip, close enough to where we can just have a conversation with each other.” Of all the ways to bond with your dad, having a one-on-one conversation soaring a couple thousand feet in the air might take the cake. Some other favorite moments include birds circling around and sharing thermals (an upward current of warm air) with paragliders, flying up and gaining altitude together in the same pocket of hot air.

Butler hopes to use his aerospace engineering degree to contribute to the safety of the world of flying sports, especially paragliding. He will continue to fly for the rest of his life, following his grandpa’s lead.


Photo and Video courtesy of Braedin Butler



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How to: Stay Dry

Spring-like, 60 degree days in February and March are absolutely beautiful. Don’t be fooled by the sunlight, though, the weather can turn from snow to rain quickly and destroy your day if you are caught unprepared. Learn from my experience: The coldest I’ve ever been was in March, biking in great weather, until a nonstop sleet storm hit me hard in my shorts and a cotton sweatshirt.

The simplest advice I can give is to always pack an outer waterproof layer. Shells or windbreakers are necessary if there is even a chance of precipitation. Shove it in the bottom of your pack and forget about it. It’s not that heavy and the comfort/survival factor it gives on a windy, rainy ridge is well worth the extra pound. Forty-five degrees feels nice after temperatures in the teens for weeks in a row, but 45 degrees with rain while biking an hour away from any kind of shelter is dangerous.

Improve your chances of staying dry by using a waterproofing agent to enhance the water-wicking ability of your jacket. Scotchgard Heavy Duty Water Shield is more or less the gold standard, but a cheaper solution called Thompson’s WaterSeal gets the job done. Just follow the directions on the bottle and your jacket will be that much more efficient. A cheap, old rain jacket can be transformed into something that beads water like expensive Gore-Tex with a much lower investment.


Photo by Chris Hammock


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How I Ended up in Cranbrook, B.C.

The reality of what we had gotten ourselves into only hit me at the tiny, remote border crossing in Roosville, MT. After politely informing the Canadian border patrol agent that our travel plans were to head to Cranbrook, B.C., he followed up with an assertive, “Why?” I noticeably fumbled my words as I crafted a substantial-sounding answer. The words I thought in my head were sarcastically clear — “I don’t know, I definitely didn’t just choose to come here a couple hours ago on a whim because I saw this town for the first time on Google Maps.” He sternly told us to pull aside the border patrol office. For a few anxious moments, we sat stock-still in the car anticipating a full search because of our lack of reason for entering the country. Finally, another Canadian official tapped for the window to be lowered and he handed us our passports back without saying a word.

Apparently, spontaneous traveling without a good reason doesn’t make the cut at border crossings, but it’s a popular activity these days that is increasingly easier. I’m sure I’m not alone when I say many of us adventure-minded folk have dreamed of pointing to a spot on a map in another country and impulsively going. I did exactly this all in one day. I looked up pictures of the city on my phone, booked the cheapest motel I could find for the evening, and went purely for the sake of seeing a new place and the ensuing story that might come from it. Despite the fact this was just a short drive across the border, there are so many possibilities around the world if you can save up a bit of money for a plane ticket. Then the resources of the Information Age do the rest.

The pictures here are of Fernie, B.C., a popular ski town you would have expected us to visit and what the border patrol agent likely expected to hear as our destination. But we didn’t even bring skis. We did pop over to Fernie, but our true destination was Cranbrook, an unnoteworthy, unphotogenic town beside some photogenic distant mountains. That was the beauty of the trip — we went somewhere that wasn’t even adventurous on the outdoors spectrum. It was just somewhere new to explore that we found online on a map.


From a random flight generator to adjusted public transit times in cities across the globe. Google Maps is my go-to travel companion and can help me pick my next internet-generated spot on the map to go to every time. Also included: driving route planning, reviews of hotels and restaurants, photos, write-ups, satellite images, and GPS data. Trimble Outdoors gives you access to different map lay-outs while helping you plan mileage and elevation gain on a hike.


These resources set you up with cheap lodging accommodations and unique travel situations. Couchsurfing sets you up with good samaritans looking to host people for a short amount of time in exchange for stories and connections with unique people. Airbnb costs money, but is a great (and cheap) way to have a personal experience with the residents. Workaway is tailored toward long-term international travelers, who trade work for room and board. Hipcamp is great for finding camping spots outside of traditional campgrounds.


These handy resources can find you the best outdoor excursions wherever you end up. They are based on solid outdoor community reviews backed up with maps, pictures, and firsthand accounts to get to the best adventure you can find on a short notice.



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Gear Review: Aura Optics Nimbus Goggle

I tend to skimp out when it comes to the quality of my ski goggles. I’ve never thought too much about the plastic over my face and never wanted to drop big sums of money for a good pair, stubbornly sticking to wearing my scratched-up, lens-popping-out, constantly foggy $20 Bollé goggles. Aura Optic’s Nimbus Goggles were the first real “nice” goggles I’ve ever worn, and they held up far too well on the hill. Now, there’s no going back to the crappy goggles of my past.

What makes them so good?

Fog-proofThroughout a long ski day full of heavy breathing, fog never appeared despite practically breathing into them from the inside of a zipped-up jacket. I breathed directly on the anti-fog treated lens and watched as the fog disappeared almost instantly as air flowed through the surrounding five “Auraflow” vents.

Water resistance After a couple wipeouts — erm, I mean, face shots? — I inevitably ended up with snow all over the goggles. In my previous experience, snow would get stuck inside of the goggles and ruin my visibility for the rest of the day. With these goggles, barely any snow made it inside (thanks to the zero-movement silicone strap) and the snow/water that did wicked right off.

Better visibility– We’ve all had that feeling before — white-out conditions where you can make out zero distinct features in the snow ahead. Are there moguls? Maybe. Is there a little five foot cliff right there? Perhaps. Though not technically polarized (Aura has a polarized lens too, though) these goggles helped distinguish features on the mountain.

Wide field of view The goggle has a wide spherical shape, allowing a peripheral field of view to make out what was happening next to me. This great feature improves safety and lets you enjoy the view. The shape made the world feel more natural, helping me forget about the giant piece of plastic covering my eyes.

Adaptability Look up through the lens and you see yellow; look down, it’s blue. Like bi-focal glasses, these lenses adapt to whatever light situation you are in. The lens is easily interchangeable for other Aura Optics shades, depending on weather and light.

After my eyes were opened to this side of the visibility spectrum, maybe I’ll have to dish out some cash to enhance my skiing experience every time. At $120 the Nimbus isn’t too cheap, but worth the investment for well over six times the viewing quality than that of my current pair. Or you know, I could keep being way too stingy and suffer for the rest of my life.



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Weekend escape: Bridger Bowl, MT

For the last six years, I’ve had a low-priority objective of trying out new ski areas in Montana. After people filled my ear with good things about Bridger Bowl just north of Bozeman, I figured it was time to explore a new hill.

Bridger is only a 20 minute drive from Bozeman. The mellow paved road is a plus for those of us without four-wheel drive vehicles, or with a minivan like yours truly. Bridger Bowl is often overlooked by the larger Big Sky Ski Resort further southwest, but the short drive and cheap price beat out Big Sky in my mind. The key is the little ski area vibe. While little resort gems dot Montana, Bridger Bowl offers that same feeling, plus big slopes. As expected, there are rarely lift lines, but it has a few resort-like amenities with reasonably fast lifts and nice day lodges for eating and resting.

The big terrain I was told about did not let down, and it’s immediately obvious why Bridger is known for its ridge terrain. Booting up just a little from the top of the lifts gives access to almost always untracked snow in steep cliff areas, trees, and couloirs. This ridge terrain is technically backcountry, but it’s easily accessible. An entire lift at Bridger requires that skiers wear a beacon because of increased avalanche danger.

The wide swath of terrain to explore and frequent good snow, or “Cold Smoke” as they call it there, will keep me coming back for more to explore. If you’re ever in the area, ski Bridger Bowl for a relatively cheap $57 (compared to SLC resorts around $80).

Going to a new ski area for the first time is a fun mini adventure in itself. It’s always enjoyable to explore a new place and try to discover little moments of gold in between runs. The views of the Absaroka Range towards Yellowstone National Park and the Crazy Mountains towards Central Montana were amazing. At the end of the day, skiing Bridger Bowl marked skiing eight of the 16 bigger ski areas in Montana, a nice halfway point for an objective I hope to finish some day.


Photos by Chris Hammock


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How to: Not fall into a frozen lake

Chances are, if you’re outside this winter, you’ll encounter a frozen body of water. Here are a few items you should check off your list before you step onto the ice.

  1. Take stock of the general ice situation. Is the ice on top of a small, shallow lake or a wide flowing river? Deeper water and water with a current beneath are less stable.
  2. Check out the color and surface of the ice. Clear or blue ice is safer than white, gray, or black ice. Obvious large cracks are a bad sign. Also, snow can insulate the ice, making it weaker.
  3. If walking with a group of people, spread out. That way, weight is better distributed across the ice and if you do fall in, they are less likely to fall with you.
  4. Think about the weather and time of the season. Early season and spring ice is more dangerous than mid-winter. Still, warm winters can make weak spots, so get in touch with the local ranger station to check conditions.
  5. If possible, measure the ice. You can eyeball ice depth, but it’s hard to tell without actually measuring — using an ice auger, ice tool, or even a long log. Stay off any ice under three inches. Four inches of ice is generally enough to walk on. The thicker the ice, the better, and the more weight it can handle.
  6. If you do fall in the ice, have an escape plan. Bring a rope and ice claws (which you can make with wooden doweling and nails) so you can get yourself out or help a friend who’s fallen in.

Walking out on ice can be fun to get a new perspective on an area. Also, top-of-ice travel can get you from from one point to the next much quicker than skirting around a lake. If anything, use common sense when crossing ice. Falling into frozen water is no joke, especially miles into a hike in the mountains.

Photo by Chris Hammock


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Watch: Pass or Fail–Swimming in the Salt Lake

The Wasatch Magazine staff tests out swimming in the Great Salt Lake in an attempt to dispel the negative rumors locals seem to hold on the lake.


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Insider’s Guide to Snowbird

With 2,500 skiable acres, Snowbird is the biggest of the four Cottonwood Canyon ski areas. The majority of the runs (38 percent) are blue, 27 percent are green and 35 percent are black runs. As for other resort stats, they’ve got 3,240 feet of vertical, a high point elevation of 11,000 feet, and 500 average inches of snowfall at the resort. Not bad. But to give character to those digits, we’ve asked Mimi Dahlin, a senior at  Alta High School planning on attending the U, to give us the inside scoop as a junior ski instructor at the ‘Bird.

Q: What made you want to work here?

A: A neighbor of mine told me her son had gotten a job up at Snowbird and I thought, “Well dang! If I can do one of my favorite activities and be able to get a job out of it, I’d love to do it.”

Q: So, is the job as good as everyone thinks it is?

A: I honestly had no idea it would be as fun as it is. The environment and all of the other co-workers are super awesome. It’s nice you get to be around people the same age as you and it’s super fun to work with the kids. By the end of each session when you see these kids and how much better they get, it makes you happy. You’re able to have fun with them and make sure they’re having a good time. They just look so happy whenever they’re done. Especially when you go out there and you see the kids skiing that you had before out with their parents. It’s pretty fulfilling.

Q: What has been your favorite day at the resort?

A: I love spring skiing — it’s probably my favorite. The best is at the end of the year when you’ll see people all the time coming out in shorts and stuff like that. Closing days, when they’re playing music, you just hang out with everybody.

Q: What’s been the sketchiest situation you’ve got yourself in?

A: Um, (laughs) I’ve definitely gotten into a few sketchy trails with friends. I remember one time we started down some double black diamond that was full of trees and cliffs, and I bet we were up on that run for two or three hours trying to find the best way down. You never know when you’re going to get into stuff at Snowbird; you just drop in and don’t see it coming.

Q: What kind of people go to this resort?

A: I’ve kinda seen it all. I know we’ve got regulars that are retired, tons of friends my age — high school and college — but I think I see more younger people than older people.

Q: What are some secrets to the resort?

A: If anyone comes to visit Snowbird, I’d say to visit that back bowl. It’s an entirely different type of skiing there, to try something unique to Utah. The views down there are amazing.

Q: What’s your ideal day at the resort?

A: I would spend the morning of the day on the front of the mountain to let the snow warm up. For lunch, I’d go to the top of the tram for the views or to Tram Car Pizza for the amazing pizza. When I went in for work, I got a slice there every single day. Then I would hit the back of the mountain at the end of the day when that snow warmed up. The Mid-Gad Restaurant is super fun to go to near the end of the day. They have lawn chairs where you can sit out in the sun and watch people ski by. They play some really good old rock. You just kinda hang out and watch the day end, winding down and relaxing your legs after skiing all day.


Photo courtesy of Mimi Dahlin


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Watch: Wasatch crew camps near Strawberry River

The Wasatch team got together for a camping trip at the Strawberry River near Heber. Watch the fun!


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