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c.koldewyn Author

Bouldering Rockstar Alex Puccio

The history of bouldering is comprised of amazing feats initially thought impossible. The sport is made up of a wide variety of people, brought together by a similar love for sheer rock and tough holds.

Professional rock climber, Bouldering World Cup winner, and eleven time National Champion, Alex Puccio, is one such person. Raised in Dallas, Texas, Puccio, two months shy of 29, has been climbing more than half her life. At this point, her reputation precedes her.

“I started climbing at a gym called Exposure,” Puccio says. This indoor gym near where she grew up led to a youth competition circuit where she competed until turning 16, at which point she was legally able to enter adult climbing circuits.

“When I was 16, I competed in my first adult national bouldering series, or comp,” Puccio says, “And I actually won it, which was a big shock and a surprise to me.” What some may have thought a fluke, Puccio proved to be a matter of skill and strength soon after, she says. “Every comp, or at least 95 percent of the comps that I entered for adults from that first comp, I won.”

Puccio’s skill is not limited to the gym, either. She’s also conquered multiple V14 boulder routes, a level typically ranked in the “Elite” echelons of bouldering, and considers herself more of a boulderer than a sport climber overall. She explains she got into sport climbing first because, “When I was younger, I had to mostly sport climb because in the youth competition circuit” — a level of climbing competitions for those 18 and younger — “there wasn’t any bouldering,” she says. However, once she found bouldering, she says, “I naturally loved bouldering because I think I’m a more powerful athlete and I develop muscles just genetically like really easily, so I gravitated to the powerful side of climbing, and really loved it.”

Videos capturing Puccio’s sport climbing and outdoor bouldering are stunning to watch. When she’s moving, Puccio makes incredible jumps, grabs, and upside-down holds look easy as she scales sheer rock faces and steeply angled walls. Analyzing those same sections later, even having seen Puccio make her way through, it is hard to believe any upward movement would be at all possible.

Despite major injuries — like a torn ACL and MCL and, even scarier, a herniated disc affecting her spinal cord, taking place within a year of each other — Puccio earned her eleventh National Champion win this year, in February at the downtown Salt Lake City Salt Palace. Though as a result of that second injury, she says, “I think I have slight loss of range of motion, and some of the muscles in my neck get kind of tweaked or cramped,” she adds, “Other than that, I don’t notice that much.” In fact, injury seems to have been motivating for Puccio, who says, “I did my first competition about three and a half months [after surgery for the herniated disk], and went with expectations of just climbing and seeing how it went, and potentially backing out if I felt scared or not ready, and then I ended up winning the comp and I ended up winning every single comp after that for the next five months.” 15 professional competitions. 15 wins. Post-major spine-related surgery.

Ever improving, Puccio will no doubt maintain a strong presence in the climbing world. If you spend time in Orangeville, Utah’s Joe’s Valley during fall and spring, or Little Cottonwood Canyon, you may run into her. Of Joe’s Valley, she says, she and her boyfriend “love to go there for climbing outside. It’s a beautiful sandstone rock and really fun to climb on.…Little Cottonwood Canyon’s right in our backyard, basically. It’s a really good climb. Most people don’t travel really far [to get there], so if you go there, it’s pretty small and scarce, but there are a lot of classic lines, and a lot of classic boulder problems … and sport climbing. It’s definitely a nice area to have just to go local and to not have to go very far.”

c.koldewyn@wasatchmag.com

s.guirguis@wasatchmag.com

Cover photo by Kiffer Creveling.

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Changing the Way You Ski & Board

Sometimes it feels like Millenials and the generations that have followed are derided for almost everything they do. Whether or not this derision is always valid, the truth is, post-Baby Boomer generations are causing significant fractures and shifts in the way western societies function. One such fracture and shift is happening now in the ski and snowboard industry, a shift post-baby-boom generation Bryan Dunn and Luke Zirngibl have created the website SnowSearch to acknowledge.

SnowSearch.co’s homepage. Photo courtesy of SnowSearch.

“The U.S. ski industry is in a very interesting spot right now. It has historically, very much from a spending and engagement perspective, been driven by baby boomers who had a very specific set of travel habits. They were very loyal,” explains long-time snowboarder Dunn. “What’s happening with leisure/travel and being echoed in the ski industry is this departure from loyalty — loyalty to brands, loyalty to certain hotels in certain cities, and loyalty to ski resorts.”

According to Dunn, this drop in loyalty is coupled with a “desire to explore,” and to go beyond the few mountains they were raised on by those far more loyal baby boomers.

The ski and boarding industry has noticed this shift in part, which has led to the rise

SnowSearch co-founder Bryan Dunn boarding in Hokkaido, Japan in January of 2017. Photo courtesy of SnowSearch.

of multi-passes. One of the first such passes came from global mountain resort operator Vail Resorts, Inc. Their pass, called the “Epic Pass,” functions quite differently from past single resort options. Dunn says, “Instead of buying access to one mountain, [with the Epic Pass] you bought a season pass to all mountains, and you could go to as many of them as you want as much as you like.” Vail’s Epic Pass has proved incredibly successful. Other multi-resort passes are now available on the market as a result. “If you’re someone who skis more than a few times a year, it suddenly makes sense to buy into one of these multi-passes,” Dunn adds.

SnowSearch co-founder Bryan Dunn boarding off Wyoming’s Teton Pass in September of 2017. Photo courtesy of SnowSearch.

Such desire for exploration inherent in the success of multi-passes shows in Dunn’s own habits, boarding in resorts on four continents. His experience making these trips and going through the frustrations of not only planning which resort to go to, but also where to rent any needed gear, what type of overnight space to stay in, and how to manage transportation from said space to the resort, is what inspired the website.

“We’ve always looked for some unbiased, trusted viewpoint and we’ve found that really difficult to capture. And alongside that, these multi-passes are great, but they only include lift tickets. You’re always going to purchase a hotel or a vacation rental — whether that’s a home rental, Airbnb, something else; sometimes you need gear rental; sometimes you need transportation,” says Dunn. “There’s all these disparate pieces of inventory that you need to purchase when you finally do figure out where you want to go and when, and all these things are all over the place on the web.”

Bryan Dunn and Luke Zirngibl’s RV which they used to drive across country from Boston to Utah. Photo courtesy of SnowSearch.

A business-minded individual himself, it was the combination of Dunn’s project pitching and the more technical-minded Zirngibl’s insights and skills that made SnowSearch, which aims to answer these problems, possible.

SnowSearch.co offers convenience at levels other ski websites have only brushed up against. From the start, the site is bursting with information. Current snowfall amounts for a variety of ski resorts scrolls across the top of the screen. Stories by local skiers and snowboarders, that know the resorts they cover, line the left-hand column. A map featuring nearby resorts lines the right.

The main feature of the site — the ability to simultaneously search for resort passes, gear rentals, and lodging — sits just below the scrolling snowfall information, right next to the SnowSearch logo.

Resort detail on SnowSearch.co. Photo courtesy of SnowSearch.

Type in a resort, choose a date range, select the number of people you’re looking to plan for, checkmark what other components you need to arrange, click “Deals,” and you’re matched with relevant information you would normally have to use multiple tabs for, all ready for you on one site. Dunn and Zirngibl see this as the only logical future for ski and snowboard planning. “We wanted to create one centralized environment where you can both find good trusted information based off what matters to you most, whether that’s where the most snow’s coming, or which resorts are nearby on your pass, or who has the best music, or ski party on the books for the next couple of weeks, and then book whatever you need for that trip,” Dunn says.

He adds, “We believe the industry needs something like this. It’s very sophisticated from an operational perspective, very sophisticated from a back-end tech perspective, but if you look at consumer-facing tech it’s super old-school, which has always worked just well enough,” he says. “As demographics start to shift, we’re confident we can provide a better channel for the industry to reach younger generations, who will represent the majority of spend within a few years. We’re eager to open up our platform to legacy stakeholders with the vision that the more comprehensive our site is from both an information and inventory perspective — as SnowSearch grows into a metasearch for the broader snow sports space — the better we can position the industry as a whole to engage the future consumers of these amazing sports.”

c.koldewyn@wasatchmag.com 

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Review: Beaver Mountain Ski Resort

Two hours from Salt Lake City, just past Utah State University, sits Beaver Mountain Ski Resort. Though of modest size, it has a significant history as the oldest continuously family-owned ski resort in the US. Opened first by Harold and Luella Seeholzer, the resort is run today by Marge Seeholzer, who joined the family when she married Harold’s son, Ted, as well as their daughter Annette West, son Travis, and her husband and his wife.

At a total of 828 acres accessible via 48 different runs, which can be used by skiers and boarders, Beaver Mountain might initially seem easy to overlook for its smaller size when compared to the big players in Utah’s ski resort industry.

The lodge at Beaver Mountain Resort. Photo credit Beaver Mountain Resort.

While it is small, it’s well cared for, and the size gives the resort a friendly intimacy harder to find in other settings. This year of strange snow patterns, Beaver Mountain is an especially good option, having received more snow this season than any other resort in Utah, according to Ski Utah.

Beaver Mountain boasts both groomed and mogul runs. An intermediate skier myself—I’ve skied from the time I was eight years old to now, but never enough each season to improve all that much—the green and blue groomed runs I tried when I visited on Wednesday, Jan. 24 were all enjoyable and doable.

The greens were, as seems common, more like the skiing approximation of a walk in the park, with plenty of time to slow down and enjoy the scenery and less emphasis on having skill. Since the scenery is stunning on these runs, it’s not hard to relax moving at a calmer pace.

After a few greens to warm up, I started to try the blues to challenge my skill at not dying when trying to reach the bottom of steeply angled slopes. Every blue I tried posed enough challenge to keep me careful, but not so difficult that I was constantly terrified of falling hard enough to break something. In the end, I avoided falling at all.

I took some time in between runs to eat in the resort’s lodge where a fresh-cooked meal was available for under $10 and made right in front of me. The gardenburger I ate, after deliberating over their fairly extensive menu, was perfectly cooked and delicious in flavor. I’m already craving another one.

By the end of the day, I had spent just over three hours on the mountain, managed to get five of my slow-fall runs in and wished I could stay just a little longer to get a few more.

Despite its small size and the regrettably long drive, it takes to get there, Beaver Mountain Ski Resort has a lot to offer. Cheap prices are one of those things, with day passes at just $50 for the whole mountain from its operating hours of 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

c.koldewyn@wasatchmag.com

Photo credit Beaver Mountain Resort.

 

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