C.Simon Author Claire Simon is a whitewater and powder hound from Salt Lake City. A freshman at the University of Utah, she's excited to continue backcountry skiing, climbing, and hiking the Wasatch. Claire’s dream is to be a whitewater kayak guide and an author. In addition to being outside, she loves pirates, carrots, and Harry Potter. And, she thinks flying down a mountain on skis or in a boat is definitely as magical as zooming around on a broomstick.

Spring Skiing at Brian Head

It’s that time of year. The snow in the Cottonwoods is slushier, skis are skinnier and costumes are more flamboyant. Spring skiing is in full swing. You don’t want to miss a prime spring skiing weekend, but you really want to camp and see some red rock to get you through the last few weeks of school. Pack up your skis and camping gear and take an overnight trip to Brian Head.

Brian Head Ski and Snowboard Resort is a short three and a half hour drive from campus. Of Utah’s many ski resorts, it has the highest base elevation (9,600 ft.), serving eight chair lifts and 71 runs over two mountains, along with two terrain parks. So why would you trek out to semi-southern Utah to ski slush when there’s plenty right here in the Wasatch? A Brian Head spring staycation is epic for three reasons: cost, camping, and craziness.

Cost:

An adult weekday full-day pass is only $38, a weekend full-day pass $59 — compare that with a $79 day at Brighton, a $83 day at Solitude, and $106 at Snowbird. So whether you drive out Thursday night to ski Friday for $38 or make the trip on a weekend day, rest assured you’re getting all the wild slush of spring skiing at a fraction of the Cottonwoods’ cost.

Camping:

Since Brian Head is more southerly than most ski resorts, surrounding areas are much warmer, much more melted, and therefore conducive to camping. Camp for free overnight before your epic day of skiing without worrying about the logistics and gear required for winter camping in the snow.

Brian Head Resort is only about a 20 minute drive from free camping in Dixie National Forest. There are plenty of trees, and the area is readily accessible to vehicles, so feel free to sleep in a truck bed, sling a hammock between trees, or pitch a tent. Whatever your choice, snuggle in among that scrubby southern Utah shrubbery and red sandy soil you’ve been missing all winter long. Freecampsites.net is a superb resource to consult while selecting your site.

Craziness:

Brian Head closes for the season Sunday, April 16, meaning next weekend will be prime end of season madness. Expect all the skimpy clothing, parking lot partying, and sunny silliness that you love about spring skiing. Additionally, Saturday, April 15 will be the Brian Head Annual Bikini Slalom & Pond Skimming Contest — definitely arrive prepared for epic enjoyment, whether you participate in or watch the festivities.

c.simon@wasatchmag.com

Photo courtesy of Brian Head Ski Resort

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Coping With FOMO

I ran into my buddy at the climbing gym the other day. He was planning a weekend trip to Arizona to kayak, and this was the first I had heard about it. He didn’t even think to invite me, and perhaps with good reason. I had my own plans to canyoneer in Hanksville, Utah with my UExplore class.

Most of the time, I think taking eight outdoor education classes in a single semester was the best decision I made since coming to college. But sometimes, I realize that while I’m practicing rappelling with my classmates, my buddies are out kayaking. While I’m learning quinzee construction in the Uintas, my friends are shredding eight inches of fresh powder at Alta. While I’m topping out on my first ice climb in Ouray, Colorado, my dorm friends are splashing around in the Subway in Zion National Park. Yes, it’s a little ridiculous to regret missing kayaking with your friends when you’re descending a canyon with other friends, but it’s hard to avoid; Utah is jam-packed with opportunities to have wild adventures. And the FOMO — the Fear Of Missing Out — can be all too real. Just look at the steady stream of ski hills and climbing routes inundating any outdoorsy Instagram feed.

Should we, as “outdoorsy millennials,” plunge headfirst into every random outdoor sport that comes our way — even if this means we won’t necessarily become expert or even proficient in any of them? Or should we focus our energy exclusively on one or two of our outdoor passions, sacrificing new and novel opportunities in other venues? There’s really nobody to tell you how to enjoy the outdoors, and moreover, no perfect recipe to balance your professional and academic careers with your outdoor passions. Sometimes, when you enjoy climbing,

mountaineering, canyoneering, skiing, ice climbing, kayaking, hiking and mountain biking, it’s a struggle to live in the moment — to fully appreciate the slope you’re skiing or the slab you’re climbing — because you’re so ensconced in indecision, in fear of missing out on other adventures. And don’t forget that finals are coming up and you’ve got a paper due Monday and you really should be studying. So how do you balance it all?

First of all, still go outside this weekend — even if you have seven papers due Monday. It’ll keep you sane. There’s no “recipe for recreation,” so go out and build your own adventure. Take eight UExplore classes if you want to — or maybe take two — or maybe take none. Let yourself be fully swept away when you’re kayaking and let climbing completely rock your world. Personally, the best means I’ve found to really live in the moment outside is to push myself as hard and as far as I possibly can. I want to be sure I am fully appreciating, exploring, and living in whatever space I find myself. There’s no use thinking the grass is greener or the peaks are higher somewhere else.

c.simon@wasatchmag.com

Photo courtesy of Claire Simon

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Raft through Southern Utah

Southern Utah is home to famous rock climbs, backpacking, and world-class canyoneering. It’s destination Red Rock. But it’s not all sandstone slabs — it’s also a place for epic whitewater rafting. On a stretch of the Colorado River called Westwater, in a little Utah town called Cisco,  adventure is waiting. Here is your itinerary:

Two months to 10 Days from Launch: Call the Bureau of Land Management at 435. 259. 7012. to get a permit for Westwater Canyon. Permits are issued on a first-come, first-serve basis, so depending on the time of year, call as early as possible. Your permit includes a $10 fee per person that must be paid 30 days in advance or at the time you make your reservation. You can check the reservation calendar through the BLM website in order to see availability for your planned trip dates.

Day 1: Drive to Cisco (four hours from Salt Lake City). If you arrive at the Westwater put-in a day early, camp for $10 a night. Bathrooms and potable water are available.

Day 2: If you are floating Westwater Canyon in a single day, start as early as possible. If not, you can put in around noon or later without much difficulty. Seeing as the first day is mostly flat water, plenty of snacks, along with your best songs, jokes and games, are a must. There is a class II rapid, Wild Horse, at mile 4.7 and a class III- rapid, Little Dolores, or “Little D” at mile 7.7.

If you are floating Westwater early in the season, bring warm clothing. Water is frigid and requires at least a wetsuit — preferably a dry suit — to comfortably navigate.

There are 10 campsites in Westwater Canyon, assigned at the ranger station at the put-in. If the Canyon isn’t crowded and you have your pick of sites, the Lower Little D site is beautiful, and has easy access to a kitchen area by the river with scads of secluded tent sites higher up the canyon wall. Look for the glowing canyon walls and red rock features illuminated by the sunset.

A fire-pan is required for each float group on the river, so make good use of your’s with a roaring fire at night. You will also need to bring your own groover or wag bags to dispose of waste.

Day 3: Explore Outlaw Cave. Approximately 100 yards down and across the river from the Lower Little D campsite is Outlaw Cave, a fun little stop filled with “outlaw” artifacts like old pioneer shoes and a wood-burning stove.

Then, get ready for rapids. Beginning less than a mile below the Lower Little D camp, Marble Canyon, Big Hummer, Staircase, Funnel Falls, Skull, Bowling Alley, Sock-it-to-me, and Last Chance are all notable rapids in a four-mile stretch in the canyon. These rapids range from class III to IV depending on flow levels. Skull Rapid specifically deserves special attention, as Skull Hole near the end of the rapid on river right and  Room of Doom further down on river right have been known to trap boaters. At higher flows, you don’t want to take a swim in the Room of Doom. Note that the rapids are largely constant in this stretch of the canyon, and are best navigated by someone with previous experience in the canyon. If you do have a mishap in one of the rapids, get back into your boat as quickly as possible to be prepared for upcoming features.

You might want to stop for lunch at some point when the canyon opens up after Last Chance Rapid. Also, keep an eye out for cliff-jumping opportunities as the canyon widens. A couple miles’ worth of flat water paddling will bring you to the Cisco take-out.

As you are driving out of Cisco, a ghost town on the road back to Highway 6 offers some spooky scenic views and photo opportunities.

Resources for guided and private trips:

https://www.blm.gov/programs/recreation/passes-and-permits/lotteries/utah/westwatercanyon

For permit information:

http://www.americanwhitewater.org/content/River/detail/id/1840#main

For river flows and features information:

https://www.oars.com/adventures/westwater-canyon-rafting/

For professional guiding services:

http://redriveradventures.com/utah-rafting/westwater-canyon/

c.simon@wasatchmag.com

Photo courtesy of Ruth Eipper

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Whitewater Thrills in Jackson

A Chicago city slicker with Ray-Ban sunglasses wrapped around his head with twine, a rugby princess with flowing red locks, a blind former professional gymnast, a blonde pun master with a brilliant fake Australian accent, me, and a handful of middle-aged parents. This was the crew that rode the Snake River through Alpine Canyon, just outside of Jackson Hole, Wy. Our fleet consisted of three hard-shell kayaks, two inflatable kayaks, and one raft. Our emotions were somewhere between panic attack and out-of-our minds stoked, corresponding to our varying degrees of river-running competence.

The morning of the descent, we drove about an hour from Pun Master’s family cabin in Driggs, Id. to the put-in. While some of our crew bumbled around unloading trucks, inflating boats, and running a shuttle vehicle to our takeout point, I was tasked with instructing our Chicagoan city slicker on righting a flipped inflatable kayak in the river.

The first stretch of river was calm with blue skies. The Chicagoans, having never set foot nor paddle in a river before, were frantically paddling over every little riffle in sight. Easy class II and III-waves were punctuated with stretches of flat, where cookie-eating and game-playing prevailed. After about two miles on the river, we came to Haircut Rock, the second class III rapid of the day and the only one of any real consequence. It involved a sharp right turn in the river, to avoid the rapid’s raft-flipping namesake. Eddy lines roiled around the infamous rock, threatening the kayaks in a Bermuda Triangle of unseen conflicting currents, ultimately flipping and holding our Pun Master and his hard shell in a hole, or recirculating current. I nearly shot straight into his flipped boat, skirting him as widely as I could. The city slicker clung to his own paddle and watched the water in front of him so closely that he failed to even notice the “Bermuda Hole”. Those of us that witnessed the flip shouted encouragements to roll back up and watched with avid trepidation to see whether our friend would stay in his kayak. Pun Master ended up taking a swim, emptying the water from his boat with some difficulty considering its drain plug was makeshift-stopped with a wine cork. The Chicagoans looked on in a state of impressed, frazzled awe as Pun Master relayed to the group the weird forces of the currents converged in the canyon.

For the next three miles, small surf waves and irreverent women’s rugby team sing-alongs, conducted by our fearless red-headed rugby leader, kept everyone occupied. The trip took a turn for the frigid when we lost the sun to gray clouds and Alpine Canyon enveloped us on either side in deep gray rock. We were soon upon the Big Kahuna class III rapid, closely followed by the class III Lunch Counter. Our cold woes quickly dissipated and the wave trains carried us hard and fast down the river.

Less than 7.5 miles after the put-in, we reached the take-out. Jackson Hole burgers and a bouldering wall at the park in town were beckoning. We’d made it — city slicker, blind gymnast, rugby star, fake Aussie, and all.

Photo by Eric Simon

FOLLOW OUR LEAD

Put In: West Table put-in has changing rooms, toilets, and super-hero rangers who will take note of your party logistics and inform you regarding river flows and any debris or hazards in the canyon. The ranger station has a manual pump for inflating kayaks and rafts. There is no drinking water available, so be sure to bring enough with you.

Features: The Alpine Canyon run of the Snake has two class II rapids, five unrated surf waves, and seven class III rapids. However, at low to moderate flows, Haircut Rock, Big Kahuna, and Lunch Counter are the three crucial points of challenge on the run.

Takeout: Sheep Gulch takeout is at mile 7.4 of Alpine Canyon. It is critical that rafts take out here, as it is the only point accessible to vehicles via takeout ramp. Kayakers can run some fun wave trains just below Sheep Gulch and still easily trek out to the ramp.

Area Attractions: If you’re looking to log more time on calmer water, a trip to Alpine Canyon is also the perfect opportunity to float around Grand Teton National Park, with 10 scenic lakes open to non-motorized vessels. The Tetons offer prime camping, hiking, climbing, and backpacking opportunities. If jet-boiled Ramen just won’t cut it after a cold day on the water, venture into Jackson Hole for some killer post-float food. The gargantuan nachos at Lift Jackson Hole are a personal favorite.

Do not forget warm, waterproof layers. In the spring, snow run-off makes this canyon run even more bone-chilling — especially out of direct sunlight.

If you have no experience running whitewater, Jackson Hole is home to scads of commercial companies that can guide you down the Snake River. Jackson Hole Whitewater and Mad River Boat Trips are two of the most reputable companies.

c.simon@wasatchmag.com

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Clean the Air- 6 Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

There’s a reason Utah’s slogan is “The Greatest Snow On Earth.” The legendary winters that define the state aren’t only about world-class light, fluffy powder, though. Winter means looking outside each morning unsure whether you’ll see a sparkling winter wonderland or a thick, concrete-colored wall of inverted pollution. Winter means 4.457 million skier days during the 2015-2016 ski season, but also the most “F” grades for the poorest air quality of any state in the 2016 annual State of the Air report from the American Lung Association. Just as there are thousands of ways to enjoy Utah’s winter, there are thousands of ways to advocate for change in Utah’s air quality. Some of us might be ready for radical change to clean our air, but others are looking for more conservative baby steps. There’s a range of activism, but anyone can make a difference.

Political Activism

As a registered voter and Utah resident, active involvement with Utah legislation regarding air pollution is the first key step to address winter inversion. Call your local government officials and state representatives, telling them your concerns regarding air quality. Inform yourself about legislation’s views on pollution. Visit https://www.breatheutah.org/legislation to easily learn about which items of legislation you should support and oppose to support clean air.

In the 2016 election, Alta ski patroller Bill Barron ran as an independent, single-issue candidate to bring awareness to climate change and specifically to the perils of Utah’s pollution issues. His goal, although not attained, was to receive 10 percent of all votes. His proposed Carbon Fee and Dividend would implement federal fees on fossil fuels. Barron’s campaign was in conjunction with the efforts of the grassroots Citizens’ Climate Lobby, which provides local and national outlets for climate-conscious members to participate in correspondence with elected officials, the media, and their local communities. To join, visit https://citizensclimatelobby.org/join-citizens-climate-lobby/ .

Utah is home to several grassroots organizations and professional-local partnership organizations all advocating toward a common goal to improve Utah’s air quality. In January, the Bright Skies Utah Clean Air Contest awarded $45,000 in prize money to local entrepreneurs to launch their designs for air improvement, sponsored by UCAIR (Utah Clean Air Partnership), Chevron, and Zions Bank. If you think you have the next biggest innovation in clean air, enter the contest this September. Visit http://www.growutah.com/c2c/bs16 to learn more about the 2016 contest and winners.

Tech-Savvy Transportation

Forty-seven percent of Utah’s air pollution is due to car emissions. Carpooling, using public transportation, and making fewer trips by car (especially on red and orange air quality days) can drastically reduce the negative effects of the winter inversion. ShareLift is a Utah-created ridesharing app designed specifically to coordinate skier and snowboarder carpools to and from local resorts. Like Uber, ShareLift has built-in payment, driver ranking, and pickup locator functions. Join ShareLift online here: http://shareliftapp.com .

According to Utah Clean Energy, if every Utah home reduced its energy usage by 10 percent, the state would save over 7,000 million cubic feet of natural gas annually. Lower your thermostat to 70-72 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter and unplug electronics when not in use. Or, you can invest in ENERGY STAR certified energy-efficient appliances and buy efficient CFL or LED light bulbs. More information on electricity-friendly measures can be found at http://utahcleanenergy.org/how-to/energy-efficiency .

Idle Free Heat is a Utah company that designed a mechanism to drastically improve heat retention in vehicles without a need to keep engines running. This is for those wanting to reduce idling while still staying warm on bitter cold winter days. Visit https://www.idlefreeheat.com to learn more about the Idle Free Heat product and to contact the company regarding installations.

c.simon@wasatchmag.com

Photo by Chris Ayers

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Documenta-skis for Every Occasion

Walking between classes, the sky is pure sapphire and the sun is shining. You’ve maxed out your designated skip-school-to-ski days and you’re stuck on campus missing prime opportunities for goggle-tanning, powder-hunting, and groomer-ripping. OK, so you might not be able to throw on your skis and make turns when you finally get home at 5:00, but you can definitely pop some popcorn and turn on one of these epic ski movies– which are almost as good as the real thing.

  • Afterglow

Coming in at a mere 12 minutes, this short film is perfect for getting in a little ski appreciation time on your study break. Featuring deep, feather-light Canadian powder at every turn, this Sweetgrass production is shot entirely at night with the use of eight 4,000-watt multi-colored lights. One segment even lights up the skiers themselves in LED jackets and leg cuffs. The glow-in-the-dark effect of Afterglow makes every face shot and backflip shine that much brighter.

  • G.N.A.R.

G.N.A.R. describes the evolution of the epic ski game, “Gaffney’s Numerical Assessment of Radness.” The G.N.A.R. game began as a chapter in Rob Gaffney’s ski guide to Squaw Valley, Squallywood, and quickly evolved into an entire culture of pranking, peeing, and general mountain madness after its inception by Shane McConkey and his friends. This film combines hard-core lines with wacky shenanigans in a way that is goofy, hilarious, and out of control.

  • Jumbo Wild

If you’re looking for a side of environmental activism to go with your powder shots, Jumbo Wild is for you. Chronicling the struggle to keep British Columbia’s Jumbo Valley from commercial development, this Sweetgrass Productions piece portrays the Jumbo wilderness not only by its sweet pillow lines for skiers, but also by its sacredness to local Native American peoples and its solitary, sheer beauty. Jumbo Wild will give you all the epic footage you’re after while inspiring you to stand up and protect the land you love.

  • Valhalla

If you feel like getting your hippie vibes flowing while getting your ski fix, watch Valhalla. Based around one wandering skier’s discovery of a mystical (fictitious) free-spirit backcountry ski village called Valhalla, this film combines raw, childlike appreciation for snow with a wacky cast of characters and shot after shot of over-your-head powder lines. Highlights for this film include a nude skiing segment and a psychedelic ski-color-firework montage.

  • Paradise Waits

Paradise Waits is a TGR film featuring good old epic powder and aggressively vertical big mountain lines around the world. This film travels during the 2015 winter, from Japanese pillows to guerrilla skiing in the streets of Boston. Keep an eye out for your favorite local skiers including Angle and John Collinson and Sage Cattabriga-Alosa. In addition to its trademark TGR jaw-dropping footage, Paradise Waits offers a look into the quirky goofball personalities of some of your favorite big name skiers.

  • Eddie the Eagle

If you’re thinking you’re in the mood for a “real” movie with charm and Hugh Jackman, go for Eddie the Eagle. Rather than chronicling the powder shots of big-name skiers as do most ski films, this movie is more story-based, telling the tale of British aspiring Olympic ski jumper Eddie Edwards approaching the 1988 Winter Olympics. This film might not give you your powder or park fix, but it will certainly make you laugh and motivate you to get up, follow your dreams, and ski your heart out.

c.simon@wasatchmag.com

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Meet U grad and epic climber, Conrad Anker

I bustle in from my car exactly on time, jogging so I won’t be late. I hop-scotch my way through a snowbank onto the sidewalk and clutch my interview questions as I burst into the hotel lobby. There he is in a baseball cap and a flannel. Conrad Anker, climbing wonder. He is visiting Salt Lake City from his home in Bozeman, MT to deliver the keynote speech at Utah Clean Air’s (UCAIR) Inaugural Annual Report dinner. Anker smiles and waves from across the room as I walk his way. He draws himself up to his entire impressive height and shakes my hand, introducing himself as “Conrad.”

Conrad Anker, I would later learn, loves blueberries and the color turquoise. For the self-proclaimed “voracious reader” to pick a favorite book is to un-favorite all the others (but he still recommends Lao Tzu’s Cold Mountain book of parables to me). Also, he has a sweet-tooth. I start asking him how Conrad the University of Utah student became Conrad the Incredible Climber, and he chuckles. He knew since age 14 that climbing was the most important part of his life, making his decision to come to the U an easy one. “It had mountains on the brochure,” he says. He studied parks, recreation, and tourism to get himself every bit closer to climbing up peaks, cliffs, and ridges.

In college Conrad enjoyed his business case study classes. He took shifts living in a shantytown established in the Student Union to implore the university to divest from an apartheid-riddled South Africa. He was “kind of a nerd,” who liked his pens and science, and “basically an introvert.” Today, representing the North Face and speaking in front of massive crowds is vastly removed from where he wants to be — escaping into the mountains to climb. He surrounds himself with positive people, choosing simply to “let the pessimists go.”

When Conrad was in college, climbing wasn’t as simple as a trip to the Student Life Center Summit wall. It was an extension of backpacking and mountaineering—a means to revel in the outdoors. Still, he’s glad the U.S. now has 600 climbing gyms operating and 400 more in the works, because it means more people are exposed to the intrepid values of climbing that guide Conrad’s life. For him, the sport embodies kindness, positivity, and trust.

Conrad chooses to let traditional measures of success go. He worked as a carpenter after graduation not to bring in the bank rolls or get in front of a camera, but to have more time off for climbing. “My success is defined by my own internal compass, not by what society says,” Conrad says. Climbing isn’t just a sweet gig or a way to escape responsibility. For Conrad, it’s a means to be where he needs to be—outside. Conrad possesses a hyper-situational awareness that tugs his attention during our interview and leads him to feel cooped up just discussing an indoor engineering job. But during high-stress mountain expeditions, this hyper-focus is a necessity. It seems Conrad was made to be outside.

As for the high risk aspect of his feats, Conrad says his drive toward the life-threatening is written into his DNA. This isn’t to say he careens into impetuous adventure at every opportunity. He welcomes the opportunity to reevaluate his life and his trajectory, having done so most recently after surviving a heart attack 10 weeks prior to our meeting. When asked whether he can ever picture himself not climbing, Conrad replies, “Well I’ll always be climbing stairs.” He no longer feels the need to pursue ultra danger treks. Simple climbing and spending time in the mountains are what make him happy. This secure, easy awareness of purpose has brought Conrad through life and around the globe.

c.simon@wasatchmag.com

Photo courtesy of Jimmy Chin
Conrad Anker geared up and climbing near the team’s highest portaledge camp at over 20,000 ft.

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Q&A With Kira Parker

Kira Parker’s Instagram bio says, “I like rocks.” As a solid V8 climber working on V10’s outside, a member of the University of Utah climbing team, and a competitor at last year’s USA Climbing Bouldering Youth Nationals, Kira doesn’t just like rocks — she dominates them. As a freshman majoring in math and computer science, a participant in the Putnam Mathematical Competition and the Mathematical Competition in Modeling, and a Presidential Scholar, she’s dominating her studies as well.

Q: So how did you get involved with climbing?

A: When I lived in Helena [Montana], there was an athletic club and it had a little climbing wall in the racquetball court and I went there when I was in second grade…I liked it! So, I joined a team in Helena that was called the Thunderchickens. I’m still friends with everybody on the team because there were like, three of us.

Q: Why do you think you have such a passion for climbing?

A: Because it’s fun! Because you get to go and try really hard and fall off rocks all day.

Q: How often are you climbing?

A: A lot! I train four or five days a week probably for two or three hours a day. And I go outside most weekends in the fall and spring. I haven’t been outside since November because there’s snow everywhere.

Q: Where do you like to climb around here?

A: In Little Cottonwood Canyon. Or in Joe’s Valley. Or at the [Momentum climbing] gym I guess if there’s snow everywhere.

Q: What’s your favorite piece of gear?

A: My shoes! I wear La Sportiva Muiras generally because they’re really good on granite and they’re not as aggressive. And then when I climb really hard boulders outside or in important competitions, I wear Scarpas.

Q: Has it been hard to balance school with climbing?

A: Yeah, especially now with college. Senior year of high school, I only took four classes in the morning and then I went to Westminster and took math. The second semester I took abstract algebra which is the hardest class at Westminster. But it was only one really hard class so I just did a whole bunch of abstract algebra and then I climbed. But now I have like four hard classes. And last semester I did research, too. I did homework and then climbed when I wasn’t doing homework. But I lived.

Q: Why did you choose the U?

A: I chose the U five days before the deadline of March 1. And I was going to go to the University of Puget Sound but I had a climbing crisis because there’s not enough climbing there! It rains too much. And so then I was going to go to Harvey Mudd College. But then I had another climbing crisis because the gym by Harvey Mudd is not air conditioned. And if you live by Los Angeles, you need air conditioning. So I ended up at the U because it’s free [with my scholarship] and there’s climbing.

Q: What is one of your favorite climbing memories?

A: I did go to South Africa in the summer, which is pretty cool by itself. And hanging out there with a whole bunch of climbers from all over the world, and having people yell at you in different languages as you’re climbing, is just really exciting.

Q: What level are you climbing right now?

A: I’ve climbed four V10’s outside…I usually climb V8. I feel like if I went somewhere and I saw a V8 I wanted to do, I could probably do it. But not always. If there’s dyno’s involved…maybe not.

Q: So what is your favorite kind of problem?

A: Weird ones! I like arêtes a lot. But not if they’re too technical because then I have to use my feet and that’s dumb. I like powerful things. And I like heel hooks. I like things with good holds that are kind of powerful and kind of weird.

c.simon@wasatchmag.com

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How to: Select a Ski Boot

When Harry Potter is preparing for Hogwarts, the big-ticket item he buys is a wand— an extraordinary instrument that channels his inner magic, transforming it to action. When skiers are preparing for the slopes, the big-ticket item they buy is ski boots— magical instruments that channel their strength and agility, transforming it to smooth turns and beautiful lines. Ski boots are the primary way that skiers connect with their skis and interact with the snow. Choosing a well-fitting ski boot is integral not only to making sure you fly down the hill like a pro, but also to ensure comfort and safety while skiing.

Flex: Ski boots may be measured by flex, or how difficult it is to flex a boot forward. An easier flex is more forgiving and translates strength easily into motion and maneuverability while absorbing jarring impacts. Increasingly stiff flex ratings help heavier, stronger, and more aggressive skiers to communicate with their skis and charge through more challenging terrain at higher speeds.

Based on your skier type, recommended flex values are:

  • soft flex (60-80 for men, 50-60 for women) for beginning to intermediate skiers.
  • medium flex (85-100 for men, 65-80 for women) for intermediate to advanced skiers.
  • stiff flex (110-120 for men, 85-100 for women) for advanced to expert skiers.
  • very stiff flex (130+ for men, 110+ for women) for expert and racing skiers.

Liners: Different liners will fit your foot in varying degrees of comfort and precision. This depends on if you are riding full days (and may nap wearing them because they are so comfortable) or you are ripping across a pitted traverse and dropping cliffs.

All boot liners will compress over time to better fit your feet, however, more aggressive or racing boots often have thinner liners that will “pack out” less. Thermoformable liners respond to your natural heat to better form to your feet after a couple days of skiing. Custom moldable liners can be artificially heated and worn to form to your feet with the most precision. This can alleviate pain for those with wide feet or ankles and prevent bone spurs from aggravation due to rubbing in ill-fitting boots. Added foot beds can also make a comfortable fit for those with high arches or unique feet.

Shell type: Varying boot shells can impact the customizability of your fit and the maneuverability of your skis. Three-piece shells offer a more progressive flex pattern in boots that allows you to evenly flex through your entire range of motion for added smoothness and balance on unpredictable terrain. Still, they do translate less energy into the skis for forward power. Four-piece shells offer a more limited range of flex that can be jarring and stressful on the body in off-piste conditions, but they efficiently transfer power into speed while skiing.

Harry Potter didn’t become the most powerful wizard after he got his wand; he had to wave it around quite a bit before he got the hang of it. As you select your ski boots, you will still need to adjust sizing and ski them for at least a couple full days before they start to feel like your own. So, put on your boots and start feeling the magic!

c.simon@wasatchmag.com

Photos by Claire Simon

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Dream jobs for the outdoor enthusiast

The dream job for most outdoor enthusiasts = spending a good amount of time outdoors and with like-minded people. Oh, and free gear.

Welcome to the lives of those working in the outdoor industry. Yes, it’s just as good as you’ve always imagined. How do you land a job like that? Workers at three outdoor retailers tell us:

Mark Cole, a business and sales executive at HippyTree Surf & Stone Apparel, graduated with a BA of social ecology from UC Irvine.

Jess Smith, vice president of Outside PR (which represents Cotopaxi), majored in communication at the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia.

Robert Shirley-Smith (see image above), sales director at Tentsile, studied human geography and anthropology at Sussex University in England.

Do you feel that your education applies to your current work?

Cole: I want to say yes because I’m a big fan of higher education, but truthfully, probably not. This type of industry and these type of jobs require a lot of on-the-job-training.

Smith: Absolutely. 100 percent. It just sets you up in terms of who you are as a person, what you like to do, and how to utilize your skills and talents the best.

Shirley-Smith: No crossover whatsoever. When I graduated in 2010 during the economic slump, there were no jobs available so I retrained as a carpenter. The founder of Tentsile reached out to me originally because of my experience with treehouses; that was involved in his goal of creating a tent that would fit all trees.

Did you always know you wanted to work with an outdoor company?

 Cole: I kind of figured it out when I was about 17 or 18 when I saw people older than myself living a pretty sweet lifestyle and told myself, ‘If they can make money doing that, I don’t see why I can’t.’

Shirley-Smith: No—I didn’t even know this industry existed back in England! My real passion was for building. But I just rolled with the punches and ended up here.

What is your favorite aspect of your work?

 Cole: I like that this industry is fun and it can be pretty irreverent at times. There’s a whole lot of lines that get crossed on a pretty regular basis and I can’t say that it shares that with a lot of other industries. It’s unique in that way.

Shirley-Smith: I respect the business’s ethics; it supports reforestation and sustainability, which aligns with my own values.

What is your all-time favorite piece of equipment or gear?

 Smith: I’m really drawn to Cotopaxi’s Kusa line of products with llama fleece and poly-insulation products. It’s helping to assist a lot of Bolivian communities because they’re working with farmers and the agricultural production there. Nobody else is doing llama. And the items look great, too.

Shirley-Smith: The Connect Model Tensile. After I survived an 11-hour rainstorm in it, I bonded with it.

Do you have an outdoor tip to share with fellow enthusiasts?

 Cole: Don’t be afraid to push your limits, but always stay within your comfort zone and be prepared.

Smith: Layer up. Always have a Buff on hand. Buff is the most versatile piece of equipment you are going to have for any sport.

What is your favorite aspect of the outdoors?

 Cole: It’s kind of like church for me personally. You are able to connect with nature on a deeper level when you step outside your comfort zone and experience new things and kind of see the raw splendor of Mother Nature.

Shirley-Smith: I grew up in the city in London, where the outdoors are viewed more as an escape from an urban environment than in other areas. So that is initially how I learned to love the outdoors, as an escape. It also helped that my parents were hippies and roamed the country with me in a van.

c.simon@wasatchmag.com

Photo by Claire Simon

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