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.

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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Make Your ‘Mark

When I told people I was learning to telemark ski, I was met with a baffled, “Why?!” Why would I pick a quad-burning, knee-banging, slippery new sport with a learning curve when I could just continue on my merry downhill way?

The first time I slid spread-eagled down a slope, I admit I missed my alpine bindings. And the second time. And the third time. The truth is, for at least my entire first day out on tele gear, I felt like a baby giraffe on roller-skates—awkward, gangly, and confused. However, I was quite possibly the happiest baby giraffe around, because whenever I did drop into a clean turn, it felt absolutely fantastic.

After about three runs, fantastic became fatigue. All the downhill runs in the world cannot prepare you for the burn of well-linked telemark turns. It is possible to parallel telemark, or “paramark,” which means making turns on tele skis without dropping the heel in a full stance. This is a huge help especially when learning to avoid gassing out within your first hour free-heeling. However, even while paramarking, a well-balanced neutral stance is crucial to avoid flying forward and face-planting. If you can navigate a mogul field or drop a cliff with telemark bindings, rest assured you can do it on alpine bindings. It doesn’t take long on a pair of tele skis to realize that this sport will make you strong, well-balanced, and confident both on free-heel and fixed-heel equipment.

Once I was ready to try some softer, off-piste (ungroomed) snow, the fun really began. Frankly, I wasn’t fully committed to the whole telemark thing until I dropped a turn in powder and felt fresh snow hit my face. When you make telemark turns, you are alternating lunges. It seems obvious, but this results in a deeper crouch, bringing you closer to the snow compared to alpine skiing. In powder, this significantly improves your chances of getting those coveted face shots.

Out of powder a lower stance puts you in closer contact with the terrain of a slope; moguls feel bigger, steeps feel steeper. It’s more difficult to blast through features and you’ll likely take longer to get down the mountain. In the backcountry, after spending hours slogging up a slope this more prolonged descent means you’re going to get every last ounce of enjoyment returned from that sweaty climb you made.

Compared to regular alpine downhill bindings and boots, tele gear is light as a feather. The accordion-pleated toe in tele boots also accommodates a much more natural gait while walking. So, when you decide to take off your skis and boot-pack in resort, you’ll be amazed at the newfound ease and speed with which you find those last powder stashes. While alpine touring or randonnee equipment is comparable in weight, it can out-price decent telemark gear by hundreds of dollars. If you’re looking to break into the world of backcountry skiing without breaking the bank, telemarking is definitely worth a try.

After spending winter break getting the hang of telemarking, I’d say I now feel like a puppy on roller-skates instead of a baby giraffe. Alpine skiing is the easy choice, but I can attest there’s an exclusive coolness factor to telemarking. Competing bumper sticker slogans from the 1980’s say it best—“Free the heel, free the mind!” and “Drop knees, not bombs!” are met with “Fix the heel, fix the problem!” But one K2 sticker sums it up: “randonnée: French for can’t tele.”

c.simon@wasatchmag.com

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