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Adventures

Wasatch Winter Mountaineers

Through each season, the peaks of the Wasatch transform with the elements to take on a radically different façade,

Courtesy of Jonathan Scott.

and during the period of snowfall and cold, this range is an entirely different beast. While the notion of climbing to the apex of one of the many cloud-carving goliaths seems intimidating and prohibitive to most in the valley during the summer, doing so while the Wasatch is encased in snow is downright unimaginable. For some impetuous local mountaineers, however, the endeavor is exhilarating, sublime, and worth the struggle and risk. If you’re an individual with a bit of cardio, grit, and interest in learning, surmounting one of the glistening peaks in the winter is merely a matter of will and determination.

Sports like this, of course, are contingent upon connecting with a community; knowledge is often best passed-down by a mentor, as it is not wise to approach these expeditions alone (particularly on one’s first attempt). While social media may be among the modern practices keeping people either indoors or buried in their smartphones, it has served as an incredible mechanism for bringing together like-minded folk from all walks of life. This sport is no exception.

Courtesy of Tanner Maxwell.

While many local groups have existed long before the induction of social media in contemporary consciousness, platforms like Facebook have played an essential role in uniting and organizing mountain junkies and their activities. The most prominent and active among them include the longstanding Wasatch Mountain Club and the accurately named Wasatch Mountain Wranglers, collectively comprised of 7,375 members (the latter having the most at 5,502). Each group routinely organizes a variety of expeditions into these mountains throughout the year, serving as an inclusive environment in which locals at any level of practice can get connected with exhilarating trips, as well as experienced, knowledgeable, and passionate mentors.

Over the course of the past few weeks, I reached out to some of the impetuous Utahns to determine just why they do it, what it takes, and what advice they may have for newcomers. At every level of expertise, these determined individuals all have something that drives them to these peaks.

Nicole Frazier Condie is a lifelong Mapleton local, mother, self-proclaimed mountain-lover, and is relatively new to winter mountaineering. She explains that while she has spent her entire life treading the slopes of the Wasatch, she has found recently that “the winter brings a gift: a quiet extreme. You experience this rush while at the same time you feel so at peace —  safe but not safe at all. It is an absolute juxtaposing experience. Its beauty is truly something straight from Narnia.”

Courtesy of Nicole Frazier Condie.

This quiet extreme is something Condie came to learn most profoundly on her perilous group expedition up South Thunder Mountain (11,154 feet) last March. While the weather had fared well for her group throughout the day, Condie says “the wind changed dramatically up after 10,500 feet to 50-60 mph gusts. One smaller woman on the team was actually lifted and fell from the wind during the last push to the summit. As sharp ice flurries burned past my face I worried that the wind would pick up one of those large pieces, sending me over the edge. But I pressed on, unable to see or hear the others in my party.” Despite the treacherous conditions, including — at one point —  making a wrong turn  toward a precarious ravine and later having to learn how to glissade with an ice axe on-the-spot. Condie persevered nonetheless, leaving her with the sense of accomplishment.

Courtesy of Nicole Frazier Condie.

“I really had done something. I really lived in that moment. Something beautiful truly awoke in me,” she says.

Each individual capable and driven in winter mountaineering seems to develop their own intimate relationships with the mountains and motivations for climbing them. Joe Butcher, an experienced mountaineer and Kaysville native, affirms his motivation for climbing “really is spiritual.”

“I enjoy being reminded how small I am in the grand scheme of things. I also enjoy the difficulty, and training my mind with the fortitude to overcome some of the most difficult obstacles I have ever encountered. My experiences in the mountains have provided me with the wherewithal to endure many other trials in my personal life,” he says.

Jonathan Scott, a Utah County native and active all-season mountaineer in the Wasatch Mountain Club, finds himself drawn to these peaks in winter due to the sublime challenge they hold.

Courtesy of Jonathan Scott.

“[In the winter] there are more variables that make it more difficult, but also more rewarding, like solving a 1,000-piece puzzle as opposed to a 100-piece puzzle. I like challenges, and the winter offers that for me,” Scott says.

Scott urges newcomers not to shy away from the challenge, however daunting it may seem.

“Don’t be so afraid of a winter objective that you don’t try it,” he says. “Just like when you project a boulder problem or climbing route outside of your current abilities, start at the bottom and work your way up the mountain, even if it takes you 10 times.”

Tanner Maxwell is an avid Wasatch Mountain Wrangler and photographer. He finds a sublime aesthetic and self-actualizing potential on these ridges.

“Solitude and incredible beauty that can only be found in high places in the winter is what drives me to the Wasatch in the winter months,” Maxwell explains. “Challenging myself and setting summit goals is what keeps me sane. There is no place like the mountains, and seeing them firsthand in all types of weather and seasons is what makes it worth undertaking. I feel like I better myself when I am up there.”

Courtesy of Tanner Maxwell.

Each of these practicing winter mountaineers had their own perspectives on the greatest risks associated with the mystifying sport and tips to ensure a safe and positive experience, but one thing that remained consistent in their responses was that avalanches are among the greatest possible dangers. One must always be mindful of conditions on the mountain — to “know before you go,” if you will.

Mike Gibby, a well-seasoned climber and mentor figure in the Wasatch Mountain Club with dynamic experiences both domestic and international, claims that the ideal conditions to keep an eye out for are “low avalanche danger, snow consolidation, cold weather — to help stabilize the snow — good visibility, and no wind.” It is ultimately best to pick a cold, clear day and push-off as early as 2 or 3 a.m. This is such common practice in the sport that it has been named an “Alpine Start.”

Gibby also advises aspiring winter mountaineers to recognize that safety must be taken as the primary objective, and to always “be prepared to turn around if conditions change.”

Other potential dangers associated with this sport are dehydration, exposure to the elements, snow and ice hazards, like melting cornices and snow bridges, and, of course, involuntary sliding and falling.

Regardless of outdoor experience level, potential newcomers to winter mountaineering are encouraged to 1) begin by practicing in shorter and less precarious winter hiking locations to familiarize themselves with the equipment and conditions, 2) take at least one avalanche course, 3) develop a habit of assessing snow-levels on the Utah Avalanche Center site, and 4) acquaint themselves with people well-experienced in the practice, like the Wasatch Mountain Club and Wasatch Mountain Wranglers. It is also important to 5) be transparent with yourself to ensure you have the composure to lead your body up such an icy mountaintop. Aside from a firmly level and clear head, the essential equipment for winter mountaineering largely depends upon conditions, but the basics include:

Courtesy of Jonathan Scott.

>ice axes

>crampons

>full-shank boots

>many layers (top and bottom) for varied conditions

>multiple glove layers

>water with freezing prevention methods

>helmet

>sunglasses/goggles

>gaiters

>trekking poles with snow-baskets

>snowshoes or skis with climbing skins for the approach

>short, mountaineering, or climbing rope depending on route

>avalanche safety equipment (like a beacon, shovel, and probe)

>knowledge of weather and avalanche conditions

Courtesy of Tanner Maxwell.

While you don’t necessarily need to break the bank when attaining equipment, particularly while you are still uncertain whether or not the sport is for you, you should always err on the side of quality equipment, since cheap and unreliable gear can either ruin your day or even cost you your life. It is a general rule of thumb that any gear you will trust your life with — this includes ropes, harnesses, carabiners, etc.— should not be bought for just this reason.

Though virtually any snow-covered peak or route can be taken on with sufficient gusto and preparation, some of the most popular and appraised are the Pfeifferhorn, the Everest Ridge, and Timpanooke routes on Mount Timpanogos, South Thunder Mountain, White and Red Baldy, Lone Peak, Mount Olympus, and the Tripe-Traverse goliaths: Dromedary Peak, Sunrise Peak, and the Broadsfork Twins.

Stay safe out there.

Title photo courtesy of Tanner Maxwell.

d.rees@wasatchmag.com

 

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The Nine

It’s unlikely that if you have ever driven by 9th and 9th on a Thursday night you haven’t noticed an assortment of bicycles. Similar to what you’d see at a dog park, you will find bikes and their owners from every spectrum of the community. Heavy duty mountain bikes, racing bikes with colorful LEDs, even vintage Wheelies that look like they belong more in an art museum than in a bike stand lining the area starting at 9 p.m. every Thursday.

The 999, more commonly known as “The Nine,” is an all inclusive bike ride that traverses the moonlit streets of Salt Lake City.  It welcomes people from every skill level, to the point that they follow a “no-drop” rule, which means they go no faster than the slowest biker. Like many of my college friends, I look forward to Thursday nights when bicycles reclaim the roads and my commute to school becomes a kind of playground, forcing automobile traffic to yield.

The Nine gather in mid-January on the corner of 9th and 9th just before 9 p.m. Photo by Conner Ashton.

“I bet it was just two guys drinking on their porch one summer night who came up with the idea, or some biker junkie with piercings that started the ride,”  some participants theorize. The truth behind the story is that it started with a man named Naresh Kumar. Kumar is 33, handsome, tall, slender, with dark brown hair in a bun and warm brown eyes. He has a degree in bioengineering and chuckles when I tell him how some people believe “The Nine” started. Five years later, Kumar is happy there is still a mystery behind the origin story of the nine because he started the event with the intent of making it leaderless, where the people riding were in control.

The cruiser ride in Boulder, CO inspired Kumar to try to start something similar in SLC. Kumar didn’t have much riding experience before he started The Nine. In fact, he remembers that he had to go to his mom’s house and dig through the garage to find the rusty bike that he’d used as a teenager. Kumar and his good friend Skylar then began to meet every Thursday on the corner of 9th and 9th at 9 p.m. and the two would set off. Slowly the word spread and the two-man team grew into what it is today, with nearly 200 people some nights.

Some of the bikes gathered before The Nine sets out. Photo by Conner Ashton.

Originally called “An Evening in the City with Naresh,” the popularity of the location and time quickly caught on and the name 999 stuck. In the winter months the numbers of bikers wane, but there are still people who are willing to brave the weather all 52 weeks of the year.

Each person creates their own meaning as to why they ride The Nine, using it as a way to socialize, exercise, or even to protest our current air pollution. T.R., suited up in a retro purple and green ski onesie to brave the 32 degree weather, leans on his bike and says, “this is my time. My wife knows that Thursday nights is when I get to socialize and get out the funk of routines.”

Kumar hopes to create an environment that brings people of all ages together; a place without the daily distractions of phones and media that often keep us less connected, and hopes that this event is one way to make our community more welcoming. Kumar compares the ride to having a child: you set guidelines, hope that people listen to them, and cross your fingers that the original idea doesn’t stray too far from the core values. So far, that’s what has happened. Despite there being an emphasis on making the event leaderless, there are “administrators,” which are some of the original members that model bike etiquette and help up a rider who might have taken a spill on the TRAX lines.

s.guirguis@wasatchmag.com

Photos by Conner Ashton, c.ashton@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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Hiking Through the Mental Illness Struggle

Contributor piece by Jenna Baker of Wildhorn Outfitters. Published first at https://www.wildhornoutfitters.com/blogs/sessions/its-like-going-home on January 30, 2018. 

Almost everyone today has been, or knows someone who has been, affected by anxiety, depression, or some kind of addiction. In the words of Jessica Grambau, “we’re in a heavy epidemic right now–whether it is drugs or depression or anxiety,” which is why she started New Heights Hiking.

New Heights Hiking is a nonprofit, Utah hike group for anyone who has struggled with any type of mental illness. As Jess herself has anxiety she understands how overwhelming it can be. The group supports people in all walks of life and helps them to find happiness and wellness in nature. They meet for hikes throughout the year to explore trails in the Utah mountains.

She invites everyone who wants to come and states how if you’re having a bad day, a hike can be the perfect remedy to help you heal. You can make new friends, get outside, and experience something you haven’t before.

Through New Heights Hiking, Jess has found a way to share her passion by encouraging others to get outside and enjoy the wild around them.

When asked what “share the wild” meant to her she explained, “for me I guess ‘share the wild’ is just showing everyone how beautiful it is and how magical it can be for your life to just take that hike or take that walk or take that hour to just experience something that you wouldn’t have seen otherwise. I feel more alive, I feel way more alive out here than I could ever probably feel at home. I think when I’m traveling and hiking, I am at home. That is where my home is…that’s where my heart is and that’s where I feel the most alive.”

With the following Jess currently has on Instagram, she wanted to use it for more than just pretty pictures of her on a mountain. She wanted to give a purpose to her platform, to voice her thoughts on the sometimes taboo topic of mental illness.

We fully support Jess in her cause. To raise awareness, we are selling Jess’ Session T-shirt, where 100% of the proceeds go to New Heights Hiking. Help us raise awareness for mental health while sharing the wild!

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Camping in Style

I packed my bag just like I had hundreds of times before. Sleeping bag on bottom, stuff sack with clothes above that, and water bladder, camp shoes, food, etc. crammed in all the gaps. This time, however, I left out the stove and warm pajamas. There would be no need for them because I would be sleeping in the backcountry’s most luxurious accommodation: a yurt.

A true yurt is an impermanent, circular, dome-shaped dwelling. The form originated among the nomadic peoples of Central Asia. Modern, American yurts have deviated greatly from their origins. Today, they are often built on permanent wood platforms, use thick, reflective insulation to cover the walls, and have a host of modern amenities. Utah is one of the few states in the United States that has yurts on public lands available for rent.

Hiking to the yurt. Photo by Nick Halberg.

Typically, reservations are booked months in advance for one of these coveted spots, but when I looked at the online calendar (found at brorayurts.org), I saw an opening. I called the reservation number the next day and booked the first of five yurts in the Lily Lake Hut system. This series of ski trails and yurts are located in the northern part of the Uintas, near the Wyoming border, and are managed by the Bear River Outdoor Recreation Alliance. Weeknight fees are $50 and weekend fees bump up to $75, after you pay the one-time $20 fee to become a member of BRORA. Compared to other getaways, it’s a pretty good deal.

With a heave and a thud my friends and I lowered our packs out of the truck and into the mud puddle that was the parking lot. Sitting across from us on the horizon were the peaks of the Uintas, covered in snow and shimmering beautifully. The trail started out a slushy mess, but soon turned to solid snow. After walking short two miles later we arrived at our home for the night—Bear Claw Yurt.

Fireplace inside the yurt. Photo by Nick Halberg.

We were instantly impressed. The yurt itself was located in a secluded grove of Douglas-firs, had a picnic table outside, an outhouse close enough for the inevitable midnight run to relieve oneself, and a stack of firewood that’d last any pioneer through the harshest winter. Indoors was even better. Three bunk beds lined the left wall, allowing enough room for eight people to sleep; the center was filled with a circular table and four benches; and to the right stood an old cast iron wood stove that looked as if it’d come straight from an Alaskan trapper’s cabin. There was no running water or electricity, but lines fed propane to a Coleman stove and lantern, and the cabinets were stocked with dishes, pots, and pans.

A sunset from Lily Lake. Photo by Nick Halberg.

The sun was still reasonably high in the sky when we arrived so we picked our jaws up off the floor, dropped our packs, and headed farther down the trail to the nearby Lily Lake. We arrived with just enough time to catch the glowing pinks of a fading sun. Within a half hour of our return to Bear Claw we were seated around the little table enjoying warm bowls of chili, Hawaiian rolls, and grilled asparagus. The perfect ending to a peaceful weekend.

 

 

n.halberg@wasatchmag.com

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Forecasting the 2017-18 Snow Season

Utah’s ski industry is looking for another year of record-setting revenue and snowfall this year. Last year, Brighton recorded 633” of total snowfall, and at the time of Ski Utah’s press conference, it was on track to match that. Since Utah’s ski industry has a huge impact on Utah’s economy, this is great news.

In 2016, Utah’s ski industry recorded $1.4 billion in revenue and $8.2 billion in tourism and visitor spending statewide, according to the 2016 report from the Utah Tourism Industry Association. That’s $1 billion coming to the state in tax revenue to pave roads, educate kids, and protect national parks. With all the exciting events and changes happening for the 2017-2018 season, skiers, snowboarders, and general Utah citizens alike have a lot to look forward to.

What’s New

Alta, celebrating it’s 80th anniversary, decided to get itself an early anniversary present by installing a new high speed quad lift to replace Cecret and the Supreme lifts. Now riders will be able to access more runs in less time.

At Snowbird, The Creekside Lodge was remodeled and includes new dining options along with a “boosted breakfast” to keep you going all day long. The Creekside Lodge is also a great place to grab a hot chocolate before heading back out to the slopes.

For those who are just learning to ski, Park City has installed a new covered chairlift designed to serve beginner runs.  The area will provide a comfortable and spacious place to learn and relearn how to pizza and French fry.

Upcoming Events

For the 20th year in a row, Deer Valley will be hosting the FIS (International Ski Federation) Alpine Skiing World Cup from Jan. 10-12, 2018. Come see future olympians compete for a spot on the Olympic team for the 2018 Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea.

In the spring, Park City will be hosting the Spring Grüv Celebration which includes concerts and Pond Skimming.

d.valiquett@wasatchmag.com

Header photo courtesy Ski Utah.

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Remembering a Past Victory: Utes make a strong showing at their first Collegiate Mountain Bike National Championship

Contributor story by Michael Polei, of the U Collegiate Cycling Club, who can be reached at michaelpolei@gmail.com or 720.210.4740. 

The University of Utah Collegiate Cycling Club placed 4th at the USA Cycling Collegiate Mountain Bike National Championship in Missoula, Montana on Oct. 31 of this year.  Seven racers from the U travelled to Missoula to compete in Downhill, Dual Slalom, Cross-country (XC), and Short Track XC events.  Racing occurred at a former ski resort—Marshal Mountain—under grey skies and plenty of snow.  This has become the expectation for Collegiate Mountain Biking National events, as they typically occur in late October due to a race season that doesn’t start until September.  

The IMCCC is a regional conference that covers the Utah/Nevada area.  At these races Category A, B and C races are held in each discipline (DH, XC, STXC, DS).  It takes a handful of races at Cat C to work up to Cat B, then a handful of podium spots in Cat B races to qualify for Cat A.  Typically it takes racers 2+ seasons to work though the ranks towards Cat A.  Cat A racers qualify for nationals if they race in 3 Cat A races throughout the season and are top 5 on their team.  The Nationals race is held by USACycling, which overseas all of the various leagues (such as IMCCC or colorado’s RMCCC, etc.).  So, in short, we qualified for Nationals via the IMCCC league races.

Celebrating its 20th year this year, the U’s club had its largest mountain bike club season ever, with 63 registered mountain bike members.  The U competed in regular season races during the Fall Semester with the Intermountain Collegiate Cycling Conference, which hosted three races at Sundance Resort, Nordic Valley, and Brian Head Ski Resort, involving participants from    Westminster College, Utah State University, Southern Utah University, Utah Valley University, and Dixie State.  The U team claimed the conference title this year, winning all three events, largely due to the team’s high turnout for the racing season.  

Cross-country racing occurred early Friday morning, with racers lining up at the start in sub-freezing conditions half an hour before sun crept into the valley.  The U’s’ Zach Calton finished 5th in the grueling XC race that covered 14.5 miles and 4,500’ vertical with an overall 3-lap time of 1 hour 44 minutes.  Snow persisted through the event, with over an inch of accumulation by the last lap.

Friday afternoon the dual slalom racing kicked-off what would become a long and muddy battle. In this race format, riders pair head-to-head on 2 side-by-side courses that wind down the mountain, with average lap times around 20 seconds.  U racers Team President, Dakota Janes and Calton finished 12th and 13th respectively.  

At the end of Day 2 Practice, the sun snuck out for a quick minute, giving riders one chance to practice the course without the snow and rain that was otherwise consistent with the week. PC: Danny Fendler.

Saturday morning, heavy snow and rain postponed the short track XC race, and gave racers a chance to warm up on the newly constructed downhill trail.  With over 130 downhill racers competing, the conditions of this newly built trail varied from run-to-run during practice, with the course getting more packed in, firmer and faster as the day wore on.  Utah racer Michael Polei finished 6th in the Downhill race, followed closely by teammates Calton, David Dickerson, and Janes, securing four Top 20 finishes for the team.  Strong finishes came from racers Josh Graber and Danny Fendler in the downhill event.

 

 

 

 

Zach Calton participated in all 4 events and achieved the highest overall score to secure the title of Individual Omnium National Champion.

Saturday evening the U’s XC racers lined up for possibly the toughest event of the week, short-track XC.  The 1.1 mile course was lined with fans and spectators as racers competed in a 20-minute plus 3-lap format.  Calton, a Business major, competed in all 4 events and placed highest combined score to secure the Individual Omnium National Title.  

Representing the women’s team at nationals, Freshman Ellise Shuman had a stellar first season of collegiate racing, finishing 14th in both the XC and short-track XC races.  An experienced racer with 4 years experience in the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) high-school league, racing for Alta High School and the competitive ProXCT series, Shuman dominated the regular season, securing the Intermountain Club D1 Endurance Omnium Leader award before travelling to Missoula.  Shuman compared collegiate to high-school or pro level racing, saying, “[Collegiate racing is] more fun!  Everyone is pushing each other to go a little faster, or try a downhill race, and there’s less pressure than the other races.”  

 

The IMCCC expects to see collegiate mountain biking grow substantially over the next few years, as Utah’s NICA high-school racing program (utahmtb.org) is one of the largest growing leagues in the country.  Students and Alumni interested in racing or supporting their team are encouraged to reach out to their respective clubs. Contact info for each team can be found at IMCCC.org.  

 

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PRT & U

Have you ever wanted to try a cool recreational activity, but didn’t have the knowledge, equipment and/or money for it? Well, you’re in luck. Our beloved University of Utah offers credit and noncredit classes in a wide range of activities. They are listed under the “Parks, Recreational, and Tourism” or PRT section of the current semester’s class schedule. Among the classes offered are opportunities to take a weekend long trip to Zion National Park to learn landscape photography, or discover the basics of outdoor rock climbing, and that’s only the beginning of it.

While classes are offered fall, spring, and summer semesters, types of classes can vary depending on the season. The search acronym PRT within the semester catalog can be followed by a few different letters: L for land, S for snow, and W for water. This allows students to narrow down what kind of recreational sport or activity class they want to take. Most classes will cover the cost of food and most equipment. Some classes require camping, which means you’ll need to bring camping essentials like a sleeping bag, pillow, and tent, while classes like Pistol Marksmanship do not require camping equipment. Make sure to read the class description so you know what you’re getting yourself into, though don’t let concerns about equipment keep you from going as any outdoor equipment you don’t have can be rented from Outdoor Adventures in the Student Life Center for cheap. For classes that require electronics (like nature photography), students are able to check out cameras and other equipment through the Marriott Library via the Knowledge Commons. One other thing to keep in mind is travel, as all PRT classes require students to make their own way to the class rendezvous location.

This fall semester, I decided to take Rock Climbing I. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but it turned out to be the most fun I’ve ever had while taking a college class. Offered for one credit or noncredit, this class met just once for two hours, to go over the syllabus, discuss class procedures/expectations, and plan for needed equipment before meeting up in Veyo, Utah where class actually began. Unfortunately, students had to find their own way down to Crawdad Canyon. Nick Rushford, our instructor, suggested carpooling to save money on gas and provided a sign-up sheet for just that purpose. Though it seems awkward to drive 4.5 hours with random strangers, it turned out to be refreshing to speak to new people.

A week after our mandatory meeting, it was time to pack the car up and head to Veyo. There, we learned the fundamentals of outdoor rock climbing. All equipment was provided (including helmet, harness, ropes, etc.), except for climbing shoes. The class lasted three days, starting on a Friday and ending that Sunday. For those taking the class with credit, the only additional requirement was to pass a short quiz and write a short essay due a few weeks later once class ended. I highly suggest taking advantage of the PRT classes because they’re fun, you can get credit for it, you get to learn about something you’re actually interested in, and it’s a whole lot cheaper through the University than through a third party. Get out and explore.

a.duong@wasatchmag.com

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Satire: Extreme Sledding at ShredFest

The previous decade has served witness to a plethora of new and unusual pastimes emerging from the hearts of a listless population and the internet. With most recreational mediums having already been exhausted, outdoor adventure junkies have deferred to radical remixes of past traditions. These remixes have come to fruition in the form barefoot mountain climbing, unicycle fly-fishing, umbrella base jumping, competitive rock and bark chewing, and most notably, the controversial activity of extreme sledding.

Following the announcement of a large-scale extreme sledding extravaganza in Salt Lake City this November, the SledShred420 Tributary SledFest, what was once an isolated internet phenomenon has drawn fiery scrutiny from concerned Utah locals hoping to rescind the event altogether. At present, one question rests on the minds of local legislators and media representatives alike: What on earth is extreme sledding? And how did it come to be?

The singular traceable origin of this practice is a sequence of YouTube videos published between 2013 and 2014 by a bearded young man identifiable only by the screen name SledShred420. Over the course of that year, the YouTuber accumulated mass viewership as his videos grew progressively more outrageous; what began as tame sled and snowsuit reviews quickly transitioned into death-defying sled runs. The Colorado local took his collection of sleds — some circular, some railed, and in one instance simply a tarp under his knees — to some of the state’s most precarious slopes and plummets, including the Capitol Peak knife-edge ridge. SledShred420 became a spark, and subsequently a martyr, for the emergent sport when he tragically perished in New York City after sledding down the Statue of Liberty’s nose — his death a result of choking on a gourmet hot dog at a food cart in downtown Manhattan later that day.

With the help of online forums and social media, SledShred420’s supporters and extreme sledding activists coalesced to form the Extreme Sledding Federation (ESF). They are behind the SledShred420 Tributary SledFest.

On the event’s final day, festival attendees plan to link hands and perform an unprecedented ‘Flying W’ run, sledding down from the Millcreek ridge, up and over the Cottonwood Divide between Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons, and ultimately land (ideally) somewhere near Red Pine Lake, where they will have lunch and take a group photo.

At the moment of the festival’s announcement, fervent protests ensued, primarily from concerned parents and environmentalists — the latter claimed sledding on bare inclines damages natural foliage and ecosystems. Many of the demonstrators present were unfamiliar with the organization and were drawn out by the insatiable compulsion to protest something.

A startling detail not present on the ESF’s website is the fact that over 65 percent of its members are children. While the organization requires a permission slip for all minors aspiring to join its ranks, Utah mothers fear that even the presence in the city is harmful.

One exasperated mother at last week’s anti-ESF rally believes the organization puts her daughter at risk.

“Last week, Sally said that she wanted to go to sledding. I told her that we couldn’t go, since it hasn’t snowed yet,” the mother, Brittany Smith says. “Shortly after, she took her sled and flew right off the roof, destroying our garden and covering herself in scrapes and bruises. Sure enough, the first item on her search history was that darn extreme-o website. These maniacs must be stopped.”

Another parent I spoke to, however, was supportive of the ESF and its upcoming festival.

“Well, the kiddos have been raving about this fad for weeks now,”  Jim Bumps says. “It’s a little dangerous, sure, but as long as it gets them outside and off the Xbox, I’m okay with it. So what if they get a little beat up? When I was their age, I used to chase rattlesnakes with a stick and wrestle the neighbor’s horse. I turned out okay.”

His children are currently practicing members, and they plan to train for the festival on Olympus’ northern face later this week.

At present, it is uncertain how long protests will continue, though it certainly appears that the festival is still on. A recent tweet from Powers advises that “[Utah locals] better wax their sleds or stay inside — it’s going down, and going down quick.”

The outcomes of this largescale event are anyone’s guess, but it is advised that you wear a helmet if you plan to participate and avoid hiking in the canyons that day if you do not.

d.rees@wasatchmag.com

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Snowbird Makes Most of One-Star Review

In recent years, the digital review economy has legitimized itself in the consumer world and now acts as a pivotal influence in how companies evaluate and conduct themselves in the public eye. Everyone and their dog is given a voice on the internet, and a negative review could be greatly detrimental to a company, particularly in its early stages. Fortunately for the Wasatch’s local Snowbird Ski Resort, this hasn’t been the case as they’ve brilliantly converted a negative review into positive press just in time for the upcoming ski season.

Snowbird’s first ad in its new One-Star campaign features an ironically hypercritical review by Greg from L.A., who complained that the resort is “Too advanced — I’ve heard Snowbird is a tough mountain, but this is ridiculous. It felt like every trail was a steep chute or littered with tree wells. How is anyone supposed to ride in that? Not fun!” Rather than taking this scathing review in humility or shame, Snowbird’s advertising team imposed Greg from L.A.’s quote onto a high-definition photograph of a skier carving through thick powder on a steep run, a sublime snow-covered Cottonwood ridge looming in the background.

What Greg from L.A. may not have recognized while composing his critique is that Snowbird prides itself on providing a uniquely advanced, challenging experience on the mountain; many visitors, in fact, find steep chutes and tree wells to be particularly appealing. Juxtaposed against an alluring photograph taken at the resort, this negative review is contorted into praise, and it even serves to challenge prospective visitors to take on the mountain that was too advanced for Greg from L.A.

In a recent interview with the Associated Press, Dave Amirault, Snowbird’s director of marketing, attributes this bold approach to the contentious and polarizing tone that the public currently resonates with most, reflecting, “What we’ve realized is in print advertising, advertising in general, nobody wins the middle. What we wanted to do is be unique to ourselves and make something that will challenge the reader.” For Amirault, Snowbird’s technicality is foundational to its identity: “If you value great terrain, deep snow, and long runs then Snowbird might be for you.” In direct response to the notorious reviewer, Amirault states that “This person, Greg from Los Angeles, didn’t quite understand what Snowbird is all about. We welcome people from all around the world but be on your ‘A’ game. This is a very unique resort compared to some other places.”This wildly compelling ad serves as the first iteration of the One-Star campaign that promises at least four more treatments of similarly scathing reviews in the near future. This ad and the others to come are projected to appear in Freeskier, Powder, Ski, Transworld Snowboarding, and Ski Utah magazine, in addition to Snowbird’s social media channels.

d.rees@wasatchmag.com

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