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Bears Ears in Retrospect

The southeastern corner of Utah has seen numerous changes over the past year as Bears Ears National Monument was first established and successively shrunk. Although the battle over the borders has been steadily building since 2010, the history of Bears Ears dates back to long, long before this.

Utah. USA. Detail of Sand Island petroglyph panel along San Juan River. Colorado Plateau. Photo courtesy of Scott Smith.

The first people to inhabit the Bears Ears region were the ancestors of modern native tribes. They existed here for thousands of years before the first Mormon settlers reached the region, and have a history as complex as any other civilization. Understanding all the intricacies of this history is a job fit for a full team of archaeologists, but — fortunately — the important points are simple.

Because multiple tribes lived in this area throughout its history, today tribes that no longer reside in Utah still have important ancestral connections to the land, and all these ancestral people left behind hundreds of thousands of artifacts that now scatter the Bears Ears region. This means that modern tribes, like the Hopi, Zuni, Ute Mountain Ute, Ute Indians, and Navajo, have strong cultural, historical, and spiritual ties to Bears Ears.

The next main inhabitants of this region were the Mormon settlers. In 1879 they set out on the infamous “Hole in the Rock” journey to settle the then barren area near the San Juan river. Though they encountered and fought against numerous obstacles, including blasting a 2,000 foot passage down to the Colorado river in order to cross it, the pioneers made it without any loss of life. By 1880 the road was open and the settlement of Bluff had begun. Since then, Bluff and other settlements near Bears Ears, like Blanding and Monticello, have grown into proper towns and seen generations of families carve a living out of Utah’s sandstone deserts.

Unfortunately, these two groups that both have historic and cultural claims to the land, do not see eye to eye on how to use it. The current inhabitants of Blanding, Bluff, and other border towns have grown up exploring the wilderness around them and using it to graze cattle. They’ve been free to roam relatively unrestricted and even collect or sell many of the artifacts they find. To them, this is life. Changing it would be enormously difficult. The tribes, however, see the destruction that is happening to their ancestral lands — mostly in the form of large-scale looting of and vandalism to the artifacts there — and are not pleased.

Utah. USA. Silvery lupine (Lupinus argenteus) in bloom above Hammond Canyon. Manti-Lasal National Forest. Canyon walls are eroded Permian-age Cedar Mesa Sandstone of the Cutler Group. Photo courtesy of Scott Smith.

This is why the Navajo, in June 2010, presented the first proposal to protect Bears Ears to Utah Representative Bennett. The Navajo went around speaking to all the elders of the Navajo nation and other tribes with interests in the area to create a map of all the areas that needed protection. Representative Bennett lost his election that year so the Navajo did not release their map until April of 2011. In July of that same year, Utah Dine Bikeyah (UDB), a Navajo organization set up to specifically handle the process of protecting Bears Ears, turned the map and proposal into a short book and distributed it to political leaders across Utah and Washington D.C. The idea of protecting Bears Ears was now fully on the table, and the debate began.

It took two more years before the state of Utah had a real proposal in response. It came in the form of the February 2013 Utah Public Lands Initiative (PLI). The bill, proposed by Utah Representative Bishop and supported by Utah Representative Chaffetz, sought to solve many of southern Utah’s land debates in one giant compromise. The peak of this was Bears Ears. The tribes, now aligned in the Bears Ears Intertribal Coalition, wanted Bears Ears to be protected at a size of 1.9 million acres, with the authority to manage the land placed in their hands.The state of Utah wanted to ensure that the people of Bluff and Blanding had their interests represented as well, and wanted to keep the area open to future economic development.

Although nearly three years of debate, discussion, and compromise went into the PLI, it ultimately failed. The tribes eventually pulled their support from the bill, saying that Representative Bishop was continually unresponsive and in the end excluded the tribes from having management authority over the Bears Ears region. By the time the 114th Congress had ended in late December 2016, no vote had been taken on the PLI.

The tribes knew that this was a possibility from the beginning, and so, planned for a backup. They initially sought to have the region protected as a National Conservation Area with the help of the state of Utah (this was the PLI), however, they also knew that the president could establish a National Monument and protect Bears Ears without the state’s help or consent. The Intertribal Coalition had therefore been lobbying President Obama and Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell in case the PLI were to fall through. When it became clear that the PLI would not gain the votes it needed before the end of the 114th Congress, President Obama designated a 1.35 million acre chunk of land in southeastern Utah as Bears Ears National Monument, and granted the tribes’ request for management authority.

Protestors congregate on the Salt Lake Capitol to protest shrinkage of Bears Ears. Photo by Nick Halberg.

The Utah delegation, and many Utahns near the new monument, saw this designation as an obvious abuse of the Antiquities Act, the 1906 law that allowed presidents the authority to create national monuments, and a huge overreach by the executive. Almost immediately, the Utah delegation began lobbying president-elect Trump. Senator Hatch was so influential in this lobbying that Trump mentioned him on multiple occasions while discussing the monument.

The first step by the Trump administration in the Bears Ears conflict took place in April of 2017 when Secretary Zinke began touring and evaluating all the monuments designated in the last 21 years. The entire process was wrapped in suspicion, however, as Zinke’s final report on the monuments was not officially released until long after the tour was complete.

On December 4, 2017 President Trump travelled to Salt Lake City to once again use the Antiquities Act to determine the borders of Bears Ears National Monument. This time, however, the monument was reduced by roughly 85%, from a size of 1.35 million acres to 200,000 acres. Grand Staircase-Escalante, a monument designated by Bill Clinton just shy of 20 years ago, was also reduced from 1.9 million acres to about a million acres. The reductions were met with applause from the Utah delegation, and boos from thousands of protesters who took to the Capitol steps a few days before Trump’s arrival.

Across the country, the reductions were met with the same mixed reaction. A bigger question plagued the action: was it legal? The Antiquities Act does not explicitly designate the president the power to reduce monuments, though borders have been altered on a few occasions in the past. Now, the courts will decide the fate of both Bear Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante as the Intertribal Coalition and a collection of environmental groups have sued the president.

Protestors congregate on the Salt Lake Capitol to protest shrinkage of Bears Ears. Photo by Nick Halberg.

The Utah delegation, not willing to leave their victory in uncertainty, have proposed two bills to codify the president’s reductions. Representative Stewart introduced H.R. 4558, which will solidify the borders and create a new national park in one of the monuments’ sections. Similarly, Representative Curtis introduced H.R. 4532, which also aims to codify the reductions to Bears Ears. The bills are being deliberated over in a congressional subcommittee now.

The history of Bears Ears is complex, and the debate is far from settled. As the court cases and legislative pieces progress, the possibility of Bears Ears borders once again being altered is high. There only seems to be one thing certain about the landlocked, arid corner of Utah: it has made, and will continue to make, big waves.

n.halberg@wasatchmag.com

Cover photo courtesy of Gary German.

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Bike Riders Selection Know-How for Utah

Contributor article by Sally Writes. Photo by Flo Karr on Unsplash. 

Pinkbike’s 2016 literature survey indicated that 75% of bike trail users are predominantly male, with Utah’s Moab trails attracting younger travelers between the aged 19-29. This is a significant switch from 2014, where the age group ranged between  25-45. There is no doubt the bi-pedaling mechanism is extremely versatile in its usage for both adventure seekers and economic commuters alike. This is especially true if you are planning to explore the many versatile bike trails within the State of Utah.

Get the ride

When it comes to knowing how to choose a good bike, the thought of freedom becomes stifling. Knowing your bikes and how they perform in various terrains, especially in Utah’s sand dunes or mountain trails, is more than about trial and error. You need to go in fully armed to make the best use of your consumer right to buy.

Options are the riders choice

Not all bikes are designed the same as is reflected by the brands and models available on the market.  That said, you want to know the easiest equation for making your selection.

The predominant types of bikes are hybrid, road (sometimes known as touring bikes), mountain and city/commuter. Each one is designed with a specific usage in mind because topography, like people, varies. With Utah spanning over three significant physiological provinces, getting behind the right sets of riding bars makes all the difference.

Paved Bike Trail for Test Drives

You can opt to go for a bike ‘test drive’ in one of your chosen terrains or in the Basin Recreational. Park City’s Basin Recreational is considered a family-friendly bike path which boasts views from the surrounding landscape. The path’s quaint appeal is mainly its ‘shoe tree’ which has been around since the 70’s and is historically known for showcasing shoes and the mural painted underpasses.  There are several ways through which the park can be accessed such through The Field House, Deer Valley and Willow Creek Park.

Off Road, in sand and rock

Alternatively, you can explore some of the more natural, yet ruggedly appealing offerings; namely the desert trail, sand dunes and slick rock in Moab. Some people like to explore Bureau of Land Management open area formerly known as the Little Sahara. As the name suggests, it’s sand mountains of nearly 700 feet. The bike trails network is provided by Cherry Creek, Black Mountain and Jericho. So, if your adrenaline requires fueling you won’t find a better challenge. Be warned, it is a ‘dirt bike’ trail.

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Changing the Way You Ski & Board

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

c.koldewyn@wasatchmag.com 

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Ephemeral Made Permanent

The best aspect of winter in Utah is the greatest snow on Earth. People travel all over the world to experience some of the greatest terrain provided by the Wasatch Mountains. In the winter, there are locations that receive upwards of 50 feet of snowfall in a season. It’s no wonder thousands of people travel to Utah to engage in the plethora of snow sports available. One of the most interesting things about snow, however, is snow itself. The variety and types of snow seem endless. There is even a subject known as snow science, which you can earn a degree in through Montana State University. As beautiful as snow is, there is so much we don’t know about it. This is what makes photographing snow and snowflakes that much more special.

Photographing snowflakes with Kiffer in Salt Lake City, Utah on Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018. Photo by Peter Creveling.

Photographing a snowflake comes down to having the right kind of gear. Since the first photographs of them in 1885, taking a photo of a snowflake has become significantly easier. You no longer need to attach a microscope to your camera, and you no longer have to wait until the film is processed to see whether or not you captured the perfect photo. Today, taking a photo using a DSLR allows anyone to get great photographs. Even with modern gear, there are a few things you will need to get a great shot.

First, you will need magnification. Snowflakes are really small. The average snowflake ranges in size from a few micrometers to a few millimeters. To get this magnification, it is necessary to use a macro lens, which allows you to shoot close-up photography and make objects appear greater than life-size without having to perform any significant zoom — all of the magnification is in the lens. To get even greater magnification, use an extension tube to help you push beyond the limits of your lens. An extension tube physically extends the lens further away from the body of the camera, allowing you to adjust the focal length for increased magnification.

Photographing snowflakes with Kiffer in Salt Lake City, Utah on Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018. Photo by Peter Creveling.

Second, you will need an old piece of dark fabric. The idea is to have a material that is dark in color to contrast the color of snowflakes. It is also used to catch the snowflakes as they fall. The frayed fibers of an old fabric will catch a snowflake and suspend it above to prevent heat from being transferred that would otherwise melt the snowflake. Snowflakes that land on metal surfaces, for instance, would turn into a water droplet instantly. Try using colors other than black to help bring out the beauty of each snowflake, but make sure to keep the color dark.

Third, it is important to have good lighting. Almost always use some sort of external light source. Providing your own light helps you capture the exact photo you are looking for. It is rare that you will get a photo of a snowflake when direct sunlight is present, so using an external light source will help bring out the elegance of the individual branches and their reflectivity to light.

Photographing snowflakes with Kiffer in Salt Lake City, Utah on Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018. Photo by Peter Creveling.

It’s important to note that taking photos of snowflakes requires a lot of practice. First, you have to wait for snow, and not every snowstorm produces the picturesque snowflakes we commonly envision. It will take a lot of patience as well as keeping warm in the cold, but with luck maybe you can be the first to find two snowflakes that are alike.

 

Photographing snowflakes with Kiffer in Salt Lake City, Utah on Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018. Photo by Peter Creveling.

 

 

 

 

 

p.creveling@wasatchmag.com

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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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Enjoying the Snow in Snow Canyon

Utah is famous for its five beautiful national parks, Zion being the most famous of them all.

While lesser known, there are plenty of state parks in the area that offer many of the same views and amenities as the more popular Zion National Park for a fraction of the cost and a fraction of the crowds.

Photo by Esther Aboussou-Shaw.

Snow Canyon State Park located in Ivins, UT just outside of St. George is a wonderful example of this. This beautiful state park is located just one hour west of Zion National Park, and, while not as large, contains a very similar landscape and quite the selection of hikes to keep you busy.

At $6 per vehicle, the entrance fee for Snow Canyon State Park certainly won’t break the bank. Camping is $20 a night for a basic site, and $25 for a campsite with hook-ups, water, and electric. The 27 campsites are set against a backdrop of stunning red and white sandstone that southern Utah is famous for.

Snow Canyon was founded as a state park in 1959 and was named after Mormon settlers Lorenzo and Erastus Snow. The park is famous for its cinder-cones, lava flows, and tubes that have formed over the years after the Santa Clara volcano erupted.

Photo by Esther Aboussou-Shaw.

Though the campground is small there is plenty to keep you busy. Hiking, biking, and horseback-riding trails are available to explore in the 7,400 acres of Snow Canyon State Park. Out of the 38 miles of hiking trails, I would recommend the Johnson’s Canyon, Whiptail, and Cinder Cone trails. Johnson’s Canyon is an easy two mile hike that leads to great views of an arch spanning 200 feet, reaching it after winding through lava flows and red rock canyon. Whiptail is a bit longer at six miles roundtrip but is still fairly easy and accessible. The Whiptail trail is great for hikers and bikers alike and it’s a great way to take in the flora and fauna, with many plants that are native to Snow Canyon observable along this trail.

If you’re looking for something to challenge you, Cinder Cone trail is the way to go. This hike is difficult — even being only one and a half miles round trip. What makes the effort worth it is the end sight of a crater that was left behind when the Santa Clara volcano erupted.

While Snow Canyon certainly has its own unique features because of its volcanic origins, there are still many similarities in its landscape to Zion National Park, such as the eroded sandstone waves, red rock towers, and sandstone cliffs. Additionally, because of the mild weather year round in the St. George/Ivins area, Snow Canyon is open year round. The campsites are also accessible year round. Hikes may sometimes close due to flash flooding or maintenance, but updates are usually posted on the park’s website ahead of time.

Photo by Esther Aboussou-Shaw.

Until word gets out about how awesome Snow Canyon is, you can avoid the crowds and enjoy the solitude while taking in all the beauty that southern Utah has to offer.

e.aboussou@wasatchmag.com

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Snowshoeing Guardsman Pass

When snow hits the ground, temperatures drop, and days become shorter, it can be a struggle to find motivation to do anything outside. Utah’s most popular snow attractions are skiing and snowboarding, but what is there to do besides this?

I’ll tell you: snowshoeing up Guardsman Pass in Big Cottonwood Canyon. This scenic byway connects Brighton to Park City. While the main road is actually closed during the winter, it is still an option to drive up, park at the road, and take off on the snow.

First things first, you have to find the best snowshoe rental. Our own Outdoor Adventures department at the University of Utah rents snowshoes for $10 a day, or $15 for the weekend. The rental also includes a set of poles if interested. It is suggested to make rental reservations in advance. You can make them by calling (801) 581-8516.

Photo credit Sierra Marty.

If there are no open rentals at OA or if you can’t make it up to campus to grab a pair, you can also rent a pair of snowshoes at the REI Sandy or Salt Lake City locations. Members can get a pair for $12 the first day, and non members can get a one day rental for $15, and $10 for every additional day with a deposit of $100.

After you’ve got your snowshoes, you’ll need some other equipment. A water resistant pair of snow boots and snow pants, a warm coat, a pair of gloves, and a beanie to keep yourself comfortable in the cold canyon temperatures are highly suggested. Another thing you should make sure to bring is a camera, because you won’t regret capturing the beautiful winter snow around all the forest trees, trust me.

Guardsman Pass is a great place to go snowshoeing because it is just far enough that you can get away from any city life, but only about a 40 minute drive from campus. The trails aren’t very steep, the snow is always great, and the landscape is beautiful. Getting there is typically easy also, because Big Cottonwood Canyon is maintained all winter long. The best time to go snowshoeing in Guardsman is definitely around 3 or 4 p.m. when the sun is barely starting to go down, but there is still enough light and the temperature is still bearable. At this time, the sun will be hitting the snow and the trees just right, making for some fantastic pictures.

Snowshoeing is a great winter outdoor activity and it is something for all ages and experience levels. The best part is that it keeps you completely dry and warm  as long as you put your snowshoes on the right way. Winter snow can last up to February or March in Utah, making it a perfect activity anytime during the winter and even early spring. Before the snow melts, whether it’s at Guardsman Pass or anywhere else in the Wasatch, I highly suggest going out to explore the greatest snow on Earth on foot.

s.marty@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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