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Best Hikes for In-Between Seasons

The end of February and beginning of March aren’t necessarily seasons. It’s a little too sunny and mushy for winter, but not warm or rainy enough for spring. For avid trail users or even casual walkers, this makes trails difficult to navigate. High elevation hikes are especially at risk for avalanches while lower trails are mucky and trapped in the inversion. Here are four of our favorite hikes to hit during this weird in-between time.

Spiral Jetty in February. Photo by Carolyn Webber

Spiral Jetty

Spiral Jetty is one of the easiest and most unique off-season hikes in Utah. If the weather is nice and the road is in good condition, this is more of a roadside attraction than an actual hike. The parking lot is a five minute walk from the jetty unless the road is impassable, in which case it’s up to three miles long. Water levels are low enough to reveal this man-made spiral of rocks, but, depending on temperatures, there might be a light dusting of snow. Get your mileage in by hiking on the oolitic sand to touch the Great Salt Lake.

Antelope Island

Another lakeside destination, Antelope Island, offers a different sort of barren beauty. In the summer, there is little protection from the baking sun and in the winter, no refuge from the ever pervasive cold wind. This means post-winter, pre-spring time is the Goldilocks of seasons on the island. Roaming around the island are herds of buffalo, and Antelope Island is one of the few places in Utah to see these impressive mammals in the wild. There is a $10 per day use fee for the area and a variety of crisscrossing trails you can hop on and explore.

Hiking up to Donut Falls in Big Cottonwood Canyon in the winter. Photo by Kiffer Creveling

Donut Falls

One of the Cottonwood’s most famous hikes, Donut Falls is usually characterized by crowded trails and full parking lots. In the offseason, both disappear, making it the perfect time to visit. The falls themselves might be frozen, an interesting view alone, but temperatures could be warm enough to let some water sneak through.

Killyon Canyon

Killyon Canyon is the best destination when The Cottonwoods are closed or bumper to bumper from ski traffic. The hike is in Emigration Canyon, just a five-minute drive from campus. Unlike the Cottonwoods, dogs are allowed up Emigration, so bring your poop bags. This time of year, there’s almost definitely snow, possibly enough to snowshoe. The trail is about 5.5 miles round-trip and gains a little over 1,700 feet of elevation. As far as Wasatch hikes go, it’s mild, but still just as scenic.

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Documenta-skis for Every Occasion

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

  • Afterglow

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

  • G.N.A.R.

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

  • Jumbo Wild

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

  • Valhalla

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

  • Paradise Waits

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

  • Eddie the Eagle

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

c.simon@wasatchmag.com

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How to: sharpen your knives

It’s always good to have a sharp knife. The better condition your knife is in, the easier it is to work with. Maintenance of your knife is important to keep you safe and preserve the life of your knife. Here are the three main stages of sharpening a knife.

The first stage is for heavy sharpening: when your blade is very dull or has damaged edges. This is when you use a coarse grit sharpener. Keeping the blade between 13 and 16 degrees, stroke the knife blade first across the grit. Repeat this process on both sides of the blade until the shape becomes a sharp “V.” When your blade gets too thick after repeated wear and sharpening, you know it’s time to retire that one. A thin blade is better than a thick blade.

The second stage is medium to final sharpening. This is for touching up dull blades. The sharpeners used in this stage can be a diamond sharpener or a natural sharpening stone, either of which can be used wet or dry. The steps to sharpen your knife in this stage are the same as stage one.

The final stage is fine sharpening a shaving edge. Sharpening fluid is a must in this stage. Use light strokes on both sides of the blade to remove any burrs left behind from the previous stages. The knife should be razor sharp after this stage. A razor sharp blade is necessary for the most efficient cutting with a minimum applied force. Remember that a sharp knife is a safe knife. Applying additional force to a dull blade is when injuries can occur.

p.creveling@wasatchmag.com

Photo by Peter Creveling

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Winter Hike to Lake Blanche

On any given weekend, the road up Big Cottonwood Canyon is dominated by skiers and boarders headed to get their powder fix. More than a few cars will pull off to the side of the road on the first bend of the S turn, however. They are headed to a more secluded day in the Wasatch, and some are finding it at Lake Blanche.

Blanche is one of the most popular hikes in the canyon and strikingly beautiful, or so I’ve been told. Just a few weeks ago, I set out with my friend Claire to see how it holds up to the hype.

Our day was perfect- blue skies, warm (for February at least), and no fresh powder. Within fifteen minutes of closing our car door, we were approaching the split from the large, mildly graded main trail to the narrow, steep footpath leading up to the lake.

Since the heavily trafficked trail hadn’t seen much snow, the path was beaten solid for us and we ditched our snowshoes. The road was nearly full of cars, but we saw others only intermittently and never had to dance that awkward tango of maintaining the appropriate distance between parties.

The trail is more or less a straight shot back and up into the canyon. It maintains a medium grade for the majority of its three miles before steepening out near the top. We gained 2,700 feet of elevation along the way, but the serene atmosphere helped me forget the altitude. Birds were chirping, the sun was shining, and I fully expected to see Bambi run by us at any moment.

At least, until we hit the last quarter. To my great misfortune, I spied Sundial Peak, the mountain that borders the lake, poking just over the ridge in the background. I thought we were getting close, maybe five more minutes.

Forty minutes later we were still trekking. Up near the top, the sun crept over the far ridge and landed on the snow, softening it. Until this point, the hike had been in shadow, keeping the trail nice and firm. Now, every step was a roulette spin as to whether or not we’d end up crotch deep in snow. The hiking turned to trudging, but the view increased exponentially.

We persevered and soon were topping out and enjoying the flat ground. The lake is completely snowed over and could be hard to pick out if we didn’t already know where it was. Sundial stood proudly in the background, urging me to think of warmer weather and a time when I could return to climb it.

After the traditional end-of-hike Clif bar and pictures, we started the return trek to the car. On the way down, we saw the fresh tracks of the split boarders we had seen at the top, and we couldn’t help but be a little jealous. Still, by the time we were cozy back in the car, our consensus had become clear: Blanche was not an overrun, over-hyped trail. It was worth it.

n.halberg@wasatchmag.com

Photo by Nick Halberg

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This Land Was Made For You and Me

Last fall, I went on a road trip up the California and Oregon Coast. For a large portion of our drive, thick, burly redwood trees created an enveloping tunnel that kept me spellbound. I realized these 500 to 2,000 year-old trees claimed this land before anyone else, and I felt privileged to share it with them.

People have cried for land conservation and public land designation for decades, and the National Park Service celebrated its monumental 100th birthday just last year. However, some have forgotten just how defining these lands are to our national identity. “This Land Is Your Land” sings about the “sparkling sands of her diamond deserts,” which may refer to the White Sands National Monument in New Mexico, or maybe the “golden valleys” speaks of Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. From the Redwood Forest National Park to the Gulf Stream waters found in Biscayne National Park, this land was made for us to enjoy.

Many have felt a rising threat against these lands, and the outdoor industry is leading a cause to protect them (see more on this story on page 10). We at Wasatch Magazine love public lands because of the life-changing, inspiring experiences we’ve had exploring them. The granite slabs we climb and the rocky trails we mountain bike along the Wasatch reside within U.S. Forest Service land. This past year, I backpacked and hiked around six national parks, and am grateful for the lands we collectively own.

This Land is Your Land. This Land is My Land.  Whether you prefer mountains, desert, sea, or sky, recreationists of all types have used the millions of acres in national parks, state parks, and Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service land. I fell in love with the outdoors trail running along the Bonneville Shoreline — where was it for you? As always, our advice is to get outside, but it’s also to protect and preserve that land we love. After all, this land was made for you and me.

c.webber@wasatchmag.com

Wasatch Editor

Photo courtesy of Mckenzie Wadsworth

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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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Beyond the Wasatch: Goblin Valley

Last year, my fiancé and I made it a goal to travel at least once a month. We visited national parks and monuments, state parks, and hot springs, and we were able to round out 2016 with 13 camping trips under our belts. This year, we started out fresh with a January trip to Goblin Valley State Park.

Goblin Valley is basically an enormous playground. There’s something for everyone; campers, hikers, bikers, and climbers. The park’s main attraction is the collection of sandstone hoodoos sprinkled throughout the landscape. Down in the valley, these mushroom-shaped rocks and towers fill your view in every direction, and each one is unique. Inside the park, there are five designated hikes.

Little Wild Horse and the Ding and Dang Canyons are just a few miles away from the visitors center and these slot canyons offer a whole day of fun. Little Wild Horse especially is very popular because you don’t need to be experienced to navigate, climb, and scramble through it.

A day use pass to enter the park is $13. If you’re planning to stay the night, there are 25 sites in the campground and two yurts available. Campsites are $25 a night, and there are options for tents and RV hook-ups. Along with that, there are showers and flush toilets, and each site comes with a fire-pit, picnic table, and shade shelter. Yurts are $80 and are equipped with bunk beds, a seating area, table, heat, A/C, and a BBQ cooker.

For weekend warriors like me, here’s your perfect three-day itinerary:

FRIDAY:

Arrive at the park as early as you can. After setting up camp, explore the three valleys of goblins. They are in close proximity to each other and offer hours of fun if you decide to trek through all of them. Pack a lunch and a lot of water. After a break, take the 1.5 mile hike to the Goblin’s Lair and relax in the fresh cool air of this enormous cavern. If you’re prepared for it, permits for rappelling down into the canyon can be purchased at the visitors center or you can hire a guide for a canyoneering tour.

SATURDAY:

Visit Little Wild Horse slot canyon, just five miles west of the Goblin Valley Visitor Center. The full loop of Little Wild Horse Canyon and Bell Canyon is eight miles, or you can stick to Little Wild Horse, 3.3 miles one way. It’s easy to navigate for all skill-levels and ages. When you get back to camp, relax your sore muscles by the fire and gaze up at the many visible stars in this Dark Sky Certified Park.

SUNDAY:

On the last day of your trip, take the easy 250-yard trail down into the valley to get a closer look at the Three Sisters, one of the most iconic formations in the park, before packing up and heading home.

e.aboussou@wasatchmag.com

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Patagonia withdraws from Outdoor Retailer

Patagonia, Inc., who threatened last month to leave Outdoor Retailer, pulled the cord. In a press release issued today, the outdoor clothing and gear company announced that it will not be attending the retail show in Utah anymore.

The action came from a resolution Utah Governor Gary Herbert signed last Friday, urging the Trump administration to rescind the Bears Ears National Monument. A statement signed by Rose Marcario, President and CEO of Patagonia, says, “Because of the hostile environment [elected officials] have created and their blatant disregard for Bears Ears National Monument and other public lands, the backbone of our business, Patagonia will no longer attend the Outdoor Retailer show in Utah and we are confident other outdoor manufacturers and retailers will join us in moving our investment to a state that values our industry and promotes public lands conservation.”

Founder and former CEO of the company Yvon Choiunard released a statement last month threatening to leave if Gov. Herbert continued to sell public lands off to the “highest bidder.” While no other companies have officially stated that they will be leaving, it’s likely that more companies will follow suit.

c.webber@wasatchmag.com

Photo courtesy of Patagonia

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Rack up on Secondhand Gear

One thing we all wonder when taking on outdoor activities: where am I going to find cheap gear? Gear is an expensive part of outdoor recreation, and the most valuable. Ever tried mountain biking without a bike or skiing without skis? Not possible. Online shopping is good enough for getting the random bits and bobs you need and can offer some competitive prices, but for those important purchases, like new bindings or a different pair of climbing shoes, nothing can beat in-store service.

Feeling and interacting with your gear is critical for checking the fit and functionality. Also, having an expert consult you on which style they prefer, or which brands to avoid is beyond helpful especially for new buyers. While major stores like REI have big selections and helpful staff, they have only brand new, full retail price equipment. Those of you not wanting to sell an organ or skip meals for a year to pay for that new kayak may want to start looking at gear consignment stores.

These are places where people, usually professionals in the industry, sell their gear through a third party. The store takes a cut and the seller gets the rest. This means that almost all the gear will be used, albeit in pretty good condition, and much cheaper. The selections fluctuate based on what the store receives at that time so it’s worth checking in a few times if they don’t currently have what you’re looking for.

Around Salt Lake there are a couple gear consignment stores worth visiting:

2ND TRACKS SPORTS

2927 E 3300 S, Salt Lake City, UT

2nd Tracks Sports, as the name might imply, specializes in used ski gear. They have enough boots to outfit an army of centipedes and an entire room designated to skis. The workers are very informed and can help you find what kind of skis you’re going to need. Depending on what style you get, prices for skis and binding can range from just under $100 to $700. They also offer services like waxing and mounting bindings. If you don’t want to buy skis, you can rent a pair for $130 for the season or $25 for the day. Racks on racks of parkas and snow pants take up the left side of the store. Sprinkled throughout are beacons, probes, and snow shovels for your backcountry set up. This is definitely the place to go if you’re looking to add a cheap pair of skis to your collection or just get started in the sport.

INTERNATIONAL MOUNTAIN EQUIPMENT

3265 E 3300 S, Salt Lake City, UT

Although IME is not a gear consignment store, it is niche enough to warrant mentioning. Packed into a single room strip mall store is everything you could need for climbing or mountaineering. As you walk in, you’ll immediately see coils of brightly colored rope lined around the top of the front desk area. To the left, a wall of climbing shoes. To the right of that a small collection of canyoneering specific packs and rope bags, which are hard to come by. The back counter blocks a display wall chock full of every kind of climbing anchor, crampon, and miscellaneous technical gear you could ever reasonably need. Finally, the right wall of the store is dominated by extreme cold weather gear for high elevation camps. The staff is incredibly knowledgeable and friendly.

THE GEAR ROOM

2258 E Fort Union Blvd, Salt Lake City, UT

The Gear Room is a local shop opened up by two brothers who love the Wasatch. The store lies on the spectrum somewhere between IME and 2nd Tracks. It is a consignment/used gear retailer so the prices remain relatively low. The selection circulates pretty regularly so you can either score a great deal or strikeout completely. Getting a deal here takes persistence, but new climbers can definitely score. $100 will get you shoes, a harness, a carabiner, and an ATC; everything needed to start hitting the gym. For more experienced climbers, used carabiners, quick draws, and climbing anchors dot the wall. Just make sure to double check the security before climbing on them. The whole left wall is covered in packs and skis. While the ski selection isn’t as big as 2nd Tracks, they still have a decent amount and the prices are competitive.

n.halberg@wasatchmag.com

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#AltPoliticalActivism, Outdoor Industry Joins the Political Fight for Public Lands

The border between Zion National Park and Springdale, UT, separates more than just federal and private sectors. It draws the line between the outdoors and the outdoor industry. All along the main road in Springdale companies sit, drawing their business from the millions of visitors who flock to Zion every month. Here you can buy food, there you can rent gear, and over here you can get a tour guide.

Even away from national parks, companies produce and sell huge amounts of gear and apparel to meet the demands of an increasingly outdoorsy population. The outdoor industry is a massive entity driving around $646 billion in consumer spending, employing more Americans than the finance and insurance industry (6.1 million compared to 5.8 million) and growing five percent a year on average. However, it doesn’t matter if that company is located in New Jersey or New Mexico, both rely on a central asset: the outdoors.

When this comes under attack, so does the livelihood of every outdoor company. Instead of sitting idly by, many companies have taken action against environmentally destructive policies and campaigned for legislation to protect natural areas. Lately, this political activism is on the rise. More and more companies are feeling the urge to speak up, and still more are acting on that urge.

Just a few weeks ago, more than 100 of the industry’s biggest names committed to fighting for public lands together, signing a “Protect Our Public Lands” petition. The North Face, Patagonia, REI, and the Outdoor Industry created and signed it, and many others issued statements calling for governments (both state and federal) to recognize the cultural and economic significance of wild areas and favor legislation supporting them.

In the past, companies in the industry did not directly unite like this. In establishing Bears Ears National Monument, for example, Patagonia worked separately from other companies to run their campaign. Environmental director Rob Hunter explains how they “used all [their] modes of communication to reach [their] customers” and inform them about the need to conserve Bears Ears. They also shot a movie, “Defined by the Line”, starring climber and conservationist Josh Ewing with the aim of “combining our sport interest, in this case climbing, with our conservation interest, in this case public land protection.” No doubt, both these efforts helped push Bears Ears into the eyes of a much larger audience, securing its protection as a national monument.

Now, companies are combining forces and ramping up their political engagement. Those who signed the “Protect Our Public Lands” petition called for the Utah state government to stop their efforts to privatize Bears Ears. Utah leadership is preparing to sue the federal government to remove the designation — which they call a gross abuse of power-, and place the land under the state control.

The “Protect Our Public Lands” petition best sums up worries of many outdoor companies when it says that if public lands are given to states they “might sell them to the highest bidder.” It again summarizes the general consensus of the industry with the words “public lands should remain in public hands.” The Utah have government has not heard these worries, despite the use of previously successful tactics like petitions and social campaigns, which were both used to establish Bears Ears as a national monument. A more aggressive form of activism is needed, and a few companies are answering the call.

Founder and former Black Diamond CEO Peter Metcalf issued an op-ed in The Salt Lake Tribune calling for Outdoor Retailer (OR), the biannual outdoor industry trade show to “leave the state in disgust” if changes are not made. Shortly after, Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, echoed Metcalf’s statements and threatened that, “Patagonia’s choice to return for future shows will depend on the Governor’s actions.” Patagonia’s current CEO, Rose Marcario, stands with the founder’s words.

While the current Black Diamond CEO is not planning on leaving, Patagonia is inspiring others to follow their lead. Twenty years ago, Metcalf organized the effort to relocate OR and, with one of the largest outdoor companies backing him, the odds are good it’ll happen. The economic ramifications for Utah will not be light. Each year, OR brings in about $20 million in direct consumer spending. More importantly, it marks Salt Lake City as the outdoor industry’s home base. Losing this could seriously deteriorate the $12 billion outdoor industry residing in Utah. Essentially, OR provides a lot of leverage for the industry’s fight.

This kind of ramped up action is indicative of the way companies are getting involved politically today, and Twitter has become their soap boxes. Any political developments contrary to the pro-environment beliefs of these corporations is sure to provoke a few negative tweets. The North Face, for example, tweeted about the protection of public lands using “#ProtectOurPublicLands” with a link to their statement. They even took a stance on the Women’s Marches, tweeting “We stand with the incredible women on our team and all over the world marching for equality today.” Chris Steinkamp, executive director of Protect our Winters (POW), views Twitter as another means of political activism. His initiative, as stated on the organization’s website, is aimed at “mobilizing the outdoor sports community against climate change.” His biggest target as of late? President Trump, who himself denies the existence of climate change. Frustrated that traditional petitioning methods weren’t working, Steinkamp decided to “go after him on Twitter.” POW’s “Twitter Blizzard” inspired over 5,000 tweets at the then president elect to urge him to maintain the Paris Climate Agreement. A quick scroll through POW’s feed today will show similar attempts at smaller politicians to address climate change in their decisions.

POW is also launching a CEO Alliance this year, which will connect CEOs from companies who want to do more to make a difference but aren’t sure how. “Businesses are now understanding that it is their responsibility to speak out,” Steinkamp says. “It’s one thing to get a company to sign a petition, but getting a CEO to stand up, it personalizes it and there is more commitment.”

Photo courtesy of Ben Duke

The group doing perhaps the most work politically is the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA). Unlike most members of the industry, OIA is not a traditional company. They don’t sell goods or market experiences, rather they advocate for the betterment of the industry as a whole. They are the closest thing to an industry-wide lobbyist group the outdoors have.

Amy Roberts, Executive Director of the OIA, says their main job is to, “[bring] together the collective voice of the industry so we can achieve more as a unified industry and have a larger voice than if individual companies chart their own course.” Their very existence is a testament to the increased political activism within the industry. They have an office and permanent staff in our nation’s capital and hold an annual Capitol Summit event with leaders of the industry in D.C.

“We have seen threats to public lands in the last few years, and we’ve definitely seen efforts by some leadership in Congress to suggest that we should sell them off,” she says. As the threat increases, more and more companies are willing to stand up.

Even smaller, local companies are finding ways to get involved. While most cannot run major campaigns they can make significant differences in their communities. Snowbird Ski Resort, for example, recently hired an environmental director, who helped the resort launch a carpool incentive program called RIDE. By rewarding those who carpool or take public transportation, they are taking a stance to fight against the chronic winter inversion. The flame under these companies is partly what’s going on in Washington, but also because of their customers’ reactions to it.

Photo courtesy of Chris Segel

“People are understanding millennials and understanding what makes them tick,” Steinkamp says. “We are speaking to 35-year-old skiers and snowboarders, and those guys care. They want the brands they spend their money on to care, too.”

Mass social campaigns, films, petitions, and a unique utilization of social media- all organized by ski bum, tree hugger, and dirt bag-founded companies — have given power back to these people. They are fighting, harder than ever, to protect the places that define themselves and the nation as a whole. With an industry almost twice the size of the oil and gas industry backing them, it’s fair to say they’ve got a fighting chance.

n.halberg@wasatchmag.com

c.webber@wasatchmag.com

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