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Winter

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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Practicing Self-Care in Nature

Lowering temperatures, gray skies, and a loss of sunlight are signaling the change of the seasons as the winter months quickly approach in Utah. The “winter blues,” or seasonal affective disorder (SAD) as it’s officially called in the DSM-IV (the manual of mental disorders published by the American Psychiatric Association), is a common disorder that affects many men and women as the seasons change. Unfortunately, it’s not always recognized for what it is.

It can be easy to dismiss symptoms of SAD as just being “moody” or having a bad week. Certainly, everyone has those moments. The problem occurs when you can’t seem to shake those feelings. If you’re a student, there’s the constant stress and pressure of looming tests and projects. If school isn’t part of your life, there’s work, bills, kids, appointments, etc. There is always something else, and it can be exhausting and overwhelming. Regular everyday struggles coupled with SAD can trigger a downward spiral that feels impossible to overcome. Feelings of exhaustion, hopelessness, anxiety, and depression are serious problems no person should have to struggle through alone.

A dead tree on Antelope Island. During this time of year, the feeling of deadness can be felt in many ways.

In life, there’s always going to be a job that needs to be finished, a deadline to be met, or a relationship to nurture, and these are all wonderful things that keep us enriched. At the same time, when the pressure becomes a bit too heavy, there’s no shame in slowing down and taking time to stop and smell the pine trees.

In Utah, we’re lucky to have an amazing contrast of outdoor spaces. I’ve found that one of the best ways to practice self-care and get back to myself is in the solitude of nature. When I’m feeling overwhelmed, I have a handful of places to go where I can relax and unplug; taking these mini getaways has been a life-saver when I need a rejuvenating mental health day.

 

Diamond Fork Hot Springs

There’s nothing better than a good, long, mineral filled soak after a winter hike. Fifth Water Hot Springs in Diamond Fork Canyon can be reached after a 2.5 mile hike. The best time to go is in the fall before any heavy snow falls force the road to close. The blue and green colors of the swirling pools are vibrant and absolutely mesmerizing.

Stansbury Island

Stansbury is one of the largest of the Great Salt Lake’s 15 islands. There are primitive camping spots all throughout Stansbury Island, and it’s secluded. Stansbury is located in Tooele, Utah, and you can witness the most amazing sunsets and sunrises. The colors reflecting off of the still salty water make for a fantastic sight. I love taking one-night car camping trips to Stansbury after a long day of work.

Neffs Canyon

I love gazing out over the Salt Lake Valley from the top of the Neff’s Canyon Loop trail, a moderate 1.2 mile trek. Neff’s is one of my favorite canyons to visit at the beginning of fall when the leaves start to change. It’s perfect for a lazy afternoon stroll.

Silver Lake

A good workout always helps me take my mind off of things. Unfortunately, I’m also one of those people who hates the gym and organized workout sessions. The most exercise I do comes from hiking and snowshoeing. In the winter, Big Cottonwood Canyon is perfect for skiers, snowboarders, and snowshoers alike. The area around Silver Lake has great trails for this latter group.

Heber City

Going for a ride on the Heber Valley Railroad is a cute and quaint way to spend an evening; fares range from $8 to $30 a person depending on the route. It’s wonderful to view Wasatch county through the windows of a slow moving train as you sip a hot beverage on a chilly day.

Crystal Hot Springs

Did you know that little old Honeyville, Utah, has hot springs with the highest mineral content in the world? These developed springs are just an hour north of Salt Lake City,

and it is absolutely worth the drive. Soaking is $7 and camping starts at $20. There’s a small hotel nearby that has an Airbnb style self check-in option. The Olympic sized lap pool at Crystal is one of my favorite ways to enjoy this resort.

While visiting these places is certainly a wonderful way to unwind and combat the feelings of depression the season’s changes bring on, I also want to make a point to mention that sometimes extra help is needed to make it through the winter months. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, reaching out to a close friend, a counselor, or a psychiatrist is a good idea. Listen to your body and pay attention to your emotions. We all need a little help sometimes, and at the end of the day, taking care of your personal happiness and health should be a priority.

e.aboussou@wasatchmag.com

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Beginners’ guide to skiing and snowboarding

Living in Utah, you should already know that the winter season is a big deal. If you were like me growing up, I never saw the middle school skiing/snowboarding program, Snow Blitz, appealing as a young tween. Wearing layers upon layers of snow attire and falling down a mountainside didn’t sound fun, and the expense was unattainable — until now. Even though I’m interested now, I must warn you, the falling doesn’t stop. Which leads me to the first of many tips when you begin to learn how to ski or snowboard — get used to falling, but before you start falling, you’ll need the gear for it.

Gear

Buying skiing and snowboarding gear right off the bat can be quite the commitment and can start at $600 and easily reach into the thousands.

Luckily, if you’re a student at the University of Utah, you’ll find the cheapest rentals rates in the state at the Student Life Center. Pro tip: you don’t need to be a student to rent from the university, but you can get 20 percent off the already cheap rates if you bring your UID. You can rent a basic skiing and/or snowboarding package, which includes skis/snowboard, bindings, boots, and poles (if skiing). You can also rent a coat and snow pants. The staff is there to help you get fitted, teach you proper gear technique, and you can store all this information for future reference. While the U would be the cheapest and easiest rental place, there are places all over Utah you can rent gear from like Ski N’ See & ARCS, which offers discount lift passes if you rent from them.

What you’ll need:

  • Beanie
  • Helmet
  • Goggles
  • Gloves
  • Coat
  • Snow pants/overalls
  • Layers
  • Boots
  • Bindings
  • Skis/snowboard
  • A snowy mountain

Lift Passes

Lift passes are the other expensive part of this hobby. As a beginner, no one wants to dish out $400+fon a season pass, but it can be pricey paying by day. Brighton Ski Resort is a great place to begin. If you can handle the cold, single day evening passes at Brighton are your best bet. While single full day passes allow you to ride from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and start at approximately about $82, night passes start at about $47, allowing you to ride from 4-9 p.m.

Though it can get rather cold and dark, night riding is a great time to learn since there are less people around. While a seasonal night pass to Brighton Ski Resort is only $319-$419, a seasonal day pass can range from $599 to $750. The best part of Brighton is the promotional offers it runs during the season. You can always find promotional deals on night riding like “2 for 1” rides or a discounted night pass if you bring canned goods during their food drive. Find the entire list of promotional deals on night riding and lessons on the Brighton webpage.To do it right, you need lessons.

Lesson

Once you have your gear and a pass, it’s time to hit the slopes.

If you don’t have a patient enough friend, adult lessons will help develop your skills. While you have the option between group lessons or private, you will learn skills and techniques to help ride more of the mountain while having fun with other riders. Keep in mind; resorts, like Alta, are for skiers only, so instructors may not know how to teach you how to snowboard. While lessons can range from $50 to $100+, Brighton offers the cheapest skiing/snowboarding lessons starting at $55 for a night lesson. Remember, safety first. I highly suggest not trying to teach yourself how to ski or snowboard as it can be fairly dangerous without proper skills and technique.

Tips

  • Don’t compare yourself to anyone else on the slopes.
  • Helmets are cool; wear one.
  • Skiers, don’t cross your tips.
  • Always keep your knees bent, but not too bent.
  • Wear proper winter clothing. Do not wear cotton (it absorbs and holds water, making you colder).
  • Save money on gas by using your pass as a ticket for public transportation.
  • Snowboarders, there are such things as butt pads.
  • Look for promotional deals.
  • Bandanas/masks make a big difference in keeping warm.
  • Your boots should be snug, but still have enough room for when your feet swell.
  • Have fun, but safety first.

a.duong@wasatchmag.com

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Skipping School for Skiing

Ski run at Alta Ski Resort. Photo by Samira Guirguis.

“There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream/The earth, and every common sight/To me did seem/Appareled in celestial light/The glory and the freshness of a dream.”

These words by William Wordsworth describe the moments I look forward to. Moments when the pull of snow on the mountain tempts me into skiing down runs filled with fresh powder, or moments when I survey the world from the top of a red, rocky cliff I traversed by digging my hands into its cracks and crevices. These moments in nature capture what it truly means to be present, alive, and at the same time, these moments continually force me to fight against the concept of time or obligations like school or work. The need to feel free and to experience living on my own is why I chose to forgo college for the spring semester at the University of Utah and decided to live and work the winter at Alta’s Rustler Lodge in Little Cottonwood Canyon.

Ski communities harbor the nomadic people of our world — the ones who have not paved a steady path for themselves, choosing to live out of cars or tents, working odd jobs in different states in order to embrace nature through skiing or rock climbing. It’s hard not to pass judgment when the entirety of your life can be packed into a beat-up Toyota, but this was the norm for the employees at Rustler Lodge. While some in society might see these people as vagrants, it was difficult for me not to be enamored by their carefree lifestyle and the exciting stories they told in the evenings in the employee dining room. These were the people I would spend every skiing and working moment with for an entire season.

I loved the feeling of my beacon pressed against my side, cheeks rosy from the cold, nose numb. Each trip like a mini expedition filled with risks and careful decisions; a dumb choice could trigger an avalanche, thus ending a person’s life. But working at Rustler Lodge provided more than endless skiing. I got my first steady paycheck and mastered working in the kitchen of a busy resort restaurant. I learned how to live on my own and negotiate the drama created by tight quarters. When the snow melted, signaling the end of the season and work at Alta, everyone began to pack for their next adventure. Some wanted me to come with them. “School isn’t the only way to get an education,” I recall one guy saying who is currently hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.

“The woods are lovely, dark, and deep, / But I have promises to keep/ And miles to go before I sleep,/And miles to go before I sleep,” words from Robert Frost. I loved my winter in the mountains, and as I sit at my computer typing an article for Wasatch Magazine, it is obvious that I chose to return to the apparent normalcy of schedules and deadlines rather than live a carefree lifestyle in nature. I want to be a journalist, which means I will have a goal that requires me to go to school and master certain skills that will enable me to be a successful reporter. In the future, I know I will experience the world by taking the path less traveled, but this doesn’t mean we can’t have a semester off. Or if you’re scared you might get behind in school, you can always take spring off and go back for the summer semester. We live in a state where we have easy access to world class ski areas that offer live-in positions like Rustler Lodge.

Rustler Lodge, Alta Peruvian, Alta’s Goldminer’s Daughter, Snowbird, Solitude, and Deer Valley is a short list of resorts, which offer a range of jobs from working as ski instructors to cooking in busy restaurants. Take advantage of the fact that we have access to these canyons and make the most of it. November is when you should start applying for these jobs, and the fall colors of Little Cottonwood Canyon make the drive to apply.

s.guiguirs@wasatchmag.com

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Bindings—A Ski for all Reasons

How do you pick the right pair of bindings for your skis? There are so many variations of bindings available that it’s difficult to find the right pair just for you. You can listen to vendors describe the intricate details of why their bindings are better than their competitors, but it all boils down to one simple concept –— bindings are used to attach your skis to your boots. With this in mind, there are three categories of ski bindings: alpine, alpine touring, and telemark bindings. With these bindings, it is important to know what type of ski boot you are using, because there is no ski boot that fits all three.

The first step to choosing a new pair of bindings is determining what type of skier you are. If you prefer to ski exclusively in resorts and on groomed trails, then alpine bindings are the right choice for you. These bindings are designed for skiers who are learning how to get down the mountain to Olympic skiers who race down mountains at freeway speeds. These bindings have a release setting based on your skill level and weight. This setting is known as the DIN of your bindings. Generally, the higher the DIN setting, the better or heavier a skier you are.

If you are a more experienced skier who is looking to transition from waiting in long lift lines to making the first tracks down the mountain after a recent storm, then alpine touring (AT) bindings will fit your needs. These bindings are designed to release from the heel and pivot to about the toe to mimic the motion of cross country skis. Alpine touring bindings are used for scaling mountain sides with the ability to transform back into a downhill ski. There are two main types of alpine touring bindings: frame AT and tech AT bindings. Frame AT bindings will work with your normal alpine boots, whereas tech AT bindings need special boots that only work with tech bindings. The main difference between these two types of bindings are the weight savings, tech bindings being much lighter than frame ones. If you are a veteran backcountry skier, the tech boots and bindings are the best way to go. If you are just getting into backcountry skiing and are looking to save a penny or two (or a couple hundred dollars), then frame AT bindings are the best option. Both types of bindings will get you to some of the best, untouched powder available.

If you are the type of person who’s looking for a challenge and wants to look good while doing it, then telemark bindings are the best choice. These bindings allow for a novel type of skiing that mixes downhill and cross country skiing. The toe is connected to the ski, but the heel is free the whole time. This is unlike AT bindings, where the heel is free for the ascent, but then clips in for the descent. You have to change your style of skiing because you are essentially making a lunge motion down the mountain. While elegant to watch, just know that telemark skiers love to work their legs to exhaustion in an already tiring sport. Only telemark boots will work with telemark bindings. The range of motion allowed by the combination of the boot and the binding allows you to make these dynamic maneuvers.

In summary, think about what type of skier you want to be this season before purchasing a new pair of bindings. Look at your boot inventory and decide which bindings will be compatible with them. Once you have made all of these decisions, mount your bindings to your skis. Have a professional set your DIN release setting, then get on the mountain and ski.

p.creveling@wasatchmag.com

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Opening Minds to the Oquirrh Mountains

Veiled in mystery by the legalities and the eminence of the adjacent Wasatch mountains, the Oquirrh Range serves as the 10,000 feet dividing line between the Salt Lake and Tooele valleys. Equipped solely with the knowledge of a BLM public lands route provided by an outdated hiking guide, and a strong desire to summit a couple of the Oquirrh’s more prominent mountain tops, I took to the westernmost ridge of Kessler Peak.

It seems that the majority of Salt Lake residents simply lack the desire to trek into the Oquirrhs, given the close proximity of the sublime, and comparably larger Wasatch Range. Those who have opened their minds and weekends to the western green peaks have often suffered for it. They are met with the intimidating barrier of red tape and prohibitions deterring even the most intrepid outdoorsmen from entering for fear of hefty fines — or worse. Painfully evident by the violently dissolved mountain that is now the main Kennecott mining facility, the Oquirrh Range remains in a perpetual state of contractual inaccessibility since Rio Tinto’s colossal 1872 land grab that still holds control to this day.

With this corporate acquisition and grand expanses of private purchases, virtually the entire eastern face of the Oquirrhs is restricted to public use (with some exceptions to the far south). While some exploit the negligence of private landowners and trail-blaze in this region outside of the law, those who prefer risk-free, legal natural emersion are ultimately out of luck. Thankfully, the back westernmost face of the range offers a patchy network of BLM land allowing access to those extra-determined to explore Oquirrh terrain without paying heavily for it.

Following the guidance and antiquated advice of a 7-year-old online hiking guide, I made my way to that western back side with hopes of surmounting the ridgeline connecting Kessler and Farnsworth Peaks without deliberately breaking any laws. The guide I relied on did accurately get me to the approximate location of an access point, though it failed to compensate for the nascent housing developments along the base of these mountains.

The overlying drawback of hiking in a largely neglected public land is the total absence of trails, and the consequential abundance of wildlife and wilderness left to flourish independently of human obstruction. When I arrived, I was without the helpful understanding that the access point was at the perpendicular bend, and I began much farther back than I ought to have. I was thus left to bushwhack through dense, arid fields of overgrown dead grass, and the ubiquitous webs of hobo spider webs strung among them (yes, hobo spiders). Long pants and socks are highly recommended in this area in anticipation of the venomous arachnids that call it home — exercise caution.

Aside from the apparent danger of overgrown desert wilderness, the back face of the Oquirrh Range is beautiful. It serves as a tangible reminder of the desolate nature the remaining untamed American West provides.

While my lack of preparation and foresight forced my dejected party to turn back before completing the trek, an impetuous push up the ridge will eventually place you atop Kessler Peak. It is connected by an extended ridgeline to Farnsworth Peak, the more dominant of the two. Note: A section of this ridgeline is private land. Trespassing is not encouraged and would be done at your own risk.

Even if not for the explicit purpose of surmounting some of the more obscure peaks surrounding the Salt Lake Valley, exploration west of the Oquirrhs is sure to provide you with a palpable sense of connectivity with our forgotten 19th-century wild-western past. At the very least, you will come across the disheveled rusted railway spikes, and the scattered animal bones that are evocative of it. The radiant and largely untouched natural beauty is something worth seeing.

Immersion into this incredible yet inhospitable expanse requires only preparation and consciousness; all else is scenery.

d.rees@wasatchmag.com

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Find Your Pitch, Ice Climbing close to home

Climbers have three options in the winter: drive south, go indoors, or layer up and get on some ice. If you haven’t yet tried option number three, there is still time, the season isn’t over yet. Yes, attaching metal spikes to your feet and holding on by the tip of an ice axe can be a little intimidating, but there are few epic adventures more brag-worthy than standing atop a pillar of ice. Try it once, and you’ll be hooked.

Most people have their baptism by ice at Ouray Ice Park in Colorado: the perfect launch pad for an ice climbing career. The man-made ice is reliable and thick, while in the Wasatch, fluctuating weather patterns and avalanches make route finding a little more fickle.  For those sick of following a Candy Lane trail of colored, chalked-up holds in the gym, put your gloves on instead and try these ice climbing routes.

PROVO CANYON

After driving up this canyon, park at the Bridal Veils parking lot, and you will find another vehicle full of climbers. Accessibility and consistent ice make this place a little crowded, but there is a high concentration of climbs here. Access the famous Stairway to Heaven just off the trail, a multi-pitch climb that can reach up to 10 pitches during a good ice season. The first pitch, lovingly called The Apron because of its width, is easy to set up a top-rope on and do laps. There are a few bolts at the top, so you can hop between routes if you are in a bigger group.

If you keep walking up the trail before turning toward the Stairway area, you will come to the breathtaking Bridal Veil Falls. While it rarely freezes, there are a few fantastic climbs to the right of it. Ice leading experience is required.

LITTLE COTTONWOOD CANYON

You really can’t call yourself an ice climber and live in Utah without climbing the Great White Icicle. It’s a classic multi-pitch easily accessible off the freeway. The views get better and better at the end of each of the four pitches, but don’t get distracted and forget to watch for falling ice. Because of high traffic, you will get hit with ice, so always wear a helmet. Once you’ve done this classic, you might as well hike over to Scruffy Band, a collection of ice dripping off granite slabs. You can switch easily between routes of easy grades.

MAPLE CANYON

When avalanche dangers are high in the Wasatch, Maple Canyon is the perfect alternative. Around every winding cobblestone corner, ice pours into perfect climbing routes. There are several routes accessible off the Main Road, but Box Canyon and Left Fork also reveal hidden treasures. Tennis Shoe Slab is long but sustained, and the intimidating Dagger is just around the corner, suspended over an easy first pitch that has set chains. The Wet Itchies and Bowling Ball Head are a little more steep, but fun if you are ready to push yourself.

JOE’S VALLEY

This famous bouldering destination also has stellar ice in the winter months. The CCC and Donoricicle are both breathtaking pillars of thick ice that just taunt you to climb them. A top rope can easily be set up at the Donoricicle, but leading experience is necessary for the two pitches of the CCC. A plus here is the belayer isn’t stuck with a bad view, the frozen Joe’s Reservoir and surrounding mountainous landscape are visible below.

**If you are going ice climbing in Utah, purchase the detailed guide “Beehive Ice” by Nathan Smith and Andrew Burr. Also, check avalanche conditions prior to the climb and check equipment constantly throughout.

c.webber@wasatchmag.com

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How I Ended up in Cranbrook, B.C.

The reality of what we had gotten ourselves into only hit me at the tiny, remote border crossing in Roosville, MT. After politely informing the Canadian border patrol agent that our travel plans were to head to Cranbrook, B.C., he followed up with an assertive, “Why?” I noticeably fumbled my words as I crafted a substantial-sounding answer. The words I thought in my head were sarcastically clear — “I don’t know, I definitely didn’t just choose to come here a couple hours ago on a whim because I saw this town for the first time on Google Maps.” He sternly told us to pull aside the border patrol office. For a few anxious moments, we sat stock-still in the car anticipating a full search because of our lack of reason for entering the country. Finally, another Canadian official tapped for the window to be lowered and he handed us our passports back without saying a word.

Apparently, spontaneous traveling without a good reason doesn’t make the cut at border crossings, but it’s a popular activity these days that is increasingly easier. I’m sure I’m not alone when I say many of us adventure-minded folk have dreamed of pointing to a spot on a map in another country and impulsively going. I did exactly this all in one day. I looked up pictures of the city on my phone, booked the cheapest motel I could find for the evening, and went purely for the sake of seeing a new place and the ensuing story that might come from it. Despite the fact this was just a short drive across the border, there are so many possibilities around the world if you can save up a bit of money for a plane ticket. Then the resources of the Information Age do the rest.

The pictures here are of Fernie, B.C., a popular ski town you would have expected us to visit and what the border patrol agent likely expected to hear as our destination. But we didn’t even bring skis. We did pop over to Fernie, but our true destination was Cranbrook, an unnoteworthy, unphotogenic town beside some photogenic distant mountains. That was the beauty of the trip — we went somewhere that wasn’t even adventurous on the outdoors spectrum. It was just somewhere new to explore that we found online on a map.

GOOGLE MAPS AND TRIMBLE OUTDOORS: 

From a random flight generator to adjusted public transit times in cities across the globe. Google Maps is my go-to travel companion and can help me pick my next internet-generated spot on the map to go to every time. Also included: driving route planning, reviews of hotels and restaurants, photos, write-ups, satellite images, and GPS data. Trimble Outdoors gives you access to different map lay-outs while helping you plan mileage and elevation gain on a hike.

COUCHSURFING, AIRBNB, WORKAWAY, HIPCAMP: 

These resources set you up with cheap lodging accommodations and unique travel situations. Couchsurfing sets you up with good samaritans looking to host people for a short amount of time in exchange for stories and connections with unique people. Airbnb costs money, but is a great (and cheap) way to have a personal experience with the residents. Workaway is tailored toward long-term international travelers, who trade work for room and board. Hipcamp is great for finding camping spots outside of traditional campgrounds.

THE OUTBOUND COLLECTIVE, THE OUTDOOR PROJECT, ALL TRAILS:

These handy resources can find you the best outdoor excursions wherever you end up. They are based on solid outdoor community reviews backed up with maps, pictures, and firsthand accounts to get to the best adventure you can find on a short notice.

c.hammock@wasatchmag.com

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Four tips for winter emergencies

Backpackers, hikers, and campers should be prepared for more than a simple hike when out in the winter months. Being in the mountains means there is always the danger of an avalanche. But there are also dangers of getting lost, injured, running out of food, or medical emergencies from the cold such as frostbite. Here are a few tips to prepare for winter hikes:

#1 Winterize Your Backpack

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine went on a short, two hour hike. It was -4º F on the mountain and, although he was prepared, some people in the group struggled to breathe in the cold, and one girl lost feeling in her fingers.

Pack extra dry clothes, preferably made of wool or polyester, a space blanket, a lighter, and dry tinder for a fire. Hand warmers and an insulated bottle filled with warm water or hot chocolate can also come in handy.

#2. Improve Your Skills

When stuck in a blizzard on a hike, everything is harder. By mastering these skills, you will feel more confident facing whatever Mother Nature throws at you. Some examples are:

  • Starting a fire without matches or lighters
  • Knowing how to melt snow if you ever run out of water. Never eat the snow directly, but use a bandana to pre-filter debris and let it melt into a container.
  • Layering. It might sound easy, but knowing what materials wick away moisture and when to remove layers because of sweating can save you from freezing later on.
  • Basic first aid skills.

 

#3. Forage off the land

There’s nothing like hot tea to warm you up and fill your stomach while you are waiting for a storm to pass. Pine needle is are extremely rich in vitamin C and other micronutrients, just make sure you don’t consume toxic ones such as lodgepole, ponderosa and montery. Be careful though, as some are toxic: Lodgepole, Ponderosa and Montery. Other wild edibles you can cook or make tea from are cat tail, wild onions, acorns, chickweed, and dandelions.

#4. Preserve Energy

When you have limited supplies of food and water, you need to save every ounce of energy you can. Even when you’re not in a life and death situation, calories are extremely important. Given that the only way to get more when you’re up on the mountain is to eat the food you carry or forage, do your best to save your strength by avoiding unnecessary activities that will waste energy.

Guest writer: Dan Sullivan

Photo by: Carolyn Webber

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How to: Select a Ski Boot

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

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

Based on your skier type, recommended flex values are:

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

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

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

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

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

c.simon@wasatchmag.com

Photos by Claire Simon

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