The Outside Blog

Skiing and Snowboarding : Feb 2012

Sea Kayaking

You Have: Paddled long distances through mellow water.
You Want:
To lead a burly multi-day trip.
The Trip:
The North Shore of Lake Superior, in Ontario, is chock-full of mossy forests, Ojibwe Indian ruins, and empty sandy beaches. It’s also plenty rugged. Before tackling it, make sure you can self-rescue (climb back in your boat and bail it out). Then try this 25-mile island-hopping excursion from Gargantua Harbor to Old Woman Bay recommended by David Wells, kayak guide and owner of Wawa, Ontario–based Naturally Superior Adventures. Arrange a shuttle with Twilight Resort (US$120; 705-882-2183) in Montreal River Harbor; they’ll pick you up and drop you at Gargantua Harbor. From there, paddle past Agawa Rock and make for Grindstone Point, an area where erosion has formed smooth rock pools along the shore—perfect for lounging. Along the way, you can pick from beach campsites on several islands. On your last day, hit Still Creek Falls, where a 300-yard hike accesses a series of cascades. Then jump back in your boat and paddle past the soaring 400-foot cliffs of Old Woman Bay, the site of your take-out.
Essential Gear:
Superior is rocky and cold, so go with a plastic sea kayak in the 15-to-17-foot range, a Farmer John wetsuit like NRS’s Ultra ($105), and neoprene booties like L.L.Bean’s Vortex ($39). The Canadian coast guard mandates that each boat have a signal device (whistle or flare) and 50 feet of floating rope and a bailer. You can rent everything but the booties from Naturally Superior (from $80 per day).

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Surfing

You Can: Paddle out consistently, catch waves, and occasionally pop up.
You Want:
To surf bigger waves—and do it while staying in a sweet beach pad.
The Trip:
Mal Pais isn’t a secret; this tiny surf village on the Nicoya Peninsula, accessible via puddle-jumper from San José, has a sushi restaurant on the beach. But convenience has advantages—once you arrive, you never have to take off your boardshorts. Set up shop at Florblanca’s Surf House, a beachside villa with an outdoor shower (from $350; accommodates up to six people). Then head for the water. Start with a lesson from Blue Surf Sanctuary ($55 for two hours) at La Lora, a break with consistent six-foot waves. If after a few days you’re confidently reading the direction of the surf and feel good about striking out on your own, try Suck Rock, a reef break with bigger rollers. Fresh fish and cold beers come courtesy of Roca Mar, right on the beach.
Essential Gear:
Kina Surf Shop offers a full fleet of fiberglass rental boards, from South Point to NSP (from $8 per day). You’ll also need a good pair of boardshorts and a long-sleeve rash guard, like Quiksilver’s Plain ($33).

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Mountaineering

You Have: Climbed a fourteener.
You Want:
To get into technical mountaineering.
The Trip:
At 14,179 feet, Mount Shasta is far less dangerous than other big American peaks like Rainier, but, being covered in glaciers, it’s still plenty technical. Many hikers walk up the Avalanche Gulch route. You’ll scale the more challenging north face on a guided three-day mountaineering trip with Shasta Mountain Guides ($600), during which you’ll learn to self-arrest with an ice ax, walk in crampons, and recognize crevasses. It starts with a three-mile hike from the trailhead to your base camp, a large glacial moraine at 9,400 feet. The next day you’re up at 3 A.M., ascending 4,600 feet of 5-to-40-degree faces with ropes and crampons. Once you pass the Ramp, a 35-degree climb, you’ll see two 50-foot rock towers that let you know you’re close to the summit. After carefully crossing the slick, icy Bolam chute, scramble to the top for your hero photos, then hike back down to base camp. Be sure to hit Stewart Mineral Springs for a soak in one of the giant natural steam baths on the drive out ($28).
Essential Gear:
You’ll need a backpack with about 2,400 cubic inches, like Osprey’s Variant 37 ($169). Also get a lightweight helmet like Petzl’s Meteor III ($100), an ice ax like Black Diamond’s Raven Pro ($100), lightweight strap-on crampons (Black Diamond’s Contacts are great; $140), and boots like La Sportiva’s Nepal ($475). Rentals are available from the Fifth Season Outdoor Store in Mount Shasta. 

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Mountain Biking

You Can: Confidently, if conservatively, ride moderately difficult terrain.
You Want:
To corner faster, clear larger obstacles, and bomb down technical trails.
The Trip:
Book a few lessons at Whistler Bike Park, which features thousands of man-made and natural obstacles—berms, rollers, cliffs, rock slabs, and even a foam pit to jump into (from US$217 per day with bike rental and lift ticket). Your coach will help you master the terrain and make quick downhill turns on switchbacks without putting your foot down, and will offer tips like how to prevent crashing while taking a banked turn (lead with your chin). Then head out on the hundreds of miles of trails that surround the ski resort. By night, soak in the Pan Pacific’s pool and hot tub (doubles from US$199), both of which overlook the bike park.
Essential Gear:
On top of a good all-around ride like the Santa Cruz Blur LT (US$1,850), you’ll need a full-face helmet, biking gloves, goggles, and total body armor. You could buy all these accessories from a quality manufacturer like POC for around US$1,000, or you can just rent everything you need from the park for US$45 a day. The Whistler Bike Shop also rents Giants, Treks, and Konas, from entry level to the same downhill bikes the pros use (US$99 per day).

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