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Skiing and Snowboarding : Gear

Real Men Groom with Charcoal

If you’ve relegated charcoal to the backyard or the water filter, you’re missing out. The activated form, typically made from bamboo, is ultra-porous so it’s highly absorbent and makes quick work of oil, sweat, bacteria, and airborne funk—all fixtures of warm-weather workouts. Here are five products to keep you clean this summer.

Boscia Konjac Cleansing Sponge with Bamboo Charcoal

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The antithesis of clean: a musty-smelling washcloth, sponge, or pouf. Konjac sponges are an addictively scrubby, traditional Asian grooming tool made from their namesake plant’s starchy roots. This one from Boscia gets a skin-cleansing boost from bamboo charcoal that also helps it resist shower-dwelling microbes. Bonus: It gets skin clean without soap, too. $18,

Craftsman Soap Company Rough Stuff Exfoliating Bar

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This soap looks tough—and it is, with ground pumice, walnut shells, and coffee beans that slough off every last trace of that five-mile trail run. Some charcoal cleansers leave skin overly stripped, but Craftsman Soap’s blend includes olive, coconut, and avocado oils to keep things smooth. $6.50,

Morihata Binchotan Pumice Stone

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Pumice stones are great for keeping calluses in check, which tend to harbor bacteria and fungus—the last things you want grinding against your feet. Morihata’s Binchotan Pumice Stone is actually made of polyurethane foam that’s been blended with ultrafine charcoal powder, so it fights irritating, odor-causing microbes while you scrub. $16,

Origins Clear Improvement Mask

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Slim-cut, move-with-you athletic wear has huge performance advantages. The price, however, can be an unfortunate flare-up of backne—or its even more unsightly colleague, buttne—anywhere that seams or panels trap moisture long enough to clog pores. Origins Clear Improvement mask pairs charcoal with white clay to absorb oil and debris. Masks are usually a chore to use, but this one isn’t: when you jump in the shower, just soap up and rinse off the affected area, smear on a thin layer, and let it work while you tend to other matters. By the time you’re ready for the final rinse, you’ll be in the clear. From $17,

Mini Moso Charcoal Deodorizers

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If you’re like us, you’re occasionally guilty of leaving sweat-soaked workout clothes to moulder for days in your gym bag, maybe excavating them for a spur-of-the-moment lunchtime run or yoga class. Believe us, then, that these tiny sachets work wonders. Toss a couple in your bag or stuff them in your sneakers and they’ll absorb the brunt of BO and bacteria after even the most brutal CrossFit session. Just give them a few hours of direct sunlight once or twice a month and they’ll be good to go for up to two years. $9.99 for two,

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Monkii Bars

You won’t find this equipment at your local park. Instead, the Monkii Bars are a lightweight, portable suspension-training tool.

Use them at home, in your office, at a park, or while camping and traveling—the whole system is completely self-contained within the sleek bars.

Here’s how it works. Remove the 18-foot suspension line from the bars, then throw the line over a branch or hook it up to a door with carabiners and webbing. (A door-attachment accessory is still in the works.) Use the loop to adjust the length, and voilà, you have a personal-training system. The kit also includes training and set-up-anywhere guides.  

Work on upper and lower body strength or use the bars to extend your flexibility. Because the Monkii Bars can be used and stored almost anywhere, you’ll have no more excuses for not working out. The product is set to ship later this summer.

Pre-order for $98,

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The Closest You'll Get to Super Vision

Maui Jim Bamboo Forest ($219)

Credit featherweight MauiPure lenses and new-gen plastic frame material for the amazing lightness of these stylish shades. The greenish tint of the polarized lenses, engineered to work well in low-light conditions, makes the most of cloudy days and heavy shadow. And the subtle golden, double-gradient mirroring (high and low on the lens, but not in the middle) reduces the brightness of reflective surfaces while enhancing detail, especially on turf and tennis courts.

Rudy Project Airblast ($350)

You spend this much on performance eyewear for the same reason you buy a slick Italian frame and trick it out with top-end components: excellence for the sake of excellence. The single lens wraps high, low, and wide, putting edges out of sight while providing bombproof protection against sun and wind. Plus, Rudy Project’s photochromic Racing Red tint darkens from barely pink to deep rose with increasing brightness.

Smith Tenet ($199)

Smith’s polarized Low Light Ignitor glass lenses peel the surface off clear streams and ocean flats so effectively, you can watch fish ignoring your perfectly hand-tied flies. A special lens coating sheds water, and rubber at the ears and nose gets stickier when wet, adding to the angler appeal. But unlike a lot of other fishing sunglasses, the Tenets are actually handsome, with shapely curves and a bit of bling at the hinge points.

Oakley Special Edition Heritage Eyeshade ($200)

This isn’t retro weirdness; it’s history. Oakley’s big single-lens shield, chopped off straight at the sides, is a reissue of the first eyewear made specifically for outdoor-sports use and worn by Greg LeMond in the 1984 Tour de France. The new Eyeshade is actually quite a bit better than the original, with dark, color-neutral Black Iridium lenses that are up to searing brightness and about as good as nonglass lenses get.

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Cabin Vardehaugen

Rocky slopes. Powerful winds. Mercurial weather. Those are some of the challenges architects face when designing a home on the wild shore of Fosen, Norway’s outer coast. The upside? This is some of the most beautiful real estate on the planet.

Fantastic Norway architects took advantage of the views and the terrain to build this family’s 800-square-foot summer getaway. Massive windows in the two bedrooms and the bath look out toward the often-stormy sea.   


To protect residents from the wind, architects designed a tiny separate cabin positioned in such a way to create a sheltered courtyard. The blackened timber structures curve inward, nestling into rocks to also help minimize gusts. Recessed notches in the façades—all cut on angles and painted white—act as coves sheltered from both the sun and the wind.


For sunny, warm days, four wooden decks of varying sizes (from reading nook to dining area) offer stunning views. When the weather turns sour, head inside to the bright-white, simple space. The cabin’s galley kitchen hides the two bedrooms and the bath, while the open living and dining area bends to accommodate the rocks outside. There are naturally lit reading areas tucked into the sloping walls. 


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Is Gear a Performance-Enhancing Drug?

Cycling’s most prestigious record—the distance an athlete can ride in an hour—is about to get smashed, and it’s not because the riders are training harder or doping smarter. In this case, it’s all about the bikes.

The Union Cycliste Internationale, the sport’s governing body, announced last week that it will allow aero bars, disc wheels, and aero helmets in hour-record attempts. It’s a complete reversal of its restrictive ruling in 2000, which stated that all attempts at the record would only count if riders used a bike similar to the one ridden by Eddy Merckx.

Merckx rode 30.7 miles in one hour back in 1972, a record that stood for 12 years until Francesco Moser beat that distance by almost a mile. The difference? Moser was on a full aero set-up, which was far more technologically advanced than the bike Merckx rode. That record kept improving thanks to new technology up until 1996 when Chris Boardman set it at 35 miles, nearly five miles longer than Merckx’s original ride. Then the UCI changed the rules. Today, the hour record stands at 30.72 miles—a mere 883 feet farther than the record Merckx set in 1972.

The UCI’s recent ruling marks a significant victory for the use of technology in all sports, and it touches on one of the key questions all competitors face: where will the next big performance gains come from? New technology, new training, or some combination of both?

The Sports Gene author David Epstein aimed to answer at least part of that question in a TED talk this past March. He pointed to three main ingredients that have led to record-breaking changes in sports: technology; genetic makeup (the Kalingen runners of Kenya, for example, are genetically predisposed to excel at running) and changes in body type; and an athlete’s mindset. But while fitness and nutrition have made a difference in some sports at some times, technology has made a difference in all sports, said Epstein.

Take track surface advancements for professional runners. If 1932 Olympic gold medalist Jesse Owens were to run against current 100-meter world-record holder Usain Bolt on today’s synthetic track—not cinders—and with the use of the now-standard specially designed starting blocks, the separation between the two would come down to just one stride, said Epstein.

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The fourth element making us faster, though, might be a mix of technology and training. The real performance gains will probably come from increased data and sensors that can quantify information for athletes. That’s right. Wearable tech might be the next big breakthrough for human fitness. 

“Equipment is always improving—in cycling’s aerodynamic parts, special skin suits, and helmets, in faster skis and waxes in skiing, and in lighter shoes for running,” says Scott Schnitzspahn, the U.S. Olympic Committee’s director of high performance. But it's the new techno-training tools that might offer the most promise: monitors for activity and sleep, GPS, biofeedback, cryotherapy, targeted compression devices, and sports psychology. “We’re not only enhancing training,” adds Schnitzspahn, “but allowing athletes to have more training days uninterrupted by injury.”

Those new tools and smarter training have also prolonged the careers of record-breaking athletes. “The fact that we have swimmers competing into their 30s now is evidence that we understand how to train better,” says Scott McLean, chair of the department of kinesiology at Georgetown, Texas' Southwestern University.

“In the old days it was all volume, but now quality is understood to be more important. Michael Phelps will try to qualify for his fifth Olympic games in 2016. He will be 30 when he does this. That would have been unheard of 20 years ago.”

And while the record-breaking potential of wearable tech remains to be proven, other records—in swimming, skiing, cycling, and ultrarunning—are sure to fall thanks to some less-heralded technological tweaks. Already, swimming has benefitted from suit design (despite the ban on the world-record-breaking full-coverage, low-drag suits of the 2008 Olympics), as well as improvements in deeper pools and better gutter designs.

The latest breakthrough may be the new backstroke start device (a kind of wedge like the one used by track sprinters) that gives backstrokers a small ledge to stand on. Although it hasn't yet been introduced (there’s talk we’ll see it by the next Olympics) it “may be,” says McLean, “where you’ll see some big drops.”

And while significant records in the shorter distances have probably plateaued, the role of footwear for long-distance running records could hinge on shoes with greater cushioning. There’s attention being paid right now to new foams for foot beds, for one, and because many track shoes have energy return plates, “perhaps this may assist longer distance road runners as well,” says Dr. Wendi Weimar, director of Auburn University’s Sport Biomechanics Laboratory. “The trick here is to find the shoe that encourages you to run with an optimal stride.”

It’ll also be hard to break the records in women’s running, many of which were set during the questionable 1980s—an era of virtually undetectable doping. Whereas the doping police were always a step or more behind the dopers in the past, that’s not so much the case anymore.

“The rationale here is that these records were set by athletes who were taking illegal substances but were undetected, a situation that will not occur in the future,” says Professor Matthew Curtner-Smith, head of the University of Alabama’s department of kinesiology. “On the other hand, if the rules are changed or relaxed regarding drugs, and some substances that are currently deemed illegal by governing bodies are approved, that could lead to breakthroughs.”

Similarly, for skiing and cycling, advances in suits, lightweight materials, and aerodynamics should lead to new standards. “Skiing is essentially limited by friction, so there’s not much to be gained there, but cycling is always a good sport for equipment gains, specifically individual events against the clock,” says Senior Sports Scientist Eleanor Jones of England’s University of Birmingham. “Anything that reduces air resistance is advantageous. But I don’t think you can really get a substantial improvement from kit—if you work within the equipment rules set by the UCI.”

Unless, of course, a sport’s governing body embraces changes in technology—the way the UCI has with the hour record. Then you’ll see records falling left and right. “The exciting thing is,” says USOC’s Schnitzspahn, “we can all use these same devices and improve our own performance—within sport and in our general lifestyle.”

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