The Outside Blog

Adventure : Feb 2014

Astis Mitts

These are definitely the flashiest mittens on the slopes. And they happen to be functional, too.  

Astis—the Cree word for mittens—makes suede mitts and gloves with elaborate bead designs and fringes. They look like nothing else on the market, and I’m stoked about them for a few reasons.

The company uses Kevlar threads to sew the beads onto the mitts, preventing the artwork from falling off after only a few uses. The products are all made from silicon-injected suede leather and lined with high-loft Polartec fleece—my hands stayed warm and dry even during the dreaded polar vortex.

I’ve found that I can’t make it through a lift line without eliciting compliments when I’m wearing these mitts. And you don’t have to take my word for it. Pro riders like them too—Kaylin Richardson, Colby West, Jess McMillan, Nick Martini, Mark Morris, and Katrina DeVore all sport Astis. 

This year, Astis is moving its production to California. Rumor has it that by next season custom beading will be available. In the interim, Astis offers 39 different patterns and styles in short- and long-cuff gloves and mitts. Look for six new designs this fall.  

$145-$225, astis.com 

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A New Way to Gather Sap

Vermont harvesters won’t have to venture far into the forest to find mature maple trees to procure maple syrup. Researchers at the University of Vermont have discovered a new way to gather the delectable goo.

Traditionally—because people believed that sap flows solely from the bottoms of older trees—harvesters have hiked into the forest during late winter to place taps on mature trees. As the sap thaws, it’s collected in buckets and is then processed into maple syrup.

Rather by accident, UVM researchers discovered something that could change this process forever. They found a wild maple tree that was missing its top, with sap flowing freely from the crown like a fountain of sugary youth. When testing their discovery on young maple saplings in the lab, the researchers were able to reproduce this surprising result.

The implications are huge. Saplings could soon be planted in dense rows on farms, making the maple syrup industry similar to other commercial crop industries in North America.

But there’s something to be said for tradition. "Maple syrup is something we head off into the wild forest to get,” syrup farm co-owner Laura Sorkin told NPR. “Vermonters, I think, would be very reluctant to give that up."

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Indonesian Volcano Kills 11

A volcano on the western island of Sumatra erupted Saturday, killing at least 11 people, Reuters reports. It is the first time that officials have seen Mount Sinabung, which stands along the Pacific Ocean's "Ring of Fire," claim any lives.

During the past several months, the volcano has become increasingly active, spewing ash high into the air. Thousands of residents were evacuated leading up to Saturday's erruption. 

"Eleven people were killed because of the eruption this morning and the number could increase," Andi Arief, a presidential staff member, told Reuters. "No evacuations could be made at this stage because of the potential for more eruptions."

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New York City Mayor Drops Groundhog

Groundhog Day at Staten Island Zoo didn’t get off to a good start.

Mayor Bill de Blasio dropped celebrity groundhog Staten Island Chuck during the dawn ceremony. The animal was quickly scooped up by a handler and did not escape.   

Chuck then predicted some bad news—at least for New Yorkers. The East Coast’s brutal winter will continue for another six weeks, according to the furry star who saw his shadow on Sunday.

This wasn’t the first time a New York City mayor and a groundhog have had issues. In 2009, Chuck bit former Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

“I’m hoping we can start a new day, a relationship here,” de Blasio said at the event. “I’m reaching out a hand to Chuck, and I hope he will consider shaking it rather than doing other things.”

A few minutes later, Staten Island Chuck wriggled out of de Blasio’s hands.

Punxsutawney Phil, the famed Pennsylvanian groundhog, also saw his shadow Sunday. If both animals are to be believed, winter will extend well into March. Here’s hoping for snow. (Sorry, New York.)

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