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Electric Snowmobiles Could Rev Up Cleaner Snow Travel

EV_sled_UW_11Electric snowmobile prototype by University of Wisconsin, Madison. Photo: Clean Snowmobile Challenge

A typical mid-winter's day in Yellowstone National Park used to belie all notions you may harbor of a peaceful, quiet mountain hideaway. "People would go in and wait for the Old Faithful to blow," says Jay Meldrum,  Clean Snowmobile Challenge co-organizer and director of the Keweenaw Research Center of Michigan Tech in Houghton, Michigan. Then, once the display was over, "you'd have up to 1,000 snowmobiles starting up all at once." This would create its own spectacle—one made, not of sulfur, but of blue smoke, rich in carbon monoxide (CO) and hydrocarbons (HC), spewing from the snowmobile's two-stroke engines.

The CO and HC emissions from snowmobiles on a typical winter day dwarfed those coming from cars in Yellowstone on a typical July day. Eventually, the park prohibited snowmobiles with two-stroke engine and limits on the total number of sleds that could enter the park each day. In response, the Environmental Protection Agency set emissions standards designed to force snowmobile manufacturers to build cleaner-burning engines.

For years, snowmobile manufacturers—Arctic Cats, BRP, Polaris, and Yamaha—have sought out university engineering students to help them advance their products to meet or exceed the increasingly stringent EPA standards while also keeping the snowmobiles fast and fun to drive. They'll do so again next month, when the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) holds the 12th annual Clean Snowmobile Challenge, where teams of engineering and design students from universities around the country will show off their low-emissions and no-emissions prototypes. Here's how the eco-smackdown may cut down future snowmobile emissions.

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Qualifiers for the Leadville 100—at last

LT100_Mile35Beneath Mt. Elbert at mile 35 on the Leadville 100 MTB Race.

When national health club chain Life Time Fitness, Inc. purchased the Leadville Race Series, many lamented the passing of these events from quaint, small-scale races into the fold of a monster corporate money-making machine. With the announcement this week of a new series of qualifiers that will let would-be racers earn a spot in the Leadville Trail 100 MTB Race, it has to be said that, far from destroying the event, Life Time is actually improving it.

The truth is, even before Life Time Fitness got involved the Leadville Trail 100 MTB Race had become a behemoth thanks in no small part to the PR generated when Lance Armstrong raced it in 2008 and 2009. Slots have always been filled by a lottery system, but after Lance, the event's popularity soared and spots became tough to come by, with upward of 8,000 entrants reportedly vying for around 2,000 spaces.

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A Plea to the 2012 Tour of Colorado

Yesterday, the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, a.k.a. the tour of Colorado, announced the 12 host cities for the second edition of the race, scheduled for August 20 to 26, 2012. Last year’s inaugural run was largely a success, attracting eight ProTour teams and a star-studded field (Levi Leipheimer, George Hincapie, Ivan Basso, and the Schleck brothers amongst others) as well as huge crowds, but you might remember that I still had a few niggles. With the announcement of the new host cities, the organizers have set themselves up to address many (but not all) of the shortcomings of the maiden journey.

Here’s a peek:
Stage 1: Durango – Telluride
Stage 2: Montrose – Crested Butte/Mt. Crested Butte
Stage 3: Gunnison – Aspen
Stage 4: Aspen – Beaver Creek
Stage 5: Breckenridge – Colorado Springs
Stage 6: Golden – Boulder
Stage 7: Denver Individual Time Trial

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From The Lean-To: National Cowboy Poetry Gathering

Cowboy Poetry

Cowboy Poetry II

Yes, it's that time of year again. Forget the Thanksgiving turkey and the Christmas presents for loved ones. (Though, I beg you, don't forget the sweet potato pie.) 'Tis the season to start planning your trip to Elko, Nevada for the 28th annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. This year, the festivities go down from January 30th to February 4th, and according to the good people at the Western Folklife Center, the event is "the nation’s greatest celebration of the American West, its people, culture and traditions."

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The Best Black Friday Gear Deals

Screen shot 2011-11-23 at 8.42.34 AM

Black Friday through Cyber Monday—the four biggest shopping days of the year. If you're like us, in between eating, football, and exercising, you're trolling for good deals on outdoor gear (and, perhaps, lift tickets). We pinged our contacts at all the major retailers. Here are the best deals going. Happy Thanksgiving. 

Screen shot 2011-11-22 at 10.00.35 AM

Sierra Trading Post: Save an additional 20-25% off select items Black Friday from this discount outfitter in outdoor and sports categories, from baselayer to boots to goggles.

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