Some of us are scoring powder days, while others are getting skunked. Either way, it’s shaping up to be a weird and dangerous winter all across the country—and nowhere is this truer than the backcountry. So far, 8 skiers and boarders and four snowmobilers have died in avalanches this season across the United States, where erratic snowfall and temperatures have created a dodgy, unstable snow pack. Among the fatalities was 13-year-old Taft Conlin, who was skiing inbounds at Vail in late January when a slide caught him. And earlier this week, a solo snowboarder who was wearing an Avalung and an avalanche air bag was buried and killed in Bear Creek, outside Telluride.
Whether you’re ripping the resorts or skiing the backcountry with the requisite safety gear—beacon, shovel, probe—your first line of defense is always basic snow smarts. With more young people than ever heading into the backcountry, the National Ski Patrol, in conjunction with the Utah Avalanche Center and the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, have released “Know Before You Go,” a free 15-minute video designed to educate teens about how to understand the inherent risks of traveling in the backcountry. If you have children who are old enough to ski the backcountry or the steeps at your local hill—whether it’s the White Mountains or the Wasatch—this video could save their life. And yours.
(If the video doesn't play, click here to watch it on YouTube)
On Sunday, I (sort of) ran from Vail's Lionshead base area up 2,200 feet to Eagle's Nest. This is not how I normally travel at ski mountains.
The run was the final of three events in the Ultimate Mountain Challenge and part of the Winter Teva Mountain Games, which, as I understood it, were meant as a celebration of the lesser mountain sports that people do in winter—Nordic skiing, ski touring, snowshoeing, snowbiking, ice climbing. It seemed occasionally odd to celebrate sports that most of the time work against gravity at a resort, Vail, that most of the time works very much with gravity, but I appreciated the general sentiment and it appeared that plenty other people did, too.
This spring, Andrew Badenoch plans to launch a 7,000-mile trip from Bellingham, Wash., up to the southern coast of the Arctic Ocean, before looping back. His locomotion will be a fatbike and a small packable raft. The former marketer, who ditched his corporate job to live aboard his sail boat and write, has never done an expedition like this before. But that hasn't stopped around 200 individuals—many of whom don't even know Badenoch—from raising nearly $10,000 $10,500 to support his mission, via Kickstarter.
Whether they're driven by a quest for fame, a search for answers, or a politcal (awareness-raising) objective, major expeditions attract attention and make for good headlines. Oftentimes, corporations sponsor trips, and/or the trips act a fundraising vehicles for nonprofit organisations. Not so for "Fatbikerafting the Arctic," Badenoch's Kickstarter campaign. His benefactors are people who just think his trip sounds interesting, and who want dibs on the things—from a documentary movie to an expedition training guide—that he plans to create once the trip is complete. And Badenoch, by his own admission, is just a guy who wants to prove a point.
A year ago, Boreas was started by Tae Kim, the Creative Director behind Alite Designs. Kim showed he wasn’t afraid to take design risks, creating the two-legged balancing Monarch Butterfly Camp Chair and the zip-crotch Sexy Hotness sleeping bag. With Boreas, Kim is offering design flair while showing his serious side.
We tested Boreas’ lidless Buttermilk on a climbing trip to Spain. Despite the fact that it has a bald, strap-cinched roll top, the pack has plenty of options for packing organization—a zippered front pocket, an oversized stretchy front pocket that clips close, and waterbottle pockets. The bag has tapered sides, which make searching for gear much easier because the mouth of the bag was wider than the bag. One of our favorite features is the hidden front lash loops, which recess into the pack’s seams when they’re not in use. The z-foam back panel pack carries a solid load wihtout being overbuilt. The hip belt holds a rain cover, which comes in handy more than you'd expect. The only clips on the bag are nose to nose on the front—one to cinch the roll top closure and one to clip the front pocket. It's a nice minimal feature for the airport. (When we checked the bag at Barcelona Airport on the way home, there were no straps, clips or clutter to get caught in airline conveyors. And even packed full of metal climbing gear and tossed around by baggage handlers, the bag pack was good as new when it arrived home.)
This week I had the chance to spend a few days at the Tucson training camp with the Competitive Cyclist racing team. One of a few notable domestic pro cycling outfits, this team leapt onto the US racing scene last year with overall wins at five National Racing Calendar (NRC) events, as well as an anomalous award for 2011's top rider in the NRC. (More on that in a minute.) If you have no idea what I'm talking about, don't be alarmed—neither do lots of American cycling enthusiasts. Read on.