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Exclusive: La Sportiva Builds the Lightest Four-Buckle Touring Boot Ever

Spectre

Weight on your feet is more tiring than weight on your back by a factor of five. So lighter boots means you’re less tired when you reach the summit, you get more runs in on a day when you’re hiking for turns, and you get back to base with enough energy for après.

La Sportiva has a new secret weapon for backcountry skiers: the lightest four-buckle touring boot on the market. The company will show the boot for the first time at the Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake City, Utah, at the end of January.

The Spectre (men) and Sparkle (women) weigh in at 1,395 grams—just 3.075 pounds—per boot in size 27. That’s nearly half a pound lighter than anything else currently available.

But it’s not just the weight that will make you want to ski this boot—it’s the range of motion. In "walk" mode the Spectre and Sparkle have 30-degree front and 30-degree back rotation and a full 60-degree range of motion to reduce resistance in steep terrain. In the Spectre and Sparkle, your skinning strides will be limited only by your ankle flexibility, not by your boot.

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How Do Wrinkled Toes and Fingers Help You During Water Sports?

Shutterstock_77773525-1Hold on to that paddle. Photo: Shutterstock

Scientists previously thought that the smooth, hairless surfaces of fingers and toes wrinkled up like raisins after they got wet because water passed into the outermost layer of skin, causing it to swell. But recent studies have shown that the wrinkling is not a result of osmosis, but rather an autonomic nervous system reaction: placing hands or feet in water causes a constriction in blood vessels which reduces the pulp in digits. The loss of internal pressure causes ridges and valleys to form on glabrous skin. The question, of course, is why?

A new study published by three scientists in the journal Biology Letters suggests the physical change may have developed as a way to improve grip on wet objects. In other words, prune-like fingers and toes that form during long surfing and kayaking sessions may actually help you hold on to your board or paddle.

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Picture of the Week: Arroyo Sledding

SKI6247Five-year-old William "rides the bump." Photo: Peter Sullivan

We had a dry start to winter here in Santa Fe, but by the time this picture was taken, on December 29, there were four inches of snow most everywhere in town. Just not on this sunny, south-facing arroyo, where Peter Sullivan spent the afternoon with his four boys and their pal, Pippa, inventing a new and somewhat suspect sport: dirt tobogganing. And getting totally filthy in the process.

SAYS PETER: We didn't have any destination. We were just going for a walk on the trails behind the house [where we were staying]. The arroyo is part of the city's green space, and the kids just spontaneously crawled down into it. It's steep enough that it's more of a ravine than an arroyo. At first, they climbed up five feet and slipped down, almost by accident. You could see them thinking, "That was fun!" Then they went up 20 feet and slid down, and kept doing it over and over. The dirt was soft. There was no snow. At one point, Liam scrambled up an outcropping and jumped off. I was like, Oh God.

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Yosemite's Half Dome Has Cables. Deal With It.

HalfDomeTraffic_wikiRush hour on Half Dome. Photo: DirectCutter

I'll never forget the moment I first glimpsed the iconic Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. It was 2001 and I had recently moved to San Francisco for a job editing an outdoor sports website. Then the Internet bubble popped and I found myself trying to scrape together a living as a freelancer. I was on a solo roadtrip in early June, headed to Mammoth Mountain to test some snowboard boots. I rounded a corner on Big Oak Flat Road and the dome came into view. I literally, audibly, gasped. Then I started to cry. I had to pull off the road. I remember thinking two things: that is shockingly beautiful, and driving this road while gazing at this monolith is quite dangerous.

Also dangerous is scaling to the top of Half Dome, despite the fact that a cable banister extends up the final, steep 400-foot stretch to the summit. At least five people have died along the cables since 2006, according to the Associated Press. Most have slipped on the wet or icy rock during storms. To alleviate the crowding along the cables, the park announced its decision to roll out a system of day-use permits, which will limit the number of hikers accessing the two-mile section from the John Muir Trail to the Half Dome summit to 300 per day. The park expects this will reduce crowding on the cables, thereby making them safer as well as accommodating a faster descent to avoid an approaching storm.

The decision comes at the end of a multi-year Half Dome Trail Stewardship Plan that included five management options, ranging from no change, to limiting permits to 400, 300, or 140 hikers per day, to actually removing the cables. Other options that were earlier considered but dismissed included adding another cable to give more aid to descending hikers, and actually removing Half Dome from Yosemite's wilderness boundaries. If it were not designated wilderness, park officials would not have needed to factor in the need for solitude, as required by the Wilderness Act.

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Skiing Competitively a Year After Paralysis

On December 22, 2011, 16-year-old Jake Hickman crashed while participating at a United States freestyle ski team selection competition in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. The reigning J2 junior national champion caught the edge of his ski in the snow before a jump and the accident resulted in a spiral compression fracture of his T8 vertebrae with an incomplete paralysis of his spinal cord. Doctors were unsure whether he would ever walk again.

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