Don't Be a Lard Puppy*

Outside Magazine, 1999 Annual Travel Guide

Don't Be a Lard Puppy*

*N: an out-of-shape, weekend leisure rider
By Lisa Twyman Bessone

Whitewater Kayaking

The School: Sundance Kayak School and Expeditions, Merlin, Oregon

The Drill: In the wilderness alongside Oregon's Wild and Scenic Rogue River, six rustic cabins surround the River House Lodge. Days begin with skill sessions on a quiet section of the river; then students run progressively more difficult stretches. Both the seven- and nine-day sessions culminate with a three-day, 33-mile river trip. The night before you put in, a masseuse works his magic, just in time for a send-off party with dancing on the lodge deck overlooking the river. (Ask owner Judo Patterson to belt out his rendition of "Secret Kayak Man.") Instruction continues in Class II and III rapids; at night, the instructors go into Martha Stewart mode, entertaining, whipping up meals, and best of all, cleaning up.

The Pain: Kayaking uses muscle groups in the torso, hips, and shoulders that most sports don't. Sundance paces campers so they won't be reduced to groaning masses of muscles-in-revolt by Day Two, and a hot tub parboils sore muscles. A tip: Accept any offers for the loan of a nose plug. Learning to roll is no time to become image-conscious.

The Glory: Seven to nine days may seem a bit much for paddle camp, but it takes just about that long to see any appreciable improvement. By the time of the overnight trip, kayakers who couldn't even paddle a straight line find themselves steering adroitly through the Class III shoulder-high waves and reading the river as easily as they did the road map a week earlier.

Logistics: Sessions run mid-May through September. The cost for the nine-day session is $1,725; the seven-day option is $1,340. Call 541-479-8508 for exact dates.

Other Options: Nantahala Outdoor Center in North Carolina offers nearly 200 classes ranging in price from $360 to $1,105, including lodging; call 888-662-1662. The Otter Bar Lodge in Northern California runs weeklong sessions from April to September for $1,490 per person, including lodging, instruction, and three meals a day; call 530-462-4772.


The School: High Cascade Snowboard Camp, Mt. Bachelor and Mt. Hood Meadows Ski Resort, Oregon

The Drill: Camps are held in the winter for adults on Mt. Bachelor, and in the summer at Mt. Hood Meadows for both kids and adults. The adults (and they've been as old as 71, folks) can be more energetic than the kid campers: Up at 6:30 a.m., on the slopes by eight, a quick lunch at the lodge, then back at it until four. The time on the snow flies because the instructors have a "let's rock" attitude that's highly contagious. They seem to spend a good deal of time unteaching downhill skiing techniques, which can be painful when applied to snowboarding. After dinner, the entire group lights out for the bars until 3:00 a.m. Come 6:30 a.m., they do it all again.

The Pain: Actually hearing the word "rad" pass between your lips. More memorable, however, is lying facedown in the snow, your cranium in a prehypothermic state after your 90th face plant in just 20 minutes.

The Glory: Euphoria comes during the latter video sessions, because seeing is believing. The first installments are right out of Funniest Bloopers; by the end of the week, campers are planning to send copies to all their friends.

Logistics: There are week-long sessions at Mt. Bachelor in December, February, and April. The weeklong summer camp runs in August at Mt. Hood Meadows (there are separate camps for kids and adults). Costs range from $650-$1,550; call 800-334-4272.

Other Options: Women Only Snowboard Camp in Sugarbush, Vermont, runs three-day sessions in December, January, and March for $689 that include meals, lodging, and instruction; call 800-552-5065. Showcase Camp of Champions in Whistler, B. C., offers eight-day sessions starting June 17 for $1,075, including daily breakfast and lunch and accommodations; call 888-997-2267.

Mountain Biking

The School: Dirt Camp Program at Northstar-at-Tahoe and Squaw Valley, California; Keystone, Colorado; and Waterville Valley, New Hampshire

The Drill: Whoever coined the phrase "as easy as riding a bike" was ill-informed. Mountain biking is a study in balance, physics, and the nuances of body position, all of which Dirt Camp imparts to its students. These weekend ski-resort programs are designed for riders who can't carve an entire week out of their work schedules. For better or worse, expect to be hanging with professional types, not tongue-pierced, green-haired hammerheads. There is one long ride each day and one intensive skills drill session. After dinner, guest lecturers expound on topics as varied as land-use issues and diet. As for creature comforts, c'mon, these are off-season ski resorts.

The Pain: Coming across "lard puppy" in a dictionary of mountain-bike terms. Need we say more? Also, after several hours in the saddle the caboose gets sore, especially for folks more accustomed to sitting behind a desk in a big leather chair. Pack your pain remedy of choice.

The Glory: The moment you finally release your white-knuckle grip on the brakes, unclench your jaw, and relax your knees, allowing the bike to flow down the mountain trail. This is the only way to achieve a higher mountain-biking consciousness and experience what it's like to feel part Picabo Street, part Gregory Hines, on knobbies.

Logistics: The camps start up in late June or July, and run through late September. Prices vary, but average about $275 per weekend and include food, lodging, instruction, and usually equipment demos that are not to be believed. Call 800-711-3478.

Other Options: Elk River Touring Center in Slatyfork, West Virginia, runs two- to three-day programs for $259-$499, with lodging and meals included; call 304-572-3771. Mount Snow Mountain Bike School in Vermont runs sessions on weekends from June-October for $99 per person per day, including lunch and equipment; call 800-245-7669.


The School: Richard Schmidt's School of Surfing, Santa Cruz, California

The Drill: Don't look down your nose at the camp's accommodations — a KOA campground. This one ain't half bad, with nice bathroom facilities, showers, a pool, and a hot tub. Days begin at 7:30 a.m. with yoga and muscle stretches; after breakfast, you'll hit the beach for instruction and video sessions. A nonsurf activity is scheduled each day after lunch; the hike to see elephant seals is a highlight. By 2:30 p.m., it's back in the surf until sunset. Marisa, Schmidt's wife, whips up some great chow, like Indonesian Night's nasi goreng and gado gado. At night, campers watch the day's video tapes and hear critiques from instructors before wiggling into their sleeping bags.

The Pain: Snowboarding may be hard, but at least the mountain isn't undulating beneath you. Your shoulders will ache from paddling out to the breaks, but the camp thoughtfully enlists the skills of a masseuse at midweek to knead tired muscles.

The Glory: To hear surfers tell it, actually riding that first wave ranks somewhere above your first kiss. At the Schmidt School, even the klutziest camper can fully expect to experience this coming-of-age, thanks to the quality of instruction. Schmidt was weaned on the jumbo surf of nearby Mavericks and has enlisted other surf gods to help teach.

Logistics: The seven-day adult camps run during the first two weeks in June and the first three weeks in August, with meals, equipment, instruction, and transportation included for $750. Call 831-423-0928.

Other Options: Surf Diva Surf School in La Jolla, California (for women only) has two-day sessions almost year-round. The $90 fee is for instruction only; call 619-454-8273. The Nancy C. Emerson School of Surfing on Maui offers numerous options, including a two-hour group lesson ($65 per person) and five days of five-hour lessons ($650). Lodging is not included; call 808-244-7873.

Scuba Diving

The School: Lahaina Divers, Maui, Hawaii

The Drill: In keeping with Hawaii's laid-back attitude, Lahaina Divers works around your vacation schedule so you can get your Open Water Certification without missing out on all the other fun stuff to do on Maui. Most people can get the job done in three days. The Professional Association of Dive Instructors (PADI) requirements are five to seven hours of dry-land study (don't worry, some classes are held on Waikuli Beach), in-water drills in basic skills and emergency problem-solving techniques, and four dives. Held in almost the same esteem as the Open Water certificate is the ten percent lifetime discount from Lahaina Divers.

The Pain: Believe it or not, you get totally dehydrated when you dive; the oxygen in those tanks is drier than the air in Tucson. New divers also complain of dizziness when they emerge from the weightlessness of water back to the gravity of dry land. Sore site: the legs. They don't kick with flippers in those water-aerobics classes for nothing.

The Glory: When you stop feeling weird about breathing through your mouth like you do when your nose is stuffed and you can just focus on the kaleidoscope of Technicolor fish finning about, you're there.

Logistics: The Open Water Certification course, which includes instruction and equipment, is yours for $295. If you'd rather not fritter away your time in paradise on the mundane classroom and skills requirements, you can complete that portion of the program at home before you depart and leave the diving portion for Maui. This dive-only option costs $225 and takes only two days. Call 800-998-3483.

Other Options: Down Under Dive, Cairns, Queensland, Australia, offers a five-day Open Water Certification, including two days of pool time and theory and three days on a liveaboard Clipper Ship that takes you out to the Great Barrier Reef, for $485; call 011-61-7-40-311-288. Reef House Resort, Bay Islands, Honduras, offers a five- to seven-day Open Water Certification program for $350, with meals and accommodations for an additional $550-$725, double occupancy; call 800-328-8897.


The School: Crescent H Ranch, Jackson Hole, Wyoming

The Drill: This is the original Orvis-endorsed fly-fishing lodge and it simply doesn't get much better than this: five-and-a-half miles of private spring creeks, ponds, and Snake River frontage in the shadows of the Grand Tetons and a main lodge with two river-rock fireplaces that looks like something out of a Sundance catalog. The first day is an intensive classroom marathon on theory, currents, fish behavior, and the hatch. Practice casting is done on the lodge's pond. Every day thereafter you hit the river all day for what are essentially guided trips with an extra dose of instruction. (The prevailing ethos is catch-and-release.) One day is declared no-fishing; participants can hike, horseback ride, raft, or shop in town.

The Pain: Fly-fishing takes patience and perseverance, two traits our instant-gratification society is short on. Instead of the graceful cast romanticized in movies, your line is apt to look more like a severed high-tension wire, hissing and writhing out of control.

The Glory: Sure, catching that first fish is a real rush. But the true appeal of this sport is the total immersion in the river's ecosystem: Successfully reading the river will take your full concentration.

Logistics: Seven nights' lodging, meals, cocktails, fishing instruction, and all other ranch activities, such as horseback riding, are included in the school package, which costs $2,700 per person double occupancy. The lodge operates from mid-June through September; call 307-733-3674.

Other Options: Dave and Emily Whitlock Fly Fishing Schools in Midway, Arkansas, are three-day programs during April-June and September-November for $500, accommodations not included; call 888-962-4576. Clearwater House in Cassels, California, offers a four-night package, including meals, lodging, and instruction, for $950 per person, double occupancy; call 530-335-5500.

Horseback Riding

The School: Grand Cypress Equestrian Center, Orlando, Florida.

The Drill: This is the first facility in the United States to be recognized by the prestigious British Horse Society, meaning that the quality of instruction and depth of horse knowledge is as good as it gets on these shores. Accommodations are either at the trˆs swank Villas Grand Cypress or at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress. Each day includes two hours of instruction in basic equitation, more advanced dressage, or jumping, depending on your riding level. Afternoons are devoted to unmounted classes in horsemanship and stable management. Students can bring their own horses, but the center has horses available.

The Pain: Realizing how much is involved to simply propel a horse forward in upper-level English riding. This isn't a hop-onto-Trigger-and-yell-giddyup proposition. It's a matter of learning to use legs, body weight, body position, and hands, working in harmony with a 1,500-pound athlete. It's easy to feel out of your league, like Rosie O'Donnell partnered with Mikhail Baryshnikov in Swan Lake.

The Glory: Those balletic flashes of rhythm and balance when your horse is responsive to your every silent request, and the two of you seem to be floating above the ground.

Logistics: The five-day adult riding program costs $225 per person; accommodations for two to four at the Villas Grand Cypress cost $200-$370 per night; doubles at the Hyatt are $190-$295. Call 407-238-1938.

Other Options: Goose Downs Farm in Galisteo, New Mexico, offers four- and six-day camps in June and July or August for $375-$450 (including meals and dorm accommodations) in combined training (dressage, cross-country, and stadium jumping); call 505-466-8771. Equitour World Wide Riding Holidays offers sessions year-round at the Alcain‡a Dressage School in Lisbon ($150 per person per day with a three-night minimum, including accommodations, meals, and instruction); call 800-545-0019.

Copyright 1998, Outside magazine

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