The Outside 100
Lance Armstrong announced his comeback. China staked claim to the future. Dara Torres gave us all hope for our older selves. The White House cleared the way for new occupants. Oh, and some kid from Baltimore won eight gold medals. If the past is prelude, we're in for an epic 2009.
Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.
More on MichaelOur memo to Michael Phelps
100) Edmund Hillary
(JULY 20, 1919 JANUARY 11, 2008)
As a young man, Edmund Hillary started walking up New Zealand’s rough mountains simply because they’d become irresistible to him. He was not part of any establishment. But he could appreciate natural beauty, embraced physical challenges, and proved able to calculate, strategize, and focus in an environment notoriously hard on the synapses. On May 29, 1953, he and his climbing partner, Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, “Knocked the bastard off” and how. Hillary might easily have slid from the high ground in the 55 years that followed the Everest feat, but he didn’t. He kept exploring and climbing, risking his phenomenally public reputation at the world’s fringes. He did his share of books, lectures, and slide shows, to be sure. He shook hands with president and premiers and prime ministers, was knighted and given medals. But ultimately those things were not rewards for a few cold moments on the roof of the world. In fact, Sir Ed became an icon for his warmth. He devoted himself to a personal brand of philanthropy: building schools, clinics, airfields, and bridges for the impoverished farmers who’d helped him to fame. He chose to see himself as lucky. As unsophisticated as the beekeeper’s son was supposed to have been, he set extremely sophisticated standards for those of us in his wake who call ourselves mountaineers.
Normally, the DUDES just abide. But in 2008, they excelled. The success of Deadliest Catch and Dirty Jobs opened the door for similar pseudo-reality shows like ICE ROAD TRUCKERS and AX MEN, both dedicated to dangerous jobs and the tough guys who only occasionally die doing them. Wily Republican operatives smartly used this testosterone-fueled moment in history to cue up moose-hunting Sarah and “First Dude” TODD PALIN, who, as an oil-field worker, long-distance snowmobile racer, and commercial salmon fisherman, could single-handedly fill the Discovery Channel lineup. And boutique companies like Brooklyn-based OXEN WORKWEAR and adventure-inspired men’s shops like ROGUES GALLERY, which opened its first store in Portland, Maine, this year, are fueling the trend across the country. Remember, though: If you wear Carhartts for fashion rather than function, you’re still kinda lame, dude.
93) New York City’s menaced pedestrians got a nice respite this past summer when Mayor Michael Bloomberg closed 6.9 miles down the spine of Manhattan to motorized vehicles. For three Saturdays in August, SUMMER STREETS brought the park to Park Avenue.
92) After becoming the first quadriplegic to sail solo across the English Channel in her custom 20-foot boat, Malin (controlled by sipping and puffing air through straws), in 2005 HILARY LISTER set out on June 16 to circumnavigate Great Britain. Severe weather and technical failures halted the bid after two months, but she plans to finish next spring.
91) Their boat was, literally, a junker. But that was the idea. In sailing their 30-foot heap of an expedition boat, JUNK six pontoons filled with 15,000 plastic bottles, with a deckof old sailboat masts and a cabin from a retired Cessna from California to Hawaii this past summer, Marcus Eriksen and Joel Paschal sought to highlight the sheer volume of plastic trash in our oceans, like in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The duo had a relatively easy crossing, then a horrifying realization: The bottles had held up brilliantly over the three-month voyage.
90) Sweet deal: In June, the state of Florida agreed to purchase from U.S. Sugar 292 square miles adjacent to EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK. The area, where the company had farmed sugarcane since the thirties, should contribute about a million acre-feet of water annually to the parched Everglades.
89) After all the search parties, rescue teams, and satellite images, it seemed fitting that the crash site of Steve Fossett, who made his name as a solo adventurer, would be found by a lone hiker. Thank you, PRESTON MORROW, for giving his story an ending.
88) Convenience-store owner KENT COUCH, 48, wasn’t the first to fly a lawn chair rigged with party balloons that distinction went to Larry Walters in 1982 but he went the farthest, floating 235 miles from Bend, Oregon, to Cambridge, Idaho, and brought himself back to earth with a pellet gun.
87) What’s not to love about URBAN GARDENS? They green up the landscape and provide residents with fresh, local food. Some, like Philadelphia’s Greensgrow Farms, which sits on the site of a former steel-galvanizing factory and makes its own honey, even turn a tidy profit, while others are more education-focused, like Growing Power, a Milwaukee-based organization headed by Will Allen, who received a 2008 MacArthur “genius grant” for his efforts.
86) Former assistant managing editor MEGAN MICHELSON, who was crowned U.S. Extreme Telemark Champion on March 22 in Crested Butte, Colorado, after entering on a whim. A week later, she won the first-ever World Telemark Freeskiing Championships, in Alyeska, Alaska. Now we feel better about all those times she smoked us, like so many sausages, on the hill.
85) Burma’s military junta notwithstanding, the world was there for the 2.5 million victims of Cyclone Nargis last May. Pledges of relief totaling $482 million poured in, including 220 water pumps, 28,000 tons of food, and 99,000 roofing sheets for schools. The idea of the “INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY” suddenly seemed less abstract.
84) Calling the result “anti-snow porn,” LEEWARD CINEMA created the first-ever professional “human-powered” snowboard film. Twenty of the world’s best, like Jeremy Jones and Markku Koski, trekked into huck-worthy terrain throughout the Sierra Nevada sans snowmobiles, lifts, or helicopters just split-boards and snowshoes.
83) Australian scientists advanced fuel-cell technology by eliminating finicky platinum in favor of a thin, porous fabric we’ve loved for years GORE-TEX making hybrid cars cheaper and more reliable.
82) Kelly Slater’s Best Wave of 2008
“I was at Padang Padang, in Bali. The wave breaks with two barrel sections, the first sort of a setup for the second. The wave was two or three times overhead when it stood up. I pulled into the first barrel for a second or two as the end of the wave unloaded on the inside reef. I stalled off the bottom and pulled into the next barrel with hardly any speed, so the whole thing would suck me in and pass me up. The tube monster the whitewash from the crashing lip was trying to eat me, but it actually pushed me along in the tube and out the end. I stood up a little early coming out, and the lip hit me in the head, which made the exit a bit more interesting. But I couldn’t believe I caught a wave like that during my first session there. One of the best I’ve ever been lucky enough to ride.” (SLATER WON HIS NINTH WORLD TITLE THIS YEAR.)
81-80) Portland takes pride in being America’s most bike-friendly city. So after six cyclists died in traffic accidents there last year, the local government spent nearly $50,000 to create BIKE BOXES at more than a dozen busy intersections. The clearly marked squares allow cyclists to line up in front of cars so they don’t get lost in blind spots. Police immediately began warning drivers who ignored the boxes. Cycling fatalities for 2008, to date: Zero. And EARL BLUMENAUER, congressman from Oregon’s Third District, which includes most of Portland, inserted language in the $700 billion bailout bill that will offer tax breaks of $20 per month for bike commuters.
79-76) Jamaica smokes the world: First, Usain Bolt shattered the 100-METER WORLD RECORD, then the 200-METER WORLD RECORD, then, with three teammates, the 4 x 100-METER WORLD RECORD.And let’s not forget about Jamaica’s WOMEN’S TRACK TEAM, which garnered three more golds, bringing the island’s total to six the best haul per capita of any nation at the Games.
75) Hats off to BROOKS. The company invented the world’s first running shoe with a biodegradable midsole (which breaks down in 20 years, as opposed to 1,000), then declined to patent it, so others would be free to use the earth-friendly technology.
74) Beach-volleyball champ Kerri Walsh revealed more than a taut body in her Team USA bikini. KINESIO TAPE, the stuff seen all over her surgically repaired right shoulder, became a phenomenon. And with good reason. When applied correctly, the cotton tape has been shown to ease pain and aid healing.
73) Iron Man? We’ll take real-life, self-made superhero FUSIONMAN. Yves Rossy, 49, of Switzerland, dropped from a plane at 8,000 feet and used the four jet turbines on his homemade JetWing to hit 125 mph as he flew across the 22-mile English Channel.
72) OUTSIDER #2
Correspondent DAVE HAHN, who on May 23 summited Everest for the tenth time a record for anyone whose last name isn’t Sherpa.
71) A rare bit of good news for air travelers: The OPEN SKIES AGREEMENT, which went into effect after years of negotiation, frees carriers from dated regulations that required all flights to take off or land in the airline’s home country. The move opens the international market to competition, which should mean more choices and cheaper tickets.
70) Maybe it was the ANTI-SNOWBOARDING IS ANTI-FAMILY bumper stickers. Or maybe the 21st century just arrived a bit late. (New Mexico can be slow to adapt.) Regardless, TAOS SKI VALLEY finally opened the best terrain in the Southwest some of the best in the country, actually to snowboarders. Don’t worry, Alta: You’ve still got Mad River Glen to keep you company.
69) Thank you, HORNY TOAD, for buying and relaunching NAU, the impressively eco-minded maker of stylish but technical apparel and outerwear. After going out of business in May, the Portland, Oregon, company reopened in October.
68-67) DARA TORRES deserved every accolade she got for earning Olympic silver at age 41. But let’s not forget French cyclist JEANNIE LONGO-CIPRELLI, 49, who missed bronze by 1.5 seconds in Beijing and has competed in every Olympics since women’s cycling was introduced, in 1984. Merci pour l’inspiration.
66-62) Badass of the Year Awards
ERIC SHANTEAU, Swimmer
25, Austin, Texas
Learned he had testicular cancer six weeks before the Olympics. Put off treatment to compete in Beijing.
PETER MOYER, Fly-Fisherman
60, Jackson, Wyoming
Landed a tarpon conservatively estimated at a world-record 210 pounds off the coast of Florida. Released it rather than kill it for the record.
TAMARA URUSHADZE, Reporter
28, Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia
Mother of two was shot in the arm while on the air. Continued reporting.
DAVE WIENS, Mountain Biker
44, Gunnison, Colorado
Beat Floyd Landis in 2007 for his fifth-straight victory in the Leadville 100. Beat Lance Armstrong this year for number six.
NORM MOREEN, He-Man
39, Woolaning, Australia
Saved his wife from a crocodile attack by leaping onto its back and poking its eyes until it let go. Wife sustained only bite wounds on her legs.
61-60) Ropes? They’re so 2007. Moab, Utah’s DEAN POTTER has moved on to freeBASE ascents scaling big walls with a just a parachute to catch his fall and BASElining, slacklining over gaping chasms with, again, just a chute to save him. But the guy who really turned it up was ALEX HONNOLD, of Sacramento, California, who free-soloed (no ropes or protection) the 2,000-foot Regular Northwest Face of Half Dome in September.
59) Lance Armstrong’s comeback!
58-57) JANUARY and FEBRUARY combined for one of the greatest periods ever in North American skiing. After a frighteningly dry autumn, a decent December led to a two-month onslaught of above-average snowfall throughout the West, with some resorts reporting more than 200 percent of normal totals. Season saved.
56) Introducing the new OC. OKLAHOMA CITY grabbed headlines by stealing theSuperSonics from Seattle, hosted the U.S. Olympic trials for sprint canoe and kayaking at its revitalized riverfront, and our favorite launcheda citywide weight-loss campaign. So far, the city of half a million has collectively shed more than 220,000 pounds. Hear that, Milwaukee?
55) Proof that sustainable air travel might be feasible: British defense firm QinetiQ’s solar-powered ZEPHYR an ultralightweight UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) stayed aloft for a record 82 hours and 37 minutes in a demonstration for the U.S. Department of Defense.
54) Guy named Lance got cancer. Fought it. Beat it. Won his sport’s most prestigious race. Story inspired others. Dogsledder and cancer survivor LANCE MACKEY, first person ever to win the 1,150-mile Iditarod and the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest in the same year (2007), repeated the feat this year.
53) The retro facial hair, the seething outrage over China’s underage “half-people” gymnasts, the Romanian accent that gets thicker as time goes on, and the rough hugging. BELA?KAROLYI was a well of unpredictability at the most scripted Games ever.
52-51) Sustainable materials? Muy bueno. The BAMBOO CRAZE? Let’s do the math:
Dell’s bamboo-encased COMPUTER is pretty cool.
But it turns out that making bamboo BASE LAYERS isn’t very, um, sustainable (often involves toxic chemicals).
Bamboo TENT POLES, like the ones Nemo is launching in the spring, sound promising enough.
Bamboo SUNGLASSES? We’ll pass.
Nothing casts like an old Tonkin-cane FLY ROD from Winston. Plus custom-bike guru Craig Calfee has upped his race-worthy bamboo offerings with a 29er mountain bike and has begun growing his own bamboo. Try that with carbon fiber.
50) “The survival of the United States of America as we know it is at risk.” So said AL GORE in a July 17 speech on energy. Alarmist? You betcha. But it’s a style that’s worked for him before (see Truth, An Inconvenient), and his goals are worthy: All our electricity from “carbon-free resources” by 2018 and an end to “borrowing money from China to buy oil from the Persian Gulf.”
49) American SHEILA TAORMINA, who won a swimming gold in 1996 and represented the U.S. in triathlon in 2000 and 2004, made history by becoming the first woman to qualify for the Olympics in three different sports. Her 2008 choice? The modern pentathlon swimming, running, shooting, fencing, and equestrian jumping. She finished 19th not bad considering just three years ago she’d never shot a gun, held a sword, or ridden a horse.
48) Andrea Estevam
Outside Brazil editorial director and semi-pro adventure racer ANDREA ESTEVAM, who on August 29 completed the 62-mile Courmayeur Champex Chamonix ultramarathon on the slopes of Europe’s Mont Blanc. The São Paulo resident trained for the race, which included 18,000 feet of climbing, in just eight weeks, supplementing six runs per week through the sprawling city with StairMaster, plyometrics, and weight work. Yes, guys, she’s real.
47) Ballsiest marketing language of the year: “Proper mainTAINTenance of the perineal area is essential during high-level training and racing.” American pro cyclist Dave Zabriskie, on his new chamois cream, DZNUTS (“deez nuts”). dz-nuts.com
46-45) In a rare case of the testers being a step ahead of the cheats, Italy’s Riccardo Riccò got nailed at the Tour de France for a previously unknown drug called Micera. It turned out that pharmaceutical giant ROCHE cooperated with the WORLD ANTI-DOPING AGENCY while developing the blood-booster, giving authorities time to create a test ahead of time.
44) Bike commuters and odd-hour cyclists, pray your town gets a TREK STOP. The experimental vending machine/repair stand, which went up in June in Madison, Wisconsin, offers round-the-clock access to essentials like air, tubes, lube, bottles, and water.
43) Punk rock, tattoos, and carnage: The Olympic co-opting of the X Games and the Dew Tour continued with the spectacular debut of BMX. Next up: skateboarding. Seriously.
42) Let’s have a round of applause for TORONTO POLICE for arresting used-bike-shop owner Igor Kenk, who had 2,865 (2,865!) stolen bikes, stored in locations throughout the city. Then again, why did it take them so long to find a guy sitting on nearly 3,000 bikes?
41) Last April, freeskiing phenom SIMON DUMONT hit a 38-foot-tall ramp at 55 mph and soared 73 feet into the air (as high as a seven-story building) to shatter the world record for highest air off a quarterpipe. And he did it in good style, adding a 900 spin in midair, just for kicks.
40) Americans are on pace to drive 90 billion fewer miles this year than last. True, it has more to do with gas prices than planet-first thinking, but we’ll take 50 MILLION FEWER TONS OF CO2 in the atmosphere however we can get it.
39-37) The Gregor Mendel Award goes to: DAVIS PHINNEY, former Olympic cyclist and Tour de France stage winner, and his wife, CONNIE CARPENTER, former Olympic speed skater and cycling gold medalist. Their 18-year-old son, TAYLOR “MINI” PHINNEY, turned pro, won World Cup races, and went to the Olympics just 18 months after taking up competitive cycling.
36) Running out of water with the AQUADUCT MOBILE FILTRATION VEHICLE wouldn’t be an issue. The concept tricycle, winner of the Innovate or Die Pedal-Powered Machine Contest from Google and Specialized, is aimed at providing clean drinking water in developing nations. Users fill a built-in five-gallon tank and pedal home or disengage the wheels and spin in place. The cranks power a filtration pump and channel drinkable water into a removable jug.
35-34) Alpine skiers LINDSEY VONN, 24, and BODE MILLER, 31, didn’t just win the 2008 World Cup overall titles; they crushed the runners-up by an average of 165 points. Last time a pair of Yanks lifted the crystal globes? 1983.
33) India’s Tata Corporation announced the NANO. At around $2,500, it’s the world’s cheapest car, target=ed at people currently rickshawing around the subcontinent. That means a lot more people with access to motorized transportation and a whole lot more pollution. Thanks for the moral dilemma.
32) China’s OLYMPIC OPENING CEREMONY. Note to London: Good Luck.
31) Hip-hop mogul and track-bike collector Kanye West got CUSTOM BAR ENDS on his Brooklyn Machine Works single-speed that play off his infamous quote about the president: GEORGE BUSH HATES TRACK PEOPLE.
30) A quick thank-you to REUTERS, for reporting that French swimmer Alain Bernard promised his heavily favored team would “smash” the U.S. in the 4 x 100 freestyle relay in Beijing, spurring American Jason Lezak to race the best anchor leg ever. Merci pour la victoire.
29) Korean company RNL Bio announced the world’s first COMMERCIAL PET CLONING in August, with a litter created from a dead pit bull. “Who’s a wittle abomination?”
28-27) It was the year of monster mash-ups. First some guys filled a rubber suit with roadkill, froze it, and sold it as BIGFOOT, then the MONTAUK MONSTER which looked like the spawn of a dog and a hawk scared folks in New York. Both proved the existence of morons.
26) After a decade of being called one of the biggest and cleanest talents in cycling, American CHRISTIAN VANDE VELDE, 32, rose to prominence at this year’s Tour de France. A late-race crash likely cost him a podium spot, but he still finished fifth overall.
25) SIR NILS OLAV pooped a little while being knighted on behalf of Norway’s King Harald V. It was an understandable indiscretion, considering the gravity of the situation and the fact that Nils is a king?penguin. The mascot and honorary colonel-in-chief of the King’s Guard was feted by 130 guardsmen, with a citation declaring him “in every way qualified to receive the honor and dignity of knighthood.”
24) What’s in the water in PLANO, TEXAS? The Dallas suburb is the hometown of 2008 Olympic gymnastics all-around champion Nastia Liukin, training ground of 2004 all-around gold medalist Carly Patterson, and birthplace of Lance Armstrong.
23) The best resort slopes in North America are more accessible than ever. No more stringing together surface lifts to get to Jackson Hole’s RENDEZVOUS MOUNTAIN, now that the Wyoming resort has replaced its iconic tram. And whether you’re at WHISTLER wishing you were at BLACKCOMB, or vice versa, the new Peak 2 Peak Gondola will get you there in 11 minutes.
Sarah Palin brought Alaska back to prime time for the first time since Northern Exposure went off the air. But for political junkies, outdoorsmen, and rabid separatists, the 49th state has always held a special place. Baroque politics, natural splendor, endearingly deluded homegrown libertarians and the occasional bear mauling: Alaska is The Jerry Springer Show hosted by Ron Paul and shot in New Zealand. The state patriarch, Senator Ted Stevens, 85, ran for reelection despite a federal indictment for failing to report hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts and services (read: “bribes”); Representative Don Young’s office was caught altering a bill after it had passed the House and Senate (read: “violating the Constitution”); and Palin looked set to make “Drill, baby, drill” the state motto. Add North America’s HIGHEST PEAK, the MOST SQUARE MILES OF NATIONAL PARK in the U.S., ANWR, GRIZZLIES, MIDDAY DARKNESS, MIDNIGHT SUN, SALMON RUNS, THE IDITAROD, MEN WHO LOOK LIKE SURVIVORMAN, and WOMEN WHO LOOK LIKE SURVIVORMAN and Alaska might just be the most entertaining place on earth.
12) Some have called it a solution to a problem that didn’t exist, but Shimano’s DI2 DURA-ACE ELECTRONIC SHIFTING for road bikes is the first radical rethinking of the derailleur since it was invented more than a century ago. Look for it on high-end 2009 road bikes.
11) Size really does matter especially to big-wave surfers. But apparently age doesn’t. On January 5, MIKE PARSONS, 43, rode a 70-foot-plus monster the tallest wave ever surfed and captured on camera at Cortes Bank, off the Southern California coast.
10-9) Tennis as endurance sport: four hours 48 minutes, five sets 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-7 (8), 9-7 two rain delays lasting a combined 109 minutes, and match point in near darkness. For ROGER FEDERER, it was the end of a glorious run. For RAFAEL NADAL, it was a long-awaited triumph. For tennis fans, it was among the greatest finals in Wimbledon history.
8-1) Eight Golden Days in Beijing
Didn’t purchase the Greatest Olympic Champion commemorative DVD? Here’s a race-by-race recap of Phelps’s extraordinary run in Beijing.
8) 4 x 100 Medley Relay
THE THREAT: After two legs, the backstroke and breaststroke, Phelps found himself in third position as he started the third leg. His strong butterfly leg put the team back in first place, setting the stage for their freestyle relay star, Lezak, who brought the team in first and with a world record. Phelps became the first athlete to win eight gold medals in one Olympics.
7) 100 Butterfly
THE THREAT: Serbian swimmer Milorad Cavic told press that Phelps losing the event would be a good thing for swimming. Nearing the wall, Cavic extended his arms and glided toward the touch pad. Phelps, instead of gliding, decided to take a furious last-second half stroke which, it turned out, was imperceptibly faster. He won gold by 0.01 second the smallest margin of victory in swimming. Phelps tied Olympic legend Mark Spitz’s record seven gold medals, the most won in any Olympic Games at the time.
6) 200 Individual Medley
THE THREAT: Phelps had about seven minutes between the 200 IM medal ceremony and the semifinals for the 100 butterfly, which left him no time to rest. The medal was still in his warm-up jacket as he qualified second in the 100 butterfly semis.
5) 4 x 200 Freestyle Relay
THE THREAT: Zilch. Phelps and company became the first team to break the seven-minute barrier.
NO FINALS TODAY
4) 200 Butterfly
THE THREAT: Phelps’s goggles began to pool up immediately upon entering the water. With 75 meters to go, he could make out neither the wall for the turn nor the finish. Phelps remained calm, counted his strokes, and captured another gold.
3) 200 Freestyle
THE THREAT: None. Phelps beat second place by nearly two seconds.
2) 4 x 100 Freestyle Relay
THE THREAT: The French talked trash and nearly backed it up. A quarter of the way through the last leg, Phelps’s teammate Jason Lezak, the U.S.’s anchor-leg swimmer, found himself nearly an entire body length behind French swimmer Alain Bernard. In the last 25 meters, Lezak drafted off Bernard, who was swimming in an adjacent lane, and pulled off one of the greatest comebacksin the sport’s history, beating Bernard by 0.08 second.
1) 400 Individual Medley
THE THREAT: At the 200-meter mark, all three top swimmers were neck and neck. Then Phelps surged ahead in the freestyle leg and won handily.