Tuesday, April 29, 2008

What it Takes to be a Ski Guide

I finally made it to Valdez, Alaska for the American Mountain Guides Association Ski Mountaineering Guides Course. For those of you who don't know, the AMGA trains and certifies guides in the Alpine, Rock and Ski disciplines, and when a candidate is certified in all three disciplines, they are considered an IFMGA (International Federation of Mountain Guides Association) Mountain Guide. It takes most people in the U.S. 3 to 6 years to complete all of the trainings and certifications to become a full Mountain Guide, and right now there are fewer than 60 who have completed this process (in the U.S.). Last year I finished this task, sort of your PHD of mountain travel, and have now been asked to start to teach and train the next round of guides. This crop includes guides from Alaska, Washington, Wyoming, Colorado and Idaho (to name a few) and also includes fellow backcountry.com athlete Julia Niles, who is on her way to becoming one of the few fully certified female mountain guides.

This course is 10 days long, and I thought it might be interesting (and entertaining) to give everyone a picture of what it actually means to be a trained and certified guide. Most developed countries in the world REQUIRE guides to be certified in order to work. This seems to make sense to me, you wouldn't want to trust your life to a doctor that wasn't board certified, so why trust your life to a guide that isn't certified? The land of the free, aka the U.S., has developed a guiding culture that did not require or put an emphasis in this certification process, but that perspective is starting to shift. More and more clients, guiding services and land managers are starting to see the importance of guide certification and the standards of practice and safety it brings to the table.

So here you go: I will bring you into the world of guide training and certification, and you can see what it takes to be a ski guide!

First things first, being a mountain guide means having a TON of gear (luckily I get to work with backcountry.com!) I had to put away the bike and the cams, and load up the skis, ice axes, crampons, rescue sleds, shovels, etc..., for one more stint of skiing this year.

I met up with my fellow instructors, Howie Schwartz and Joe Vallone, for some planning and prep for where and when we were going to take the candidates. Pouring over maps, past itineraries, recent snow pack data, and weather reports, we came up with a plan for the course.

Day 1 was today (Tuesday) and it entailed testing the candidates on their technical rescue skills. In our minds it is essential to know that the people I will be out in the mountains with on a course like this have my back.

The First of 4 drills was the construction of a rescue toboggan, loading a patient into it, lowering the patient 300 feet down a 45 degree slope (through 2 anchor stations that they construct out of skis) and finally dragging the sled 300 feet across a slope. This all has to be done in 70 minutes.
The second drill was finding 3 buried avalanche beacons in a 300 by 300 foot area in 7 minutes or less. Usually 2 of these beacons are buried about 10 feet apart and are at least 3 feet deep in the snow, with the third beacon being at least 5 feet deep in the snow.

The third drill was the construction of an emergency shelter with a tarp, shovel, and 3 pairs of skis and poles in 30 minutes.
Finally, we had the candidates dig some snow profiles (snow pits) so that we know their assessments of the snowpack are up to snuff.

Sound like a lot so far? It only took us 10 hours to get all of this stuff done...and tomorrow we still need to assess the students at crevasse rescue! After that we will start to get to skiing the big lines and covering some ground in the amazing Chugach Mountains...

Stay tuned for the next 10 days as I keep you posted on the daily trials and tribulations of what it takes to be a ski guide!

You can catch up on my other posts at evanstevens.blogspot.com

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The Evils of Civilization

This just in from Inaki Ochoa who is climbing with Backcountry.com athlete Don Bowie as they attempt to summit Annapurna

My friends and I have spent the best part of the last 10 days getting our bodies definitely ready to cope with the altitude of Annapurna 1, 8.091 m. It is always a hard won process, different every time you come up here and never easy to deal with. I think we have won, once more, and now we are sitting down in base camp waiting for the right weather window that would allow us to climb all the way to the main top of this strikingly beautiful mountain.

We find ourselves healthy and motivated, balanced like gurus and spiritually cleansed after a month´s stay in base camp, surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenery of this planet. It is our privilege, right, but we had to fight a lot for it.

There are some people who dare to say that the only reason we climb is to purge from our bodies the evils of civilization. It could be the case, why not. Some of these evils, like bureacracy, depression, all kinds of addictions, consumerism, loneliness or the political class that rules our western life, fortunately don´t even reach base camp. Others, like high cholesterol or sheer boredom, are about to collapse and die in the wake of the Annapurna climb. Maybe Himalayan climbing is not the healthiest activity in the world, but it does keep your priorities straight and your scale of values in order…

During the last week we have found and climbed a very safe route to the base of the South face of Annapurna, and then we have climbed twice on the face, up to 6.500 meters on the Kukuczka-Hajzer 1987 route and up to 6.800 on last year´s Tomaz Humar´s route, in this last one without even taking the rope out of the rucksack. Both lines are magnificent and safer than they might look. I have never felt such a pure and wild desire for just a summit.

By the way, don´t let anybody fool you; we are not climbing the East Ridge of this mountain, as some internet sites report with misguiding interest, but the immense south face, one of the highest on earth. We will only access the East Ridge at 7.500 meters of altitude (so quite high, let´s say). How do we get from the glacier, barely at 4.000m. to that same ridge at 7.500m.? Yes, you got my point, we have no wings… It is truth that we are not climbing the center of the wall just down the main summit, but we need nobody to put our climb down as if we were peak baggers just collecting another “normal route”. Hum, not our thing, at least not this time.

Everything is ready and the dance will start soon, we hope. The dream wants to be lived, and the only thing you can do for us is send energy, pray if you know how to and maybe turn off the computer and go for a nice walk, run, climb or ride, just to shake off those unfriendly evils of our modern society… I will tell you what happened, as soon as I know.

Check out Don's website to see how climb pans out.



Friday, April 25, 2008

Being Inspired by Karl

Some things inspire action, others inspire awe. For me, the simple video below and what Karl Meltzer is setting out to do does both.

To say that Karl Meltzer is a "freak" (I mean that in the best of senses - the same way Michael Jordan was a freak) may begin to scratch the surface. As a competitive trail runner, perhaps greatest ever to lace up shoes and set out on a mountain trail, he is in a league of his own.

To be in awe of him and what he has accomplished should come as no surprise. The fact that he's doing this at 40 blows my mind.

But to be inspired by it? Watching it makes me want to get out there and run, reminding me of something Karl's running buddy Scott Mason once told me when he and I were out on a trail run. Upon urging me to repeat an 8 mile loop that we had just finished he said:
"You'd be surprised what the human body can endure if you'll only give it the chance. Problem is most people don't get that far with themselves."

I think Scott was spot on. Of this run Karl said:
"Never before have I set a challenge for myself like this one,” said Karl Meltzer. “I always thought 100 miles at a time was enough, but 2,174 miles should raise the bar a bit."

So it goes that on Aug. 5, 2008, the 40-year-old winner of 49 ultra-distance mountain races (including 23 hundred milers) will begin his attempt to break the record for running the entire length of the Appalachian Trail, end-to-end.

That is 2,174 miles in 47 days, and that (for the mathematically challenged among us) is an average of more than 46 miles per day – over some of the gnarliest terrain and during the most sweltering, most bug-filled season on the Eastern Seaboard.

Follow along when the adventure begins at WheresKarl.com, check it.

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Gregory Goes There With Joe Kinder

Gregory makes backpacks, period. No fluffy fleece jackets, no pink flip flops, no "lifestyle" clothing...just packs. And they do a fine job of it.

When I saw this video of Gregory climbing athlete Joe Kinder it reminded me of the places I've been with my Gregory pack. I've had it for about 6 years now. It's one of those huge "kitchen sink" type packs that are so easy to fill up, almost too easy.

Their tag line is "Gregory Goes There" and thinking about it, if my pack could tell of it's adventures to "there" what a slew of stories it could tell. More than a couple adventures in the Tetons, that sketch day on the Kautz Glacier of Ranier, overnight camping in the Uintas and more.

Let us know what you think of the vid by dropping a comment. Personally, I think it's pretty cool. Leaves me wanting to watch more.

FYI, the pack he's wearing in the video is the Targhee which is actually a backcountry ski pack but it's streamline fit makes for a great approach pack as well.

If you watch the video in a higher quality YouTube player click here.

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Ski Tour Gone Wrong

Just one more ridge – that is what I was thinking a few weeks back while out on a tour. One more ridge and we would be in the clear.

The one particular thing that stuck with me after completing an Avalanche Level One Course was when the instructor said that just taking the class did not guarantee safety. He told the class that there would most likely be students that were either caught in an avalanche or lost in avalanche terrain because they assumed that the class would keep them safe and make them cocky.

I wasn’t exactly worried about an avalanche - we were safely traveling and the danger that day was low. No – what I was more worried about was getting lost, running out of day light or both of the above.

I digress – back to the story. I got into ski touring just this winter after many years of convincing myself that touring would cause too much anxiety. In my case I have a fairly stressful job as Catering Manager and Wedding Coordinator at The Canyons Ski Resort and figured that the backcountry would just cause me too much strain, while the resort was mindless and worry-free.
What happened this year? I don’t know exactly – I think it just might have been an accident. I think that many women get into backcountry skiing because their significant other would love them to do so. Another percentage of women try out skiing in the backcountry because they enjoy the wildness of the landscape and the peacefulness. Although I’m more the second type instead of the first, when Brendan took up the sport that was the push that my competitive side needed to try out the equipment.

A peculiar thing happened when I tried out my skins for the first time. I completely fell in love with the sport to the point that it was on my mind constantly. I have to admit though – I can’t quite be sure exactly what I liked the best.
Perhaps it was the enjoyment of being out in the wilderness without having to dive through swarms of intermediate skiers accidentally falling directly in your path. On the other hand the beauty of the trees, sky and pure white snow (what I like to call John Denver Syndrome) definitely had an appeal to me. The other option would have been that in a perverse way, I enjoy the pain involved with the uphill workout.

Toll Canyon
In the movies, skinning seems effortless and backcountry skiers make the sport look simple. However, the reality is that the sport of backcountry skiing is much more complicated than resort skiing or snowboarding. The equipment can make you feel like a beginner again – working with skins – a base layer that allows the alpine skier to walk up hill without sliding backwards. Then you have the beacon, shovel, probe, compass and inclinometer to adjust to when you leave the comforts of the resort.

I can vividly recall my first day of skinning up a slope to the ridge top. Looking back it was just a gentle climb without much technical aspects involved, but after working muscles I am not quite sure I have ever used before, I could barely walk when all was said and done.

It was a relief that much like any other sport – the more you skin – the better the shape you are in to go out on longer tours with more technical climbs. I might say there is danger in this though, because the more proficient you become the easier it is for the skier to go farther and make more difficult judgment calls on terrain.

But again, back to the story - the original idea of the tour on the aforementioned Sunday was that we were going to skin from my work at The Canyons to Old Town Park City, where Brendan would be able to boast that he toured right home to his door step. In itself, this might not have been impossible, however, it was the day before the tour that we began to get overconfident and think that we might as well tour from my doorstep to Brendan’s.

Out The Back Door
I live about a 10-mile drive from downtown Park City in Pinebrook. After parking at my condo, we prepared for the trip and then, once our skis were ready – out the front door we went – straight up behind the complex with our eyes on a small ridge line ahead.

The trip seemed easy – we would just skin up Pinebrook – shoot over to The Canyons where we both have season passes – ride the lifts to the southern out-of-boundary gate and head across the adjoining peaks toward town.

As we started off though, it soon became clear that we had underestimated the Pinebrook area itself. A Deer Valley to Pinebrook mountain-bike ride takes approximately 3-4 hours. However, on a mountain bike you are flying along pieces of the trail at up to 20 mph. Climbing uphill with skins, the average speed is somewhere between 2-5 mph (I am not on the faster end of this spectrum). Do the math and statistically we were doomed before we started blazing trail through suburbia.

In some of the more open sections of the first ridge, we got up to a good speed. Just when we’d have a clear view of what we assumed was the summit we would happen upon a grove of pesky Shrub Oak Trees where it was necessary to punch, claw and tear your way through the patch without getting tangled in the web.

In other areas we would come to an end of a ridge near a huge house and decided to wing it – slipping down into the driveway and skinning up the road toward the next ridgeline in site. On one such occasion I confidently swung down behind the end of a ridge – finally getting into a groove when I heard Brendan yell “Stop.”

Unfortunately I didn’t realize until after I had done two hop-turns down the slope that a bull moose was lounging directly in the path that I was planning to take. I obviously couldn’t go that direction and the only other way to go was back up where I came from. I believe that was the point where I was beginning to feel exasperated – I couldn’t go down and the only way I saw left as an alternative off of the ridge was to fling my skis off of a man made mini-cliff and crawl down through the dirt to the street below. I have no problem with natural cliffs – whether jumping them or clawing your way down them it’s all-good. However, man-made cliffs that drop out onto gravel are not so much my cup of tee.

More than one driver did a double take as they saw us skiing up the snow-covered streets as though we couldn’t find the trail – which was true. The irony is in fact that during the winter the so-called “trail” doesn’t exactly exist.

After three or four more ridges that wrapped in what felt like a circle around Pine brook, we stumbled upon the Mid-Mountain Trail. In its full length, Mid Mountain is approximately 25 miles long and spans from Deer Valley to Pinebrook. As we hopped on to Mid-Mountain, I felt a burst of energy and leapt into the lead. At last we had made our way out of the Tour-De-Real-Estate that we’d been on. However, this newfound energy didn’t last long and within minutes I was stopping often, as if I was waiting for Brendan to volunteer to go first.

The most bizarre pattern I noticed was that once behind I was keeping to a much faster pace. It was almost as if left to the role of a leader – I would relax and lack the motivation to continue at a fast clip. However, as the last in line, my adrenaline kicked in and I would compete to stay at the higher speed.

At one point or another I noted Brendan had diverted off of the Mid-Mountain Trail, and was breaking trail in the direction of the ridge top. I didn’t disagree with this decision, and was content to get to the top of the ridge as easily and safely as possible. Especially because halfway up the slope, Brendan commented that we might stop for lunch atop the ridge. By this time we had been at it for at least three hours and I was fading partly to hunger.

At the summit, I noticed that Brendan had begun to prepare lunch, and was in the process of opening a small bottle of wine. I collapsed in the snow at his feet, and devoured Salami, Cheese and Apple as if we were stranded and hadn’t eaten in days. All of the circles we did trying to climb our way out of million-dollar mansions had taken its toll out of me. Ironically it was about to get much harder. After lunch, I was banging my ski pole on the bottom of my ski boot to rid it of a clump of snow. On the third thump, the aluminum of the pole cracked under pressure and the pole split into two sections.

I had almost put Duct Tape in my pack that morning, but for some reason, I had left out the tape for a Band-Aid package and athletic tape. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a cut or a scrape –the problem was a bit larger than that. Regardless – what are you going to do when you are miles into the backcountry and snap a pole in half?’

My solution was to grab the quarter-inch athletic tape and pretend that I didn’t leave the duct tape behind (seeing that this would not be the last pole to break on me this season – in Brendan’s case he just carries an extra pole now just in case). A couple of sticks later an almost perfect splint was formed. It was a bit like pole surgery, and in the end my pole looked like it had a broken leg.

From the skeptical look Brendan cast my way I could tell he didn’t think much of my remedy for the situation but I was bound and determined to get back to the car with that pole intact. Hesitantly I touched it to the ground – bracing on the opposite one.
About two ridgelines after the surgery, we stared at The Canyons in the distance. From our perch the resort seemed worlds away – particularly since the sun was only an hour or so from setting.

Option one would have been to head up the ridge to our right and hope we got to the top before sunset. Option two would have been to skirt the mountain to the left and hope there wouldn’t be another couple of canyons behind it. Option three was to throw in the towel – realize that we would not make it to The Canyons and head straight down the Canyon to our left – which appeared to dump out at Kimball Junction.

Without a map, option three won out, and after several nice powder turns we were headed into a thick forest of Evergreen Trees. Without Aspens, we really couldn’t see anymore where this path was taking us. Instead we were back to the beginning, now running circles around trees instead of houses. At one point it was clear that we would be crossing a creek – Brendan sped across and I shut my eyes – hoping that I wouldn’t collapse into the swirling ice water I imagined was just below the three-foot snow bridge.

Further down the canyon the trees began to thin, and by complete accident we popped onto some sort of summer service road. I still had absolutely no idea where we were and I suppose it showed because at one point Brendan punched my arm lightly and said, “You’re worrying again, aren’t you?”

I replied that yes I was concerned we would not make it out before dark. In my mind we would still have had a long way to go once we left the canyon because there is a huge field just before State Road 224 from Kimball Junction to Park City. His response was that worrying wouldn’t change anything and I might as well enjoy the scenery around me.
I did try and no sooner than I was enjoying the trees they were gone and we were in the middle of a field of beaver ponds with some sort of summer home to our right. I looked ahead only to see the Kimball Junction Outlet Mall just within sight.

There was no longer any reason to worry about being stuck in the dark. Instead we would have to explain to our pals how a 5-hour tour ended us at the Tanger` Outlets – just a couple miles down from my condo. A quick call to a friend led to a 10-minute ride to dinner & drinks after the story of how it came to be that we were sitting in front of a department store instead of the deck of Brendan’s house.

Note to self – next time we try to ski from house to house – avoid hours of needless wandering through the yards of millionaire’s. Our second tip to ourselves would have been to double check a map or Google Earth when not quite sure where you are going, as ironically on our farthest point we were probably just 45 minutes or less from The Canyons.

Ah well – at least there was an adventure involved which lead us safely to good friends and a nice bottle of wine. Maybe the tour didn’t go so wrong after all!



Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Canyons Season in Review

For a good pile of Backcountry.com employees The Canyons is their home resort. And like any self respecting employee of a company named "Backcountry" the gates at The Canyons lead to some of the easiest accessible backcountry skiing and riding of any resort. Add to that the lack of crowds and it's hard to beat.

I was checking out The Canyons site and found this season in review video with most of the footage coming from the immediate backcountry of The Canyons.

I hope it was as good of a season as it was for us. Enjoy...



Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Utah in the Spring - does it get any better?

So I have a temporary leave of absence from my ski season...I finished up in British Columbia at Valhalla Mountain Touring with an unbelievable 2 weeks of late season powder skiing, and uber clients that wanted to ski 7 to 8 grand a day. I got home to Salt Lake City where the cold smoke continued to pile up, so with my wife Jasmin working hard to finish up her thesis for grad school, I phoned up some lungs with legs for a quick morning tour last Thursday up Mill Creek Canyon. Tom, Paul, Ashley and I met up early for a pseudo dawn patrol and broke trail in the boot top fluff for a few laps in West Porter Fork. 5 hours and 7,500' feet later, we were all smiles, all wondering if this was our last shot at the soft white stuff for a while.

I got home, ate some lunch and packed up the car to head down to Indian Creek for a few days of rock climbing in the sun. It was a little bit of burning upon re-entry into climbing, as I hadn't touched rock since Christmas, but in Indian Creek, technique trumps strength, so I faired pretty well, having lived down in the desert for a few years of my life. I broke in the arms, and the new evolv shoes, got a little sunburned and a lot pumped.

Slice-Dice-Indian-CreekPulling down on Slice and Dice at the Creek, photo by Rich Wheater

Overall, could I ask for a more perfect few days? Utah in the spring is a blast. One day I am skiing perfect pow, and the next climbing the best cracks in the world in a t-shirt. Life is good, but my spring will be short lived...

Next week, the ski season continues for me. As it would seem from everyone else who posts to this blog, it is time for the seasonal migration to the big mountain motherlode: Alaska. I am happy to report though, that my trip should bring it down to Earth for lots of you folks. No helicopters, film crews and big budgets. We're talking cheap hotels, cheaper rental cars, bag lunches, winter camping and fully human powered endeavors on the peaks of Thompson Pass in Valdez, Alaska. The first week I will be showing a couple of folks the goods, while the next two will be spent training the next round of aspiring ski mountaineering guides, as I teach a Ski Mountaineering Guides Course for the American Mountain Guides Association. Stay tuned...here's a shot to tease you for the next post:

As always you can track my new and old adventures at evanstevens.blogspot.com

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Friday, April 11, 2008

LIVE TODAY - Freeskiing World Championships from Alaska

Once again Backcountry.com has teamed up with the Subaru Freeskiing Series to be able to bring the LIVE broadcast to the Backcountry Blog. The comp will broadcast today and tomorrow right here.

Start time today is 1pm, MST. (just prior to 1pm the live player will be embeded here on this post).

That should give most of you enough time to get the bulk of your work off the plate and cruise into the weekend with an afternoon of ski stoke live from Alaska. I for one know from the last time we broadcast one of these I was surprised (should I have been?) that it was so addicting to watch. Stoke level was high while production was near an all time low.

Backcountry.com ski athlete Cody Barnhill pulled of a win during the qualifying round yesterday at the Subaru Freeskiing World Championship being held at Alyeska Resort in Alaska.

Images from yesterday's qualifying round by Keith Carlson

At the qualifying round yesterday 11 women and 71 men headed up to the top of Alyeska’s North Face in hopes of joining the 50 or so pre-qualified World Tour athletes in the main event which begins today.
As mentioned, Cody Barnhill came away the winner from the men and Rebecca Selig of Timber Ridge, MI, smoothly executed an impressive cliff drop and ended her run with a long chain of technically perfect turns down the North Face to lead the women’s qualifying field.

Matt Sturbenz
The Subaru Freeskiing World Championships is the third and final stop of the Freeskiing World Tour as well as the sixth and final stop of the Subaru U.S. Freeskiing Series.



Thursday, April 10, 2008

Subaru US Freeskiing World Championships

Once again Backcountry.com will be bringing you the Subaru US Freeskiing event live to the backcountry blog. Here is a preview video of the event that will be LIVE tomorrow.

Stay tuned.



Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Babes & Sisters in the Steeps- Part I

Silverton Mountain was host to “Sisters in the Steeps” this past weekend, put on by Leslie Ross’s Babes in the Backcountry. Ross, the founder of Babes, who has been working in the field of snow/avalanche for the past 10 years and as an instructor for the past 18 years, has been able to offer well-supported programs to advance outdoor education and adventure.
As part of her mission states, “Babes in the Backcountry is an organization of powerful, professional, knowledgeable women and men dedicated to raising awareness of how we walk in the natural world. Our year-round inspirational outdoor adventures provide awareness, education and useful skills to enhance not only your outdoor experiences, but to also impact all aspects of your life.”

The Sisters in Silverton
As guides for this group, fellow instructor Patti Banks, who has been named one of Ski Magazine’s top 100 instructors, and I had the opportunity to work with some amazing women skiers looking to broaden their scope on skiing, and who were motivated to pursue the famed steeps of Silverton with other like kinded and minded women. Over the three day period, we were able to introduce these women to a new bigger picture on skiing, and start many of them on their first backcountry type of experience. In our wrap-up discussion at the close of the weekend, these women each touched upon the growth they experienced from their time together, their progression as skiers, and as women in the outdoors.

Babes offers a variety of outdoor opportunities through winter workshops and adventure programs; this includes co-ed clinics and workshops, Backcountry retreats, Intro to the Backcountry courses, Avalanche Level 1 training, Backcountry refreshers, Telemark Clinics- all levels, Advanced Clinics- Alpine/Telemark, Ski Mountaineering/Big Mountain Skiing, Celebrations and more.

Ski Adventure Get-a-ways that are slated for 2008’s remaining season:

1. Campbell Icefields Hut Trip April 26th to May 3rd
2. Mt Shasta, CA June 13th-15th

For summer and more:

What's On Tap
April 24-27 Best of Moab

Apr 26-May 3
Spring Hut Trip~Canada

June 13-15
Durango Single Track

July 18-20
Bike Babes ~Breckenridge

August 16-23
Summer Snow Divas in Chile

Sept 11-14
Women's White Rim

For more information, contact:

Leslie Ross, http://www.babesinthebackcountry.com/ 970-453-4060


Sterling Rope Happenings

I met up with the Sterling gang at this last OR and after talking rope scuttle for a while they introduced me to their Rope Redemption Program. It is so refreshing to see a company going the extra mile to reuse the nylon made up of ropes. The whole process goes like this:
  1. You send the old cord to:
Sterling Rope Company, Inc.
C/O: Rope Redemption Program
26 Morin Street
Biddeford, ME 04005-4413
  1. They give it to their recycling expert.
  2. They grind up, melt down, then repelletize the nylon so it can be re-made into a variety of items like carpet, telephone, coat hangers, and even children's toys.
Simple! But what about shipping a rope to Maine and using the gas in the UPS truck? They strive to minimize that as much as possible through doing rope drops at Sterling events and comps. If you don't want to see your rope reincarnated to be an office stapler you can always make friendship bracelets, start a tug-o-war team, or make a wicked cool chandelier.

Backcountry.com is offering 20% off a new Sterling rope to anyone that sends in their old rope. When you drop off or send your rope to Sterling, put "Supporting the Green Goat" on the outside and inside of the box along with your email so we can reward your greenyness with a discount coupon.

If your looking to kick off your climbing season with a bang, Sterling rope is doing their Goddesses on the Rock climbing event April 19-20, 2008 at Joshua Tree. Hit up their Facebook group for the agenda and more details.


Saturday, April 05, 2008

Parle Vous Rendezvous?

“This is a stopper and this is a cam, now go climb up there and look at how that gear is placed”.
Thus went my intro to trad climbing “clinic” at the Red Rock Rendezvous this past weekend. As it turns out, being a pro climber does not necessarily make you a great instructor. It does make you an excellent advertiser though, and it was clearly conveyed what company makes the best equipment. I will not mention names here because it’s been my experience that you never know who you might be having beers with down the road.

The top rope anchor clinic, on the other hand, was very well instructed. Kate Rutherford (see cover of April’s Climbing magazine), who clearly doubted her abilities to explain, did an amazing job. She covered RENE, taught us some great knots and was just a pleasure to be around.

Instructor and guide Paul Ivaska, of the American Alpine Institute, was also an exceptional instructor. Paul was part of the Uclimb event series that was associated with the Rendezvous weekend. Ivaskal, who claimed to be from “The Nissan Frontier, the back side”, was eerily mellow, but not in that burn out white kid with dreadlocks kind of way. He was super knowledgeable, humble, and created a comfortable, positive learning environment.

Taking place in the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area outside Las Vegas, the Rendezvous was a great way to get out and learn some techniques from people who make a [likely meager] living climbing around on rocks.
The event also hosted gear demos, slack line and dyno competitions, tent destroying wind storms and tons of swag from some of the biggest names in the business. It was pretty entertaining to watch the Petzl booth next to the Black Diamond booth next to the Omega Pacific booth across from the Trango booth next to the Metolius booth, all working the crowds hard. I played with OP’s new Link Cam, which has an extra pivot point giving it an amazing range. It seems like a pretty good idea and it will be interesting to see if anyone else makes a similar product.

Silent and a live auction, as well as food proceeds during the event, benefited The Access Fund. I was shocked to learn from Brady Robinson, Executive Director, that only an estimated 1% of climbers are members of the Access Fund. That number is shameful, and if any climber reading this can come up with a good reason NOT to be a member, please let me know.

The only down side to the Red Rock Rendezvous, is that as a loyal Backcountry.com customer, I felt a little adulterous for attending a competitor’s event. I’m still trying to scrub the guilt, and sand, from my skin.


Thursday, April 03, 2008

Bluehouse Rail Jam at Brighton Resort

A month or so ago I was up at Brighton Resort with the Bluehouse Skis crew for the Bluehouse Rail Jam. It was cool to see all the skiers that came out to compete. Brighton hooked up the kind spot and a slew of sponsors including our very own Tramdock.com kicked down prizes. The winner took home some MR's.

Check out the vid:



Indian Creek Crack Climbing T-Shirt of the month

Climbing splitter cracks at Indian CreekThe buzz is in the air despite last Monday's 18" dump at Alta. Climbing season is upon us and Southern Utah is off the hook. Temps have been in the mid 70's and many of the Backcountry.com employees have made the trek to either St. George, Zion, Moab or the homeland of crack climbing on desert sandstone - Indian Creek.

We've blogged about Indian Creek a lot on this blog. The most recent being from the Kim Havell files. Climbing cracks there can be addicting and will punish the uninitiated.

So it's only appropriate that the Backcountry.com T-Shirt of the Month for April would pay homage to the mecca of sandstone splitter cracks that is "the creek".

Limited edition Indian Creek T Shirt

Pony up the a few clams and get yourself this sweet organic cotton Indian Creek T. I know I am.



Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Merino tops coming in hot

This comes from Jeff a BC customer who just ran the National Marathon in Washington D.C. this weekend. Jeff is a Major in the United States Army and beat the mayor who started the race 5 years ago. In his second marathon he has knocked 3 minutes off his time and is sold on the merino top.

"A synthetic fiber will never touch my skin again. Merino is the ultimate do-it-all fabric lifesaver; keeps you warm, keeps you cool, keeps you dry. What more can I ask for in a running piece?"

I suppose it's time to dust off my tennies and go for a run. Here in the Wasatch we are still getting some white stuff so my "last turns" may extend longer then I thought.

Thanks Jeff for sporting the goat the whole 26.2 and were glad it was a "lifesaver", we think so too. Do you think the merino has aerodynamic properties?

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Going Roadless is the Right Thing To Do

Seems these days if people can't drive to a spot in the forest or wilderness, it'll rarely get visited. That's good news for many of the Backcountry.com customers who like myself enjoy the road (or lack there of) less traveled. Don't get me wrong, I'm crazy about road trips but there comes a point where it's time to ditch the auto and go man powered into the wild.

Our friends at the Outdoor Alliance agree 100%. The Outdoor Alliance is composed of the following organizations: Access Fund, American Hiking Society, IMBA (International Mountain Bicycling Association), Winter Wildlands Alliance, American Whitewater and the Amercian Canoe Association.

The Outdoor Alliance was formed in order to pool the voices of those organizations previously mentioned to have a greater influence on what the policy makers in Washington hear regarding places like where I was two weeks ago - the mountains above Death Valley.

One of the most unique and precious things I saw while there was a warm air blow hole on a ridgeline at 6000' above sea level where the warm moist air made for moss and small ferns growing on it's edges. Just 2 feet away from this hole was a desert scape. These and many other similar spots around our country should remain void of roads and should be wild and open for human powered recreation...forever.

If the video below makes sense to you, consider joining any of the associated groups that comprise the Outdoor Alliance. Check it out:



Tuesday, April 01, 2008

No Foolin' - Backcountry.com Launches Bike Category

As if my wallet wasn't already under fire from the abundance of gear choices, Backcountry.com has to go and launch their newest addition to the world of retail - the bike category. No, this is not an April Fools joke.

I suppose it only makes sense given that during the summer there are mountain and road bikes all over the office. The CEO, who from time to time cracks the whip on getting us to tidy up around the place, hasn't been that keen on the plethora of bikes spilling into the halls around the office, but when both the CEO and President typically have 3 or more sick bikes in their own offices, no one pays much attention. In true Backcountry.com fashion, we just do it anyway, opting to ride to work, stashing our bikes in corners, against walls, under stairs, so there's always a bike handy for lunch time rides.

I suppose that's similar to how selling premium in season bike stuff at Backcountry.com, including bike frames which are purported to be happening spring of 2009, came to be.

For years it was "no way, we'll never sell bike stuff" but enough of the ground troops grumbling over the years grew to a deafening roar of the masses which finally took over. At that point the decision was easy enough - it's time to sell bike stuff.

From the source:
Here you’ll find the gear you need to feed your addiction: everything from Zipp carbon road wheels to Fox protective mountain bike gear; essentials from high-end brands like Crank Brothers, Pearl Izumi, and Mavic; performance clothing from Castelli; impact protection from Six Six One—and the list goes on. Whether you get high on monthly stage races or battle demons on a rocky downhill ride, we’re here to keep those pedals pumping.
Same killer service, same warranty, same knowledgeable staff....but now we're selling bikes. So check out the new bike category at Backcountry.com, tell your friends and family and prepare your wallet as bike season is nearly upon us.

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Nick Devore Kills a binding mount in Jackson Freesking Open

I had to watch it twice. Nick Devore, Backcountry.com athlete and a crazy sick tele skier stomped a nice clean air and then basically pointed it to the bottom during the superfinals run of the Jackson Freeskiing Open. As he entered the finish area his ski popped off.

But it's not what you think. His Black Diamond telemark binding was still attached to his foot! He had basically skied most of the run with a binding that was about to pull off of the ski. Given the steepness of the venue and the conditions it's no wonder the other competitors and the event announcers were so blown away.

The other competitor's facial expression in the video is priceless. Check it out:

Nick Devore sending a solid air at the Jackson Freeskiing Open compHere's what Nick had to say about the run:
I dropped into my superfinals run, made some turns through the upper moguls and then cut left, droping my first air, I stomped it and hit my second air and droped my knee to make a turn and shut some speed down and there was no tension from my binding, it felt like my binding had gone into walk mode or just broken, so with little time to react I aired my last clif and straightlined toward the finish, I was going super fast and almost exploded multiple times but some how held it together and turned enough to make it through the finish line...
Check out the rest of the story from Nick Devore's blog.

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