This land is your land. Until it’s not

In the spring of 2015, I wrote a piece for The Drake magazine on the “transfer movement” in Utah – an effort to take federal lands and put them under state control for maximum economic benefit -- and how it might affect anglers and other outdoors-minded folks. In every interview, I heard the same refrain which amounted to “this will never happen, but holy shit if it does.” At the time, oil prices were sky high, a fact that gave supporters additional courage and energy. 

As oil prices dropped, however, the transfer movement shifted from an economic conversation to a political ideology. Sen. Ted Cruz got noisy about his support for transferring public land ownership to the states last spring, in an effort to differentiate himself from the other front-runner. And then, last week in Cleveland, the Republican National Committee included their own support for transfer in their 2016 platform (along with ending federal funding for international climate change efforts, killing the Endangered Species Act and downgrading the Clean Air and Clean Water acts. LINK). Apparently, Cruz and the RNC-nominated candidate do agree on many things, after all. 

For the glass half-full folks, a former newspaper editor in Utah told me this: “There’s always 10% on each side that gets involved, and an 80% in the middle that just doesn’t care. But now it’s changing. People are starting to get involved, and showing that they care. It’s a weird world, but there’s the possibility that people will be rejuvenated in the public lands discussion by this effort.” However, for those who see things as darker, the same editor in the same conversation also said that the transfer of public lands for Utah “could also be the end of the world.”


Utah can be a funny place. Funny like a short story by Kurt Vonnegut, in that it can be simultaneously beautiful, strange, poignant and almost laughable if it wasn’t so serious. 

Last January, I was in Utah doing indoor business at an outdoor trade show. But I squeezed in a few hours to attend a meeting about a new Utah state law called the Transfer of Public Lands Act (TPLA).  Depending on who you ask, the law is either a dinner party conversation gone on way too long or the first step toward environmental Armageddon. 

Signed by Gov. Gary Herbert, the TPLA demands the return of more than 30 million acres of Federal public land to State control. The backbone of the TPLA is a fresh interpretation of the 1894 law that made Utah a state (the “Enabling Act”), which essentially says that the Feds were never planning to hang on to Utah public lands forever, so they should just give ‘em back.

What the TPLA “wants back” includes lands run by the Bureau of Land Management (22.8 million acres), the US Forest Service (8.1 million acres), the US Fish and Wildlife Service (112,696 acres), as well as the Utah portion of Glen Canyon Recreation Area (1.2 million acres), otherwise known as Lake Powell. Step one in the TPLA began by setting a deadline -- New Year’s Eve, 2014 -- for all those lands to be wrapped up with a bow and handed over. The expected step two – since the Feds didn’t RSVP by Dec. 31 – is the traditional American two-step of public relations and litigation. While the lawsuit party hasn’t started yet, the PR part definitely has, in meetings like the one I attended, which have been going on throughout the winter and spring in various Utah communities.

To be clear, the TPLA is very real. This is not a theoretical badminton match with no real winners and no real losers. Inside Utah, backers of the idea are dead serious and moving forward. And outside Utah, the TPLA has inspired similar initiatives in Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, Montana and Wyoming.

While there’s some disagreement about the he-said-she-said interpretation of the 1894 Enabling Act, there’s no disagreement from anybody on any side what this is about. The TPLA is saying, straight up, that the State of Utah wants more oil and gas money, and they want it now.

“Wouldn’t it be great to believe that this effort to transfer public lands from the feds to the states is some altruistic grassroots idea meant to manage those lands in a way that works better for everyone?” asked writer Tyler Hansen, in a recent piece on the subject for Hatch magazine. “Sadly, that’s just not the case. This isn’t a Sagebrush Rebellion, it’s a corporate bait-and-switch scheme meant to open America’s natural resources to immediate extraction.”

Take a spin around your Utah rolodex, and you’d be hard pressed to find a local who truly believes that the TPLA has a snowball’s chance in Kennecott Copper Mine of actually becoming a reality. It doesn’t take a 900 buck-an-hour lawyer to see that the thing has serious and significant legal, financial and political obstacles to overcome, not the least of which is basic unconstitutionality. That notion of impossibility is a popular one, and is cited as the primary line of defense by just about everybody who opposes the idea.

" If this ... concept somehow gains traction, and it spreads to other fishy states, it doesn’t take much imagination to envision the massive environmental wrecking ball right behind it."

But those same people who are up on the issue, who recognize the massive hurdles faced by the TPLA , and who would rather bet on Karl Malone coming out of retirement than any land ever exchanging hands are also totally freaked out by this tiny sliver of light underneath an otherwise impenetrable door.  Part of the anxiety is because, well, this is Utah we’re talking about. And in this wildly unpredictable political arena, there’s no such thing as a surprise. The other reason is that if this TPLA concept somehow gains traction, and it spreads to other fishy states, it doesn’t take much imagination to envision the massive environmental wrecking ball right behind it.

If you cast TPLA as Maverick from “Top Gun,” then Goose is undoubtedly a state-sponsored, 784-page, 10-pound bass of an economic study called “An Analysis of a Transfer of Federal Lands to the State of Utah”. The job of the wingman has always been to make it happen for its bro, and this Study is an excellent wingman.

The Study doesn’t worry itself with the idea of quality, or subjective questions of who’ll do the “best” job of managing public lands. Instead, the report centers on dollars and cents. Specifically, it asks three questions: 1) How much would it cost to run the lands? 2) How much money could be made from more drilling and more resource extraction? And 3) Which entity (State or Feds) would be better at providing direct economic benefit to local communities from the use of that land?

One essential takeaway is the estimate of how much it would cost to manage Utah’s public lands, which is set at $280 million/year. The other big one is a roulette wheel of income projections, with numerous variations based on the number of new wells drilled, the amount of royalties that the State would get from those wells, and the possible stratospheric price of oil in the future. Those income figures range from a high end of $763 million/year to the low mark of $169 million/year. (Not surprisingly, the word “gamble” is used in the introduction to this chart).

The TPLA and its wingman doesn’t officially covet wilderness areas, but they definitely flirt with them a lot. Utah has only 1.1 million acres of designated wilderness, the least of any Western state and less even than Florida. But it has 3.2 million acres of Wilderness Study Areas – including the fishy Fremont Gorge – easily the most of any state (Oregon is the second with 2.6 million acres). The bad news is that the Study spends more than 60 pages breaking down those WSAs, mineral by mineral, gas by gas, and rating them on “Hot or Not” scale for future development.

While the Study doesn’t know exactly how it would actually manage 30 million acres of new public land, it definitely knows that if Utah takes over those public lands -- it will have carte blanche to do whatever it feels like doing in them. New roads, new wells, new coal mines, new resource extraction, new fees and no burdensome Federal paperwork. You can safely bet that would also include hefty cost increases for anglers and other users, in the same way you can bet on having less (or zero) input on how the land gets managed because old Federal laws would no longer apply.

"Some might say that the Study automatically stacks the deck in favor of the TPLA, as it ignores the question of who would actually be the best steward of the land, focusing instead on the best way to make the most money. And those people would be right."

“Making it work” for Utah could also mean selling that land. Since that “Enabling Act” in 1894, Utah has sold 50% of its public lands to private owners. Other Western states like Nevada have gone even further in this area, selling off more than 97% of their public lands. The TPLA Study and its presenters have certianly made it clear that it’s feasible for Utah to take over its public lands, but there’s a difference between feasible and advisable. It’s feasible for me to dig my own septic system in my backyard. That doesn’t make it advisable.

Some might say that the Study automatically stacks the deck in favor of the TPLA, as it ignores the question of who would actually be the best steward of the land, focusing instead on the best way to make the most money. And those people would be right.

In estimating the cash impact of a day of fishing, the crucial term is “market valuation,” which is pretty much an accumulation of anything that can give you a receipt -- licenses, beer, drift boats, shuttles, rods and reels, beer, tippet and flies, sandwiches, more beer and so on. That’s pretty easy to figure out. The money either gets spent, or it doesn’t.

The second big thing that’s starting to slip into the conversation is “non-market valuation.” NMV’s are a little squishy, but still relevant. They value things that aren’t sold at a market (like spectacular scenery, or a fishing experience), and they help formulate the process used to create a $532 million number for the value of freshwater fishing in Utah. It’s important to note that the very idea of an NMV bugs the shit out of some economists. As one of the Study presenters the Salt Lake City meeting said: "it's hard to convince people NMVs are real.”

And then there’s “non-use valuations”, which are things that hippies like to talk about but econ geeks like to ignore. This is when you try to put a value on the idea of fishing for people who aren’t fishing. How much is it worth to a guy sitting at his desk in Tribeca to know that the Green is still pristine and full of midge-sipping rainbows? Maybe a lot, but with no receipts, it has no home in this conversation.

Politically, the mention of giving Utah (or any state, for that matter) control of Federal lands is enough to make a sportsman’s head pop off. Coincidentally, it creates the same reaction among treehuggers. More than 6 out of 10 people prefer the Feds to the State when it comes to managing public lands. In part, because people prefer the dentist they know over the one they don’t.

Admittedly, 60 percent is hardly a slam dunk, especially since we’re talking about the U.S. Federal Government– an organization that isn’t on the top of anybody’s list to run a laundromat, let alone our
national lands.

" The more you underfund stuff at the Federal level, the crappier of a job you end up doing executing on the local level, and the easier it becomes to consider other alternatives. In other words, when you lower expectations far enough, it doesn’t seem like that big of a jump to shift public lands from Federal knuckleheads to State knuckleheads with no plans other than to drill the shit out it."

One thing the Feds have done extremely well in the last two decades is to serially and systematically underfund our public lands, which in turn has helped lead to the sort of climate where the TPLA can bloom. The more you underfund stuff at the Federal level, the crappier of a job you end up doing executing on the local level, and the easier it becomes to consider other alternatives. In other words, when you lower expectations far enough, it doesn’t seem like that big of a jump to shift public lands from Federal knuckleheads to State knuckleheads with no plans other than to drill the shit out it.

But if you’re concerned with the long-term health of the land, with fishing or backcountry hiking or other outdoor pursuits, then the Feds have the upper hand because they have a track record -- a consistent plan from coast to coast that’s already on the record, and a longstanding national commitment to the idea that these lands are a national resource, not a local one.

In contrast, local economics are obviously the meat of the TPLA and the supporting Study. Other than the price for oil and gas and other resources, the Study doesn’t consider impacts or events from outside of Utah’s borders, like how a growing population and over development of neighboring states might change the value of a pristine Utah backcountry experience. Or how the value of the Utah brand to the national or international travel markets might decline as a result of hitching the State’s land legacy the price at the pump.

People with wet boots in Utah are already on edge about their rivers, as they should be. Decades of back-and-forth Stream Access bills have been exhausting and occasionally contentious, with tales of hostile exchanges between landowners and anglers, as well as a dead skunk or two. And while stream access debates have tangled up the status quo on private land, the primary threat of the TPLA is that it would do the same with waters on public lands – adding hurdles, increasing fees, or taking them off the table entirely.

When it comes to water that flows over private lands, fishing in Utah is an increasingly crowded place. One estimate puts the current fishable miles in Utah at 3,700 -- about one tenth of the available rivers in Idaho and Montana. That means that the idea of taking some water – any water – off the table for anglers makes some people very upset. “Things are already totally jammed,” says Steve Schmidt, owner of Western Rivers Flyfisher in Salt Lake. “We’re supposed to be growing the sport, and I can barely find a place to put people.”

The fishing discussion gets even bleaker when broader water issues are considered, especially with Utah sitting in the top five fastest growing states in the country. There’s already a proposed $32 billion water pipeline for Lake Powell, which apparently would be considered a good start by Todd Adams, deputy director for the Utah Division of Water Resources. “It’s necessary to put dams on all rivers in Utah,” Adams recently told columnist Mark Saal, of the Ogden Standard-Examiner.

“Seriously. Where else are they building dams?” Schmidt asked. “In this state, given how out of balance things are, with less than 30 percent of Utahans voting in last election, a lot of people are just no longer paying attention. Honestly, the implications are horrifying.”

-- The article "This Land is Your Land, Until It's Not" originally appeared in the spring 2015 edition of The Drake


Video does it best: recapping the 2016 Vermont Outdoor Industry summit gathering

Vermont Outdoor Industry Summit from Mary Simmons on Vimeo.

A great video recap of last month's Vermont Outdoor Industry summit gathering at the State House in Montpelier.  My advice?  Skip past the furry guy and get right to the lush aerial shots.

Thanks to our friends at Bear Productions VT for pulling it all together.

LINK:  Bear Productions VT


Vermont report: All it takes to get the gang together for a couple beers is a press conference with a few major legislative initiatives

If you've poked around a few outdoor industry trade shows ... you've seen the Vermont crew.  They're in booths, they're in the aisles, they're on the creative side and the operation side, they're doing the magazine thing and they're, well, making it work however they can (Q: What do you call a Vermonter with three jobs?  A: Lazy).

In a maple syrup-encrusted nutshell, there is a robust Vermont presence at national outdoor industry trade events, but back in the Green Mountains that presence is pretty underwhelming. 

The idea for a Vermont Outdoor Industry event started small … as a couple in-the-aisle conversations at OR and SIA, some of which weren’t much longer than a couple minutes. But the idea took quickly hold, as people were all on board that this is something worth doing.

There are a couple things that helped bring the idea to reality. The first was the support of other Vermonters and their Vermont brands. Some are friends, some are professional associates, and some I've never really hung out with before.  But without exception, they're a group of individuals that I'm truly proud to stand with.

The second was the OIA Capitol Summit in DC, which is really the inspiration and the model for the whole thing. But as valuable and cool as it can be to walk the halls of Congress for a couple days, the reality is that a huge amount (arguably the majority) of public land and other decisions that impact local outdoor business owners are happening at the state level. In Vermont, we have excellent access to our state officials, so embracing that access is a no-brainer.

And the third big thing (for me, anyway) was happened this winter in Vermont:  a.k.a., our long unending November. As much as we all love skiing and snowboarding and look forward to many years of shredding in Vermont, it’s really pretty unnecessary at this point to be surprised by a no-show winter … and the outdoor recreation economy is something that can and should be a key player in helping bridge the gap between winter and weird.


Top 10 'greatest' things about the death of the Land and Water Conservation Fund

10.  Will definitely help jumpstart Mars colonization efforts.

9. Increases the availability of 50-cent brownies nationwide as conservation non-profits start hosting bake sales.

8. Gives Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) a happy tingly feeling. LINK

7. Three words:  Venture Inside Zone.

6. Creates needed opportunities for struggling "Big 5" oil companies, which made only $90 million in profits last year, and could still only come up with $125 million for CEO salaries.


The rise of Soft Outdoor

"As the Outdoor market continues forward on an ever-expanding trajectory known as "lifestyle," people are understandably a little edgy as they try to keep things in focus.
The backdrop for Outdoor Lifestyle's growth is comprised of some big numbers. Really big.  In a recent study for this widely recognized $646 billion market, “Outdoor” folks now include more than 60% of American consumers -- people living mainly in cities, being mainly in their younger years, and spending at least an hour a week and $450 a year on outdoorsy stuff (LINK).
As with all Outdoor data, the most recent study relies heavily on the market's historic affinity for measuring itself agains the yardstick of the activities it supports. The report leads with dozens of “Traditional” core market metrics like camping, canoeing and climbing, but also factors in a boatload of “Non-traditional” pastimes like walking, picnicking and simply chilling outside.
In this widening pool of data sources, the clear takeaway is that the biggest sustained growth in Outdoor is in the definition of what "outdoor" actually means. And the clear challenge is using that knowledge to forge a path through an often blurry Lifestyle landscape ..."
Read the complete post at PaleMorningMedia.com .... LINK


Why the LWCF matters

As the landmark legislation known as the Land and Water Conservation Fund heads into the last 60 days of its original 50-year charter, a few thoughts regarding its current relevance:

"Unfortunately, the LWCF turns into a pumpkin this September when its original 50-year charter expires. Even more unfortunate is the political climate that will surround it when it hits the floor of the Capitol.

The good news is that this obviously integral and simple mechanism only needs Congress to come together, unite behind it, and reauthorize it. 

The bad news is that this obviously integral and simple mechanism only needs Congress to come together, unite behind it, and reauthorize it.

No doubt, this is a decision about money ... about the $900 million dollars a year that comes out of the pocket of oil and gas companies, and often goes to the preservation and protection of other public lands from just that kind of drilling.

Pitting conservation interests versus oil and gas interests is a fight that few have the stomach to pick.  People like cheap gas, love driving, and have all but forgotten that Al Gore was a filmmaker.  In a modern world fueled by fuel, drawing a line in the sand across from the oil and gas crowd is a half-step away from picking a fight with oxygen. And yet, there’s more than enough room between “not here, not now, not ever” and “anywhere, anytime” to make a legitimate stand ..."

To read the complete piece, please head over here.


Nepal Giving Guide

Facebook Friends

Mountain magazine (LINK)

Outside Online (LINK)

Outdoor Industry Association (LINK)


NY Times (LINK)


The Sweet Spot


As it was the early 1990s, I honestly don’t remember why I decided to try telemark skiing. What I do remember is being vaguely disenfranchised by skiing in general, turned off by the euro-style stretch pants, the macho swagger that went along with 220 cm skis, and the hey-i-went-to-a-ski-academy perfect turners. It wasn’t a great snow year. I wasn’t a great skier. And those telemark freaks simply seemed to be having more fun than anybody else on the mountain. I was sold.     

I was fascinated by the rippers who were flashing their free-heels from the first chair to last call, and I remember the feeling of seeing my first telemark movie: tingly and exciting, like getting a love letter from a long lost girlfriend. It didn’t matter that my boots were too flimsy, the skis were too narrow, and I had zero idea of what I was doing, because the whole thing was contagious, refreshingly different and totally addicting.

More than 20 years of turns past that sweet spot, however, my Tua Montets (with Voile releasable plates) are rusting away in the garage, a real world analogy for the quiet end of an era that was brought to light last month when Mad River Glen hosted the last-ever NATO Telemark Festival. (LINK)

The Tele Fest at MRG ran for 40 years, bringing flocks of free heel faithful to the extreme variable conditions of central Vermont. If you’re doing the math at home, the thing started when Gerald Ford was president, a lift ticket cost $10, and people still drank martinis out of a Thermos while they drove their unseatbelted kids around. There were other festivals, sure, but the MRG Tele Fest was the first to the party and the last to leave, providing a complete bracketing of the rise, the sweet spot and the quiet demise of telemark skiing.

The question isn’t whether a sweet spot existed in telemark skiing -- or anything else –– but rather when it existed. And it’s not as simple as calling out the “peak” of participation, as that sort of misses the point. (The peak is when you played Wembley Stadium in front of 100,000 rabid moshing fans. The sweet spot is when you toured for a year, perfected your sound, and recorded that album that got you the stadium gig in the first place).

Pre-sweet spot, you’re in the undiscovered country. Post-sweet spot, you’ve jumped the shark.  And somewhere between the two, there is a sweet spot that emerges, gets noticed and makes fans.

The sweet spot is pure, electric and magnetic. It’s when charisma and energy combine, and when you can’t help but get sucked in. The more you get, the more you want, and the more you miss it when it’s gone.

But the fade of a sweet spot is also very real.  Everything has a life span, and quality has nothing to do with it. Was it too many people? Not enough people? Lack of expectations? Burden of expectations? The simple passage of time? Hey, even M.A.S.H. went off the air eventually

For telemark skiing (and skiers), there is a distinct yearning for a return to that sweet spot. Ironically, though the gear is better and lighter and more durable than ever before, the more it advances the further away the sweet spot seems in the rear view mirror.

That yearning for a return to the sweet spot exists for lots of other stuff … other places, other brands, other businesses, other trade shows.  It’s a normal, human and almost expected urge to want to go back to when numbers didn’t matter, when pure participation was its own reward, and when all the best accomplishments were still in front of you. Like daydreaming of seeing Yosemite before the crowds, of catching a steelhead before the dams went in, or seeing the boys from San Francisco before they were the Dead (LINK)

But that cooling cup of coffee isn’t going to warm itself. Enjoy it while it lasts, and don’t sweat it when it’s over.

When was the sweet spot of telemark skiing?  When was it at its pinnacle? At it’s moment of peak soulfulness, coolness and peak contagiousness?

Interesting question...I would say late 90s/early 2000s. As alpine skiing was going through an identity crisis (thanks to their insecurity brought on by snowboarding) that put Charlie Sheen to shame, tele skiers were getting down and dirty with face shot after face shot. Downhill and AT gear still sucked, while tele was still the best way to get into backcountry--and hence, ski powder--and it was strong enough to rip it inbounds. Enough people had been doing it for some time that they made it look amazingly stylish, but it hadn't yet been played to death. There were festivals all over the place that encouraged drinking and embracing your inner dirt bag. Alta, Steamboat, Crested Butte, Telluride, Grand Targhee, Bridger Bowl, Alpine Meadows and Mad River Glen were all hotbeds for tele, and it's no coincidence that these places were also where you'd find the most soul. The first nail in the coffin was rockered skis, which made skiing easy and cool and surfy. And the second, and perhaps final, was the improvement of AT bindings, rendering tele burdensome and a huge pain in the ass on the skin track. Thanks a lot, Dynafit! -- Matt Hansen, Powder Magazine senior editor

if you can take a five-year span, I'd say 1997-2001. Not coincidentally, this mirrors the peak in popularity of whitewater kayaking. It's not so much that telemarking and whitewater kayaking were both considered "cooler" then, though that was certainly part of it. It's that what came to replace each of them—far better/easier/fatter alpine gear and randonne gear for tele, and stand-up paddle boarding for kayaking—wasn't around yet.  Also, there were tele specific and whitewater kayaking-specific films being made at the time. Now? Not so much. --Tom Bie, The Drake editor (and former editor, Powder Magazine) 

If I had to pick a single year, it would be 1987. Why, you ask? The gear was getting better compared to when I started telemarking in 1980. Yes, Super Comps helped but wider, softer skis helped in the PNW snow too. I was working at a shop, and we were mounting 700 pairs of skis a year with 3-pin bindings so it was contagious, I guess. I was also 30 years old and probably at my best in terms of fitness, experience, ambitions, and mostly void of family or relationship responsibilities. There were like-minded kooks in every ski town ready to close a bar, at 1 am, and meet-up at a trail head at 6 am for a day of turns and laughs … (Interrupted here by a day of ski testing, for Off-Piste, with Dave Waag. During which time we discussed the question, at hand, while skiing AT gear, with no apparent irony)…. Dave’s epic year is more like 1995. This is not completely hinged on the fact that he is 10 years younger than I, but he makes a great argument that there was an epic bump in equipment refinement then, allowing us to make better, faster turns in any snow conditions. When did the first purple Scarpa T1 boots arrive: 1991-92? By 1995 everyone had a pair of plastic boots, maybe release bindings and wider skis, like the Voile Mt. Surf. We were skiing big lines, in deep snow, in BC, Alaska, etc with the ease and efficiency of AT gear while maintaining the "Tele" snobbery, that seemed so necessary then, and so useless 20 years later. -- Don Pattison, Off Piste columnist (and former outdoor industry heavy hitter)

Tele was at its most contagious when Terminator showed up, which was 1993. It took almost 10 years for the delusion of that moment to wear off and the reality of how hard tele is, and how inefficient it is for earning turns to set in. But the soul never left, just a bunch of wannabes who couldn't make the turn work for them left and those that stuck with it figured out the turn struck a chord with their soul and couldn't let it go -- Craig Dostie, Founder, Couloir magazine

“I think it was at its peak in the early to mid- 1990s…that’s when, like idiots, we’d all show up on these week-long heli-hut trips in British Columbia on our teles while the Canucks on their ATs looked on incredulously. We were beating ourselves up without even realizing there was a better way. I also still remember trading in a one-piece ski suit my mom gave me for Christmas for a pair of Fischer GTS skis.”-- Eugene Buchanan, Former editor Telemark Skier magazine

Two times- stick out.  Spruce peak in 1993, 6 inches of fresh and laughing in the liftlines and giggling as a bunch of ex alpiners rolled around on the snow and learned together, sharing tips and essentially teaching each other how to tele.  The other was Telefest at Mad River with Dickie in 97- surrounded by the tribe and feeling truly connected in a way with the tele movement and feeling part of the brotherhood.
Kenny Ballard, former Vermonter and forever telemarker

I'm going to go with 2002. Looking at the December 2002 Issue of Couloir and there are two pages of AT binding reviews (six bindings, including the Alpine Trekker!), and 11 pages of telemark binding reviews (including 17 bindings from the usual suspects--Rottefella, BD, Voile, G3, Rainey--as well as the likes of Bishop, Linken, Peak Rigs, and the Ultimate Telemark Co.!). I think there was a real garage band mentality still, and people were still inventing their own gear, and putting together rigs that were uniquely their own. It was still about the turn, too, and not so much about SKUs and selling free-heel in alpine shops, and access. Then the AT stuff got good (great!) and everybody started talking about how they had only tele-d because they had to in order to go OB, not because they loved making that knee deep waltzing turn. -- Peter Kray, author "The God of Skiing"

Telemarking might have been at its most soulful in the late-80s. How would I “know”…I don’t. My book was published in 1988 and was well-received. There was a place for it. We were very enthusiastic, missionaries preaching the gospel, and people were listening … (but) in terms of interest, buzz; I would say in the early 90s (1992) when the Terminator was launched. That created quite a dialog, well-deserved as it was a ground-breaking product. The Terminator really changed the sport … It’s still cool, BTW.
-- Paul Parker, author "Free-Heel Skiing"

Telemark skiing was cool in the mid to late 80’s when it was evolving and innovating.  Starting with Alan Bard and Tom Carter doing the Redline Traverse people started to see what could be achieved on free heel gear.  And the gear was constantly being upgraded and improved to allow people to push farther. But the true measure of its pinnacle was that being a tele skier gave you “cool points” with the chicks.  As any ski bum can tell you, in any ski town, the ratio of guys to girls is about 10-to 1. So anything that gives you street-cred with the few female skiers was pure gold.  -- Steve Gladstone, former marketing director Merrell/Karhu

 Any time you see Ellingson in the backcountry -- Mike Geraci, Pearl St. Bagels alumni


If climbing is a mental game, Alex Honnold has won

Fascinating and inspiring.

What would you do, what could you accomplish, in a world without fear?

"... The world’s greatest climbers struggle to make sense of this mysterious sang-froid. “Most of us think dying is a really serious, scary thing, but I don’t think Alex does,” says Caldwell, who has climbed extensively with Honnold and considers him a close friend. “He’s wired a little differently from everybody else. The risk excites him, and he knows it’s super badass, but he doesn’t allow himself to go beyond that in his mind. The other great free-soloists always talk about this conversation with death. Alex is like, ‘I’m not going to fall, it’s no big deal.’ That’s what makes him so good ..."

LINK:  NY Times, "The Heart-Stopping Climbs of Alex Honnold"


Success means never having to fake you're sick on a powder day

When you’re a dirt-poor ski bum who’s stealing toilet paper rolls from the newsroom bathroom, the picture of “success” is pretty damn simple  … A ski pass, two healthy knees, and a dog that actually comes when it’s called.
Once you head down the slippery slope to that first five-day job though, the hopes and dreams slowly and steadily start piling up. Like hoping to earn your age in salary, or having an open bar at the office holiday party, or finally scoring a car with seat heaters. Ask and ye shall receive, dude.

But for those who aspire to even bigger things (or blew out their knee in December), there is the outdoor industry.

Throughout the next month, the big tent that shapes that industry will be on display in trade shows from Nevada to Germany. Maybe you're headed out to Outdoor Retailer Winter Market and the SIA Snow Show. And depending on how you swing, maybe you're headed to ISPO and SHOT Show too.

If you’ve never been a trade show lurker, it's not tough to imagine. Just close your eyes and imagine multiple nights of a massive college reunion, punctuated by seven or eight hours of wildly variable business meetings between 8 am and 6 pm every day. You’ve got your crowds and parties, you’ve got your billion thank-God-for-nametag moments, and you’ve got yer occasional unforgettable train wrecks (see also, First-annual, last-ever OIWC Drag Show).

The reunion anaolgy is also spot on because of the inevitable yardstick moments … when you bump into "that guy" on the plane, or "her" in the coffee line, and you subconsciously (or maybe consciously) take a deep breath and measure part of you against somebody else’s part. Insert innuendo here.

Some days that measuring up is merely rampant insecurity. On others it’s gleeful schadenfreude. And on the best days it’s a healthy dose of totally appreciated inspiration.

When I sent out a couple dozen high priority faxes looking for a few outdoorsy people’s personal, honest definition of success …I didn’t know what to expect.

And then I got this.

…”(Success?) It looks like a mess. When I try to figure it out, my instinct is to run out the door and ski into the hills with my dog. I have been incredibly frustrated with my lack of success and progress, and scared by my financial situation -- all my fault. For me, short term success is paying off a deep line of credit. Mid-term success is getting at least some of the jobs of which I am more than capable of handling…”

And then this.

“… I'm afraid "success = never having to work with idiots ever again" may not go over so well….”

For some folks, starting a casual conversation about “success” is the same as shining a spotlight on a 42-foot tall stress ball in the corner of the room. It’s taking that that yardstick out of the shadows and laying it right on the table for everybody to see.

In the outdoor world, success can be a hard thing to pin down personally, if only because of its abundance. There are many who’ve achieved real, concrete stuff — women who’ve founded incredible companies or skied an epic first descent, guys who have shattered barriers in physical performance, climbers who’ve Instagrammed successfully from the Dawn Wall, and freelance writers who've managed to stave off the beast of a full-time job for yet another year..

There’s also what seems to be an infinity chocolate fountain of mind-blowing travel tales. (The print zine Mountain Gazette dug into that idea a years ago in a thing called the “Readers’ Reverse Bucket List”. Truly one of the coolest things I’ve ever read.)

And finally -- and maybe a bit unexpectedly for the outdoor world -- there are many, many true careerists who are impeccably dedicated to their craft, whatever it might be.

The brutally honest definition of success can be a tough question to answer, out loud anyway. There’s the answer you give friends and family, and then ... there’s the answer you only tell yourself during those quiet morning moments on the trail. 

Maybe it’s “never lift a damn finger again.”  Maybe it’s “I have no fucking clue.”  But chances are good that it still includes a ski pass, two healthy knees and a decent dog.


I think time is the most valuable thing we have, and we may not have as much of it as we think. Given that most of us spend an inordinate amount of our time chasing the almighty dollar to survive in this society, I figure that to succeed in life one must find a way to spend that time doing something they are truly passionate about. Otherwise, you just end up pining for a vacation that only comes a couple times a year.
-- Chris Figenshau, Photographer

Day starts with a trail run, accessible from our small mountain house, with at least one dog. Work—and by that I mean write—with a two-hour guilt-free slot for napping and reading. Have enough time and energy to make a good dinner, watch the sun go down, and sleep deeply.
— Dimity McDowell, co-author of Run Like a Mother + Train Like a Mother

My view of success is less materialistic and more associated with freedom. It is the ability to have freedom of choice. Not having to do things but doing them because I’m following my passions … I have this vision of a bison ranch on a trout stream with epic mountains for skiing in the back yard. For me it is symbolic of the freedom to do some of the things I love (skiing/fishing) and working a farm/ranch (passionate about land and food) while surrounded by friends and family sharing my passions. I hesitate to say that is my vision of success because things are dynamic and where isn’t as important to me as what (doing what I’m passionate about) and how (with friends and family).
— Erik Snyder, CEO Armada Skis

I have an intermediate thing in my head that defines success, and that's employing people. Knowing that their livelihood is on my shoulders makes me work hard; not in a fear-based way, but just in the sense that it's an enormous responsibility that I can't dick around with. In the long-term, success means retirement. I love my job, I love my work, but I have plans, man. I truly look forward to laying down the mantle of responsibility, getting the kids out of college on their own, and winding down my work in 15 years.  Because there's so much to do!  I suck at golf, have ignored tennis.  I haven't traveled enough, haven't bought a horse, and far too seldom look my wife in the eye and say, "So really, how are you?"  Those days will come, and when they do, that'll mean the ultimate success.
— Gordon Wright, President, Outside PR

My big thing is I still can't believe people pay me to do what I do--things that, in some cases, most folks would pay tons of money to do-- like being part of a historic kayaking expedition on the Congo or rowing a gondola in Venice. I feel so blessed and lucky that I've had these amazing opportunities over the years and the chance to share it with others through writing and film. My goal has always been to write a book, write a movie, and write a country song. I still have to write that country song.
— Mark Anders, writer and filmmaker

The bar is always moving. Ten years ago I was in the magazine business. Now I'm in the media business. And media is changing so fast, we're all trying to keep up.... The good news, and the thing I always come back to, is that at the root of my job, I'm trying to recruit new outdoors-people while still preaching to the choir of veterans. To inspire more people to love being outdoors, to be safe and happy and comfy out there. Cheesy, right? But true.
—  Kristin Hostetter, Gear Editor, Backpacker

Living abroad with my family. Learning to surf. Climbing at least 30% as much time as I spend at the desk. Windows down, golden sun, loud music, driving toward the horizon. Fish tacos on the beach. A cold pint pretty much always works, too, regardless of region/climate/IBUs.
— Shannon Davis, Editor, Climbing Magazine

We half ass too many things. For me success is putting my heart and full attention into something and then seeing it come to fruition, even if it didn't work out as planned. So when I stress and freak out and work without sleeping to put out a magazine or write something, I feel incredibly proud when I get it in my hands. We made this, despite how easy it would be to let it slide. I am, however, often scared to open it up and look inside because I will see nothing but mistakes and faults and things I think I could have done better. But sometimes, years later, I will pick up an old magazine or story I wrote and look through it and say... this was damn good. Just put your everything into it. As the comedian Bill Hicks used to say, "Play it with your fucking heart." — Doug Schnitzspahn, Writer and Editor (Elevation Outdoors, Mountain Gazette, SustainAbler)

I come to work every day and it is hard for me to leave. I never can believe I get paid to market the idea that you should make the most of every day, have fun and live your life to the fullest. I find the freedom for creativity and accomplishing dreams is endless here.  I would do this job for free. The paycheck is a bonus."
— Tyler Lee, KAVU marketing manager

I see only two enduring measures of success. One is internal and comes when you know you've lived or worked true to your values and beliefs. The second is external, when you see your good works reflected in others — but only when you see them reflected in actions, not words. It's easy enough to collect praise, but that's ultimately empty. Making a positive, tangible difference in someone's life is when you know you're on the right track
-- Steve Casimiro, Editor and Publisher, Adventure Journal

Although some part of me still believes that (Olympic and World Cup) medals are the true test of success, after all is said and done, I measure success by one simple rule -- did I work my hardest before the competition and did I ski/perform to my highest potential in the race when the pressure is on. If I did that, no matter what the outcome, I was successful. The medal or prize that you win at an event is not the goal. What that medal represents -- commitment to a goal, working hard, and performing at your peak --- is the measure of success.
— Doug Lewis, Universal Sports Alpine Analyst, 1985 10th place finisher Hannenkahm, 1985 downhill bronze medalist in World Championships at Bormio, Italy

Like most people, my dreams are a little conflicting – both simple and complex. I want to feel I’m impacting the world because of my professional work. I want to have a family that thrives, is connected and has a positive impact on their community. And I dream of spending my winters in a little house on a beach in Baja, traveling through all the warm places in the world, and summers in a cabin on a river. Ultimately, I just want to feel that I’m always trying new things, pushing my boundaries personally and professionally and that I am not complacent. As cliché as it may sound, I see "arriving" as a great journey, taking advantage of the opportunities given. For now, I’m too hopeful and excited about all the stops on the way to focus on the end game.
— Stasia Raines, Director of Marketing, Outdoor Industry Foundation

My dad had a great analogy that I'll share about this; there are 3 circles of truth; how all who know me see me, how I see myself, and the ground truth (how things really are). The more aligned these circles are (goal being directly overlaid, one circle really), the more honestly I'm living in the world. The more disconnected they are, the less in touch I am. It's another measure of success, I suppose.
Kenji Haroutunian, bass player, OR All Star Industry Jam Band

On a very rare occasion, I am able strike a balance where I am happy with my performance as a husband, father, manager, mentor, athlete and community member. These times generally are my most stressful, but most fulfilling.  I know when I’ve achieved this balance through interactions with family, friends, co-workers and teammates. (And I’m willing to sacrifice a good night sleep in order to accomplish this.)
— David Fee, VP Sales and Marketing, Benchmade Knife Co.

Success means being able to live where you want, in the way you want, without using more than you need. To be healthy, and to meet the unknown with open arms and an open mind. And I think I am actually getting a little bit closer. Though actually, getting to heli ski all the time sounds pretty good … maybe you should talk to my brother.
— Ted Wardlaw, marketing man

Every time I finish a freelance project I feel successful. Every time I see a story I wrote or photos I took published, I feel successful. It's not a lasting feeling, or really one that is even recognizable at times. But when the dice rolls my way and one project is knocked down after another, a feeling of accomplishment follows. I would liken it to the pursuit of winning individual stages of Le Tour, rather than the conventional concept of "success" being the finish line of said race, if that makes sense. Having said all that, life works in such a way that not all projects or all days go as planned--there are too many disappointments to count. It requires constant effort to achieve these small, minor, perhaps insignificant successes, though that effort is what makes each worth doing. Finding pleasure in the small wins may in the end translate to an overarching feeling of success at the end.
-- Graham Hiemstra, Senior Editor, Cool Hunting

“For the most part, my business ego has already been stroked. I’ve started a company, built the brand, and get enough inquiries about buying the company that I can gauge some value and worth to what I’ve done for the last decade or so. So success at this point is really about the next generation … getting my kids to adulthood. To a place where they can start making their own choices, good and bad, but not sacrificing any part of the great outdoor lifestyle that we enjoy now.” 

— Pete Hixson, CEO Pistil Designs

As a career mountain guide I've taken over a thousand people on various wilderness adventures, helping folks to achieve their personal goals, whether it be reaching a summit or the completion of a long trek. And I've seen that ultimately the common thread among people is not the fleeting act of, say, standing at the summit that is the actual reward, but rather that their accomplishment signals the completion of a process that includes dreaming big, working hard, and earning all of the life lessons and experience that comes along with the token goal. So I view success as the conclusion of a very personal adventure; an adventure that manifests within many levels, and where we can come away having bettered ourselves and perhaps paved the way for others to follow.
Colby Brokvist, GM/Senior Backcountry Guide, Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides

I’m in the Bahamas... Is that success?
— Porter Fox, Editor & Publisher, Nowhere Travel Journal