3.17.2015

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"


1.15.2015

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.

WHAT DOES SUCCESS PHYSICALLY, ACTUALLY AND TRULY LOOK LIKE TO YOU? WHAT IS THAT THING IN YOUR HEAD THAT YOU’RE WORKING TOWARD, THAT PLACE YOU’RE DREAMING OF, OR THAT THING THAT WILL HAPPEN WHICH WILL SIGNIFY THAT YOU’VE FINALLY, TRULY PULLED IT OFF?

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

1.07.2015

The World's Worst PR Predictions for 2015


1.  You’ll hate social media more than ever

There’s an ubergalactic thumb-wrestling match going on right now to see who disdains social media more.

Is it the increasingly isolated user … whose news feed is morphing into a steady diet of promoted posts, kitten photos, first-world-problem bragplaining, and powder cuckolding?

Or is it the producer … who like the ever-hopeful freelance writers before them, have volunteered to hitch their careers on daily milk runs to the great cow of creativity.  But to add a new wrinkle, these new economy careerists have a new glass to fill every single day. (Did you hear chat rooms are back? ...Sorry about all that time you put into the Google Plus program; turns out the platform sucks and is going nowhere... Ramp up that Instagram posting frequency....  Should we be on Ello? ... Explain to me again why those other guys have a bigger Facebook audience?  ....You’re not answering your Snapchat account. ...My nephew just got retweeted by Vin Diesel. Why don't we do that?)

This Bud’s for you, community managers.  I feel your pain.

2. You’ll wish you invented something

Like triple-baked snowsealed work gloves. 

Or standup paddle anything. 


3. You’ll start making plans for when Outdoor Retailer moves to Las Vegas

According to something I found on the internets, the Outdoor Retailer contract at the Salt Palace Convention Center runs through the end of 2016. 

Also found on the internet is the nearest available hotel room to the upcoming 2015 Outdoor Retailer Winter Market show … which is a short JetBlue connection away.

For the last few years, I found it pretty damn hard to believe that the show would leave Utah while Kenji was in charge. But, since Kenji has left the building, maybe that door has finally opened. Just sayin'.

4. You’ll be asked to produce a video

Good video costs good money.  And by “good money” I mean watch-yourself-while-you-kick-yourself-in-the-balls expensive. 

The concept, the scripting, the planning, the travel, the shoot, the lighting, the terrible first take, the make up to make you look like you’re not wearing make up, the editing … oh, God, the editing …. And then finally a finished product that looks pleasantly effortless like you just whipped out your iPhone and caught a perfect moment in digital amber. That shit is hard.  And those who understand what it takes, understand what it takes.

While there are a handful of brands that are already six exits down the video highway, many of the rest are quietly shuffling their feet, hoping that brand imagery that can be sent by fax will continue to be OK for their needs. Those folks are certainly not ready to spend $100k on a video program. Or $50k. And probably not $20k either.

“Visual storytelling” isn’t marketing bullshit. It’s essential. And since many of the excellent video producers have long since bailed on the outdoor world because of the lack of budget, guess who’s gonna be on the list for that that $2000 video RFP that goes out next month?

5.  You’ll stick your head through the drywall in your office

Actually, I don’t have health insurance and I’m not planning on getting any anytime soon. I’m a healthy guy and I’ve been pretty lucky in the past.”
 -- Comment made by a media guest on day two of a backcountry fam trip, immediately after telling the group about the numerous crazy adventure-based media fam trips he’d been on in the last 12 months.

6. You’ll walk out on a keynote speaker

It’s a red wine and salt kind of reaction for an outdoor local to be lectured on anything by a non-outdoor person.  Seriously, that Cabernet literally leaps out of the damn shag carpet.

Part of that reaction is outdoor DNA, a historic reluctance to take any advice (even good advice) from 90-day wonders. But part of it is also the industry’s legitimate pride as custodians of truly special and increasingly rare experiences. This group sees itself as exceptional  ... and truly distinct from other industries in its ongoing appreciation of natural beauty and non-competitive athleticism. And until the double-digit growth slows down, it's gonna be tough to tell them otherwise.

Data crunch all you want in your pretty keynote,” says the voice in our head, “But I’ll bet you a billion dollars that if it snows three feet on Friday your entire argument is toast.”

And that voice will be right.

7. You’ll like a post on Facebook which openly shames “bad” PR people

It’ll happen. Probably as soon as this post goes live.

8.  You’ll start blogging again

When blogging first hit the scene, it was mind-blowing cool. Man, writing that sentence sure makes me feel old.

But it was. It was long-format bantering on big meaty topics. It was one-upmanship. It was wordplay. People got excited. People got mad. People lawyered up.  It was like the rap-off scene in Eminem's “8 Mile” … if it had been done by mildly overweight insomniac startup marketing consultants with tons of time on their hands because the dot-com bubble had just burst.

Alas, blogging was hard, too. It was a long distance race rather than a sprint. You had to feed the beast with regular content. With graphic elements. With photos and colors and illustrations and links and …  

And then we found Facebook. 

Believe it or not, Facebook was truly cutting edge once upon a time. Especially for bloggers with writing block. It was slick. It was turnkey. It was unexpected.  Seriously … don’t laugh.   

The worm, however, has turned. Facebook wants your money, and is going to get it one way or another. And huddled masses of “alternative” SM channels keep on growing, faster than neglected cilantro after a spring rainstorm. 
 
So, people are dusting off their blogsAs the anchor for all social media content.  As a driving force for inbound traffic.  As a cool thing to do that builds value for a brand, not for an IPO-hopeful Twitter knockoff.

9. You’ll get a product request from a part-time SLC barista

At the twice-annual Outdoor Retailer trade show in Salt Lake City, there is understandably much fanfare about the “working media list” which is available to exhibitors and their representatives.

The list for the upcoming 2015 winter show – or at least the most recent one we’ve received – has an impressive 520 bodies on it, representing 271 media outlets. 

Out of that 271, a sizable 108 are classified as Internet-only outlets … and 71 are attending the show from the greater Salt Lake area.

The only thing harder than publishing is freelance writing. So when that barista calls, give 'em a break.

10. You’ll get stuck with a bar tab

And hopefully, my steak frites and double Crown & ginger will be on it too.

12.19.2014

The God of Skiing

Peter Kray is a ski writer. 

He was a blue-jacketed JH instructor when I met him. And now? He's been a trade editor (Ski Press), a magazine freelancer (Men's Journal, Mountain Gazette, plenty of others) and an online playa-cum-artiste (GearInstitute.com).

But he has also wanted to write a novel about skiing for a long time. A very long time. And now it's done.

With ink so fresh you should probably slap it, "The God of Skiing" rolled out to friends and friendly reviewers last week (hint: just in time for Christmas).  

Is it a coincidence that the self-published, square-bound tome fits nicely in a stocking hung by the chimney with care?  Probably. 

Is it a coincidence that the book fits perfectly, like it was designed for it, in the breast pocket of a CB ski jacket Definitely not.

"The God of Skiing" is a book written for passionate skiers by a passionate skier. The author says its a novel, but it's also a memoir of growing up in the straight-ski era ... From Colorado, to the East, and back to the West. The prose varies between impossibly tight and all-the-room-in-the-world spaciousness: a pace that reminds you of skiing on a big mountain, alternating between rocky chutes and unending powder fields. Or of song lyrics penned in a precious journal, accidentally left behind in a Leadville saloon. 

How did you get your start writing? My recollection was that you won that Subaru raffle in JH, flipped it for the cash, then scored a small Wyoming writing grant.

My dad got me started writing. He would always read to us (me and my brother) when we were little -- Hamlet, Last of the Mohicans, Treasure Island, and Call of the Wild. Adventure stuff. Then I would start to try and make up my own stories when he wasn't reading to us.

I sold that Subaru for $10,000 and bought a new pair of skis, was very popular at the Mangy Moose for a few nights, then just wasted the rest of the cash. I think that was the last year the ski team held the raffle. They didn't want to see another ski bum win a new car like that.


People write about gear and places to ski all the time... But writing about actually skiing?  Who does that?
Exactly. Who does do that? 

I really wrote the book I wanted to read. Ski literature is a pretty thin field, and I figured I owed the sport a book. I'm hoping it inspires a couple of my other ski writer friends to write their own. If Porter Fox, Matt Hansen, Andy Bigford, Devon O'Neil or Adam Howard write a ski novel, I'll be the first to buy it.

Who are your top five best skiers of all time?

Bode Miller, Franz Klammer, Doug Coombs, Lindsey Vonn, and Hermann "the Hermannator!" Maier himself. Next five? Anyone with the last name Zell, Shane McConkey, Scot Schmidt, Ted Ligety and Kjetil Andre Aamodt.

I bet you have at least three vintage Kastle posters hanging.  True story?

I used to have an original Jackson Hole Mountain Resort Cirque trail marker, but I think Bill Phipps or Bill Daley ended up with it. On the wall in my office are three framed Mountain Gazette covers, Doug Coombs from the POWDER Magazine memorial cover, Bode Miller racing at Soelden, Gram Parsons, and a picture Jonathan Selkowitz took of a brown bear bending a roadside snow depth marker looking like he's about to pole vault.

Who are your top five best ski writers of all time?

Ernest Hemingway (the last chapter in A Moveable Feast), James Salter (script for Downhill Racer), Romain Gary (The Ski Bum), Dick Barrymore (script for Last of the Ski Bums), and any ski travel piece by Porter Fox.

Where'd you ski as a kid? Winter Park?

Dad was a volunteer patroller at Vail with all his buddies, so we skied there for years. And after that on the ski train to Winter Park. In the winter I don't ever remember being asked, "What do you want to do this weekend?" It was just expected that we would be on the slopes.

Mole, chili relleno, or chorizo burrito?

It's weird, but Salt Lake City has better mole than we do in Santa Fe. So The Red Iguana gets the call in SLC. But here, it's Silver Coin margaritas and chile relleno RED (not green) at Maria's.

Who do you think is the best skier to ever wear a Denver Broncos uniform?

That's like asking what my favorite beer is. I'd say whichever one of them is on the slope. I'm pretty sure they all have a 'no-ski' clause in their contracts, but I remember John Elway doing an ad on the slopes once from the back of a limo with snowcat tracks, so I'll go with The Duke, of course.

Whaddaya want for Christmas?

More snow. The Broncos to win the Super Bowl. And more ski books.


11.19.2014

Garlic, farts and all

“Are beginners and infrequent skiers … being priced out of the sport?”  
— "The Boom and the Bust”
Powder Magazine, December 2014

Somewhere, Paul McCollister is smiling. He’s dead, of course, but nothing would satisfy the snarky, uber-capitalist founder of the Jackson Hole Ski Area more than to know that the dirtbag skiing faithful has finally come around to his way of thinking. 

Paul was a visionary and original partner of perhaps the greatest American ski experience, but he was also a hard-ass and kind of a dick … as the tale goes, he coined the memorable phrase “I don’t want any of those garlic-breathed farting hippies on my tram". 

Paul recognized early on that expert skiers got more for their money than a beginner, and it sort of pissed him off. As a reporter in Jackson in the 1990s, I remember at one point he posed the idea that a paying customer should be able to push the dirtbags out of the way by reserving a seat on the Thunder chair at, say, 10 am on a powder day, and the idea made people’s heads explode. 

But heading into the winter of 2015? I think Paul’s idea is probably just a season or two away … everywhere.

Above all else, Paul was a pretty smart guy.  He knew that money talks in skiing, and that it was only going to talk louder as time went on. 

But money talks everywhere. And skiing will always be one of those havens where a turn speaks louder than a tiara.

Good skiing. Brag-worthy skiing.  Skiing that you lie about.  Skiing that you dream about.  Skiing that's hard to get to, and when you get there it’s hard to get to the goods first.  Yes, that skiing is getting more expensive. It should be. And worrying about it is like worrying that the awesome taco place that you told everybody about for the last 10 years now has a line around the corner. 

Yeah, there should be a line. Cause that fish taco is fucking amazing.

Skiing is, and always will be, about fantasy. Small mountain skiers dream of the big hill.  Big line skiers dream of going even bigger. And those who worry about people not skiing anymore are people who don't ski in-bounds on Saturdays. Let’s face it, the reality is that there’s never been a better time for people to stop skiing. (Take a deep breath.  I know you’re with me. Just dream about it for a half-second and tell me with a straight face that it doesn’t turn you on).

Honestly, it’s impossible to imagine more options for dirtbag skiing than there are now. College passes, 20-something passes, boomer passes, uphill skiing, plastic shit-board skiing, tow-in skiing, stair skiing, urban skiing, taco skiing (I just made that up) …  Skis will never be better. Skiing will never be easier. Heliskiing will never be more available. Cat skiing will never be more ubiquitous. Bootpacking will never be easier.  Powder turns will never be easier to make.  ‘Showgirls’ will never be made again. Things are good, dude. Chill out.  Look at the bodies. Look at the lines. Look at that untracked powder line over there in the willows just past the gully.  Looks awesome.

If you’re willing to actually work for it instead of just throwing money at it, there’s always a way. Because when you go skiing, you go to remember who you can be, who you used to be, and who you want to be.

Garlic, farts, and all.

11.13.2014

Seven outdoorsy things that would be better with paintball

7.  Paintball freestyle slacklining

6.  Paintball rail jams

5.  Paintball SUP yoga

4. Paintball interventions prompted by overuse of "stoke" or "tribe"

3. Paintball OIA Capitol Summit

2. Paintball randonee racing

1.  Paintball tenkara

11.05.2014

Wilderness vs. Technology, circa 1995


Living in Seattle in the fall of 1995, I heard a story from a climbing guide buddy about a recent almost-rescue in North Cascades National Park. A group of climbers had ended up stranded and hunkered down on the east ridge of Forbidden Peak, and to remedy the situation, they did something that had never been done before. They made the first ever cellular phone call that launched a search in the Park.

Despite the sophistication of the communication device, the "rescue" ended up being a bit of a cluster. Basic advice was given by the rangers. Weather got worse. No location was established. Communication was lost. A search party headed out and found the group. The group denied ever actually asking to be rescued.

It was a big deal at the time, to me anyway. Cell phones were things that you saw in the movies, or in the coffeeshops surrounding the Microsoft campus. Not skiing.

So I penned a piece for the PNW's neighborhood backcountry rag, free snow, that put the idea of wilderness versus technology out there.

Waking up this morning to see the news of $34 million worth of high-speed optics being planned for Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park (LINK), and seeing live action Facebook posts from friends currently enjoying the selfie-friendly backdrops of Yosemite, I dug out that old issue.

Close to nearly two decades old, words in print still really hit home. Here are a few lines culled from the piece:

You would think nothing of driving to the mountains and back in a day, and the cost of that would be a full year’s food budget for an Ethiopian. Say you take a trip to Nepal; with all the costs there you’re looking at the GNP for a whole village. If that’s not decadent, I don’t know what is. But our technology helps us live cleaner, more efficiently. The important thing is, we’re urban people, most of us have jobs and goals, and we use the concept of wilderness to “recreate.” It’s important to have that, and I think technology helps us get that.
Rainer Burgdorfer
Writer, Author, Skier
1995

A lot of the things are and will be be happening. We can’t just drag our feet and say we can’t address this. Like the GPS device – it’s out there now, and it’s already being used to do trail work. It’s all along a continuum, there’s no stopping any of us from taking the path of least resistance.You can look back with a sigh and how things were in the old days, and you can appreciate that. All we can do is just try and appreciate what peole in an earlier day went through, and had the enegery and interest to do, compared to what we do today. Right now, things are a whole lot easier and not many people realize that.
Kelly Bush
Park Ranger, North Cascades national park
1995

People are expecting more from a wilderness experience. It used to be a wilderness experience to go to Mt. Rainier from Seattle. Now, if you're not doing Liberty Ridge, you're not there.
Paul Baugher, director
Northwest Avalanche Institute
1995

I was looking at a new magazine, Rocky Mountain Magazine. It’s sort of an Outside-type publication. I was looking at the ads that were in it – Jeep Cherokee, Magellan GPS systems, scotch. Who are the consumers of the wilderness now? Are they looking for a wilderness experience to go with their scotch and their Jeep Cherokee? It’s almost got to the point where it’s elistist in a way – the technology, but also the whole concept of wilderness. You think of the extreme case, Aspen, where an average home sells for $1.4 million for the opportunity to live in this neat place where normal people can’t afford to live anymore.
Eric Simonson
Senior Guide, RMI & NAI Instructor
1995

We take a lot of raft trips in southern Utah, where the only way out is 60 miles downriver. In that situation, having a cellular phone would be nice in terms of an emergency, but it’s not something I’d let other peole know was there. Part of the wilderness aspect is the danger and psychological aspect of being out there. If I was a commercial operation, and had to look at liability concerns, the money and having 40 people on the trip, I’d bring one. Keep it in an ammo can or something. If it was just me and my friends though, I’d much rather bring along a nurse.
Ken Keeley
General Manager, Voile
1995

We’re in a society where more is better. The more trinkets you have for your backcountry trips keeps old men like me in business, and keeps more makers making more gear to ease the backcountry experience. But is the backcountry supposed to be hard? Or is it supposed to be easy?
Clair Yost
Yostmark Mountain Equipment
1995