How sweet it is

Turns out that good old maple syrup is a legitimate contender in the biofuel battle. And you thought it was just good for maple-tinis.

Extreme skiing

I caught up with a friend last week while out skiing the slush. He was flying solo with both kids, a toddler and a seven year old, nailing a feat impressive for any dad.

What made it even more heroic was the fact that his oldest child is autistic.

My friend was drenched in sweat, skiing with his 85-pound son between his legs, and verbally herding his toddler daughter down "Sleeper" and "Waterfall." Just for reference, an 85-pound kid is roughly the size of a small Chris Denny or a big Howard Dean.

His son was beaming. It was his fourth time skiing, having been introduced to the activity earlier in the season by Vermont Adaptive Sports. But it was his first time skiing with his dad.

The year I was born, Autism Spectrum Disorders affected about one out of every 2000 births. Today, it's one in 150.

Do the quick math. In the United States, that's approximately 2 million people. Add to that the 6 million adults estimated to have developmental disabilities, and you've got quite a crowd.

To have the opportunity to meet and begin to work closer with groups who make this community the center of their daily life has been quite satisfying. But to see my friend and his son skiing together simply. Blew. Me. Away.

His dedication and resolve outclassed any of my own outdoor accomplishments by a mile. And a few days later, while I was still mentally calculating the massive effort it must take ...he blew me away again.

"That was the greatest day skiing in life. No question."


The search for intelligent life

With cancer in the breaking news on what seems like a by-the-minute basis (one, two, three), i thought i'd try to distract myself this morning with a little local color.

In the Green Mountain state, nobody brings the color better than Mark Johnson over on WDEV. His guest this morning was Dr. Fred Singer, a global warming debunker who's scheduled to speak tonight at UVM at 7 pm.

Singer's lecture is sure to be provocative and well-attended. Titled the "500-Year Natural Cycle or Disaster Of Our Own Doing? - A look at the science and politics of global warming," his basic premise is that global warming is unstoppable, irreversible and has absolutely nothing to do with us.

Singer's an excrutiatingly competent speaker, complete with a devilish little accent that makes him seem incredibly smart (see, Max Von Sydow) and grandfatherly. Whether or not it's true that Singer was a pro-tobacco shill back in the day is irrelevant. What is relevant is that Singer mentally outmuscled his critics one after another after another after another ....

Listening to avid callers show up for a scientific debate armed with nothing but political rhetoric was a bit like watching somebody bring a spaghetti noodle to a saloon brawl. Not only did you know that they were going to get creamed, but you could sense their tangible embarrassment.

It doesn't take a atmospheric scientist to recognize that anti-global warming speakers are the next big thing. Guaranteed crowds, visceral reactions, and loose treatment of the facts are already proven to be great business, and they're coming soon to an auditiorium near you.


Mud River Glen

Nobody loves dirt skiing more than Mud River Glen. Of course, to maximize your enjoyment of this distinctly local pleasure, and to shralp like only a shareholder can, please follow our simple mud skiing guidelines. Enjoy!

Situation: You slowly approach an unidentified mixture of moss, mud, and rock, one to two feet in diameter. Location is avoidable.
Recommendation: Point it.

Situation: As you accelerate through a hard right turn into a glade, you rapidly approach a rock mass surrounded by an unidentified mixture of moss, mud, and rock, two to five feet in diameter. Location is potentially avoidable.
Recommendation: Point it.

Situation: Nearing maximim velocity at the base of what you thought to be a runout, you are hauling ass as you approach a pair of trees, six feet or less apart, bracketing a rock mass surrounded by an unidentified mixture of moss, mud, and rock, five to 10 feet in diameter. Location is unavoidable.
Recommendation: Point it.

Situation: You have entered Paradise, an entire run is filled with trees, four feet or less apart, with less snow than you thought humanly possible to ski upon. Now that you can see most of the moss and grass, you realize there really aren't that many rocks. Location is irrelevant.
Recommendation: Point it ... and recommend to all your friends.

PS. Our groms can kick your groms ass. The kid in this picture is 10.



"The planet has a fever. If your baby has a fever, you go to the doctor. If the doctor says you need to intervene here, you don’t say ‘I read a science fiction novel that says it’s not a problem.’ You take action.” LINK

"I've got a fever and the only cure is more cowbell." LINK

"As powerful as some might think marketers and the media are, they don't have arms attached to the bodies of children which mechanically force feed them the brands they manufacture and advertise. No. Kids put food in their mouths with their own arms." LINK

"When this happens, you can go cower in a corner and hide, or you can be tough and go out and stand up for what you believe in. We have no intention of cowering in a corner." LINK

"This is where the green crowd runs into holier-than-thou problems, and it's this attitude that turns people off. I'd say that rubbing people's noses in it and getting confrontational just makes things worse. What's needed, as I see it, is a way to unite the patriots and the environmentalists." LINK

"I did it. And I'm proud of it." LINK

"I've given my notice for the end of the month." LINK


Google bikes

Just in from our euro bureau, Google will be offering all employees a free Raleigh bike and helmet. While it's great green PR, it's also a bit savvier than the average play, as both the rig and the lid will have a tidy little spot of Google branding.

In other words, it's a business expense, stupid. And a far cry from the days of wine and noses when the ultimate buisiness expense/PR gambit was a giganto yacht with dad's name on it.


Top Ten Lists We'd Like To See

10. Top Ten easy ski runs that look as hard as these.

9. Top Ten carbon offset plans that Treehugger won't complain about.

8. Top Ten reasons to include a waterproof zipper in ANY jacket.

7. Top Ten waves to surf in your mind.

5. Top Ten Differences between stripers and strippers.

4. Top Ten Reasons that a certain fRHiend of ours was "unnaturally attacted" to a company that's all about sheep.

3. Top Ten things people did instead of going skiing in Vermont yesterday.

2. Top Ten things that maple syrup doesn't taste good on.

1. Top Ten Ways to Unclog a Toilet with a Ski Pole.


Help. Wanted.

Sure, the gold standard of a PR plug may be a full page feature in SGB, but you can't argue with the passion of this endorsement.

"I would eat the heads of chickens (free range, of course) to work for these guys."


Guilt for sale?

Treehugger guilt + carbon offsets + cash + guys who can type 60plus words a minute = great copy!

Shnitzspahninagaddadavidababy drinks a triple latte and weighs in on Treehugger's recent curious carbon-offset-church-guilt analogy.

"Simply put, the indulgences analogy is a smear campaign. It is just the kind of political sloganism that George Orwell warns against in ”Politics and the English Language”. It is not meant to encourage debate or even to battle global warming. It is meant to demonize those selling offset credits."

ZOW! Do not. I repeat, DO NOT, fuck with a poet.

LINK: An Offsetting Truth




There is a disturbance in the outdoor space. A fissure to some, but more likely, it’s nothing more than an inevitable ripple of the widespread and contagious greening of the industry. It’s a result of folks connecting the dots to figure out what all this means, and where all this heads.

The equation leading to this sum is something like this – manufacturing is getting greener, energy savings means greener manufacturing, less energy is even greener, less products means less energy, and no energy and no products are the greenest of all.

So, if you’re keeping score at home, green is good. But nothing’s greener than nothing.

A few years ago, I had the remarkable opportunity to meet Rev. Billy of the Church of Stop Shopping. He’s an awesome guy, but I don’t think that the outdoor industry is ready to convert to Billy’s faith, nor do I think it should.

To flinch now would be to surrender all the progress that we’ve made. Sure it’s tempting to think of the guilt-free bliss of going back to being baristas in Jackson Hole and burrito makers in Hood River, and we’ve all thought about it. Some of us more than others.

But take a look around. The outdoor lifestyle is not the only option out there. Far from it. There are single corporations that do more business than the entire Outdoor Retailer show combined, and man would they love it if we all starting waffling and self-doubting and hand-wringing and worrying about the fact that we’re doing too well, and selling too much product, and encouraging people to acquire, acquire, acquire. They’d love to co-opt our genuine spirit as their own, and take over a solid foundation that’s been built nice and square.

Well. Here’s the thing. We are doing well as a whole. And we should be proud of it. Not because it’s unrepentant consumerism, but because we’re creating products with an engaged conscience. We actually think about our jobs, our factories, about the amount of fuel it takes to get our products to market, and whether or not our products are built to last as long as possible.

It’s convenient to imagine that our products are so totally unique and different that people are buying them in addition to their other stuff. But, for the most part, that’s not the case. People don't just buy products, they buy perspective. And that is a real opportunity for the outdoor world.

There’s so much crap out there right now. Take a spin through the Brand X store of your choice and you’ll find chemically treated jackets that look great on the rack and after two washings have disintegrated and shrunk and are ready to be thrown out. Tents and sleeping bags that cost less than a case of beer are designed to be set up once then thrown in the nearest Dumpster. Shoes that are allegedly built for dirt will rupture irreparably after a single skip to my lou. Bikes that are so bad they'll make you hate biking forever. It goes on and on ... and the companies that own them could really, truly give a shit what we say or think about it. There’s no accountability. There’s no warranty. There’s no guarantee. There’s just a sale rack.

And then, there’s the outdoor world, a place where CEOs and company founders go by their first name and actually think about whether product is necessary, about whether or not the product is made well enough, and … increasingly … about whether or not the methods for manufacturing are green enough.

Imagine the consequence of giving up now. The big would get bigger. The bigger would become the biggest of all, and we’d all be working back at the bagel shop just for the health benefits.

Now, imagine the consequence of unmitigated, unrepentant success. Imagine if the performance standards for gear in the outdoor world became the expected standard for products in the rest of the world. Imagine if social and environmental consciousness became the norm. Imagine if a healthy perspective actually spread.

That wouldn’t be a bad thing. That would be a fantastic thing.

If you are squeamish about your success, if you wonder if the outdoor industry is encouraging rampant consumerism, then you are exactly the person that the outdoor industry needs, because for every company that makes up the soulful, spirited and truly unique outdoor industry, there are a hundred false brands waiting and eager to take their place. They’ll make the stuff cheaper, in brighter colors, and ready made with a special sale price. It’ll be crap, of course, made in crappy factories, and meant to be chucked out within 48 hours of purchase or one good use, whichever comes first.

That’s not the future I want to see. And I don’t think it’s the future you want to see either.

Carbon offsets and those who report poorly on them

From: a wicked concerned reader
Subject: treehugger/offsets
Date: March 11, 2007 12:53:09 PM EDT
To: wickedoutdoorsy@gmail.com


You should amend that post. Treehugger did not say those things... they reported on them... the story is a report on a group and a (slightly suspect) study from the Netherlands that did (sic).

To be honest the issue is muddied in the story. They are not talking about SIA/OR type offsets as much as large-scale offsets in treaties (say the US claims its forests instead of limiting greenhouse gas emission) as well as major trading in carbon offset futures.

I think this story has gotten sensationalized in the blogosphere due to shoddy reporting.

- END -

From: a concerned reader
Subject: hmmm
Date: March 12, 2007 6:31:03 AM EDT
To: wickedoutdoorsy@gmail.com

My bad. I guess that story IS from Treehugger.

Sloppy on their part if you ask me as that indulgence reference comes from this story and the report quoted in it (which was the one I thought you were linking)


I'm not sure where Ontkush got his facts on Catholic indulgences either... the Dutch were not the only ones offered indulgences. In fact the church still gives them out now. Regardless, it's a disingenuous analogy. If you can't travel without using carbon-gas producing technology (meaning no flights, no drives, no taxis, etc.) which only a miniscule number of us can do, and you buy into wind power to make up for the carbon you used (which is an alternative), how is that like the church taking money (which went to build St. Peter's) to improve your lot in Purgatory?

Basically this story was the type of off the cuff garbage that makes the web such a dangerous source of information. I just think that if you are going to start making these arguments in public, you had best be on your game (or at least be able to write). I think too that he is talking about computer manufracturers offseting their production, not about offsetting travel. On second read, what the hell is he talking about?


Ethanol kills

On the same day that President Bush makes a major Ethanol announcement in Brazil (NYT), Ted Williams is going deep on topic in the current issue of Fly Rod & Reel.

"... Needed for the production of one gallon of ethanol are 1,700 gallons of water, mostly in the form of irrigation taken from streams either directly or by snatching the water table out from underneath them. And each gallon of ethanol produces 12 gallons of sewage-like effluent...."

Clearly, today's must read.

LINK: Fly Rod & Reel.

Buying a permit to pollute?

Carbon Offsets ... the same deal used by SIA as well as Outdoor Retailer this year ... take a wicked beat down from the green police at Treehugger.

Going for the throat, Treehugger calls offsets "at best" a license to pollute. At worst? They're labeled as nothing more that conspicuous greenwashing: "This is similar to the indulgences of the 15th and 16th centuries, where the Dutch literally paid for their sins. Finally, the model encourages consumption, particularly for the rich who would rather pay a fee and slap a sticker on something than change their lifestyle."

LINK: Treehugger

Bikers punished for riding the Grand Canyon

After riding through the park, a couple bikers attempting to complete a major US traverse were busted riding on illegal trails in one of the most famous parks in the world.

The penalty?

They will be "required to donate $500 dollars to Grand Canyon Search & Rescue Fund, spend 2 days in jail... have 5 years of unsupervised probation, and ... be banned from all National Parks for 5 years."



Ahnu Footwear partners with Pale Morning Media for national public relations support

Ahnu Footwear, a dynamic new footwear brand built for uncompromising performance in any environment, will partner with Pale Morning Media LLC for national public relations support.

A refreshing new addition to the style, structure, and substance of the outdoor lifestyle, Ahnu’s trademark twist is a breakthrough system for single-handed “slip on” adjustability. Easy to understand and even easier to use, this touch of technology is a reflection of the brand’s intuitive style.

“We are on the cusp of a generational shift in the outdoor world,” said Jim Van Dine, Ahnu president and co-founder. “People are seeking out new brands with a youthful spirit, a technical edge, and some legitimate integrity. We fully believe that the next big trend is the outdoor lifestyle trend, and we’ve created a brand to help fuel that passion.”

Conveying a thoroughly modern aesthetic, Ahnu’s unique approach to product design is centered around QuiteLight™ construction, a design system that enables exceptional strength-to-weight ratio and superior comfort.

Ahnu’s debut collection includes three categories for men and women: Landscape, for the diverse needs of multi-sport adventures; Seascape, for the demanding needs of the aquatic environment; and Escape, adding comfort and style to the everyday outdoor lifestyle.

In every collection, Ahnu achieves their performance goals by blending diverse influences from throughout the outdoor world: the support of a hiker, the stability of a skate shoe, the fit of a runner, and the go-anywhere versatility of a sandal.

“What got me interested in Ahnu was the product. It’s a remarkable convergence of design that finally nailed both the substance and style of the outdoors,” said Drew Simmons, president of Pale Morning Media, LLC, a public relations firm specializing in the outdoor world. “The fact that their product is so strong makes their modern approach to social and environmental responsibility even more inspiring.”

The name Ahnu is derived from Celtic mythology, from the goddess of balance and prosperity. The deity could accurately be described as an ancient version of “Mother Earth.” The choice is both deliberate and appropriate, as Ahnu’s social and environmental commitment is incorporated in every business decision of the nascent brand.

From the gold standard of factory certification (Ahnu is one of 31 footwear factories in the world with SA8000 accreditation), to the use of certified post-consumer recycled fibers in their catalogs and packaging, the Ahnu commitment is not only visible, but contagious.

Outdoor retailer REI supported the brand’s development and launch by providing a seed investment to support the company’s start-up costs. A unique requirement of the investment is that any profits REI may realize above its initial investment and related administrative costs will be donated to a mutually agreed upon non-profit that has a clear mission of introducing people into the outdoors and protecting natural lands.

“Life should be balanced, responsible, and fun,” added Van Dine. “That’s the spirit we’ve put into this line, and the way we hope people will live every day.”

The namesake of the brand was initially researched and discovered by Van Dine’s daughter, Ginny. Convincing the rest of the staff of the legitimacy of a family-inspired name was easy … as a family spirit is a core element of the brand. The Ahnu team, after all, has already proven that the family formula works.

Van Dine and the rest of the Ahnu design and management team worked side by side at Keen Footwear, helping guide the brand from its very first steps to its remarkable three-year peak. Open about their desire to replicate the same friendly, social, and successful environment, the Ahnu staff is going back to the source.

Working out of the same Bay Area office space, the Ahnu team shares the same view of the water, of the city and of the mountains that inspired their previous successes. They’ve got the same assorted guitars, the same photos of friends and family, and even the same deli charge account.

“We want to do well, for sure. But what we really want to do is to work with each other, and to build the type of company that we can all be proud of,” said Van Dine.