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HIPSTER RV PARKS | SPRING MOUNTAINEERING | THE PATAGONIA CUP MARCH 2020

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E L E V AT I O N O U T D O O R S . C O M

BEST OF THE ROCKIES 2020 FRUITA COM E S UP BIG

A DV ENT URE B E ATS WA R IN AF GHANI STAN

READERS’ CHOICES FOR BEST RIDES, TRAILS, BUSINESSES, BEER, BLOGS, RACES, AND MORE

SKI SANTA FE: HEAD TO THE LAND OF ENCHANTMENT

WYOMING’S VANISHING GLACIERS


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MARCH 2020

ROYAL RESORT: Jackson Hole won Best Resort and Best Backcountry in EO's reader poll. The annual Kings and Queens of Corbet's comp is just one reason why. SEE PAGE 18

DEPARTMENTS 7 EDITOR'S LETTER The assault on environmental protections must stop. The 35thAnnual

Authentic

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in the Colorado Rocky Mountains

June 14 - 19,, 2020

ntic e h t u A URE AN

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AdVeNtUrE Prominent climbs of 2020 y mountain k c Ride o Rockies include: i n t hThe e r Lizard Head Pass: 10,222 feet (Day 3) Dallas Divide: 8,983 (Day 4 and 5) Red Mountain Pass: 11,017 (Day 6) Molas Pass: 10, 910 (Day 6) Coal Bank Pass: 10,640 (Day 6)

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9 QUICK HITS Run in The Patagonia Camp Cup, sign your kids up for Avid4 Adventure, page through the Atlas of the National Parks, find the best eats and powder stashes in Santa Fe, get your hands on the latest Leatherman, and more... 12 FLASHPOINT Author Emma Athena set out to set an FKT running and scrambling 84 miles across Wyoming’s glaciers—but she also came to get a chance to touch this ancient, essential ice before it’s gone forever. 15 HOT SPOT It’s prime time to ski some of Colorado’s biggest lines. Here’s our guide to four of the best—for all ability levels.

17 STRAIGHT TALK Trail runner and peak scrambler Kyle Richardson is crushing Front Range speed records. 32 THE ROAD Former soldier Stacy Bare thinks you need to ski in Afghanistan, where locals are learning how to tour in the backcountry with skis made from wood scraps and skins crafted from truck tires. But don't come for the skiing, come for the people. 34 ELWAYVILLE Take a lesson, call in well, and tick off this to-do list before the snow’s gone.

FEATURES 18 2020 BEST OF THE ROCKIES READER POLL From the most influential politician to the best place to sip a cider to our readers’ favorite river for a float trip, we give you our annual awards for the businesses, people, destinations, food and drink, and events in the region.

ON THE COVER Fruita won big in our annual Best of the Rockies reader poll (see page 18), nabbing best mountain bike ride (Horsethief Bench), best bike shop (Over the Edge Sports), best coffee shop (Bestslope), best yoga stuido (Thrive), best brewery (Copper Club), best restaurant (Hot Tomato), best food truck (Big Mike’s Pork N Wings), and best kid friendly destination. To celebrate, your winner for best photographer in the Rockies, Devon Balet, took this shot of Linden Carlson, Holly Taylor, and dog Shasha riding the gnarly Horsethief Bench drop. by Devon Balet / devonbaletmedia.com Instagram @devonbalet

WANT MORE? CATCH UP ON PAST ISSUES, YOUR FAVORITE BLOGGERS AND DAILY ONLINE CONTENT AT ELEVATIONOUTDOORS.COM


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C O N T R IB U T O R S | 03 . 20

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE MOUNTAIN TOWN IN THE ROCKIES? E DI TOR-I N -CHI E F

DOUG SCHNITZSPAHN

doug@elevationoutdoors.com PRE SI DE N T

BLAKE DEMASO

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TRACY ROSS

SE N I OR E DI TOR

CHRIS KASSAR

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AMELIA MCCONNELL

amelia@elevationoutdoors.com E DI TOR-AT-LARG E

PETER KRAY

CON T RI BUT I N G E DI TORS

AARON BIBLE, ADAM CHASE, ROB COPPOLILLO, LIAM DORAN, JAMES DZIEZYNSKI, HUDSON LINDENBERGER, SONYA LOONEY, CHRIS VAN LEUVEN CON T RI BUT I N G WRI T E RS

EMMA ATHENA, STACY BARE, WILL BRENDZA, KATIE COAKLEY, LINDSAY DEFRATES ADVERTISING + BUSINESS SE N I OR ACCOUN T E XE CUT I V E

MARTHA EVANS

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MELISSA GESSLER

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PUBLISHING

DOUG SCHNITZSPAHN

My heart will always be in Bozeman, Montana, where I spent good years ski-bumming, working in the woods, and teaching writing.

conor sedmak

Telluride summers, Crested Butte winters, and Jackson Hole as a RMW treat.

TRACY ROSS

I fell in love with Carbondale at the Five Point Film Festival last spring, and I can't get it out of my mind. But my heart resides in Stanley, Idaho, and hopefully one day my body will, too.

Cameron Martindell

Crested Butte—I love that it’s at the end of the road deep in the mountains.

EMMA ATHENA

Take me to Carbondale any day, any time of year: I love the allseaons vibe of this mountain town: There’s skiing in winter, cycling in spring, climbing in summer, and trail running in fall.

Stacy Bare

Carbondale is hanging on the best it can to provide a home for the last of the ski bums and families trying to make it work high in the Rockies before getting priced out.

Devon Balet

Crested Butte will forever hold a special place in my heart. From the endless single track to countless peaks to climb, you will never completely explore the place.

Will Brendza

Maybe it’s because I grew up there, but Leadville is my favorite: It’s close to great skiing, it has awesome backcountry, and it’s still “undiscovered” in many ways.

Aaron Bible

Over the last 30 years I’ve lived in Steamboat, Frisco, and Nederland... but I have to say that Crested Butte is the best mountain town, possibly in the country.

Peter Kray

The one I'm in. Whichever one that is.

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E D I T O R'S L E T T E R | 03 . 20

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HEAVY BURDEN B E YO N D C L I M AT E C H A N G E, W E FAC E P O L I T I C I A N S W H O A R E G L EEFU L LY G U T T I N G EN V I RO N M EN TA L P ROT E C T I O N S A N D C R E AT I N G I R R EPA R A B L E DA M AG E. by DOUG SCHNITZSPAHN

B

eing an environmentalist means you are always losing: Some open land must always give way to development. People continue to overtake the planet, burning forests for livestock grazing, pushing other species into oblivion, tampering with everything from the atmosphere to river courses. Much of this change is inevitable and necessary to our survival. Most is simply the result of ignorance and a lust for quick profit. Being a successful conservationist means you must find a way to do things that cause less damage, seek solutions that benefit people but not at the cost of other life, and set at least some of this rapidly shrinking planet aside for its natural processes and other species. Passing environmental protections is shockingly hard work. Take, for example, the fight to preserve Bears Ears National Monument, which required countless public comment periods, community meetings, the support of native tribes who worked together for the first time in U.S. history, and the political will to oppose well-funded resource-extraction corporations. On the other side, it’s easy to trash the planet. All it took for Bears Ears was a president willing to listen to a few people who wanted to benefit off mining the place, and with the stroke of a pen, it was gone (along with a good chunk of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument,

DREAM BIG WE ALL HAVE THE ABILITY TO PROTECT OUR PRECIOUS NATURAL RESOURCES. photo by DOUG SCHNITZSPAHN

which was supposedly set aside in perpetuity in the 1990s. Now, the earth movers are mining on sacred and precious sites for relatively little gain. Most of this is pure spite. Conservation, like almost every other issue in our national politics, is fiercely partisan. Dig the mine and the enviros lose—forever. It goes far beyond Bears Ears. Our national environmental policy has become a cynical nightmare. The Trump Administration has passed laws allowing for more pollution in streams, allowing cities to dump more sewage in rivers, allowing for more pollution in the air, allowing for public land managers to open more land to reckless development. Somewhere, many people are glad about these sickening legislative choices. Either because it's making it easier for them to roll in cash or because they think its funny that they are sticking it to the liberals. There’s no good endgame here. I can respect a difference in political opinions, in finding different styles and solutions for shared problems, but conservation should not be politicized. Our continued existence alongside the rich life of this planet and our very health and longterm welfare, the future of our children and grandchildren, is no laughing matter, nothing to burn to the ground over politics. If anyone with political power is reading this I want to ask you: Would you like your legacy to be that of someone who put more fecal matter in drinking water and left a bulldozed mess where there once was wilderness? Or do you want your name on something meaningful? I ask in all seriousness. Because the choice is yours. History will remember.

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Q U I C K HI T S | 03 . 20

B O O K A R E SER VAT I O N N OW AT C H I L E’ S PATAG O N I A C A M P – O N E O F T H E TO P - R A N K ED Y U RT E CO LO D G E S I N S O U T H A M ER I C A—A N D CO M P E T E I N T H E FI F T H A N N UA L PATAG O N I A C A M P C U P.

Kicking off on May 23, 2020, Chile’s

Patagonia Camp Cup (patagoniacamp. com) may be virtually unknown in the U.S., but the ultrarunning event (and party!) has been growing into a must-do for international-minded trail runners over the past four years—and it only promises to get trendier. After all, it’s the only race of its kind to unfold entirely on private property, a roughly 84,000-acre reserve at the gates of Torres del Paine National Park. With 15K, 25K, and 42K distances, the event has something for everyone, making it worth the trip to Chile just for this event alone. Plus, you stay at one of the coolest eco-lodges on the planet and you can explore classic treks in the park while you're there (guides included when you stay at Patagonia Camp). After the race, you can try to beat Jason Schlarb's FKT of the 75.6-mile “W trek” around the base of Torres del Paine in 16 hours, 10 minutes. —Aaron H. Bible SWITCH SEASONS | MAY IS AUTUMN IN PATAGONIA. BASK IN THE FOLIAGE DURING THIS RACE THROUGH SOUTH AMERICA’S FAMED WILDERNESS. / PHOTO COURTESY PATAGONIA CAMP

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Q U I C K HI T S | 03 . 20

YOUTH MOVEMENT AV I D 4 A DV EN T U R E C A M P S ACCORDING TO HARVARD MEDICAL

School, getting kids outside improves everything from their executive functioning to their socialization skills. But with kids more glued to screens and indoor activities than ever before, how to get them out? Boulder-based Avid4 Adventure (avid4.com) has the answer with programs for kids aged 3 to 18. Enroll your toddler in a basic strider bike class or your high school senior in a multi-day, multi-sport expedition. My wife and I signed our 5-year-old daughter Rosie up for a week-long Explorer Camp, which included biking, hiking, kayaking, and canoeing—plus art, music, and yoga. Each morning, Rosie’s group tackled a new adventure—from long bike rides to paddling trips on Boulder Reservoir—the kids guzzled water while resting in the shade between activities. Every afternoon I found them sitting in a circle, sharing their favorite moments, lessons they learned, and expressing gratitude. On our bike rides home, my daughter bubbled over with stories and how excited she was for the next day of adventure. David Secunda, founder of Avid4 Adventure, wanted to provide a way for kids to love the outdoors and to become future stewards of our planet. “Outdoor experiences are punctuation points in our lives that shape our confidence and character. Our camps give kids both a place to start and plenty of room to grow outdoors as they build skills in a wide range of adventure sports,” he says. Paul Dreyer, the organization’s Chief Empowerment Officer, says Avid4 camps are expanding into California, Minnesota, Oregon, and Washington. The organization is also finding ways to provide financial aid to families who can’t afford the full price of the programs and has steady yet ambitious plans to continue to expand.

On the last day of Rosie’s camp, her director gathered all of the groups for a closing ceremony. Each group selected one person who best exemplified the value of “Live Empowered’—the one of the eight core values of the Avid4 Adventure program that this particular camp session focused on—and they were each called up to be recognized. Each of the kids called up had some sort of smile on their face, from big toothy grins to awkwardly trying to manage the swell of emotion they had never felt before this. They were all proud, if not even a little embarrassed to have been selected by their peers as outstanding. But the fact that these kids are valuing such positive qualities is a nice glimpse into the hope of the future. —Cameron Martindell

chili, et al., but Tomasita’s (tomasitas. com) stands out. It shares a parking lot with the historic Santa Fe Depot train station, which gives restless kids something to explore while you wait for your table. For an easy café lunch, check out Ecco Espresso and Gelato (eccogelato.com), with Italianstyle gelato and espresso as well as delicious panini sandwiches, wraps, and salads. Just two blocks from the Santa Fe Plaza, it’s a prime place to gather food for a picnic. When it’s time for a fancy meal, book reservations at The Compound (compoundrestaurant. com), owned by Chef Mark Kiffin, a James-Beard-award-winning Best Chef of the Southwest. It’s a nice, easy walk from downtown and offers a 20% discount to anyone with a sameday Ski Santa Fe lift ticket.

EAT, SLEEP, PLAY: SKI SANTA FE

SLEEP

LO O K I N G F O R A G R E AT SP R I N G B R E A K G E TAWAY W I T H P L EN T Y O F D RY SN OW, G R EEN C H I L I , A N D I N T ER - D I M EN S I O N A L I N S TA L L AT I O N A RT— W I T H O U T T H E C ROW DS ? H E A D TO T H E L A N D O F EN C H A N T M EN T.

EAT

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Since there isn’t any on-mountain lodging at Ski Santa Fe, the only options are in town—but that’s a good thing in one of the best art and food cities in the West. Right downtown and near the road up to the ski area is the Southwestern-styled Inn on the Alameda (innonthealameda. com), with large, comfortable rooms, a friendly and accommodating staff, and an incredible breakfast buffet spread. A little north of town near the village of Tesuque, the luxurious Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado Santa Fe (fourseasons.com/santafe) is a relaxing all-inclusive option, a godsend after a day of skiing. Kids are

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With the Free, you get a clip-style knife with nine one-hand access tools—including functional spring action scissors and three screwdrivers. The serrated blade proves its worth hacking through chopped wood to make kindling, and the pocket clip can be adjusted for rightor left-hand, tip-up carry. $90 | LEATHERMAN.COM

SOUTHERN CHARM SKI SANTA FE IS A HIDDEN GEM WITH SWEET, LIGHT SNOW AT THE TAIL END OF THE ROCKIES. / PHOTO BY DAVE COX

welcomed with activities like cookie decorating, s’more roasting, and minime-sized robes and slippers. Parents will love the spa options and the inroom Chiminea-style fire places.

play

You can spend several full days on the piste and in the trees at the surprising Ski Santa Fe (skisantafe.com), a 30-minute drive from downtown. Seven lifts provide access to 660 acres of terrain for all abilities as well as on-mountain dining. Drop your munchkin at ski school (conveniently located adjacent to the parking lot) and head for Gayway, a long screaming blue with a big view of town. When hunger gnaws, snarf cafeteria-style meals at the La Casa Lodge, or pub-style grub at Totemoff ’s Bar & Grill. Spend your in-town days visiting kid-friendly venues like the eclectic and wild Meow Wolf (meowwolf.com) experience (teens will love it and adults can get just as lost in this playground) and the Santa Fe Children’s Museum (santafechildrensmuseum.org) full of science-focused activities for younger children. Parents can head back to Meow Wolf in the evening to see bands including Grouplove, Yonder Mountain String Band, and Pussy Riot who will all be playing in the venue this spring. —C.M.

BOOK NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC ATLAS OF THE NATIONAL PARKS

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Q U I C K HI T S | 03 . 20

LOCAL HERO: JEFF PETERSON L E A D I N G T H E FI G H T TO K EEP M I N I N G I N T ER E S T S I N G L EN WO O D SP R I N G S AT B AY IN THE SUMMER OF 2018, A GROUP

of deeply concerned locals met in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, to discuss how they could protect the future of their mountain home against the effects of a proposal by Rocky Mountain Resources to expand an old strip mine just north of town by more than 2,000%. Out of those meetings grew the Glenwood Springs Citizens Alliance (GSCA, loveglenwood.org), an all-volunteer non-profit 501(c)3 that has been rallying residents, businesses, and municipalities together against the outside interests of the mine company. Jeff Peterson is one of the founding board members of the group and its current executive director. He is also a father, husband, and structural engineer with multi-generational roots in the area. “The mine is a very serious threat to every member of our community,” he says. “The permanent scar would be visible from almost everywhere in town.” With the expansion, annual production

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GSCA’S FOUNDING BOARD MEMBERS

would increase from 100,000 tons to over 5,000,000 tons, along with similarly exponential growth in heavy truck traffic, blasting noise and dust. Blasting and drilling in the limestone also threaten the viability of Glenwood’s famed hot springs. “This fight isn't one against the extraction industry or a political one,” Peterson says. “The scale and location of the proposed mine is unacceptable. It's a community issue and the future of Glenwood will depend on the outcome." —Lindsay Defrates

RV RESORTS GO HIPSTER If the term “RV Resort” brings to mind dusty KOAs and a place where Winnebagos go to die, the new River

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PORTLANDIA, THE POP UP: THIS AIN'T NO KOA. YOU CAN FEEL LIKE A REAL HIPSTER FAMILY AT THE NEW RIVER RUN RV RESORT.

Run RV Resort in Granby (sunrvresorts. com/river-run) will blow your mind. Yes, there are the obligatory RV hookups here (385, available May–October) but the resort also offers tent sites and vacation rentals (tiny-houses that range from studios to two-bedrooms). There’s also a clubhouse with a restaurant and bar, a community center with mini-

bowling lanes, a fitness center, pool, general store, dog park, fire pits, and lake for kayaking and SUPing. But wait— there’s more: Glamping tents, yurts, Airstreams, and Conestoga Wagons will also be available as lodging options in summer 2020. You can even rent a golf cart to putter around the grounds. —Katie Coakley


THIS IS BIGHORN MOUNTAIN COUNTRY The world comes out west expecting to see cowboys driving horses through the streets of downtown; pronghorn butting heads on windswept bluffs; clouds encircling the towering pinnacles of the Cloud Peak Wilderness; and endless expanses of wild, open country. These are some of the fibers that have been stitched together over time to create the patchwork quilt of Sheridan County’s identity, each part and parcel to the Wyoming experience. What you may not have been expecting when you came way out West was a thriving outdoor events scene, featuring the likes of the Dead Swede 100 and the Bighorn Mountain Wild and Scenic Trail Run; some of the finest rock climbing in the American West; epic alpine lakes and hundreds of miles of water waiting to be paddled and fished; and so much more. Toss in a historic downtown district, with western allure, hospitality and good graces to spare; a vibrant art scene; bombastic craft culture; a robust festival and events calendar; and living history on every corner, and you have the Wyoming experience you’ve been dreaming of.

SHERIDANWYOMING.ORG


F L A S HP O IN T | 03 . 20

A Race Against Time THE ROCK Y MOUNTAINS’ GL ACIERS ARE MELTING FASTER THAN ONCE FEARED. THE AUTHOR HEADS OUT TO SET A SPEED RECORD AND GET A SENSE OF THE L ANDSCAPE WE ARE LOSING—AND THE RESULTING CONSEQUENCES WE FACE—BEFORE IT’S GONE. by EMMA ATHENA

T

he morning we reached the glaciers, my partner Sara and I were operating on less than three hours of sleep—as people do while trying to establish a Fastest Known Time (FKT) on a multiday expedition. Our knees, stiff as rusty tailgates, kept moving in the predawn chill as we pressed up the icy slopes of West Sentinel Pass toward Gannett Glacier, the largest glacier left in the U.S. Rocky Mountains. Our swollen feet, dank with dried sweat and creek water, barely fit in our trail-running shoes. This was supposed to be our final morning. We were three days, 84 miles, and 26,600 feet of elevation gain into the trek—a south-to-north traverse of the Wind River Range along the “High Route,” a 112-mile path along the crest of the range that’s mostly trailless and only dips below 10,000 feet twice. We had 28 more miles and 6,600 feet of elevation gain between us and the trailhead terminus, and the only obstacles left standing in our way were two glaciers, two snow-filled passes, and one 13,350-foot peak, plus a seemingly endless sea of rocky tundra and high-alpine moraine flats. At this point in early August 2019, the High Route speed record was held by seasoned Wyoming mountain guide Andrew Skurka, at four days and two hours. As far as Sara and I knew, no woman had ever established an FKT on it. We not only wanted to be the first women, we wanted to be the fastest humans to mirror the rawness of this terrain internally, challenging ourselves to dig deeper and feel more than ever before. Neither of us had attempted

14

something so remote, rugged, or risky. As we trained throughthe summer, we poured over the High Route mapset that Skurka spent years researching, building, and detailing with observational notes for the route’s future mountaineers. We wanted to be as prepared as possible for the crevasses, snow couloirs, and talus chutes that lay ahead.

The Map and the Melt

I was ankle-deep in this pre-trip research when I noticed a series of special markings on Skurka’s maps: tight, curving lines of blue dots he’d drawn over each of the glaciers, next to which he’d noted modified “edges.” Skuka rendered the five glaciers relevant to the High Route—two we’d be crossing, and three we’d be skirting— as smaller versions of themselves, like the second or third Russian doll in a nesting set. I traced these blue dots with my finger. We’d pass our first glacier, Knife Point, in close proximity, around mile 75. On the map—which the USGS last field-checked and updated in 1968—its icy tongue extends down the contour lines to the valley floor we planned to cross. Skurka’s blue dots, however, which he added in 2016, edit its edge six contour lines higher—about a quarter-mile uphill to where the glaciers had now receded. I had to wonder what it’d be like, stumbling into the valley, staring up at Knife Point Glacier, its rippling ice curled around jagged granite peaks. The geographic dissonance between 1968, then 2016, and now today would translate to global warming before my own eyes. Elizabeth Traver, a University of Wyoming ecologist, says that every one of the 100 or so glaciers populating the Wind River Range are rapidly melting, despite forming the highest concentration of alpine ice in the U.S. outside of Alaska and Washington, Jeff VanLooy and Greg Vanderberg, two colleagues at the University of North

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"

Dakota who’ve studied Wind River Range glaciers extensively over the last decade, concur: “There’s no doubt that all of these glaciers are going,” VanLooy says. Knife Point Glacier, for example, melted about a half-meter each year between 1966 and 2000. Since then, it’s sped up three times as fast: Between 2000 and 2015 it melted a meter and a half each year. The degrading glacial conditions in Wyoming are not unique. Around the world glaciers are waning. In August, Iceland held a funeral to mourn its Okjökull Glacier, which melted from 9,390 acres in 1901 to less than 250 acres in 2019. At global warming’s current rate, scientists at Glacier National Park have announced it’s likely no glaciers (only remnant ice) will survive within park bounds beyond the end of this century. “In the Wind River Range, glaciers are at higher elevations where it’s cooler, they should be able to survive longer,” VanLooy says. “The fact that they're going quickly is a concern.” When a glacier disappears, a giant domino effect begins: the immediate surroundings are altered, but so are a number of ecological and human systems down the line. Glaciers, have a high albedo effect, reflecting solar radiation and helping to cool the planet, Traver explains. As they shrink, and ultimately disappear, alpine areas will get warmer. The consequences will trickle down, changing the chemical balance of run-off streams, and disrupting the mountain ecosystems that sustain shoreside plants and fish. Without glaciers, snow will melt from alpine bowls much faster during the spring. Traditionally, glaciers have acted as water “savings accounts,” storing snow during the winter and dispensing it during the summer. The actual water a glacier contributes to creeks is minimal, but its role in managing the rate of snowmelt is huge. “If you get to the point where there's no [snow] to melt in August, you're

We not only wanted to be the first women, we wanted to be the fastest humans to mirror the rawness of this terrain internally, challenging ourselves to dig deeper and feel more than ever before.

FADING PARADISE THE LARGEST GLACIER IN THE U.S. ROCKY MOUNTAINS, GANNET GLACIER IS MELTING FAST, SHRINKING 20 PERCENT BETWEEN 1950 AND 1999. / PHOTO BY EMMA ATHENA

probably going to have fairly dry stream or no stream,” Traver says. And in a place like Wyoming, which serves as a headwater source for three major U.S. drainages (Colorado, Mississippi, Columbia) and where agriculture is a critical economic force, creeks that run dry before autumn’s rains are bad for crops, business, and people. “If farmers want to irrigate, we need streams flowing all summer long,” Traver says.

The Big View

The irony—that Sara and I were vying for a speed record in an environment that was vanishing too soon—wasn’t lost on me. When the rawness of the High Route grew too intense to bear, thinking about the glaciers kept me moving. What if this was my once-in-a-lifetime chance to trace my fingers across this ancient ice? All we carried was food, headlamps, bivy sleep systems, ice axes and crampons, navigation supplies, and minimal emergency gear. From the beginning, we spent hours picking our way up talus cones, hours sniffing out elk trails, hours hacking phlegm into thin air, hours winding through raw forest (a section of Eastern Shoshone tribal land that extends into the Wind River Range), hours walking around lakes, hours walking through floodplains, hours exposed on ridgelines, and hours praying for safe passage. On the afternoon of day three, we dropped into the valley below Knife Point Glacier. Before I saw it, I heard it: icy water gushing from its innards, rumbling like a million waterfalls, draining fast as gravity, sweating under August’s sun. We rounded a slope and the giant ice body loomed overhead. Instead of filling in the blanks, imagining what it must’ve looked like in 1968 during the USGS’ last survey, I found myself drifting toward the future: a dusty rock pile? a barren cirque? I felt smaller than I’d ever felt, dwarfed by time and rock and bones. We pushed onward. We were behind schedule.


That night, our last one, Sara's headlamp died while we were descending the steepest pass. Earlier, we'd crossed a thick, braided, raging waist-deep creek and spent two hours searching for each other after realizing we'd someone separated. We didn't lay down to sleep until 1 a.m. We woke up again at 4 a.m., ready to climb West Sentinel Pass, traverse the Gannett and Grasshopper glaciers, and finish the final series of peaks, passes, and tundra flats. That morning, I was half-delirious, jacked up on powdered caffeine and robotically moving my limbs, yet more excited than ever to see these last big glaciers of

the Rockies—whether they symbolized steps closer to the finish line, or larger inspirational reminders of the precious and peculiar power of time, it became harder and harder to tell. Stars pulsed overhead as we ascended West Sentinel Pass. Half-way up, we tied crampons to our rubber shoes and moved methodologically: ice axe, step, step, ice axe, step, step. I soon slid into a groove and lowered my head until I crested the pass. When I looked up, Gannett Glacier fanned north in ancient ripples and textured hues. It was like seeing a movie star in real life, a being you believe to be perfect, suddenly rendered ordinary, human,

relatable. I knelt down and peeled a glove off, pressing my fingerpads to the wrinkled surface, glassy in some places, snow-crusted in others. A few hours later we reached Grasshopper Glacier and began making our way up again: ice axe, step, step. We climbed up to the Continental Divide and stood on the backbone of the United States, looking east and west as an eternity of land unfolded beneath us. We hiked north, up another 13,350-foot peak, and it was all downhill from there. The sun went down. We tippled into delirious laughter, out of pain, and then back in. Our thickened toes

bashed against our shoes. We jogged the last eight miles, zig-zagging down a slope carved by ghosts of glaciers past. These valleys, streams, peaks, trees, me—we all exist at the hand of geologic forces far greater than our singular selves. When Sara and I collapsed at the northern terminus—3 days, 17 hours, and 20 minutes after we’d started—we feasted on freeze-dried food, suddenly the fastest humans to traverse the entire Wind River Range on foot. But as I’ve thought every day since then, if I could rearrange the significance of time to favor the glaciers, I’d give up the record and slow down for good.

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H O T S P O T | 03 . 20

Wild Rides TA K E YO U R SK I I N G A N D SP L I T B OA R D I N G TO T H E N E X T L E V EL T H I S SP R I N G W I T H T H E SE CO LO R A D O B I G M O U N TA I N L I N E S . by CHRIS KASSAR

When conditions consolidate

in the spring, lines in the Colorado backcountry that were once too dangerous become doable. Freezethaw cycles bring morning corn, a.k.a. “ego snow” that’s stable and makes everyone feel like a hero on the steeps. Winter can pop back up at any time in the Rockies and you need to be cognizant of wet snow slides. Never forget your avalanche safety gear, get good training, and have the appropriate mountain skills for your objective. Then get out there and enjoy these, some of our favorite runs. TICK OFF A FOURTEENER: QUANDARY PEAK Ready to tackle one of Colorado’s highest peaks? At 14,265 feet, Quandary is Colorado’s twelfth highest summit and the only fourteener in the Tenmile Range. Approach via the East Ridge route (avoiding avalanche terrain by sticking to the crest), which climbs 3,500 feet in under 3.5 miles. Drop the eastern slope’s open bowls, where soft powdery turns await. Then shoulder your skis or board for a short climb back to the skin track and follow your ascent route or navigate through the trees to your car. Experienced skiers and climbers will dig the Cristo Couloir, a southfacing gully that drops sharply toward the east end of Blue Lake.

DREAMS OF SPRING SKINNING UP QUANDARY PEAK TOP) AND TOURING WITH MOUNT AETNA IN THE BACKGROUND (BOTTOM). / TOP PHOTO BY LIAM DORAN. BOTTOM PHOTO BY ELK RAVEN PHOTOGRAPHY

LOSE THE CROWDS: MOUNT AETNA When you crave an off-the-beatenpath adventure with some thrills, hit Mount Aetna, the 13,745-foot sentinel that dominates the view along with Mount Taylor as you descend from Monarch Pass to Salida. From the Boss Lake Trailhead on U.S. 50 20 miles west of Salida, enjoy a gradual forested climb to reach the large run-out below the Grand Couloir, a spectacular gully that defines Aetna’s south aspect. Skin 3,000 feet up to the north on a fairly consistent 35-degree slope. Take care bootpacking up the short but intense crux leading to the ridge and summit. Views along the way encompass Mount Ouray as well as Clover and Bald Mountains. From this highpoint, the Sawatch Range—from Shavano to Princeton—stretches out in front of you in all its glory. Dropping into the Grand Couloir can be intimidating, but after the first turn or two, you’ll hoot and holler through sweeping curves the rest of the way. You’ll clock 7.5 miles round-trip and ascend (and descend) 4,100 feet. ROCKY MOUNTAIN HIGHS: DRAGON’S TAIL COULOIR AND TYNDALL GLACIER From the accessible Bear Lake Trailhead, Rocky Mountain National Park offers two challenging winter adventures for those willing to brave the elements: Dragon’s Tail Couloir (5 miles roundtrip, 2,500-vertical foot-gain) and Tyndall Glacier (8-9 miles roundtrip, 3,000 feet). For both tours, head west for 1.5 miles to reach Emerald Lake, an enchanting body of water enveloped by a rocky cirque. From here, look ahead and slightly right to scope out two obvious couloirs, Dragon’s Tooth (left) and Dragon’s Tail (right). Skirt Emerald Lake and ascend 1,800 feet to reach the pinnacle of Dragon’s Tail Couloir. Not to be taken lightly, this climb requires route-finding, skills to skirt a rock band crux, and the skiing

ability to tackle 50-plus-degree slopes. Those seeking a less-intense adventure can skip Dragon’s Tail and continue up-valley toward the southwest corner of Emerald Lake. From here, follow the obvious gully, ascending steeply at first, but then leveling off, and delving deeper into the Tyndall Gorge. Stay right to ascend the forgiving 30-ish-degree slopes of the Tyndall Glacier before topping out on the 12,300-foot saddle between Hallett Peak and Flattop Mountain. Ski directly down into the Glacier, sticking to the same route you came up. TAKE IT FROM THE TOP: MOUNT ELBERT Skiing Colorado’s highest peak may sound intense, but it offers options for all ability levels. Our favorite is the Box Creek Couloirs, a.k.a. Box Creek Cirque, a steep northeast face offering multiple narrow rock chutes that feed into an open bowl. To reach it, start at the Upper South Elbert

trailhead (before the road melts out you’ll need to park where you can on the 4WD road and walk to reach this spot). Follow the South Elbert Trail through the forest and along the east ridge. Near the crest of Elbert’s East Ridge at 12,400 feet, you can continue skinning up the east ridge route or split from the route and head toward Box Creek Couloirs (not visible from this vantage point) for a slightly spicier yet attainable mountaineering adventure. To do so, hike north over the ridge, contour left (northwest and then west) into the Box Creek cirque, and climb to get a full view of the couloirs. Study the slope ahead to choose the ideal route. The center chute, which averages under 35 degrees and tops out at 38 degrees, is the easiest, but not always safest. After dropping the couloir of your choice and cruising the bowl, hike or skin up to the south/southeast to hit the ridge that will eventually lead you back to the trailhead.


S T R A I G H T TA L K | 03 . 20

take it higher

M O U N TA I N RU N N ER , M US I C I A N , A N D SP EED S C R A M B L ER K Y L E R I C H A R DS O N I S SH AT T ER I N G R E CO R DS A N D SP E A K I N G O U T A B O U T C L I M AT E AC T I O N I N CO LO R A D O —A N D H E’ S R E A DY F O R A B I G G ER S TAG E. by EMMA ATHENA

In a town full of mountain running legends, the biggest rising star finds his biggest inspiration in music. Calculated and methodological when he’s on a project, Kyle Richardson has carved out an elite spot for himself running and scrambling up bold routes. He came to town in 2014, not as an athlete, but thanks to a music scholarship at the University of Colorado—and once he got here he found music in the hills. In the years since, he’s summited Green Mountain 416 times, soloed the First Flatiron 315 times, and set a slew of new speed records. In 2018, Richardson zoomed through the “LA Freeway,” a high-stakes 34-mile ridgeline between Longs Peak and South Arapaho peak, setting a blistering 16-hour, 29-minute record. In 2019, he broke coveted speed records on the First and Third Flatirons, free-soloing each in a little over 30 minutes, trailhead-to-trailhead. In 2020, he’s ready to step onto an even bigger stage, training to compete in trail-running races around the globe. Beyond that, Richardson’s been active with nonprofits such as Up for Air (upforairseries.org), a series of endurance events that raise funds for organizations fighting for better air quality. We sat down with him to pull back the curtain on the first of many noteworthy acts to come.

You’ve been a runner your whole life. How did your relationship with the outdoors begin? Starting at a very early age, my family would go on camping trips every year in the Texas hill country. I remember learning to fish, build a fire, read a compass and map, etcetera with my dad and twin brother. I began running at age 8 as a way to stay fit for soccer. Slowly, it evolved into a way to explore my backyard. I always defaulted to running on the trail network behind my house versus running on the roads. There

was always something more appealing about wandering through the woods. How do your passion for music and nature intertwine? I see rhythm in nature and the landscape. Whether that’s footsteps down the trail or the cadence of my breath, I relate a lot of my surroundings back to the world of music. I really enjoy sitting down to play or compose music after an outing in the hills, my mind is clear and fresh. I do my most creative work after I’ve been outside pushing myself.

When you first arrived in Boulder in 2014, you weren’t yet blending running and climbing. What led you to scrambling? My brother taught me how to belay and tie a figure-eight knot my freshman year at CU. I learned how to place gear up at the Amphitheater in Gregory Canyon, and I did my first multipitch climb on the First Flatiron. I worked at a climbing gym the following summer, building finger strength and knowledge about moving safely and fluidly through vertical landscapes. Then one day I met Anton Krupicka up in the Flatirons,

NOTES ON HIGH AN ACCOMPLISHED MUSICIAN, RICHARDSON FINDS CREATIVE INSPIRATION IN THE PACE OF RUNNING AND SCALING UP BOULDER’S SHEER FLATIRONS. / PHOTO COURTESY KYLE RICHARDSON

and I really started getting my systems dialed. The first time I climbed in Eldorado Canyon was with Anton on the Long John Wall and Yellow Spur. I was blown away by the terrain—my eyes opened to a whole new world of movement. Anton has been my most influential mentor in moving efficiently and safely over technical terrain, as has another Boulder local, Cordis Hall. I slowly began incorporating some of the Flatirons into my daily trail runs, starting with the lower-angle slabs. Much of this process takes time, learning to trust your feet, figuring out how to read the rock, and learning the routes. I spent a lot of my sophomore year of college up in the Flatirons, obsessed with intimately learning my backyard.

"

how dedicated you are to refining your systems and intimately learning the landscape. That said, I’m proud of the daily practice this takes. Setting records in the mountains is awesome, but it isn’t sustainable to always be chasing records—you will surely burn out. I like going back to the drawing board and thinking about how I can better myself and improve as an athlete. I’m in it for the long haul and continuing to perfect my craft.

Being an activist for the environment is vital. It's important to have a voice even if it feels a bit weird, awkward, or preachy to tell people what they should and shouldn’t do.

In setting speed records on gnarly terrain, how do you approach these relatively dangerous objectives that require an elite mix of endurance and technical skills? Practice. Practice. Practice. I spent three years slowly learning the different sections of the LA Freeway, dialing in each technical scrambling pitch and building my endurance fitness for movement over 12,000 feet. It all comes down to

You’ve been involved in a few environmental advocacy projects, such as Running Up For Air. Why is activism important to you? Being an activist for the environment is vital. It's important to have a voice even if it feels a bit weird, awkward, or preachy to tell people what they should and shouldn’t do. In order for people to truly understand how critical climate action is, they need to get outside and experience the wonders of our world. Building a relationship with the landscape is key. Find that spot on this earth—that one mountain, waterfall, desert tower, or vista. Fall in love with the landscape and you will start to care about it.

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BEST R E A D E R P O L L | 03 . 20

OF THE ROCKIES

Todd and Steve Jones, Teton Gravity Research, Jackson Hole, Wyoming Teton Gravity Research (TGR) started as an idea between brothers Todd and Steve Jones and their friend Dirk Collins on a river in Alaska in 1995. Since then, TGR has grown into one of the most innovative outdoor film production companies on the planet: They’ve made over 30 genre-defining ski, snowboard, and surf films. Now 18 years into the business, they’re still showcasing the world’s top athletes but pushing beyond pure action in films like “Andy Irons: Kissed by God,” which dives into the legendary surfer’s mental illness, and “Ode to Muir,” which speaks to conservation as much as snowboarding. TGR also works hard to reduce its environmental impact, through its support for a variety of different conservation and sustainability initiatives, like Protect Our Winters, One Percent for the Planet, BICEP, and the Surfrider Foundation. tetongravity.com Runner up: peter hall, Hala gear, steamboat springs, Colorado

OUTDOOR BRAND: BIG AGNES

INNOVATORS: TETON GRAVITY RESEARCH

O U T DOO R I N N OVATO RS

OUTDOOR BRAND

Big Agnes, Steamboat Springs, Colorado This is the fourth time in five years that Big Agnes, the Steamboat Springsbased outdoor gear manufacturer, has won Best Outdoor Gear Brand in this poll, for good reason. The company’s dedication to ultra-light, high-tech, family-friendly outdoor gear is unrivaled. And beyond its products, Big Agnes takes care of its own— employees can head out on companyapproved adventures to use, test, and know intimately the gear they make— and love. bigagnes.com Runner up: RMU, Breckenridge, colorado

O U T D O O R - REL AT ED CO M PA N Y TO WO RK F O R

Rocky Mountain Outdoor Center (RMOC), Buena Vista, Colorado Few companies offer their employees such a wide variety of opportunities to work in the outdoor realm as RMOC. It provides opportunities for employees to own equity in the company, creating a culture of hard-working, personally invested guides. rmoc.com Runner up: Colorado Mountain School

CLI M B I N G GY M

Earth Treks, Englewood, Colorado Earth Treks started as a concept in a tent high on the slopes of Denali, and it has since turned into the largest indoor climbing gym in the world in the Englewood location, which claims 53,000 square feet of bouldering and roped routes as well as yoga and fitness classes and private coaches who will work with climbers of all ages to improve their skills on the wall. With five locations in Colorado, it’s a community of dedicated climbers who spread a love for the sport, which is why, for the second year in a row, it can be called the best climbing gym in the Rockies. earthtreksclimbing.com Runner up: Boulder Rock Club

O U T D OO R RE TA I L SH O P

Neptune Mountaineering, Boulder, Colorado Part outdoor store, part mountaineering museum, part neighborhood hangout, Neptune has been serving the good people of Boulder since 1973, when it was founded by Gary Neptune. It has since been saved from almost closing, remodeled, and revitalized by Shelley and Andrew Dunbar. To this day, it remains the local favorite for everything from advice on climbs to mounting your new touring skis. neptunemountaineering.com Runner Up: Wilderness Exchange, Denver, Colorado

RU N N I N G RE TA I L SH O P

7000 Feet Running Company, Salida, Colorado Just a short jaunt from the popular Arkansas trail system, 7000 Feet Running Company is dedicated to serving customers who love running in

the mountains and the feel of the trail beneath their feet. 7kft.co Runner up: 42 Degrees North, Casper, Wyoming

B I K E SH O P

Over the Edge Sports, Fruita, Colorado A pioneer in building, promoting, and supporting Fruita’s now-legendary trail system, Over the Edge is still the go-to shop to find beta and gear for singletrack in Western Colorado— and beyond. otesports.com Runner up: Black Burro Bikes, Buena Vista, Colorado

CLI M B I N G / H I K I N G GU I D E CO M PA N Y

Rocky Mountain Outdoor Center (RMOC), Buena Vista, Colorado The Rocky Mountain Outdoor Center provides year-round, top-of-theline opportunities to kayak, raft, ski, snowboard, SUP, and mountain bike with some of the best guides in the Rocky Mountains. rmoc.com Runner up: Colorado Mountain School

PHOTOS COURTESY TGR (TOP), DEVON BALET (BOTTOM)

BUSINESSES

E V ERY Y E A R W E A SK O U R R E A D ER S TO N O M I N AT E T H EI R C H O I C E S F O R T H E V ERY B E S T B US I N E S SE S , P E O P L E, D E S T I N AT I O N S , A N D E V EN T S I N T H E RO C K Y M O U N TA I N R E G I O N . T H EN T H E Y VOT E F O R T H E W I N N ER S . T H E R E SU LT I S A L I S T I N G O F T H E P ER S O N A L I T I E S A N D P L AC E S T H AT M A K E T H E O U T D O O R S P U M P. R E A D O N TO FI N D O U T W H O TO O K TO P H O N O R S A N D P L A N TO A DVO C AT E F O R YO U R H ERO E S A N D G O -TO SP OT S N E X T Y E A R . BY W I LL B R E N Z DA


B I K E GU I D E CO M PA N Y

Beer and Bike Tours, Fort Collins, Colorado There’s a reason why this tour company has won Best Guide Company for four years in a row— cycling and craft beer go together like bike lube and chains. Take to the road the Fort Collins-based operation to explore Colorado craft breweries from the saddle of your carbon-fiber steed. beerandbiketours.com Runner up: Colorado Backcountry Biker, Fruita, Colorado

YO G A S T U D I O

Thrive Fruita Yoga, Colorado For the yogis at Thrive, the practice is not just a workout but a way of life. The studio and the yogis of Thrive embody personal well-being and foster health, growth, strength, and peace of mind. thriveyogafruita.com Runner up: wyOMing Yoga & Massage, Casper, Wyoming

O U T DOO R N O N - PRO FI T

Protect Our Winters (POW) Climate change is getting worse. Luckily, this dedicated, winter-loving, non-profit, founded by snowboard legend Jeremy Jones, is fostering the cultural change, political will, technology, and financial instruments necessary to achieve carbon neutrality and limit global warming before the end of the century. protectourwinters.org Runner up: Women’s WIlderness

PEOPLE P O LI T I CI A N

Jared Polis, Governor of Colorado Polis established himself as one of Colorado’s most prolific

Runner up: Jon Tester

I NS TAG R A M M ER

@loki Loki the Wolf Dog Why does watching a dog doing dog things fill people with such pure joy? With 2 million followers, Loki the Wolf Dog is doing it right—no matter where this photogenic pup is posing. lokithewollfdog.com Runner up: @katieboue Katie Boué

B LOGG ER

Cathy Holman She writes with sass and style about parenting, faith, and self-care; she’s unafraid to be vulnerable so that others might learn from her; and above all Cathy Holman is dedicated to living a life of grit and grace. prairiewifeinheels.com Runner up: Just a Colorado Gal

PH OTOG R A PH ER

Devon Balet, Grand Junction, Colorado Longtime EO contributor Balet captures the adventurous spirit of the Rockies through authentic scenes of travel, sport, and natural wonder. Bikes, road trips, dogs, glaciers, cacti, and alpine lakes are just some of the subjects you’ll find perusing his portfolios. devonbaletmedia.com Runner up: Jaylyn Gough

PHOTOGRAPHER: DEVON BALET

Runner up: Rim Rock Adventures, Fruita, Colorado

philanthropists well before he ever became the Governor of Colorado and even before he was a representative for the 2nd District of the state. In 2000, he started the Jared Polis Foundation to “create opportunities for success by supporting educators, increasing access to technology, and strengthening our community.” He has established several charter schools dedicated to uplifting at-risk students, co-founded the Academy of Learning in Denver, and served on the Colorado Board of Education for six years. Now, as governor, Polis has pushed for better environmental stewardship with stricter pollution and emissions standards, and he has sponsored multiple important education bills. He is pro cannabis, anti-NDAA, and anti-Patriot Act. He is also a staunch advocate for civil liberties and for the second year in a row EO readers voted him the best politician in the Rockies. colorado.gov/governor/

NON PROFIT: POW POLITICIAN: JARED POLIS

River Runners, Colorado Whether you’re a beginner, intermediate or advanced river rat, the folks at River Runners have a trip that’s your speed. They run the Arkansas River and the Royal Gorge, as well as doing multi-day trips and gear demos. whitewater.net

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP: DEVON BALET, COURTESY THE NORTH FACE, BRENDAN DAVIS, CARLO NASISSE

GRAVITY RESEARCH

PHOTOS COURTESY TGR (TOP), DEVON BALET (BOTTOM)

W H I T E WAT ER G U I D E CO M PA N Y

W RI T ER

Sally Ann Shurmur A mere two years after graduating from the University of Wyoming, Sally Ann Shurmur joined the team at the Wyoming Star Tribune. Today, she’s still working there as the community news editor, striving to keep the people of Casper informed. trib.com Runner up: Paddy O’Connell

GUIDE

Ryan Coulter If you’re looking for a guy who’ll take you on a committing trip down the Arkansas River or multi-pitch climbing at Shelf Road, look up Ryan Coulter. This Baltimore native turned Rocky Mountain adventure specialist is one of the Rocky Mountain Outdoor Center’s premier adventure guides. rmoc.com Runner up: Ty Hallock, Ugly Bug Fly Shop, Casper, Wyoming

A DVOC AT E

Clare Gallagher, Boulder, Colorado Sure Gallagher cruised to wins in the Leadville 100, CCC 101K, and Western States, but she has also reinvented the idea of what an athlete should represent in the community. As a Patagonia ambassador and POW athlete she is a constant voice for climate action, social justice, and public lands. clare.run Runner Up: Amber Pollock, Casper, Wyoming

LEG EN D

Conrad Anker, Bozeman, Montana His face is all over the world of mountaineering, almost as much as Conrad Anker himself is all over big mountains. Anker has ascended some of the most hallowed rock faces and alpine peaks on the planet, and the stories he’s returned to tell have cemented his place as a legend in the Rocky Mountains. conradanker.com Runner up: Scott Jurek, Boulder, Colorado

AT H LE T E

Sara Hastreiter, Casper, Wyoming If she isn’t sailing across vast distances on the open ocean, breaking records on her boat,

LEGEND: CONRAD ANKER

ADVOCATE: CLARE GALLAGHER


brewed probiotic tea beverage to another level. Authentic kombucha brewing techniques (hello, mother mushroom) make for a drink that wows the taste buds and soothes the digestive system. facebook.com/ HighCountryKombucha/

Runner up: Tommy Caldwell, estes park, Colorado

Runner up: Rowdy Mermaid, Boulder, Colorado

D I RT B AG

D ISPENS A RY

Sean McCoy, Denver, Colorado What makes a dirtbag great? Is it a lifelong dedication to outdoor sport and adventure? A junkie-like fixation on outdoor gear and tech? A great goatee? Sean McCoy has it all, which is why EO readers recognized GearJunkie.com's editor-in-chief as this year’s top dirtbag in the Rockies. gearjunkie.com/author/broman

PHOTOS BY VISIT SHERIDAN (TOP), DEVON BALET (BOTTOM)

or expeditioning to the top of mountains including Aconcagua, Mount Elbrus, and peaks in the Himalayas, you’ll find Sara Hastreiter giving inspirational speeches and advocating for humanitarian and environmental good. sara.blue

Native Roots, Colorado At Native Roots, you can rest easy knowing that you’re not only going to find top-quality flower and cannabis products, but you’re also going to get knowledgeable help from seasoned budtenders. nativerootscannabis.com Runner up: High Country Healing, Colorado

Runner up: Cedar Wright, boulder, Colorado

Runner up: Kristin Carpenter, Verde Brand Communications, Durango, Colorado

FOOD and DRINK RE S TAU R A N T

The Hot Tomato, Fruita, Colorado The Hot Tomato has won this award multiple times now for being far more than another pizza joint in an outdoor-rec-obsessed town. Mountain bikers, proprietors, and life partners Jen Zeuner and Anne Keller worked at Best Bike Shop winner Over the Edge Sports. The pies are New-Jersey authentic and the place has grown into the epicenter of Fruita's ever-growing bike and outdoor scene. “We are pumped to be recognized for this,” says Keller. “We love our little corner of heaven in western Colorado and it means so much to us that both our local, and our Rocky Mountain regional guests and friends support us in such a huge way!” hottomatopizza.com Runner up: FireRock Steakhouse, Casper, Wyoming

B RE W ERY

Copper Club Brewing Company, Fruita, Colorado Copper Club Brewing Company has become the go-to spot to sip on a craft concoction and share singletrack stories. We suggest you try the oh-so-appropriate 18 Road IPA, or post up with a beer that celebrates the town: the Great American Beer

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RESTAURANT: THE HOT TOMATO

Festival-winning F-Town Amber. copperclubbrew.com Runner up: Elevation Beer Company, Poncha Springs, Colorado

D IS T I LLERY

Peach Street Distillers, Palisade, Colorado The distillers at Peach Street are so dedicated to their craft, they almost stumble over themselves to do things the hard way: locally sourcing all their fruits and grains, and turning Rocky Mountain water into some of the best bourbon, vodka, gin, and liqueur anywhere in the high country. peachstreetdistillers.com Runner up: Breckenridge Distillery, Breckenridge, Colorado

W I N ERY

Colterris, Palisade, Colorado In the shadow of Grand Mesa, Colterris is one of the most beautiful wineries in the state—it also produces awardwinning wines that take advantage of this unique terroir. colterris.com Runner up: Vino Salida, Poncha Springs, Colorado

CI D ERY

Tallbott’s Cider Company, Palisade, Colorado On the very land that Joseph Yeager settled in 1907, his great-great-great grandsons have created a modern hard-cider mill run on the apples that grow on the fertile land here. Their goal is simple: produce value from the ground, something they explicitly accomplish through their locally produced ciders. talbottsciderco.com

named by EO readers as the best bar in the Rockies. thelariatbv.com Runner up: Mangy Moose, Jackson Hole, Wyoming

CO FFEE SH O P

Bestslope Coffee, Fruita, Colorado A good cup of Joe can have a profound effect on your outdoor adventures. Bestslope is slinging some of the tastiest in-house-roasted bean beverages anywhere. On top of that, the cafe itself is a hip and laid-back place to get some work done or chat up riders for trail beta. bestslopecoffeeco.com Runner up: Buena Vista Roastery, Buena Vista, Colorado

F OO D T RUCK

Big Mike’s Pork N Wings, Fruita, Colorado At Big Mike’s Pork N Wings, they don’t just serve mouth-watering morsels of pork and chicken— they’re serving up a little bit of their heart and soul in every order of mac’n’cheese, ribs, or pulled pork that comes out of the food truck, which Big Mike built himself out of an old school bus and modified into a super BBQ mobile machine. facebook.com/ bigmikesporknwings Runner up: Buena Viking, Buena Vista, Colorado

KO M B UCH A

High Country Kombucha, Eagle, Colorado Just off Broadway in Eagle, High Country Kombucha has raised the

DESTINATIONS SK I SN OW BOA RD RE SO RT

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Jackson, Wyoming The steep-and-deep slopes of Jackson Hole pump out some of the most daring pros and dedicated ski bums in the nation (most of whom show up for a season and never leave). Among the resort’s 2,500 square acres of terrain, skiers and boarders can find a lifetime’s worth of iconic couloirs, cliffs, pillows, and glades. That shouldn't scare off newbies and intermediates—the glut of talent here means it's also the best place to learn or up your game. Add in the wild energy of the Teton Range, surrounding wilderness areas, and national parks, and the place draws world-class alpinists, guides, and conservationists. Oh, did we mention the resort has averaged 459 inches per year over the past five seasons? That number doesn’t include 2019-20, which featured a record-breaking 126 inches in two weeks in January. There's a reason why big-mountain legends like Lynsey Dyer, Jimmy Chin, Kit Deslauriers, and EO Best Innovator winners Todd and Steve Jones call the place home. “Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is thrilled to be named as the people’s favorite mountain for this year,” said Anna Cole, longtime spokesperson for Jackson Hole. “This is the type of resort you come to to push yourself, and from beginner to expert, Teewinot to the tram, Casper to Corbets, we

Runner up: Stem Ciders, Denver, Colorado

BAR

The Lariat, Buena Vista, Colorado Good local energy, great drinks, fantastic food, and awesome live music is the perfect equation for the kind of bar that leaves an impression. Which is why The Lariat in downtown Buena Vista has once again been

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RESORT: JACKSON HOLE

Epic Days Coalition/RMOC: Tommy Gram, Brandon Slate, Ryan Coulter, Kate Stepan These four veteran guides and entrepreneurs have all worked with the Rocky Mountain Outdoor Center for four or more years. They recently invested in equity in RMOC to grow the company as their own, and further establish its roots and future in the Rockies. rmoc.com/rmoc-presentsthe-epic-days-coalition/

PHOTOS BY CARL ZOCH (TOP), COURTESY JACKSON HOLE MOUNTAIN RESORT (BOTTOM)

EN T REPREN EU R


RE SO RT ACCE S SED B ACKCO U N T RY SK I / SN OW BOA RD T ERR A I N

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Jackson, Wyoming Lest we forget, Jackson Hole is also incomparable when it comes to the terrain you can access outside of the resort gates. Unsure of your skills or just want to get a safe lay of the land? Hire the resort’s impeccable pro guides. jacksonhole.com/backcountry.html Runner Up: Monarch Mountain, Colorado

M O U N TA I N TOW N

Sheridan, Wyoming Sheridan is what the great mountain towns of the West used to be like. It’s managed to hold on to its gritty cowboy character fi rst and foremost (stop in the Mint Bar) while also adapting to the new wave of outdoor recreation junkies with grassroots events like the Dead Swede bike race—and you can fi nd a good craft beer in town. The town is heavy with western history and surrounded by the undiscovered Bighorn Mountains. With a healthy focus on the arts and a community that cares about conservation of land and culture, it’s a worthy winner. sheridanwyoming.org Runner Up: Crested Butte, Colorado

PHOTOS BY CARL ZOCH (TOP), COURTESY JACKSON HOLE MOUNTAIN RESORT (BOTTOM)

MOUNTAIN TOWN: SHERIDAN, WYOMING

Runner Up: Crested Butte Mountain Resort, Colorado

TRAIL

The Colorado Trail Add it up: 567 miles, 90,000 vertical feet, and an average elevation of 10,300 feet above sea level, all running through some of the most spectacular scenery Colorado has to offer. The Colorado Trail stretches from Denver to Durango, and winds its way through the heart of what makes the Centennial State great. coloradotrail.org

MOUNTAIN BIKE RIDE: HORSETHIEF BENCH

PHOTOS BY VISIT SHERIDAN (TOP), DEVON BALET (BOTTOM)

have the goods, and we appreciate the Elevation Outdoors readers recognizing that.” jacksonhole.com

Runner Up: teton Crest Trail, wyoming

M O U N TA I N B I K E RI D E

Horsethief Bench, Fruita, Colorado Fruita is the town where mountain bikers built the singletrack, and the Horsethief Bench ride is one of the town’s most treasured trails. The views are breathtaking and the ride

SILVERTON YOUR BASECAMP FOR adventure #lifeat9318 | silvertoncolorado.com

COLORADO

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SKIING • SNOWBOARDING • NORDIC TRAILS • ICE CLIMBING • FAT BIKING SNOWMOBILING • HIKING • 4 WHEELING • MOUNTAIN BIKING • CAMPING • FISHING

RESORT: JACKSON HOLE

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Runner Up: Monarch Crest Trail, Colorado

ROA D B I K E RI D E

Platte River Trails, Casper, Wyoming Snaking through the city alongside the North Platte River, the Platte River Trail system keeps Casper townies connected. It offers 11 miles of beautiful paved trails that wind through parks, picnic areas, and campgrounds. platterivertrails.com Runner Up: Colorado National Monument

RI V ER T RI P

North Platte River, Wyoming Running the North Platte River is about as western as a river trip can get. Paddle through class III-IV rapids along canyons, past cattle ranches, and among picturesque snow-capped mountain ranges. Because the river is a designated Wilderness area, it’s a great opportunity to see cougars, elk, bald eagles, and golden eagles in their element. Runner Up: Browns Canyon, Colorado

C A M P G RO U N D

Steamboat Lake State Park, Clark, Colorado There’s nothing quite like waking up on the banks of a beautiful lake at the foot of Hahn’s Peak surrounded by stillness. colorado.com/state-parks/ steamboat-lake-state-park

Fremont Canyon at Alcova Reservoir, Wyoming The sunsets over Alcova Reservoir are some of the most beautiful along the South Platte River. But they aren’t the only reason people travel from far and wide to hang out on the 2,470-acre lake: There’s great fishing, nearly unlimited kayaking, six campgrounds, trails for biking, trails for hiking, and interpretive geologic trails like the Cottonwood Creek Dinosaur Trail. visitcasper.com Runner Up: Salida River Park

FLY FISH I N G RI V ER

Arkansas River, Colorado Running through the Arkansas Valley, through the shadows of some of Colorado’s tallest mountain peaks, the Arkansas River is not only a beautiful place to cast a fly, but an abundant one as well. Some of the biggest hogs in the state are caught on this river. Runner up: North Platte, Casper, Wyoming

CLI M B I N G A RE A

Fremont Canyon, Wyoming Not far from Casper, Wyoming, Fremont Canyon is stacked with hundreds of climbing routes both sport and trad. It’s easy to access, a cinch to locate, and it’s still secluded. mountainproject.com/ area/105825913/fremont-canyon Runner Up: Eldorado Canyon State Park, Colorado

W I LD ERN E S S A RE A

Collegiate Peaks, Colorado Named for the group of towering 14,000 foot peaks that speckle the area—including Mount Princeton, which rises 7,000 feet from the valley floor—the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness Area stretches from just south of Aspen to just west of Buena Vista and calls to adventurous spirits. Runner up: Cloud Peaks, Wyoming

K I D - FRI EN D LY O U T DOO R D E S T I N AT I O N

Fruita, Colorado While it has garnered a reputation as adventure-sports central, Fruita is the ideal spot for families looking to get their groms into the outdoors, too. The mellow, 4-mile Rustlers Loop makes for the perfect intro to mountain biking, and plenty of group camping options mean multiple families can meet up here on long weekends. Not to mention, even the big kids enjoy the Dinosaur Journey Museum. gofruita.com Runner up: Snow Mountain Ranch, Colorado

D O G - FRI EN D LY O U T DOO R D E S T I N AT I O N

Salida, Colorado With pet-friendly hotels like the Loyal Duke Lodge and Circle R Motel and the Loyal Dukes Dog Park for uninhibited frolicking, Salida’s a safe destination for you and your pup. runner up: Fruita, Colorado

PHOTO COURTESY VISIT CASPER

Runner up: alcova Reservoir, Wyoming

SU P SP OT

CLIMBING AREA: FREMONT CANYON

serves up everything from an optional extreme section to flowing goodness.

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WINNER OF BEST OF THE ROCKIES

Kid-Friendly Outdoor Destination ALSO…

Best Brewery Copper Club Brewing Company Best Restaurant Hot Tomato Best Coffee Shop Bestslope Coffee Best Bike Shop Over the Edge, Fruita Best Mountain Bike Ride Horsethief Bench, Kokopelli Trails Best Food Truck Big Mikes Pork N Wings Best Yoga Studio Thrive Yoga, Fruita And our Runners-up: Colorado National Monument Rim Rock Marathon Rimrock Adventures

IN OUR YEAR-ROUND DESTINATION THE WHOLE FAMILY WILL LOVE! @GOFRUITA GOFRUITA.COM/OUTDOORS


MULTISPORT FESTIVAL: 14ER FEST

Boulder, Colorado The People’s Republic of Boulder is many things: a bubble, a college town, a hotspot for good food and drink, and, of course, a great place to be young, outdoorsy, and single.

some great live music on top of all this outdoor activity. 14erfest.org Runner Up: FIBArk, Salida Colorado

RU N N I N G R ACE

A DV EN T U RE PA RK

Leadville Trail 100 Run, Leadville, Colorado Running 100 miles is a feat no matter where you do it, but when you’re powering up mountain faces, climbing alpine lakes at elevation, and snaking above and below treeline, that distance takes on a new meaning. Leadville’s Trail 100 Run (Aug 22-23, 2020) has been making heroes out of those brave enough to attempt it since 1983. leadvilleraceseries.com

Runner Up: Captain Zipline, Salida, Colorado

Runner Up: Rim Rock Marathon, Grand Junction, Colorado

Runner up: Denver, Colorado

Sleeping Giant Zip Line, Cody, Wyoming This adventure park offers everything from downhill skiing on diverse terrain to zip-lining along Wyoming’s largest dual zipline course. zipsg.com

EVENTS M U LT ISP O RT FE S T I VA L

14er Fest, Buena Vista, Colorado Taking full advantage of the surrounding mountain peaks, rock walls, and rivers, this high-country trail festival is focused on getting everyone out and having fun. “It's one thing to have a multi-user event concept turn into 14er Fest, but it’s unbelievably humbling and awesome to have 14er Fest win an EO Best of the Rockies Award,” says event coordinator Susan Wood. “I still can't believe our small-town festival is being recognized in the greater Rocky Mountain Region. The momentum is growing, and we are excited to roll out several new trail options at 14er Fest 2020!” The festival features 4x4 off-roading, mountain biking, fly fishing, hiking, and trail running events. Plus, there are seminars, local libations, and

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Runner Up: CKS Paddlefest, Buena Vista, Colorado

CLI M B I N G E V EN T

Ouray Ice Fest, Ouray, Colorado Clinics, multimedia presentations, food, drink, dance parties, and lots and lots of ice climbing characterize this three-day, four-night winter extravaganza. Ouray transforms into an ice climbing showcase and bazaar where everyone from professionals to amateurs gather to celebrate the growing sport, learn from each other, and watch some of the best ice climbers in the world do their thing. ourayicepark.com/ouray-ice-festival Runner up: Ten Sleep Climbers Festival, Wyoming

ROA D B I K E R ACE

Iron Horse Bicycle Classic, Durango, Colorado This year marks the 49th anniversary of the Iron Horse Bike Race (May 22-24, 2020), one of the most unique bike events anywhere in the country. Ride 50 miles and 5,700 vertical feet up along closed highway in one of the most beautiful parts of the Rockies: the San Juan Mountains. ironhorsebicycleclassic.com

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Runner Up: MAD Racing Triathlon at Highline Lake, Fruita, Colorado

TO UG H E S T R ACE

Leadville 100 Trail Run For the bravest ultramarathon runners, the annual “Race Across the Sky” (August 22, 2020), which also won best running race, is about as extreme as these things get. Athletes huff over mountains around a picturesque lake and along forest trails at elevations from 9,200 to 12,600 feet. It is not for the faint of heart—which is likely why this is the second year in a row the race has won this category. leadvilleraceseries.com

Telluride Blues and Brews, Telluride, Colorado High in the Rockies, tucked back in the box canyon of Telluride, the annual Blues and Brews Festival draws crowds from around the world. Some of the baddest, blues-iest names in rock ’n roll gather to lay down the jams, while attendees wander a labyrinth of local craft beer tents. tellurideblues.com

M O U N TA I N B I K E R ACE

Runner Up: Grand Junction Off-Road, Grand Junction, Colorado

3P Crested Butte (Pole, Pedal, Paddle) It’s rare that you can get in backcountry skiing, mountain biking, and kayaking all in a single day. But in Crested Butte, Colorado, the CB3P triathlon makes a race out of that holy mountainsport trinity. Competitors start high at Crested Butte Mountain Resort and descend first on skis, then on bikes, down to the Gunnison River below, where they get their boats on paddle downriver in an experience that gives a whole new meaning to the term “multidisciplined.” crestedbutte3p.com

M USIC FE S T I VA L

Runner Up: The Dead Swede, Sheridan, Wyoming

Leadville Trail 100 MTB, Leadville, Colorado “The Race of All Races” (Aug 22-23, 2020) begins at 10,152 feet above sea level, and only gets crazier from there. Athletes charge along 100 miles of singletrack, pedaling to a peak height of 12,424 feet, all the while surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenery in the state—if you can catch your breath to take it in. leadvilleraceseries.com

T RI AT H LO N

Runner Up: Hardrock 100, Colorado

Runner Up: Seven Peaks Festival, Buena Vista, Colorado

B EER FE S T I VA L

TOUGHEST RACE: LEADVILLE TRAIL 100

PL ACE F O R OU T D O O R SI N G LE S TO LI V E

FIBArk, Salida, Colorado There are few things more Salida than the famed annual whitewater festival—the oldest one in the nation. At the 71st annual FIBArk (June 1821, 2020), you can hang out on the beautiful banks of the Arkansas River and watch competitors flip, dive, and twist through the town’s renowned whitewater course. fibark.com

Telluride Blues and Brews Yep, EO readers love this one so much it took two awards. That makes sense, since it is the perfect pairing of craft suds and tunes. Truly, there’s not another beer festival like it on Planet Earth. tellurideblues.com Runner Up: Great American Beer Festival

PHOTOS COURTESY OURAY ICE FESTIVAL (TOP LEFT), COURESTY 14ER FEST (TOP RIGHT), GLEN DELMAN (BOTTOM)

CLIMBING EVENT: OURAY ICE FESTIVAL

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PHOTOS COURTESY OURAY ICE FESTIVAL (TOP LEFT), COURESTY 14ER FEST (TOP RIGHT), GLEN DELMAN (BOTTOM)

MULTISPORT FESTIVAL: 14ER FEST


T H E T R AV E L S E R I E S / C O LO R A D O

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Nestled in southwest Colorado’s Animas River Valley and surrounded by rugged peaks, Durango offers some of the best outdoor recreation in the state. Escape the crowds and traffic of the Front Range and head to the San Juan National Forest and Weminuche Wilderness, Colorado’s largest wilderness area. Explore over 300 miles of world-class mountain biking and hiking within 30 minutes of downtown. Flowing right through Durango, the Animas River offers visitors fly-fishing and whitewater rafting in town.

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Th e r e’s on e probl em w i t h ou r h o me state. It’s jus t so b ig a nd s o r a d, t h at i t ’s h ard t o deci d e exactly whe r e yo u want t o go f or a dv en t u re w h en i t ’s t i me to r o am. D o n’t fr et. T his t r a v e l gu i d e w i l l get y ou poi n t ed in the r ig ht d ir ectio n and m a ke th a t oh - so- di f f i cu l t deci si on o f jus t whe r e to g e t o u ts i d e a n d pl ay i n t h i s mi n d- bl o wing state much e asie r.

DURANGO.ORG

keystone festivals Keystone’s Summer Festival schedule has something for everyone—from the young to the young at heart. You’ll find mountain festival experiences for the entire family at these festivals set in the River Run Village at Keystone Resort. Explore miles of hiking and biking trails and you’ll discover yourself in a Colorado setting like no other. Book mountain accommodations that are steps from the event village and be sure to take advantage of the Kidtopia Kids Zone, fun for the entire family.

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Grand Mesa is the largest, flat-topped mountain in the world, spanning 500 square miles and rising between 5,000 and 11,237 feet of elevation. It offers year-round recreation, from pristine fishing to the longest snowmobile trail in the lower 48. Alpine forests with wildflower carpets provide the backdrop for camping, hiking, and mountain biking. The winter trails can’t be matched, with groomed and backcountry options for skiers. Plus, unique dining and lodging are always ready for you.

gunnison-crested butte So many trails you could cross Colorado three times! Crested Butte and the Gunnison Valley have the world’s largest trail network with some of the most diverse trails in the country. Desert riding and running in Hartman Rocks kick off in April, and summer brings high-country beauty across six Wilderness areas. Finish off your trails season with one of autumn’s most gorgeous displays in Colorado’s largest aspen grove. Explore it best with the CBGTrails app! ED BU

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T HE R O A D | 0 3 . 20

The Beasts of Bamyan A FGH A N BACKCOUNTRY SK IERS A ND SNOW BOA RDERS M A K E THEIR OW N EQUIPMENT OUT OF WOOD SCR A P S A ND OLD TRUCK TIRE S—A ND THE Y C A N CRUSH YOU. HERE’S HOW SK IING H A S BROUGHT RELIEF A ND JOY TO A N ATION W R ACK ED BY FOUR DEC A DE S OF WA R. by STACY BARE

L

ate in the day, I stood about three fourths up on a summit in Afghanistan, watching the sun disappear behind miles and miles of tall, craggy mountains. Below me, I could see the few sprawling housing compounds that make up the upper village of Chapdara. The temperature plummeted and I shivered as I fiddled to get my boots into ski mode. AliShah Farhang, our local Afghan ski guide and an Olympic hopeful, gave me the thumbs up. I bounced through some easy turns at the top of the run before a steep drop took me to powder paradise. One, two, three turns and I couldn’t see anything

SILK ROAD SKI POSSE: THE AUTHOR POSES WITH LOCAL SKIERS INCLUDING HUSSEIN ALI AFTER SKIING AROUND UPPER CHAPDARA VILLAGE. / PHOTO COURTESY STACY BARE

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but snow spraying overhead. My whoop was loud and involuntary. I startled myself but couldn’t stop hollering with joy. I porpoised through a dozen more big turns before transitioning to a lowangle field where I straight-lined to the last steep pitch before the road. I got a few more turns in the Afghan white room before launching off a snowbank and onto the icy road. I hit the brakes hard so I wouldn’t smash into our driver who was oblivious of any approaching danger. When I pulled up next to him, he wrapped me up in a big, giggling hug before breaking the embrace and giving me two thumbs up, asking me how it was. I collapsed into the snowbank, returned his thumbs up and exhaled with joy, “So. Much. Powder!”

I

came to ski Afghanistan for three weeks, most of the time filled with powder turns like these, with filmmakers Ben Sturgulewski and Jason Mannings to shoot a documentary focusing on the local ski community. Our hope was to find a story that might resonate with the world outside. Could we counter the predominant global narrative of Afghanistan as a frightening place where death and beheading lurks around every corner? We wanted to find out just how popular skiing really was in this corner of Afghanistan that’s best known as the

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place where the Taliban blew up the giant Buddhas of Bamyan statues in 2001. For the past 12 years or so, the ski community in Bamyan Province, about two hours drive northwest of the capital of Kabul, has been growing. Local estimates run at about a thousand skiers or so—all this despite the fact that there are no permanent lifts in Afghanistan. Credit the rise of the sport to a few enterprising aid workers and journalists who brought skis in and introduced skinning for turns to the locals. In 2010, local skiers launched a randonee race called the Afghan Ski Challenge to support the growth of the local ski community and serve as a platform to welcome guests from around the world. Skiing is not new to Afghanistan. The Afghan Ski Federation dates back to at least the 1970s, when rope tows ferried skiers into the mountains around Kabul prior to the Soviet Invasion. I can only wonder how the sport would have progressed—more so how the whole country could have progressed— without the ensuing 40 years of war. Still, skiing persists (and snowboarding is catching on as well). Afghans use older skis and boots modified—or not—for backcountry travel. Skins aren’t widely available, leaving most to use ropes wrapped around their skis to provide traction. Kids make their own skis and snowboards out of wood

Skiing is not new to Afghanistan. The Afghan Ski Federation dates back to at least the 1970s, when rope tows ferried skiers into the mountains around Kabul prior to the Soviet Invasion.

scraps and old plastic oil containers. A few enterprising youths use tin cans for a more sturdy, but also potentially more harmful, binding. Little girls up to the age of maybe seven were often allowed to see us and interact with us at some small level, but we were not allowed to speak to, photograph, or video women when we were in the villages. It creates a one-sided understanding of the culture. We spent one night out in a remote village, sleeping in an extra room of the local mayor’s house. Most of the village men and boys came to sit down and drink tea with us. A few had relatives who were serving, had served, or been killed or injured in service of the Afghan military against Taliban forces. Some spoke harshly of the young men who had returned and were not the same as they were before they left. Others shared with us why they had originally supported the Taliban or Al Qaeda—even if they didn’t always agree with the governance structure being put in place, it usually seemed better to them than the Taliban. It was in this far village where we were also welcomed in to film during lessons being given at the local Madrassa, or religious school. The mullah, or head teacher, wanted us to better understand Islam and share his welcome to the world. “Bring others,” he said, “to ski and to sit down with us and eat.”

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e came specifically for the Ski Challenge, which consists of two days of competition. On the first day, 10 women, almost all from the town of Bamyan, competed on a set downhill course. Next up was the wood


skis and snowboard event. Boys and men aged about 5-35 all lined up at the bottom of the hill, with no liability release waivers in sight, before charging to the top in a melee of sticks, elbows, and legs and then strapped into homemade skis and boards. I watched horrified as one skier tried to kneecap his little brother with a homemade pole at the start before he headed down past him. The younger fellow pointed his planks downhill and, with surprising balance and control, aimed straight at his brother. He came in like a rocket, blindsiding him in the back and creating a double epic yard sale. Several competitors made it across the finish line on skis but sans poles, while others careened across on backs, chests, and buttocks, no skis in sight. Somehow at the finish, everyone looked unharmed. On the second day, the event shifted venues to AliSha’s home village deeper in the mountains. Clouds had settled in over much of the range, along with high winds and heavy snow. We were told this was an incredibly beautiful valley: “From the mountain tops you can see all of Afghanistan, but not today!” Despite the conditions, more than 50 Afghans, alongside a handful of international tourists and aid workers who had come to Bamyan for the race, set out on the course. Skiers from a few of the villages opted to walk over a few mountain passes to the race, compete, then tour back home. Three groups, besides the international skiers—who all had the finest, expensive

GOAT TRACK: AFGHAN SKIER ALIZA HIKES TOWARDS THE START OF A POPULAR RUN IN UPPER CHAPDARA VILLAGE, BAMYAN, AFGHANISTAN./ PHOTO COURTESY STACY BARE

equipment—quickly emerged. First were the post-holers and ski-walkers. These men did not have skins and chose to either just run straight up the mountain or sidestep to the top. Second, were those who did have skins. Third, were those who had some sort of makeshift skins—truck straps or ropes wrapped around their skis to give more purchase on the snow. While Ben and Jason filmed, I did my best to compete. I was at the front of the international pack alongside two split boarders from Australia and Quebec. The race took us to the top of a small peak, down into a pass, and then up to a higher peak before shooting straight down a long 1,500-foot run that would rate as a solid black on any resort in the U.S. and into the finish area. It wasn’t until we began the second climb toward the final peak that we were able to put any distance between us and

the boot packers. I beat the split borders in the transition and was well ahead of them on the downhill until I felt my skis go over what must have been a rock. It shook me off balance. Then I hit a second rock and a third. My tips went straight up and flipped me hard onto my back. Luckily, I popped back up, but my lead was gone. In the end, I wasn’t even close to the top Afghan finishers.

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he focus of our documentary will be on the competition and relationship between two skiers who were widely favored to win the race. One lives in the lower village of Chapdara, the other in the upper village. They are of different ethnic groups and come from families who have different interpretations of Islam. For many of the people we met, these two and their families included, it seems easier at times to welcome visitors than it is to

welcome neighbors. However, there is a deeply shared appreciation by all people here, of what skiing has brought to the youth. The father of the skier in the lower village is also the mullah, the religious leader. He showed us his home and even let us film his son in prayer. He explained the importance of the five daily prayers, as well as the importance of having a dutiful family. His son was good, he said, because he listened and did what he was told. He was also proud of his son’s athletic accomplishments—he had won the previous two ski challenges. “Before skiing came,” he told me, “we loved the mountains in the summertime, but in the winter, they were oppressive. What is there to do for us, for our young people? It is too cold for regular school— so after chores we sit and were idle. Now with skiing, we all look forward to the winter, even old men like me, I can’t ski, but I love the stories.” A veteran of the United States Army who served in Bosnia and Iraq, Stacy Bare is based in Salt Lake City, Utah. At the invitation of local skiers, Bare and a few friends launched silkroad-freeride. com in Kyrgyzstan this past January to support skill development, community, and competition in mountain sports along the historic Silk Road. More info on the Afghan Ski Challenge can be found at bamyanskiclub.com or through visiting Untamed Borders untamedborders.com the travel outfitter Bare used on the trip.

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Experience premier hiking and mountain biking trails, enjoy craft beers at one of ve local microbreweries, and explore our vibrant downtown full of locally-owned restaurants perfect for a bite to eat after a day on the trail. Discover all that you've been missing when you visit us this year in Laramie, Wyoming.

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E LWAY V IL L E | 03 . 20

GO DEEPER G E T O U T A N D D O T H E SE FI V E T H I N G S I N M A RCH B EF O RE T H E SN OW IS GO N E. by PETER KRAY

Skiing is a lifetime sport. You can start schussing the slopes as young as two. If you’re Aspen icon Klaus Obermeyer, you’re still riding the white carpet of gravity at the age of 100. Come to think of it, the mountain legend might very well be skiing right now. The best part is you can also always improve. Whether you’re working on making the perfect carve, mastering ice, powder, bumps, steeps, trees or chutes, or simply trying to put a little more style into each arc as you glide underneath the chair, every run presents a new opportunity to tune up your technique and free your soul. One of the easiest ways to up your game is to set a few goals. Even this late in the season, making a to-do list of on-snow accomplishments can set you up for a special season. Who knows? Next year you might get invited to Hokkaido, Japan, to wallow in its epic powder, or escape on a fabled hut trip in British Columbia, or watch the death-defying downhill of the Hahnenkamm in Kitzbuehel, Austria. 1. Take a Lesson!

The best skiers are perpetual students of the sport, always searching for new ways to initiate a turn, get onto their inside edge more quickly, and keep their upper body facing downhill. If you were to ask U.S. Ski Team heroes Mikaela Shiffrin or Ted Ligety what they were working on in their own skiing right now, I’m 100 percent certain they would not only give you an immediate answer but also go into some detail on exactly what they are trying to do. I’ve never understood why so many accomplished skiers are reluctant to spend a day, or at least an afternoon, out on the hill with a pro. All golfers do is talk about lowering their score. Marathon runners obsess over taking another half-minute off each mile. But skiers? Most think they’ve got it all figured out. I get it. When you’re having so much fun, why break it down? Because you can get better. And have even more fun. And if you’re learning to ski backward at a new resort, you can hit up your instructor for insider beta on the area’s best eats and beers.

2. Take a Snow Safety Course

An avalanche safety course should be required for anyone in Colorado who ventures outdoors. Snow is beautiful, intoxicating, and like gossamer to glide through—it can also kill you.

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Illustration by KEVIN HOWDESHELL / THEBRAVEUNION.COM

Which is exactly why you should go to avalanche.org and register for a Level 1 course (or Level 2 if you have completed Level 1). Simply put, what you learn may save your life. You should also buy yourself and your best ski buddy an avalanche transceiver and learn how to use it (consider an avalanche air bag, too). Yeah, it’ll cost you a few hundred bucks, but even in-bounds on big snow days, danger still exists, despite the deep expertise of our local ski patrols. This season, there have already been four inbounds avalanche fatalities (one in California, and three in Idaho). We don’t want you, or any of our friends, to be the fifth.

3. Call In Well

As a kid in school, I never ditched. I was too much of a wuss and I’ll never know how much fun I missed. I’m trying not to make the same mistake as an adult. Like on powder days, for

instance—they are the best time ever to take a mental health day for yourself. Even better, you don’t have to lie about it. Just let your co-workers know you felt too good to come to work. My friend Nicholas Alfieri, a Keystone-based snowboard instructor who is a member of the PSIA-AASI National Team, created a series of “Healthy” stickers because he got tired of people always saying their day was “siiiiick!” Few things feel healthier than checking voicemail after a day of face shots.

4. Avoid I-70

Tired of the rat race that is the Denver to Summit County Shuffle every weekend? Well that makes 2.8 million of us. Unless you’re waking up slopeside, the Saturday morning drive on the Interstate might make knitters out of all of us. At least once this year, head south. Go cat-skiing at Monarch, make the powder pilgrimage to Wolf Creek, or even experience the

postcard-perfect ambiance of New Mexico’s Red River or the steeps of Taos. There’s nothing like a couple days realizing just how big Colorado is to remember how good you’ve got it. (Head back to A-Basin, Copper, Vail, and beyond in April when the crowds thin out and the skiing is still sublime.)

5. Go Deep

My mantra this winter: “Play the long game.” Don’t make split decisions. Have the patience to let the difficult things in your life work their own way out. And winter is the long game in Colorado, where even in the summer, snow can fall on the highest peaks. With the way things are going right now, A-Basin might keep the lifts turning until July 4, and good old Aspen might host a few surprise weekends before Memorial Day kicks in. Keep your skis tuned and your rack on the roof. There’s still plenty of time to work on your skills and find some snow.

—Elevation Outdoors editor-at-large Peter Kray (elwayville@elevationoutdoors.com) is the author of The God of Skiing. The book has been called “the greatest ski novel of all time.” Don’t believe the hype? You can buy it here: AMZN.TO/2LMZPVN

E L E VAT I O N O U T D O O R S / M A R C H 2 0 2 0


This isn’t just an acorn. It’s sustenance for all woodland critters–a far more appropriate meal than your keto-friendly trail mix. Feeding wildlife puts us all at risk. When animals become tame, they migrate closer to towns, bringing natural predators along with them. So by tossing that deer a nibble of your protein bar, you may be inviting a mountain lion to your next neighborhood potluck. Whether you’re glamping, camping or hiking, keep your snacks to yourself.




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Elevation Outdoors March 2020  

Elevation Outdoors March 2020

Elevation Outdoors March 2020  

Elevation Outdoors March 2020