Elevation Outdoors Spring 2022

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OUTERBIKE INSIGHT | TAKE THE PALISADE PLUNGE | SPRING TRAILS SPRING 2022

FREE!

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

IT IN

BIKES, RUNS, MOUNTAIN ESCAPES

VAT I ON E L

OU

TDOOR

S

E

THE SURGE

Overcrowding on Public Lands Is Real NEW TRICKS FOR AN OLD SNOWBOARDER

Dry Ice Climbing

+ MAKING THE OUTDOORS SAFE FOR ALL DARK SKIES BIRDING LEGACY


YOUR VERY OWN GRAND CANYON CMH CARIBOOS | PHOTO BY ROBIN O’NEILL

This isn’t hiking as you know it. It’s flying via heli into a bucket list location to amble among ancient glaciers and scale the Zillmer Canyon Via Ferrata. Free from crowds, roads and limitations, CMH Cariboos delivers an unforgettable adventure that inspires a new point of view.

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IN THIS ISSUE

SPRING 2022

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6,000-vertical-foot Palisade Plunge, Colorado's newest megatrail (see page 14).

DEPARTMENTS

RecoverBrands.com

www.KristiMountainSports.com

BREAK TIME: Riders check out a cabin atop Grand Mesa on their way down the 33.8-mile,

7 EDITOR'S LETTER Take the Outdoorist Oath. 9 QUICK HITS Here’s how we can deal with the increasing problem of overcrowding on public lands; Boulder’s dry ice climbing gym appeals to more than the core; meet the 4-year-old who climbed New Hampshire’s 48 highest peaks in six months; peruse new apps and snow tires; learn the complicated history of Mt. Everest; save the night skies from light pollution. 14 FLASHPOINT After more than a decade of planning, construction, and problem-solving, Colorado’s new $3.4 million megatrail, the Palisade Plunge, is finally ready to ride—and it’s

worth it. Come along as we give it a spin. 17 HOT SPOT The mountains may still be covered in snow, but it’s time to hit the dirt in the low country. Check out our favorite early season trail runs. 19 STRAIGHT TALK The founder of Love is King, activist, veteran, and filmmaker Chad Brown is working to create safe spaces in the outdoors for all people. 28 THE ROAD This is what happens when one rusty— but determined— snowboarder tries to get rad with her son and husband at a Woodward Copper private lesson. 30 ELWAYVILLE Over the past two years, we have learned to find magic in the world right outside our windows.

FEATURES 21 OUTERBIKE Be sure to get your tickets for the best bike event in the universe. 22 THE 2022 PEAK GEAR AWARDS Every year, we ask our stable of core contributors to nominate the best gear they used over the past year. That’s mattered more than ever during the pandemic when we faced so many challenges and found so much solace in the outdoors. That said, here’s the gear that helped us through, the winners of Elevation Outdoors’ 2022 Peak Gear Awards.

ON THE COVER Amanda Batty rides the high alpine at Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico. By Liam Doran liamdoranphotogrpahy.com Instagram @liam_doran_outdoors

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


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CONTRIBUTORS | SPRING.22 What's your favorite thing about springtime in the Rockies?

NEW BIKES IN STOCK

E DI TOR-I N -CHI E F

DOUG SCHNITZSPAHN

doug@elevationoutdoors.com

DOUG SCHNITZSPAHN Snow!

PRE SI DE N T / PUBLI SHE R

BLAKE DEMASO

blake@elevationoutdoors.com CRE AT I VE DI RE CTOR

LAUREN WORTH

lauren@elevationoutdoors.com EDITORIAL + PRODUCTION M AN AG I N G E DI TOR

CAMERON MARTINDELL

cameron@elevationoutdoors.com DE PUT Y E DI TOR

TRACY ROSS

SE N I OR E DI TOR

CHRIS KASSAR

HANNAH COOPER

I love getting muddy on a trail run when the sun is out and the snow is melting.

CAMERON MARTINDELL

So many options! Spring skiing, desert canyon trips, beautiful ribbons of singletrack, swollen rivers… pinch me!

TRACY ROSS

Ski touring in a T-shirt

COPY E DI TOR

MELISSA HOWSAM

W NE HIS T EAR Y

E DI TOR-AT-LARG E

PETER KRAY

CON T RI BUT I N G E DI TORS

www.GoldenBikeShop.com 303-278-6545

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

Colorado’s Adventure Outfitter for Over

25

Years

JOSHUA BERMAN, JEFF BLUMENFELD, EUGENE BUCHANAN, COURTNEY HOLDEN, LISA JHUNG, ARIELLA NARDIZZI ADVERTISING + BUSINESS ASSOCI AT E PUBLI SHE R

HANNAH COOPER

hannah@elevationoutdoors.com SE N I OR ACCOUN T E XE CUT I VE

MARTHA EVANS

martha@elevationoutdoors.com BUSI N E SS M AN AG E R

MELISSA GESSLER

melissa@elevationoutdoors.com CI RCULAT I ON I N QUI RI E S

circulation@elevationoutdoors.com DIGITAL MEDIA ON LI N E DI RE CTOR

CRAIG SNODGRASS DI G I TAL E DI TOR

RYAN MICHELLE SCAVO P U B L I S H E D BY ©2022 Summit Publishing, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Now Available At

SUMMIT

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PUBLISHING

CHRIS KASSAR

It’s corn and couloir season, baby! Time to earn turns, ski the steeps and farm corn.

RYAN MICHELLE SCAVO

Multiadventurre days, both solo and with the family—we can get a few turns in at the local ski hill in the morning, fish the Rio in the afternoon, and end the day with a sunset hike out our back door.

ARIELLA NARDIZZI

There’s nothing better than sunny springtime days mountaineering in the Rockies. More hours of daylight equal more time in the mountains—and a renewed sense of stoke.

EUGENE BUCHANAN

Skate skiing the crust along the Yampa River, skiing big corn lines in Summit County, and dusting off the kayak to hit Cross Mountain Canyon in early season flows. And—oh, yeah—the Beach at A-Basin.

JOSHUA BERMAN

Trails are still uncrowded and you don't need campground reservations!

PETER KRAY

Late A-Basin powder. #pallavicini


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TAKE THE OATH

THERE’S A POWERFUL, SIMPLE WAY TO HELP MAKE THE OUTDOORS MORE INCLUSIVE. by DOUG SCHNITZSPAHN

Photo by Carlo Nasisse

W

hen I was in my early 20s, I was deep in the dark holds of living life in the city. I was bartending, drinking too much, aimless. I felt as if my life was falling away from me–but I found solace and strength in a growing love of the outdoors. I took a NOLS course and spent a month sea kayaking in Baja— and realized that living a full life could be as simple as watching the sun rise over the Sea of Cortez as the moon set in the west from the comfort of a sleeping bag on the sand. I learned the basics of telemark skiing on the icy slopes of Cannon Mountain up in New Hampshire and found grace in the form and a desire to put all the negativity in my life into the big, positive endeavor of becoming a better skier. I wanted to be in the city less and on the summits of mountains more. So I found a volunteer stint with the Student Conservation Association maintaining trails with the U.S. Forest Service in Dillon, Montana. The experience changed me, saved me. I spent days in the wilderness, tuning into the rhythms of swinging a Pulaski into the dirt, and getting a glimpse of elk, bear, fisher cats, and owls in their own space. I moved way from my inner darkness and embraced a life of promise in the outdoors. While I made some powerful connections and built enduring friendships that summer in Dillon, I also met a lot of people who did not want me to be there. I did my best to be open to the local community, but I also felt the anger of those who felt threatened by an East Coast city boy on their turf. Once, when I was hiking by myself, a ragged character in a cowboy hat and

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holster came walking up to me along a fence line, put his face (and whiskey breath) up to mine and snarled “Where were you born.” The reply of “Edison, New Jersey, bro” oddly took him a bit off guard, as did my added barb that “but my family has been on this continent since the 1600s… and you?” That was the end of our encounter. Here’s the thing. I felt threatened. And I am a white-as-white-can-be man. What if I had been a person of color? Worse, would I even have been able to save myself through the outdoors the way I did at all? How would a 23-yearold Black kid coming from the city to a Montana cow town feel in 1992? And don’t fool yourself, would it feel better now? Or worse? Systemic racism runs deep in our society, and those of us who benefit from it need to constantly look at situations that felt normal or safe for us (or even somewhat threatening) and realize that we are lucky. We have to remember that conversations about inclusivity and safety are not about us— we need to listen with compassion and help drive change. One powerful initiative that’s making these conversations and changes easier is the new Outdoorist Oath. The brainchild of social activists Teresa Baker, José González, Wyn Wiley (Pattie Gonia), and executive director Gabaccia Moreno, the oath is simply a commitment to address the inequality in the outdoors (and the world) and gently, and actively, work to be the change. It’s also a call to rally all of us to help preserve the outdoors and fight climate change, which the founders see as a result of systemic inequality in our society. It’s one simple, powerful thing you can do to make a difference. Here’s the simple way to start, Go to outdooristoath.org and be a part.

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QUICK HITS | SPRING.22

THE SURGE

MORE PEOPLE ARE HITTING T H E T R A I L . H OW H A S T H E O U T D O O R R E C R E AT I O N I N D US T RY R E SP O N D ED? by JOSHUA BERMAN

The surge is real. There are more people out there than ever before, steepening the curve of an already growing interest in the outdoors, an ongoing trend that exploded in the summer of 2020 when COVID-19 distancing, closed gyms, and lockdowns drove hordes of new hikers and happy campers into the hills.

PHOTO BY BART DEFERME

The Numbers

Lydia Davey of Hipcamp, the world's largest provider of outdoor stays, says that during the last two years (prepandemic until now), the company has seen a 460% overall increase in demand (Colorado saw a 205% increase in demand in the same period). KOA’s 2021 North American Camping Report counted 94.5 million camper households throughout North America in 2020; of those, 10.1 million households in the U.S. went camping for the first time. Meaghan Praznik, head of communications at AllTrails, says, “Since the pandemic began, AllTrails has noticed

over 3 times the amount of trail traffic,” including more people hiking during the week, even in colder weather. AllTrails is a curated, crowdsourced trail map catalog. App users can browse trails through various filters, read reviews from community members, check weather and elevation, and download maps for offline use when the canyon walls block your cell signal. Michael Scheinman, CEO of Campspot, an online marketplace of 140,000 campsites in the United States and Canada, says that in 2020, “demand went crazy. Now in 2022, travelers need to book earlier than ever if they want to go camping this year. We are seeing holiday weekends in 2022 booking up much faster than the previous year.”

The Response

As an outdoors journalist, I’ve responded to the surge with a slew of Camping 101 articles in various publications, informing newcomers about a little thing called the Leave No Trace (LNT) Seven Principles of minimum impact. At the same time, I’ve added sections to my guidebooks like “How to Avoid the Crowds” (pro tip: Start early enough to need a headlamp) and “Finding Less Trafficked Trails.”

Hipcamp has also taken this education approach to meet the newcomers. “We require every Hipcamper to adhere to our Hipcamper Standards, which include: leave no trace, practice fire safety, limit noise, dispose of waste responsibly, and more,” says Mason Smith, Hipcamp’s head of government and community relations. “We also educate our community with fire safety webinars and share best practices for responsible recreation with articles on Hipcamp Journal and our social media channels.”

The Dance

This delicate dance of welcoming more folks into the forest while keeping it safe and sustainable is shared by many in the industry. Praznik says that it’s not just about increased trail traffic, “but also an increase in the number of new entrants. We firmly believe that everyone deserves the right to the outdoors; the key, however, is providing access, but in a way that still protects our public lands.” At AllTrails, she says, they’ve added a few new features to their app to guide folks to less trafficked trails to “protect the most populated trails from

SWEET SOLITUDE: CROWDS LIKE THIS ATOP TORREYS PEAK HAVE BECOME THE NORM DURING THE PANDEMIC.

overcrowding.” They’re also constructing a Parks Portal team “to help land managers and agencies leverage our technology to make informed and real-time decisions about how to manage the higher trail traffic.”

The Opportunity

One welcome trend that has accompanied the surge is increased diversity among the newcomers. This was one of the findings of KOA’s report, and it was noticed by Liz Thomas, co-founder and editor-in-chief of Treeline Review, an outdoor gear review company with a focus on womenand BIPOC-written stories. “Readers [now] ask for beginner-friendly ‘How to Get Started’ guides,” she says. “We've pivoted away from exclusively a gear review website to build out a new section with articles aimed at pandemic-friendly outdoor activities, including articles in Spanish. In 2022, we plan more hiking and camping guides to meet the demands of our readers.” Joshua Berman is the author of Moon Colorado Camping.

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EMBRACE DRY ICE

With the rise in popularity of indoor dry tooling in the United States, Gilman believes it could one day catapult it to an Olympic sport. He’s most excited about the ever-growing community that has come from its success. “There’s a lot of volunteer effort going on right now to build the sport, and that’s the fun part— watching it all come together,” Gilman says. “I’ve loved watching the passion behind these events and people rallying around The Coop. It’s very exciting for the future of this sport.”

T H E I C E CO O P I S T H E FI R S T D E S I G N AT ED D RY-TO O L I N G GY M I N T H E U. S . S O U N D W EI R D? A V I S I T W I L L M A K E YO U A CO N V ERT.

—Ariella Nardizzi

LITTLE FOOT, BIG ADVENTURE those looking to get involved. “Ice climbing is pretty prohibitive—with the expenses and the equipment,” Gilman says. “The gym is a great place to offer mentorship to people and to get them going in a warm, safe environment.” The Coop’s mission statement furthers this sense of community, stating on their website that “this is a project of love and we welcome all stoked ice climbers and dry toolers and those that are curious about this gnarly sport.” The Ice Coop also offers rental packages and a plethora of classes, ranging from basic fundamentals to more advanced climbing techniques. While it’s a great spot for beginners to try their hand at these ice tools,

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DE-ICER: ELIZABETH WHITEAKER TAKES STABS AND HOOKS INTO THE DRY-TOOLING WALLS AT THE ICE COOP.

Gilman says there’s a wide variety of experience from all over the world, including the USA Ice Climbing Team, which often uses the gym as their training grounds. Furthermore, The Coop is home to ice climbing extraordinaire Tyler Kempney, manager and coach at the gym. “He’s one of the top climbers in the world in this sport. There’s no way you’re going to walk into an ice climbing gym and have an iconic climber ready to get you coached and mentored in the sport,” Gilman says. “But with dry tooling, that can very well happen when you walk into The Coop.”

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Over the years, outdoor magazines like ours have covered an endless number of athletes who hike far, fast, and up in record time frames despite nasty conditions and gnarly terrain. Not enough of these individuals identify as female. The number that identify as 4 years old? Infinitesimal. But one New Hampshire native is bucking the trend. Starting last March, Scarlett Torgerson—known on the trail as “Little Foot”— along with her grandmother Kim Lesnewski, hiked all 48 of her state’s 4,000-foot peaks (that’s 259.05 miles and a whopping

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PHOTO BY SHAWN HEYLAND

While there is no shortage of climbing gyms in Boulder, the city is now also home to The Ice Coop—the first designated drytooling gym in the United States. Dry-tooling is a take on ice climbing, where climbers scale plywood or rock walls using pickaxe tools and technical climbing shoes, called fruit boots, with spikes on the ends. Owners Sally Gilman and Colby Rickard are the brains behind the creation of this unique gym, founded in 2019. Both ice climbers themselves, Gilman says the lack of training facilities was the big impetus behind creating this gym. One of the biggest challenges the couple faced during the creation of the gym was the lack of resources. Since The Ice Coop is one-of-a-kind, they had to start from scratch for what an indoor dry-tooling gym would look like. “We got to invent the wheel and figure it all out, which is kind of the fun part. There was no blueprint to go by,” Gilman says. Furthermore, the cost of getting into ice climbing does not come cheap. The gear alone can put quite a dent in the wallet, and finding experienced mentors to climb with can be a deterring feat for some. However, Gilman believes “The Coop” makes this sport much more accessible to


85,072 feet of elevation gain). And they did it in 6 months. Scarlett got her first taste of hiking at just 18 months old. Lesnewski, who’s a member of New Hampshire's Lakes Region Search and Rescue, remembers letting Scarlett loose on the trail up to Piper Mountain out of curiosity, “just to see what she could do.” They allowed the toddler to choose her own course, and after about 90 minutes, the tiny tyke had hiked 1.3 miles and 970 feet to the summit. When she hiked back down. “We thought, ‘Huh, maybe we’ll see what happens,’” Lesnewski remembers. “So, we just started taking her out.” Their hiking habit continued through Scarlett’s second year and picked up momentum in April 2020, when COVID closed her preschool, and Lesnewski’s work schedule lightened considerably. By the end of February 2021, Scarlett had hiked the Belknap 12, a collection of 12 peaks in New Hampshire between 1,660 and 2,380 feet.

BIG SHOES: AT JUST 4 YEARS OLD, SCARLETT TORGERSON HAS BECOME AN INSPIRATION FOR OTHER YOUNG HIKERS.

On March 10, Scarlett conquered her first 4,000-footer, leading to her initial idea of completing five of New Hampshire’s 4,000-foot peaks within a year. Soon though, that goal turned into completing all 48 peaks by the time she was 5

years old, which was just a short six months away. With long days and high mileage (their longest day: 16.5 miles), Lesnewski constantly checked in with Scarlett to see how she was feeling. “Every hike we go on, I give her the opportunity

several times to turn around,” Lesnewski says. “I didn’t ever want her to feel pressure.” Now that those 48 peaks are in the bag, Scarlett has become the first ambassador for a program from Adventure Ready Brands (parent company of Adventure Medical Kits, Ben’s, and others), appropriately named Adventure Ready Girls, that aims to get 1 million girls involved in outdoor activities by 2025. “Scarlett is so inspirational to girls and parents with her love and joy of hiking,” says the brand’s director of e-commerce, Lindsey Gauthier, of the decision to highlight the young hiker. “My hope is that she’s going to be able to inspire other kids to get out there,” Lesnewski adds. “Actually, she inspires a lot of people of all ages to get out there.” We’re among them, Scarlett. Hike on.

—Courtney Holden

PHOTO BY COURTESY KIM LESNEWSKI

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LOCAL HERO, RYAN PARKER S T E WA R D O F T H E N I G H T SK Y

It’s a sad fact, but one-third of the world’s population and 80% of Americans cannot see the Milky Way, the river of stars that has dominated the night sky and human imaginations since time immemorial. Today, light pollution in most developed countries creates a luminous fog that swamps the stars and constellations. But it doesn’t have to be that way, says Ryan Parker, volunteer chairman of the Colorado chapter of the International Dark Sky Association (IDA). Passionate about protecting the night sky, he says, “This is one form of pollution that can be solved instantly by turning off or shielding outdoor lighting.” Parker and his Colorado chapter, one of 60 IDA chapters

across the globe, travel the state educating students, homeowners and community groups about various forms of lighting and how, by turning off lights, or properly shielding them, they can save the sky and save energy. The IDA’s campaign also targets energy companies, lighting manufacturers, and municipalities. A 45-year-old father of three and fifth-generation Coloradan, Parker is a Castle Pines residential Realtor who grew up on a farm. “Dark skies doesn’t mean dark ground,” he says. “People can leave their lights on if they want, but when it trespasses past their property, humans and nature can be severely impacted.” Parker adds, “Humans were not designed to stay out all night long and neither should their lighting. Reducing light pollution will make a difference for generations and leave a lasting legacy.” For more information go to Idacolorado.xyz —Jeff Blumenfeld THE DARK (K)NIGHT: RYAN PARKER IS POISED TO PROTECT THE SKIES FROM INCREASING LIGHT POLLUTION.

YMCA of the Rockies

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PHOTO COURTESY RYAN PARKER

Your basecamp for summer adventures in the Colorado Rocky Mountains.

2/17/22 9:01 AM


History. Heritage. Craft CULTURE. The Great Outdoors. Sheridan is The Nature of the West.

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million acres of pristine wildland in the Bighorn National Forest, encompassing 1,200 miles of trails, 30 campgrounds, 10 picnic areas, 6 mountain lodges, legendary dude ranches, and hundreds of miles of waterways. The Bighorns offer limitless outdoor recreation opportunities.

restaurants, bars, food trucks, lounges, breweries, distilleries, tap rooms, saloons, and holes in the wall are spread across Sheridan County. That’s 101 different ways to apres adventure in the craft capital of Wyoming. We are also home to more than 40 hotels, motels, RV parks, and B&Bs.

seasons in which to get WYO’d. If you’re a skijoring savant, you’ll want to check out the Winter Rodeo. July features the beloved WYO Rodeo. Spring and fall are the perfect time to chase cool mountain streams or epic backcountry lines, race the Bighorn Trail run, and more.

Sheridan features a thriving, historic downtown district, with western allure, hospitality and good graces to spare; a vibrant arts scene; bombastic craft culture; a robust festival and events calendar; and living history from one corner of the county to the next.


FLASHPOINT | SPRING.22

AFTER 10 YEARS OF PL ANNING, CONSTRUCTION, AND PROBLEMSOLVING, COLORADO’S NEW $3.4 MILLION MEGATRAIL IS FINALLY READY TO RIDE—AND IT’S WORTH IT. by EUGENE BUCHANAN

I

t’s an inauspicious start. In the first 3 miles of riding the new Palisade Plunge mountain bike trail outside of Grand Junction, I’ve flatted out, raunched my crotch on the crossbar, tumbled into the bushes, and am bleeding, at least minorly, from all four limbs. Small scrapes mostly, including both calves cactus-pierced by my flat pedals whipping around, but bleeding nonetheless. By the time I catch up to my group, sunscreen dripping into my eyes and dirt on my brow, I realize it didn’t take long for this trail to live up to its billing as Colorado’s newest, most epic and anticipated mountain bike megatrail. It’s mid-July and I’m on the first full descent of the new 33.8-mile Plunge trail, along with its designers, BLM and economic development officials, and, thankfully, even owner Scott Winans and bike mechanic Geoff Roper from Rapid Creek Cycles. While they’ve all ridden portions of it, they’ve never ridden this part—its new 3-mile section down its top cliffs—nor linked it all

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together in one ride. I ask for a BandAid before we continue on. “Epic” is exactly what its builders and stakeholders wanted to create. Opening July 24, 2020, after 10 years of effort, the Plunge is the most anticipated mountain bike trail to grace Colorado in over a decade, built to rival such other shuttle-to classics as Moab’s Whole Enchilada and Mag 7 and Salida’s Monarch Crest. Yes, long known for its peaches, Palisade is now also known for its pedaling. The brainchild of Winans and Rapid Creek Cycles partner Rondo Buecheler, the route traverses seven distinct alpine-to-desert ecosystems while dropping 6,000 vertical feet from the top of 10,735-foot Grand Mesa down to the town of Palisade far below. Broken into three distinct sections, it serves up everything from rolling singletrack to technical, don’tfall, spaghetti-noodle-clinging-to-afridge switchbacks. Throw in vistas of the La Salles and San Juans, desert spires of Colorado National Monument, and lush farmland of the Grand Valley, and it’s one you’ll want to notch on your dropper seat post. “It’s definitely a marquee draw for the region,” says Winans, head of the 30-year-old Colorado Plateau Mountain Bike Trail Association, which ushered its completion. “The upper 11 miles are mellower and are great for intermediate riders; then, as you drop off the rim and head down, it gets more

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advanced, with the last 5 miles being the most technical.”

WILD RIDE: UPPER SECTIONS OF THE PLUNGE ROLL THROUGH LONELY MEADOWS.

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Otto, who created Colorado National he trail’s first section winds 11.8 Monument in 1911—before dropping miles through rolling, wildfloweranother 19.2 miles through cliff bands, filled alpine terrain from Mesa slickrock ramps, creek beds, and more. Top to Shirttail Point, all above 10,000 If the trail is convoluted, so feet atop Grand Mesa and a welcome was its $3.4 million construction, reprieve to the heat of the valley far taking a decade and nine different below. (The day we ride it, Palisade will stakeholders to build—including top 107 degrees.) After getting shuttled three federal agencies, three 75 minutes up Scenic Byway 65 by municipalities, private landowners Buecheler (I try to ignore the bottles of and lease holders, Ibuprofen on the van’s nonprofits, and floor), we start the day mountain bike rolling across flowy “THE TOP OF GRAND advocates. Trailsingletrack through MESA IS A GIANT building company fields of wildflowers P L AT E O F L AVA , Singletrack Trails did and the old ranching WITH VERY FEW the grunt work, its crew homestead of the PLACES WHERE rappelling down its cliff Raber family. About YOU CAN BRE AK faces to place rocks for two hours later, we THROUGH. I WAS treads and jackhammer cross a dirt road HAVING ANXIET Y through shale. where the bottom DRE AMS OF DYING It wasn’t rocket drops out, along BEFORE THE TRAIL science, but luckily with our stomachs, O P E N E D .” that’s Winans’ seemingly off the —SCOTT WINANS background. The edge of the world. former rocket scientist From here, the trail for Estes Cox helped navigate the drops straight down to the Colorado project’s red tape and even redder River 6,000 feet below. cliffs. “It was a long process and a lot of A series of walk-them-if-youwork,” he says. “The top of Grand Mesa value-your-life switchbacks mark the is a giant plate of lava, with very few beginning of the 23-mile lower section. places where you can break through. Its uppermost 3-mile section follows I was having anxiety dreams of dying a reworked portion of the centurybefore the trail opened.” old Otto Wall trail—named for John

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PHOTO BY CHRIS WELLHAUSEN

TAKING THE PLUNGE


Chris Pipkin, outdoor recreation planner for the BLM’s Grand Junction office, had an epiphany about how to get through the trail’s crux. “I woke up in the middle of night and Google Earthed it and saw where four sets of sheep tracks converged and found a way through,” he says, adding the project involved “the most stakeholders of any project I’ve ever worked on.” But the end result, says Winans, is worth every broken drill bit, bead of sweat, and stakeholder meeting. “It opened up access to public land that no one had access to before,” says Winans. “It’s truly an amazing trail—in an amazing part of the state.” A model for similar partnerships, it's also projected to be viable economically, with its $3.5 million price tag, including $1 million in roadwork, estimated to bring in $5 million per year to Mesa County, says Steve Jozefczyk, deputy director of Grand Junction Economic Partnership. “And that number will only grow as word spreads,” he says. “We also see it as motivation for people to relocate here.” And like the peaches and grapes growing in Palisade far below, its fruits are already blooming. Between the four shuttle services operating the trail, Buecheler estimates as many as 3,000 people rode the Plunge in its inaugural season last fall, with that number expected to double this year.

“M

PHOTOS BY CHRIS WELLHAUSEN

ost of the riders loved it for what it is—a great crosscountry adventure trail, with challenging singletrack, a little exposure, incredible views, and a true backcountry feel,” says Buecheler. “The people that were disappointed were the ones that didn’t do their homework and thought it was a downhill run or didn’t believe it’s truly a black diamond trail and got in

over their heads. We had a fair number of out-of-towners combining it with Whole Enchilada and Monarch Crest for a trail-riding trifecta.” Still, it’s not for the faint of heart or heights. And if you’re not overly technical, prepare to get comfortable hopping off your bike and walking. “It’s an adventure trail—with consequences,” says Winans, adding there’s too much up for it to be a true gravity trail. As well as descending 6,000 feet, it also has 1,900 vertical feet of climbing. “That’s going to keep the pure gravity riders off of it,” he says. After negotiating the lower section’s top 3 miles, we cross Lands End Road and enter the final 19 miles, which still includes 1,350 feet of climbing. Here, the trail gets flowy, and we relish ripping down its smoother singletrack. At Whitewater Creek, which we plunge our heads into to cool off, a freshly fallen aspen tree is rife with bear claw marks.

Eventually we round a corner hugging a cliff band and see Palisade and the welcoming Colorado River far below. But we don’t celebrate too soon; it’s still 3,000 feet of descending away. We flow, climb, traverse, and drop and raise our seat posts until coming to a sign at Mile 26.5 warning :“This section of trail crosses very steep slopes and passes along the edge of vertical cliffs. Use extreme caution—there’s no shame in walking!” Eyeing my already hardening scabs, I take that advice to heart. Later, we come to the aptly named “Plunge” itself, a steep ramp of rock connecting the trail’s upper and lower rims. While Roper rides it flawlessly, the rest of us shoulder our bikes and hike down next to it, utilizing Anasazi-like footholds carved into the sloping rock. Toward the end, the trail cascades through a serpentine creek bed of slickrock ramps and ledges in a tight-walled canyon. Here, it’s more reminiscent of Moab than the upper portion clinging to Grand Mesa. Soon, some six hours after starting—counting

DEEP DIVE: IF YOU ARE LOOKING FOR BIG THRILLS, THE PLUNGE WILL IMMERSE YOU.

flats, photos, and refueling—we’re spit out at trail’s end, right at the banks of the Colorado River. Licking our collective wounds (Rondo says there were no major incidents this year, but “about half the riders showed up with some blood”), we plunge in to cool off and celebrate what has fast become the most epic ride in the Rockies. And we’re just a short coast away from a juicy Palisade peach and handcrafted IPA at the Palisade Brewing Co. downtown.

If You Go: Rapid Creek Cycles offers rental bikes and a $35-per-person shuttle service for the 1.5-hour drive to the trailhead (you’ll want to use it, as it’s a heckuva drive to convince a nonriding loved one to make—or to retrieve your own rig afterward). rapidcreekcycles.com

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ARTS. PARKS. ADVENTURES. Lyons is a small mountain town packed with big character! From fly fishing and mountain biking to soaking up the local food and beverage scene, Lyons has a little bit of everything to experience this spring in Colorado’s great outdoors.

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HOT SPOT | SPRING.22

SPRING FLINGS IT’S MARCH AND WINTER STILL DOMINATES IN THE HIGH COUNTRY, BUT DOWN LOW, SPRING IS MAKING ITS IMMINENT PRESENCE KNOWN. IT’S TIME TO RAMP UP ON THESE EARLY-SEASON TRAIL RUNS. by CHRIS KASSAR

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f you’re itching for T-shirt weather and dry dirt right now, then you’re probably a trail runner (or should be). Sweet thing about Colorado: Even when our peaks are still buried in snow, you can find miles of singletrack perfect for pounding. This guide to our favorite springtime runs should help point you in the right direction. We’ve kept the distances fairly short—with options for extensions—so you can ease back into running without injury. NOTE: These lower routes should be good to go now or very soon. But we all know we can count on at least one more low-elevation spring storm over the next couple months. Please check weather and trail conditions before heading out to avoid slopping through mud or snow and doing damage to these precious trail systems.

Pollock Bench Trail, McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area PHOTOS BY GNAR RUNNERS/TERRY GRENWELGE (TOP), ELK RAVEN PHOTOGRPAHY (BOTTOM)

START: Pollock Bench Trailhead (4,490 feet) THE DIRT: With each step on this pleasant and varied 7-mile lollipop loop hike through the Black Ridge Canyons Wilderness, you head deeper into the subtle brilliance of the desert. Run along the rim of a canyon dappled with fragrant pinyon pines and junipers and past wind-sculpted sandstone formations, deep ravines, and heaps of sandstone boulders while enjoying views of the Colorado River meandering below. Hearty wildflowers add bursts of yellow, red, purple, white, and magenta to the copper-colored soil and red rock slabs, while long-distance views draw your eyes across canyon country. OPTIONS: Look for connections to the Rattlesnake Arches, Pollock Canyon, and Flume Canyon trails along the route. BETA: coloradocanyonsassociation.org/ maps-mcinnis-canyons

BREATHE IN SPRNG: WELL GULCH (TOP), POLLOCK BENCH TRAIL (BOTTOM).

Monument Canyon, Colorado National Monument START: Upper Monument Canyon Trailhead (6,140 feet)

THE DIRT: After a steep 600-foot drop from the plateau to the canyon floor, this 6.3-mile point-to-point descent through Monument Canyon levels out as it snakes around the base of sandstone cliffs and winds through this lonely chasm at the heart of the Colorado National Monument. Plentiful blooms offer bits of color that stand out amid the high desert earth tones at your feet, and some of the more famous and imposing rock features of the park—including the Kissing Couple and Independence Monument— tower overhead, decorating the sky with pillars of pink, white, tan, and brown. OPTIONS: For one-way, you can set up a shuttle with two cars. Without a shuttle, you can still experience the canyon by running the entire trail out and back. Or, run from the upper trailhead to Independence Monument and back. This 6-mile roundtrip option adds the tough love of climbing 1,100 feet to get out of the canyon. BETA: nps.gov/colm

you traverse varied life zones, soak in the soothing sounds of water rushing past; discover blooms in the lush riparian corridor; marvel at steep rock walls; look for wild turkeys and Abert’s squirrels; and enjoy sweeping views of the reservoir below. OPTIONS: With 26 miles of trails, Lory State Park offers numerous options for exploration. One possibility: Create a longer, more challenging loop by leaving the Well Gulch Trail and connecting with the Overlook Trail, the Timber Trail or the West Valley Trail. BETA: cpw.state.co.us/placestogo/ parks/lory

Fountain Valley, Roxborough State Park START: Fountain Valley Trailhead (6,160 feet) THE DIRT: Discover the best of Roxborough State Park, an oftenoverlooked gem south of Denver, by exploring this unique 2.5-mile lollipop trail. Here you will find ecological diversity, scenic beauty, unmatched views, and a wealth of interesting

geological features. Pass through a range of different ecological communities—from those dominated by scrub oak to wet meadows—and run in wonder under the shadow of giant red sandstone fins. Those beauties, formed from the Fountain Formation (also seen in Garden of the Gods and Red Rocks Park), lord over the verdant valley below. Farther north, the yellow-orange Lyons Formation forms a chunkier banded ridge. You’ll be awed by the park’s unique geology throughout this adventure, especially if you stop for a breather at the two overlooks along the way. Other highlights include a visit to a historic cabin and a meadow where striped chorus frogs sing. OPTIONS: With eight trails, totaling approximately 14 miles, the park also offers longer adventures and—since the trail systemconnects to Douglas County Open Space Trails, Pike National Forest Trails, Waterton Canyon and the Colorado Trail—there are opportunities for epic hookups too. BETA: cpw.state.co.us/placestogo/parks/ roxborough

Well Gulch Loop, Lory State Park START: Well Gulch Nature Trail Trailhead, across the road from the South Eltuck Picnic Area (5,480 feet)

THE DIRT: Escape from the fast-paced modern world with this easy loop run overlooking Horsetooth Reservoir in Lory State Park, near Fort Collins. Designated for foot traffic only, the Well Gulch Nature Trail climbs gently through tranquil forest adorned with a host of early season wildflowers. As S P R I N G 2 0 2 2 / E L E VAT I O N O U T D O O R S . C O M

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STRAIGHT TALK | SPRING.22

THE POWER OF LOVE VETERAN, ANGLER, ACTIVIST, AND FILMMAKER CHAD BROWN FOUNDED LOVE IS KING TO CREATE SUPPORT FOR PEOPLE OF COLOR IN THE OUTDOORS. THE GROUP’S L ATEST INITIATIVE, STALWARTS OF SAFET Y (SOS), IS WORKING TO CREATE LEGALLY PROTECTED SPACES WHERE BIPOC AND LQBTQ PEOPLE CAN FEEL SAFE TO SIMPLY BE OUTDOORS. THEY NEED THE SUPPORT OF ALL OF US. by DOUG SCHNITZSPAHN

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PHOTO COURTESY LOVE IS KING

Navy vet who served in the Gulf War and Somalia, Chad Brown wanted to share the restorative power of getting out on the water, where he had found solace and healing, so he founded Soul River (soulriverinc.org), a nonprofit that brings together at-risk youth and veterans who serve as mentors. In 2020, in the midst of an American reckoning on race, the activist, explorer, and filmmaker created Love Is King (loveisking.org), an initiative that empowers “Guardians,” people of “all ages, shades, and creeds” who love the outdoors and want to take action to make the outdoors truly accessible to all. Now, Love Is King is launching a powerful new initiative called Stalwarts of Safety (SOS), which will push for the passage of Oregon SB 289, which would help protect people of color in outdoor spaces by keeping those convicted of certain racially biased crimes off state lands. SOS is pushing for national legislation on these lines, and working for an end goal of simply making historically marginalized people feel safe in the outdoors and creating a compassionate dialogue about safe spaces.

Why is Stalwarts of Safety necessary?

For historically marginalized communities such as LGBTQ+, Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color, outdoor areas often feel unsafe. These people often feel excluded, unwelcome, and unprotected from harassment—or even violence. Love Is King recognizes racism, bias,

discrimination, and intergenerational trauma as barriers to participation. We know safe, unhindered access to the outdoors and participating in outdoor activities are integral for mental, spiritual and physical health.

What will the program do to create change?

Our “Behavior Change” strategy is, at its core, education to deliver a deeper understanding of ecology and their relationship with nature, its preservation, and its benefits. Our safety training will provide the skills and instill a new feeling of fearlessness! We’ll engage BIPOC individuals in conversations to understand their current barriers and fears. We’ll inspire those in our BIPOC community to go beyond their comfort zones and reimagine a safe and healing relationship with nature. We’ll continue to provide safe, inclusive, and convenient outdoor opportunities, events and experiences to help ignite participation.

What’s the purpose of the SOS badge?

The SOS badge represents courage, and it will become a powerful symbol of urgency and inclusion. It’s a personal declaration that expresses support. It’s a symbol that creates a community. The

person wearing this symbol is easily identified as a Champion of Safety. This badge is also a powerful marketing device that triggers dialogue “on both sides” and begins to elevate the urgency of safe and equitable access for the BIPOC community. It will spark a lot of conversation! Our movement is built on these conversations of safety, empathy, and justice. We’ll partner with local urban parks, small businesses, outdoor brands, state parks, national parks, governments, and nonprofits to develop and define the SOS standards, practices, and training.

SAFE SIGN: THE SOS BADGE LETS PEOPLE KNOW YOU COME IN THE NAME OF LOVE.

is to have a nationwide adoption of SB 289. We also support efforts in prevention of racism, intimidation, and discrimination outdoors by embracing education, enlightenment, and love.

What is the best approach to make this vision a reality?

We truly believe that love is king and queen. Our ambassadors will lead with love, patience and empathy. They will be committed to Why does this creating a reimagined effort need legal outdoor environment support? and experience for W E U N D E R S TA N D SB 289 is a bill that BIPOC participation. T H AT C H A N G I N G is committed to Our Ambassadors BEHAVIOR WILL ensuring safe and will be present and TA K E T I M E , B U T W E equitable access to become a visual B E L I E V E T H AT B E I N G the outdoors for all. and living symbol P R E S E N T, M I N D F U L , We see the freedom that elevate safety, AND ENGAGED to roam in nature community, and WILL IGNITE A as a Human Right. confidence. We CHANGE IN BIASES, SB 289 celebrates understand that PERCEPTION, AND diversity and the changing behavior BEHAVIOR. power of inclusion. will take time, but we Our responsibility believe that being is to ensure that SB 289 becomes present, mindful, and engaged will actionable and that the BIPOC ignite a change in biases, perception, community is educated on the impact and behavior. We believe in the power and intricacies of the law. Our mission of love!

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SIMPLE PLEASURES THE BEST BIKE DEMO EVENT IN THE UNIVERSE IS THE PERFECT WAY TO WORK OFF THE PANDEMIC BLUES. GET YOUR TICKETS NOW.

by RYAN MICHELLE SCAVO

PHOTO BY RYAN MICHELLE SCAVO

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ur lives are complex. We work day jobs, nurture side hustles, raise children, run our dogs—it’s a precarious balancing act at best. But with all the chaos and complexities surrounding us day in and day out, I’m learning just how important it is to indulge in life’s simple pleasures. For me, that often comes in the form of two wheels. You’d be hard-pressed to find another outdoor activity that will make me “woop woop” like a sugar-filled kid than riding a bike. But add a festival environment, a fun-filled crew of attendees, staff and exhibitors and the opportunity to demo a half-dozen or more brands to find the perfect ride and you better believe the smile won’t leave my face. Last fall, we were exhausted—like everyone else—from balancing pandemic shutdowns, long work weeks, and all the things that come with raising two young kids in today’s world. We needed a refresh. We needed to simplify. And we needed to check out some new bike options. That’s exactly why we loaded our family up in the rig last fall and drove from southern Colorado to Utah to experience the best bike demo event in the universe. Outerbike is a one-of-a-kind collaboration between bike and outdoor brands created to give riders a “see, try, and buy” experience in pedalfocused towns across the country. The name is a play on the Interbike trade show, which has been on hold

since 2019—except anyone (not just people in the bike industry) is welcome to attend Outerbike. And what better place to experience such a renowned event than the crown jewel of fat-tire bliss: Moab. So, we parked our camper at a site on the edge of Moab and spent three unforgettable days demoing bikes from Esker, Specialized, and Fezzari. Strategically based at the Bar M Trail System, the base area offered up access to exhibitors, food, and, most importantly, classic desert riding. We were also able to cruise mellow singletrack with our 5-yearold and chase some two-track with our 3-year-old every day of the event. Blue skies, sunshine, and red slickrock set the stage for the simplest way to enjoy the weekend. And that was just the main site. The daily shuttles to iconic Moab destinations—Navajo Rocks, Mag 7, and others—were the icing on the cake. Riding slick rock and singletrack on trails like Great Escape, Arth’s Corner, and Gemini Bridges on the latest and greatest bikes for a few days in the warm Moab fall weather took the edge off of a challenging year.

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he multiday event is the brainchild of Ashley Korenblat and Mark Sevenoff, owners of Moab’s Western Spirit Cycling Adventures. In 2022, they’re celebrating their 12th year with Outerbike Moab, Sep. 30–Oct. 2, and Outerbike

Bentonville, Oct 21–23. Tickets go on sale March 31, and, similar to last year, the number of full demo tickets will be calibrated to the availability of demo bikes. Why just two events? Thank (or blame, perhaps) the complexities of the supply chain in a pandemic age. While last year’s attendance was at a fraction of historical numbers due to right-sizing the ticket sales to match the demo fleet availability, this year’s prognosis is looking up. In 2023, Outerbike has events planned in Killington, Vermont, Jul 21–23; Crested Butte, Colorado, Aug. 18–20; and Duluth, Minnesota, Aug. 25–27. Tickets go on sale for those events next spring. Sevenoff says he and Korenblat consider themselves “stubborn parents” who want to see Outerbike succeed—even if that means pairing the extravaganza down to two of their biggest and oldest events (Betonville and Moab) to help get more people on bikes. “The supply chain issues and availability of bikes will be better later this year,” he says. “We’re seeing little glimmers of it, and we want to help these companies sell more bikes. There are a lot of new brands out there.” If you’re looking to indulge in some simple pleasures—and test ride the newest releases from Specialized, Canyon, Giant, Kona, Rocky Mountain, Propain, Ibis, and Diamondback (I know, I’m drooling too)—buy those tickets now, and we’ll see you in Moab this fall. S P R I N G 2 0 2 2 / E L E VAT I O N O U T D O O R S . C O M

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THE 2022 PEAK GEAR AWARDS EVERY YEAR, WE POLL OUR STABLE OF CORE CONTRIBUTORS TO NOMINATE THE GEAR THEY ACTUALLY GO OUT AND USE MOST. WE SIMPLY ASK THEM: WHAT WAS THE BEST GEAR YOU USED OVER THE PAST YEAR? WHAT GEAR CAN’T YOU LIVE WITHOUT? WHAT GEAR CHANGED YOUR LIFE? MEET THE GEAR WE LOVED, BEAT UP, AND RELIED ON OUT IN THE WILD. THAT MATTERED MORE THAN EVER DURING THE PANDEMIC WHEN WE FACED SO MANY CHALLENGES AND FOUND SO MUCH SOL ACE IN THE OUTDOORS. HERE’S THE GEAR THAT HELPED US THROUGH. THESE ARE THE WINNERS OF ELEVATION OUTDOORS’ 2022 PEAK GEAR AWARDS. CONTRIBUTORS: AARON BIBLE, EUGENE BUCHANAN, ADAM CHASE, CHRIS KASSAR, CAMERON MARTINDELL, RADHA MARCUM, ARIELLA NARDIZZI, RYAN MICHELLE SCAVO, DOUG SCHNITZSPAHN, CHRIS VAN LEUVEN

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Hala Fame Inflatable SUP Kit WHY IT WON: In a word:

stability. This big, trusty SUP proved a great platform for fly-fishing and hauling gear around the lake. But unlike many other big boards, it still has some guts to it. WHERE WE TOOK IT: The

Colorado River, Gross Reservoir and Boulder Reservoir in Colorado; Fremont Lake in Wyoming; Wright’s Lake in California $1,399; halagear.com

Salewa Ws Mtn Trainer Light WHY IT WON: This hiker

simply scores 5 out of 5 in everything you want a mountain shoe to do—it’s light and spry; it provides plenty of stability on tricky terrain; it grips rock on scrambles; it even looks good when you just wear it around town.

WHERE WE TOOK IT: Everyday

hikes in Boulder Mountain Parks and bigger excursions in the Indian Peaks $140; salewa.com

Sage Foundation Outfit 590-4 WHY IT WON: Simple. This

kit—a versatile 9-foot #5 Foundation rod, Spectrum C 5/6 reel, Rio Gold line—gives you high quality at a decent price. It’s the perfect means to take your fly-angling to the next level. WHERE WE TOOK IT: The Big

Thompson, Boulder Creek, Boxwood Gulch $650; farbank.com

Völkl M6 Mantra WHY IT WON: There’s no better

ski for day-to-day hill banging in Colorado. The versatile Mantra has been a go-to for adherents for years, and the latest version only upped the game with three separate


sidecuts for more versatility and the ability to take on any terrain at every mountain. WHERE WE TOOK IT: Eldora,

Steamboat, Arapahoe Basin, Taos, Jackson Hole $560; voelkl.com

Norrøna Lyngen Alpha90 WHY IT WON: Most of the time

when we were wearing this Polartec PowerDry fleece, we didn’t know we had it on. It breathed when we were huffing up the skin track, packed down easy for backpacking, and offered quick warmth on day hikes. WHERE WE TOOK IT:

Backcountry skiing on Teton Pass, backpacking in the Gore Range, road-tripping from Colorado to San Francisco $149; norrona.com

Korkers River Ops WHY IT WON: Beefy and comfy,

these adventure wading shoes inspired confidence both in the water and on the approach. Credit that performance to the grippy OmniTrax sole that grips both wet rocks and the trail.

WHERE WE TOOK THEM: The Big

Thompson, Boulder Creek, Boxwood Gulch $260; korkers.com

Cannondale Scalpel Carbon SE 2

spending limit—enough to get a quality ride but not enough to put you deep in debt—you won’t find a better mountain bike. This carbon beast will keep you out ahead of the pack on long rides and can suck up the hits on rocky descents—and it serves as a trusty steed when you are ready to race. WHERE WE TOOK IT: Singletrack

across the Front Range and in Santa Fe, New Mexico $4,000; cannondale.com

Arc’teryx Agrium Hoody WHY IT WON: Extremely warm

for its light weight and easy to pack, this eco-friendly insulator blocked the wind and chill on early starts and proved versatile on a wide range of outdoor adventures. WHERE WE TOOK IT: Fall

excursions on Colorado summits—Elbert, Hope, Massive—and springtime backcountry ski descents $400; arcteryx.com

Speedland SL:PDX WHY IT WON: This innovative

trail runner offers up the best fit in the business. A dual BOA closure system with micro adjustment in both directions give it the ability to batten down like a bike shoe. WHERE WE TOOK IT: Rugged

runs across the Front Range $375; runspeedland.com

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Black Diamond Distance Wind Shell WHY IT WON: It’s so small we

forget we are even carrying it. Great for emergencies or unexpected squalls. It’s the perfect shell to stuff in your fanny pack or bike bag for a mountain bike or road ride.

WHERE WE TOOK IT: Mountain

biking the Monarch Crest Trail, skiing and climbing Mount Aetna, Clover Mountain, and the Box Creek Couloirs $140; blackdiamondequipment.com

PACT Kit WHY IT WON: Because

everybody poops, and that means everyone has to properly dispose of waste in the backcountry. This allin-one potty kit—including

wipes and tabs that break down poop—makes that task easy and effective—a win for everyone in the woods.

Whitaker guides), summer and winter adventures on the Front Range and Loveland Pass $69; bightgear.com

WHERE WE TOOK IT: Everywhere

Nemo Equipment Hornet Ultralight 2-Person Backpacking Tent

we had to go—from Utah’s San Rafael Swell to Front Range day hikes $50; pactoutdoors.com

Bight Gear Solstice Graphene Hoodie WHY IT WON: This sun hoodie

kept us cool and protected us from the midday sun when trudging up glaciers, yet proved warm and insulating during chilly alpine starts. We especially loved the cowl neckline—it keeps your neck and chin protected, giving you extra coverage where you need it most. WHERE WE TOOK IT: Mount

Rainier, Washington (where Bight Gear founder Peter

WHY IT WON: Most ultralight

tents sacrifice comfort and space for weight, but the Hornet (weighing in at just under 2 pounds) puts comfortability and ease at the top of the list. We survived windy nights, blizzards, and other crazy weather in it and have never had water or snow seep in and bother us. WHERE WE TOOK IT: Gnarly

winter storms in the Indian Peaks Wilderness and backpacking in Yosemite National Park $400; nemoequipment.com

Kids Ride Shotgun Child Bike Seat + Handlebars Combo WHY IT WON: This mini-me seat

attachment lets parents get out and ride on an actual mountain bike on legit trails and roads with kids. Having the kids riding up front between your arms is ideal for bike handling and inspires confidence in both you and them. WHERE WE TOOK IT: Front

Range trails and roads around Nederland and Evergreen $185; kidsrideshotgun.com

Hustle Bike Labs Avery REMtech Pedal WHY IT WON: The ultimate

lovechild of clipless and flat pedals, these babies are insanely responsive thanks

to Neodymium magnets and inspire confidence since its so easy to break away if needed. (We don't like wrecking with clipless pedals for fear of being stuck connected to our bike and eating it harder than necessary). WHERE WE TOOK THEM: We first

experienced the pedal at the 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo bike race and have been addicted ever since. $219; hustlebikelabs.com

Kuiu Basecamp Cordura Ripstop Jacket WHY IT WON: Burley, tough,

handsome, and warm, this solid piece proved a constant, welcome companion for those cold early mornings out in the field—and looked sharp back home at the coffee shop. WHERE WE TOOK IT: Road trips

across the West, our back deck $149; kuiu.com

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Ibex Men’s Wool Aire Hoodie WHY IT WON: We are so glad

to have one of our favorite merino brands back, based in Colorado, and making pieces like this winner that’s lightweight, warm, comfortable, and imparts a cozy skin feel. Plus the brand is moving to be climate neutral and maintains ethical supply chains.

the other map-app expected features like offline maps and waypoint sharing (via the Somewear sat messenger when off grid). WHERE WE TOOK IT: Absolutely

everywhere $30/year; onxmaps.com

Primus Kuchoma Portable Gas Camp Grill WHY IT WON: We didn’t know

onX Backcountry

we needed this grill until we cooked with it. It’s portable, efficient, and reliable. The horizontal burner tube delivered time and time again whether we were cooking breakfast, lunch, or dinner in the backyard, in camp, or in the ski area parking lot.

WHY IT WON: This navigation

WHERE WE TOOK IT: Car

WHERE WE TOOK IT:

Backcountry skiing missions throughout Colorado and casual jaunts around town $285; ibex.com

app is easy to use and full of useful data, including weather, avalanche conditions, and all

camping, road trips, and backyard barbecues $210; primus.us

Rab Microlight Alpine Down Jacket WHY IT WON: Made with

packable and soft-to-the-touch Quantum Ripstop nylon, zoned baffles, and an adjustable hood, this light insulator was equally at home during long days in the mountains as it was during chilly nights downtown. Plus, Rab updated this longtime standby for us with recycled fabrics. WHERE WE TOOK IT: On every

adventure from the big walls of Yosemite to the streets of Denver $280; rab.equipment

Alpacka Scout Packraft WHY IT WON: Weighing in

at just 3.3 pounds, this updated version of an

already impressive ultralight

packraft proved perfect for fastpacking, ultralight backpacking, crossing rivers, canyoneering, and mountain lake fishing. WHERE WE TOOK IT: The Black

Canyon of the Gunnison $695; alpackaraft.com

Five Ten Freerider Primeblue Mountain Bike Shoes WHY IT WON: Thanks to sticky

soles and recycled Parley ocean plastic uppers, this flat pedal mountain bike shoe works jsut as well on steep, technical approaches as it does on all-day mountain bike rides. Bonus: By incorporating 75% Parley ocean plastic textile into these shoes, Adidas/Five

Ten is repurposing plastic waste. Bravo. WHERE WE TOOK IT: Hundreds

of miles of trail on bike and dozens of approaches in Yosemite National Park—and they still look (and perform) like new. $100; adidas.com

Level Six King Sprayskirt WHY IT WON: Stitched, not

glued, for the best stretch in all conditions, and built with new thinner rand profile for a better fit on all styles of cockpit rims, this is a sprayskirt we can count on. Plus, burly neoprene panels give it longevity and lots of abrasion resistance. WHERE WE TOOK IT: The Black

Canyon of the Gunnison, the Yampa, Ecuador $160; levelsix.com

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THE ROAD | SPRING.22

NEW TRICKS THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN ONE RUST Y— BUT DETERMINED—SNOWBOARDER TRIES TO GET RAD WITH HER SON AND HUSBAND AT A WOODWARD COPPER PRIVATE LESSON. by LISA JHUNG

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husband. I’m the caboose with candy in her pocket who makes sure everyone gets down the hill OK. I sit down a lot. Needless-to-say, I don’t rip. In my late-40s, I’m old—for a snowboarder. And I value my working body parts. But last winter, my husband, older son and I were in for it one day at Copper Mountain: We were doing a Woodward Private snowboarding lesson. Woodward Copper is where shredders go to up their shred-game and wanna-be hucksters learn to huck. Aside from the 19,400-squarefoot “barn”—a state-of-the art indoor training facility with trampolines, foam pits, ramps, and rails that’s open year-round—Woodward Mountain Park consists of 10 featured terrain zones interspersed among regular runs on the hill. The combination makes for a winter action sports junkie’s dream. Woodward Private lessons gives groups of up to four people for half-day (starting at $619) or up to six people a full-day (starting at $849) lesson with a certified Woodward instructor all to themselves. Lessons suit abilities from intermediate and up, and cater

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to groups of skiers or riders. Copper advises against combining disciplines within your group, so Mark, 13-year-old Sam and I drop off 10-year-old Ben, our lone skier, for a day of regular ski school. “It’s better for all of us,” I think.

The Big Day

The three of us throw our boards under our arms and walk through Copper’s West Village en route to our half-day lesson. I taught Sam how to ride when he was 6. Over the years, he’s learned to make really nice, controlled turns, but, recently, he’s wanted to head into the terrain park—which is out of my realm. Mark rides faster than me— aggressive, even. I’m nervous but reluctantly optimistic. Can I learn new tricks? Can I ride a box or a rail, get some air, maybe even pull off a grab? Can I do anything rad without hurting myself, which would keep me from all the sports I love, and, therefore, my sanity? It’s a powder day, with 3 to 4 inches of fresh on the ground and more falling. “At least the landings will be soft,” I assure myself. We meet our instructor, Theo.

FLIGHT SCHOOL: WOODWARD DEMYSTIFIES THE EXPERIENCE OF CATCHING AIR.

He’s a 20-something, jovial kid with a smiling eyes and long brown hair catching snowflakes out the bottom of his helmet. His Buff covers his mouth and nose, and he has a Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure-quality to him as he greets us and says he’s “stoked” to ride with us and teach us some cool stuff. The four of us board the Woodward Express Quad and connect it to the Timberline Express Chair, heading up the mountain to take a few powder runs. I’m guessing it’s so Theo can assess our riding levels, but also because: powder. After the four of us spread some butter, we hop back on the Woodward Express Quad and Theo talks to us about riding half-pipes. “We’ll start with small turns on the wall and then progress to getting higher and higher each time,” he says. “We’ll see,” I think. We unload and ride into the top of Pipe Dream—a park with small to medium jumps and rails, plus a

PHOTO COURTESY WOODWARD COPPER

B

ack in the day, I happily followed ripper friends around Lake Tahoe resorts and attempted little tricks like 180s and hucking off tabletops. I even taught snowboarding at Homewood Mountain Resort parttime during one of the three winters I lived on the North Shore of the lake (cue the joke about the difference between a beginning snowboarder and a snowboard instructor being four days). Though I’ve never been a pro on my board, I got pretty good at riding powder. I also mastered weird skills like riding fakey to teach regular-footed students as a goofy-footer and being able to make turns with my back foot out of the binding and on a stomp pad (also a good instructor skill). But that was before 8,000 injuries, birthing two kids, and getting sidetracked with endurance sports pursuits—and, yes, all of those things are related. These days, my only trick is not eating it on my board. I’ve become soft, cautious, overly controlled. I ride slowly. I make turns while watching my sons (a 10-year-old skier and 13-yearold boarder) follow my 54-year-old


PHOTOS COURTESY WOODWARD COPPER (TOP), COURTESY LISA JHUNG (BOTTOM)

mini-pipe with 13-foot walls (better for not scaring the shit out of us than Copper’s 22-foot-high Superpipe). Before we drop in, Theo tells us to keep our boards flat on the icy walls or we’ll eat it. (He probably used a verb from this decade.) We watch Theo cruise through before waiting for us at the bottom. Sam goes first and makes some nice turns up and down the pipe walls. Mark musters one or two, and I cruise up and down the walls, not yet willing to commit to turning on the nearly vertical wall of ice. “Next time,” I think. We proceed to a series of small jumps. “Lift the nose of your board and pop off your back leg,” says Theo. I heed his advice and get some air. Not a lot, but some. I feel a little bit like my a younger version of myself.

vantage point above it, the feature resembles a table-top jump but has a lip at the far end. “You want to keep up your speed and stay kind of low,” says Theo, before going first and disappearing out of sight. Sam goes next and also disappears. Mark drops in, and in my mind, lands next to the others in a soft powder field. Turns out, Mark rolled down the windows midair, yelling something like “ahyiowww-ahhh!” and ate it. Had I heard him, I would have known the back side of the “plateau” is anything but… I exhale and drop in, riding up the first bit of the feature with speed. I glide across the top of it, and immediately get way more air that I’d anticipated and am staring down a drop. I do my own version of a wing-flapping chicken, yell “#!*%” and land hard on my rear end, my spine Progression sending rattles from my tailbone to Throughout the morning, we hit my neck. It hurts. A lot. The impact the mini-pipe again, and, this time, also causes me to pee a little. I inch a tad higher up the wall than Theo gives me the big thumbs up before, and even make turns. I’m and says, “SWEET! That’s what it’s all getting more confident, and have about! Trying new things, sometimes a cheerleader in Theo. We then hit sticking it, sometimes not.” Um, another one of Woodward’s parks, not. At the bottom of the run, we’re the Family Cross Zone, which is in front of the West Village Café. set up like a boarder cross course “Anyone need to get a drink or use with burmed turns. This is fun. I the bathroom?” asks Theo. “Uh, not enjoy getting low and carving deep, anymore,” I think. imagining myself to be riding a real Back on the Woodward Express, I boardercross racecourse. “Good job, unrattle my brain enough to rally for mom,” says Sam. a couple more runs. “Nice!” says Theo, At the top of the sowho adds that the called Peace Park, key is “staying small” we’re instructed how I N R E T R O S P E C T, and “absorbing the to ride boxes and I SHOULD HAVE bumps.” rails. “Keep up your YELLED BACK, ‘HOW The snow speed; lay the board DO YOU LIKE ME continues to fall, and flat,” says Theo, who NOW, G R A N DSO N? ’ in between pushing encourages me to B U T, A L A S , I W A S A my comfort zone on go first. Sam smiles G R O W N - U P. increasingly large and says, “Grandma’s jumps, I sneak in going.” Thanks, kid. carving quick, smooth S-turns on the I muster some mojo and nail the sides of the runs. Grinning. This feels box, cruising across it in control playful, like all the terrain I need. But, and popping off the end to land back to the park. it smoothly before carving into a Theo has us approach what he toe-side turn. In retrospect, I should calls a “plateau feature.” From our have yelled back, “How do you like

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me now, Grandson?” But, alas, I was a grown-up. Heck, I drive carpool and do separate loads of laundry for gentle items and regular. This confidence carries over into our evening session in the barn. On our own, without Theo, I strap a skateboard platform to my socks and get some air on a tramp. I ignore the shredders and other families there who likely fear they’ll soon need to call me an ambulance, and do a grab midair. I don’t know that I’ll ever repeat this much air (on purpose) or do a real grab on snow, but, hey, older dogs have learned harder tricks (I think?). OK, so maybe this old lady can get steezy. Maybe I can hang on to an adventurous spirit. Most importantly,

TRAINING GROUND: INSIDE, WOODWARD COPPER IS OPEN YEARLONG (TOP). THE AUTHOR; HER HUSBAND, MARK; SON, SAM; AND THEIR WOODWARD INSTRUCTOR GET READY TO SHRED (BOTTOM).

maybe what I learned today will buy me time to hang with my kids and almost-cool husband and still try to be rad once in a while. As Theo would say, “That’s what it’s all about, ma’am!”—without that last part. The author of two running books, Trailhead and Running That Doesn’t Suck, Lisa Jhung is a freelance writer and editor who’s work has been seen in Backpacker, Men’s Journal, Mountain, Outside, Runner’s World, and more.

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ELWAYVILLE | SPRING.22

THE NATURE WE KNOW OVER THE PAST T WO YEARS, WE HAVE LEARNED TO FIND MAGIC IN THE WORLD RIGHT OUTSIDE OUR WINDOWS. by PETER KRAY

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full-mooned nights in March, we heard pandemic started, “Peter’s not having a sound like a hand slapping hard much trouble with this is he?” in a nod against the roof that we believe was a to my reputation as an introvert. hunting owl. And together with our dogs, we “You’ve brought music to the did disappear into our own sheltered neighborhood,” my wife said, isolation, running in place from the after a small flock fluttered behind unseen virus and masking up every her through the chamisa bushes, time we walked out the front door, even serenading her as she for the mail. But we went to get the mail. still got sick anyway. It got me In December, despite wondering how much both being vaccinated, HOW OFTEN DO WE music any of us bring we were listless STOP AND LISTEN to the world, how and lightheaded for TO THE WORLD, TO much happiness we more than a week, N A T U R E — E S P E C I A L LY share, how often we with a brain fog and AF TER THE PA ST write a poem or a crushing boredom TWO YEARS. letter, plant a tree, or that surprised me and tend a garden that, worried me the most, in due time, will make someone else— unable to taste the difference between someone we may never even meet— peanut butter and a taco. stop and smile. When the New Year started, it How often do we stop and listen to seemed like every aspect of life the world, to nature—especially after had gone virtual. All the idiotic the past two years. talk about NFTs and crypto, a new stupid Jurassic Park movie glorifying have to confess, it got dark there for dinosaurs that went extinct millions of a while. My mother-in-law, one of years ago when we can’t even save the smartest, finest, funniest people the beautiful creatures we share the I have ever met, who remains forever planet with right now. Wandering from my wife’s best friend, joked when the room to room to stare at the different

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screens of my laptop, TV, and phone. It was the birdfeeder that saved me. Nature. Being outdoors. Walking the dogs in the cold in the morning, then driving up to the ski hill. The ravens flying over the chairlift, surfing thermals, and all the different ways the snow likes to fall. The way the sunlight tracks the day in different colors and shadows. And the sound of nothing but the wind in the air. It’s the living that makes life magic. The stories we make and then tell. The friends and family we remember—and the possibility that somewhere, someday, somehow, I might be friends with each and every one of you. Here’s to our beautiful world and everything we do to cherish and support all the life and lives it holds. Here’s to living right now, and to peace and happiness for all. Here’s to believing we can all do better. Thank you. —Elevation Outdoors editor-at-large Peter Kray 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? Buy and read it here: amzn.to/2lmzpvn

ILLUSTRATION BY KEVIN HOWDESHELL

M

y grandfather was a birder. His house in Syracuse, New York, at 311 Farmer St. was built above a deep swale. The driveway wound down to the garage where he parked his old station wagon, and he could see the roof outside his den window. He placed nearly a dozen feeders there and would talk to the birds as they fluttered in through the day. “Hello, Mr. Flicker. Well there’s the cardinal. How are you, Miss Chickadee?” he would say to the rotating cast of woodpeckers, sparrows, juncos and jays, slapping the glass with his newspaper whenever he spied a rogue squirrel in search of a free meal. My cousins and I all thought he was crazy, the way he chewed cigars but never lit them and dressed in a blazer and bow tie every day except Sunday (which was golf day). But we all have bird feeders now, and we share photos of our regional flocks from Mt. Stowe, Vermont; Wilton, New Hampshire; and Santa Fe, New Mexico. I don’t really know the names of each species that frequents the feeders in my apricot and cherry trees, from towhee to kestrel and warbler to plover. Not the way I still remember the phone numbers of best friends growing up in Park Hill, the license plate numbers of family cars, or how important it was to name each peak I could see from the Cranmer Park sundial. But it makes me happy to share the food, to see the feathers fluttering on the branches on a snowy spring day, each patiently waiting their turn. And there are more birds in the back and front yard now, rabbits rummaging the grass, and a young coyote who comes by in the morning, sniffing around the tree before he disappears into the open space below the hill. It’s as if we created a little ecosystem built around a cylinder of seed being filled. A miniature Eden among the sea of homes. For a few


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