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Browns Canyon Goes Monumental







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25 PEAK Gear

Here’s who to watch for when the Cyclo-cross National Championships hit Colorado.

We hand out the hardware.

21 His/Her Gift guide What does the dude or lady in your life want? Answers here.

31 THE GEAR GUIDE Skis, boards, bindings, bikes, electronics, jackets and more...

46 Elwayville The canines who change your life.

departments 7 EDITOR’S LETTER

17 The trail

Dogs and the spirit of service.

Download the free View Ranger GPS app and hike Mount Yale.

9 QUICK HITS Kayaks on ice, fat bikes and pizza in Crested Butte...

39 hear this


43 the road

Senator Udall and the paddling community want to make Browns Canyon a national monument. What’s the hold up?

Devon O’Neil finds deep powder and tofu when he hits Japan.

16 hot spot

ON THE COVER: better than a leg lamp. By liam doran/

X-country trails, sled dogs and kids at Snow Mountain Ranch.


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contributors What’s the best gift you have ever given?


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Remote car starter. Technically I gave it to my wife, but I get to benefit both from getting into a warm car in the morning myself and my wife thanks me every cold morning. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.





Photos credit: Sebastien SECCHI - IMAGIE SA /// Dom DAHER /// EIDER©



monicadavis Volunteering personal time to great causes; such as charity bike rides, park clean ups, ski lodge repairs for low income family housing. Money is always the most welcome I realize, but paired with hands on help, can be more memorable for the giver.


©2013 Summit Publishing, LLC. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written permission of the publisher.

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I flew out right before Christmas to visit my uncle in the hospital. He passed on January 1. I will never forget how bright his blue eyes got when I walked in that room. Make the effort to see the ones you love when you can.

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radhamarcum I gave my husband a plane ticket to Jackson that coincided with deep powder. And I didn’t whine about not being there.

aaronbible A diamond ring... of course that one keeps on giving back to me as well so not entirely selfless.

d e v o n o’n e i l New skis. No one on earth does not like getting new skis.




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Every year my wife and I save all our change and at Christmas spend every penny on dog food for the shelter. It feels great to at least do a little something to help the pups (and cats).

Doug Schnitzspahn

E D I TO R ’ S L E T T E R




puppy love: dogs teach us how to give. Logo Mark

Dogs and Service It was the right time for us to get a dog. Our kids are now 6 and 9, old enough to not compete with a pet and learn from the experience... and just maybe pitch in and help raise the pup. My daughter has attended summer camps at the Boulder Valley Humane Society and spent long hours pining away at all the dogs in need of homes there. It’s amazing that our Humane Society has a no kill policy—and even more amazing that so many members of our community show up to give these animals love. We were due. It happened when I was away. My wife told me that she and the kids were “just going over there to look at some animals.” I asked if we were getting a dog. “No, no, just looking.” Two days later, I got a phone call from my kids and all I could understand through their happy screaming was: “He loves us sooo much!” We got a dog. What a dog he is. The shelter thought he was most likely a Norwegian elkhound mix, a manageable 50-or-so-pound pup who would be quite loyal and love the snow. Perfect. He was sure one cute ball of fur. But as he grew, he looked less and less like a Norwegian elkhound. And he kept getting bigger. Then one day when we were walking him in the Flatirons, a girl walked up and asked if he was an Anatolian shepherd. “Norwegian elkhound mix,” we replied. But I looked up Anatolian shepherd when I got home... and, well, that sure looks like the type of dog we have. He will grow up to be 100140 pounds. Anatolian shepherds are used by cheetah conservationists in Namibia to protect farmers flocks. The cheetahs are afraid of these big dogs, which means the farmers won’t kill the cats. Supposedly, Anatolians can even take down wolves. At least he’s got a great disposition. Truly, he is sweet. As is the connection we are building. The longer we have him, the more we are becoming attuned to each other. And while I was worried that a puppy might limit our outdoor time, he is getting us out more than ever. And more than that, he has made me more mindful of just getting outside, something, I have to admit, I was shocked to realize about myself. We get so used to the way we experience the outdoors—biking, skiing, runs, power hikes—we sometimes forget the pure joy of just wandering out and sticking your nose to the fresh snow and trying to see what you can find. Since we got the dog, I have hiked more on paths I didn’t know existed. I have found new places to explore in my neighborhood, met other people out walking (who, of course, want to meet this cute pup), had some time just to enjoy each day. How did I forget about that? I read that on a mystic level dogs represent the spirit of service. Take that as you will, but his service to me so far has not just been being a good companion to our family but also getting me to better remember parts of myself. And I wonder how I can be of better service. With the holidays near, I think it’s important to know that the best gifts we can give the people we love is simply our attention. Thanks to my dog, I hope to be of better service this year.

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Lindsay Ziegler finds a quiet moment with a book at a cabin near Flathead Lake, MT. © ExOfficio 2013

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GET YOUR EXOFFICIO CLOTHING AT: don’t worry about the shrinkage: shoshone runs class iii+ on New Year’s—enough to get the blood flowing.

Kayaks on Ice

Make a cool splash to ring in the New Year

No one is sure when, exactly, the tradition started. Paddlers have been running the Shoshone section of the Colorado River on New Year’s Day for as long as anyone can remember. To kayakers, the why makes perfect sense—Shoshone is the most consistent whitewater in the state in the winter. “There are other places, including some sections of the Arkansas, but they’re not reliable,” says local kayaker Peter Holcombe. “Shoshone is the hardest section of whitewater that’s guaranteed not to be frozen over.” Holcombe, 41, has been paddling the 1.6-mile stretch between the Shoshone Power Plant and Grizzly Creek every New Year’s Day since 2006. “When I first heard about it, it was more like a rumor,” he says. “On the river in the summer, people would say things like ‘Can you imagine running this on New Year’s Day?’ Guys supposedly did it, but no one seemed to know who.” The Lafayette resident decided to try it, fueled by a plan he made earlier in the year to kayak at least once every month. None of his friends wanted in. “They either thought I was crazy or were going skiing,” Holcombe says. So he posted his plan on, where he found immediate interest, including others who were already planning to go. For Holcombe’s virgin Shoshone New Year’s Day run, 35 other paddlers showed up. They came from the Glenwood Canyon area, from Durango, Grand Junction, Steamboat. “We decided that going

forward, New Year’s Day should be the first day of the new kayak season,” says Holcombe. Holcomb stepped in as the unofficial organizer of what’s become known as Shoshone NYD. Last year, he put up a Facebook page— The page has become a forum for people looking for partners to run rivers in the winter, as well as a place to post photos and tips on surviving winter paddling. The winter version of kayaking is not for everyone. While the rapids on Shoshone have dialed back to class III/ III+ due to the lower winter flow, the cold can be deadly. “I won’t let my daughter come unless it’s at least 30 degrees,” Holcombe says of his 9-year-old Abby, who is an accomplished kayaker. Weather typically dictates the number of paddlers who show up. On New Year’s Day 2011, it was a brutal 7 degrees. Only the 18 hardiest paddlers came, complete with dry suits and neoprene hoods. “Everyone had stalactites hanging from their helmets, and our PDF’s were crusted in ice,” says Holcombe.” “That was the worst year, or the best year, depending on who you ask.” In 2012, it was 40 degrees and more than 70 paddlers showed, including five kids from the Glenwood Canyonbased Kellogg family. “It’s great, just don’t flip,” says Kady, 15, who competed in the kayaking world freestyle championships in North Carolina in September. Stand-up paddleboarders have also started getting in on the action. Gypsum resident Ken Hoeve even takes his board down the snow-covered ramp that kayakers use to sled-ride into the water. “It’s gotten to be my favorite day of paddling of the year,” says Holcombe.

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cameron martindell

Obesity Crisis: are fat bikes an epidemic?

Eat, Sleep, Play

Crested Butte: pizza and fat bikes


Since opening in Crested Butte in 2001, Secret Stash has been known as a funky pizzeria with a one-of-a-kind atmosphere and incredibly unique and tasty pies. The Stash has moved down the street to a much larger location at the Company Store building on Crested Butte’s historic Elk Avenue, going from a seating capacity of 60 or so to over 200. An expanded menu includes pasta, a salad bar, a larger selection of appetizers and pizza by the slice. Secret Stash is open for breakfast seven days a week this winter, and a gift shop featuring gelato is part of the Stash’s new look.


After being purchased from longtime owners Allen and Judy Cox in late 2012, new local owners of the Nordic Inn in Mt. Crested Butte wrapped up a total renovation in June. The look of the brand spanking new interior and exterior combines the charm and nostalgia of the longtime bed and breakfast hotel with contemporary finishes and amenities. The property offers up 28 guestrooms and suites, a mountain chalet, a cozy lobby with fireplace, event space for small groups and a prime location near the slopes. Main-floor rooms are petfriendly. Nordic Inn is the longest operating lodge in Gunnison County, opening in 1962 only one year after the opening of Crested Butte Mountain Resort ski area.

Keep Your Drills Off My Red Rocks

SUWA attempts to save San Rafael Swell In the last week of August, the Utah Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced its intention to follow through on a decision made under the Bush Administration to sell 50 oil and gas drilling leases covering more than 79,000 acres of proposed wilderness in the San Rafael Swell—the iconic uplift of jagged cliff faces, narrow slot canyons and hidden valleys that form one of the world’s most scenic geological wonders. But the wilderness character of the place won the war as a bevy of environmental groups, spearheaded by the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) prepared to do battle against the decision. In November, the BLM changed course, and withdrew 100,000 acres from the auction. The BLM took heat from local lawmakers and Utah’s Congressional delgation, but for now at least these canyons won’t be drilled. —C.M.

technology Yonder App For those who can do without photos of their friends’ every meal, babies and hilarious cats on their social media stream, consider a new platform that delivers inspirational outdoor activities. Built by outdoor enthusiasts, Yonder has been described as Instagram meets Yelp for the outdoors, and connects you with like minded adventurers as well as with conservation group activities like Get Outdoors Colorado. FREE;


Bundle up for the first ever Crested Butte FAT Bike Race on Friday, January 31 2014! Same day registration starts at the Brick Oven Pizzeria at 2:30 p.m. The solo race ($15 entry) will begin at 3:30 p.m. and will be 90 minutes plus one lap. The team/relay race ($30 entry) begins at 3:40 p.m. and is 80 minutes plus one lap. In the team/relay race, teams of two, three or four can share one bike. Demos are available and must be reserved in advance by emailing Stick around and party after the race with prizes and beer at the Brick Oven. —Cameron Martindell


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Gear We Love Keen’s Incline Mid boots are incredibly warm and versatile. Pop them on and use them unlaced for quick snow shoveling jobs in the morning then cinch them down for longer excursions in the wet or snow. $140;

them a little crazy but I just can’t be in the house when there’s snow outside. What inspired you to start Jskis? Jake at Burton was a big inspiration, I grew up also going to Stratton and stopping by Burton and seeing what they did. Also by the time I was in college there were hundreds of small snowboard companies out of their garage so it seemed feasible to do the same in skiing. The biggest inspiration back in 1995 was the fact that I wanted my skis to perform like a snowboard and no one was making anything like that. I would have just gone out and bought a pair if there was. Garage Brand: JASON LEVINTHAL BRINGS AUTHENTICITY and innovation to jskis.

Back to New School

The garage is still here it just got a lot bigger. Where’s your favorite place to ski? I live in Vermont, and I really like Bolton Valley. It’s not the biggest but that’s what makes it cool. It has night skiing and it’s only 30 minutes from my house. If I’m choosing anywhere, my favorite place away from home is Squaw Valley, Calif.

Remember when Line’s twin-tip skis first came out? Did you know they were basically a snowboard cut in half? The brain behind that move, Jason Levinthal, built his first twin tips in his garage as a college project while studying at the University at Buffalo. In 1995, he founded Line skis, starting by recruiting friends to help him build skis that ended up changing the industry. Fast forward to now, and Levinthal is starting a new ski company.

What’s your home life like? I’m married with an 8-year-old boy. My wife snowboards and the boy skis, and it’s the coolest thing to be able to all go riding together. Nothing is more rewarding than riding with your kid. They enjoy it a lot but they don’t live for it like me. I’m the guy pacing around the house Saturday and Sunday morning complaining that we’re not skiing or rushing everyone to get in the car to go. I drive

There’s a new ski in town from a seasoned pioneer designer. Here’s the skinny on Jason Levinthal’s new Jskis.














courtesy jskis


Who will be building Jskis with you? I’m working with an existing factory, Utopie in Rimousky Quebec. It’s the only ski factory close enough to drive to and they build a super high quality product. My friend Francois Sylvain previously engineered and ran the Line factory from 1999-2006 creating some award winning skis. I’m proud to be building skis in North America and will be sourcing as many materials as possible locally like the maple wood cores and much of the plastic and other laminates. When will we see them on the slopes? I’ll be shipping the first pair the end of November so go support what I’m doing and buy yourself or a friend a pair. I’m giving a 100-percent moneyback satisfaction guarantee, so it’s a no brainer. —C.M.

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is uniquely Colorado,” says Keith Baker the Executive Director of Friends of Browns Canyon, a local coalition working to secure lasting protection. Tens of thousands of people flock to Chaffee County each year to explore “this natural treasure,” says Baker. The Arkansas is one of the most popular rivers in the nation, second only to Tennessee’s Ocoee River, and the region generates more than $20 million yearly from whitewater recreation. Countless others come to the area to hike, climb and experience unmatched scenery and solitude. In 1980, the Bureau of Land Management recognized Browns as a Wilderness Study Area (WSA) and a National Roadless Area, thereby acknowledging the canyon’s wilderness qualities and implementing prohibitions on vehicle use. However, this does not afford long-lasting protection because such a designation can be overturned by Congress. For this reason, Udall is working on a proposal to create a 22,000-acre national monument that would permanently safeguard this special area. National monuments are created by the

Now, to simply preserve these few remaining acres from destruction, I feel like I am fighting for my country once again.


Monumental Conflict

Thanks to a strong grassroots effort and the support of senator Mark Udall, Browns Canyon on the Arkansas River is poised to become a national monument. The big question is whether all that support can bring this beloved place long-lasting protection.

By Chris Kassar

Deep in Browns Canyon, Zoom Flume, a class III+ rapid announces its presence and its power well in advance. Lee Hunnicutt’s blue skiff floats downstream and a few minutes later he skillfully roars through the rapid, getting rewarded with a slap of cold water to the face. He hoots with pure joy and quickly spins around to watch his friends negotiate the raging waters. Hollers and highfives abound. The clan of content rafters—who are all Salida locals—catch their collective breath for a moment, eventually disappearing below the horizon as they continue their journey through the magical canyon. “Browns Canyon is truly a wild place,” says Hunnicutt, a Vietnam veteran, experienced rafter


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and Salida citizen who has been at the forefront of an effort to turn this section of the Arkansas River into a National Monument. “This remarkable canyon has become my favorite refuge, a place of peace, beauty and connection to nature, not to mention a source of more than a few thrills and spills in the rapids.” Hunnicutt is not alone in his connection with this special nook of the Arkansas. Thousands of supporters, including, U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colorado, are on board the effort to give the place long-lasting protection. “Browns Canyon is a stunning gem that attracts tourists from across the country and the state with its unique mix of exciting whitewater and wilderness close to Colorado’s Front Range,” says Udall, who has rafted the Arkansas and hiked chunks of Browns rugged terrain. “From my time there, I know Browns Canyon is a remarkable landscape that deserves protection.” The question is how to get everyone on board to make the monument happen?

A Worthy Designation Beyond the whitewater, Browns Canyon is a Colorado novelty that supports an exceptional level of biodiversity. This unique habitat not only acts as a refuge for people, but also harbors countless critters including black bear, mountain lion, elk and bighorn sheep. “Browns Canyon

President or Congress by the power of the Antiquities Act of 1906, to preserve “historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest.” If passed, just under half of the land (10,500 acres) would be designated as wilderness, meaning no new trails could be built. Public access, however, would not be limited: riverside campsites, rafting regulations and current uses, including outfitting, grazing, hunting and angling would remain unchanged. Existing mountain bike trails and the historic Turret Trail Route—a source of contention in past preservation efforts—would remain open. “Browns Canyon is one of the largest economic drivers in Chaffee County and is unique in how accessible it is from the Front Range. The national monument and wilderness designations my legislation would create will ensure that the Arkansas River, the recreation it supports as well as the other uses outside the proposed public lands, including ranching and off-road recreation, can continue as they do now,” he says. Proponents expect rafting and tourism numbers to rise with monument designation. “This would be a boost to economic development and tourism. If a river flows through or adjacent to a national monument, that’s a key marketing attribute and it will draw more people here,” says Baker. Studies support this idea, including one from Headwaters Economics, that analyzed local communities adjacent to 17 new national monuments. All 17 local economies grew after new national monuments were created. “A national monument designation will ensure that this incredible public space will remain for

Why Not? Despite widespread backing from the community, respected elected officials and a broad coalition that includes hunters, anglers, rafters and horsemen, not everyone supports the idea of making Browns Canyon a National Monument. “Proponents say they want to preserve the area for ‘future generations’ while doing just the opposite—depriving future (and even current) generations of most uses of the area,” says Carl Bauer, a 15-year Buena Vista resident, B&B owner and founder of the High Rocky Riders OHV Club, who opposes the proposal because it does not reopen roads that were closed in the 1970s. Due to the canyon’s rugged nature, land managers have deemed these roads unsuitable for travel and do not have plans to reopen them regardless of monument designation. “This is Chaffee County’s only real chance at a national monument and I would hate to see the opportunity squandered by those wishing to have it set aside for their near-exclusive use,” explains Bauer, a polio survivor with limited mobility. “Families with young children, handicapped, and older Americans will have little interest in a national monument that they can only access by hiring a white-water guide and going down the river.” Monument proponents don’t see that as an issue, however. Those who oppose the proposal because it does not expand off-road access, fail to note the fact that all roads and trails that presently accommodate vehicles will remain open thereby “accommodating access for the mobility-impaired in exactly the same manner that they do now,” states Udall. Though this is the first time a monument has been proposed here, controversy over Browns Canyon is nothing new. This area has been a point of contention since the 1970s when the Forest Service first identified 102,000 acres as suitable for wilderness designation. No changes were made until the 1980s, however, when the BLM created the current WSA. Over the years, various attempts to protect the area have failed; in 2006, a wilderness proposal received support from the entire Congressional delegation, but was thwarted in the 11th hour by NRA claims that even


future generations and continue to be an economic engine for the area, creating good-paying jobs throughout Chaffee County,” explains Udall.



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though big game hunting was permitted, wilderness would be detrimental to hunters because of off-road vehicle (ORV) restrictions. Compromises made to accommodate motorized recreation, dispersed camping and river outfitters have already whittled down the proposal from 34,762 acres to 20,025 acres. Part of the original proposal was actually surrendered to the Four Mile Travel Management area, a 100,000- acre parcel of land just north of the proposal that contains 180 miles of off-road routes. Yet, ORV

This is Chaffee County’s only real chance at a national monument and I would hate to see the opportunity squandered by those wishing to have it set aside for their near-exclusive use. users continue to be some of the most outspoken opponents. Many of those who oppose the monument seem to be fighting a straw man, however. At meetings held by Udall and Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs) in Chaffee County this spring, some voiced their desire to see the federal footprint shrink or remain the same, but this is already public land so a monument designation will not alter the footprint. Others voiced concern that further protection will infringe on their grazing permits. Udall’s office has been clear that grazing rights along with a host of others will be memorialized with monument designation. Others worry that this will limit the potential for resource extraction; government agencies have concluded that Browns has very little to no commercial value for mining, logging, gas or oil.

Next Steps After the meetings, Lamborn, whose district includes Browns Canyon, remained uncertain about the proposal.


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At press time he was unavailable for comment, but last April, he wrote a letter to his constituents stating, “I would like to see greater consensus from the community before supporting such a dramatic change. Such a designation could lead to increased federal regulations on the land and further restrict its use.” Comments like these lead protection advocates to question how much further consensus is possible when so much has already been compromised. “The process has been frustrating because the area has been trimmed down repeatedly in order to gain support” says Baker. “And yet Lamborn still wants more consensus.” Udall continues working to incorporate community concerns and plans to introduce the bill before the end of the year. However, without support from Lamborn, any bill is likely to fail. “I am committed to continuing to work together with residents to ensure that current legal uses of Browns Canyon and surrounding lands are able to continue. I also am committed to working with Congressman Lamborn to address his concerns and find a bipartisan way forward on this common-sense proposal.” But why must the monument happen now? “The sense of urgency with Browns Canyon has multiple causes,” says Baker. “There are the obvious environmental and conservation motives but I believe one of the major underlying reasons for the current sense of urgency is concern over the divestment movement that would have us sell off all our public lands (for a pittance, I’m sure) to various development interests. Unless something is done now to reverse the tide, public lands in general—not just Browns Canyon—could suffer.” That battle over the meaning of public lands seems to be the true challenge facing Browns.“ Among the many unique qualities of America is our legacy of protected public lands,” says Hunnicutt, who spends as much time rafting or hiking in the canyon as possible and is active in the campaign to protect the area. “I proudly served my country in Vietnam and believe that I fought for every citizen, city, state and acre of land in this country, as well as the ideals that make America great. Now, to simply preserve these few remaining acres from destruction, I feel like I am fighting for my country once again.” • DECEMBER 2013 •


copurtesy ymca of the rockies




bring the family: Snow mountain ranch blends old west and new with sleigh rides and nordic trails.

There are plenty of great spots to stay in a cabin and ski. The true difference here, especially for families, is the ridiculous plethora of other activities. Don’t miss the Craft Shop, where kids of all ages can engage in projects like leatherworking, tie-dyeing, and beading that would make scoutmasters proud. The Kiva Center features indoor roller skating, basketball, volleyball, ping-pong, archery, foosball and an indoor climbing wall. Of course this is a YMCA facility so there is also a heated, indoor swimming pool and sauna. Beyond, all of that there are a bevy of presentations and guided tours. All those activities and more are free when you stay at Snow Mountain Ranch, though be sure to sign up early for the more popular activities. Day visitors just need to buy a $15 wrist band to take part in the fun. •

Dog Power

When you say YMCA, people think pools, pick-up basketball and maybe the Village People. You will find all that (well, almost) and far, far more at the YMCA of the Rockies Snow Mountain Ranch, the best family getaway you can take this winter.

By Doug Schnitzspahn

Your world changes when you become an active outdoor parent. The days of sleeping in the car, on someone’s hotel floor or while your significant other drives all night are long gone. Once the kiddos arrive, you need to find winter getaways that can both get the two of you out there charging hard and keep the little people happy. That can be a tall order at most resorts where you need to spend a fortune to put kids in ski school and navigate a gauntlet of hotels and restaurants and elevators. Enter the YMCA of the Rockies Snow Mountain Ranch ( The property, located just north of Winter Park and backed up against the mountains, the place is exactly what the young family (or family of any age) needs. It’s like summer camp for all ages, and though it is open year round, it shines in the winter thanks to an amazing nordic center and lodging options that range from extended-family size cabins, to lodge rooms, to yurts. Don’t worry about the kids complaining that they are bored here. The list of activities is mind boggling: there’s an indoor pool, archery, ice skating, a crafts cabin, yoga, sleigh rides, horses, dog sledding, races, basketball, sauna, guided trips... or time to just chill out and enjoy the spot. Hell, it’s even dog friendly. Parents, take a deep breath and enjoy.


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SKI The big highlight of Snow Mountain Ranch is the incredible nordic trail system. It’s one of the best laid-out in Colorado, with 100 kilometers of trails stretching out over 5,200 acres. There’s something for everyone here: little loops for the family, long blasts for skate demons, lonely tracks off into the hills for introvert kick-and-gliders, dedicated trails for skijoring with your dog, snowshoe tracks, tubing and sledding. There are even three kilometers of lighted trail for those who just didn’t get enough when the sun was up. If you truly want to get your nord on (and you brought your rifle), one of the few biathlon course in the state is located here, with the Colorado Biathlon Club ( running a race series over the winter. The Nordic Center ( smrnordic.html) offers a full range of skate and classic rental options and the trails are free to anyone who is staying at the ranch. There are also a wide range of classes that can get beginners schussing or racers upping their game as well as children’s programs and waxing clinics throughout the season.

STAY Take your pick when it comes to staying here. The most rustic option in winter comes in the form of six-person yurts ($89/night), but be warned, they are not heated. A simple step up is a room in one of the three lodges ($79-$159/night depending on date booked) on the property. The cabins may be the best way to go, however. They include twofour bedroom cabins that sleep up to 10 ($139$349/night depending on size of cabin and date booked) and three-five bedroom vacation homes that sleep up to 12 ($239-$489 depending on size of cabin and date booked). Those with bigger needs can opt for even larger, group-only cabins. Another plus, dogs can stay in cabins for $10 per night extra.

Courtesy YMCA of the Rockies

It’s Fun to Play...

Got an atavistic urge? There are few experiences like riding on a dogsled and you can do just that at Snow Mountain Ranch every Thursday morning and Saturday morning with a presentation beginning at 8:30 a.m. and ride starting around 9:00 a.m. Musher and guide, Steve Peterson and his twelve Alaskan huskies give you a taste of Iditarod by pulling you on a tour around the property. In a world of so much technology and action sports, dogsledding connects you to something deeper, a beautiful bond between animal and human. Peterson’s presentation on the sport is 45 minutes long and open to anyone. The cost for a ride for YMCA members and guests is $25 for a single rider or $40 for double riders (must be from the same group or family, combined weight cannot exceed 250 pounds). For non-members and nonguests the ride costs $65 for a single rider or $120 for double riders (again, must be from the same group or family, combined weight cannot exceed 250 pounds), which includes a day pass and cost of the ride. To book call the Snow Mountain Ranch Program Department at 970-887-2152, ext. 4135; email dogsled@

Channeling Jack London...

GPS ADVENTURE chris kassar



© 2013 Open Cycle Map Map data CCBYSA 2011 OpenStreetMap. org & contributors


3 Happy slog: winter snow keeps the crowds away— but should not stop you.

4 5

Elevated Education

Download the free ViewRanger GPS app and route, then challenge your legs by breaking trail up 14,196-foot Mt. Yale via the Southwest Slopes route.

By Chris Kassar If you are looking to scale a 14er in winter, set your sights on the Sawatch Range and Mt. Yale. The trailhead is easily accessible all season, yet few climb it once the snow starts to fly. Brave the elements and you’ll find an alpine world frosted with fresh snow and blemished only by tracks that map the comings and goings of wild critters. Get a Move On: Denny Creek Trailhead (38.815071769059, -106.33444176055) From the Denny Creek Trailhead at 9,900 feet, head north and follow the wide path that meanders through the tranquil pine forest. After a mile and 500 feet of climbing, bear right and cross Denny Creek using the small log bridge.



The Fork in the Road: Delaney Creek (38.829660890624, -106.34235050529) Continue climbing for .25 mile until you reach a signed trail junction at roughly 10,750 feet. Turn right at the fork, away from Brown’s Pass/

Hartenstein Lake and toward the slopes of Mt Yale. From here, the trail winds through beautiful stands of pines and aspens and parallels Delaney Creek for about .5 mile. If you’re breaking trail, be prepared for some deep snow here. At 11,200 feet, cross Delaney Gulch on another log bridge (which may be buried depending on snowfall amounts), amble through a meadow and then begin climbing steadily up the hillside. Break on Through: Southwest Shoulder (38.83715040876751, -106.32652044296265) At 12,100 feet, you’ll finally bust through the trees onto a vast stretch of alpine tundra. A well built trail winds across this open expanse and through some rocky outcrops to reach Yale’s broad southwest shoulder (12,200 feet). You’ll be glad for the ViewRanger app here because routefinding is challenging from here in winter. From the shoulder, you can see the remainder of the route as it works its way northeast toward Yale’s upper west slopes. Revel in the mellow grade of this leg because it won’t last. Once you reach 13,200 feet, make a sharp right and breathe deep as you embark on the steep climb to the saddle (13,950 feet).



Start Scramblin’: Northwest Ridge (38.846879079938, -106.31587492302) Rest a moment at the saddle. Toss on a jacket and grab some food because the last .3 mile to the summit can take longer than you think. From

here on out, this hike morphs into a fun rock scramble. The exposure is minimal, but with high winds, it can feel a little sketchy. Head southeast (right) from the saddle. Cairns help you skirt the right side of the ridge or if you’re brave, ignore these and climb the highest part of the crest for a more thrilling ridge walk. Eagles View: The Top (38.844013726339, -106.31315289997) You’ve made it! Pat yourself on the back for pushing through this potentially grueling 4-mile, 4,300-foot climb to reach the 14,196-foot summit. Spend some time enjoying the views. You can see thirty 14ers from here including Columbia and Harvard to the north and Princeton to the south. •


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Point-to-Point XC Ski Race & Snowshoe Tour • Devil’s Thumb Ranch to Winter Park January 25th, 2014 The 2014 Stagecoach Classic is an inaugural ski race offering everyone from the serious Nordic skier to the old-school tourist a unique chance to experience a trek from Devil’s Thumb Ranch, through the original Idlewild Ski Area to Hideaway Park in downtown Winter Park. Choose between a 15k and 30k race option and ski a beautiful “off the map” course. A portion of the race proceeds will go to the Trout Unlimited Campaign to protect and preserve the Fraser River.

Register online at or 970-726-8231


3530 County Road 83 • Tabernash, Colorado 80478 •

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Guts, Meet Glory: Danny Summerhill (K-Edge/Felt) drives the elite/pro lead group at the 2013 Boulder Cup in Valmont Bike Park.

‘Cr ssHairs

Your guide to the top talents and local heroes at the national cyclo-cross championships in Boulder this January.

Mary Topping

by Mary Topping Over one thousand cyclists from across the country will leave something behind at Valmont Bike Park over five winter days in January. Patches of serrated skin on icy steps. Pools of sweat. Flattened dreams. But only three dozen will exit USA Cycling’s Cyclocross National Championships from January 8 through 12 with stars and stripes jerseys. No one knows when the event will return to the region, so for locally-based pros and amateurs, 2014 offers a singular opportunity to compete in the presence of family and friends who provide an emotional edge of encouragement and help calm frazzled nerves. For spectators it should just be a good time. Here’s who to watch for next month:

Elite/Pro Notables Sunday’s elite/pro races will draw world-class Americans. Many consider nationals the penultimate U.S. matchup—winning generates an automatic ticket to world championships. Weather and luck could settle the podium. “There could always be something crazy like a freak snow storm or even a hot sunny day in January,” pro Danny Summerhill says, “that will throw even the most experienced racers off their game and make some potential underdog or unheard of name shine out.” Summerhill (K-Edge/Felt) has long-awaited nationals at altitude. The Denverite hungers for an elite/pro win to cap off his junior and under-23 championships. Former champions Jeremy Powers (Rapha-Focus), Ryan Trebon and Tim Johnson of the Cannondale p/b team, and defending champion Jonathan Page (Fuji/Spy/ Competitive Cyclist) are expected to vie for top honors as well. Colorado Springs’ Katie Compton (Trek Cyclocross Collective) will attempt a tenth straight

victory. Ladies itching to defeat her include young break-out rider Elle Anderson (California Giant Berry Farms/Specialized) along with teammate and Boulder resident Meredith Miller. Pro mountain bikers with strong ‘cross results like Judy Freeman and Chloe Woodruff with Crankbrothers Race Club could also stand out. Watch Boulder’s Nicole Duke (Marin/Spy) and Adam Craig (Giant Factory Off-Road Team) rip down sketchy descents. Craig is also a favorite for the single speed contest which often supplies big air entertainment. Muddy conditions favor Durango’s Todd Wells (Specialized Factory Racing).

Raw emotion will flow at the finish of Friday’s and Sunday’s competitions for juniors aged 10 to 18. Can Parker’s 15 year-old Gage Hecht (Specialized Racing Team) extend his four-year winning streak? Will Boulder’s Garrett Gerchar avoid crashes that delayed him this year to capture the 17-18 year-old title when guys like Clif Bar Devo teammate Maxx Chance want it bad too? Expect fierce rides from young ladies like Katie Clouse (Canyon Bicycles), Ashley Zoerner (Groove Subaru-Alpha Bicycle Co), and Mina Anderberg (Team Fuji). Clouse, 12, travels regularly from Park City to Colorado to find strong competition. •

Local Ladies Many Colorado cyclo-cross amateur women balance the demands of kids, jobs, and partners with competition. They may take notes with red crayons on Fridays then test themselves against the likes of Compton on Saturdays. Expect to see Kristin Weber (Boulder Cycle Sport), current masters world champion Kristal Boni (Rapid Racing), and Karen Hogan (Team Kappius) among talented moms in elite/pro and age group races. Weber’s excited to race at Valmont. “…to win or podium in the presence of my community would be remarkable to say the least,” says the mother of three, “and what a beautiful thing to do that in front of my kids, to see their 40 year-old mom surprising even herself!”

Rising Talents Current under-23 champion and Boulder resident Yannick Eckmann (California Giant Berry Farms/ Specialized) must fend off teammate Logan Owen, third-ranked in the world last season, as well as Fort Lewis College student Skyler Trujillo (Boo Bicycles). Trujillo should also hop over obstacles in the collegiate races.

The Best Views Want a bird’s eye view? Choose a grassy hill on either side of the start/finish area. Love raucous cheering? Lean in along the 5280 Run-up. Or hang out near the pit to see riders change bikes while crews blast mud from their machines with steaming power washers. Locate a course map, schedule, lists of riders and information about planned live streaming of the elite/pro events at For More Fun When doing beats watching, head to Boulder with wheels. Bike industry employees can enter an industry race scheduled for January 8. Fun rides for kids aged 6 through 9 run Wednesday through Friday. Online race registration closes January 3, so take a crack at that dream of glory. —M.T.



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Boy Toys


Ladies, your man is really not too hard to please. But you already knew that. Just treat us like the big children we are when you think of gifts for us and remember to stroke our ego a bit. by Doug Schnitzspahn 8



1. Icebreaker Quantum Hoodie

4. Prana Axiom Jeans

Here’s the male idea of comfort: a functional hoodie. Made with a mix of merino wool and lycra, the stylish Quantum can deal with everything from winter hikes to spring skiing to a tour of the brewpubs. $190;

We live in jeans. So much so you sometimes think it’s a bit gross. So make sure we have jeans that can endure the damage we inflict on them and look a bit classy too. The Axiom feature stretch denim, making them quite durable and ideal for everything from bouldering to walking the dog. $90;

2. Yeti Tundra 45 It may sound crazy to spend $330 on a cooler but this is the ultimate car-camping tool. The Tundra 45 keeps the important things chilled all weekend long. It’s even grizzly proof. $330;

3. Ortovox Freerider 26 ABS Here’s one gift that may keep us alive. There’s no substitute for proper training and, most of all, judgement when you travel in avalanche terrain, but mess up and an air bag can increase your chances of survival. The Ortovox M.A.S.S. system means that you can swap out an air bag system in a wide range of packs, either to adapt to resort or hut trips or to use the pack sans bag. $319 (pack), $699 (M.A.S.S.), $175 ABS activation unit;

5. S.O.G. Fling Throwing Knives Don’t think badly of us that we want this threepack of throwing knives. Not only are they fantastic campground entertainment, they also harken back to an age when spiritually dedicated monks used them as meditative art. Right? $50;

6. Manduka The Black Mat A strong yoga practice is on the rise for dudes. You like that, and we like this simple, black mat (yeah, we like black) that doesn’t slip. $100;

with toasty 600 fill goose down insulation. That may make it a bit too strong for resort skiing, but it is an ideal piece for the rigors of the workweek in bad weather. $379;

8. Braven 855s Pounding out 20 watts with 20 hours of play time, these wireless bluetooth speakers let us bring our tunes anywhere we go, from that boys trip to Moab to staging at a cyclo-cross race. $300;

9. Rossignol Soul 7 Every EO gear guide we sing the praises of Rossi’s 7 family of skis. The brand never sends us a pair. That’s because they are so damn good Rossi can’t keep them in stock for grubby journalists. At 106 underfoot, the rockered Soul 7 is the one ski we need. Please. $700;

10. Deep 7. Patagonia Wanaka Men like technical clothing, and this super-warm insulated jacket melds a waterproof/breathable shell

The one book we must read this winter is Porter Fox’s exploration on how climate change may wipe out skiing. $26; • DECEMBER 2013 •




Classy Girls

Trendy schmendy. Who wants a present that’s forgotten in the pile ten days after it was given? Nah, you’re classier than that—and so is she. This year, elevate your gift sensibility with these these back-to-classic winners. by Radha Marcum 8

10 9

1. Eddie Bauer Oslo Cardigan Sweater Listen up: There are sweaters we like, and there are sweaters we live in. This warm number from Eddie Bauer’s new Oslo line, with its contemporary take on classic Nordic designs, is destined to be the later. No neon here: Available in unpretentious colors like bone and wineberry. $90;

2. Julbo Luna Goggles Forget fog and chunky frames blocking the line of sight. The Luna marries a well-fitting minimalist design with high-tech lenses. Allow me to translate: She’ll be able to see your every sweet turn on the slopes. $160-$180;

3. Breckenridge Distillery Bitters Long thought to contain medicinal powers, bitters are traditionally served as an apertif. Or add this bitter-sweet herbal liquor made right here in the Rocky Mountains to any cocktail for sophistication and depth. $29;

cozy baselayer is a Smartwool best-seller for a reason. With contoured fit and no itchy seams, it’s an instant classic for skiing, snowshoeing, or après schmoozing. $110;

accents. A fun stocking stuffer for any snow bunny—be she fourteen or thirty-four. $26;

5. VASQUE SKADIA Ultradry boots

A walk out under the diamond-cut stars doesn’t have to end with a cold butt. With a classic-cut, long down-filled jacket, she’ll enjoy sub-zero nights out as much as sub-zero nights in. $299;

Step-in comfort meets an unfussy, ultra-protective exterior in these backcountry snow boots. Lace-free and lined with fleece, toes are guaranteed to stay toasty the whole distance in these waterproof musthaves. The UltraDry liner also breathes, so your feet stay warm minus the sweat. $160;

6. Eider Pow Down Mitten Mittens have been around since the last ice age for a reason. They’re warmer than gloves, and until you reach the comfort of that wood-stove heated hut, she’s going to need circulation in her fingers. Eider’s Pow gloves are down-filled with excellent moisture protection and goatskin palm for superior grip. Toasty! $100;

7. Chaos Florian 4. smartwool NTS MID 250 zip t Eye-pleasing and warm enough to wear alone, this


This cute, cable-knit cap wouldn’t be complete without its dangling pompoms and double-button

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8. Prana Ronnie Jacket

9. Lole Jacquard Neckwarmer We love Lole, because every piece is designed to flatter—and to last. This versatile neckwarmer is the perfect accessory to set off her eyes and tresses. $50;

10. Madshus Cadenza 120 What could be more classic than gliding for miles in the alpine glades? Let her inner Nord loose with these high-performance, no-wax cruising skis built for speed and maneuverability, that rely on knowhow from the brand’s racing heritage mixed with a bit of mellow construction. $180; •

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Welcome to the first annual Elevation Outdoors Peak Gear Awards. There are plenty of “Gear of the Year” awards out there, so we decided to do it a little bit differently. We simply asked our top contributors—who, we are proud to admit, spend far more time hiking, climbing, biking, skiing, paddling and generally getting out than they do “working”—what was the best gear you used over the past year? What gear can’t you live without? What gear changed your life? The answers are here, dear readers. Meet the winners, the essential equipment that topped our gear-geek list and should top yours, too.



DPS Wailer 112 RPC

Suunto Ambit2

$799 hybrid/$1,249 Pure3; DPSSKIS.COM This is the aggressive version of DPS’s all-mountain carbon ski built for big lines in the backcountry and at the resort. Dimensions are 142/115/127.

$500; This electronic marvel combines a GPS watch with a training tool, packing a drawer-full of devices into one easy-to-use piece on your wrist.

Why It Won This ski absolutely floats in powder

we could possibly need for any escapade. It provides elevation, mileage, heart rate, even changes in barometric pressure to help you mind the weather. It’s durable, reliable, accurate and intuitive so you can spend more time outside and less time fumbling with manuals—you can use it right out of the box.

and held its own in the resort, even in bumps. It made ripping bottomless lines a pure joy but wasn’t thrown off by slop. No other carbon ski has guts like this—we were quite frankly shocked that such a light ski could be so aggressive instead of flimsy, especially when our 200-pound editors and contributors were giving it hell.

Where We Took It Whistler and the British Columbia backcountry, Telluride and hike-to steeps on Palmyra Peak, Vail, Berthoud Pass, Eldora, Powder Addiction Cat Skiing.

Why It Won We have found no better tool for recording all the data

Where We Took It The battery lasts up to 50 hours while recording GPS data—much longer without—so we take it everywhere we go: day hikes, 14er climbs, backpacking trips, road rides, mountain bike rides, runs, swims. Last year, we took it on big trips up Glacier Peak and Mount Rainier in the Cascades and overseas for adventures in Chile and Namibia.

La Sportiva SPECTRE

Lowa Renegade II GTX

$599; SPORTIVA.COM The Spectre is a four-buckle, carbonfiber AT boot with a 110 flex rating that weighs just 1,445 grams in a mondo size 27.5. A walk mode and its Vibram sole makes it ideal for everything from clambering over rocks to busting up long skin tracks—to, of course, skiing pow.

$200; A sturdy low hiker with a Gore-Tex membrane, a Vibram Evo sole and Nubuck leather upper, this stable super-duty hiker weighs in at just under a pound.

Why It Won It skis downhill better than any boot in its weight class, but the best aspect was just how well it toured—it felt like a slipper despite those four big beefy buckles.

Where We Took It All over the Breckenridge backcountry, Berthoud Pass and Loveland Pass. In area—Breckenridge, A-Basin, Vail, Telluride, Eldora.

Why It Won These hikers stayed comfortable even after they took a beating on the trail and scrambling over talus all summer and fall long. They stayed supportive, even though they are low hikers, and all the action we put on them barely wore down the outsoles. Where We Took It Up and down 14ers and 13ers across Colorado. Boulder trail runs. The volcanic rock of Mount Fuji in Japan. Trekking and climbing in Greenland for 30 days. A week on the AT and backpacking in the Wind Rivers. DECEMBER 2013 •


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Giant Defy/Avail Advanced SL 1 $3,925; The top spec-ed version of Giant’s reasonably priced composite road warrior was built with input from the brand’s racers to be responsive, quick and still comfortable on long rides. The Avail is the women’s version, which may have got more use from us than the men’s.

Why It Won It felt damn good. This is the most comfortable, high performance road bike we put to the pavement. It absorbs every bump and bounce and the integrated seat post meant it can push well beyond the 50 mile mark into the 100s with efficiency and ease.

Where We Took It Any road ride we do, including long rides up and over Independence Pass from Twin Lakes to Aspen, up and over Poncha Pass from Salida to Villa Grove, Monarch pass from Salida and the usual hard-charging, weekend socials on the Front Range.

Flylow Lab Coat

Outdoor Research Trailbreaker Pant

$500; This Polartec NeoShell piece from Colorado brand Flylow combines top-of-the-line performance with local cred. That NeoShell membrane moves sweat and shucks off precipitation and big pit zips open things up when the membrane gets overmatched.

$195; Designed with input from IMGA guide Martin Volken and others these soft shell ski pants feature a waterproof Ventia hybrid fabric and pockets that actually have specific functions (think: a beacon pocket, knee pad pockets). Gaiters zip on and off and zippers allow you to put them on over ski or mountaineering boots.

Why It Won Simple. It worked. The jacket did its job of breathing and staying waterproof on big days up in the Colorado peaks, both in the wild and on the lift. Plus, it’s not overdesigned. $500 is a lot to drop on a jacket, but you will feel good about that purchase for several years into the future here.

Why It Won All gear should be this well thought

Where We Took It Early season hike-

and British Columbia, day touring throughout Colorado, and AMGA guide-in-training and EO contributing editor Rob Coppolillo plans to wear it on his final ski exam this coming February.

and-ski missions up Arapahoe Basin and Peak One, Indian Peaks ski mountaineering, Berthoud Pass, Eldora, Loveland, Monarch Pass.

Petzl Spirit Express $21; Petzl’s new sub-100-gram Keylock quickdraw, available in 12 or 17 cm lengths, features a straight gate and a bent carabiner with an improved strength-to-weight ratio and wider surfaces to reduce wear on the ‘biners and rope. Comes with an ergonomic sewn sling and updated string that holds the lower carabiner in place and protects the webbing from damage.

Why It Won There’s not much time to mess around with bad gear on route and the gates here offered quick response when we needed it. It was easy to grab the sewn sling and the keylock nose never snagged on bolt hangers.

Where We Took It Steep sport climbs in Clear Creek Canyon, multi pitch trad routes in Castle Valley, Utah, long crack pitches in South Platte.

out. It has everything you want in a backcountry pant— just the right pocket layout, venting options, a great fit. So much thought went into this pant, it raises the bar for everything other pant out there. And who doesn’t like pants?

Where We Took It Ski mountaineering in Alaska

Adventure Medical Kits Ultralight/Watertight .7 $27; Meet the one piece of gear we did not truly test. Luckily. But that does not mean this well thought out medical kit was not something that accompanied us everywhere we went, all year long.

Why It Won It’s comprehensive (with multiple bandages, moleskin, wipes, gloves, even duct tape… and you can replace anything you use online), lightweight at 8 ounces, high-vis and waterproof. We felt confident that we could deal with trouble with it stuffed in our pack.

Where We Took It Across the planet, from the Valmont Bike Park to Utah slot canyons to African safaris.

Mammut 8.7mm Serenity $250; Light, thin and sporting a SuperDry finish, this is the rope for every occasion.

Why It Won The versatility (rated as a single, half, and twin rope—perfect to have in the quiver) of this cord was key, not to mention it handles so well. We were surprised to find such durability in a skinny rope and it’s light enough for spring ski mountaineering. It inspired confidence.

Where We Took It We guided the First and Third Flatirons with it, took it up Total Abandon on Pikes Peak and even snagged a few sport pitches on it.

Contributors/Gear Thrashers Aaron Bible, Adam Chase, Rob Coppolillo, Liam Doran, James Dziezynski, Chris Kassar, Radha Marcum, Devon O’Neil, Cameron Martindell, Jayme Moye, Doug Schnitzspahn



To Celebrate the Winter Season, We Brew our Classic Winter Warmer,







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RAB Strata Hoodie


$225; Built with Polartec’s breathable Alpha synthetic insulation, the Strata is a puffy that means business. The wind-and-water resistant Pertex Microlight outer fabric is tough enough for the rigors of alpinism but doesn’t compromise that easy breathability.

Why It Won After wearing it on several big excursions, we feel confident claiming that the Alpha insulation really did breathe, meaning we did not have to waste time switching layers. Plus, the synthetic fill compressed down easily when we had to shove it away. The loose fit also made easy to put on over other layers.

Where We Took It Touring to alpine climbing on Mt. Evans, steep, cool approaches, and frigid belay duty at the Quarry Wall on North Table Mountain. Spring skiing.

Evolv Cruzer $75; It’s a casual climbing shoe—the Cruzer sports a Trax rubber technical sole that performs on tough climbs or boulder problems… but looks damn good at a cafe.

Why It Won It’s the shoe you’d want if you only owned one pair. Oh, and did we mention you can actually climb in it, too? How many times have you heard someone say a climbing shoe is something you “never want to take off?”

Where We Took It Where didn’t we take it? Hikes in the Flatirons, the Farmers Market, bar hopping in LoDo, up the South Face of Mt. Watkins in-aday (a 2,000 foot big wall in Yosemite), various bouldering sessions, around-town buildering sessions, and complicated descents in Eldo.

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high loft hoodie

ski or snowboard socks

Voormi High-E Hoodie $229; This do-it-all hoody from up-and-coming Colorado brand Voormi combines a wool “hard-shell” with a softer inner lining.

Why It Won This layer did it all, combining wool’s wonderful wicking, anti-odor and temperature regulation qualities with a durable, water and wind-resistant hard-face. That made it a prime outer layer for high altitude endurance activities as well as a base layer for winter sports. We loved that versatility, the way it felt when we wore it and the edgy, but not in-your-face styling.

Where We Took It: Everywhere, all year long—from Mount Sanitas to the Alps. •

winter-themed wooden puzzle

bottle of bourbon and a free tour

enter to win! DECEMBER 2013 •



You only get 26,320 days, more or less. How will you spend them?


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S kis and B oards

Gear Guide


Plank Posse Meet our choices for the best things you should have strapped to your feet while moving fast and smiling big this winter.

everyday ripping 1. white Doctor FT 10

With that ideal waist width of 100mm underfoot, this baby will do anything you ask of it—floating in the deep, crushing crud, banging down groomers. Built in France, White Doctor is the brainchild of longtime ski-building guru “Bob” Bobrowicz. That tradition shows in our favorite ski this season. Dimensions: 131/98/120 (in a 183 cm) Best For: Day-to-day charging, Vail, Loveland, Aspen Highlands and hiking the bowl. $750;


going big

2. line sick day 125 With one of the best names for a ski that we have heard in a long time, the Sick Day 125 will beocme your weapon of choice on the days when you develop that nasty flu. Simply put these hogs kept us elevated at high speeds in deep snow and never felt stupid big. They responded to our wishes on big, steep lines, making powder skiing feel like the park. Dimensions:150/125/137 Best For: The days you will never forget. Alaska. Heli and cat trips. $750;

resort ripping 3. volkl Code Uvo

Here’s the planks for that the skier who was bornand-raised on the slopes–the ski racer who can just as easily pound off-piste occasionally. At just Light and rockered, it’s shockingly stable and simply like to run fast, so you need to be able to hold on. If you want to flick off tight turns, carve at full speed and hop into the trees every so often, meet your dream. Dimensions:122/76/104 Best For: Alpine ripping at the resort. $1,065;

authentic turns 4. ramp Woodpecker

To be honest, this is the ski we have most been seeking out. There are tons of fantastic planks over 100 mm at the waist, but there are so many days (think those long weeks of high pressure systems) and conditions (tight bumpy trees) when we want something that just turns quick and bites into the snow. Plus, this all-natural wood baby is made in ‘Merica. If you can call Park City, Utah, that. Dimensions: 123/90/111 Best For: Quick turns, trees, tricks, Eldora. $949;

getting out there

5. dynafit Grand Teton Dedicated to the Teton’s incomparable Steve Romeo, the mastermind behind who died in an avalanche last year and simply lived to put up big lines all over the range, these babies weigh in at 1,550 grams. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have cajones—carbon stringers in the three layers of wood here give them the guts to curbstomp crappy snow, too. Dimensions: 130/106/120 Best For: Busting skin tracks, Berthoud Pass, Rocky Mountain National Park, ski mountaineering. $800;

ladies choice

6. nordica Hell’s Belles Here’s the ski that the woman who can pound her significant other in the Back bowls will cherish. There’s nothing soft in this women’s ski—it is designed to rip the resort at 90 mm underfoot thanks to a combination of aggressive sidecut and rocker. That shape means it can also bust out some float in the untracked. Dimensions: 132/90/118 Best For: Women who rip… anywhere. $750;

SNOWBOARDS 7. niche Aether Salt Lake City-based Niche impressed us with this versatile board that can just as easily float throgh a big day at Snowbird as it can play around in the park. It’s got the stability to bomb the groomers thanks to serrated-edge Magnetraction and the multi-cambe profile not only keeps it up in powder, it also gives more control on hard snow. Best of all, the brand practices responsible environmental practices with materials like sustainable wood and bio-resins. Best For: Everything nature throws at it day-to-day riding in the resort. $499;

8. arbor Abacus Split Meet a backcountry board for the rider who likes to hike for turns but can knock out the occasional trick. The Abacus Split’s camber is best in the backcountry, but also gives it some guts at the resort. The clip system was so secure that we forgot we were riding a split. Best For: Berthoud Pass. Mountaineering. Some lapping the gates at the resorts. $700; • DECEMBER 2013 •


Started by a couple of skiers who imagined better gear for the mountains.

Independent Homegrown Mountain Raised Flylow co-founders Greg Steen and Dan Abrams during an après-ski design meeting, Alpine Meadows, California. © Robin O’Neill


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f ly lowge ar .com

B oots and B indings


Kick It The connection matters—these boots and bindings will up your game. 1. Salomon Quest Max BC 120 Meet the one boot for the typical core Colorado skier. You like to pound the resort when the conditions are good. You hop out the gates when you can. But you come alive touring in the backcountry. With a 120 Flex rating and weighing in at 3,600 grams per pair, this boot can do it all—it’s easy on the uphills and uncompromising on the downhills. Plus, the walk soles, featuring WTR, make it easy to clamber over nasty terrain when you are bootpacking. $799;

2. Dynafit W’s Mercury TF This is a boot not just for ladies who like to rip, it’s also for those women who hammer the men on the skin trail up. At just 1,490 grams per boot, they will not slow you down. But, clamp down the Ultra Lock System—which is both simple to operate and gives your shin more leeway when you are slogging—and it skis like a far beefier alpine boot. That comfort made it our top female AT boot. $799;

3. Dynafit beast 16 As AT has moved from a European curiosity to the mainstream at ski resorts acorss the world, a brand like Dynafit—traditionally known for bindings that excel at fast, efficient touring with surprising support

on the ski down—have had to up their game to compete with traditional alpine manufacturers moving into their space. The Beast 16 is Dynafit’s bomber freeride AT binding. The Beast supports aggressive skiers on big, fat boards, alowing them to tour with the pizzaz of tech bindings but imparting far more stablity. $1,000;

4. TwentyTwo Designs Vice Welcome to the backlash. With all the energy in the ski industry focused on AT, some have dared to proclaim that telemarking is dead. In fact, knee dropping is starting to see a mini resurgence, thanks to the art and athleticism of the turn. TwentyTwo

Designs improved upon its classic Hammerhead design with the resort-focused Vice, making it even more responsive and sturdy, a necessity when powering big skis on aggressive lines (and blowing by the ATers). $220;

5. Gyst Duffel DBI-14 GYST, which stands for Get Your Stuff Together, began designing transition bags for triathletes. But the concept of creating a mat that folds out of the roomy bag so you can stand on it while you change your shoes makes just as much sense for skiers switching in and out of thier boots in muddy parking lots and garages. $184;

INJURED? Bloch & Chapleau is one of the few law firms in Colorado that has extensive litigation experience in ski, snowboard and other recreation related injuries. The attorneys at Bloch & Chapleau have successfully litigated ski injury lawsuits involving substantial awards for injured skiers, including a case where a jury awarded punitive damages against Vail Resorts for failing to supervise and train lift operators. If you have been injured, call Bloch & Chapleau today for a free consultation with one of our experienced injury attorneys. Ski & Snowboard Accidents | Automobile & Motorcyle Accidents | Dog Bites | Slip & Falls Percentage Fee / Free Consult

vail valley







Getaway Pass FOR TWO


Larson’s Ski & Sport 4715 Kipling St., Wheat Ridge

Bent Gate Mountaineering Photo: Nathan Bilow

1313 Washington Ave., Golden

The Edge 107 N Union Ave., Pueblo



Including all taxes and fees! Lodging is at the Grand Lodge Crested Butte. Non-transferable and non-refundable. One (1) Getaway Pass per person, must be present to purchase, additional restrictions apply. Additional nights only $150/night plus 20% off future lodging packages and single-day adult lift tickets when booked through Crested Butte Vacations.


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The Ski Shop Inc. 1422 S Tejon St., Colorado Springs

S kis and B ikes


Cold Spin Who says bike season has to end in the winter? 1. Moots Frosti With the rise of the snow bike, your cycling season is no longer limited to the fair months. Hell, fat bikes are simply fun all on thier own, and can be far more worth your while than suffering through an icy day at the resort. Steamboat-based Moots has been ahead of the snow-bike curve with the the Frosti, which it began making for crazed Iditabike racer Mike Curiak and eventually showed it off at the Portland North American Handbuilt Show. Now you can get on it. The latest iteration incorporates the 29er + platform, too, meaning that you can swap out the 5-inch 26er wheels and ride this baby all year long. $3,975 (frame only), $8,400 (built);

2. Novarra Arkham We love Gates Carbon Drive bikes. It’s not just because they won’t get clogged with snow and mud when you ride them in crappy conditions—it just feels good to turn the cranks. That belt is smooth, responsive, silent. REI took that belt technoolgy an put it into an affordable commuter that will get you to work or just out enjoying the ride all year long. $849;

3. Capo Lombardia OD LF Built with OutDry a waterproof/breathable

membrane, these 4-way stretch, fleece lined gloves are mandatory if you want to survive winter cycling. $80;

you want in a helmet cam including 3.5 hour battery life, a two-inch LCD screen and waterproofing up to 9 feet. $400

4. Drift Innovation Ghost-S

5. POC Trabec

You need to document the (near) stupidity and aweinducing joy of your winter riding and the Ghost-S offers serves up 60 frames per second at 1,080 pixels. At a reasonable price, it offers all the features

The Trabec has the style for winter riding anywhere from the Valmont Bike Park to snow biking. Plus, the venting system keeps things cool when you fire up your engine. $105-$140; •




Key features for finding the perfect snow goggle.

Bobby Dean Lead Product Gearu™/ Snowboarder

When you’re on a mountain surrounded by snow, howling wind, and other riders barreling down the slopes at full speed you need the best equipment possible to protect and enhance your vision. Bobby Dean, Lead Product Gearu™ at APEX by Sunglass HutSM, recommends snow

goggles as the ideal choice over sunglasses because their features are designed to combat freezing temperatures, wind, and moisture that can lead to poor visibility and discomfort.

2 1

Lens Tint - If you ride 1 to 2 times a year, choose

an all-purpose contrast lens. If you ride multiple times, choose one lens for flat light and one for bright light conditions. If riding is an obsession, choose a quick interchangeable lens goggle with three lenses—one for flat, medium, and bright light conditions.


Protection - Dagger like ski poles & tree branches should be enough motivation to wear some serious eye protection. Injection molded polycarbonate lenses provide the ultimate in protection because the lenses are thicker and more rigid.

Anti-Fogging Lens - There’s nothing that

can ruin your ride more quickly than goggles that fog. Look for a dual-lens, anti-fog lens coatings, moisture wicking face foams, and venting ports to ward off the evils of fogging.


Peripheral Vision - Oversized lenses and Spherical lens goggles (which mimic the shape of the human eye) are the best for enhancing your field of vision. Also make sure the inner facial foam doesn’t obstruct your view.


Airwave 1.5 GPS Goggle $649 • GPS, Bluetooth, analytics, buddy tracking, and more. • F-3 Series Anti-fog lens coating • Triple fleece face foam maximizes comfort & wicks sweat • Patented O-Flow Arch technology eliminates nasal pressure • Patented HDO® Optics for all day clarity


Comfort & Fit - More layers of foam and a

snuggly soft fleece lining means more comfort. Try on multiple goggles to make sure the design matches your unique facial features.

Bobby’s Hot Picks!




Base HD Camera Goggle $399

IO/X Goggle $175

NFX Goggle $160

• 1080p/720p HD Video + 12 MP camera • Impact Resistant Frame Technology • Built-in microphone • Glove-ready control buttons • Anti-fog infused dual lens • In goggle LCD viewfinder

• Oversized Spherical Carbonic-X dual-lens • Quick release interchangeable lens system • Fog X anti-fog coating that can’t be wiped away like other coatings • Dual-layer DriWix face foam • Two lenses included

• Oversized cylindrical dual-lens • Patented frameless technology • Anti-fog lens coating • Hypoallergenic micro-fleece foam lining • Armored venting

SPY OPTIC Raider + Stevie Bell Goggle $120 • Oversized cylindrical dual-lens • Patented Scoop Ventilation • Triple layer Isotron foam • Moisture wicking Dri-Force fleece • Free bonus lens included

Cherry Creek Shopping Center: 303.393.7127 • FlatIron Crossing: 303.469.2062 • Twenty Ninth Street: 303.443.1445 WWW.APEXBYSUNGLASSHUT.COM ©APEX by Sunglass Hut. All Rights Reserved. SUNGLASS HUT is a registered trademark under license.

E lectronics


Techie Toys Sure, we don’t need electronics while out wandering the wilderness, just like we don’t need a tent, a bottle of locally distilled bourbon or a $700 Gore Tex jacket—but they’re sure nice to have. By Cameron Martindell

1. GoPro Hero 3+ Black Edition Smaller, faster, lighter, sharper. GoPro continues to innovate and the possibilities with this powerful little camera are endless. Just don’t do anything illegal (or, at least don’t post the footage online). $399;

2. DeLorme inReach SE If you must stay in touch, no matter where in the world you are, the SE inReach provides two-way text messaging, posting to social media and an SOS rescue feature. Access everything via the screen and buttons on the device or connect it to your smartphone for easier control. $300 + service plan;

3. Peak Design Capture PRO It’s hard to take photos when your camera is in your bag. The Capture PRO saves you from the dreaded camera strap swing but still keeps your kit attached where you can get to it. Invest in the system and you have an easy transfer from hand-held shots to mounting on a tripod. $80;



4. Pelican Pro Laptop Case Sometimes the laptop must go along, and when it does, protect it. A series of laptop specific waterproof and crushproof cases are available to release your office from four walls and into the wilderness. $89-$129;

5. OR Stormsensor Touchscreen Gloves With TouchTec Leather, these gloves (and others from OR) provide the best protection for your hands and most comfortable touch screen savvy gloved experience available. Knit gloves are fine for in town, take these into the mountains and backcountry. $85;

6. SPOT Global Sat Phone When just a text message won’t do, take this SPOT Global Satellite Phone along to make a call from the wilds. The name is a touch misleading, it’s not totally “global” but has strong coverage in the northern hemisphere and Australia. Also, connect to your laptop to get online via satellite at 28Kbps. $500 (phone only);

8. Nikon 1 AW1

7. Goal Zero Sherpa 50 Solar Recharging Kit

9. Motorola Talkabout 2-Way MS350R Radios

Tech intensive adventures require extra power on the go. With USB and 12v output as well as an optional inverter to power AC devices, this 50Wh battery and 13W solar panel combo will keep you charged for as long as you’re out there. $360;

Waterproof and shockproof (picking up on the theme here?), these radios are perfect for families, groups with fast and slow hikers, kayakers, skiers... whatever. That is if you’re not trying to loose the rest of the group. Available in high-vis yellow and camo. $99; •

This is the first waterproof/shockproof camera with an interchangeable lens that sits firmly between a compact and a full DSLR. It’s ideal for photographers on the go through inclimate weather or even underwater photography. $800 (1 lens kit);



S nuggle I n


Snuggle Up Meet the gear guaranteed to keel you warm and cozy this winter. 1. Selk’bag Patagon Ok, we admit that we were skeptical when we first saw the Selk’bag. A wearable sleeping bag? But the versatilty of this thing won us over. No more fussing with clothes when you need to pee in the middle of the night. Stay warm when you make breakfast on that hut trip. The top-of-the-line Patagon is good down to 35 degrees and features removable booties. $259;

2. Melanzana high loft Hoody Meet the warmest, snuggle-iest thing we put on our bodies this winter. Wear this out to the cafe and people will reach out and touch it. Wear it on a hut trip or winter camping and you are guaranteed warmth. Even better, it’s made here in Colorado. $97;

3. Arc’teryx Cerium LT Hoody How to craft a warm puffy that can 1) survive real use in the elements, 2) pack down for that hut trip, 3) look damn good while you spend your paycheck at Whole Foods? Arc’teryx mixed and matched insulation materials here: The arms, hem and collar of this puffy are stuffed with Coreloft, which can retain heat even when pummeled with


driving snow. But in the core, you’ll find heavenly 850-fill goose down, which retains heat in the most important areas of the body like no synthetic can. That made this our favaorite in a market that’s full of impressive insulated jackets. $350;

some aptly themed designs—like a classic French ski poster or a fiery painting of Boulder’s Flatirons— they also feature piece shapes that are works of art themselves. Think mini skiers and snowflakes. Have an idea for your own design? Liberty makes custom puzzles, too.

Elevation Outdoors Ad Proof

4. Liberty Puzzles

October 2013

Really want to snuggle in old-style this winter. Turn 5. Sol Republic tracks air Here is a copy of your ad. Please review your ad proof carefully. Reply with your approval or if These sleek wireless headphones will take you to off all the screens and ringtones, light a fire and necessary please contact your account representative. If we do not receive notification we will another plane when you comfy up in your new puffy start to work on one of these amazing puzzles. You advertisement is correct. Phone: (206) 418-0747; Fax (206) 418-0746. Thank• you. and fleece. $200; may not emerge until spring. Not only do they offer

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cha ass



In Case You Missed It

The past year was packed with new releases. Here are five top choices for the best albums of 2013 that definitely warrant space on your iPod. By Jedd Ferris

The National Daft Punk

Random Access Memories

Jason Isbell Southeastern

The former member of Drive-By Truckers received ubiquitous high praise for this solo release, and it was all well deserved. With recent sobriety and new marriage (to fellow singersongwriter Amanda Shires) on his mind, Isbell made a poignant confessional record through an impressive array of Americana styles. The opening solo acoustic “Cover Me Up” is vivid with shame, while “Travelin’ Alone” is a vintage country ramble that moves on to greener pastures. As a Southern storyteller, Isbell is also amazing. Case in point the stunning “Elephant” about two friends soaking their sorrows in booze while one is dying from cancer.

It’s hard to resist “Get Lucky” and the other expertly crafted throwback electro-enhanced soul grooves on this surprise effort from the helmeted French production duo. Live instrumentation and guest vocals give this record its character, especially the cool falsetto from Pharrell Williams and the funky guitar from Nile Rodgers on the aforementioned hit and additonal funk jam “Lose Yourself to Dance.” Much like the best of early Michael Jackson, these tunes will be soundtracking late-night living room dance parties for years to come.

Trouble Will Find Me There’s something cathartic about hearing The National front man Matt Berninger reveal his own personal frailties in his intense baritone. On his Brooklyn outfit’s latest, it’s surrounded by powerfully textured indie rock–fully realized sonic statements that range from dark bombastic ballads (“Demons”) to dance-rock grooves (“Don’t Swallow the Cap”). •


Check out these hot Colorado New Year’s Eve shows. 12/30-31 Flaming Lips Belly Up • Aspen It’s hard to imagine how the sensory overload of a Flaming Lips show will translate to the intimate confines of the Belly Up. But we can promise you one thing—it will be intense. 12/27-31 Yonder Mountain String Band Boulder Theater • Boulder Yonder planned to take December 30 off, but then added the date as a flood benefit with all ticket proceeds going to Lyons’ institution Planet Bluegrass.


From the Hills to the City

Kurt Vile

Wakin on a Pretty Daze Vile’s ethereal folk rock takes full shape on this extended album, where tracks typically hover around the six-minute mark. The opening “Wakin on a Pretty Day” clocks in at over nine and immediately showcases what Vile does best—patient lazy rambles soaked in warm atmospherics and the occasional extended guitar outburst. The overall vibe is youthful Neil Young in chill hipster experimentation mode.

A breakout band this year, Houndmouth hails from a small town in Indiana and delivers gritty folk rock with plenty of heartland realism. On the group’s debut, blue-collar themes dominate edgy electric fist pumpers like “Ludlow” and “Penitentiary,” but the songs also manage to stay tuneful with infectious hooks and soaring three-part harmonies. Lead track “On the Road” gets downright poppy with a playful piano bounce and a catchy chorus about finding a better place. This group is on its way.

12/31 Big Head Todd and the Monsters Paramount Theatre • Denver Todd Park Mohr will bring in the New Year with a long night of old school Colorado roots rock. Double the nostalgia? 12/28-29, 31 String Cheese Incident Broomfield Event Center SCI will supposedly release mew material next year, so the band is definitely feeling it. Bootsy Collins joins the party on 12/28. 12/30–31 Pretty Lights and Bassnectar Colorado Convention Center • Denver Mix master Derek Vincent Smith is hosting a big hometown dance party. —J.F.



Good Giving G U I D E

This holiday season, Elevation Outdoors encourages you to support these important causes


ant to give a gift that goes deeper? The spirit of giving does not have to be simply the spirit of swag. To that end, we created this special advertising

section to highlight non profits and other charitable causes. We sought out organizations that are working for positive change and put them together for you here so that you can not only feel good about where you put your money this holiday season, you can also help improve the world a little bit. Take a look at these causes and then consider donating in the name of a friend or family member instead of buying them one more thing that they probably already bought for themselves. Take part in the true spirit of giving.


TAKE A WOLF TO DINNER! Become a Wolf Caretaker at Mission: Wolf. Your wolf gets a belly full of food and you will receive a photo and a year-long membership with Mission: Wolf. Caretakers welcome to visit the refuge and help feed the wolves. MISSIONWOLF.ORG 40

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Good Giving G U I D E

This holiday season, Elevation Outdoors encourages you to support these important causes



Help make our museum a one-of-a-kind resource for all generations to explore. Colorado’s flood-damaged outdoor recreation areas will take years and enormous resources to restore. ACTIVEBOULDER supports The Fund to Restore Colorado Trails, Waterways and Parks. Donations to The Fund can be made through Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado at Email to sign up for the newsletter and learn about trail restoration volunteer opportunities.

Make a $50+ tax-deductible donation and receive two 2014 Unlimited Admission Passes* *MUST write “EO” in Memo Line American Mountaineering Museum 710 10th Street, Golden, CO 80401

VOLUNTEERS FOR OUTDOOR COLORADO Celebrating 30 years as Colorado’s stewards


OUR MISSION Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado ( VOC) is a statewide nonprofit volunteer organization dedicated to motivating and enabling people to be active stewards of Colorado’s natural resources. Since 1984, VOC’s award-winning volunteer, youth and leadership training programs have engaged more than 92,000 people of all ages and backgrounds in caring for Colorado’s outdoors – a total donated labor value of over $18.6 million. AREAS WE SERVE VOC’s stewardship work spans the state, engaging volunteers in taking care of treasured resources and locations we all enjoy. Volunteer opportunities range from trail-work and natural disaster recovery, to urban gardening and habitat restoration.





YOUR VALUABLE DONATION Your donation immediately puts volunteers on the trails and in the parks. You’ll also support increased flood and wildfire recovery work in 2014. Mention Elevation Outdoors for a chance to win an outdoor gift pack!




Good Giving G U I D E

This holiday season, Elevation Outdoors encourages you to support these important causes

T H E B E S T DAY O F 20 1 3 TO

save animals


OUR MISSION The Humane Society of Boulder Valley is a community supported, open- door facility that provides shelter, medical care and behavioral rehabilitation for more than 9,000 animals annually. Since its inception in 1902, the shelter has become a national leader in animal welfare. It is the mission of the Humane Society of Boulder Valley to protect and enhance the lives of companion animals by promoting healthy relationships between pets and people. AREAS WE SERVE We are the animal resource for Boulder and Broomfield Counties offering animal adoption, training and behavior programs, lost and found, full-service veterinary clinic, thrift and gift shop and pet supplies. All services are open to the public.

Your donation goes further on Tuesday, December 10.

Give a

Eco-Cycle is working locally—and globally—to combat climate change through Zero Waste systems.

MEANINGFUL GIFT that’s good for the planet!

For a gift that’s truly Zero Waste, honor your friends, family or colleagues with a contribution to Eco-Cycle this holiday season. Learn more and donate online at


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YOUR VALUABLE DONATION Your financial contributions will directly impact the lives of thousands of animals in need. Through your support we can provide shelter, care and love to every animal who comes through our doors.

A dventure A f ield


Deep in the

Far East Devon O’Neil

Lost in Translation? Who really knows? But one thing is certain: powder is a universal language.

Untouched powder. Big volcanoes. Tofu factories. And plenty of chances to break the rules. Skiing in Japan will change your life. by Devon O’Neil


was naked, sitting on a stone bench in a pool of hot water in the basement of our hotel, surrounded by three drunk Japanese men and my father-in-law. They were naked too. Perhaps you have read about onsens in other stories about Japanese skiing? This is the reality of those onsens: a bunch of naked people sitting around on cloud nine after a powder day, often tipsy, in our case trying, futilely, to communicate across a language barrier that felt like the Pacific Ocean. After many throwaway sentences on both sides and a lot of puzzled looks and laughter, the drunkest of the three patriots managed to get across that he really likes skiing Shiga Kogen, a valley that includes 19 ski areas on the Japanese main island of Honshu. Shiga Kogen happened to be where we were sitting at that very moment. He was from the city, and he had come to Shiga, as he often does, to escape his official life. He was very happy to be there. So was I. I will put this out there now so we can get on with the story: Skiing in Japan is worth it. Time, money, whatever the sacrifice requires. There is something about the way the lifestyle plays out over there. And the snow—believe every whiff of the hype, as hard as that sounds. To be frank, it gets old hearing about other people’s perfect, chamber-of-commerce-arranged ski trips. I have been on some that are so well programmed and guaranteed, it feels illegal in a way.

Like you’re cheating life. This one was completely different, and much more gratifying. We winged it from start to finish. It started when my wife Larissa’s parents decided to live in Tokyo for the year. Her mom, a professor, grew up in Japan in the ’60s, which was still a touchy time to be an American there. Twice in the past six years, she has taken a year-long job at Waseda University in Tokyo, and my wife’s dad has joined her. Each time, we have flown over to visit them at their small apartment in a Tokyo neighborhood called Takadanobaba. This year, since we would be there in February, we figured we might as well bring our skis. We ended up skiing five of the 10 days we were in Japan. On the front end, after two days in Tokyo, we hopped a domestic flight north to Sapporo, on the

Our best guess after lapping the untouched forest all morning is that the patrollers don’t like rescuing people from the trees, and if you scare everyone away, you won’t have to.

island of Hokkaido. I was still thinking about Tokyo when we got to Sapporo. If you ever doubt how vast our society is, and how many faces and shapes contribute to the human race, go to Tokyo. I get so cozy in my insulated mountain-town world that I forget what it feels like to be a minority. Tokyo is home to more than 20 million people, the majority of whom look and speak nothing like me. Being there reminds me how small we all are. We need those reminders to keep our priorities straight.


fter landing in Sapporo, Larissa and I took a bus to Niseko, the epicenter of Japanese powder skiing. We got there at 3 p.m. It was puking fat, dry flakes that floated by like miniature parachutes. We stashed our baggage, both figuratively and literally, in the hostel and hurried to the closest ticket window, where five hours of skiing cost $35. We skied thigh-deep powder in the trees until it got too dark to distinguish each other from the tree trunks. It just so happened that our trip overlapped with that of a friend from Colorado, Andy, who lives in Lyons and spends a few weeks each winter in Japan. We figured this out totally by chance, and he showed up the next morning with a rented SUV, having just returned from Daisetsuzan National Park, where he and a local girl named Rie had spent a few DECEMBER 2013 •


A dventure A f ield devon o’neil


Fueled by Tofu: Larissa smiles big going after untouched goods in the trees.

days backcountry skiing and camping in the SUV. Rie, a cook at the Black Diamond Lodge who was living in an attic with some local ski guides, had to work. So Andy, Larissa and I set out for a ski area called Rusutsu across the valley. The only problem with our plan was that to reach Rusutsu, we had to drive halfway around a prodigious volcano called Yotei, all the while staring at prime ski lines spilling off its face. We tried to ignore it, but right when we were most vulnerable, we saw a sign for the trailhead to Yotei. We made a momentary and unanimous

It was puking fat, dry flakes that floated by like miniature parachutes. decision to turn, forgoing chairlifts for serenity. Gnarly wind, slabby snow and wind chills well below zero kept us from summiting the 6,200-foot dome, so we spent the day lapping Yotei’s birch flanks in 10 inches of new snow. At one point we crossed paths with an old, crooked-toothed Japanese man on outdated telemark gear. He was very particular about his skintrack; if he disagreed with the angle of our track, even by a few degrees, he’d set his own.


We stopped to put on our shells and he passed us, explaining in broken English that he lives in a nearby town and skis the volcano once a week. A minute after he passed, we heard a muffled cry uphill. We found him wallowing upside down six feet below the surface in a bizarre and alarming hole. We later learned that the entire snowpack, particularly on south-facing slopes, often shifts up to 10 or 12 feet at random times, exposing gaping crevasses that run to the ground and can swallow unsuspecting skiers. More than a few people have died in such holes. It’s not the only danger on the volcano. That afternoon, we bumped into a friend of Andy’s named Kenji, who said a group of seven Australians had been skiing a large chute adjacent to our birch run last week when one of them triggered an avalanche. The slide carried the man 3,300 vertical feet down a corkscrew path and left him partially buried with two broken femurs. A local firefighter nearby heard his wails and called for a helicopter, which evacuated the man and likely saved his life. Rie joined us the following day at Rusutsu. She spoke little English and Andy spoke even less Japanese, but they both spoke just enough Spanish to get by. So that’s how they communicated — in Spanglapanese. It was wonderfully hilarious to listen to, but it also reminded me that precise exchanges are a luxury, not a necessity. Affection is a medium

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all its own. On our way home from Rusutsu after a day of empty tree runs in the kind of powder no one likes to hear about if they weren’t there, Rie took us to a natural spring to fill up our water bottles, then to the local tofu factory next door. I must have sampled 20 different kinds of tofu, all perfectly soft and delicious, made with the same water I’d just put in my bottle. That night we got drunk at an onsen then found a tucked-away restaurant and ate sashimi on our knees until we felt like bloated seals. It was one of the few meals where I actually knew what everything was when I ate it.


pon our return to Tokyo, we met up with Larissa’s parents and hopped a trolley down to a city bus station, which was buzzing with teenagers at midnight. Our trip to Shiga Kogen, on the cost-effective “Night Bus,” coincided with a college break, and hundreds of local students were on their way to the mountains. Almost none of them brought skis or snowboards; most simply wanted to sit in the onsens and socialize. Japan being Japan, it snowed a foot the first day we were there. Larissa’s dad, Rich, prefers to ski groomers; we were more interested in powder. The resorts don’t rope off the trees, but threatening signs at each point of entry make it sound like a

devon o’neil

A dventure A f ield


Make It Happen

Rising Sun: This is not I-70. You will have powder skiing all to yourself in Japan, but the word is getting out. So get here soon.

The slide carried the man 3,300 vertical feet down a corkscrew path and left him partially buried with two broken femurs. demilitarized zone: “Backcountry skiing is strictly prohibited!” Our best guess after lapping the untouched forest all morning is that the patrollers don’t like

rescuing people from the trees, and if you scare everyone away, you won’t have to. We soon turned our attention to the lines under the chairlift since they also had not been touched. This backfired when an enraged attendant stopped the lift, shouted something over the loudspeaker, then stormed out of his shack in rubber farm boots and lambasted Larissa (presumably) for dropping into the virgin snow. I pretended not to hear him and kept skiing downhill, my pang of guilt no match for the face shots. We caught the Night Bus home to Takadanobaba after another day of breaking the rules reluctantly but without regret. I had a difficult time making

We flew from Denver to Tokyo then caught an in-country flight on ANA (All Nippon Airways) from Tokyo to Sapporo. From there, book a round-trip bus fare to Niseko (powderhounds. com); most shuttle companies will drop you off at or very close to your hotel. We stayed in a private room at the Annupuri Oasis Lodge (, a five-minute walk from the Annupuri ski resort. It’s a hostel with shared bathrooms and visitors from all over the world, but it’s warm and cozy and includes a hearty breakfast, with delicious homemade bread. Oh, and bring your fat skis. —D.O.

sense of the experience over the next few weeks. The powder was one thing. If everyone on earth were able to ski that snow, we might well have world peace (especially if they were on fat skis). But it went much deeper than the powder. You know how people say you can find just as much adventure in your backyard as you can halfway around the world? Well, that is probably true, especially in Colorado. But the very nature of being halfway around the world brings clarity and perspective you can’t find in your backyard, because it doesn’t exist there. Devon O’Neil is a writer based in Breckenridge, Colorado. Find more of his work at





Mountain DOG


There’s no better place to be a dog than Colorado. by PETER KRAY


f I am lucky in life it’s because my parents raised me in Colorado, because I love what I do for a living and especially because I have known so many great dogs. Noble German Shepherds, loving Labradors, regal Rottweilers, ecstatic Golden Retrievers and wild-eyed Malamute mixes, they have all shared their joy with me— climbing mountains, swimming streams and huddling up against the cold—and they have taught me more about life than I could have ever learned on my own. I can’t imagine living in a better state if you are a dog, and I wonder if canines around the world don’t wag their tails at the mere mention of Colorado’s high peaks and wild air, panting like writers remembering Paris, as reverent as Catholics discussing Rome. To be a dog here is to exist in some active outdoor squirrel-chasing heaven. And to share the happy life of each of those dogs who live here is as close to heaven as some of us will ever come.

can fall in love again, and how different and fresh it can seem when my dad brought home a new German Shepherd puppy and named him Sohn. That dog died on Mt. Princeton hiking with my dad when he was only a couple years old. Whenever I drive by that mountain I roll down the window and call his name. He was followed by Pancho, an all-black shepherd who was so long it seemed as if he had an extra vertebrae and had to wear a black bandana when we went hiking so people wouldn’t think he was a bear coming around the bend. Pancho was a gentle giant who loved to lie in fields of mountain flowers, and who would exhaust himself running back and forth along the trail to make sure everyone was still in line. I remember on an overlook on Electric Pass with him, looking over and smiling at each other, and realizing that without a word we knew exactly what was on each other’s mind. He was sleeping in my parent’s flowerbed when I last saw him, driving north to Jackson Hole to find a Toby of my own.

Toby #1

Toby #2

Every mountain boy and mountain girl should have a dog, to get dirty with, and in trouble with, and to learn all those important life-changing doggie lessons, and of course, about how lonely life can feel when your favorite fuzzy friend is gone. My father’s first dog was a handsome German Shepherd named Toby. He was already 4 years old by the time I was born. Like an older brother, he always slept between me and the door, bumped me back from the curb, and was ever alert to protecting us all from harm. He also got to go on the bigger backpacking adventures with my dad when I was still too young. Once, above Frisco, when Toby treed a bear, my father had to tie a rope around his neck to drag him home. When he died, I learned like every dog owner does, how the world and its beauty and adventure and opportunity just keep spinning on. And that you

My grandfather had a cat named Toby when he was growing up. And that was the name of my roommate’s dog in Wyoming in the house with the two-story windows facing the Tetons on Sylvester Lane. Except that roommate was too drunk to feed, walk or even give that Toby a bowl of water most of the time. So after awhile, that dog was mine. Or I was his. Dog “owners” know exactly what I mean. Because “Tobear” lived his own life, and only shared it with me when he had the time. He ran wild in Teton Valley, from the bars to the pastures to the river, out for weeks and only coming home when he was tired, or had been quilled by a porcupine. He taught me that his days belonged to him, and that the shared adventure was about what he brought into my world, and how he could help me grow. I was always broke then, but somehow would


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find the money to get him out of the pound. I spent more time outdoors because every room in the house except the kitchen bored him, and he would glare at me when I watched TV on the weekends, reminding me that unless it’s football that you’re watching, then you’re just wasting time. He made friends all the way to Idaho, and packed the world into his short 10 years. I held him at the end and saw a bright red balloon rising over those Wyoming mountains, popping like silver in the sun.

Never Alone Before he left, Toby helped us raise Bella, a beautiful black Labrador who lived to be 16. He taught her to be wild, too, and to break all the rules for pizza crusts, running in a frenzy around the house whenever we called for delivery like there was an elk carcass in the living room. I see them all in the yellow Labrador sleeping beside me as I write, and in the photos that outnumber the pictures of people, the old collars and leashes and tennis balls in the drawer. In the trails we started in the open space near our house, where people drive from around town to share those paths, meeting other dogs and other people just like them. We stop and talk sometimes, and watch how boldly the dogs assess each other. And I know at least a dozen of those dog’s names. I only know the names of a couple of those people though, and their faces go blank in my mind as soon as they are gone. I tell myself that I’m just out there for my sweet pup, to keep her socialized and entertained. But I know the truth, too, just how much sweeter life is when you live on doggie time. Peter Kray is EO’s editor-at-large and co-founder of the Gear Institute ( His first novel, The God of Skiing, is due out soon.

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Elevation Outdoors December 2013  
Elevation Outdoors December 2013  

The Year-End Gear Guide plus a look at Upcoming Gear.