School’s Out for Winter: SnowSchool’s Outdoor Science Classroom

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This January, 70 elementary kids filed out of Boise’s Bogus Basin Nordic Center in groups led by SnowSchool volunteer guides. They were bound for the surrounding wilderness and the educational wonders it held. As they ventured through the forest on snowshoes, they caught glimpses of Treasure Valley and the Seven Devils Range in the distance. Along the way, they stopped to learn about the area’s plants and animals, discuss its ecosystem, and conduct a snow pit analysis. For many students, this was their first time snowshoeing—and their first visit to a national forest.

For 10 years, the SnowSchool has aimed to introduce students, often those underserved, to winter’s landscape and ecology, and foster an appreciation for nature, as well as a healthy, active lifestyle through snowshoe recreation.

Every year, the national program hosted by Winter Wildlands engages approximately 28,000 students at 45 independent sites across America’s snowbelt. The science-based program seems enough to make adults jealous. Read More →

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Cariboo Mountain Hut Adventure

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Story and photos by Riley Leboe

This past December, I made the 7-hour journey north from the coastal town of  Squamish, British Columbia to the tiny northern interior town of Quesnel, BC. It was my cousin Josh’s 30th birthday and we’d decided to celebrate it with a few days of skiing fresh tracks and living in the mountains. The following morning, we loaded up our trucks and headed out to the Cariboo Mountain Hut—a small touring hut at the foothills of the Cariboo Mountain Range.

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There was an incredible arctic outflow moving over British Columbia that weekend. The temperature was at that magic number of -40 where Celsius and Fahrenheit meet. Still, it was a clear and dry day, so we weren’t overly concerned about the frigid temps. We felt confident we could stay warm providing we were conscious and diligent about regulating our temperature, knowing the key to our success would be limiting the amount we sweat.

The hut was a short sled ride away. Taking advantage of easy access we brought luxury items including music, beer, and more extravagant food. After dropping our gear at the cabin, we started the hour and a half approach to the base of the bowl. Seeing that the cabin was well stocked with firewood and essentials, we left without firing up the wood stove.

We started our approach under the tree cover. Initially, we weren’t uncomfortably cold despite the fact that the bowl was north-facing and devoid of sunlight. Stability was manageable at the base of the bowl and coverage and snow quality were great. We began the ascent after picking out a safe route to gain ridgeline. I’ve never been happier to feel sunlight as we gained the ridge. Read More →

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Fine-Tuned Forecasts: Northwest Avalanche Center Launches New Website

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Story by Kate Hourihan / photos courtesy of NWAC

Between all 20 Avalanche Centers in the U.S., and many others worldwide, no two organizations deliver a daily avalanche forecast in exactly the same way. While there are many overlaps in language, iconography and general structure, each avalanche center ultimately has its own format. And because of this, as research evolves in understanding how to best to keep people safe from avalanche danger, avalanche centers have the ability to fine-tune how information is delivered to users through forecasts.

In December 2013, the Northwest Avalanche Center (NWAC) launched a new website. In addition to a visual face-lift, new mobile capabilities, and a more user-friendly interface, significant changes were made to how the daily avalanche forecast is broken down and presented to users. The re-design was influenced greatly by the Colorado Avalanche and Information Center (CAIC), whose design most closely resembles NWAC’s and relies on may principles originally defined by the Canadian Avalanche Center (CAC).

NWAC had specific intentions behind the  re-design.  The main goal, explains Program Director Scott Schell, was to create targeted forecasts applicable to various user types in order to reach everyone who might use the site—from “newcomers to the backcountry with little or no formalized avy education, to outdoor professionals and everyone in between.”

While the previous approach used a one-page forecast to explain many layers of weather and risk complexity, this new site structure aims to organize the various chunks of forecast information intentionally. Thus it uses the following tiered navigation tabs as a guide:

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The three tiers described above are visible on the forecast page in the forms of tabs, which let different user groups choose how much detail they want out of each forecast. The basic summary always appears first, with clear and direct language giving new-comers (or those who don’t read through the entire forecast) the most pertinent, straightforward information right away.

Read More →

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MSR BACKCOUNTRY CAFÉ: PENNE WITH TUNA, CAPERS, & GREEN OLIVES

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Story And Photos By Laurel Miller

It’s a well-documented fact amongst my family and friend that I’ll eat anything, as long as it makes for a good story or I’m getting paid (aka “working”). I’ve eaten everything from dog to witchetty grubs in the name of travel and research, and frankly, I don’t understand why people make such a big deal about the Donner Party’s diet.

I draw the line, however, at freeze-dried backpacker meals. I was a seriously picky eater as a kid, and the two lingering scars are the aforementioned- what I like to refer to as “crap in a bag-” and airline food. I know people who actually think both are tasty; as someone who’s eaten man’s best friend, I’m certainly not in a position to judge.

I used to consider a jar of peanut butter and loaf of bread adequate camping fare, but these days, if I’m doing anything outdoorsy that requires cooking, I prefer to think up healthy, inexpensive meals that feel indulgent, but add little in weight or bulk to my pack.

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This beyond-easy pasta is a good example. The tuna adds protein and Omega-3 fatty acids; the key to the success of this dish is using a high-quality brand of albacore or yellowfin (often labeled “premium or premium white meat”). You want fish that’s not only mild and sustainably-caught (longlining is the most common method), but solid-packed, which will yield a better final dish, texturally. The olive oil acts as a preservative, as well as yields a richer texture. Read More →

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Sitka- Running Wild

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Story by Adam Andis/ Video by Alex Crook

I used to imagine Alaska as a vast, wild expanse. In my mind, this state was full of immutable glaciers, unsummitable mountains, and impenetrable forests. I had always assumed that Alaska’s remoteness and immenseness protected it from the forces that had forever changed my childhood home in the Midwest.

Now that I live in Alaska, I’ve come to realize that the Alaskan wilds are just as fragile as any other. It is just fragility on a larger scale, but the threats, in fact, loom even larger.

I live in the small island-town of Sitka. We only have about 14 miles of road; the rest of our 100-mile by 30-mile island is jagged peaks, deep fjords, and dense forest. Incidentally, the coastal brown bears in the area outnumber the people who live on the islands here in the southeast, but we all get along well enough. Read More →

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MSR® Tent Tech: 3 Ways to Field Repair a Rip in Your Tent’s Rainfly

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All MSR® tents are designed with long-term durability in mind, but anything can happen in the backcountry. Even a small rip in your rainfly can expose your tent to the elements, and a little tear can quickly migrate and become a bigger problem. Repairing it in the field can be your best bet, preferably before it starts to rain. Here are three solutions recommended by MSR engineers and designers who have field-tested tents to their limits.MSR Fabric Repair Kit

Solution #1: Use the MSR® Fabric Repair Kit
Our first choice for quick, easy and permanent tent repairs in the field are self-adhesive fabric repair patches like the ones included in the MSR Fabric Repair Kit. Simply clean and dry the torn or damaged fabric area, place a patch on both sides of the tear, and you’re done. Read More →

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The Lunchroom: An Interview with Terry Breaux, MSR Product Manager, Shelter

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By Ryan Hayter

The Lunch Room (TLR): Shelter is a basic need for mankind. What exactly do you do?

Terry Breaux (TB): I design tents. It’s not just about stopping the rain from getting in or about deflecting cold weather. It’s more about how you feel when you’re in the space – the livability. How easy is it to get in? How do you function inside? Is the natural lighting plentiful and pleasant? Does it make you comfortable? All of this goes into the design process. For four season tents you’re looking for security and strength while three-season backpacking tents need to be airy and light. Every design is different.

TLR: You’re probably one of a handful of tent designers in the world. How did you get into it?

TB: I went through the architectural program at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. I like the design training that they give to architects. You can design anything from a teacup to a skyscraper. I knew I wanted to do product design from an architectural standpoint. One of the visiting professors in our program went to work for Moss tents in Maine. The work they were doing with tents impressed me so, midway through the program, I took 2 years off to work for Moss before coming back to graduate. Read More →

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Leif Whittaker on the Privilege of Climbing Mountains

Posted by & filed under Cult, Trip.

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Leif and Jim Whittaker on the trail to Mount Everest Base Camp.

Photos and story by Leif Whittaker

The view from the barren promontory above Namche Bazaar in Nepal looked out on a windswept hunk of the Himalaya where the sunrise struck, bathing the world’s highest mountain in flattering gold light. Dad and Mom stood next to me, their breath white in the frigid morning. The alpine air was redolent with juniper. We talked about climbing, a favorite subject of the guides, Sherpa, and photographers who clustered around us. I listened intently to Dad’s stories about his ascent of Mount Everest in 1963 and Mom’s stories about the 1978 K2 expedition. Though they spoke of daring, superhuman feats—like descending from 29,035 feet half blind and without bottled oxygen—I heard a conspicuous tone of humility in their voices, as if they acknowledged how lucky they had been. It was a tone that is far too rare in today’s extreme vernacular, one that declared a genuine reverence for the landscape and a visceral understanding of the fact that climbing has almost nothing to do with conquering mountains. Read More →

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Multi-day Ski Mountaineering: Tips from New Zealand

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photo: Nick Webb

Story by Kate Hourihan

In early October, American skiers Nick Webb and Beau Fredlund met up in Christchurch to catch the tail end of the New Zealand winter. Arriving just after the ski resorts closed, and the flocks of winter tourists departed, they aimed to take advantage of the milder weather, longer days and more stable snow of the New Zealand spring. While the snow was still plentiful at high elevations, it was not easy to reach. And while they made several long day tours, Nick and Beau focused on multi-day trips to take advantage of the terrain above the long, tiring approaches. Their longest trip, totaling ten days, was spent exploring the upper Tasman Saddle in the Aoraki/Mt. Cook National Park. After walking two full days up the Tasman Glacier, they established a base-camp in a remote alpine area. In hearing their account, I was reminded of the organization required in preparing for such a trek. Here, they share with me some tips for planning and preparing for long ski mountaineering trips, whether in New Zealand or in your local mountain range. Read More →

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MSR Backcountry Cafe: Rotisserie Chicken Fingers

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Story and Photos by Tara Alan

As much as I love the invigorating excitement of trying new flavors as I travel, sometimes what I really want are the familiar and comforting dishes of home.  It doesn’t matter where I am, or how long I’ve been on the road, I’m bound to get homesick for good ol’ American food once in a while. When my husband Tyler and I were cycling through France, three months into a two-year bicycle tour, we experienced just that.

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Nevermind the fact that we were in one of the most gourmet countries in the world, home to escargot and fois gras and a dizzyingly delicious array of artisanal charcuterie.  Nevermind the fact we could eat crusty loaves of bread any time we wished, could gorge ourselves on delicious smelly cheeses, and could delight in the sheer bliss of a buttery, shatteringly flaky croissant. Read More →

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