Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Decisions, decisions: Outside Magazine's Buyers Guide shells

Outside Magazine tapped my wet and mild locale to review spring and summer shells for their Summer 2011 Buyers Guide. I'm almost finished testing soft and hard shells (and some that land somewhere in between) and now its decision time. What shells will make it and what won't. Space is limited and the options are many. I try to find a balance of choices that range in price and features. But most companies make great stuff, so it gets pretty hard. For Gear of the Year I'm thinking of naming the...no way, you'll have to wait until the issue comes out in April.

Ski articles out in print

Last winter I spent a week touring around the Canadian Rockies with photographer Josie Boulding. She's also my wife. We hit Lake Louise, Panorama, Fernie and Castle Mountain at the tail end of a month long dry spell. I wrote about the surprisingly epic trip - we found great skiing everywhere we went - in an article for Ski Canada's 2010 Fall issue called Four for the Road. The issue is on newsstands now.

Presenting at the Great Outdoors DIY Weekend

As the gear editor at explore Magazine I've been tapped to do more than 10 gear presentations at the Great Outdoors DIY Weekend. The outdoor show is a collaboration between explore and her sister titles Cottage Life, Outdoor Canada (fishing and hunting) and Canadian Home Workshop, taking place this weekend at Toronto's International Centre.

Between stints manning explore's booth, I will give talks and presentations on four themes: portable power, winter gift ideas, winter commuter gear and picking and packing packs. Portable power will highlight some of the new powered products making winter warmer and other products that allow us to keep our digitized world functioning just about anywhere. Highlights from explore's winter gear line up and others that didn't make the magazine will be on display for winter gifts. Gear for walking, running or biking to work in winter weather is the focus of the commuter products presentation. At an area dedicated to getting newbies into the outdoors is where I'll present a how to on picking and packing day and overnight packs.

I'm looking forward to the show. Should be lots of fun and it will be a great chance to meet lots of readers.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Third place finish in adventure race

At the Mind Over Mountain Adventure Race a summer of paddling helped me claim third place in the solo men's category, September 25. The 50 kilometre race was long and hard, made tougher by windy and wet weather and a cold.

I was feeling so crappy I almost pulled out the night before, but I pushed through and am glad I did. I did well on the opening paddling leg, surfing my surf ski on the small waves blowing down Comox Lake near Cumberland, British Columbia. I landed in second overall, first solo boat.

The mountain bike leg was my weakness and I got passed by a few teams getting to the trail running/orienteering transition. I held my own here, despite a few mistakes, and was back on the bike, for the second bike stage, in third overall, but I was tired. It didn't take long before several solo guys had passed me, relegating me to fifth. I didn't care though. The riding in Cumberland is so much fun it's impossible to be in a bad mood bombing the single track.

The race ended with another orienteering section. Despite being dead tired I managed to claw my way back for third. I was super happy and know if I'd made a couple of better navigation decisions I could have challenged for second.

Photo: That's me on the left standing next to winner Todd Nowack and second place finisher Jeremy Grasby.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Guest on August 8, 2010, CBC radio's Cross Country Check Up

On Sunday August 8 I was interviewed by Jacquie Perrin, the guest host for CBC's Cross Country Check Up radio program. The show was on the decline in the number of people camping and I offered my two cents on why fewer people are camping and what the outdoor gear companies are doing about it - basically making camping easier and less of a shock compared to real life. You can listen to the program here; I'm the second guest.
The biggest reason I think fewer people are camping is a loss of connection to the activity. Camping is a lot of work: preparing, packing, getting there, setting up, taking down, driving home, cleaning up, putting away. You need some solid motivation in this time of instant gratification. It's telling that mountain biking and trail running are booming while the sales of big hiking boots stumble. People aren't willing to invest the time it takes to go camping as much any more. Other reasons for the decline: cost, it's not as cheap as it was to go and to get outfitted; and an aging population, sleeping on the ground isn't attractive to everyone.
I fell in love with outdoors and camping on trips with my family. We had an orange canvas tent that was bulky, heavy and, if my memories of my dad cursing are correct, hard to put together. Our first few trips were car camping weekend's in Australia. When we moved back to Toronto we spent a memorable week paddling in Temagami with Hap Wilson. From there it was camping across Canada, hiking in the Canadian Rockies and two weeks on the Nahanni. I was hooked on the outdoors. My best memories of travel and wilderness were on those family vacations.
As an industry, I don't think outdoor gear manufacturers do enough to encourage the next generation and new immigrants to get out in the wilderness. I don't know what the best way to introduce it is, but something needs to be done to get more people in our wild places. If we don't the value society puts on parks and wild places will decline along with use. Anybody got any ideas?

Mountain running? I do that too.

After a three days of walking the floor at Outdoor Retailer in Salt Lake City I headed east to ski town Park City, Utah, to run in the Jupiter Peak Steeplechase, a 16 mile (about 27 kilometre) trail run in the Wasatch Mountains. The race is one of 10 in the LaSportiva Mountain Cup race series, the richest trail racing series in North America with $25,000 up for grabs for the cup winner.
Gore (makers of Gore-tex et. al.) and La Sportiva sponsor the series and invited a small team of journalists to experience the race for themselves. I was pretty nervous about Jupiter Peak - I'd never run that far before, the race starts at 7,000 feet and climbs above 10,000 and I live and train at sea level, and my IT band has been bugging me on all my long training runs.
The night before was a good relaxer though as we got a run through of La Sportiva's spring 2011 new trail shoes (lots of really cool stuff coming for next year) and went to dinner at Robert Redford's Zoom Restaurant (try the giant onion rings and the ribs). We also learned about Park City's incredible trail infrastructure. With leadership from the Mountain Trails Foundation, a locally supported non-profit, 380 miles of trails have been built and are maintained in the Park City area, linking three ski resorts and surrounding public lands with some of the buffest and smoothest trails I've ever seen. "We think we have the best mountain biking in the country right now," Charlie Sturgis, the executive director of the foundation, told us. With two IMBA epics nearby the business model and trail infrastructure is a model for others to follow.
After dinner we headed out onto Park City's historic Main Street to check out the Kimball Arts Festival. The entire street was filled with art of all types and descriptions and the entire town seemed to be out to enjoy it.
The next day, 300 racers left the start line at the Park City ski hill base headed for the distant summit of Jupiter Peak. The first part of the race was on a steady and steepening road and then onto single track where I fell into line with everyone else, basically staring at the feet of the runner in front of you. It was good though, since it gave me a chance to catch my breath and find a rhythm. Slowly the pack thinned out and before long I was cruising along comfortably. I ran most of the way up the seven mile climb, walking only where the grade steepened. At the summit I felt strong, but it didn't last.
The steep descent tightened my IT band. I had to stop several times to stretch it out as we raced along an exposed ridge with great views and then dropped into flowy singletrack. I couldn't help wishing I was on my mountain bike.
If I didn't try and slow myself down my IT band felt better, so after a while I just let it all go. I started passing people too. I coasted into the finish feeling pretty spent and sore. Total time: 2:38 minutes. Since I was aiming for under three hours I was pretty happy with my time. It was good enough for 72nd male and 84th overall. And top Canadian, although ex-pat Elinor Fish, an editor at Trail Runner Magazine, beat me by seven minutes.
If you're ever in the area in August this is an exceptional race, well worth considering. And if you're ever heading south with the mountain bikes make sure you stop in Park City. I'm planning on riding there next year.
For a great race report and links to full results check out Bryon Powell's irunfar.com site.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Province newspaper article on Strathcona Centennial Expedition

On Sunday July 25 I'll begin a hike in Vancouver Island's Strathcona Provincial Park as part of the Strathcona Centennial Expedition. Strathcona park was enacted after the minister of the environment of the time went on a six week trip to see the mountains of Vancouver Island's interior for himself. 2010 is the 100th anniversary of that trip and BC Parks turns 100 in 2011. I'm joining the expedition for fun and to write about it.

I'm doing the Crown Mountain portion, a week long overland hike including the summit of Crown Mountain 100 years to the day of the original first ascent.

I wrote an article previewing the four week reenactment for the The Province newspaper and will be covering the expedition in BC Magazine and hopefully elsewhere.

Monday, June 7, 2010

And the winner is...me!

I won Gold and a few other nods from the National Magazine Awards. Along with a stellar editor and creative team I won Gold for the Summer List, a collection of 50 things to do, in explore's Summer 2009 issue. I won a solo Silver for Best of our Parks in the June 2009 issue.

Several other stories and packages I was involved with won Honorable Mentions. You can see the full list at the National Magazine Awards site.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Best of Banff, an inside guide to Canada's favourite park

I spent a good chunk of March researching and writing an insider's guide to Banff National Park for explore Magazine's June issue, now in print and partially reproduced online. It was probably the most fun I've ever had writing an article that didn't involve skiing untouched powder. I'm proud of the results and think I produced a really useful article.

I spent my teenage years and early twenties hanging out in the park, skiing in the winter and spring and hiking, climbing and paddling during the summer and fall. Many nights were spent celebrating in the pubs and bars off Banff Avenue. What a fun place to hang out. I go back every year.

Researching the article put me in touch with dozens of locals who like the town and park as much as I do. It also reminded me of all my adventures and misadventures and made me excited for my next trip to one of Canada's favourite outdoor playgrounds.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Ryan Stuart National Magazine Award Nominations

I'm going to blow my own horn: For the second year in a row I've been nominated for several National Magazine Awards. All are for writing packages in explore Magazine; the magazine recieved 19 nominations in total.

I'm nominated for: Service: Lifestyle for the article Best of Our Parks, a hit list for Canada's parks; as part of a large team of writers, editors and designers for Best Single Issue and Editorial Package; and two nominations in Single Service Article Package, one for Do it Like an Olympian, a package of advice from Olympic athletes, and one for The Summer List, a plan for summer fun.

You can read all the nominated stories and packages here.

The awards will be handed out at a gala event on June 4, in Toronto.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Icefall Lodge, ski pant review: more articles in Skiing Magazine

The best ski run of my life has been immortalized in the pages of Skiing Magazine's December issue. The article I wrote about Icefall Lodge focuses on the highlight of the trip, a 5,000 foot descent that included an aptly named section, The Playground. Natural half pipes, cliffs, lips, ramps and pillows were on tap, as was a sweet ski right into the heart of a glacier. It was unreal.

In the same issue is a ski pant review. I called in 20 odd new ski pants and put them through their paces, handed them off to ski bums and generally abused them. In the end I reviewed eight for Skiing. Four appear in the online article.