While you may be tempted to just put on a pair of sneakers and go, it’s a good idea to put a bit more planning into a hike and bring along some gear, even if you expect to be hiking for just a few hours. It’s better to be safe than sorry, so pack a backpack with a few essentials and make sure to dress appropriately. Also, be sure to let someone know when you leave, where you’re going, and when you expect to be back.
There is nothing like sleeping in the great outdoors, but there are some situations that can put a damper on your comfort and fun. Setting up the perfect campsite isn’t difficult, but it does require some attention to things that you may overlook when pitching your tent. Here are 10 tips for setting up a comfortable campsite. Continue reading
We all have it: a means to reset, to press the pause button and recharge ourselves. Call it what you will, but everyone has something that can make the rest of the world stop its chaos and allow us to just be. For some, it’s the early morning run in Buffalo Park. For others it’s grabbing your harness and climbing a Sedona spire. It may be an overnight sleeping out under the stars up on the San Francisco Peaks, or a multi-day backpacking trip in Grand Canyon. It may be a daily habit, or a seasonal event that is anxiously awaited. For me, it tends to be the latter, and it’s a trip rafting down the Colorado River.
It’s easy to fall in love with the river. The steep canyon walls reflecting golden hues on the water’s surface at the 5:30 coffee call, the massive scale of the hydraulics, and not to mention the numerous side canyons, ranging from the Little Colorado River with it’s turquoise waters, to winding Tapeats narrows in Deer Creek, to sleek Muav beauty in Tuckup, and so many more. Iconic stops like Nankoweap, Little Colorado, Redwall Cavern, Elves Chasm, Deer Creek, and Havasu are only the beginning of the adventures to be had exploring side canyons. Archeological sites dot the walls, and around every bend is a view worthy of a National Geographic cover shot. It’s really, really easy to fall in love with the river.
But it’s not only the beauty down there that resets me: it’s also the day-to-day pace of an oar trip. Every morning is waking up before the light of day has even began its decent down the canyon walls in the hopes of being able to finish coffee and breakfast and pack up camp before the sun hits the beach. Then your day is simple: go downstream. Some days are hiking days; with anywhere from 1-3 hike stops throughout the day. Others are whitewater days, this last trip we hit Hance, Horn Creek, Granite, and Hermit, in one day to name a few, making for one of the most fun whitewater days any of us ever had. Other days are mileage days, not a lot of hikes; likely plenty of rapids, but those days are really focused on getting as far downstream as possible. And then there are play days. Days where we don’t have a lot of miles to make, and we may have a hike in there as well, but the goal of the day is to get to a good spot, whip out some pool toys, and play. Redwall Cavern, the Little Colorado, and Havasu are a popular three such spots. Our big play day this trip was at Redwall Cavern, which included but was not limited to the classic Frisbee game in the cavern, eddy floats on pool toys (we had an alligator, a stingray, a flamingo, and an airplane, with the stingray being my personal favorite, despite the minimal steering capabilities), blowing up the Stand Up Paddleboard for eddy runs, and a game that involves spinning ten times as fast as you can while holding a paddle up in the air and staring up at it, then dropping it on the ground and jumping over it without falling down. Play days may take the cake.
Getting to camp at the end of the day can sometimes feel like the longest part of the day; it usually entails a few fire lines unloading the boats, setting up the groover, putting beers in the drag bags for chilling, and I usually end up running back and forth between the rafts, jumping over piles of dry bags and ammo cans and water jugs, seeing just how fast I can get down the line of rafts from the kitchen boat to the groover boat to unload without slipping and falling. Finally after the kitchen and groover are set up and the clients are off finding their campsites, we get to grab a cold beer and a seltzer water out of a drag bag, gather on someone’s boat, and talk about the day we just had and the day to come. With a few minutes before it’s time to start dinner some of us may jump in the cold water with a sarong and a bottle of Dr. Bronner’s and commence a little self-care time. Minutes later with wet hair and maybe, a clean(er) pair of clothes, the cook team for the day is in the kitchen chopping vegetables in mass quantities, heating up coals for the Dutch oven, and using every bowl, pot, spatula, and knife in the kitchen cavalry and making a huge pile of dishes. And then dinner is done, everyone is fed, the dishes are clean, the boats are wrangled, and everyone’s a few beers deep sitting in a big circle staring up at the stars, yawning because the sun has gone down which means it’s time for bed. Eventually the passengers retreat to their beach set up and the crew heads down to our boats, on rainy nights gathering under someone’s mega-mid with a bottle of whiskey huddled around in a circle of laughter. When I’ve finally made it back to my sleeping bag on the hatch of the boat and stare up at the stars for a few minutes, counting the shooting stars as they dart across the sky, that’s when I remember how lucky I am. The world keeps turning, my email inbox continues to fill, politics continue to stump the general public, but I’m lying in my sleeping bag staring up at the streak of stars outlined by the canyon’s walls, drifting off into a sleep rocked by the gentle lap of the waves of the river on the banks of the Colorado River of Grand Canyon.
These means of resetting and recharging, or pressing pause in the massive world we live in make all the difference. Coming off the river and returning to work at Peace, everything happened a little slower. The day felt a little more methodical, relaxed. The pace mimicked that of a river trip. By next summer days will once more feel like a whirlwind of hectic activity: but I’ll be thinking about getting on another trip down the river.
By Maddie Smith
10 Things I Learned from Spending 15 Nights in the Wilderness:
From April 22nd to May 8th I had the opportunity to go on an extended 17-day backpacking trip through the Aldo Leopold and Gila Wilderness, as part of a class that is a graduation requirement for my degree. No complaints from me about backpacking for class credit – and I learned a lot more out there besides the curriculum that was covered during those 2.5 weeks. So rather than write out a day-by-day log or even attempt to summarize those days into a blog post, I decided to write down some of the lessons I learned, and tell the stories that went along with them.
For anyone who may have read my prior blog post, “Trip Planning Never Goes as Planned,” you already know that I did about as much as I could get away with in the planning process at the last minute. While I did not suffer in the field because of my last minute tendencies, the night before I departed was a hectic rush. Oh, and you know how I said that I always have to forget at least one thing? This time I forgot my mini Nalgene – the perfect size water bottle for scooping water from shallow sources into a larger reservoir, or for sipping tea in the morning – we even used a mini Nalgene full of hot water to defrost frozen socks once.
- When in doubt, schwack it out.
We did a lot of bushwhacking on this trip – not all of it intentionally. We went on a search for a marked spring when we were in the high country through a large burn area and ended up crawling over fallen trees, pulling ourselves through prickly bushes, and sliding through mud so that we could fill up our water. When we came out of one of our bushwhacks I looked as though I had encountered an angry housecat, my arms were totally ripped up and bloody from thorny bushes and dead branches. Sometimes we bushwhacked because we had planned our route with some off-trail travel, other times it was because the trail disappeared, and one time it was for water. Every time made for a good story to tell when we got home.
- Don’t go down Gobbler Canyon.
Day 14 we ran into some trail finding problems when we discovered that our trail down from the high country was nowhere to be found due to the ridgeline suffering from severe burns in years past. There was a clear trail (with a signpost even! We didn’t see many of those) that said Mogollon Creek via Gobbler Canyon: 6.5 miles. A few of us remembered being warned against going down Gobbler Canyon, but could not remember why, and decided to take the chance and go down the clear trail. I won’t go into all the details, but by the end of the day, three out of four of us were covered in itchy red bumps, mostly on the backs of our hands, but also our feet, legs, and backs. We had soon discovered in our traverse down Gobbler Canyon that the canyon was full of poison oak, it covered the trail, there were forests of it off the trail, and most of the time it was impossible to avoid. One lucky person had no reaction, but the rest of us itched for days. Eventually we lost the trail due to the thick shrubbery and bushwhacked to find our way to Mogollon Creek, where we soaked our itchy hot hands in the cool water and sat down for lunch, grumpy and 100% fed up with poison oak. It got better though – about 20 minutes after sitting down to eat, we realized we were all sitting in a patch about 10 feet in diameter of immature poison oak. It’s now weeks late and I still have remnants of those little bumps on the backs of my hands. Remember the advice you’re given, and don’t go down Gobbler Canyon.
- Nalgenes don’t make good hammers.
This is the story of the cracked Nalgene. Day 7, I was staking down my tent and couldn’t get one stake in because the ground was a little harder, so I picked up my full 1.5 liter Nalgene, and happily hammered, unaware of my poor decision-making skills in that moment. About 10 hammers later, there was a loud crack, some sprayed water, and a lot of swearing as I realized I had just compromised ~1/3 of my water capacity. A little bit of UV activated aqua-seal and the Nalgene was…almost saved. For the rest of the trip I had a slow, drippy leak from the bottom of the bottle.
- Take down your tent in high winds.
On day 14 after coming out of the high country via Gobbler Canyon we pushed ahead down Mogollon Creek to our camp for the following day, thinking it would be nice to give ourselves a layover day following. Day 15 around noon we were all sitting by the creek and lounging happily in the sun. The wind had been blowing strongly all day, and we had heard trees falling up canyon, but weren’t worried yet, it was a pretty severe burn area up there and most of the trees looked ready to fall anyways. And then the wind picked up even more, and we could see trees right above us bending frighteningly close to ninety-degree angles. Soon we heard trees falling and moved away from the water and back to where we had hung our food and saw fully alive Ponderosa Pine trees were bending and cracking and snapping all around us. After a few nervous looks at one another, we began to talk about moving camp out of the canyon, which appeared to be acting as a sort of wind tunnel – the mesa above looked far less windy. As we spoke, two trees fell just feet from where we were standing, and we could see another snapped tree teetering above us. We scattered immediately, grabbed the hanging food, ran back to camp, and that’s when I saw my tent lying oddly flat against the ground. My heart sank a little when I looked down at my brand new ultra light tent and saw the snapped pole, but I barely had time to think about repairing it before shoving everything into my backpack in a heap and running up and out of the canyon. I was pretty grateful that it was day 15 and not day 3 that my tent pole snapped, I was perfectly happy sleeping out the next two nights, but the
- A little bit of chocolate goes a long way.
I’m not sure this lesson really needs an explanation – but a snickers bar that you save for day 16 lunch, or that last M&M you find at the bottom of your trail mix bag after you thought you’d eaten them all, those are the moments in the backcountry that can make all the difference when you’ve been eating the same mix of nuts and dried fruit for 2.5 weeks.
- Dice, a deck of cards, and a hacky-sack should always be on your packing list.
I don’t think we went a single day/night on this trip without utilizing at least one of these methods of entertainment, whether it was a heated game of Farkle (a dice game that I highly recommend for you to play with your overly competitive friends) while we gathered under a tarp to avoid high winds, or a game of gin at the end of a long day, or a post-lunch time hacky-sack sesh, these games kept us entertained for hours every day.
- Make stops for hot springs.
On both days 8 and 9 our camps in the Middle Fork of the Gila River were located close to hot springs. Lightfeather Hot Springs was the name of the first one (very hot, but a little shallow), and Jordan Hot Springs was the second (not as hot, but much deeper and absolutely gorgeous). And while actually bathing with soap in the hot spring is not advised in adhering to Leave No Trace principles, it comes close enough to a bath in the backcountry to be a highlight of the trip.
- Wake up for the sunrise.
On day 14, we camped at around 10,000 ft. near top of Mogollon Baldy Peak, the second highest point in the Gila Wilderness. We climbed to the very top for the sunset after setting up our camp the night prior, and decided that we should wake up early the next morning for the sunrise from our camp just down the ridgeline. The next morning at 4:30am all of our watch alarms went off, and with eyes half-open we pulled our sleeping pads and bags out of our tents and walked over to where we had set up our kitchen looking East. We boiled water for tea and oatmeal, and the four of us sat in line looking out together, watching the sun rise up over the mesas and canyons that we had traveled over and through in the days prior. If I had to pick a single highlight of the entire trip, that morning may have been it.
- I have a lot to learn.
Perhaps a little cliché, but it’s true. One of the reasons I’ve chosen to pursue outdoor education is because I really believe that the outdoors is the best classroom, and often does the educating for the educators. Every trip I’ve gone on that has had a structured curriculum with it, I’ve learned so much beyond the lessons, and on personal trips, there’s almost always a lesson to be learned as well. I’ve found that the lessons vary from humorous to gear-oriented to decision-making, and almost always make for good stories to tell later.
Sometimes, trip prep means weeks or months of planning. Sometimes trip prep happens the night before you leave. I’ve had less than 36 hours notice to meet a crew at Lee’s Ferry to put in on the Colorado River. I’ve agreed at 9pm one night to leave at 4am the next morning for a trip to Utah. I’ve also had 6 months to prepare for a 17-day backpacking trip in the Aldo Leopold and Gila Wilderness of Southern New Mexico. Spontaneity, I’ve learned, is almost easier than long-term planning.
I’ve known that I will be spending 17 days in Southern New Mexico ever since I became a Parks and Recreation Management major in the fall of 2014, and chose my emphasis in Outdoor Education and Leadership. I’ve known that I will be leaving for this trip on April 22nd since I applied and was accepted into the class last November. And yet even now, when people ask me when do I leave for that big backpacking trip that I’m going on this Spring; my reply is, “Oh yeah we leave in late April.”
It’s late April.
When I found out the trip dates, as someone who procrastinates almost for the sake of procrastinating, I knew that trip preparation was going to have to be a top priority in the coming months. In December, I knew I needed new hiking boots, a lighter backpacking tent, and a new sleeping bag since my old one had suffered extensive zipper damage thanks to my dog’s chewing tendencies. Initially I was pretty proud of myself because before the start of 2016, I had ordered and received a new sleeping bag. I thought maybe my last minute tendencies were becoming a thing of the past, and I was on the road to a well-thought out and long term planning process.
Come April, and I still hadn’t ordered the other two big purchases on my list, boots and a tent. I frantically dumped my bank account on the two items and I’m pretty sure that I didn’t stop nervously pacing by the front door and tracking the orders on FedEx every ten minutes until the packages arrived at my doorstep. I’m also pretty sure that one my tent arrived on my doorstep it didn’t remain in its packaging for more than about five seconds, I wasted no time in giving it a first go at setting it up in the middle of the living room.
One of the goals for this trip was to get everyone’s pack and gear as close to Superlight or Ultralight as possible. Superlight means a dry weight (weight of pack without food or water) of less than 20 pounds; Ultralight is under 10. This meant hours of weighing each item individually, and knowing that ounces add up. I used to roll my eyes at my friends who would cut their toothbrush in half to save a few ounces, or who repackaged every single item they bought, soap, band-aids, even toothpaste. Now, I am making a public apology for mocking my friends brushing their teeth with half of a toothbrush, because I will be joining them this time around. Each little ounce saving sacrifice on its own seems pointless, but when you can shave off two or three ounces from 8 items, that’s a pound off of your pack weight. And knowing just how much food we were going to have to carry, I was not about to carry any more weight than I needed to.
My pack weight ended up being right around 15 pounds, which was significantly lower than any other pack I had carried before. It took being meticulously choosing between items, but it paid off, because I still had to consider the weight of food and water while hiking. Since on average you’re carrying 3 liters of water with you, depending on access to water throughout the day and whether or not you are planning on dry camping or camping near water on a given night, I averaged that I will be carrying approximately 6.5 pounds of water on any given day.
Which brings me to the next hurdle of trip planning: food. We had a 6-day travel portion in the Aldo Leopold Wilderness, then a food re-ration before we embarked into the Gila Wilderness for 11 days. I’ve carried 6-7 days of food on my back before, and while splitting the weight between a cook group of two or three definitely helps, it still comes out to about 9 pounds per person. We ended up needing to carry two stuff sacks for food for the 11-day portion; we simply could not fit all of it into one. We spent about 6 hours earlier this week weighing out, repackaging, and dividing the food for the 6 and 11-day portions among cook groups, and by the end of the day we had two more weights to add onto our pack, ~9 pounds per person for the 6-day travel portion, and ~12 pounds per person for the 11-day travel portion. Add that to my pack weight and approximate water weight, and I have about a 30-pound pack on the first portion, and about a 34-pound pack for the second portion.
Dehydrating food saved us an incredible amount of weight, and although in their little baggies the dehydrated lasagna doesn’t look particularly appetizing, we all knew that after a week in the backcountry it would make a fantastic dinner. Think of it in calories, for instance carrying one non-dehydrated pepper, you’re also carrying its water weight, which holds no calories for you. When you dehydrate peppers, you can carry significantly more calories, and not carry the water weight. One pepper is ~53 calories and weighs ~6.7 ounces; we are carrying 2.7 ounces of dehydrated peppers, and getting ~191 calories.
No matter how many different types of trips I go on, preparation is usually a similar cycle that ends with me running around scrambling to tie up loose ends within the last remaining days/hours/minutes before departing. And I almost always forget something; extra headlamp batteries, a spork, one time on a river trip I forgot the sunscreen that I wasn’t allergic to and instead grabbed one that gave me an angry red rash. But it always worked out, my headlamp batteries didn’t die until I returned home and was using it to unpack my car, I managed to eat without a spork using a combination of my own hands and my pocket knife, and when my rash flared up I would dunk myself in the cool and soothing waters of the Colorado River. Whether it’s a backpacking trip, river trip, or a day hike in Sedona, something almost always goes wrong and something almost always works out better than expected. It’s part of the beauty of what we do in outdoor recreation. Even when the only unknown element might be weather or we’re not sure exactly where the trailhead is, we are almost always leaving something to chance. And now, finishing this blog post with less than 24 hours remaining until my departure on this trip that I’ve had 6 months to prepare for, I’m reminding myself of all of the elements that I am simply forced to leave to chance, and embracing it.
To be continued in 17* days
*If it’s less than 17 days, something has gone terribly wrong and I’ve been evacuated. If it’s more than 17 days, then we’re very lost and hopefully someone has sent help.
When Flagstaff wakes up to snow in early November, you can almost hear the collective expressions of excitement from college students near and far who are already busy envisioning themselves out on the slopes. There’s nothing quite like a mid-semester ski trip to revitalize you, and the fresh clean mountain air is just the therapy you need before studying all night for end-of-the-semester exams. But soon you begin to grapple with the reality of funding a ski trip on a college budget, and before you know it, you tell yourself there’s always spring; there’s always next year.
Skiing can be a pricey endeavor. Things such as ski or snowboard equipment, lodging and lift tickets can mean a hefty financial investment, and that’s why we’ve come up with some tips for planning a ski trip on a college budget. We wholeheartedly believe that the mountains are for everyone and are simply good for the soul. So grab your gear and get ready to plan your ski trip on a budget using these four lifesaving tips!
- Shop for the all-in-one
Students, ski resorts know you’re coming and they want you to stay really, really bad. Often times what happens is that the resort will partner up with a local hotel and offer discounts on rooms or even create ski bundles to encourage you to stay longer. These offers are usually a lot cheaper than booking your room and then buying your entry separately, so make sure to keep an eye out for them. There are various deal and booking websites out there that curate these deals, including SnowPak and Budget Travel Real Deals. Don’t forget that Peace Surplus rents Ski and Snowboard packages for $19.99 a day. Going out of town? We will even throw in free travel days.
- Realize that the weekend is not the only time for a vacation
Many people fall into the “perfect three-day weekend” sales pitch when booking ski trips. But weekend rates at hotels and lodges can be pricey. Luckily, almost all places have midweek rates, or rates from Monday to Thursday, that are a great deal lower than the rates you would pay to stay on the weekend (Arizona Snowbowl is one example). While weekend skiing might seem like an ideal mini-vacation, we know that when you’re up on that mountain, the days of the week will become irrelevant.
- Get your lift ticket ahead of time
The early bird gets the worm. It’s not just an age-old adage your grandmother loves to use to get you to do your chores, it’s also true when you’re planning a budget-friendly ski trip. The golden rule: buy your lift tickets early. Buying a lift ticket on site can cost you almost as much as your lodging. One good way to avoid extra fees is to look for ski packages where the lift fee is included. If your package doesn’t include a lift pass, try to find one from a discount lift site. Try Liftopia or Get Ski Tickets.
- Go to your closest mountain
We all have dreams about skiing Whistler or the Alps, but let’s not forget about all of the exciting ski locations that are realistically within our reach. Here in Flagstaff, we’re fortunate to be just minutes away from Arizona’s Snowbowl, located on the beautiful San Francisco Peaks. And because we strongly believe that skiing should be an affordable sport enjoyed by everyone, we proudly offer ski packages starting at the lowest prices in town. Wherever you are, you’re likely to be within a sensible radius for skiing and snowboarding this season, and that means you can start exploring your options for winter or spring skiing now!
If you’ve been longing to spend some time on the mountain, but have been reluctant to plan a ski trip due to costs that may be out of your reach, we encourage you to try our tried and tested planning secrets to finally plan the ski vacation you’ve been dreaming of.
Do you have any additional tips that you’d like to share? Have you planned a successful ski vacation using these tips and you’d like to let us know how it went? Leave your comments in the space below!
The Decision to go to Japan
Spring has sprung, bike to work week is now done and we are seven months away from the next ski season. It is time to start thinking about the next big trip. Last year about this time B was lamenting the fact that he was going to turn 50 and wanted to spend his birthday on a slope somewhere. Since B’s b-day is in August, the only place to go would be South America or New Zealand. After researching and delaying long enough, the plane tickets were so expensive that it looked like it was not going to happen, B was getting somewhat frustrated. At this point b, dealing with a grumpy spouse quickly made the suggestion, “what about Japan? They have skiing in Japan!” After more research we discovered that we could get plane tickets from Phoenix to Narita, Japan with mileage points leaving on Christmas Day and returning 18 days later. So having no other plan but to fly to Narita we reserved our seats, before either of us had leave from work to take any vacation time. We had made a commitment.
Do we really want to do a Tour?
Now we had to figure out where we were going to go, we knew that we were going skiing but after that? Who knew! Neither one of us had ever been to Japan and were quite clueless as to what to expect, where to go and what to do. b spent some time looking around and found a tour company out of Australia called Whiteroom Tours, more on these guys in part 2. She initially thought that the 14 day tour around Hokkaido would be what we wanted. Since we usually don’t do tours and do enjoy the freedom to wander without an itinerary, we settled on the 10 day Central Hokkaido tour. This gave us some time after the tour to explore some other parts of Hokkaido and Honshu. We felt that after the tour we would be familiar enough with the country and culture that we could explore later without making too many mistakes.
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
B spent sometime reading up on the rules for baggage for US Airways and JAL. Flying out of the US is actually not so bad the weight limit is per bag. Flying in a lot of other countries the limit 23kg(50lbs) per person! Since our flights were on multiple airlines, we flew from Phoenix to San Diego on US West, San Diego to Narita on JAL and Narita to Sapporo on All Nippon Airlines(ANA), and our bags were only checked from Phoenix to Narita. We had to worry about the weight limit on the ANA flight to Sapporo.
The Gear Lists, not including the shells, mid layers, base layers and gloves.
Note: Some of the links point to more modern versions of what we have.
So we flew with one Thule ski bag, two backpacks(listed above), one Gregory Alpaca duffle, one Metolius crag bag, an Osprey Shuttle 80L and Meridian 60L wheeled gear haulers. During the flights to Japan, the only gear that we checked was the ski bag with just the skis, poles, probes, skins, and shovels. Ski boots, beacons, hard shells and anything else that would be hard to replace and hard to rent, went with us into the cabin of the airplane. Which also cut down on the weight of the checked bags so we made it under the weight limit for ANA… just barely!
We also planned to travel around the country a bit after the tour so we looked into Japan Rail Passes. This ended up being a very good deal for us as we were planning to travel from Niseko to Nagano and then from Nagano to Tokyo. The cost of the 7 day rail pass we got ended up being cheaper than purchasing the trips separately. Roller bags are a must when traveling on the trains. While the larger train stations usually have elevators to get to the platforms, the little small stations don’t and you spend a lot of time lugging baggage upstairs over the track and back down to switch platforms.
Buses and Taxis are in great abundance in Japan. Most of the hotels, Minshuku(Japanese Bed and Breakfast), and Ryokan(traditional Japanese Inn) provide some sort of transportation to and from a train stations. In our case, we obviously clueless enough that some train attendants call ahead and arrange a taxi for us. One thing to be aware of with the taxis is that when you are traveling with ski gear, they will charge you extra for the skis and snowboards.
There are a lot of useful apps out there to help you plan your travels, we found that Rome2Rio was incredible useful for planning the routes and finding places to stay and Hyperdia for getting the latest up to date Japanese Rail train schedules.
Arriving in Japan
We flew US Airlines from Phoenix to San Diego, JAL from San Diego to Narita for the first legs of the journey. The way we organized the flights was a little inconvenient and while we could have flow on to Sapporo, we would have had to change airports from Narita to Haneda. So we decided to spend the night in a hotel just outside of the airport at the Narita View Hotel. Easy to get to with a bus that services both the View hotel and the Crowne Plaza not too far away. Tiny tiny rooms and a little worn but very comfortable and especially after the 15 hours in transit from Phoenix, a perfect place to stop and collect ourselves. The hotel was very interesting, it appears to have been built in the 60s and had not been updated since. The room we had looked a bit art deco. It was the one place we saw a fried food vending machine!
The first of many vending machines, the blue marker under the drink is the cost and means that it is served cold a red one would mean that the drink is hot.
Making our way from Narita to Furano.
We grabbed the hotel bus the next morning back to the airport and caught out flight from Narita to Sapporo. It did take us a little bit to find the domestic checkin for ANA. It was in the lower level of the Narita airport and we, of course, were dazed, confused, and jet lagged tourist and were looking around at the international checkin before we finally asked where to go and directed down to the first level. The flight to Sapporo was a quick short hop and got us there in plenty of time to check in for the bus ride to Furano.
All of our gear piled into one place, while checking in at the bus line.
The tour company booked us on the Resort Liner Hokkaido Access Network to transport us from Sapporo to Furano. When we checked in we were told to go wait in the orange chairs across from the train station until 2pm. This worked out well for us since we had Japan Rail passes that needed to get validated for the rest of the trip after the tour. Getting the validation in Sapporo would allow us to take the train from Furano to Niseko and then on to Nagano.
Sitting across from the Train Station at the New Chitose Airport waiting for the bus.
Once we got our rail passes validated and sat down at the chairs, it was a little disconcerting as there was no signs or anything that pointed to the resort liner boarding. B checked outside at the parking lot and really did not see anything that was the Bus loading zone for that particular company. There was really no need to worry, promptly at 2pm a group of guides dress in white jackets showed up by the chairs and started shouting and holding up signs for four different destinations. Furano was one so we got in line along with a New Zealander named Dave, who we were soon discovered was going to be one of our guides.
The resort bus loaded us up and took us from Sapporo to Furano. The North Country Inn was the first real stop in Furano, there was a rest room break about half way between the airport and the inn. Paul Ellis, the founder of Whiteroom tours and head guide met us at the door.
Coming Soon….Part 2 – The Skiing and Ski Resorts.
You’ll find that the more you sign-up and compete in races, there is one overarching detail that stands alone – no two races are the same. A hill that you thought was going to be a problem was in fact a breeze, open water swimming is much different that laps in a pool, etc. This then highlights a new characteristic of your training which is; “adaptability is key”.
The best way to learn to adapt and prepare is repetition. Because of this, I will most times sign up for a race if the entry fee is low and the course looks fun!
This year’s Jackson Hole Ultimate Towner was just that – a fun cheap race. We weren’t winning any medals or shooting for personal bests, we were just having a good time.
I encourage this idea of doing many races a year for a multiplicity of reasons. Aside from them just being ‘fun’ there are heaps of peripheral benefits you can reap from such races.
One such benefit is race-day jitters. Anyone that has competed can tell you that standing at the starting line, waiting for the gun and hearing someone over a loud speaker start to count down from ten will inevitably get your heart pumping. As a mob of people break into a sprint and the beginning race orders are established, the chaos can at times be overwhelming. This is why (even in a joke race) you are practicing for the real thing. When race day does finally come for that event you’ve been training all summer for, this pandemonium and disarray will not throw you off your game.
Another advantage of spontaneous races is that it keeps you on track for your training. It is a great indicator of where you are physically and mentally, outlining how you’ll compete when the time comes. Sure, anyone can do their normal 5K loop around the park in front of their house and shave seconds with ease. It’s a whole new ballgame when you’re running with crowds on unfamiliar terrain in an unfamiliar location. If you’re training for a Tri, why not sign up for a 10K or a bike race 2-3 months in advance?
Lastly, it’s very fun. All the accolades of finishing a race are still there at the finish line, regardless of whether it was an Iron Man or a Turkey Trot. There will inevitably be volunteers, coordinators and fans waving and screaming. The energy and the smiles post-race are different than any I’ve experienced anywhere.
This year our friends at Peace Surplus supported our efforts to start our year right at Jackson Hole’s Ultimate Towner. It is an obstacle race that requires team support for most features.
Team Peace was comprised of mostly Flagstaff former residents. We finished in the top tier of our division.
Team Peace Surplus(L to R): Hannah Lewis, Alex Spannuth, Ayla Allen, Rob Sourek, Sara Chapin, James “Naughty” Naughton and Ally Barnett
Here’s our latest How-To’s from Rob Sourek, Peace Team rider out of Jackson Hole. Click the links below to check out his step-by-step guide to hucking rodeos, and just in time for this weekend’s storm in Flagstaff, 8 tips for splitboarding and backcountry ski touring. Carpé Winter!!
*All tips mentioned below are applicable to both splitboards and alpine ski touring. Splitboarding is the fastest growing aspect of snowboarding. It’s opening doors to bigger lines and allowing quick and efficient access to backcountry zones which in past years necessitated helicopters or overnight pack trips. With this new sport growing fast there are many tricks and techniques that will make life a whole lot easier for both beginners and seasoned vets. As with any backcountry travel, it is strongly advised that you have extensive backcountry and avalanche training. Always go with a partner, and at minimum have an avalanche transceiver, probe and shovel.
Now, a couple of tips:
1. Leave the parking lot cold
I don’t mean freezing – but a bit colder than you’d generally enjoy. While skinning, you will heat up fast and be glad when everyone else in the group has to stop to shed layers you will blow by without breaking stride.
2. Put on skins and transition to “tour mode” in doors
In a perfect world we would drive to the top of a 4,000ft Alaska spine and drop-in, shred to the bottom and jump on the back of a white Pegasus and be flown back to the summit. Unfortunately that’s not the case. 99.99 times out of 100 you will be skinning right from the car, hence there is no reason to be freezing with cold hands trying to get your skins on straight or lining up your binding. Let your friends who forgot to transition last night be cold while you finish your coffee in the truck.
3. Practice your kick turns
As a season ritual after the first snowfall, I generally find myself touring around the front yard or some low angle park/field. I slog around on my splitboard like cross-country skis, making sure to practice kick turns every so often. Kick turns: when touring you’ll find that the pitch of your slope will be too steep to walk straight up (also very tiring) and you will have to make an uphill zig-zag motion, between zigs and zags you will kick turn. A quick how-to below:
i. Place your skis parallel. Swing your uphill ski in the opposite direction than your traveling, making a very awkward “V” shape (the more obtuse the “V” the better).
ii. Put all your weight on your uphill ski, not “some” but ALL your weight. You’ll find that climbing skins are like friction knots – the more weight and pressure you apply on one ski, the better it will stick to the snow.
iii. Now for the hard part, in one smooth motion slightly pickup your downhill ski while kicking your heel down and back, away from your body (this will pop the nose of your ski up and allow it to swing over the snow rather than dig-in). Swing this ski over to be parallel with your uphill ski.
4. Bring a buff or neck gator
Wear this as a headband, it will keep your ears and forehead warm while allowing heat to escape from the top of your head. It can also be worn different ways to protect your face, neck and cheeks from the elements.
5. Practice transitions in doors
While watching TV or just messing around in your living room, practice going from “tour-mode” to “ride-mode” and back again. This will help to identify problems or potential hazards that may need addressing before being stranding on top of a mountain. Plus, it’ll make you quicker and more efficient during transitions, which is always a plus when touring with grumpy tele skiers.
6. Buy the right touring poles
Adjustable touring poles are mostly made for skiers who need them shorter on the climb up and longer for skiing on the way down. Because we need to fit these inside our backpacks or strap them on the outside, we need to make sure they’re as lightweight and small as possible.
Flic-Locks: Be sure that whatever brand touring poles you decided on, they have flic-locks and not twist-locks. This is a locking mechanism that is placed where the poles telescope and it “flics” into place. Many times “twist-locks” will ice-up or break, leaving you stranded to tour back home with one or no poles.
TRI-Telescoping Poles: These poles telescope on two planes with three moving parts, making them shrink down very small. If you cannot afford or don’t have tri-telescoping poles you can very easily make the proper adjustments with some measuring and a hacksaw. Many touring poles only telescope on one plane. Measure what your desired touring height is and mark it.
Now remove bottom section by pulling it from the top. Measure 10-12 cm past your desired touring height and lope off the additional aluminum (not recommended for carbon-fiber touring poles). You’ll find these now shrink down much smaller when collapsed. Use the top of your pole to pull up risers: It’s worth looking for this feature when picking out the right poles. On any full-day tour you’ll pull up and push down your risers a dozen times, this feature prevents you from having to bend over and flip them up by hand.
I find that the best touring poles are Black Diamond’s Carbon Compactor.
7. Use the Knee Method to Separate Sticky Skins
Sometimes when you were too excited to use skin savers (screen sheets placed between skins used for storing) you’ll pull out of your bag two skins that are cemented together. Tired and exhausted the last thing you want to do is spend the next 15 minutes straining your arms and back trying to pull your skins apart. This easy method takes the frustration and work out of it. Pull your skins apart 6-8 inches so you can get a good solid grip on them. Next, place them between your legs pinching them together with your inner thighs. Now pin the separated tails to your quads and open your legs. Continue this until your skins are freed.
8. Buy Merino Wool
For years I used to tour the backcountry in my under armor long johns and sweat whisking workout shirts, and freeze! Many people don’t realize that one of the main components of these products is plastic. Small plastic thread is woven into the fabric of these garments to make them look shiny and feel breathable. Merino Wool is the highest quality insulating base-layer on the market. It uniquely has finer thread than normal sheep’s wool so it won’t feel scratchy against your skin. For warmth and durability I highly recommend the brand Icebreaker – whose Merino Sheep are sheered once every five years to ensure happy sheep and the best quality yarn.
Contributed by Peace Team member Rob Sourek