How Burnout Led This Pro Cyclist to Redefine Success

Being kind and informed and giving back to others—rather than race results—is how pro cyclist Sarah Sturm defines success. But it wasn’t always that way. As a competitor, Sturm had to burn out first before she realized that she’d rather be a mentor than an inspiration. Now she coaches other young women to achieve their own goals. Visit Wahoo Frontiers  to learn about more athletes who are redefining success.

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Sprinter vs. Teardrop Trailer: What’s Best for Camping?


p dir=”ltr” id=”docs-internal-guid-f66ac6a9-7fff-8cc1-f4fb-8868135499bf”>Most of the people I know who have a car camping vehicle of some sort are not satisfied with some aspect of it. If it’s a truck topper, they might hate putting it on and taking it off their rig. Or they don’t like towing a trailer and dealing with parking it. Or maybe they have a van and need more room for their growing family. If you don’t already own one of the choices out there, the number of solid options continues to expand, which makes researching them even more baffling. Nonetheless, the decision-making process about what to purchase can take a while. If you’re like me, it may never end.

My wife and I bought our 2006 Dodge T1N Sprinter with 64,000 miles on it in 2017 and named it Jean-Claude. It replaced my rusted but trusty 2002 Subaru Outback as my daily driver and Southern California surf rig. It also became our weekend escape pod. We used it to honeymoon in the Sierra and spent countless nights sleeping in the back on climbing trips in the desert. Last year, we used it to bring our then two-week-old daughter on her first camping trip.

The build is basic: a solar panel up top, LED lights lining the walls, 1/8-inch plywood finishing over recycled denim insulation, a Dometic fan, and a bed platform in the back. Because I use it for (now infrequent) driving around town, we’ve never installed a permanent and fully functioning kitchen. We use it to haul wood, bikes, and surfboards, so we like to be able to change the configuration quickly to meet our needs.

The main drawback is that we don’t have four-wheel drive. While we frequently take it down rough roads and have gotten to plenty of surprising places, we have to take it slower than I’d like. We have snow chains, and we’ve found with those that we can get away without studded tires and 4WD in Santa Fe.

That flaw—and general curiosity—is what initially piqued my interest in teardrops. If we were going to give up the van, a small trailer seemed like the next logical choice. You get the benefits of a passenger rig (off-road capability, comfort, 4WD) but have a tidy little camping setup right behind you. I made a list of pros and cons comparing the two, and it looked like a pretty close tossup. So, when we got the chance to try out the Meaner Bean from Bean Trailer and tow it with a 2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off Road on a long, COVID-style road trip this summer, we jumped at it. It was the perfect opportunity to see how a teardrop stacked up against our beloved Sprinter—and to see which was more comfortable for our family.

Gas Mileage 

(Photo: Courtesy Will Taylor)

The T1N Sprinter has been great for our family. Because I was using it every day when we bought it and we were planning on many road trips, gas mileage was a big consideration. The five-cylinder engine and 26-gallon diesel gas tank gets between 21 and 26 miles per gallon, even when loaded for camping, which gets us great range (about 600 miles) when we’re on the road or in remote places.

The gas mileage while towing the Bean will, of course, depend on the vehicle hauling it, but with the Tacoma, we averaged about nine miles per gallon, which was a shock coming from the van. (The Meaner Bean weighs 2,000 pounds unloaded.) Our range was just over 200 miles, and we cut it close a couple times, pulling into small-town gas stations with very little fuel remaining.

Winner: Sprinter

Storage Space 

The Sprinter is cavernous inside. We’ve taken many long weekend trips and numerous road trips in the seven-to-ten-day range and never had issues with storage, even when we’ve had climbing and surfing gear piled in there at the same time. It’s not always neat, but if we want to bring something, there’s no reason not to. If bikes are joining the party, we have a Kuat Sherpa 2.0 rack for the hitch. We love that everything can go inside when we’re parked in lonely lots. (The bikes go in the central area if we’re going to be gone for a long time.) Sure, Sprinters are big targets for thieves, but so are trailers, and we’ve been lucky so far.

There wasn’t nearly as much storage in the Bean, even with the truck bed (and with a wagon, like a Subaru Outback, there’d be even less). There were handy built-in shelves, kitchen sliders, and overhead space, but we maxed it out for a ten-day trip where we experienced cold and hot temps. The truck bed was full and so was the kitchen. It was like living on a sailboat, where everything has a place—a far cry from the wide-open interior of the van.

Winner: Sprinter

Off-Road Performance

(Photo: Courtesy Bean Trailer)

As I mentioned above, driving Jean-Claude off-road leaves a lot to be desired. He’s rattly and rough, and despite the fact that we have All-Terrain T/A KO2s tires on it, we have to be thoughtful about where and when we go places. It would be very easy to get stuck in the mud or get pinned down by a snowstorm if we weren’t paying attention. Those limits are frustrating at times, for sure, and could be a deal breaker for some.

The Tacoma that we towed the Bean with is an extremely capable rig and was comfortable for the long road trip we took to Wyoming. As you would expect, it was far superior than the van once we left the pavement. We traversed many miles of extremely rutted and potholed Forest Service roads, crossed soft loamy terrain, and crawled up steep, loose desert hardscrabble. The Bean handled it all with aplomb; its articulating hitch, Timbren’s Axle-Less suspension (which allows each side to operate independently), and 15-inch steel wheels clad in Mickey Thompson Deegan 38 All-Terrain 235/75R15 tires gave us confidence to take it anywhere that we could get the Tacoma. It’s also made with a one-piece fiberglass shell, which gives more interior headroom than many other teardrops and should hold up to a lifetime spent on bumpy roads.

Winner: Bean

Driving Experience

I grew up towing rafts and utility trailers, but when faced with the choice of towing or not towing, it’s easy: not towing is a much simpler proposition in almost all cases.

But the van comes with its own trade-offs. It has a 140-inch wheelbase, which fits in most regulation-size parking spots, and essentially drives like a truck. The turning radius is also impressive for such a sizable rig, which makes things easier in tight moments. That said, it’s tall and requires some thought to drive around. We’re always on the lookout for low branches and tend to park farther away in lots to avoid sticky situations. It’s also a sail in the wind, which is definitely scary when hauling down the freeway at 70 miles per hour. Despite that, I had no problems using it as a daily driver in Southern California.

One nice perk of towing something like the Bean is having the option to disconnect your trailer from your vehicle. This makes getting to trailheads, going on shopping trips, and driving around town easier. With the van, we have to make sure everything is squared away each time we want to go somewhere. With the Bean, your kitchen and bed can be locked and left for the day and will be ready to go as soon as you get back.

And for a trailer, the Bean has a very small footprint. It was easy to tow and straightforward to back up, and it didn’t feel like we were hauling a ship around everywhere we went. But you still have to tow something, which can be challenging and reduce your parking options. You also need a spot to park it at home when you’re not using it.

Winner: Toss-Up

Kitchen Setup

Once we got to camp, we loved the kitchen out the back of the Bean, accessible via a hatchback door. The whole setup was simple yet sturdy and provided everything we needed to make satisfying camp meals. The Partner Steel stove has reliable two-burner cooking power (20,000 BTUs) pulling from the exterior-mounted 20-gallon propane tank. When we were done, it folded up and slid under the counter. Same with the cooler drawer, which has an electric upgrade option ($599) that could be powered by a solar panel. (We just used a cooler and ice.) The 18-gallon water tank made access to water simple.

We loved that the kitchen was outdoors and wouldn’t stink up the interior with cooking smells. We figure camping’s about being outside anyway, especially if you live in the Southwest like we do. However, if you do most of your camping in rainy climates, this is something to keep in mind.

We cook outside in the van, too, and that requires us pulling out our small table, setting it up, and then popping our two-burner on there. Easy, but not as elegant or robust as the Bean’s setup. But we do also have the option of cooking inside if things get really nasty. Of course, many people have full kitchens inside their vans.

Winner: Bean

Sleeping Comfort

(Photo: Courtesy Bean Trailer)

The Bean and Jean-Claude are neck-and-neck in terms of providing a good night’s sleep. In the van, we have a raised queen-sized plywood platform with a memory foam folding mattress on top. It’s very cozy and has delivered countless nights of good sleep. The rooftop fan provides airflow and cooling, while the LEDs give off plenty of light.

The Bean features a fold-up futon for the bed that can be used to create an indoor seating area around a stowable table if the weather goes south. It sets up quickly and is quite cozy with the fan on for ventilation. One cool additional feature in our Meaner Bean was a hanging cot for our daughter that essentially acted like a low hammock. Two rods with a piece of canvas between them slipped quickly into metal slots to the aft of the cabin. She was suspended right above our legs and slept cozily within arm’s reach. This setup worked well for our family of three but would be cramped with four, as one of the kids would have to sleep down below with the parents.

Winner: Toss-Up


Finally, there’s the cost. The 2017 Tacoma cost $33,000 new. (You can find good deals on used ones, but they hold their value extremely well—a ten-year-old truck could still cost you $25,000.) The Meaner Bean starts at $20,950 before additions. That’s $54,950 to start. We bought our van for $25,000—which was a good deal—and except for maintenance costs, we haven’t spent much more than that. Of course, buying used is particular to the individual vehicle you purchase, but with enough scouring of the web, you might just find your dream rig. It’s also worth noting that 2021 Sprinters start at $36,355, with custom camping builds (kitchen, bathroom, lighting, storage, etc.) often starting in the $30,000 range, so if you’re thinking of going new, the cost difference between van and teardrop goes down or can easily break in favor of the Bean. You may also already own the ideal vehicle for towing a trailer of this size.

Winner: Sprinter


We loved the Bean. It was fun and easy to use, and our then 11-month-old enjoyed having what was essentially an enclosed playpen to bounce around in during our frequent stops and in camp. I was particularly smitten with the ability to drive relatively fast and comfortably on unruly roads.

But for our needs, the van is still doing the trick—we’re not rushing out to purchase a teardrop and a vehicle to tow it anytime soon. Jean-Claude has plenty of room for our family, and we like that we can change it to meet our needs. Plus, we’re not ready to invest more in a camping setup when we already have one we like. What’s right for you will depend on your priorities and financial situation. If off-road capability is your number one priority, a teardrop trailer like the Meaner Bean would be a great option.

How Burnout Led This Pro Cyclist to Redefine Success

Being kind and informed and giving back to others—rather than race results—is how pro cyclist Sarah Sturm defines success. But it wasn’t always that way. As a competitor, Sturm had to burn out first before she realized that she’d rather be a mentor than an inspiration. Now she coaches other young women to achieve their own goals. Visit Wahoo Frontiers  to learn about more athletes who are redefining success.

How The Avengers Were Really Assembled

We all love us some MCU Avengers action, and, statistically speaking, so do you. Watching Cap and Tony and Spidey (we like to think we have an informal relationship) just gets that adrenaline up, doesn’t it? But it’s a long journey from ‘We’re making a superhero movie’ to ‘Come watch our superhero movie’.

You don’t need us to tell you that movies take a lot of effort and a lot of people — we’ve all sat through those incredibly long credits to see 20 seconds of additional footage. What you might not know is how important each of those people are to making the movie happen. That’s why we’ve made this series of behind-the-scenes videos to fill you in on what happens off-camera to actually get these movies made, from financing to CGI to whatever the heck a gaffer is.


Avengers Assemble! In…. several months. The journey from approval to release starts with pre-production, where a whole bunch of the work required to make a film happen — long before any actors even show up. Whether it’s the arduous task of raising the required $200 million (minimum) budget to make the thing or hiring 300 people to work in the art department to help build the vision, all of it is necessary to bring the Avengers to the big screen. Check out our video to find out more!

The post How The Avengers Were Really Assembled appeared first on FANDOM.

15 Ways to Play in the Snow This Year

While you won’t be able to pile into a gondola with randos or share nachos at the lodge, you’ll still be able to make the most of this season. Whether it’s abiding by Covid-19 protocols at a resort, safely exploring the backcountry, snowmobiling to hot springs, or taking up skate skiing, there’s no shortage of ways to get out there this winter.

1. Get Backcountry Educated

Backcountry skiing near Vermont’s Bolton Valley
Backcountry skiing near Vermont’s Bolton Valley (Photo: Courtesy Bolton Valley)

With built-in social distancing in uncrowded terrain, heading out of bounds will be popular this winter. If you’re trying it for the first time or it’s been a while, signing up for a backcountry safety course is essential. At Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in Wyoming, a new backcountry ski camp debuts this winter with two group clinics, slated for January 12 to 15 and February 1 to 4 (from $1,760). The resort’s expert guides will also offer one-on-one clinics on avalanche safety, route selection, and touring skills in the area’s first-rate sidecountry terrain.

At Vermont’s Bolton Valley Resort, 24 miles east of Burlington, you’ll need to purchase a ticket to access its backcountry (from $13), but its beginner-friendly terrain makes it a good place to learn. You can rent touring gear, take a lesson, sign up for a guided group or private tour, and even book one of two backcountry huts. 

If you’re on the West Coast, Alpenglow Expeditions leads everything from sidecountry tours out the gates of Squaw Valley (from $105) to Avalanche 1 courses ($525) to introductory backcountry field days (from $199), where you’ll learn the basics of route planning, avalanche safety, and tips on efficient skinning.

Many backcountry courses will be virtual this winter because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education’s Level 1 course will be taught by both the Apex Mountain School in Vail, Colorado ($565), and the American Alpine Institute in Bellingham, Washington ($435). Classwork can be conducted virtually via Apex’s Flex option, while the AAI will host evening Zoom meetings. On-site field days will be held in the Vail area and the mountains east of Bellingham or Seattle, respectively. 

2. Book Your Own Ski Hill 

In southern Utah’s Tushar Mountains, Eagle Point Resort offers a splurge-worthy option to rent out the entire ski area for you and a few friends for the day. It’ll cost you $10,000, but includes private access to 650 acres, five lifts, and some excellent tree skiing. For other hills you can have to yourself, check out our list here

3. Ride a Fat Bike

The Fat Bike World Championships at Crested Butte, Colorado
The Fat Bike World Championships at Crested Butte, Colorado (Photo: Petar Dopchev)

From Flagstaff’s Arizona Nordic Village and North Fork Park outside Ogden, Utah, to New Hampshire’s Bretton Woods Nordic Center, many resorts and nordic ski areas are opening up to fat-tire bikes as a way to get more people outside this winter. If you want to rip fresh corduroy on a bike, Colorado’s Crested Butte Mountain Bike Association grooms 22 miles of slopes and the Crested Butte Nordic Center has six miles of trails on local easements for fat biking. In town, the Alpineer rents winter bikes (from $40). For a downhill-only experience, northern Minnesota’s Giants Ridge (day pass from $30) has lift-served fat biking this winter on three select trails totaling three miles, or test your endurance on its 37-mile nordic-trail system ($17), which is also open to fat bikers. 

4. Ski Early…

This winter, Steamboat Ski Resort in Colorado will offer First Tracks lift tickets for those who want to load into the gondola starting at 7:45 A.M. You’ll get access to the Sundown Express, Sunshine, and South Peak lifts 45 minutes before everyone else (from $39).

5. … Or Late

Strap on a super-strength headlamp and take the Ramcharger 8 lift at Montana’s Big Sky Resort. From Wednesday through Saturday, join a private guide starting at 6 P.M. for night skiing, a new offering at the resort (from $425 for up to seven people). You’ll have select runs to yourself as the moon rises over Lone Peak. 

6. Stay in Your Own Hut

A backcountry hut in Oregon
A backcountry hut in Oregon (Photo: Christian Heeb/Cavan Images)

Bunking in a communal-backcountry hut likely won’t fly this winter. So it’s a good thing some are sized just right for a small group and can be booked in their entirety.

In 2018, the Thelma Hut opened in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains, just half a mile from Highway 550 south of Red Mountain Pass, and not far from Silverton Mountain. The sleek, solar-powered cabin sleeps eight in separate quarters and can be booked for private groups (from $480) or as part of a guided touring trip with Peak Mountain Guides (from $460 per day, plus the cost of the hut).

In Montana’s Tobacco Root Range, 90 minutes west of Bozeman, the Bell Lake Yurt sleeps eight in a cozy 20-foot retreat set at 8,500 feet. Big Sky Backcountry Guides has exclusive access to 14,000 surrounding acres, which includes everything from low-angle trees to steep couloirs. Book a private, guided, fully catered excursion (from $225 per person), or overnight in the yurt (from $360 per night). Plan a resort day at Bridger Bowl Ski Area (from $35), 70 miles east, after your trip.

Part of the Vermont Huts Association, the tiny 250-square-foot Nulhegan Confluence Hut, located in the state’s Northeast Kingdom and a five-minute walk from the property’s parking area, fits six people in a sleeping loft and downstairs futon (from $80). There’s easy access to snowshoeing and snowmobiling trails, backcountry terrain, and resort skiing at Burke Mountain, 50 minutes away (from $56).

7. Learn How to Winter Camp

Near Heavenly Ski Resort in Northern California, book a guide from Tahoe Jack’s Adventure Authority for an overnight snowshoeing expedition. You’ll hike into the backcountry and set up a base camp. Gear, meal preparation, and just the right amount of instruction are included (from $325). 

Or sign up with the Mountaineers, a Seattle-based organization leading an online winter-camping course in December (from $75), paired with an overnight snowshoeing and camping field trip to Mount Rainier in February.

It may be hard to imagine winter camping within Minnesota’s sprawling Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, but gear sleds and a proper tent setup make it possible to explore the 1.1 million acres without advanced nordic-skiing skills. Sign up for a guided trip with Ely outfitter Piragis Northwoods Company. With a starter package, a guide selects a good spot, helps you haul in your equipment, and sets up camp—all the while teaching you winter-camping skills—and then leaves you for the night (from $250). The next day, you can ice-fish for trout or hit up the area’s extensive cross-country trails. 

8. Snowmobile or Dogsled to Hot Springs

Hot springs in Montana
Hot springs in Montana (Photo: Reese Lassman/Stocksy)

Guides from Idaho’s Brundage Mountain Ski Resort, 116 miles north of Boise, lead snowmobile tours (from $249) to four steaming mineral pools at Burgdorf Hot Springs, which plans to reopen this winter after a long COVID-19 closure. (Check its opening status before you go.) 

In Wyoming, the Teton Tour Company offers a 20-mile guided snowmobile tour in Bridger-Teton National Forest that ends up at Granite Hot Springs, a developed pool enhanced by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1935 (from $275). For a more luxurious experience, the 40-suite Amangani (from $800) in Jackson runs daylong guided snowmobile or dogsled excursions to Granite (from $700 per couple).

Deep in Beaverhead-Deerlodge, Montana’s largest national forest, the 3.6-mile Miner Lake Snowmobile Trail traces along the Lower Miner Lakes to Elkhorn Hot Springs, located four miles north of Maverick Mountain ski resort. Rent your snowmobile in the town of Dillon from Beaverhead Adventures (from $190), which can arrange delivery, and spend the night at one of 12 rustic cabins at the springs (from $80). 

9. Skin Up at a Resort

If it seems counterintuitive to make your own way uphill at a place where chairlifts exist, then consider this: unlike the backcountry, resorts conduct avalanche mitigation, so you can minimize the worry and tour in a safer setting. Also, many resorts allow uphill traffic outside of normal lift operating hours, so you can avoid crowded slopes and squeeze in a lap or two before or after your workday. 

Colorado’s Aspen Snowmass is known for its liberal uphill policies at all four of its mountains. At Snowmass, Highlands, and Buttermilk, you can skin up all day along designated routes marked by orange signs. At Ajax, you have to stick to the early or late shift—before 9 A.M. or after 4:45 P.M.—when the lifts aren’t running. If you opt for dawn patrol, après at the outdoor deck at Bonnie’s, the restaurant located midslope on Aspen Mountain, for coffee and oatmeal pancakes. 

A few other resorts that allow uphill access on designated routes throughout the day: Sugar Bowl in California, Crystal Mountain in Washington, and Sunday River in Maine. Not sure if your local hill allows skinning? The U.S. Ski Mountaineering Association keeps an updated list of resort policies.

10. Book a Private Snowcat for Your Pod

Why not use social distancing as an excuse to splurge on your own private tractor for a day in the backcountry? At Maine’s Sugarloaf Mountain, you can book a private cat Monday through Thursday for up to 12 people to lap the sidecountry terrain on Burnt Mountain (rates unavailable as of press time).

At Homewood Mountain Resort, a family-friendly destination near Tahoe, California, the resort-operated nine-person snowcat takes skiers and riders out the gates and across 750 acres of nearby Ellis Peak for striking views of the lake (from $3,000 for a group). 

11. Take Up Skate Skiing

White Pine Touring, Utah
White Pine Touring, Utah (Photo: Courtesy Sam Rice/White Pine Touring)

You won’t find a more full-body winter workout than skate skiing. But you’ve got to get your technique down to be efficient and smooth, so take a lesson if you’re new to the sport. The outfitter White Pine Touring in Park City, Utah, offers private and group skate-skiing lessons at White Pine Nordic Center, as well as guided outings on cross-country skis along the area’s trails or into the Uinta Mountains (from $50).

Twenty-five miles south of Whiteface Mountain, one of the High Peaks in New York’s Adirondack Mountains, take a private or group skate lesson (from $25) on 34 miles of trails at newly renovated Mount Van Hoevenberg Cross Country Ski Center, and ski to a hut where waffles are served by a crackling fire.

12. Shred at a Backcountry Resort

Imagine a ski area with no chairlifts and no grooming. But there’s avalanche control, pre-set skin tracks, guiding, rental gear, and a base lodge. That’s the idea behind Bluebird Backcountry, which opened last winter for a 14-day trial season with 400 patrolled acres on a ranch north of Kremmling, Colorado, 40 minutes southeast of Steamboat Mountain. Unlike cross-country resorts such as White Grass in West Virginia, Bluebird is all about big vertical. The resort is set to reopen at a new, nearby location on December 24 with 4,200 acres and a broader range of slope angles. Advance reservations are required for non-pass holders, since only 200 skiers and riders are allowed on the mountain each day. New this year, you can park your van or RV in the lot for slopeside lodging (day passes from $50, season passes from $350). 

13. Snowshoe a Frozen River

About six miles south of Lutsen Mountains Ski and Summer Resort, on Minnesota’s North Shore, snowshoeing gets a lot more exciting with the help of frozen waterways. Hike up the ice-shrouded Onion River, whose trail is accessed via the Ray Berglund Wayside, before passing through a canyon lined with towering icicles. Rumor has it the locals ski down the frozen waterfalls, but we recommend sticking to snowshoes. Sawtooth Outfitters, nine miles south from the resort, rents equipment (from $18).

14. Explore the Midwest’s Bounty 

Mountain Bohemia, Michigan
Mountain Bohemia, Michigan (Photo: Courtesy Joey Wallis)

Yes, Michigan has backcountry skiing. What Keweenaw Peninsula lacks in vertical drop it more than makes up for in snowfall, thanks to its northern location on the Upper Peninsula and the surrounding waters of Lake Superior. Here you’ll find short, steep pitches and some of the deepest powder in the Midwest (more than 300 inches fell last year—an amount that rivals Telluride, Colorado, and Park City, Utah). 

Near the tip of Keweenaw is Mount Bohemia (from $85). The resort has 585 acres of ungroomed runs, including short backcountry laps through widely spaced glades and slopes with 900 vertical feet. “The snowpack here has a bunch of moisture, so the snow sticks to everything, and there are tons of features to jump off,” says Collin Rehm, a freesking coach in Jackson Hole who grew up in Michigan and spent four winters skiing the UP. After a day on the slopes, take a soak at the on-mountain Nordic Spa

If you’re looking for more serious Midwestern backcountry, head 107 miles southwest to the hills around Michigan’s Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, which has four cabins ($68) across 60,000 acres that can be strung together for a proper hut-to-hut ski tour.

As for other unexpected backcountry destinations, East Coast skiers should check out newly gladed backcountry zones across New Hampshire and western Maine, including Cooley-Jericho Glade, near Cannon Mountain Ski Resort in the town of Franconia, and the Black and White Glade in Rumford, 72 miles north of Portland. They’re part of a project by Granite Backcountry Alliance, an organization that’s working with private landowners and local conservation groups to develop more of these areas across the two states.

On the West Coast, in a deep-snow winter you can backcountry ski an hour east of Los Angeles. You can summit crests like 10,064-foot Mount San Antonio and 8,985-foot Telegraph Peak right out the gates of Mount Baldy Resort in the San Gabriel Mountains.

15. Party on a Tube

Après-ski dance parties in crowded bars may not be a great idea this winter, but you can still boogie under disco lights—on an inner tube. You’ll find cosmic night-tubing sessions at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows in Northern California, Oregon’s Mount Hood, Colorado’s Keystone, and Pennsylvania’s Camelback

Original source:

How the Pandemic Has Changed Backcountry Safety

Over the summer, COVID-19 sent a flood of new people to the mountains to get away from it all. As the snow flies, many worry that a similar flood of newcomers will cause a deluge of accidents, including avalanches.

But a new study suggests that when it comes to slides, the newbies won’t be the only problem in this unprecedented year. It’s experienced backcountry users who are waking the big man in the white suit more often. And COVID-19 might be one reason why.

During the spring, researchers at the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) thought they were seeing more avalanche accidents as the pandemic swept across the country. According to the center’s director, Ethan Greene, they wanted to know if their observation was accurate, and if so, why this was happening. Were ski-resort closures sending a pulse of new, inexperienced people into the backcountry in search of a snow fix? The shutdowns and travel restrictions in Colorado that began March 13 offered an “unfortunate opportunity,” as Greene puts it, for him and Spencer Logan, the avalanche center’s lead scientist, to look at accidents during two very different periods of one winter.

In a study published on the CAIC website in November, Greene and Logan examined the documented avalanche accidents of Colorado’s 2019–20 season: there were 86 total, involving 126 people, six of whom died. To get a sense of how savvy these individuals—skiers, snowshoers, snowmobilers, and climbers—were about snow safety, the researchers categorized each in two ways. Whenever possible, they recorded the person’s level of formal avalanche education, and they also ranked the person’s experience based on indirect evidence available in incident reports and interviews.

Greene and Logan weren’t surprised to find that the majority of those involved in avalanches had intermediate or advanced skill levels. As training and experience increase, so does time spent in avalanche terrain, past research has shown.

But they also found something counterintuitive: a “significant change” in the experience level of those involved in avalanches at the tail end of the season. Of the 55 recorded incidents before March 13, 20 involved experienced backcountry travelers. Of the 31 that followed, 22 involved those with intermediate or advanced skillsets. (The “avalanche year” technically runs from October 1 to September 30, but there are about four solid months of skiing between mid-November and mid-March and about two and a half months after that.)

In short, more experienced, educated backcountry users got into more trouble after the pandemic struck. But beginners to the backcountry, as categorized by the authors, were not involved in a larger proportion of avalanche incidents after March 13, they found. 

“We didn’t see a big spike from new users,” says Greene. This suggests that a flood of beginners alone won’t drive avalanche accidents this winter, the authors wrote.

What’s going on? Greene and Logan aren’t certain. But they do have some educated guesses. 

When the pandemic closed ski areas and restricted other activities in Colorado, easily accessible backcountry areas got more crowded, the authors wrote. Facing this, more experienced recreators “used those skills to push into less-familiar terrain or explore new areas,” they wrote. And that meant accepting more risk in the mountains. 

This jibes with the scientific observation that people are willing to accept more risk when they are already in a stressful situation. “The uncertainty of a global pandemic is certainly a stressful situation,” the authors wrote. There is also a phenomenon called the “scarcity heuristic” in human decision-making, Greene says: when something suddenly seems less available (in this case, powder snow or a day away from other people), humans will make different decisions to obtain that thing.

It’s not hard to imagine how this might play out in a weird year like 2020: You roll up to your favorite trailhead for a day of backcountry skiing. There’s a crowd where there never was one before. The new situation flusters you; perhaps you’re even pissed off. You quickly change your carefully laid plan to something new—maybe a less obvious route that crosses a big avalanche path or a ridge guarded by a fat cornice. Your whole day is now different, and riskier.

The study presents another finding that lends credence to these scenarios. Avalanche danger in the U.S. is rated on a scale from low (1) to extreme (5), depending on factors such as snowfall, weather, and the structure of the snowpack. Many accidents occur at a rating of considerable (3). Last winter the state had far more considerable days before March 13 than after. But there were an equal number of accidents on considerable days in the first four months of the season as there were in just the last two and a half. “It suggests that people were willing to go into avalanche terrain at a higher avalanche-danger rating than maybe they would have at other times,” Greene says. “It would suggest that people were willing to take more risks,” if unconsciously, after COVID-19 was in play, he says.

The study has limitations, Greene acknowledges. The number of accidents and participants was relatively small. It looked at only one season. The study also was not formally peer-reviewed but instead was read by knowledgeable colleagues at other avalanche organizations before being posted, he says. (Data sets for studies on avalanche accidents are often quite small, Greene says.)

Scott Schell, executive director of the Northwest Avalanche Center, hopes the paper will lead both avalanche professionals and weekend warriors alike to pause. It’s always tempting to think that other people are the problem, says Schell. This study suggests just the opposite. “We’re all them,” he says. 

The study serves as a reminder as we enter an unusual winter: When you’re faced with something new in the mountains—such as more people—stop and thoughtfully reconsider your plan. Don’t just plow forward.

In the meantime, sign up for an avalanche class. (You can find one here. They’re in high demand, so if you can’t get into a course for a while, check out these new educational videos by Ski-Doo and Backcountry Access or consider an online course.) Make sure you have the gear—an avalanche beacon, a shovel, a probe—and know how to use it. And check your local avalanche forecast every time you head out. 

Yes, You Can Adventure in Vermont This Winter

Like just about everything else in life, the way we travel has had to adapt to our current reality. Does that mean your adventure plans are canceled this winter? If you’re headed to Vermont, the answer is a resounding no. If you’re cool with protecting yourself and Vermonters, then the winter adventuring will go on. Here’s how to get your Vermont fix this winter.

The Ground Rules

Anybody can visit Vermont this winter; you just have to follow some commonsense rules like masking up when in public and, of course, practicing social distancing. Additionally, if you’re traveling to the state by car, you’ll need to quarantine for 14 days either at home or once you arrive in Vermont. If you’re flying in, your quarantine must happen after you arrive. In either case, your two-week quarantine can be shortened if after seven days you’re not experiencing any COVID symptoms and you get a negative result from a PCR test.

“Vermont is open,” says Nate Formalarie, communications director for the state’s department of tourism. “The restaurants, breweries, ski areas, retail shops, and downtowns are open. All we’re asking is that you protect yourself and Vermont’s service workers. It’s a shared responsibility.”

Riding Lifts

Vermont’s ski industry has a plan to keep lifts spinning all season long. It boils down to this: think ahead. In practice, that looks like reserving lift tickets in advance and being more self-sufficient than you have in the past (lodges will run at only 50 percent capacity, or a maximum of 75 people). Grab-and-go food will be available, but your car is now your base lodge: there will be no Foxborough-style tailgating, but firing up the dual-burner stove for the family is just fine. Smart skiers will travel in tight groups so they can ride chairlifts together and avoid getting divided by the lifts’ own 50 percent capacity policy.

“What we want is to have a full season,” says Ski Vermont’s Adam White. “We’re already seeing a lot of creative solutions with food trucks, to-go windows, and open-air tent spaces with freestanding heat lamps. You’ll see a lot of that Yankee ingenuity at play.”

Human-Powered Gliding

The nationwide explosion in trail use last summer proved that you can have booming participation in well-spaced outdoor sports without a corresponding spike in positivity rates. And winter activities like snowshoeing and backcountry and nordic skiing are no exception. Sam von Trapp, of Vermont’s famed Trapp Family Lodge, is predicting that, because of the activity’s low barrier to entry, light touring on fishscale-style backcountry skis will introduce tons of new skiers to the simple joys of Vermont bushwhacking this winter.

On the Trapp property, you can pilot such skis to a warming cabin for soup or ski directly to the brewery for a sit-down meal in a spacious lodge with rapid air turnover. “We’ll be offering instruction and clinics for new light-tourers this winter, teaching folks how to get over a stone wall or navigate a creek crossing,” says Trapp. The Trapp property was the first full-service nordic center in North America, and the grooming for both classic and skate skiing tracks is worth the trip. For still more classic and skate cross-country, check out the Rikert Nordic Center in Ripton (just outside Middlebury). “It’s a personal  favorite of mine,” says former Cross Country Skier editor Danny Kuzio. “You can’t beat their grooming, operations, or terrain.” 

Want more descending? The Rochester/Randolph Area Sports Trail Alliance (RASTA) has the beta on some of Vermont’s best alpine touring, in the glades of Braintree Forest and Brandon Gap. Spend some time with the maps and descriptions on the RASTA site before you commit; East Coast backcountry gets rugged too. You can rent alpine touring and splitboard gear at the Outdoor Gear Exchange in Burlington.

Fat Biking

The Vermont Mountain Bike Association (VMBA) is a shining example of what a network of clubs can do to build world-class trail systems. But the two-wheeled fun doesn’t stop in the winter: many VMBA chapters now groom snowy trails specifically for fat biking. Top destinations include Kingdom Trails, boasting over 25 miles of groomed winter singletrack near East Burke, and be sure to check in with the Catamount Outdoor Family Center in Williston to see what fat-bike conditions are like there. “We don’t foresee any major shifts in winter riding compared to what we saw this past summer,” says Tom Stuessy, VMBA’s executive director. “There’s a strong fat-biking scene in Vermont, and that crowd understands that open trails require safe distancing.”

Where to Stay

What’s true of the nation is true of Vermont. The goal is to avoid COVID by avoiding crowds. Vermont’s extensive bed-and-breakfast network lends itself to that. Let this be the year you seek out remote B&Bs in quaint Vermont towns.

A Place All Its Own. Explore all Vermont has to offer, from outdoor recreation to artisanal food and drink this winter. In these uncertain times, Vermont Tourism encourages you to review the safe-travel guidance when planning your next trip and sign up to receive the latest news each month.

Original source:

Our Gear Guy’s Black Friday Deal Picks


p dir=”ltr” id=”docs-internal-guid-60facc40-7fff-562c-a2a5-62055040202e”>Gear sales are everywhere this week, thanks to Black Friday, but finding something you know will stand up to your adventures can be challenging. I believe it’s a good time to pull the trigger on an item that’s practical and that you would have bought otherwise, sale or not. To help you get that quality piece of gear during the melee, I scoured deals to find products that I’ve personally tested and approved.

GSI Outdoors Microlite 1000 Twist Water Bottle ($35)

(Photo: Courtesy GSI Outdoors)

Deal: 25 percent off

On Sale: November 27 through 30

Why I Love It: This water bottle took the clear win on my most recent test of insulated water bottles. It’s a smoking deal, even at full price, due to its light weight and fantastic thermoregulation. It also happened to be the least expensive of the seven I put head to head. To quote myself: “It almost never pans out that the lightest, most affordable product also demonstrates the highest performance, but the Microlite 1000 really has it all.” With an additional 25 percent off, you can get a high-performance drinking vessel at a incredible price.

Buy Now

Honey Stinger Waffles ($18 for 16)

(Photo: Courtesy Honey Stinger)

Deal: 20 percent off with coupon

On Sale: November 20 through 30

Why I Love Them: These sweet performance morsels are so delicious (and not filled with creepy additives) that I find myself using them as both run fuel for myself and dessert for my family. Unlike some bars, they’re light, easy to munch on the move, and eminently digestible. 

Buy Now

5.11 TacTec Plate Carrier ($200)

(Photo: Courtesy 5.11)

Deal: 25 percent off

On Sale: November 24 through 30

Why I Love It: I don’t think I need to elaborate on the benefits of an efficient piece of workout equipment in our current locked-down environment. The right one adds a layer of much needed pain—and the resulting endorphin rush—to your at-home body-weight exercises. While the TacTec looks badass, its padding is soft and lessens the discomfort that comes from exercising with 40 extra pounds strapped to your chest. It also fits damned well, eliminating chafing. I tested one last year and still wear it during my garage circuits and on hill-running routines when I want to punish myself in the most stress-relieving way possible.

Buy Now

Body Glove Red Cell 5/4/3/ Wetsuit ($500)

(Photo: Courtesy Body Glove)

Deal: 20 percent off

On Sale: November 27 through December 1

Why I Love It: Surfing was my entryway into outdoor sports. I surfed at least five days a week through high school but then fell in love with rivers and mountains as a young adult. This eventually brought me to Ashland, Oregon. My wife and I live about two hours from the ocean here, and while it’s usually really cold in this part of the Pacific, I still surf in relative comfort, thanks to the Body Glove Red Cell 5/4/3 wetsuit that I tested for last year’s Holiday Gift Guide. Hexagons of hollow fibers line the suit, allowing it to flush cold water while retaining body heat. The design is pretty technical, but the result is simple—it makes the suit warm and comfortable next to my skin. While a five-millimeter wetsuit is probably way too much for most surfers in our country, the Red Cell is available on sale in thinner versions as well.

Buy Now

Brickell Daily Defense Face Lotion ($32)

gift guide
(Photo: Courtesy Brickell)

Deal: 25 percent off

On Sale: November 23 through 30

Why I Love It: I’ve used Brickell skin-care solutions for over five years now, and this face lotion is my go-to. I find that all of Brickell’s products do their jobs efficiently—my face feels clean and my skin feels good, without any fuss or fancy smells. I love this specific product because the SPF protects the aging face I created while working as an outdoor guide for a decade. It also soothes any skin inflammation.

Buy Now

Bee’s Wrap ($18 for Three)

(Photo: Courtesy Bee’s Wrap)

Deal: 20 percent off

On Sale: Now through November 30

Why I Love It: My family has used Bee’s Wrap as a plastic-wrap substitute for years. To quote younger Joe: “They are malleable and sticky enough to keep bricks of cheese fresh, and easy to clean with cold water and soap.” It’s incredible how many uses you can get out of these wax-covered pieces of cloth. I also personally hate the taste of plastic wrap, and Bee’s Wrap imparts no flavor on the foods it covers.

Buy Now

Keanu Reeves, ‘Cyberpunk 2077,’ and What Stars Bring to Video Games

With Keanu Reeves starring in the high profile release of Cyberpunk 2077, it’s worth pondering what exactly it is that superstars bring to video games. Is it simply a gimmick? Or do celebrities bring larger profit margins to video games that otherwise wouldn’t have been as popular?

Celebs in video games grew in popularity around the mid-1990s, as graphics improved and you could fully tell you were truly looking at the image of a famous person – or simply a famous character. Years before, Atari tried their hand at bringing E.T. into home consoles everywhere, and even if that game didn’t get dumped into an unmarked grave, it still would have been hard to distinguish E.T. himself from any of the other cast of characters. While the groundwork was laid by the likes of Mike Tyson’s Punch Out, it wasn’t until the 90s that graphics were good enough to truly feature celebrities. Arcade games like Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker let players fight while playing as a familiar star. Not long after, gamers got the chance to become 007 walking around in Pierce Brosnan’s skin (albeit a blocky version of his skin) in the beloved GoldenEye for Nintendo 64. Players could pretend to be MI6’s top agent while getting frustrated to no end by Natalya. However, despite playing as James Bond if they wished, players were still subject to text blocks instead of the actual dialogue.

Pierce Brosnan may have been one of the most notable celebs initially lending their image to a video game, but he was far from the last. Video games started to move away from the main avatar being the celebrity and moved towards superstars becoming an NPC that gamers could play alongside.


When Spyro hit PlayStation, the famous dragon was originally voiced by actor Carlos Alazraqui and then, eventually, Tom Kenny, who is most notably known for voicing SpongeBob SquarePants. The original game, released in 1998, sold about 1 million copies during the holiday season and went on to sell about 5 million in the US alone. When the series was rebooted, it now featured famous folks like Elijah Wood as Spyro and David Spade as Sparx. However, the celebrities didn’t hold as much clout with the audience as some may have expected with the new game selling just about as well as the original series, with no discernable boost from the familiar voices.

Many games utilize the “Silent Protagonist” as the playable character so that gamers can determine how the character is played. Developers have said that Link has never spoken so that players can put their own personality into the character and makes it feel like they have more ownership. Whether gamers are playing as Link, Gordon Freeman, or Chelle, no matter who is playing the character, anyone can feel like it’s their own thoughts and actions. This creates a catch-all ambiguity in the avatar.

However, this also creates a divide between the types of playable characters. The player has put a personality into an avatar versus characters that already come preset with a personality. In a sense, when a player plays a celebrity avatar they are role-playing with a pre-set skills sheet.

PlayStation was one of the first systems that could almost handle the complete design of a celebrity in-game. Activision continued their incredible work and scanned Bruce Willis into the game Apocalypse. Now, instead of playing as, say, an innocent elf-boy from Hyrule, gamers were controlling Bruce Willis himself, complete with full voice over performance and action. There is virtually no one on the planet who hasn’t heard of or at least seen a movie with Bruce Willis in it. Therefore, people know what to expect in the character. They’ll “Go out to the coast, get together, have a few laughs” and ultimately serve up a hot plate of butt-kicking with a side of sarcasm.

It was from here that celebrities in games started appearing more, though still not always as playable characters.


Norma Reedus in Death Stranding

2019 brought us Norman Reedus starring in Death Stranding. Even though fans were initially hoping for another Silent Hill installment starring Reedus and directed by Guillermo Del Toro and designed by Hideo Kojima, they still got the Walking Dead superstar for this game. This wasn’t a character that Reedus had pre-established, but rather became someone that gamers unraveled the more they played the game.

Going back a few yeas, Mark Hamill reprised his role as the Joker, whom he first voiced in Batman: The Animated Series, in the Arkham games, much to everyone’s delight, though this was less of a celebrity addition as much as it was just carrying over a fantastic performance as an iconic character. Many people who watched Batman: The Animated Series series had become familiar with Hamill as the voice of the Joker, and it seemed like a natural fit to have him and Kevin Conroy (returning as Batman) play these roles again.;app=desktop&amp;ab_channel=GenerationWest
Voice cast comparison from Generation West YouTube channel

Many celebs featured in Disney’s animated films have come back to do voice work for the Kingdom Hearts franchise, even if it’s just for a few lines to help Sora out. Seeing as Kingdom Hearts is an insane mash-up of both Final Fantasy characters and virtually all of the Disney universe, it’s impressive if they get anyone who just sounds similar, much less folks like Frozen‘s Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, Josh Gad, and Jonathan Groff. At the same time, Haley Joel Osment has voiced Sora for so many years that he virtually grew up with the character as the games progressed.

Meanwhile, Jeremy Davies, who will forever be immortalized in the 2018 God of War game as the character Baldur, was quoted as saying that he had been trying to break into video games over the last few years. This is an actor who has starred in huge projects like Saving Private Ryan, Twister, Lost, and Justified. It’s remarkable that an actor, with so many top-tier credits, was struggling to break into the video game industry though it’s not hard to see why. The gaming industry has been inundated with new projects which can take years to complete. A majority of roles have gone to notable voice actors who have worked in the industry long before stars from the silver screen joined in. With years of talented actors like Nolan North (Uncharted), Troy Baker (The Last of Us), Jennifer Hale (Mass Effect), Tara Strong (Final Fantasy X), and legend John Dimaggio, there is a wide swath of performers that gamers have come to know and love. Having film actors enter the arena can often still risk feeling more like a ploy to get people to buy more video games than it is about expanding the universe or the story.


If there’s one thing gamers know, it’s being able to root out a gimmick from a mile away. Some have criticized the gaming industry for using celebrities as gimmicky tools to sell more copies of the game both when it comes to directly casting them or even “borrowing” their image. Take for example the strange issue with the first Last of Us game where Ellie looked suspiciously like Ellen Page. Page was not happy about the similarities, especially since she was already working on another Sony-developed video game at the time. Eventually, Neil Druckman of Naughty Dog changed the likeness of the character to reflect that of the actress, Ashley Johnson, who actually performed the role. However, it wasn’t the controversy over the character that sold over a million copies in the first week of its release. The story and the production quality is what drew gamers into the zombie shooter and sold so many copies.

The video game industry is now far surpassing the film industry with the extra boost coming from the pandemic. People are no longer flocking to the theaters, but instead to their consoles, and the trend was already heading that way before the pandemic hit. In an article breaking down the recent boom in the video game industry eSports blogger reported:

“The global video gaming industry is expected to be worth roughly $159 billion in 2020. This surpasses the box office film / the movie industry revenue by an easy 4 times, AND almost 3 times the music industry has built up thus far.”

Image originally from

To say this all boils down to money would be a disservice to what is actually happening. Yes, the gaming industry is riper than ever with funding, but this also means that more heavy hitters are becoming involved as well. Consider the boom of streaming services. It took a moment for them to get off the ground but now fans are seeing movies like Project Power being made under the Netflix banner and starring movie stars like Jamie Foxx and Joseph Gordon Levitt. The same is happening on a wider scale with the video game industry.

Not only are video games the perfect place to start a blossoming franchise, but they’re also becoming more interesting and complex in plot and aesthetic. Games, and especially AAA titles, are going beyond the scope of traditional video games, and now talent is sought out that is on the same scale. This does not by any stretch mean that celebrities should be playing every role or taking over roles that we’ve grown to know via the original voice actors. If Tom Hanks somehow took over the voice of Mario, this would be a really weird transition, and probably one that I’ll spend too much time trying to imagine. But suffice to say, the brilliance of Charles Martinet as Mario is something gamers have become accustomed to as much as they have in hearing Mark Hamill voice the Joker.

All in all, celebrities in video games are no longer gimmicks to get people to buy games for the simple reason that gamers do not gravitate to these types of selling ploys. The games are already selling well as they are, because the source material is becoming more expansive. Still, the talent that actors like Norman Reedus or Keanu Reeves bring to a project can often help elevate the vast source material even further.

Keanu Goes Punk

Johnny Silverhand (Keanu Reeves) in Cyberpunk 2077

In a recent interview with Collider, Senior Quest Designer Patrick Mills explained how Cyberpunk 2077 was already rooted in a lot of source material. Yes, of course, one of the major influences to the genre was the film Blade Runner, which has gone on to inspire many cyberpunk-themed stories, but Reeves’ character was also derived from a pre-established character from the Cyberpunk role-playing games. Said Mills, “Johnny Silverhand is a character created by Mike Pondsmith for the original Cyberpunk 2020 book. He appears in a series of short stories, which we reference in the game.”

It’s extremely likely that Cyberpunk 2077 would have sold just as many copies even if it didn’t have Keanu Reeves in it. The lore has already been established, as Mills notes, and the game has been getting attention since it was announced. However, with Reeves’ name attached, it only increases the chances that the franchise will continue beyond just the one game. The Cyberpunk franchise has already been solidly established, but attaching big names only leaves room for more expansion in the universe.

With Reeves involved, there is the possibility not only for sequel games but even a film or streaming franchise with a beloved actor already set up in a leading role. This also leaves open the possibility of other stars entering the Cyberpunk 2077 universe, much like the Conan O’Brien Easter egg in Death Stranding. The sky’s the limit for the franchise, and Keanu’s involvement is just the first stepping stone.

Cyberpunk 2077 will be released on December 10.

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