Category: Issue 89

Editor’s Note: Winter Returns

Are you willing to play?

As storm after storm pounds into California we are finally aware that the winter of 2016 is legit. For many of us, this presents a problem. The problem is that after a few lean winters we have grown lazy and unmotivated. As the Sierra snowpack continues to accumulate it’s almost like we don’t know what to do. Having spent so much time eulogizing about the death of winter and the good old days of skiing and riding in California it’s almost like we lost the ability to actually go skiing or riding anymore. Backcountry lines that haven’t been skied since 2011 are now just sitting there … waiting.

Compounding the problem is that the surf has been incredible all up and down the coast. Spots that normally see small crumbly waves in the summer are now seeing relentless sets of grinding barrels day after …

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Ear to the Ground: February / March 2016

Outdoor News and Notes for the California Region

USFS to Plant Trees in Rim Fire Burn Area
The US Forest Service is enlisting the help of all available stakeholders and members of the public to help plant 90,000 trees in the Rim Fire burn area this spring. In partnership with Tuolumne River Trust, the Stanislaus National Forest hosted public meetings in January to inform and recruit volunteers for tree planting days scheduled to take place seven days per week throughout the spring.

2013’s Rim Fire burned over 257,000 acres on the Stanislaus National Forest. Forest scientists/specialists estimate that without reforestation it is highly unlikely the forest would grow back in our lifetimes. Anyone interested in helping to reforest the area is welcome – individuals, groups, families.

For more information, call the Stanislaus National Forest at (209) 532-3671 or the Tuolumne River Trust at (949) 533-2346.

Steven Hemphill Returns to Sierra-at-Tahoe

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Technique Clinic: Winter Whitewater

Tips for cold weather paddling

By Haven Livingston

When Buck Crocket and Brian Banks arrived to kayak the first spring run of Gore Canyon on the upper Colorado River and found that the banks were still iced over and so was one of the rapids, Crocket did what any resourceful multi-sport adventurer would do. He reached into his truck and pulled out his ice axe. Getting into the river would be a slide, but getting out would require mounting a few feet of overhanging ice and snow.

Paddling under these conditions may seem like a masochistic task, but consider the benefits: Instead of sitting in traffic en route to the slopes to ski groomers, you sneak off the beaten path to a lower elevation river and have the entire flowing wonderland to yourself. Rivers on the northwest edge of California come alive with winter rains and glow with the …

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EPiC: Protecting Mono Lake

Mono Lake Committee safeguards California gem

Words by Leonie Sherman
Photos courtesy Mono Lake Committee

On the edge of Yosemite National Park, fifteen miles east of Tioga Pass, Mono Lake shimmers like a jewel amid the vast monochromatic expanse of the Great Basin. More than twice as salty as the ocean and over ten times as alkaline, the lake hosts hundreds of thousands of nesting migratory birds and up to 80% of the state’s nesting California Gulls. Most visitors passing through have no idea how close this rich ecosystem came to complete biological collapse.

“Mono Lake is the most significant environmental success story of its time,” says Lisa Cutting, Eastern Sierra Policy Director for the Mono Lake Committee (MLC). Started almost forty years ago by a dedicated group of visionary graduate students, the MLC has grown to thirteen full-time staff and acts as the on-the-ground watchdog of the Mono …

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Raising the Bar

The evolution of sports fuel

By Avery Robins


We haven’t always had a dizzying array of energy supplements to power us before, during and after a long trail run or mountain bike ride. It used to be that endurance athletes would refuel with Gatorade, bananas, or whatever else was in their fridge. That was until 1986, when Cal Berkeley track coach Brian Maxwell and his wife Jennifer began tinkering with the concept of the energy bar.

Brian was having trouble bonking at the 21st mile mark during marathons, so the couple began experimenting with different recipes in their home kitchen to find a solution.

They started with a blender to mix ingredients like oat bran, milk proteins, fructose and maltodextrins into a thick sludge. The sludge would then cool into the more chewy consistency that we associate with sports bars today.

After three years of experimentation the couple landed …

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Athlete Profile: Big Wave Bianca

Catching up with pro surfer Bianca Valenti

By Haven Livingston

For professional surfer Bianca Valenti the progression into surfing big waves comes naturally after 23 years at the sport. From the first scared moment of catching a stand up barrel, Valenti has been hooked on seeking bigger waves to satiate the desire for that same rush of adrenaline. Now a regular at the lineup at Mavericks, Valenti is progressing at a calculated pace to become one of the world’s top big wave women surfers.

The 5’4” Italian-American charger moonlights as an Italian wine specialist, following in the footsteps of her master sommelier grandfather and chef father at the family’s restaurant in Marin County. Though she can charm diners in Italian, Spanish or English, when it comes to the ocean, she’s just as fluent in nature’s universal language of power. Her thrills come from stepping outside of her comfort zone. …

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Over the Mountain and through the Woods

A look at classic cross country and skate skiing

By Avery Robins

Are you looking to shake up your time in the mountains this winter season? Perhaps you are looking for a full body workout that fires up your core. Or, perhaps you need a break from the downhill ski scene, and are yearning for a way to soak in the tranquility of the backcountry. Look no further, because cross country sking could be the answer.

Modern cross country skiing is strikingly similar to the original form of skiing that was invented in Scandinavia over five thousand years ago. Nordic people strapped on what they called “skíðs” (the Old Norse word for “planks of wood”) in order to transport themselves across large distances of snowy terrain.

But don’t get us wrong, modern cross country skiing is no old school walk in the park. It is one of the most …

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Snow Biking

Fat bikes open up a whole new world of two-wheeled adventures

By Dave Zook

Fat bikes are all the buzz. Those absurdly wide tires — sometimes over five inches of knobby, under-inflated width — does anyone know exactly what makes them so great? Regardless they are certainly hitting mass appeal as this variation on a traditional mountain bike has been growing steadily around California and the US for the last decade.

More brands than ever are manufacturing them, giving riders options formerly reserved for the MTB or road riding crowd. Full-suspension rides are offered for the most cushy of experiences and even fancy components like carbon wheel sets can lighten the load, depending on your riding style — and the size of your wallet.

Many riders become believers due to the bike’s ability to make some terrain more accessible. The traction is the key here and they “float” over …

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Winter Returns

El Niño gives Tahoe backcountry skiers a huge helping of powder

Words and photos by Brennan Lagasse

“I’m going to ski this super cautiously, island of safety to island of safety. Copy?”

“Yes. I have eyes on,” my partner responds.

Slowly, I dance my way into Emerald Chute, one of the most classic backcountry ski lines in the greater Tahoe area. Earlier in the day, Ming Poon and I had broken trail, methodically working our way up crystalline fields of powder until we crested the top of the line, which feeds directly into the iconic Emerald Bay. A couple of friends caught us as we were getting to the top, and together the four of us shared in one of the best runs any of us has experienced in our Tahoe backyard in at least four years. Our friends had to take off after that run, but Ming and …

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Pedaling the Wild

The quest to allow cycling in federally designated Wilderness

By Kurt Gensheimer

Bicycles in federally protected Wilderness. Depending on who you ask, this is a linchpin issue for the future of conservation or you’ll get a blank stare and a “what about it?” Regardless of the reaction, the topic has been emotionally charged for decades, and as a result, there has been a lot of misunderstanding surrounding the original intent of the Wilderness Act of 1964. The issue of bicycles in Wilderness was recently rekindled when the Boulder-White Clouds region of Idaho, a coveted gem of backcountry mountain biking for generations, was designated federal Wilderness this past summer, shutting out mountain bike use forever.

Despite the fact that mountain bikes have been proven through numerous independent environmental studies to be as low-impact on trails as hiking and far lower impact than equestrian use, bicycles are still banned from 110 …

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The Bright Side of Suffering

Gravel grinder season kicks off

By Sarah Hansing

Well, the holiday season is officially over. It was a glorious time of joyous celebrations and gratitude, festivities and feasts, family and … well, family.

Which is to say, togetherness. The type of togetherness that can – at times – make you want to end your lineage. Because family celebrations in real life somehow never quite follow the storyline of those heartwarming holiday specials that no one can collectively agree on watching as a family.

It goes something like this: Someone gets the short straw on hosting the meal. Extended family – who are absent the rest of the year – come together like flocks of politically, morally, and dietarily disagreeing birds. Due to the close quarters and possibly because of some minor incident that happened (perhaps involving Uncle Dave and his now ex-wife) cause a rift, which leads to an …

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Event Profiles: February / March 2016

A sneak peek at some of the season’s best upcoming events


Banff Mountain Film Festival
February 19-21, Santa Cruz

National Geographic and the North Face present the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour. Join UCSC Recreation and get set to explore the edge of believable with some of the best films from the Banff Mountain Film Festival as it brings amazing stories to the big screen at the Rio Theatre. Journey to exotic locations, paddle the wildest waters, and climb the highest peaks. Celebrate the 25th anniversary of bringing this event to Santa Cruz while also celebrating the 50th anniversary of UC Santa Cruz. This event benefits the UCSC Wilderness Orientation Scholarship Fund. Different films will be shown each night so come for one or all three shows.

Tickets are available at or in person at Bicycle Trip in Santa Cruz.


Alpenglow Mountain Festival
February 20-28, Tahoe City…

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