The Man Behind the Course Designs for Winter Sport Events

The Man Behind the Course Designs for Winter Sport Events 2

The Man Behind the Course Designs for Winter Sport Events

February 6, 2020

Snowboarding and Freestyle Skiing are packed with celebrities—high-flying athletes who perform other feats of derring-do during annual X-Games events, but they couldn’t do what they do without Chris “Gunny” Gunnarson. As founder and CEO of Reno-Lake Tahoe-based Snow Park Technologies (SPT), Gunnarson creates the courses for the sports’ biggest events. He builds jumps. He designs terrain parks. In short, he provides the canvases on which the world’s best athletes can paint.

The Man Behind the Course Designs for Winter Sport Events 1

The San Diego native’s first job was on the ski patrol at Southern California’s Snow Summit in 1992, which morphed into a position as the director of snowboarding. Before he left to start SPT, he built the terrain park for Snow Summit and created the camera-friendly half-pipe and park for the first Winter X Games held at the resort in 1997.

Since then Gunnarson’s designed parks for dozens of resorts all over the world, including five different resorts in the Tahoe area. His 22-foot-high half-pipe at Northstar California is one of the largest pipes open to the general snowboarding public today, while the mile-long terrain park at Alpine Meadows has more than 40 jumps, rails, and features overall.

Among pro boarders, Gunnarson and his crew are a welcome sight at any event. Chas Guldemond, a Tahoe area-based rider who has been boarding on SPT parks for eight years, says he appreciates the company’s attention to detail—especially when it comes to safety.

“I’ve ridden a bunch of stuff that’s been suspect,” he says. “These guys make sure not to let riders on anything unless they completely trust it. It’s nice to know they have your back.”

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Looking forward, Gunnarson says SPT plans to work with resorts around the country to build new terrain parks with baby half-pipes and other features designed to help introduce novices to snowboarding in a comfortable and unintimidating environment.

“Everything in snowboarding doesn’t have to be about gnarly jumps and hang time,” says Gunnarson. “We believe there’s a way to get people into the sport gradually and get them excited for life.”

Where to Relax and Recharge in Telluride

Where to relax and recharge in Telluride

Where to Relax and Recharge in Telluride

January 31, 2020

After a day on the slopes, it’s time to slow down, relax, and indulge. Here are the best places in Telluride to do just that.

Spas

The Peaks Resort and Spa: Towering over the ski area’s mountain village, the 8-story- tall Peaks Resort houses a sumptuous and sprawling retreat, complete with an oxygen bar, 32 treatment rooms, avocado/citrus scrubs, every imaginable kind of workout facility, and a 2-story waterslide. And, yes, the helipad is just outside the door, so you can go straight from skiing to a massage.

Where to relax and recharge in Telluride Spas

BreatheFor a more intimate, but no less luxurious spa experience—and one that can anchor a day spent in the historic heart of Telluride— book an appointment at Breathe for a Brazilian Propolis Facial, created specifically to thwart the cold and dry winter air.

Dining

221 South Oak: Known locally as “221,” this unassuming bistro near the gondola plaza is symbolized by its overstuffed couches that envelop diners sipping a Manhattan or Cosmopolitan before setting off for tables serving a mélange of seafood, game, and poultry. Don’t miss the sausage sampler with house-made spicy pork, chicken cranberry, duck mushroom, elk garlic, and beef with cheddar cheese.

Cosmopolitan: Diners can guess at Cosmopolitan’s attention to detail and flavor just by looking at the menu: grilled pork porterhouse with vanilla sweet potatoes, bacon- braised Swiss chard, and apple cider gastrique. Cosmo, as the locals call it, only seats 70 at the restaurant, and a few more at its cherrywood bar, so make sure to reserve a seat in advance.

La Marmotte: La Marmotte’s chef/owner, Mark Reggiannini, a former sous chef for Jean-Georges Vongerichten, employs a simple and very French cooking philosophy to go with his three-course prix-fixe menu. Local gourmands arrive early at La Marmotte’s century-old brick building to ensure they can order the duck breast with reduction sauce and black truffle- crusted scallops before they’re gone.

Honga’s Lotus Petal: The toughest reservation in town is a table at this bistro specializing in organic Thai and Japanese cuisine where Tokyo- trained sushi chefs slice and dice a variety of sashimi-grade fish. Try the caterpillar roll: avocado, eel, and flying-fish roe. Hot dishes include red and green curries with shrimp or tofu. Beware the little bit of Cuba here: Honga’s tasty mojitos are legendary—it’s impossible to drink just one.

Allred’s: Fine dining at 10,551 feet? Yes, that’s Allred’s, located at the top of the town gondola. Take in some of the most dramatic mountain views in the country from its window-side tables while dining on Colorado rack of lamb with watercress smashed potatoes and fennel puree or the roasted chicken with brocollini.

Where to relax and recharge in Telluride Dining

Celebrations

New Sheridan Bar: Located inside the New Sheridan Hotel, the bar was opened in 1895, making it Telluride’s oldest watering hole, and it still shows off its 19th-century elegance, with mahogany paneling, a hand- carved bar, lead-glass divider panels, and a giant, vintage painting of a Reubenesque nude. The bar area is the place to be seen; the back room is for more intimate gatherings.

Tempter House: For a party on top of the world, you can’t beat the Tempter House perched on a 12,200-foot high knoll overlooking a sickeningly steep cliff that drops more than 2,500 feet. To reach the highest residence on the continent, guests can travel by snowmobile or skis from the groomed slopes of the ski resort. The house’s five levels can accommodate up to 30 for a private party that can spread across its billiards room, full kitchen, and living room anchored by a massive stone fireplace.

Where You Should Buy Custom Ski Gear Before Your Next Trip

custom ski gear family

Where You Should Buy Custom Ski Gear Before Your Next Trip

January 30, 2020

Just a few miles down valley from Telluride in Pacerville sits a formerly abandoned service station that’s now home to Wagner Custom Skis. Inside is owner Pete Wagner, a boyish 38-year-old with a messy Beatles haircut. Describing the differences between stock and custom boards, Wagner says, “All the big companies make nice skis these days. Our advantage is focusing on fit. As most experts know, a custom-fit boot performs better. Same goes for custom-fit skis. The big companies can’t tailor products to each individual skier. We can.”

custom ski gear wagner

Making a custom ski is a complicated process. Wagner has customers fill out and e-mail back an eight-page questionnaire. The detailed questions (What are your top three terrain preferences? What do you like or dislike about your current skis?) determine your “skier DNA.” Computers in an upstairs aerie digest your DNA and create a ski recipe just for you. Then they transmit it down to the factory floor. Whereas some custom builders merely switch between a selection of molds, Wagner forms “a complex 3-D jigsaw puzzle of your proposed ski, built from scratch.”

Wagner grew up in Dayton, Ohio, skiing a 300-foot-vertical molehill 10 minutes from his house. He left the Midwest to study mechanical engineering at the University of California, San Diego, which led to a job designing high-performance golf shafts for Carbite Golf and Penley Golf, mastering carbon-fiber models for PGA pros such as John Daly.

He spent his winters in Telluride though, seven of them, working on new golf club designs at night and skiing by day. Then one day it dawned on him that skis involve variables golf clubs don’t have to worry about: differences in terrain, environment, and skiing styles are much more complex. It was an engineering challenge ignited by his passion for the slopes. Accordingly, Wagner quit golf, tweaked his software to conceive gear for mountains instead of country clubs, and started making skis.

“We didn’t—and still don’t—need to reinvent the wheel, here” Wagner says, “just focus on fit and design improvements.” His company does this by building each ski by hand, with workers carefully assembling sandwiches built with premium hardwood cores: maple and ash. Structural layers blend fiber- glass and Kevlar.

custom ski gear wagner telluride

The result is a pair of skis that start at $1,750, a price that buys “the highest quality materials we can find,” Wagner says, “like extra thick base material and oversized edges. Those make the skis less prone to damage from rocks.” In a good snow year, Wagner sells only about a thousand pairs. “It’s labor intensive,” Wagner says. “Lots of craftsmanship goes into it. Lots of love, too.”

Because Wagner uses no molds, it’s impossible to recommend a Wagner “model” for heli-skiing. But the company makes as many powder skis as hard-snow skis, and will happily build a fat ski to match the terrain accessed by Helitrax choppers and produce a 100-percent Telluride skiing experience.

Explore Colorado’s Rare Beauty with This Epic Cycle Race

Explore Colorado's Rare Beauty with This Epic Cycle Race

Colorado's Epic Cycle Race

August 2, 2019

Characterized by high elevations and relentless climbs, the weeklong USA Pro Challenge is too epic for any one city: Ten communities play host to the race’s seven stages, which link Aspen, Crested Butte and Vail with larger hubs such as Colorado Springs and Denver. All test a champion’s mettle. “It’s one of the hardest races I’ve ever done,” says pro rider Tanner Putt of the Bissell Development Cycling team. But legions of fans motivate racers to conquer the challenges.

Over the course of the week, 1 million spectators turn out to watch and cheer. “Riders race here and feel like rock stars,” says Shawn Hunter, the race’s co-chairman and CEO. “The only other race in the world that has this level of excitement and energy is the Tour de France.” 

Aspen  

Leave 12,095-foot Independence Pass to the racers. Mere mortals content themselves with the route to the iconic Maroon Bells, which serves up the state’s most celebrated mountain panorama yet demands a relatively modest effort (1,600 vertical feet over 10 miles). As an added bonus, the road is closed to cars from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The 20-mile out-and-back ride begins at the roundabout 1 mile west of downtown Aspen. Take the Maroon Creek Road “exit” and pedal uphill past Aspen High School. Rest assured, the hills become gentler as you pass Aspen Highlands ski area. The road climbs gradually, hugging the banks of Maroon Creek as mansions give way to the White River National Forest, where aspen fringed meadows afford glimpses of majestic, 14,026-foot Pyramid Peak. At the road’s end, dismount and walk some 200 yards along the paved path to viewpoints showcasing the Bells’ stunning symmetry mirrored in the blue waters of Maroon Lake. 

Wheel Deals: Ute City Cycles rents drool-worthy Orbea and Felt bikes for 100/day, or get a pro tune for your own ride from the repair crew. Refuel: Peach’s Corner Café tops off your fuel tank with the likes of kale salad or a chicken and avocado panini, served on the outdoor patio. Recover Check into Remède Spa (in the St. Regis) for a stint in its steam caves, stone-lined pools stirred by cascading water and treatment rooms offering wraps, facials and massages featuring local skincare products.

Vail

Like all routes out of the Vail Valley, the 12-mile Daybreak Ridge loop includes a stout climb (1,800 vertical feet) that humbled cyclists in the 2013 USA Pro Challenge. But from the circuit’s high point you overlook the soaring peaks of the Gore Range. And because the upper section of the ride takes place within gated neighborhoods, traffic is scarce. “You’re more likely to spot deer and bear than cars,” says local Brett Donelson. Start in Avon, 11 miles west of Vail, and crank up Village Road, passing through the gated entrance to Beaver Creek Resort. At 1 mile, turn right onto South Holden Road, left onto Borders Road and left again onto Strawberry Park Road. Ogle the luxury residences lining the road, pass beneath the Elkhorn ski lift and pick up Daybreak Ridge Road to top out at a high point affording those well-earned views down into Beaver Creek and Bachelor Gulch.

Follow Daybreak Ridge Road as it serpentines down through Bachelor Gulch. Stop to refill a water bottle at the RitzCarlton and then cruise down into Avon via Bachelor Gulch Trail. Venture Sports in Avon rents bikes, organizes group rides and employs the valley’s best bike technicians. Vail Valley riders have long embraced Yellowbelly in West Vail for its all-natural chicken and veggie-laden side dishes Recover.  Spa Anjali (at Avon’s Westin Riverfront) draws from healing traditions in the Alps, Himalayas and Rocky Mountains to create three unique “journeys” that go way beyond a standard massage. 

Colorado Springs

Pikes Peak isn’t the Springs’ only scenic landmark— although cyclists do get to admire this 14,114-foot-high summit from portions of the 18-mile Garden of the Gods loop. It gains 1,200 feet of elevation and visits the city’s other “rock star”: The Garden of the Gods, a pocket of blazing red-rock spires and cliffs tucked among the foothills west of downtown. To taste this eye-candy, get an early-morning start (to avoid crowds and traffic heading into the famed Garden) and head northwest out of downtown via W. Bijou to N. Walnut to Mesa Road. Continue north past Garden of the Gods Country Club and then bike south on the bike path, which parallels N. 30th Street and offers motivating panoramas of Pikes Peak and the Kissing Camels rock, which looks exported from Utah’s Arches National Park. Enter the Garden of the Gods to pedal the one-way loop among its sculpted rock pinnacles, separated from the traffic by a wide bike lane.

Exit via a plunge down Ridge Road, then left on W. Pikes Peak Ave., and right on 21st St. to connect to the Midland Trail. This former rail line slopes downhill as it heads back to Colorado Springs. Wheel Deals Criterium Bicycles maintains a big fleet of low-mileage road bikes for riders of every shape and stripe. Refuel The Irish fare at McCabe’s Tavern rewards hard effort with homemade shepherd’s pie, pretzel bread and smoked salmon served on a shady outdoor patio. Recover A Colorado icon, The Broadmoor pampers athletes with therapeutic massage and facials performed in treatment spaces fitted with chandeliers and fireplaces. 

Experience Aspen Like a Local

Experience Aspen Like a Local

August 1, 2019

During the year-end holidays, Aspen’s busiest week of the winter, “Campo Dave” Ellsweig works round the clock, managing Aspen’s popular Italian eatery Campo de Fiori. Tall, dark and handsome, he choreographs one of the most popular spaces in town with ease, sending plates of crispy frutti di mare to impatient patrons and decadent espresso martinis to the bar’s loyal following. Does he mind working and not skiing? Not at all. Ellsweig knows much of Aspen’s best skiing happens in March. That’s when he hikes up Highlands Bowl in a T-shirt to ski deep north-facing powder and wrap up a morning session on the slopes with a wine-saturated lunch at Aspen Highland’s mid-mountain restaurant, Cloud Nine

Back in town after lunch, he can pull up a chaise lounge at the Sky Hotel on Sunday afternoon when the poolside DJ is in full swing. Or say he decides to ski Aspen Mountain: He’ll take the slow Couch quad, ski down sun-softened bumps before joining the lift operators for a barbecue at the bottom. From there it’s a couple of steps to check out the band outside at Ajax Tavern. For dinner, there’s king crab tempura at Matsuhisa a few blocks away. Every day, Ellsweig can set out to do something different: click into alpine touring skis to skin up Aspen Mountain, Nordic ski around the town golf course or ride a fat-tire’d snow bike up the unplowed road to the Maroon Bells.

It’s springtime in Aspen and anything’s possible. No, Ellsweig doesn’t understand why anyone would go to the beach in March. There are plenty of other months perfect for sun bathing, like December. March boasts the deepest base depths of the winter and more open terrain than at any point in the season. Colorado’s snowiest month of the year intersperses spring storms that bring deep powder days with abundant sunshine that create idyllic spring snow conditions, forgiving moguls and groomed runs made for carving turns. And the atmosphere on the mountain warms with the temperatures. Groups mingle on gondola square or atop their favorite run. And the deck scenes come alive. “In spring, you don’t have to get up early in the morning to get the best tracks—the ski day starts at 10 or 11 a.m.,” says Aspen-based pro skier Chris Davenport. “It’s all about timing in the spring.” 

What Davenport means is that the snow that freezes overnight is rock hard in the early morning, perfect around midday and slushy and sticky by late afternoon. You’re looking for the daily harvest of “corn,” a granular snow surface that turns mediocre skiers into phenoms, and you’ll find it by following the sun as it warms up the snow from the southeast to southwest, lower mountain to upper mountain. And with four ski mountains—Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Snowmass and Buttermilk—you can hunt for corn on a different mountain each day or on the same day thanks to complimentary shuttle rides between each area. 

On Aspen Mountain, Davenport recommends skiing the steep, east-facing aspen trees off the top of F.I.S. chair, known collectively as “The Dumps,” as soon as they’re warmed by the morning sunlight. “Ski a groomer like North American to test the snow and see if it’s transforming,” he says. “If your edges grip into the snow and hold a carve, take F.I.S., ski a perfect lap in The Dumps, go up the gondola and do it again.” “If it hasn’t changed,” he says, “swing into Bonnie’s mid-mountain restaurant for an oatmeal pancake.” 

At Aspen Highlands, longer days and warm sunshine motivate skiers to make the 45-minute hike up to the 12,392-foot-high top of Highland Bowl. It’s a long way to shoulder your skis, so bring a backpack or purchase a ski strap at the Aspen Highlands ski patrol shack near the start of the hike. While blustery conditions often limit summit time midwinter, March’s plentiful windless, sunny days allow hikers to linger atop longer and take in the most dramatic alpine views in the area. Depending on your skiing pleasure, you’ll ski down 1,500 vertical feet of wide-open steeps or flow through tree glades. When the sun has overcooked everything on the mountain, the Bowl’s north-facing G-Zones can still harbor good snow.

If it’s your first time skiing the bowl, hire a pro like local ski mountaineer and ski instructor Ted Mahon to find the best stashes. Beginners and kids love Buttermilk’s gentle terrain year round, but in spring, its two terrain parks soften up enough to make jump landings a little more forgiving. At Snowmass, where intermediate groomers reign, it’s hard to beat cruising any of the runs accessed from the Elk Camp chairlift on a perfect spring morning. If you’re looking for something more adventurous, head to the Sheer Bliss run and look for one of the gates leading to Hang On’s or Buckskin. Spring storms blast the high elevation terrain at Snowmass. After a storm, head to the top of the mountain to ski spring powder before the sun’s rays bake the snow. 

By March, conditions in the backcountry also grow safer and Aspen offers plenty of ways to ski beyond the resort boundary, no matter your experience level. Ride a luxury snowcat to the backside of Aspen Mountain with Aspen Mountain Powder Tours, where you’ll score fresh tracks down gentle alpine bowls with expansive views of the picturesque Elk Mountains. Aspen Expeditions’ guides lead clients to lift-accessed backcountry off all four of Aspen’s resorts. Ski wide-open intermediate terrain off Snowmass Mountain or black diamond steeps off Aspen Highlands. Take it even farther off the map and to a higher level of luxury with one of Aspen Expeditions’ Epicurean Hut Trips. Ski on alpine touring equipment to one of Aspen’s many backcountry cabins for a lavish meal prepared by a gourmet chef, sleep to the sound of a crackling fire and enjoy fresh powder the next morning after another over-the-top meal. 

After months of sitting vacant due to the freezing cold, the decks around the mountains and in town defrost and host the liveliest scenes in Aspen and some of the world’s greatest people watching. The famous two-tiered deck at Bonnie’s on Aspen Mountain should be your first stop. Grab a cup of white bean chili, a mug of warm red wine, a slice of authentic apple strudel with hand-whipped cream and take a seat in the sun to experience Aspen’s best patio atmosphere. At Aspen Highlands, Cloud Nine’s deck turns into a Euro disco. At Snowmass Village, Viceroy Snowmass offers ski-in/ ski-out sushi at Nest and a vodka bar steps from the pool. For something more posh and quintessentially Aspen, suss out the orange umbrellas of The Little Nell’s pop-up champagne bar, The Oasis, located mid-slope on Aspen Mountain. Once there, raise a glass of Veuve Clicquot and toast the fact that right here, right now, this is the best that Aspen gets. 

Aspen Year Round

Must-Try Restaurants in Aspen

Spring Café: Start your day out right with a hearty and healthy breakfast, including energy packed smoothies. Warm up with a chai latté made with their homemade nut milk.
Ajax Tavern: An Aspen icon for decades, Ajax Tavern’s open deck at the base of Aspen Mountain is a must. Order the restaurant’s famous double burger served with truffle fries and kick back as local bands offer a live soundtrack to the end of your day on the slopes.
Burlingame Cabin: Once a sheepherder’s cabin, the Burlingame is a short snowcat ride away from Snowmass Village, but thanks to its secluded location tucked among an aspen grove, it seems a world apart. The menu is decidedly cowboy with barbecue pork, fresh chili and mac and cheese served family-style. Local storytellers and musicians entertain guests throughout.
Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro: Book an outside table for the last seating of the day at this mid-mountain institution at Aspen Highlands. When you book the reservation, order the raclette, a melted cheese that you can slather over baked potatoes or air-dried beef. That way it’s ready as soon as you sit down. The extensive wine list and unmatched views of the iconic Maroon Bells mountains will keep you occupied until ski patrol signals last call.  
David Burke Kitchen: The celebrity chef opened a spinoff of his eponymous New York City restaurant in downtown Aspen that features locally sourced dry-aged meats (think elk, venison, wild boar) and a seasonal menu.
Richard Brasseries & Liquor Bar/Bia Hoi Southeast Asian Street Food: A Food & Wine “Best New Chef,” Tim Goodell from Los Angeles has partnered with Related Colorado to open two new restaurants in Snowmass Village this winter. Ricard Brasserie serves classic French fare such as prime steak tartare, oysters and house-made charcuterie. Bia Hoi’s draw is an extensive drink menu that puts a Colorado spin on tropical cocktails thanks to AJAX spirits and beers from local distillers and brewers.

Aspen’s Must-Do List from a Vacation Advisor 

Shopping: Downtown Aspen is the Madison Avenue of the Rockies—and arguably the chicest shopping town between Chicago and Las Vegas— due to its cluster of upscale boutiques. Find the latest from Prada, Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Ralph Lauren and more among local faves such as Goruch.
Spa: Remède Spa at the St. Regis offers customized treatments.

Mountain Adventures to Experience with Your Family This Winter

Alaska-Glacier-Hero

Mountain Adventures to Experience with Your Family This Winter

July 26, 2019

If you’re looking for a departure from beaches and boardwalks this summer, consider an unconventional mountain escape that’ll have you oohing and ahhing over expansive vistas. Fill your lungs to the brim with fresh air, and feel your heart pound with exhilaration. However you prefer to balance exercise and adventure, your family will cherish these unforgettable experiences forever. 

Get Here: Trips depart from Aspen Paragliding’s downtown Aspen office mornings at 6:45, 8:30 and 10:30. Arrive 15 minutes early, and plan two hours for the experience.  
Be Prepared: Bring a wind jacket, sunglasses, walking or running shoes, and your camera.  
Suitable For: Children 3 and older, and adults who can run 20 steps. aspenparagliding.com $225 per person.

You’d think soaring through the crisp, mountain air mere feet from the peaks as the sun peers over 14,000-foot summits is an experience exclusive to red-tailed hawks, golden eagles and the occasional helicopter or small jet. But when you sign up for a ride with Aspen Paragliding, you too can take flight on the Rocky Mountain thermals. This is as close as you can come to truly flying as you step off a cliff, arms spread, to catch the updraft and ride the breeze. In Aspen, the experience begins when you pile into a four-wheel-drive truck for a winding drive up the Aspen Mountain service roads as marmots and deer and even the occasional bear or elk scamper out of the way.

Step out of the Jeep onto one of two well-manicured grassy runways—high-altitude greenbelts that in the winter are Walsh’s and Ruthie’s ski runs. Enjoy the sights while your pilot lays out the paraglider and helps you into your harness, which doubles as your seat while you’re in flight. The pilot attaches himself to the paraglider and to you with Kevlar straps called risers. When the wind is right, he says, “Go,” and you sprint 10 to 20 steps downhill. Seconds later, you feel the tug of the wing above you, you run faster, and then your legs are moving but they’re not touching the ground. You lift off and you’re floating above a maze of snowless ski slopes.

The wind is brisk but not overly so, and the smell of earth is quickly replaced by fresh air and ozone as the ground sinks below you. The pilot scoops you onto a wooden plank seat, and your hands are free to snap photos as you meander and serenely glide 3,000 feet down to Aspen Valley. Spot a hawk playing in a thermal, and your pilot will steer you to join the bird as it hovers in the sky. Panoramic views in all directions let you pinpoint Aspen’s famed Wheeler Opera House, the craggy Maroon Bells, the cleft of Independence Pass and Highlands Bowl, which still hides snow in its gullies.

Alex Palmaz, owner of the company and its lead pilot, learned to paraglide in Aspen 20 years ago from the school he now owns. Since then he has flown more than 4,000 tandem flights, and 6,000 flights in all. If you’re game, he’ll let you steer. Brake toggles control the wing overhead. Lean left, look left and pull the left toggle, and the wing sweeps left. It’s the same to the right. Lean; look; brake. Best of all, you needn’t worry about the landing as each passenger harness has a bottom-mounted airbag to make your return to Earth gentle. You may not spend more than 20 minutes in the air, but the memory will last a lifetime.

Get Here: Tyax will pick you up in Vancouver or Whistler and fly you via float plane to the start of the trip.
Time Commitment: Ride for one to seven days. For the true hutto-hut experience, we recommend spending two to three nights.
Equipment: Bring your own hydration pack to carry water, snacks and an extra layer, and a sleeping bag liner for the huts. Tyax provides breakfast, lunch and dinner, and transports your bags each day.
Suitable For: Intermediate and advanced riders, teenage and older.  $1,980 per person, two-night trip.

As the float plane skitters to a splashy stop on Lorna Lake, or perhaps one of the other puddles sprinkled throughout Canada’s South Chilcotin Mountains Provincial Park—150 miles, and a 90-minute flight, from Vancouver—your skin prickles with delight at the silence and serenity of having millions of acres of virtually untouched wilderness seemingly to yourself. There is no hum of other planes or cars; not so much as the braying of an odd farm animal. You’ve flown here because there are no roads or rail lines into the park. Lorna’s waters lap gently at the shore as you wait for your guide to retrieve your bike from the bowels of the five-seater Dehavilland Beaver. Helmeted and ready, you mount your trusty steed and ride off into the mountains. 

Wind your way over shale-littered passes with sweeping views of the jagged Coast Range, snow occasionally crunching beneath your bike tires. Then race downhill through sprawling meadows—a rainbow of endless azalea, Indian hellebore, arrowleaved groundsel, Indian paintbrush, Sitka valerian and lupine quivering as you whiz past. You’re in the capable hands of the Tyax Wilderness Resort & Spa’s expert mountain bike guides, and you’re pedaling toward the first of as many as six simple and comfortable huts—each with its own personality, but all with soft beds, hot showers and hot, hearty meals—that will be your home each night. Bike for three, four or seven days, three to eight hours a day. Awake each morning to snow-capped peaks reflected in a mountain lake, with a lone heron gliding silently by. If you’re truly adventurous, skip the shower and take a frosty dip in the glacier-fed lake. After breakfast, it’s another quad-burning climb to the top of a pass followed by the sweet reward of a sweeping descent through mineral stained soils, the crumbling remnants of old lava flows and breezy groves of iridescent aspen. 

You might see a string of packhorses delivering your bags to that night’s cabin or possibly a faraway grizzly digging for grubs or chomping on fireweed. The single-track isn’t technical—it was beaten in by gold-seeking prospectors and their stock animals, and First Nations hunters in pursuit of deer, bear and mountain goats. But the adventure is remote and hard-charging—the kind of experience that creates an iron bond between you, your fellow travelers and a special place few people get to experience.

Get Here: Drive 90 minutes from Park City to Ogden to meet your guides, who provide harness, helmet and lanyard.  
Be Prepared: Bring sunscreen, a small backpack, light snacks and lots of water; and wear light hikers, approach shoes or running shoes.
Suitable For: Children 8 and older. Pass on this adventure if you’re afraid of heights. mountogdenviaferrata.com $100 per person. 

Have you ever imagined yourself scaling a cliff Stallone-style, your fingers pinching barely-there ledges as you athletically slither your way to the summit? If it sounds exciting and ruggedly romantic, yet you lack the skills, (rock) face time or Sly’s catlike reflexes, don’t sweat it. You can book an afternoon at Mount Ogden Via Ferrata in Utah, a 90-minute drive from Park City, and experience the thrill with much less risk. Italian for “iron road,” via ferrata is a semi-assisted way to traverse rock walls using fixed iron cables and ladders that let you StairMaster your route up a cliff; no technical rock climbing skills, knots or ropes required. The technique originated in the Italian Dolomites during World War I as a way for troops unskilled in mountain climbing to move quickly and efficiently through Italy’s peaks as they fought the Austrians on ever-higher ground. In the U.S., via ferratas are purely recreational. The Mount Ogden routes are some of the best in North America, designed by American alpinist, climber and Ogden resident Jeff Lowe. If you’re fit enough to climb a long ladder, agile enough to clip a carabiner to an iron rung and comfortable with heights, you’ll scamper up mountainsides with ease whether you’re 5 or 65.

Ogden’s Waterfall Canyon, at the foot of the Wasatch Mountains, can be steamy hot in the summer. It’s a short and dusty walk to the shady grove at the base of the demonstration wall, where your guide fits you with a climbing harness and helmet and issues you via ferrata’s signature hardware: a shock-absorbing Y-shaped lanyard that connects your harness to the route’s metal rungs. Your shoe rubber grips the rock as you carefully choose slabby foot holds and navigate from rung to rung. You work one side of your lanyard then the other up the iron ladder so that you are always attached at one point or the other. Once you have the basics, it’s a 15-minute hike through a boulder field to the waterfall for which the canyon is named. Cool off with a splash in the water; then it’s time for your first ascent. Your focus is sharp as you carefully pick your way around loose cobbles, reach your foot for the next rung and pull your hips toward the next secure clip. Three routes meander 350 feet up craggy Mount Ogden. The rock is hot and dry, but a light breeze cools you as you wrestle your way to the summit, where you’re greeted by bird’s-eye views of the Great Salt Lake basin and the jagged Wasatch Mountains. 

Why the Tetons in Wyoming Are a Must-Visit for Adventurous Travelers

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Why the Tetons in Wyoming Are a Must-Visit for Adventurous Travelers

June 21, 2019

Reaching the summit of Buck Mountain, the hard work should be done. Over two days, you’ve climbed 5,000 feet from the valley floor. Last night you camped—in a tent, in a snowfield—near one of the highest lakes in Grand Teton National Park, Timberline Lake. At sunset, you watched the Teton Range throw its profile—a shadow of it—down on Jackson Hole. This morning, you tackled the final 2,000-some feet to Buck’s summit, negotiating a knife-edge ridge that, to the north, fell away thousands of feet. It was as exhilarating as it was terrifying. 

Now standing on your school bus-sized aerie with the dozen other members of your group, the South, Middle and Grand Tetons loom to the north. To the east, on the far side of the valley, mountain range after mountain range stretches into the distance. Winding through the valley floor, the Snake River lives up to its name.

Of course you want to take photos. Using a trick learned two days prior, on another, less-exposed but equally beautiful summit elsewhere in the range, you carefully take off your backpack and secure it to the slope using webbing and a carabiner. It’s important your backpack doesn’t go over an edge. You don’t want to lose the snacks in it. More importantly, you don’t want to lose your skis, which are tightly lashed to its exterior. You didn’t climb 11,938-foot Buck just to climb it. You’ve climbed Buck to ski its East Face.

One of a handful of skiers in Exum Mountain Guides’ annual four-day Live to Ski Camp, you’re already a seasoned backcountry skier, able to handle 6,000 feet a day of climbing, familiar with the use of an ice axe, crampons and basic knots, and confident skiing steep slopes with pitches of up to 45 degrees. You’ve applied—all applicants have to submit a skiing résumé, and Exum guide and camp co-founder Zahan Billimoria says less than half are accepted—to this camp because there’s even more out there you want to explore. But this exploration you want to do requires climbing and skiing skills beyond what you currently have; the Tetons provide an ideal setting for such a high level of education.

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“There’s a huge gap between being a proficient backcountry skier who hunts for powder all winter long and developing the skills to go ski steep, high-consequence terrain that might involve a rappel or some belaying,” says Billimoria. “That’s what this camp was designed for—to help backcountry skiers bridge that gap to becoming solid ski mountaineers.”

Ski mountaineering, as its name suggests, combines skiing with mountaineering. General backcountry skiing involves skiers skiing up (also known as skinning) a mountain before skiing down. Ski mountaineers do the same, but often rely on technical gear such as ropes, harnesses, crampons and ice axes to navigate the trickiest parts of a route. While ascending, ski mountaineers might transition from skinning to carrying skis on their backs so that they can climb up an ice waterfall. (For the final 2,000 feet up Buck, you have your skis on your back; not because you had to ice climb, but because it is too steep to skin.) Skiing down, ski mountaineers might rappel a section that is unskiable (such as a cliff band or ice waterfall). General backcountry skiing has little objective danger aside from the current avalanche hazard and obstacles such as trees. Ski mountaineering is often in high-consequence and steep terrain where a slip or fall, on the ascent or descent, may result in serious injury or death.

A ski mountaineer might ski on belay, with a rope attached to her climbing harness while a partner above works the other end to prevent significant sliding after a fall. Mail Cabin, a lovely valley on the west side of Teton Pass that has tree skiing and numerous open bowls (and where Exum does single-day guided trips) is backcountry skiing. The North Face of Spalding Peak, which you skied on day 1, Skywalk above Avalanche Canyon (day 2) and the East Face of Buck, your final exam for the camp, are all considered ski mountaineering.

“The reason we’re so stringent about participants’ experience and skill level is that we’re really committed to delivering an A+ experience for the people who are ready,” says Billimoria, who grew up in Switzerland and has been rock and ski guiding for Exum for six years. “There are lots of learning and skill-building opportunities for intermediates, but really none for high-level people who want to take it to the next level and eventually tackle alpine-style objectives like Denali, Shuksan or the Grand Teton.” The applicants who made the cut for the camp range in age from early 20s to early 60s. The majority are in their 40s. In my camp, I was one of two women.

While Buck involved a night of camping, the first two days focused on instruction and skill development like constructing anchors or skiing on belay. Each of these days we were back in Jackson in time for dinner. We could have learned about anchors to belay off or rappel from in a conference room, but that’s not how this camp goes. Instead, guides found a giant boulder in the middle of the Meadows, a flattish area at nearly 10,000 feet up Garnet Canyon and beneath the Middle Teton, and had everyone practice building anchors. 

First, though, we climbed 12,240-foot Spalding Peak and skied its 1,500-foot North Face, practicing skiing on belay at its very top, where the pitch approached 50 degrees. Skiing on belay, one end of a rope tied into your harness and the other end in the hands of Exum guide and co-owner Nat Patridge above, wasn’t as burdensome as you expected. Patridge asked that you count out loud to three. “Turn every time you get to ‘three,’ ” he said. (Turning at consistent intervals sets up the belayer to smoothly feed out the rope, rather than getting hung up and having the rope pull you backwards.)

The next day we learned more about skiing on belay—and got to belay some of our fellow campers—while skiing runs off the north face of Albright Peak. Each day, camp guides challenged us to think more and more for ourselves, a skill necessary in the mountains. “There’s no one correct way to do this stuff,” Billimoria, and the four other instructors, repeated over and over. “We want to show you several different ways and then you can make the choice that works for the specific situation.”

Stepping into your skis on the summit of Buck, you know the hard part is not over. Also, you’ve decided that skiing the top part of the face on belay works best for you. Considered one of the classic ski mountaineering routes in the Tetons, the top of the 1,200-foot East Face nears 45 degrees in pitch. About two-thirds of the way down, the face is bisected by a 200-foot- tall cliff band. To the left of the cliff band there is a break in the rocks you can ski through, but a fall high on the face, when you’re still above the cliffs, is disastrous. There’s little likelihood of being able to self-arrest before flying off the cliff. You’re fairly certain you’ve got the skills to ski the top without falling, but, since falling has such high consequences, why take the risk? “A rope isn’t a weakness, but a really valuable tool,” Billimoria says.

Making your first turns off Buck’s summit, you’re smiling. Actually, no. Smiling doesn’t do it justice. You’re beaming. A goofy grin owns your face. You’re still concentrating and focused and don’t want to fall—being on belay saves you from the cliffs below but not from the ribbing of fellow campers— but missing is the steely taste of fear you’ve had before at the top of intimidating lines. You’re going to enjoy this. Four turns in you let loose a yelp. The Haute Route was great and so is heading out of bounds from the top of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort’s tram, but carving turns through the corn snow—spring conditions, when avalanches are less likely, are the best for ski mountaineering—on a ginormous mountain face, that from the valley floor looks vertiginous, is something else entirely. You wonder if you’ll ever be truly happy skiing “usual” runs and routes again. You want to climb and ski every peak and line in the Tetons.

And that’s the stoke Exum is hoping this camp brings you. “Every big mountain skier wants to ski the Tetons. They are kind of without comparison. They’re certainly the greatest of all the accessible ranges in the U.S.,” Billimoria says. “Pair that level of terrain with the history of Exum Guides and also with skiers who have the desire and curiosity to learn how to safely explore serious mountains and you’ve got something unlike anything else offered anywhere.”

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Ski mountaineering has no single inventor or father, but, in the U.S., Bill Briggs, who first moved to Jackson Hole in the late 1950s, is pretty close. In the 1960s and early 1970s, he did first ski descents of the Middle Teton, South Teton, Mount Moran and Mount Owen. But it was his 1971 ski descent of the Grand Teton that really showed what was possible with the sport. In 2008, Briggs, who still lives in Jackson, was inducted into the U.S. National Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame.

Closer to the present, few people have done more to promote and celebrate ski mountaineering in the Tetons than Steve Romeo, who, before his death in March 2012 at age 42 in an avalanche in Grand Teton National Park, blogged about ski mountaineering adventures big and small in the range on TetonAT. com. (Although no new “trip reports” are being added to the site, Romeo’s family and friends maintain its archives.) “He helped put the Tetons on the map for our generation as the premier destination in North America to test your skills as a ski mountaineer,” says Billimoria, who was a former ski partner of Romeo’s. This camp took its name exactly from Romeo’s motto, “Live to Ski.” “We wanted to be part of Steve’s legacy,” Billimoria says.

Back on Buck, you’re past the section where a fall would take you over cliffs and about to enter the couloir that lets you ski through them. You feel like you’re doing nothing so much as living to ski. Pointing your skis into the 15-foot-wide swath of snow, you vaguely remember responsibilities and to-dos and meetings and annoyances, but those intrusions last a mere millisecond. You’ve still got nearly 3,000 feet of turns before you’re back in the real world … if you can ever fully be in it again after having had your eyes opened to what you’re capable of.

Experience Summertime In Aspen

Experience Summertime In Aspen

April 18, 2019

Known as much for its world-class culture and cuisine as its pristine, majestic surroundings, it’s easy to nurture mind, body and spirit in Aspen. The best- summer event is likely the Aspen Music Festival, which draws renowned classical musicians and top students for eight weeks of daily concerts, recitals, operas, master classes and other events.

Under the guidance of new music director Robert Spano, who previously oversaw the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, the festival’s focus this year is “Made in America,” highlighting works by American composers and European immigrants. On Thursday nights, join Roaring Fork Valley locals who convene on Fanny Hill at the Snowmass ski area for free concerts programmed by Jazz Aspen Snowmass. The regional and national acts range from folk to funk. Pack a blanket and a picnic, and plan on buying a bottle of wine at the concert.

The Aspen Institute’s Ideas Festival brings world leaders in politics, science, technology, the environment, health, education, and the arts to town for lively discussions and seminars on today’s current issues. Passes generally sell out in advance, so plan ahead. And keep an eye out for familiar faces around town during the fest. You might spot Colin Powell, Madeleine Albright and Bill Clinton dining at an outdoor patio.

Aspen’s budding restaurant scene is continually evolving, with classics like Cache Cache, Matsuhisa, and Pinons joined by at least one newcomer each year. Among this year’s freshmen is Justice Snow’s in the Wheeler Opera House. The Colorado-inspired menu reflects the current trend for local ingredients. The extensive vintage cocktail list is part history lesson, part inspiration.

Finbarr’s Irish Pub has quickly become a local’s favorite since opening in late 2011, with updates on traditional pub fare like shepherd’s pie and fish and chips as well as specialties like curried prawns and potatoes. The Ajax Tavern at the base of the Aspen Mountain gondola has a well-earned rep as the see-and-be-seen place to lunch. A hip alternative is poolside dining at 39 Degrees at the Sky Hotel, one block away. Pair the tuna wonton tacos with a Corpse Reviver 39 and while away an hour or so on a warm, sunny afternoon.

This summer’s hottest table—and most intriguing new concept—will be at Chefs Club by Food & Wine magazine, the brand-new restaurant at the St. Regis Aspen slated to open during the annual FOOD & WINE Classic. The seasonally-inspired menu will be created by select recipients of the culinary magazine’s annual Best New Chefs awards.

The town’s casual dress code extends to all facets of the town, as locals bike to Music Festival concerts, sip a margarita on an outdoor patio after rock climbing near Independence Pass or grab an early dinner on the way home from a hike. Classic Aspen hikes such as the ones to American or Cathedral Lakes or to the base of the Maroon Bells are justifiably popular. A favorite locals’ workout is to hike up the lung-busting Ute Trail, which starts off Aspen’s Ute Avenue and switchbacks up 1,700 vertical feet in the first mile, then snakes across Gentlemen’s Ridge on Aspen Mountain before connecting with ski-area service roads. Acclimated hikers reach the summit in about an hour and a half, though there’s no shame in taking longer. Save your knees and ride the gondola down for free. (Dogs are allowed, too.) For a mellower workout, take the gondola up to join one of the thrice-weekly yoga hikes—downward dog at 11,212 feet, anyone?

After hiking, Aspen’s biggest summer sport may be road biking. A veritable peloton heads up daily to the Maroon Bells and the Ashcroft ghost town, two of the most popular rides. To really get in your mileage, hit the Rio Grande Trail, a 42-mile multi-use path from Aspen to Glenwood Springs; other than a few-mile packed dirt section near Woody Creek, it’s paved.

With stores like Gucci, Fendi, Burberry and Louis Vuitton—along with longtime favorites such as Distractions, Nuages, and Pitkin County Dry Goods—Aspen can cater to the most sophisticated fashionista. But there’s more than designer labels to hunt down among the many boutiques within the town’s historic core. Two Old Hippies combines a comprehensive selection of guitars with an eclectic mix of home décor and fun clothing and accessories for the whole family—even the dog. Many of them embody the store’s motto: peace, love, and rock ‘n’ roll. 

Aspen women in the know go to Harmony Scott to stock up on delicate handmade jewelry with colorful gemstones and pearls. Don’t miss Souchi, which offers gorgeous women’s knits in silk, cashmere, linen, cotton and bamboo. All are hand-loomed in Portland, Oregon, where designer Suzi Johnson lived until recently when she relocated to the Roaring Fork Valley. A few blocks away, Danemann-Pure is the only U.S. outpost featuring the fresh, modern looks of German women’s wear designer Petra Danemann. The Little Bird has a carefully curated selection of vintage women’s clothes and accessories from every A-list designer you can think of, plus some new items.

The Dream Skiing Destination with 8,000+ Acres to Explore

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The Dream Skiing Destination with 8,000+ Acres to Explore

February 26, 2019

North America’s biggest ski area has more than 8,000 acres of terrain that’ll take days to ski. The stats attributed to Whistler Blackcomb boggle of the mind. To wit: an average snowfall of more than 38 feet, a top-to-bottom vertical descent of a mile (on Blackcomb), 2,200 acres of expert terrain alone, 7-mile-long ski runs, year-round skiing on groomed glaciers, and a gondola between the two mountains that carries skiers and boarders 1,427 feet above the valley floor (by comparison, the Empire State Building tops out at 1,454 feet). For skiers and boarders in North America, Whistler is as close to a sure thing as can be found on the continent.

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Superlatives aside, what makes Whistler truly special is its village, a compact, pedestrian-friendly town that handles the influx of winter and summer visitors with charm, elegance, and a good deal of mountain-people authenticity that draws thrill-seekers from around the world.

One could argue that its international vibe, outdoors-minded population—helped, no doubt, by hosting 2010 Winter Olympic alpine events—makes Whistler the closest Canada and the U.S. have to Chamonix, the legendary capital of adventure sports located in the French Alps.

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Both amateur and experienced skiers can appreciate the grandness and variety Whistler has to offer. In addition to skiing and snowboarding, visitors can enjoy snowshoeing, tobogganing, and several other winter activities. Domestic and international travelers alike can seek adventure, relaxation or a combination of both in this versatile mountain town.

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But perhaps Whistler Blackcomb’s most appealing attribute is access: The ski area is little more than a two-hour drive north from the international airport in Vancouver, British Columbia. Rarely does going this big come so easily. With only a flight and a short drive slowing guests down, it’s a wonder this little-known destination hasn’t quickly climbed the ranks in popularity.