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Sculpting the Mountain

The Architect

Now in its seventh season, the Salomon Freeski TV channel has covered the sport exhaustively. In “The Architect”, Vice President of Resort Design at Ecosign Mountain Resort Planners, Ryley Thiessen, explains how resort development has changed from the 1960s to today, bringing us from mom-and-pop mountains (now all but extinct) to four-season resorts in China.

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The Sky's the Limit

Breakdown: London SkyCycle

Last week, London architecture firms proposed a plan to build the SkyCycle, a 137-mile bike superhighway that runs over existing rail lines. We break it down.

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Crash into me, baby

Tested: Evolv Iceman Bouldering Pad

Bouldering is a relatively new evolution in rock climbing, and lacking ropes or other protection makes it one of the more dangerous. With steep overhangs and extremely technical moves, you’re going to spend a significant portion of the day falling on your butt, making a good crash pad absolutely essential. We recently had an opportunity to practice bouldering in the limestone caves of American Fork Canyon and the sandstone crags of Moab, where our well-worn Evolv Iceman Crash Pad ($135) was a constant source of support.

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No parks? No problem

Deep Cuts: Riding and Rappelling in the American Southwest

Our trip with Gerard is an audible. A group of journalists organized by mountain bike tour operator Sacred Rides, we came for a taste of the company’s newest offering: a tour of the Southwest’s outdoor adventure gems, from singletrack bike trails to world-famous slot canyons. But with Zion National Park closed by the federal government shutdown, we’ve changed tack and hired him to help us navigate nearby Yankee Doodle Canyon — a technical descent that promises to mimic Zion’s architecture. The road to Yankee Doodle, usually deserted, is littered with dawdling sightseers who walk the road in place of a trail. The shoulder has become a makeshift parking lot full of cars with out-of-state plates.

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Inside cycling's hottest discipline

The Cyclocross Experience

Sometimes you sprint at the end of a cyclocross race. But you always sprint at the beginning. As I straddle my top tube on the starting grid waiting for the whistle to send off my category at the Coyote Point Bay Area Super Prestige, I know this sprint start will hurt more than most.

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An Object in Motion Stays in Motion...

Tested: Newton BOCO AT

Founded in 1996 to develop footwear technologies for Nike, Adidas and Saucony, Boulder-based Newton Running now (according to its CEO, Jerry Lee) supplies shoes for one in every four triathletes. Though Newton currently makes two designated trail shoes, they’ll soon drop the Terra Momentum and offer only one: the sturdy, lightweight BOCO AT ($129). We took a pair out for a spin on a snowy day in Manhattan, which is nearly as rough as any beaten trail.

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Ridin' Dirty

The Best Cyclocross Bikes for Every Rider

Cyclocross racing pits riders on bikes with drop bars and knobby tires against each other on multi-lap courses over a mix of grass, dirt, pavement, sand, mud and sections that force riders to carry their bikes over barriers and up stairs and hills. Racers attack from the line, and the intensity doesn’t diminish for the duration of the 30- to 60-minute events — it’s a redline-all-the-time, full-contact affair. With participation doubling over the past five years, it’s also the fastest growing segment of competitive cycling in America. Some attribute this growth to the more laid-back, beer-primed environment at cyclocross races, but cool bikes certainly don’t hurt. We’ve got three rigs that make the grade from the starter’s gun well past the finish line.

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Be faster than the freeze

Cold Warrior: 10 Best Winter Running Shoes

‘Tis the season of calorie intake, so keeping one’s running regimen going strong should be a priority. Thing is, winter weather — the snow, slush and cold — is prohibitive at best. Fortunately, gentlemen, we have options. These are the best winter running shoes for facing the cold on pavement, trails and mountains.

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Two Toms, Three Sports

Tested: TomTom Multisport

From the Pebble to the Toq, multi-tasking sports watches have recently gained popularity among the techie set. Among athletes, they’ve been used for over a decade. At their most basic functionality, athletic smart watches measure pace and distance, though most also have an optional heart rate monitor and offer enough technological bells and whistles to make Siri swoon. We got our hands on the TomTom Multisport GPS, an intuitive little offering that provides metrics for running, cycling and swimming.

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Comfort and sturdiness, put to the test

Tested: ECCO BIOM Terrain Plus

Over the years we’ve owned a number of different hiking boots in a continuous search for just the right balance of sufficient support, stability, and grip without being so rigid and heavy that they feel like Tony Soprano concrete specials. Recently we had the opportunity to try the BIOM Terrain Plus ($230) from ECCO, a brand we knew only as the maker of grandpa’s “most comfortable shoes you’ll ever wear!” Of course we were skeptical about where they would rate on that scale of comfort and stability — and, equally as important, whether we’d want to be seen wearing them on the trail.

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Because it's too cold to go out alone

K9 Cool: Winter Gear for Fido

Whether it’s a morning stroll through the local park or a multi-day trek down the Pacific Crest Trail, there are plenty of adventures that we want to share with our four-legged buddies. Winter weather presents challenges, but the right gear makes all the difference. We’re not talking about the latest matching sweater set your great aunt and her little Yorkie were sporting at Thanksgiving dinner. No, cold weather gear for your canine buddy is as high-tech as anything you might find for yourself. We round up the best products to keep your furry friend on the trail all winter long.

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It's never too cold

Kit: Winter Running

It’s not like getting up for that pre-work run was easy during the summer or fall. Now it’s pitch black, relentlessly cold and the streets are covered with ice, snow and salt. But a brisk jog before sunrise is a one-way ticket to a fulfilling day, not to mention a long winter of staying fit despite a dining regimen of braised short ribs and mashed potatoes. The right gear will keep you warm, dry and, most importantly, stable when the ground beneath you isn’t.

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SOS for Less

Want This, Get This: Breitling Emergency or SPOT Messenger Gen3

If you’re like us, you have a long list of watches you’d love to own. But reality (almost) always steps in, and your desires remain unfulfilled. Gear Patrol’s series Want This, Get This presents a lust-worthy timepiece along with a more affordable alternative that scratches the same itch. This week, we offer two very different ways to save your skin.

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See How it All Ends

Conquering La Ruta de Los Conquistadores: The Film

Nearly a year after his training began, Dirk Shaw called from Costa Rica, where he had just completed the final mission in The Road to La Ruta: the race itself. He explained how he’d learned to enjoy the process as much as the culminating event. Process over product. Wise words, Mr. Shaw.

But we also know that race day happens to be both process and product, when reason and reflection give way to adrenaline and ecstasy — or despair. Deep, raw despair that people in the industry call “injury”, “mechanical failure”, or simply “Did Not Finish”. Luckily, as Dirk’s grueling journey from coast to coast and peak to peak unfolded, we had someone on hand to document the dramatic highs and lows. Now we present the final chapter in the Road to La Ruta series, our film of the epic race.

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Conquering La Ruta

Suffering Shared: The Road to La Ruta, Part 8

Suffering is a universal language. October 24-26 were the hardest three days I have ever spent on a bike, but they were also the most connected I have ever felt with the people and the world around me. The power of a shared experience, through joy and pain, transcends almost everything. It crushes barriers of language and culture. Now I know why everyone becomes so emotionally bonded to the La Ruta de Los Conquistadores: words are unnecessary when you have shared the suffering of a ride that is practically straight up for nearly two hours in the blazing heat.

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Putting a Solar-Powered Purifier through its paces

Tested: SteriPEN Freedom Solar

Our attitude about drinking water is better safe than sorry, particularly when traveling outside the United States in places where water is known to be contaminated. We sent our correspondent to Costa Rica for the final installment of The Road to La Ruta armed with the SteriPEN Freedom Solar ($105). While the water in Costa Rica is generally safe to drink, the CDC warns of hepatitis A and typhoid — and we didn’t want that coming back to HQ.

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Lifelong surf legend

30 Minutes With: Robert August

If you’re looking for a lesson in the good life, look no further than Robert August. At 18 he starred in The Endless Summer, the first great surfing film, taking him on a seven-month world tour of uncharted breaks. The rest, as they say, is history. August went on to launch an eponymous line of surfboards, which he still shapes today. We caught up with him at Witch’s Rock Surf Camp in Tamarindo, Costa Rica, to talk about parenting, lamb chops and the difference between monkeys and people.

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Light, fast, local

Tested: NW Alpine

There are big-name brands in the outdoor clothing market that turn out lustworthy, cutting-edge shells, baselayers and insulation pieces season after season. But every once in a while, we stumble upon a small brand doing things a little bit differently yet equally well. One of those is NW Alpine, based in that outdoor playground, Portland, Oregon. We got to test out three pieces of NW Alpine gear in the mountains this fall: the Black Spider Hoodie, the Fast/Light Pant and the Simplicity Jacket.

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Hiking Hut to Hut in the White Mountains

Don’t Underestimate the Whites

For thru-hikers of the AT, the White Mountains are a cruel joke, coming near the end of a months-long journey that begins in the gentle hills of Georgia. With nary a flat mile the trail follows the spine of the Presidential Range before exiting into Maine and the final miles to Katahdin. But while the Whites can be cruel, they are also kind. Among the rocky steeps is a series of huts where a weary hiker can find a soft bed, warm smiles and hot meals.

I came to the White Mountains of New Hampshire with too much confidence and they kicked my ass. With the trail’s highest point barely above tree line and only one thousand feet higher than the starting point of my June ascent of Mount Rainier, I figured hiking here would be easy. I was wrong.

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Gear for the Granite State

Kit: Hiking Hut-to-Hut in the White Mountains

Even when you’re sleeping in huts every night, hiking in the White Mountains requires considerable planning. With New Hampshire’s notoriously unpredictable weather, it’s wise to hope for the best but prepare for the worst. That means shells for rain, layers for warmth and good footwear for all that granite. Here’s what we took on the final part of our Mountain Series, a three-day hut-to-hut excursion.

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Tested by sheep

Tested: Icebreaker Sierra Long Sleeve Zip

We’ve been wearing Icebreaker’s Sierra Long Sleeve Zip jacket ($180) all summer and fall for mountain hiking — and though merino sheep have a few more centuries of wear-testing on their coats than we ever will, we’ve managed to form some opinions of our own.

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Own Your Wilderness Overnight

Kit: Multi-Day Hiking

It doesn’t take much to pack for a day hike: throw on a coat, pull on your boots and tuck a beanie in your back pocket in case the weather turns chilly. But if you’re heading into the woods for more than a stroll, a little preparation goes a long way, whether it be technical fabrics to combat inclement weather, a portable stove to heat your three square, or dominos to entertain companions after the sun sets. We’ve got a selection of gear to get you started on your next multi-day hiking adventure.

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Part II of III in The Mountain Series

At the Foot of the King: A Short Hike in the Swiss Alps

For alpinists everywhere, including those confined to armchairs, the name, “Eiger” conjures up excitement, fear and dread. Considered the most daunting climb in the Alps, the mountain’s north face, the “Nordwand”, is a 6,000-foot sheer wall of crumbling, often ice-coated, rock that is continually scoured by rockfalls and avalanches. First climbed in 1938, it has been the scene of countless adventures, tragedies and one Clint Eastwood movie. The name and the image of the Eiger were etched in my brain for years, and I read everything I could about the mountain. So to see it there, across the valley from the sundeck of the Berggasthaus First, seemed like a dream; I could hardly take my eyes off it.

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A Basketball coach, literally

Tested: 94Fifty Basketball

This year, the basketball gets a new update in the form of the 94Fifty ($295), a Bluetooth-enabled basketball that pairs with your mobile device to track shot speed, dribble force, control, spin, and acceleration. Posted to Kickstarter on March 5th, it crushed its $100,000 goal in a little over a month. We took it for a test run.

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You axed for it

Get To Da Choppa: 5 Great Axes for the Field, Not the Mantle

We don’t mean to split hairs here, but some axes are just simply better than others. You won’t find any designer jobs on this list; those are for your mantle. No, these are utilitarian axes that cut right to the chase, because there are trees to be chopped, timber to be split. Whether you’re a rugged outdoorsman, a weekend cabin dweller, a Middle-Earth dwarf or just a guy who has to clear some branches, these are the five best axes you’ll find.

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Gifts for the resident jock

12 Guys of Christmas: The Athlete

Part of you doesn’t want to buy The Athlete any gift at all. He roughhouses at the Thanksgiving football game; he runs negative splits at the charity 5K; he seems to be toweling off every time your girlfriend is around. While we’re all worse for wear, he’s aging like a Rodin. But ultimately, he’s a good guy who just really likes to get the blood flowing. He whipped you into shape for Tough Mudder, remember? And who came along for a second opinion when you bought the used Cervelo? Who’s consistently willing to do an aerial chest bump? Yeah, that’s him. Go ahead, get him a little something nice for the holidays this year. We’ve got all the ideas you need.

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Gear for the Top of World

Kit: Free Solo Climbing

Sometimes the mountains just call your name. Whether you’ve got a season to train for a summit bit up Mt. Rainier or just a Saturday afternoon to log some miles hiking up the local ski hill, the right gear can mean the difference between enjoying the majesty and struggling through misery (or worse). Here’s the gear we used for our recent solo free climb of Mount Olympus in Utah — but it’s perfect for any ultralight mountain mission.

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No Ropes, No Worries

Opinion: In Defense of Free Soloing

Some of my friends and family actually do think I’m a little crazy. This summer I decided to really find out what drives me to climb, what pushes me to expand my own vertical limits. What better way to really connect with myself and with the wall than to do it like the early purists and those on the leading edge of the sport today — with no ropes and no worries?

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Climb, Splash, Repeat

Photo Essay: Psicobloc Masters Series

Imagine cranking your way up an unforgiving rock face, no ropes or safety protection, just your fingers and wits pitted against every crimpy, stretched out, exposed move. At the hardest moment your grip finally gives out and you plunge more than thirty feet — to a splash landing in the Olympic Training Pool in Park City, Utah. For some, this kind of climbing, called deep water soloing, is the stuff of nightmares. For the few dozen professional climbers and thousands of spectators at the recent Psicobloc Masters Series, it’s a progression of the sport unparalleled in its difficulty and exhilaration. We captured the action from the pool deck.

Presented-by-lexus-logoThis month's features are presented by Lexus. The pursuit of perfection.
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Gifts For The Wilderness Explorer

12 Guys of Christmas: The Adventurer

What do you get the guy who spends more time sleeping under the stars each year than most people do in their entire lives? The guy who has gear for every season, every sport, journey, and surprise bug-out? When buying for the discerning backpacker, climber, skier, and general “live larger” type, you can’t simply walk into the nearest outdoor shop and buy something flashy. These explorers live and breathe in the world of Gore-Tex, crampons, and ice axes — and a gift card will get you dropped faster than the cell phone coverage on his last jungle trek. Stumped? Don’t be. We’ve tested out some great gear this year and zeroed in on the best selections for the adventurer. He might destroy your gift on his next expedition into the wild, but he’ll be grateful you bought the best.