The 25 Most Adventurous (and mostly white) Men of the Past 25 Years 

A celebration of the mountaineers, watermen, arctic explorers, activists, and artists who redefine the limits of what’s humanly possible.

The list:

Conrad Anker

Mike Horn

Eric Larsen

Alex Honnold

Jeremy Jones

Erik Weihenmayer

Colin Angus

Mike Libecki

Cory Richards

Doug Tompkins (1943–2015)

Werner Herzog

Siddartha Gurung

Shane McConkey (1969–2009)

Laird Hamilton

Sebastian Copeland

Dean Potter (1972–2015)

J. Michael Fay

Felix Baumgartner

Alex Lowe (1958–1999)

Jared Diamond

Tim Hetherington (1970–2011)

Ben Stookesberry

Richard Branson

Jimmy Chin

 

Source: The 25 Most Adventurous Men of the Past 25 Years | Men’s Journal

Megan Finnesy, Trail Running for a Cause 

Megan Finnesy, race director of the Dirty 30 in Golden, Colorado, aligns altruism and altitude by raising money for a nonprofit

by Holly Graubins, Trail Runner Magazine

Race director Megan Finnesy, 47, of Durango, Colorado, is equal parts benevolent and bodacious. She spent three long years working toward an event permit for an ultra trail race in the rugged San Juan Mountains. Through her perseverance, she finally received the permit for the Double Dirty 30 in Silverton, Colorado, held last September. While working through copious race details with forest rangers, she also dreamed of raising money for her favorite non-profit organization, Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) of Southwest Colorado.

Her leap to race directing was premeditated. “I wanted to be an event coordinator, but couldn’t find a job because I didn’t have any experience,” she recalls. But her love of mountainous singletrack and knack for juggling miniscule details guided her.

Now, she’s the director of the popular Dirty 30 (50K and 12-miler) in Golden, Colorado, currently in its eighth year. The Dirty 30 is known for long, steep climbs, fast descents and rocky scrambles, and features special awards (“Bloodiest Finisher”) and live music at the finish line.

“I love this race. The course is brutal, but it’s also gorgeous and super well marked,” says Boulder athlete Sarah Black, a 2015 finisher. “[Megan] is wonderfully organized and that is reflected in the event, with its great support, and wonderful volunteers.”

Finnesy attributes much of her life path to her college friend Dale Garland, the long-time race director of the legendary Hardrock 100-Mile Endurance Run. Back in 2008, Finnesy managed Hardrock’s Cunningham aid station, and has since paced runners, captained other aid stations and once even donned a coconut bikini top and floral lei at the Chapman aid station to boost the morale of spaghetti-legged runners.

“Dale has been my main mentor as a race director,” says Finnesy. “I admire and respect him, as managing Hardrock is epic.”

“When I first got into this run-organizing thing, I relied on Merilee O’Neal [the former RD at Leadville] to mentor me,” says Garland. “So I look at it as paying it forward when Megan asks for advice or help. Now, Megan is one of the most energetic and conscientious young RDs we have in our sport.”

Boulder-born and raised, Finnesy had a soulful connection to nature from a young age, climbing 13,916-foot Mount Meeker at age 12. In the ensuing years, her diverse outdoor interests included running for hours in the Colorado mountains. In 2008 she tackled Colorado’s multi-day, point-to-point Trans Rockies Race, which ignited her ultrarunning passion. Trim and muscular with blonde hair styled into a tidy ponytail, she has blue eyes that twinkle behind dainty eyeglasses, giving her a scholarly yet athletic look.

It’s not just miles and race logistics that Finnesy pursues. “Giving back to our communities is essential,” she says. She once mentored a young girl from BBBS, and fondly remembers taking her “little” up Engineer Mountain, “a very technical trail most adults won’t tackle.”

Double Dirty 30 runners are asked to either do trail work on the course or fund raise for BBBS. In this year’s inaugural race, 33 runners raised a combined $13,000 for the organization. Says Anita Carpenter, the executive director of BBBS, “All of the funds raised have gone directly into one-to-one mentoring. BBBS is serving a new elementary school this year and that’s thanks to Megan’s runners.”

Source: Megan Finnesy, Trail Running for a Cause | Trail Runner Magazine

Give And Take – Joe Grant confronts tragedy on Longs Peak

A mix of emotions swirl inside of me. It is strange to think of how I was out enjoying my day, while in the exact same context a tragedy was simultaneously unfolding.

by Joe Grant, Special to irunfar.com

A couple of days prior to the March Equinox, I set off from the Longs Peak trailhead around mid-morning, hoping to summit the mountain before the official end of winter. The weather is exceptionally mild for the season, and other than the calendar stating it as such, you would have a hard time believing it is still winter.

Jogging up through the woods, the snow is mushy, making it hard to find a good rhythm. Every so often I punch through the packed surface up to my knees, leaning heavily on my poles so as to not fall over. I roll up my tights, and am down to a t-shirt under my windbreaker, yet still sweating profusely.

 

Source: Give And Take

Epic Days and Late Nights with Jeremy Tofte, Founder of Jackson Hole’s Melvin Brewing 

“All I ever wanted to do was grow a beard, brew beer, and have fun. Maybe that’s why I live in a van.” -Jeremy Tofte, co-founder of Jackson Hole’s Melvin Brewing

by Hudson Lindenberger, Men’s Journal

Two decades ago Tofte arrived in Jackson Hole with a few bucks in his pocket and the goal to spend the winter snowboarding the famous slopes surrounding the town. To survive he bounced from job to job before opening his own Thai restaurant in 2000. The fact that he really did not know much about cooking Thai food did not stop him; he bought a few cookbooks and taught himself.

Six years later, he sold the restaurant. It was a success but he had grown tired of fighting the local government over his attempts to open a nano-brewery in the back of his restaurant. “I was sick of not being able to get good beer in town. We had to drive to Colorado to restock the fridge,” says Tofte.

With the proceeds from his sale, he took to the road spending the next two years chasing surf and summer in New Zealand, Australia, and Indonesia. When the new owners of his restaurant failed, leaving the business shuttered, the landlord called him and asked him if he would want to come back to reopen it.

Determined to open his brewery this time, he went over the town of Jackson Hole’s head — he got federal and state approval before applying. When he reopened Thai Me Up as a brewery and restaurant in 2009, he had a tiny 20-gallon system installed.

“The craft beer movement was slower arriving to Jackson, most of the locals thought we were nuts,” says Tofte. “But I did not care, I knew our brews were good.” Three years later, in their first Great American Beer Festival, they won three medals, then another three years later in 2015 they were named the best Small Brewer in the country at the GABF. Investors offered money and they started to plan on opening a larger brewery. Their Melvin IPA and 2×4 Double IPA are recognized as some of the top beers in the country.

But right as things were getting good, Tofte decided it was time for a change. “The real estate market in Jackson sucks. It’s so damn expensive,” says Tofte. “So I decided to stop renting and move into a bus.” As the face of an expanding Melvin Brewing, his constant presence on the road helped to seal the deal for him.

His first mobile home was a converted ski patrol bus. It was good, but also a pain to drive around, and guzzled gas. In February of 2016, he moved into his newest home, a converted Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Van. The 4×4 van is part adventure platform, part office, part base camp, and pure party.

There are surfboards on the roof rack next to an array of solar panels, and the Thule lockbox holds his snowboards. Under the raised bed inside are his three bikes — mountain, road, and city — and the rack on the rear holds his KTM motorcycle for commuting into town. Inside he has a full kitchen, flat screen TV, PlayStation, thumping sound system, and enough beer to be the most popular guy at the campground.

“I wake up and make some breakfast, log on using a jet pack, knock out some work before heading out for some fun,” says Tofte. “We only sell our beer in places where you can either mountain bike, surf, or snowboard, so I am never far from another adventure.”

For almost thirty months straight he has been continuously cycling between Wyoming, Colorado, and the Pacific Northwest. He says he would not change a thing; he loves being on the road. “Every single day I meet new people and have new experiences. Why change that?” says Tofte. “We are all going to die one day, that’s a fact. We should have fun, be nice, and live our adventures.”

Melvin beer will soon be arriving in California, with plans to head east sometime soon.

Source: Epic Days and Late Nights with Jeremy Tofte, Founder of Jackson Hole’s Melvin Brewing – Men’s Journal

Access Fund Announces 2016 Sharp End Awards 

Access Fund, the national advocacy organization that protects America’s climbing, is honored to present its 2016 Sharp End Awards to an amazing group of volunteers and activists who stand out in their commitment to the American climbing community. Please join us in congratulating:

Greg Barnes

Menocal Lifetime Achievement Award
Access Fund is honored to present Greg Barnes with a Menocal Lifetime Achievement Award. Greg’s singular focus on fixed anchor education and replacement has made our climbing areas safer and more sustainable. Greg is the longtime director of the American Safe Climbing Association (ASCA), a national organization that has provided—at no cost—new bolts and hardware to hundreds of local climbing organizations and volunteers across the country. Greg developed some of the first and most enduring best practices for rebolting and fixed anchors and continues to be a leader in the field, presenting at Access Fund’s Future of Fixed Anchors conferences and serving on our Anchor Replacement Fund grant committee. Greg has personally replaced many thousands of bolts in California, Nevada, and beyond.

Ian Caldwell
Bebie Leadership Award
Access Fund is proud to present Ian Caldwell with a Bebie Leadership Award for his incredible dedication to Smith Rock, one of America’s most iconic climbing areas. Ian has played a central role in the Smith Rock Group since 2003, coordinating the annual Spring Thing climbing stewardship event, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. Ian also replaces bolts and anchors at Smith and volunteers for the Deschutes County rescue team. Decades ago, Ian was an Access Fund Regional Coordinator and served as president of the Madrone Wall Preservation Committee. Ian has also worked to protect climbing areas across the Northwest and played a lead role in the 2016 Northwest Sustainable Climbing Conference. Congratulations, Ian, and thank you for your outstanding leadership.

Roger Briggs

Sharp End Award
Access Fund is pleased to present Roger Briggs with a Sharp End Award for his work to protect Colorado’s Front Range climbing areas. Roger founded the Boulder Climbing Community organization in 2012 and spearheaded the Front Range Climbing Stewards, a locally based climbing access trail crew, in partnership with Access Fund. A Boulder original, Roger has dedicated his life to climbing in the Front Range, working tirelessly to promote stewardship and responsible use.

The Keithley Family

Sharp End Award
Access Fund is excited to present the Keithley family with a Sharp End Award for their outstanding commitment to climbing area stewardship. Jimmy, Melissa, Zoe, and Noah bring a level of enthusiasm and commitment to climbing area stewardship that is impossible to overlook. As parents, Jimmy and Melissa strive to instill a strong stewardship ethic in their children, combining fun family climbing trips with stewardship work at the climbing areas they visit. Zoe and Noah now provide a positive example to their peers of what it means to be a climbing steward. Jimmy is also a board member of the Salt Lake Climbers Alliance and chair of the Wasatch Anchor Replacement Committee. Thank you, Keithley family, for making climbing stewardship a family value!

Eve Tallman

Sharp End Award
Access Fund is honored to present Eve Tallman with a Sharp End Award for her decades of work with Western Colorado Climbers’ Coalition (WCCC) and her instrumental role in protecting Unaweep Canyon. In 2008, Eve helped secure Upper Mother’s Buttress, and in 2014, she expanded climbing access by securing the threatened Lower Mother’s Buttress and Television Wall. Without her behind-the-scenes organizing, grant applications, and on-the-ground stewardship, WCCC and Access Fund would not be able to celebrate a long legacy of conservation and climbing access in Unaweep Canyon. Thank you, Eve, for your contributions to Western Colorado and beyond.

Chris Irwin

Sharp End Award
Access Fund is honored to present Chris Irwin with a Sharp End Award for his deep commitment to stewarding and protecting Mid-Atlantic climbing areas. Longtime board member and current president of Mid-Atlantic Climbers (MAC), Chris has been instrumental to MAC’s stewardship projects at areas like Great Falls, Carderock, Shenendoah, Coopersrock, Northwest Branch, and many more. More recently, Chris worked with Access Fund and other MAC board directors to officially open Mount Catoctin to bouldering.

Ben Bruestle

Sharp End Award
Access Fund is proud to present Ben Bruestle with a Sharp End Award for his leadership of Southern Colorado Climbing Resource and Advocacy Group (SoCo CRAG) and his work to preserve and protect climbing areas in Southern Colorado. Ben has been instrumental in orchestrating Adopt a Crag stewardship events and climbing days at multiple sites, making strong inroads with a host of local land managers. Ben also dedicates countless hours to replacing worn, aging anchors and bolts in the Wet Mountains.

Roger Van Damme

Sharp End Award
Access Fund is proud to present Roger Van Damme with a Sharp End Award for his outstanding leadership as Chairman of the Friends of Muir Valley. Roger has carried on Rick and Liz Weber’s vision for stewardship and conservation of the Muir Valley climbing area in the Red River Gorge of Kentucky. Roger grew and strengthened the Friends of Muir Valley organization so significantly that the Webers decided to transfer Muir Valley to the organization in March 2015. This was a milestone in Red River Gorge climbing conservation. Roger improved day-to-day management at Muir, hiring support staff and instituting a successful parking donation system. With sincerity, humor, and an incredible work ethic, Roger inspires hundreds of Muir Valley stewards and volunteers.

Gus Fontenot

Sharp End Award

Access Fund is honored to present Gus Fontenot with a Sharp End Award for his decades of service to Southeastern Climbers Coalition (SCC). An Alabama attorney, Gus has provided hundreds of hours of legal service to support SCC’s work in Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee. He has played a critical role in all of SCC’s climbing area acquisition projects, and he organized the SCC Land Trust. Climbers can enjoy areas like Boat Rock, Steele, King’s Bluff, Hospital Boulders, Castle Rock, Jamestown, Denny Cove, and more thanks to Gus’ generous contributions.

Jack Santo

Sharp End Award
Access Fund is proud to present Jack Santo with a Sharp End Award for his leadership of Ohio Climbers Coalition (OCC). Jack founded OCC and immediately set in motion advocacy and stewardship campaigns for Ohio climbing areas like Cleveland Metro Parks and Cuyahoga. Over the past year, he has spearheaded a partnership with county parks to open Mad River Gorge, Ohio’s largest climbing area. Jack is planning a large-scale Adopt a Crag event this May in preparation for the Gorge’s grand opening. Jack recently relocated to the Pacific Northwest but is staying deeply involved with OCC.

Outdoor Research

Sharp End Award
We are proud to present Outdoor Research (OR) with a Sharp End Award for its long-standing support and dedication to the protection of America’s climbing areas. OR’s leadership in helping launch the Climbing Conservation Loan Program in 2009 was a pivotal moment in the history of climbing conservation, making possible the purchase of 24 climbing areas. Outdoor Research also collects pro-purchase donations to support the protection of America’s climbing resources and has recently stepped up to defend our public lands.

About Access Fund

Access Fund is the national advocacy organization that keeps climbing areas open and conserves the climbing environment. Founded in 1991, Access Fund supports and represents millions of climbers nationwide in all forms of climbing: rock climbing, ice climbing, mountaineering, and bouldering. Six core programs support the mission on national and local levels: climbing management policy, stewardship and conservation, local support and mobilization, land acquisition and protection, risk management and landowner support, and education. For more information, visit www.accessfund.org.

Source: Access Fund Announces 2016 Sharp End Awards – Outdoor Industry Association

Put Your Money Where Your Fun Is | Outside Online

by Frederick Reimers, Outside Magazine

It’s no secret that our public lands are in trouble. The Forest Service has had its budget cut, for everything but firefighting, by 36 percent since 1995, and the Park Service is teetering atop a $12 billion maintenance backlog. Oregon is selling a popular state forest full of old growth to make ends meet, and a Colorado nonprofit estimates that it’ll take $24 million to repair trails on the state’s fourteeners alone. In light of diminishing resources, it’s time for hikers, bikers, and paddlers to become more like gun owners and take care of our outdoor spaces.

Every time someone buys a rifle or ammunition in the U.S., they pay an 11 percent tax (10 percent for handguns) that helps fund the states’ conservation ­efforts. In 2014 alone, those taxes pumped $760 million into wildlife management, ­property purchases, and other ­essential endeavors. Without that revenue, and additional funding from a similar tax on fishing gear, our nation’s wildlife would be in trouble, says Whit Fosburgh, president of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, a Washington, D.C., hunting and angling group. The taxes, along with ­licenses, make up 80 percent of the funding for state fish and wildlife services. Fosburgh believes that other groups should be contributing as well. “It’s time for the general recreation community to ramp up their commitment to public lands,” says Fosburgh.

He’s right. Just like hunters and fishermen are required to, we should have to ante up for the sake of our forests, deserts, and mountains whenever we buy new gear. The easiest way to do that is probably to create excise taxes on items like skis, tents, and snowboards. Some have proposed that mountain bikers be required to buy a sticker that funds trail maintenance, just as dirt bikers and ATV enthusiasts are in many states. However we do it, our public lands need financial support from the people buying everything from RVs and teardrop trailers to boots and trekking poles. It’s time to pay to play.

No one wants more taxes. And the Outdoor Industry Association believes the companies it represents are overpaying already. The trade group was formed in 1989, in part to fight the “backpack tax” championed by then secretary of the interior Bruce Babbitt and others. The OIA argues that gear companies are already paying more than their share in import ­taxes, since their overseas-made goods are subject to a rate between 14 and 35 percent, while other industries—cars and electronics, for example—pay anywhere from 8 percent to nothing at all. (The outdoor industry got a late start lobbying against 1930s-era tariffs.) Those taxes add as much as $45 to the price of a light waterproof hiker.

“At a time when we are trying to encourage people to get outside, we don’t want addi­tional cost barriers,” says OIA executive dir­ec­tor Amy Roberts. Furthermore, how do you differentiate between a pack used for hiking and one for carrying textbooks? Or a rain shell worn on the Appalachian Trail versus one used to stay dry in Seattle?

That sort of distinction isn’t made for gun sales. The firearms tax is nearly the same whether you’re buying a .44 Magnum or a deer rifle; Dirty Harry supports wildlife studies to almost the same degree as Ted Nugent.

If the OIA doesn’t want additional taxes, it should throw its political weight behind an effort to earmark its existing import tariffs for public lands rather than the federal General Fund, which can be used to pay for everything from military drones to border walls.

Of course, the biggest hurdle is the Repub­lican-controlled Congress, which is ­looking to slash taxes across the board. This means that the best solution for states is to follow the lead of Minnesota, where, in 2008, ­voters approved a 0.375 percent general sales tax for conservation, recreation, and the arts. It has already contributed $1.8 billion to help fund projects like the 85-mile interconnected mountain-bike trail ­system in Duluth. “The Duluth system is a tourist draw,” says ­Luther Propst, an Interna­tional Mountain Bicycl­ing Association board member. “States that fund their natural resources are gaining a competitive advantage.”

Source: Put Your Money Where Your Fun Is | Outside Online

Joel Gratz Knows More About Snow Than Anyone | Outside Online

“I may not be perfect all the time, but my audience realizes that they are better off overall because of what I do for them.”

by Michael Behar, Outside Magazine

Joel Gratz is making me nervous. It’s midmorning on a snowy Colorado day in March, and we’re riding the Sun Up triple chair in Vail’s Back Bowls. Gratz has scooched his butt to the very edge of the seat, and now he’s thrashing his right arm to and fro, determined to capture a few flakes with his mittened fist. Whenever Gratz talks about the weather – snow especially – the 31-year-old meteorologist can forget where he is, speaking in a nonstop stream. “I usually just tune it out,” says his girlfriend, Lauren Alweis, who is skiing with us.

“These flakes are pretty sweet!” Gratz shouts. “And look at the way they’re falling – from northwest to southeast. That’s good! But the moisture layer is thin.”

Gratz, a lifelong skier who lives in Boulder, loves nailing a forecast, and today he did just that, having predicted that Vail would get nearly a foot of new snow. To prove it to the tens of thousands of people who follow his powder forecasts—posted daily on his website, OpenSnow.com—he whips out his iPhone and snaps pictures of freshly covered glades that he’ll upload later. Gratz also has a ruler affixed to a ski pole; ten minutes earlier, he jammed it into the snowpack and photographed that, too. “A week ago I said today would be a very good day,” he says. “It turned out that it was. That’s pretty cool from a weather standpoint.”

Gratz is what weather buffs like me call a microscale forecaster, which means he focuses on a particular kind of weather event (in his case, snowfall) for an audience that is particularly interested (skiers and snowboarders). He got started five years ago, frustrated by his inability to find the tailored forecasts he craved. “I was livid whenever I missed a powder day,” he tells me. “Nobody could forecast them, so I started doing it myself.”

What eventually became OpenSnow started with an e-mail to 38 friends, sent on December 17, 2007, which said: “You’re on this list because you know there’s nothing better than the feeling of skiing in deep, untracked powder!” Gratz’s first advisory predicted dumps at various Colorado resorts, including Vail, Aspen, and Steamboat. “Friday could be a great day to play hooky,” he wrote. A buddy pinged back, “You are a great man! People will sing songs about you.”

Today, OpenSnow, which went live in 2010, attracts a million unique visitors a year, including 1,600 members who pay up to $45 annually to receive customized powder alerts by e-mail and time-lapse video feeds from the slopes at 24 Colorado resorts. OpenSnow has also expanded to cover Lake Tahoe, New England, Utah, and portions of the mid-Atlantic. Each region gets its own forecaster, handpicked by Gratz for both weather knowledge and powder addiction.
OpenSnow is one of several newfangled websites offering such fine-tuned information, on everything from surf conditions to wind speeds for kiteboarders to the likelihood that thunderstorms will drench your mountain-bike ride. These sites exist because they meet a demand that government weather agencies aren’t filling.

“Government forecasts don’t focus on the recreational side of weather—the fun side,” Gratz points out. The sole mission of the National Weather Service (NWS) is to protect lives and property. For this reason, its winter forecasts often cover hundreds of square miles and are intended mainly to scare drivers off the roads during snowstorms. OpenSnow targets people who want to put themselves in the crosshairs of a blizzard.

Prior to one snowstorm last March, Gratz projected different snow totals for Copper Mountain and Vail, even though the two resorts are only 12 miles apart. The NWS, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), would never bother with such a distinction. After the front rolled through, Copper had amassed only two inches, while Vail got nine – a difference Gratz saw coming. A spread like that is momentous to a skier or boarder.

“It’s fun to forecast in Colorado, but holy shit, is it hard,” Gratz says. It helps, he says, that “I’ve got a little bit of OCD in me. But without wanting that powder day myself, I would never have the motivation to do all this work.”

ONLY RECENTLY has weather forecasting become a high-tech business. Back in the 1950s, the NWS refused to issue tornado warnings because the science was notoriously inaccurate. Mike Smith, a senior vice president for AccuWeather, a Pennsylvania company that produces made-to-order forecasts for some 175,000 industry and government clients, recalls that even in 1971, when he got his first job at a TV station in Oklahoma City, they still relied on radars that used World War II technology. “It was considered taboo for meteorologists to issue tornado warnings more than a day out,” he says.

Nowadays, thanks to an explosion in satellite data gathering and supercomputer power, it’s possible to forecast more than two weeks in advance. We can also zoom in on areas of a few square miles and make up-to-the-minute spot forecasts. Smith’s team is beta testing a new system called SkyGuard Mobile, an app that continually monitors your location using the GPS in your smartphone and then alerts you when something nasty is coming. “If you’re a trucker, it can warn you if you’re about to drive into an unexpected ice storm,” Smith says. The app would be indispensable to a mountaineer, he says, or a “fisherman out in a boat as a thunderstorm approaches.”

Generally, meteorologists base their forecasts on three major models. Two of them, the Global Forecasting System and the North American Mesoscale Model, are produced in the United States by the NWS. The third, the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, is run by an intergovernmental agency in Britain. There’s ongoing debate among weather nerds about which is best and why, but most agree that the Europeans are kicking our butt, chiefly because they’ve invested more in computers.

To feed these models, data is gathered from dozens of sources. There are remote-sensing satellites that can detect minute atmospheric changes – even “seeing” through clouds to measure subtle temperature shifts on the ground. There are also pulse Doppler radars, which visualize storms in four dimensions (spatially and chronologically). Weather balloons and backyard hobbyists all contribute to the data trove, while the Internet and wireless networks facilitate a grand information exchange.

What’s more, thanks to NOAA and a handful of other taxpayer-funded agencies, virtually everything is available for free, online, with just a few mouse clicks. “There’s a huge potential business for people who want to predict recreational weather,” Smith says.

And that’s exactly what Gratz is doing, working full-time as CEO and overseeing a growing operation that started turning a profit during its second season, with nearly 10 percent of its 18,000 registered users signing up for paid extras in the first two months they were offered. In a recent public message to OpenSnow readers, Gratz confided, “I pay about $200 a year for two websites that provide data, but 98 percent of the data I use to make forecasts is freely available … and OpenSnow wouldn’t exist without it.”
ON VALENTINE’S DAY, a week before I skied with Gratz, we met for lunch at a trendy bistro in downtown Boulder called the Kitchen Next Door. The previous month had been dismal for Colorado snow, but that day it was dumping. Our waiter immediately recognized Gratz – he’s been featured in the Denver Post and on local TV – and wanted to know when to expect the next powder day.

“You should take Thursday off,” Gratz told him.

“Gotta work,” the waiter groaned.

“Switch with someone,” Gratz said, sounding quite serious. “Something big is going to happen. Trust me.” Gratz then launched into a discussion of weather-model behavior that went on until the waiter’s eyes glazed over, as did mine. Gratz didn’t notice: he was already busy checking an iPhone app that displayed animated radar images of the day’s blizzard. “Look at this incoming band of snow!” he said, shoving the screen in my face. “The wind direction!” Eventually, he snapped out of it and started telling me how he got into all this.

Gratz was an only child raised in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, and he loved snow as far back as he can remember. He started skiing at four, and when he was ten he began tracking and charting the weather as a hobby. “In high school, I’d check radar on the Internet in the library to see if it was going to snow enough for us to get out of school,” he told me. “Whenever there was snow, I wanted to know how long it would last, was it heavy or light. I was obsessive.”

Gratz went to Penn State – graduating in 2003 with a bachelor’s in meteorology – and then got a summer internship at the NBC TV affiliate in Philadelphia. “I worked with Glenn ‘Hurricane’ Schwartz,” he said. “I did all the background stuff for the forecasts. But when the cameras shut down, I never knew if anyone was listening or making decisions based on what we just did.”

He nixed the idea of pursuing a career as an on-air weatherman, in part because he didn’t want to end up with a starter job in “bumblefuck nowhere.” During his junior year at Penn State, he got involved in an on-the-ground research project with scientists at the University of Oklahoma who were investigating thunderstorm formation. “That was my first chance to actually see the weather developing,” he said. “We drove all over the plains with radar trucks. But I ruled out research, because you’d get all this data and then have to spend years trying to get grants to write code that would forecast the weather.”

Gratz moved to Colorado in 2003 to work under Roger Pielke Jr., a professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He earned a master’s and tacked on an MBA. In 2006, just out of grad school, he was hired by Boulder-based ICAT, a provider of catastrophic property insurance, to do risk-modeling analysis.

It was a high-paying job, but he hated cubicle life. He would leave work and immediately head home to geek out on local weather at his computer. “Every night, I would look at some stuff, make notes, and after a storm moved through I would check the snow amounts,” he said. “I was looking at the weather for hours a day.”

He got better at identifying potential snow-makers, which he would deconstruct in weekend forecasts that he e-mailed to friends. His list grew to 500 and included professional big-mountain skier and Aspen resident Chris Davenport, who met Gratz at an event in Boulder and asked to be added. “Once he saw it, he realized it was legit and passed it on,” Gratz told me.

After that things ballooned. Gratz started blogging in late 2008, quit his job, and launched OpenSnow (originally called Colorado Powder Forecast) on a shoestring in 2010. He was joined by meteorologist Andrew Murray, who came from the National Center for Atmospheric Research, where he’d been designing and coding weather-themed websites. Gratz also recruited Bryan Allegretto, who was writing a popular blog featuring powdercasts for the Lake Tahoe area.

“I had no kids, no wife, and a mortgage half covered by a roommate, so I decided to do it, even though I had no business plan and no clue what I was going to do the rest of the year,” Gratz said. But making money and building a company were never his principal goals. “I wanted to feel useful, really useful,” he said.

POWDER FIENDS aren’t the only ones seeking out—and paying for—microscale technology. At his home in Redmond, Washington, Michael Fagin, founder of a forecasting operation called Washington Online Weather, is able to monitor conditions on Mount Everest—comparing six different models—and advise climbing teams who hire him for the service. “I e-mail detailed forecasts directly to the Base Camp manager,” says Fagin. He’ll also speak to climbers by satellite phone if a fast-moving front could put lives at risk.

AccuWeather and WeatherFlow (which tracks wind speeds for kiteboarders, windsurfers, and sailors) refine their services with proprietary models designed to run on off-the-shelf computers. Both companies collect data from several thousand networked weather stations that dispatch regular reports to their central servers. From this data, meteorologists can run simulations in-house and then compare the outcomes to the conventional models.

Gratz has something similar in mind for OpenSnow. He’s developing a model to compute the impact of wind direction and topography on snow totals at various winter resorts in Colorado. “It should be able to tell us that, when Vail gets a northwest flow, they’ll get twice the amount of snow that other models forecast,” he says.

Gratz plans to test-drive his homegrown model in the fall, when forecast season -begins. At the first sign of snow, he’ll make it part of a daily ritual that has gone unchanged since OpenSnow went live in 2010. Every morning before dawn, working in bed in his underwear, Gratz will check the latest global models, view infrared feeds from satellites, examine Doppler images, and peek at the resort and highway webcams. He’ll note variations in barometric pressure and ripples in the jet stream. Sometimes he’ll call or text ski patrollers he knows: firsthand eyes on the hill. The effort can take as much as three hours, at which point he’ll post his prognosis to OpenSnow, usually by nine. On snow days he often files updates.

The process will get faster for Gratz as emerging technologies mature. One such innovation is the High-Resolution Rapid Refresh model, in development at NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder. Alexander MacDonald, who directs the lab, is compiling data from at least 30 sources, some never before used to build weather models. “We pioneered having commercial aircraft send us temperatures and wind speeds every hour,” says MacDonald.

Unlike conventional models, which encompass large regions of the country and take hours and even days to generate, the High Resolution Rapid Refresh model is fast and focused. It carves the U.S. into parcels measuring nine square kilometers. Click on a parcel and you get a “nowcast” for what’s going to occur every 15 minutes forward, out to 24 hours.

Not every inch of the U.S. is modeled (yet), but MacDonald was able to walk me through the process of determining air temperature six feet above the ground, at a precise location near Chicago O’Hare International Airport, 12 hours into the future. Eventually, with added computing power, he intends to shrink the parcel size—or “resolution”—to one kilometer. “By January 2015, all you’ll have to do is download an app to your phone,” MacDonald says. “It will always know where you are and what the weather’s going to be like at your location for the next 12 or 18 hours.”

“Nowcasting is likely the future,” Gratz agrees. “Right now I’d classify it as pretty good much of the time, but not great all of the time. When something fails occasionally, it’s hard to trust it.” So for the moment, Gratz is sticking to the tools that have worked for him—and made him something of a celebrity. While we’re at Vail, admirers intercept him in the lift line. “Thank you, Joel!” a woman gushes, confessing that she’d called in sick to the office because of his forecast. “I love you,” another declares.

OF COURSE, GRATZ sometimes fails, a fact he discusses frankly on a part of his site called Keep Me Honest. For several consecutive days in early April, he assured his readers that a monster powder maker was brewing. “Nearly all resorts will see about 5-10 inches from the storm, with about 10-18 inches for areas east of the [Continental] Divide,” he wrote just 48 hours before the impending storm. He added: “The best days to ski deep snow will be Tuesday … it could be very good.”

On Tuesday, April 9 – the day of reckoning – the system fell apart, and only a couple of areas saw flakes. That afternoon, Gratz posted a mea culpa to OpenSnow: “This storm has certainly turned into a pain in the you know what.” Then he provided an exhaustively detailed postmortem, complete with animated satellite imagery, on what went wrong.

“In retrospect, I’m not sure I would have done anything differently,” Gratz told me later. “Colorado is one of the more difficult places to forecast, because it’s got big topography, chaotic topography. You have all these mountain ranges going every direction with no rhyme or reason.”

Occasionally, Gratz gets surly comments from readers. When a storm didn’t materialize in February, an OpenSnow user lashed out in the site’s comments section: “Two days before the storm, he was calling for significant accumulations over the next two days. That didn’t happen. He was wrong about the overall snowfall in the high country over the last five days by a LONGSHOT.” But in the same thread, many defended Gratz. “Since discovering Joel, I’ve found he’s spot on or in the range 95 percent of the time,” one user wrote. “If chasing pow was the equivalent of the Range Game on The Price Is Right, I’d want Joel sitting in the audience telling me what to do.”

Gratz offers this: “I may not be perfect all the time, but my audience realizes that they are better off overall because of what I do for them.” Some clearly more than others. Shortly before Christmas, an admirer, presumably female, submitted a private message to OpenSnow. “There’s nothing better than reading your forecast for pow every morning while I’m laying in bed,” she wrote. “You look pretty cute in your picture. Are you single?”

When I ask if anything still stumps him, Gratz doesn’t hesitate. “Steamboat Springs,” he says. “It’s the last unexplained thing for me in Colorado. I call it the Steamboat Surprise. Every year they’ll get a foot or two overnight when they should have got a few inches and nobody else gets anything close. It has frustrated me for the better part of eight years, and you can’t explain it due to orographics.”

I sense a dissertation coming, so I interrupt. “I know a tree run that rarely gets skied,” I say. “It’ll be untouched.” Suddenly, the other Gratz reappears. “I’m game,” he says. “Show me the way.”

Michael Behar (@michaelbehar) wrote about gene-based endurance research in February 2011.

Source: Joel Gratz Knows More About Snow Than Anyone | Outside Online

Finding Love In Durango

Mehall’s quirky advice to finding love in Durango—hold the pickles.

by Luke Mehall, The Climbing Zine 

To paraphrase my homey Chris Rock, all successful relationships are boring.

In perilous times like these, I turn to great activists like Martin Luther King Jr. and writers such as Bob Dylan for wisdom, but equally I turn to comedians. Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, and Kate McKinnon are the voices I need to affirm my own sanity.

This hit me while listening to some old Chris Rock standup about marriage. Now, you can always count on Chris Rock for a unique point of view, and he’s inspired me to write this: my tips for dating in 2017.

For a quick reference, I am 38 years old and have never been married. I guess you can say I’m a late bloomer – it took me until about 22 to learn how to talk to women without alcohol. So, you’ve got 16 years of dating experience here, and I’m going to give this information to you for free. Why should you trust me? I have a mustache, trust in the ‘stache people!

1. Here’s my first tip, something you won’t even find on pay-dating sites like Match: don’t drink on your first couple dates. Go out to coffee or tea. Take a walk in the park. Introduce your cats to one another. Alcohol makes people seem more interesting and attractive than they really are. Plus, you don’t find the real person after a few drinks. You find out who they wish they were! At a coffee shop, you can’t bullshit. Instead, you end up talking about your favorite books and your fascination for those Yay! Magnets. Boring shit like that. Alcohol makes boring people attractive and interesting, don’t fall for it.

2. Make fun of people. Real great relationships are based on what you dislike, not what you like. The world is an oyster full of weirdos waiting to be made fun of: the girl who wears her pajamas to the grocery store in the middle of the day. The small penis/big truck guys who rev their engines and speed past you on Main Ave. leaving you in a cloud of diesel smoke, only to stop right next to you at the next stoplight. These people need to be made fun of, and if you can’t do that with your significant other, you’re doomed.

Hell, you should even be making fun of yourselves: look in the mirror, you work three jobs just to pay rising rent costs and live in this town where you can’t afford to settle down and even buy a trailer. Move somewhere else, you damned fool. I hear Montrose is cheap. Start dating there.

3. Food. You must eat a meal early on and see what kind of eaters you are. The kale-eating vegan is never going to make it with the carnivore, not even if she or he, also likes kale. Personally I don’t like pickles. I find it offensive that every time you go get a burger or something they try to force a pickle on you. I mean I get it, some people like pickles, but 100 percent of people? Why do they assume the pickle?

How about chocolate? More people like chocolate than pickles. Plus, people do weird shit when they eat. Does he or she make that weird chewing noise? You know what I’m talking about. That noise could drive someone to murder.

But, if you both make that noise, maybe it might not bother you. Go eat some food people! Get right down to business, watch them chew, see if they treat the waiter with respect and if they tip. Because when it comes down to it, you can see into someone’s soul by how they treat people in the service industry, and because Durango is Durango, we’re all in the service industry! Not properly tipping is a cry for help.

4. To Tinder or not to Tinder? This one is in a grey area. On the one hand Tinder is the shallow- est form of communication known to the human race. It’s even worse than Facebook Messenger, or direct Twitter messages. Plus, in Durango, you already know half the people, so you’re swiping all over faces who you know but already dated, or don’t want to date, or already dated your best friend, and that kind of swiping does something to one’s soul.

However, I think Tinder is great if you’re not already meeting members of the opposite sex (or the same sex) who you’d like to have sex with on the day-to-day. I have friends who work for the Forest Service and such, and they aren’t meeting anyone but trees and rocks during the week. Do you really want to date a tree? Of course not, get on Tinder and start swiping.

5. Here’s something groundbreaking: be yourself and don’t take advice from friends. We’re all weird (again we live in Durango, why else would we be here?) and the truth is your significant other is going to see your funky self sooner or later. And, more importantly, they are going to have to love that weirdo. I believe there’s someone for everyone, and in the end we can’t change a thing about how we truly are.

For the latter part, I feel like the older you get, the more specific advice your married friends try to give you. In the end you probably won’t meet the love of your life on Tinder (but you might). You’ll more than likely meet that person at a restaurant, while you set your pickle aside, and she or he says, “Do you mind if I have your pickle?”

Source: Finding Love In Durango – Luke Mehall

Anxious Recreation Syndrome Is Real | Outside Online

Anxious Recreation Syndrome (ARSe). Perhaps you’re familiar with symptoms such as dropphobia (fear of getting shelled), nerdphobia (fear of not knowing how to set up your mountain bike suspension), or the debilitating poseurphobia (fear of forgetting how to tie an improved fisherman’s knot during an active hatch). Whoops, I just pissed my waders.

by Marc Peruzzi, Outside Magazine

Cognitive behavioral therapists call it “mind reading.” You show up at a new group ride, ski tour with recent friends, or [insert your favorite pursuit here, but with strangers], convinced that your soon-to-be mates are judging you harshly. “I mean, look at the way he’s putting his avalanche transceiver over his midweight. What a worthless tool of a person. In the event of a burial, let’s all agree not to dig him out.”

This type of anxiety is common. Unless you’re blissfully un-self-aware thanks to an unpresidented [sic] case of presidential narcissistic personality disorder, you too might find yourself suffering from Anxious Recreation Syndrome (ARSe). Perhaps you’re familiar with symptoms such as dropphobia (fear of getting shelled), nerdphobia (fear of not knowing how to set up your mountain bike suspension), or the debilitating poseurphobia (fear of forgetting how to tie an improved fisherman’s knot during an active hatch). Whoops, I just pissed my waders. An indiscriminate neurosis, ARSe affects skiers, hikers, bikers, anglers, climbers, and backpackers in equal numbers. Newbies agonize over it until their bowels blow; so too with veteran outdoor athletes, despite their coiffed smugness.

Take it from a longtime ARSe sufferer like me. A chronic self-flagellator, the best example of me beating myself up quite literally involves me beating myself up.

This was 15 winters ago, in the Utah backcountry. While reporting a story, I toured with a famed local backcountry skier and avalanche observer named Bob Athey. Bob has husky eyes and a Gandalf beard, and he was and is one of the strongest ski tourers in the Wasatch. Naturally, I brought my heavy alpine boots and skis equipped with (stupid heavy) alpine-style touring bindings. One stale granola bar would sustain me for the 6,000-vertical-foot day of climbing.

Unprepared for the nearly vertical skin tracks of the Wasatch, I struggled to hang as Bob giant-stepped his way up cornices and ridges so steep that I was self-arresting with each tenuous step. I was cold, calorie starved, and gassed to the point of shaking, but somehow I managed to keep Bob from seeing me wallow.

On our final summit, my frozen gloved hand slipped from my climbing skin in mid-tug…and I punched myself hard in the nose. For ten seconds, blood fire hosed from both nostrils down my Gore-Tex shell, where it froze upon contact in the single-digit temps. Gripped by ARSe, I quickly turned my back to Bob and, grabbing the shell at the hem, snapped the hemoglobin slushie into the atmosphere.

In hindsight, my ability to make it sleet blood would have made for a nice moment of ridgeline levity. But ARSe makes you a bore. When you spend too much time inside your own head, you’re brushing with a metaphysical theory known as solipsism. A lighter, less-filling form of nihilism, solipsists deny the existence of other beings. Both are asshole belief systems, but solipsists are quieter about it. What’s the point in talking when only you exist?

I still flirt with ARSe-induced solipsism today when cycling in big groups. A half-dozen times a year, I roll up to a scary biweekly ride called the Bustop. Nobody organizes this unsanctioned street race, which starts and finishes at a strip club of the same name. And typically, nobody I know is there. It doesn’t help my confidence that I’m undersized compared with the powerful sprinters and rouleurs who show up to max their wattage on the flatter circuits.

In the tense moments before we depart, the mind reading sets in: Oh great, here comes the former Irish National Champion who is at least ten years older than I am but showing no signs of slowing down. He’s probably bummed to see a hack like me here. Is that an entire team rolling in? They’re going to break me to pieces. Are those strippers? I must look like a total dork. What am I doing here? Fading to black in the throws of ARSe, I solipsist up and go mute.

What a worthless tool of a person I can be. All that anxiety is for naught. I learned to Nordic skate ski in my late 30s surrounded by statuesque European athletes from the university. One of the coaches once skied up behind me when I was clearly struggling. Mind reading again, I thought he was going to scream, “Track!” demanding that I pull over, but instead he courteously offered some helpful pointers. On that Wasatch tour, Bob Athey taught me how to clear ice from the frozen glue of my climbing skins and execute a safe ski cut in an avalanche-starting zone. When I see him at trade shows, he always invites me out to ski again. And the Irish National Champion? He broke through my cone of silence, too.

Two summers back, the Bustop peloton was strung out, battling a stout headwind up a false flat. With an echelon running diagonally across the full width of the road, I was the odd man out, dangling and exposed on the windward side of a line of riders. Too weak to chase down the small pack ahead and a minute away from getting jettisoned off the back, I was clearly floundering. That’s when the Irishman looked askance at me and, in a perfect brogue, said, “You’re a wee fellah like me, but you’re doin’ all the work.” He then slotted out of his position in line and invited me in before effortlessly closing the gap on the leeward side of the echelon. Last summer, he taught me what he calls the “suicide move” to stay connected to the pack in crosswinds and attacks. Next summer, I’ll catch his name.

Like most anxiety, recreational anxiety is self-inflicted. If we could actually read minds, we’d realize everyone is happy to share the world with us.

Unless you’re talking resort skiing, that is. All the nihilists on the chairlift are ridiculing you. That’s a given. Don’t be a dumb ARSe.

Source: Anxious Recreation Syndrome Is Real | Outside Online

Embracing the Alt-Ride 

by James Herklotz, special to CMBA

Some new to Colorado and the Front Range may not realize what our wonderful warm spells – otherwise known as Indian Summers – actually mean to our trails and our ability to enjoy them responsibly. When the sun is out in February and temperatures are pushing 50 to 60 degrees after a big snowstorm, it’s very tempting to ride. Often, the snow melts within a day or two, so Green Mountain, North Table Mountain, The Hogback and the various parks that flank and ascend the foothills proper might be calling out to riders.

What you will often find, however, is that the sunny, seductive siren’s call is a lure into a trap – a corridor of gooey, peanut butter that will clog your derailleurs, choke your chain and even stop your wheels. Just 10 feet up a trail like this can make your 20-pound carbon bike weigh 50 pounds, and it’s going to be a chore getting it cleaned up again. Worse still is the damage that it does to the trail. Ruts are ugly. They dry and make for wheel catchers that slow you up and slap you down. Water loves ruts, though, and when it rains, it runs down that trench, cutting it deeper and washing the trail surface down the hill.

Furthermore, it’s human nature to avoid mud and go around it, which only serves to widen the trail, destroying vegetation that has a hard enough time holding on in our arid climate. All of this necessitates volunteers and staff devoting hours (and funding money) to restoration work where it might otherwise be used to further new trail development.

So, the best thing you can do is to network with your friends and other trail users to find out trail conditions and ride elsewhere as needed.

Plan an Alt-ride! There are lots of routes and options to enjoy limited portions of our parks. Here are a few basic Jeffco-centric ideas:

1) Hit that bike path! The C-470 path is long and you can avoid cars on it. You can link it to other paths, hit up a brewery along the way, find some crushed gravel paths and generally explore the west metro area and beyond, largely without traffic to negotiate. Go south to Chatfield and then up the South Platte to Strontia Springs Dam. You’ll probably see Bighorn Sheep in the canyon, and it’s one beautiful, car-free canyon any time of the year.

2) Ride the Morrison/Genesee backroads. A short four-mile ride up Bear Creek to Idledale leads to a nice steep dirt road called South Grapevine Road. You can grind up this guilt free in the mud and get yourself to Genesee where you can either explore the neighborhood roads, turn it around and bomb down the dirt and canyon pavement, or take the I-70 frontage road for a ripping descent to Highway 93. From there, a right turn south takes you to the entrance to Red Rocks, which is a delight to ride through on any bike. Next thing you know you are back in Morrison where a nice smothered burrito awaits at the infamous Morrison Inn.

3) Ride the tops! Did you know that there are upper parking lots for Mt. Falcon, Apex and White Ranch? While this is no guarantee that you will find good winter trail conditions through an extended stretch of Indian Summer like we’ve had, often the top of the parks have acceptable conditions of hard-packed snow and/or wet, but firm soils. The clay soils found on the lower portions of our foothills often change to a mix of decomposed granite and loam (think pine needles and dirt), which does fairly well when wet. Generally, you can ride a loop on the top of the park and skip the descent to the lower trails and leave with both a clean conscience and a clean bike. Be prepared to turn around if you are encountering poor conditions and beware of ice that forms in the shady north-side trails that stays for months.

4) Bang out laps on Dakota. Dakota Ridge, perhaps Jeffco’s most technical riding trail, is also well anointed with sunshine and rock and is typically one of the first trails to dry. There will likely be ice and some mud in the middle saddle between the two knolls that define the route – and the Zorro connector is often not viable due to mud as water seeps down the slopes of the ridge, keeping the trail wet, but much of this challenging route sheds its moisture in the heat of the glaring winter sun. (So too, avoid Mathew Winters without good information. It is slow to dry) At just a couple miles long, Dakota can go quick if you are a banger, but it’s a short ride up 93 to get back on the trail for another go. This will hone those skills for Fruita and Moab like nothing else on the Front Range. It’s not for beginners.

5) Get a Fat Bike! It’s a growing and vital winter option that should be considered. Above 8,000’ along the Front Range, the trails tend to stay snow covered (this year being an exception near Evergreen and Conifer which have seen inconsistent snow fall and much melting) or even frozen through the winter. Learn the game though, before you show up and hit the headwall of deep, untracked powder, or you butcher somebody’s hard trail packing work by flailing along. You can’t ride everything just because you have that 5” tire bike with a pie plate for a rear gear, and you will know that soon enough. Howeve, when things are dialed in and conditions are right, the experience is sublime!

That said, networking with your friends and others – being willing and able to share the status of a trail whether good or bad – is one of the best things you can do to help keep our trails the beautiful corridors of joy that they are. See you on the trails – or off, as conditions require!

***

James Herklotz is the founder of the local Facebook Group 303 Trail Monitor, with a membership after only two years of more than 6,000 mountain bikers, runners and hikers. It’s a friendly way to learn more about what is happening with the trails throughout the state (303 representing the original area code for the state of Colorado) and even a little beyond. Feel free to join!

Source: Embracing the Alt-Ride | Colorado Mountain Bike Association