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Should You Buy or Rent Skis? – Ski Equipment Tips

Today’s guest post comes from Dale Cooper, who has been blogging professionally for three years. After earning an English degree, he spent a year working as a ski lift operator in Aspen, Colorado. Dale now lives in Cleveland; in his spare time, he enjoys cooking and traveling. Enjoy! 

There’s nothing quite like the feeling you get when gliding down a freshly groomed ski trail, or bouncing through powder after a heavy snowfall. And whether you’re an expert skier or are just starting out, you may wonder whether to buy or rent ski equipment. Here are a few things to consider, plus a couple reasons why even advanced skiers may be better off renting.

My resting rental skis from Vail Mountain, proudly delcared as mine!Cost – Skiing is a relatively expensive hobby, so look for ways to save money where you can. A good way to determine whether buying or renting skis will be more cost effective is to know how often you plan to ski that year. According to onthesnow.com, you’ll save more money by renting if you ski fewer than 10 days per season. That’s because rentals usually cost between $25 and $50, and exceeding the cost of 10 rentals should be enough to buy a good pair of skis.

Wear and tear – Skis wear out and need to be replaced more frequently than you might think, which means even expert skiers may save money by renting. Luxist.com explains that skis are not designed for long-term performance, and estimates that typical skis will last through about 20 weeks of use. At that rate, someone who skis 60 days or more a year may need to replace their skis every other year.

Skiers coming down from the slopes at Vail Mountain in Colorado.

New ski technology – Another way advanced skiers may benefit from renting is by staying on top of new ski technologies. Many pro ski shops will offer long term rentals of ‘demo’ skis, which are new, high-end products. Since you don’t own the rental skis, the ski shop will take care of equipment maintenance and repairs, and next season you can get a fresh pair. These demo rentals are much more expensive than typical ski rentals, and should only be considered by advanced skiers.

Transportation – Skis’ long, skinny shape can make them difficult to transport, and renting skis eliminates the need to attach them to a car rack or take them on a plane. Transporting skis also makes them vulnerable to theft. If you typically keep skis in or on your car, remember that automobile insurance will not cover property theft; talk to your insurance agent about covering your ski equipment under a homeowners or renters insurance policy.

If you’re a beginner, chances are renting is the best way to go. There’s a smaller upfront cost and no commitment if you decide that skiing isn’t for you. Intermediate and occasional skiers may benefit from buying skis. Read More…

The Year that Inspired a Lifetime of Travel: Top 10 Adventures of 2012

I already know that after my yearlong Simply Adventure trip, I’ll be claiming that 2013 was the best year ever – but there would be no epic future without the unbelievable year of traveling, new friends, and outdoor pursuits experienced during 2012.

The year began with me residing in snowy Denver, Colorado – and now as it comes to a close, I’m saying farewell to house-living in Florida, and preparing for life as a van-dweller. Woah. To wrap my mind around how I’ve ended up where I am today, we have to take a look back at the top 10 adventure moments of 2012. The list keeps getting better as we journey towards #1:

I'll totally admit it, I felt like a bad ass on those bunny slopes in Vail.10. Learning How to Ski in Vail, Colorado

Eager to take advantage of my temporary residence in Colorado, the elder Boués were incredibly amped when the chance arose for them to join me in the mountains for a weekend of adventure. In late February, they flew out to Denver and together we road tripped out to the Vail Ski Area for a few days of snowy bonding.

Having previously failed miserably at snowboarding, I took my first skiing lesson and conquered the bunny slopes – but the real highlight of the Vail trip was spending time with my folks, eating the best breakfast burrito I’ve ever tasted at Pazzo’s Pizzeria, and sharing my newfound love for Colorado with them.

9. Overland Expo in Flagstaff, Arizona

Hanging out with one of Ursa Minor's Ecamper creations during Overland Expo.

Each year of my life now seems to include an epic solo adventure, and this year’s trip was my one-woman journey out to Flagstaff in late May for the annual Overland Expo event. The misadventure began with me tragically killing a young black bear while driving through the middle-of-nowhere in Texas, but quickly took a more pleasant turn as I connected with a group of fine fellas (like Dave Creech, David Croyle, Anthony Sicola, and so many more) who mocked my inability to finish a glass of whiskey, cooked up some mean tacos, and introduced me to the art of overland travel.

I gained valuable insights from the Hackney’s educational seminars, feasted on Overland Gourmet’s outstanding fireside fare, and spent over a week traveling across some of the finer parts of the country. J. Brandon, thank you for taking me under your wing and becoming a true friend.

8. My First Amtrak Train Ride

Niko and I first started dating a few days before Thanksgiving in 2009, which has led to a rather inconvenient occurrence of our anniversary falling on days when we’re typically spread across the state visiting family for the holiday. We were together last year for Thanksgiving in Denver, and this year I was determined to spend our third anniversary together – so I hopped on my very first, and highly anticipated, Amtrak Silver Star train journey from Miami to Tampa. It was an admittedly small step towards fulfilling my dreams of train travel, but I loved every minute of it – and can’t wait to embark on extended railway journeys in the future.

7. Sport Climbing at Red River Gorge in Kentucky

Climbing one of my favorite routes at Red River Gorge, Plate Tectonics (5.10a).Prior to my Arizona road trip, I spent 10 days exploring a lush gorge in the depths of Kentucky with Niko and the owner of Tallahassee Rock Gym, Rich. We met up with a crew of topnotch Floridian climbers for days spent hiking through dense greenery, avoiding pesky campers at Land of The Arches Campground, and gorging on pizza at Miguel’s.

I witnessed my friend Rachel take the scariest whipper I’ve ever seen while climbing a route called Amarillo Sunset, nearly peed on a young copperhead while drunk at The Zoo crag on Cinco de Mayo, and proudly on-sighted my first 5.10a leads. It was one of the most inspiring and motivational climbing trips I’ve ever been on.

6. Outdoor Retailer Summer Market in Salt Lake City

Lovin' my experience at my first Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake City!The climax of 2012’s integration into the outdoor industry occurred during the festive chaos better known as the OR Show. Thousands of gear junkies, media professionals, and brand representatives converged upon the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City for the ultimate outdoor industry experience.

Swept up in a whirlwind of introductions, meetings, and pitstops for beer, I was entirely overwhelmed as I filled my pack with free gear, brushed elbows with Alex Honnold, and reunited with the wonderful folks at Stonelick and Columbia Sportswear. The trip was completed with a gorgeous day of climbing at American Fork Canyon with the #ClimbChat crew. I’m already planning for next summer’s OR Show.

5. The Triple Crown Bouldering Series at Hound Ears, NC

Proudly showing off my score sheet - it may not have been a 1st place qualifier, but it was my strongest day ever. I’ve never been the competitive type when it comes to climbing, but when I heard about the annual climbing event at Hound Ears in North Carolina a few weeks before my birthday, I instantly registered Niko and I for the competition – this outstanding crag is only open one day a year for the Triple Crown Bouldering Series. Situated atop a ritzy gated community, the Hound Ears boulder field is a mecca for any style of bouldering imaginable. I sent my proudest climbs to date, placed 15th in my category, and celebrated the end of the competition with apple-picking at Stepps Hillcrest Orchard in Hendersonville, NC.

4. The Last Rocky Mountain Adventures and Leaving Colorado

Farewell, Colorado. At the end of 2011, I experienced a few career hiccups, and realized that in order to live my dreams of a life of adventure, I needed to leave Colorado and return to Florida to save up for the Simply Adventure trip. Before departing from the mile-high city, Niko and a few buddies flew out to Denver to spend their spring break climbing, hiking, and exploring. We traveled out to Horsetooth Resevoir near Fort Collins, made one last visit to my favorite sushi spot in Boulder, and ended my time in Denver with an excellent week of adventure.

During the first week of March, Niko and I packed up my little Scion hatchback, and drove me back down to Florida. It was a bittersweet moment, and I’ve been dreaming of the Flat Irons ever since.

3. Building, Renovating, and Expanding at Tallahassee Rock Gym

A panoramic view of all the construction work on the new climbing walls at Tallahassee Rock Gym. If you follow me on Twitter, gander at my Instagrams, or read my Facebook statuses, you know that one of the most important things in my life is the Tallahassee Rock Gym. It’s my home, the birthplace of my climbing lifestyle, and the spot where Niko and I first met. I’ve laughed, cried, and crushed there – and this year, we bought the warehouse space next door and began construction on an epic expansion effort. Everything was paid for out of pocket, every piece of wood was put up during long hours of volunteer work, and every inch of the new climbing area is loaded with love and dedication.

We’ve nearly completed the renovations, and on January 12th, we’ll host a grand reopening celebration. It’s the proudest project I’ve ever been a part of, and it breaks my heart to think about leaving this place for an entire year.

2. Joining Columbia Sportwear’s Inaugural Omniten Ambassador Team

The inaugural Omniten crew from Columbia Sportswear at Havasu Falls.One of the first shots from my GoPro - taken during a hike down a waterfall near Mooney Falls in Arizona.I still remember the day Adam from Columbia Sportswear sent me the first e-mail; he nonchalantly asked for my shipping address, claiming to be interested in sending me a few pieces from the new spring line. Fast-forward a few weeks, and I was speeding back to Florida to open up a mysterious package – which I quickly discovered was my invitation to join a group of ten outdoor influencers selected to become a team of gear-testers and adventurers. During my six-month Omniten experience, I was introduced to nine people who I now think of on a daily basis.

We met in Phoenix, Arizona for a press trip as complete strangers, and by the time we left Havasu Falls five days later, we all cried upon departure. During our Arizona adventure together, we were spoiled in Sedona with prickly pear margaritas and vortex yoga on Bell Rock, spent three days exploring the Grand Canyon and jumping from the waterfalls around Havasupai, and grew into an unforgettable little family. I can’t thank Columbia Sportswear enough for blessing me with the Omniten opportunity – it truly changed my life forever.

1. Buying The Big Yellow Van

The Simply Adventure duo at our finest; shovels in hand, climbing gear ready, and our big yellow van!Niko and I dreamed of it all year, and finally in October, our fantasies came to fruition – we took the biggest plunge of our lives thus far, and bought a used 2005 Sprinter cargo van. We gutted the interior and built ourselves a little home within the cozy cargo area. Niko crafted an amazing bed built entirely by hand, and we installed a kitchen cabinet and countertops. In a few days, we’ll officially move into the van – and our ultimate treasure from 2012 will guide us towards unbelievable journeys in 2013.

The BEST Part of 2012: The People

Even harder than trying to condense this year into just ten stand-out moments was attempting to somehow address each person who came into my life during 2012 – and it’s impossible, so my top moment isn’t so much a moment as an overall experience. From the Omniten crew and the folks in the outdoor industry to growing closer with my sister, the ultimate gift of 2012 didn’t come in the form of mountains or climbing gear – it’s all about you.

A poorly positioned self-timer shot of the ClimbChat group at American Fork Canyon!The whole Havasu Falls hiking crew gathers before we head out on our grand three-day adventure. I connected with, met, and traveled the country with strangers who quickly became family. We passed a bottle of whiskey around the campfire (in a can) at Overland Expo, led climbs in American Fork Canyon, hiked up and down the Grand Canyon and slaved over the renovation of Tallahassee Rock Gym. My adventures would have been incomplete without the people who helped create moments that I’ll carry for the rest of my life. Thank you, I love you all, miss those of you who are far, and can’t wait to adventure with you in 2013!

What was your best adventure from 2012?
What are you looking forward to in 2013?

The One Thing College Doesn’t Teach You: How To REALLY Live

Friday marks a huge milestone for my little climbing family – many of them are finally graduating from Florida State University. Having graduated nearly two years ago, I’ve been eagerly awaiting this day for months – and as the topic of graduating into the “real” world has been floating around for the past few weeks, I’ve spent a lot of time mulling on this idea of shifting from “college” life to “real” life.

What will you do today that will make you proud in a year?And I’m pretty sure most folks are doing it wrong.

There’s this horrible stigma that many of my collegiate peers fall for: this idea that after you graduate, you’re supposed to start settling (down, but mostly just settling). It’s touted as that time where you finally get a real house with non-beer-stained furniture, work 9-5 at an “entry level” salary, and focus entirely on things like weddings, babies, and car payments.

That’s all gravy, and are admittedly things I look forward to in the future – but where’s the rush? Where’s the balance? What about all those other things that are supposed to make life worth living?

So, graduates, here’s my send-off advice for you: Make sure you’re REALLY living now that you’re being freed into the “real” world. Make sure you head down a path of realness, not a path of pre-packaged so-called satisfaction that includes a handful of stock options.

You are young. You are free. You have time, and most importantly, you’re still in the phase of your life where eating cheap tacos is acceptable. So use this period of your life to do as much youthful, spontaneous, outrageous living as you can before you finally settle down and have a garage filled with holiday ornaments (yeah, I plan on having a massive collection of seasonal décor one day, so what?).

The number one thing I hear from my older colleagues and peers while talking about my big 2013 trip is this:

“I wish I had taken the time to do this when I was your age, it would be impossible for me to drop everything and travel for a year now.”

SO DO IT NOW BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE. Read More…

Revisiting 6,657 miles of solitude, and looking forward to an autumn of personal adventure

This time last year, I was waking up in a deep, soft bed perched inside a home sitting on a little hill in Hendersonville, North Carolina. It was the first day of my bold solo adventure, and I woke up groggy from the previous night’s drive from Tallahassee.

It was the first of many mornings (33 to be exact) that I would spend waking up in an unfamiliar place – but to call my journey one of total isolation would be a lie.

My adventures were aided by many wonderful people who helped transform my trip into a lifestyle.

There were Dena and Marie in North Carolina, who took me out for my first apple picking experience. The night I spent with Sheila, noshing on Venezuelan chocolate gelato in the heart of Kansas City. Most notably, there were the Denver boys, and that little blue house on Emerson Street. By the end of my journey, I had found a new home. The location ended up in Colorado, but the concept was much more difficult to pin down.

My home is adventure.

At the end of my roadside traversing, I settled down on a fat leather couch in a living room sitting in Denver’s Washington Park neighborhood. The first few days felt odd; I felt like I needed to be going somewhere. I felt anxiety about not being on the move, and I grew homesick for a life without a ‘home’. Read More…

Cozy bunks, robust coffee, and a killer crew at The Crash Pad hostel in Chattanooga

Throughout my travels, I’ve slept a lot of places. My tent has been pitched on plenty of plots of land, and then there have been the less dignified nights snoozing at truck stops or sleeping in my hatchback in Walmart parking lots.

I ain’t too picky when it comes to catching a few hours of rest.

During the summer’s final hoorah, a climbing trip to Georgia and Tennessee, I was spoiled with the most wonderful accommodations I have ever experienced during an outdoor adventure: The Crash Pad hostel in Chattanooga. I’ve been dying to check out this innovative lodging venue designed specifically for adventurers, but wasn’t able to make it happen until I won two free nights during their Ultimate Adventure contest – then it was game on.

After a hot and sticky day climbing at Rocktown, Niko and I drove up to Tennessee and made our way to Chattanooga’s charming Southside neighborhood. To my delight, The Crash Pad sits just around the corner from one of my favorite landmarks in town, the flashing signage from the Chattanooga Choo-Choo.

Immediately upon walking into the hostel, I was greeted by the hostel’s directors of all things awesome, Al and John. They were as stoked to meet me as I was to finally meet them, and they totally made me blush with compliments about The Morning Fresh. Those fellas know how to woo a lady!

We checked in, and then got a little tour of the hostel. The cozy bunk area offered sturdy beds with great privacy curtains, and tons of outlets. Seriously, +100 for the abundance of outlets all over this hostel. We wandered towards our private room, and were instantly impressed by how perfectly simple the set-up was.

Just a big bed (with all linens provided), a little shelf with an alarm clock and lamp, a bright window, and a sweet modern sink. What more could you need? Everything was in pristine condition, and I loved the no-fuss, no-frills feel.

Bonus points: The property had recently broken ground on a new bar/restaurant, to be named the Flying Squirrel, which will make it nearly impossible to ever leave this pleasant plot of land. While it was a slight bummer for me wanting to take lots of pictures of the hostel’s exterior, I am elated to see that The Crash Pad’s success story is adding a new chapter – especially since it involves beer.

Basically, I am smitten with The Crash Pad.

Read More…

I’m adventuring north to Georgia and Tennessee for some climbing and Chattanooga lovin’

If you know me, you know one thing: I don’t like to stay put for too long. After two weeks of recovering from my adventures in (and around) Salt Lake City, I’m once again packing my bags –

I’m off on a climbing trip to Rocktown and Stone Fort!

Niko and I visited Stone Fort (more lovingly known as Little Rock City) earlier this summer, and nearly melted in the swelter while I sent my ultimate project, Super Mario. It’s still August, but the temperatures have leveled off considerably, and I’m looking forward to highs in the mid-80s, and a gorgeous low of 61°. Top off that forecast with a mere 0-10% chance of rain, and you’ve got my ideal summer climbing conditions.

We’re also spending a day climbing at Rocktown, one of Georgia’s best crags – but honestly, what I’m most excited for this trip is finally getting the chance to stay at The Crash Pad in Chattanooga. This hostel caught my attention when it was a mere concept and a patch of neglected land; it now proudly stands as one of the most innovative and inviting hubs for adventurers visiting Tennessee. I won second place in their Ultimate Adventure contest a few months ago, and after multiple failed attempts at booking my two free nights (seriously, these folks are killin’ it; they’re always booked solid), I finally snagged myself a private room! It’s going to be way snazzy, and certainly beats the hell out of camping in a Walmart parking lot.

Stay tuned for lots of updates on my experience at The Crash Pad!

Naturally, I’ve got my eye on a few boulder problems at these two classic crags. I’m keen on a repeat of Super Mario, but really want to send my first V5. At Stone Fort, I’m hoping to crush the juggy underclings and allegedly smooth mantle on Steam Roller – and if I have enough steam left in me, I might hop on a sweet roof problem called Bonesaw. My main project at Rocktown will be a V5 named Police Brutality, but I might also give Double Trouble a chance. Both Rocktown routes have been calling my attention since my first trip out there years agos, and now I’m finally strong enough to actually give ‘em a go.

We’ll see how it goes!

While I’m out romping around in the woods, you ought to keep yourself busy by entering my giveaway for a Rig 500 hydration pack system from GeigerRig! Check out the contest – all you have to do is submit your best summer adventure photo for a chance to win! (Giveaway ends August 31st.)

Psssst... You should also keep your eye out for some really exciting announcements from me and Niko’s yearlong 2013 Simply Adventure trip – we’ve got some awesome sponsors we’re partnering with, and we can’t wait to introduce ’em! 

Tips for beating the heat during summer adventures

I have always been a summer gal. Winters were never my thing, and nothing pleased me more than the promise of a hot summer – until I started climbing and camping. Now that I understand the torture of sleeping in a tent that’s steamier than a sauna, and the agony of hiking up the side of a mountain with sweat puddling in my boots, I’m not quite as big of a summer fan. 

Despite the heat and brutal sun, summer remains a prime season for adventure. You just have to know how to cope with the summertime swelter.

After a recent trip up to Tennessee for a weekend of bouldering, I found that one can effectively battle the side effects of summer – you just have to employ crafty tactics for beating the heat. Here are my top tips for staying cool while embarking on summertime adventures:

Stay hydrated.

Let me say this again – stay hydrated. After working on the Hydration Summit with GeigerRig, I learned how incredibly important it is to continually be pumping your body with water. Nothing will zap your outdoor chutzpah quite like dehydration; and it’s all too easy to forget to drink enough.

Personally, I’ve found that a hydration pack is key to making sure you’re drinking enough, and drinking regularly. I used to solely carry a Naglene bottle around, but it’s such a hassle to drink from while you’re on the move. A hydration pack with a convenient tube allows you to take a quick sip without slowing down. (Pssst, stay tuned for a GeigerRig hydration pack giveaway coming up this week!)

Don’t want to take my word for it?
Check out my interview with Gatorade Institute veteran John Seifert for an expert opinion.

Take it slow.

Where’s the rush? Niko tends to practically sprint during crag approaches, and always leaves me panting in his wake. Overexerting yourself is a waste of energy, and will only serve to get you real hot, real fast. Get an early start, and alleviate the pressure of “getting out there in time.

Slow your roll, keep an even pace, and remember that whole hydration thing. Stop to sip water frequently – your body will thank you.

Take a siesta.

Summertime swelter isn’t just hard on your body; it makes rock downright impossible to hold onto. Those sexy sloped crimps on Cleopatra at Stone Fort? Forget about it once the sun hits that sultry slab of sandstone. Attempting to project a boulder that’s been baking like an oven is frankly a waste of time – so save your strength, and go take a nap.

Seriously. Niko and I hit our heat threshold around noon, just in time for the sunshine encroach on even the shadiest of spots. We hiked back out to the car, drove to a more appropriate parking lot (napping on the gravel at a golf course is kinda frowned upon), and quickly settled in for a nice afternoon sleep session. With crash pads splayed out on the ground, we enjoyed a nice lunch break and rest before heading back to the crag to finish up our climbing conquests.

Did it help me climb better? You’ll have to judge for yourself, but I’ll tell you this – after a satisfying nap, I returned to a route, Super Mario (V4), that had plagued me for over two years, and quickly sent it.

Seek the shade.

This one feels like a no-brainer. When you’re out in the boulder field, hang out under trees and overhangs. You’ll likely be sweating either way, but keeping your body out of the sun helps to prevent the bright rays from zapping all your energy out.

My favorite shady spot? Certain caves, boulders, and cracks tend to offer unbelievably cool pockets and drafts of air. I’m talking a stiff 70 degrees of refreshing bliss if you find the right little nook. The boulder problem Cleopatra is one of those spots. Snuggle up in the corner, and you’ll notice a huge temperature drop.

Keeping your cool and maintaining a hydrated body are key elements to making the most out of your adventures into the heat. Do you have any tips or tricks for staying cool while hiking, climbing, or exploring outside? 

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